Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Check out my new article on the Thelemic Union website:
If you enjoy these writings, please consider pledging $1+ on my Patreon:
Love is the law, love under will.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Check out my new article on the Thelemic Union website:
If you enjoy these writings, please consider pledging $1+ on my Patreon:
Love is the law, love under will.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Check out my new article on the Thelemic Union website:
Love is the law, love under will.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
About a year ago, I was interviewed as part of the “Greening Out Podcast” which mysteriously disappeared into the aether shortly after recording… Magically, a copy of the podcast interview has resurfaced and is now available for your listening pleasure!
NOTE: Please consider pledging $1+ to my Patreon if you support my writings and work.
Love is the law, love under will.
NOTE: This manifesto speaks for no organization. It gives a voice to these principles and those who hold them, so feel free to share as you will.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
“Above us today hangs a danger never yet paralleled in history. We suppress the individual in more and more ways. We think in terms of the herd. War no longer kills soldiers; it kills all indiscriminately… The dictators suppress all art, literature, theater, music, news, that does not meet their requirements; yet the world only moves by the light of genius. The herd will be destroyed in mass. The establishment of the Law of Thelema is the only way to preserve individual liberty and to assure the future of the human race.” —Aleister Crowley
We believe that Thelemites, those who adhere to the Law of Thelema which is “Do what thou wilt”, should come together in order to fight for our shared values and causes.
We have the power to cause Change in conformity with our ideals, and to manifest greater Liberty in very tangible, material ways. This requires us to unify in thought and deed in order to accomplish the task of fighting for liberty.
“Observe: the business before the meetings is this: How shall we put into effect the Law of Thelema… Our sole business should be to use the Law to reconstruct the world from the chaos into which it is already half tumbled. That formula is a simple one, and requires no specialised training.” —Aleister Crowley
All of our goals, purposes, projects, and endeavors are toward this end of ourselves achieving our True Wills and aiding others in achieving theirs.
In a social sense, this means each individual has the absolute right to fulfill their own Nature and to live in the way that they will to do, provided that it does not impede on the equal rights of all other individuals to fulfill their own Nature. We each ideally allow others the freedom to be who they are, and to live in they will to do, while they accord us the same liberty.
In a political sense, this means we must as groups (and as states and as nations), strive toward the ideal of preserving the liberty of the individual. The absolute rule of the state shall be a function of the absolute liberty of each individual will.
In other words, on the political scale, Thelema is about figuring out the best way to organize a society to lead to the most people being able to do their True Wills with the greatest freedom. The real arguments between Thelemites comes about by differing opinions on how to bring about this freedom.
We believe that ownership over one’s own body is foundational: we are utterly opposed to any form of slavery or human ownership.
We believe that freedom of thought, freedom of speech, and freedom of expression in general are of paramount importance.
We believe the freedom to love as one wills — “when, where, and with whom ye will” (AL I:51) — is an inalienable right.
None of this is controversial, and yet there is a strong tendency to quibble with pedantic points or overblown details.
“When people begin to argue about things instead of doing them, they become absolutely impossible.” —Aleister Crowley
Rather than focusing on determining whether a particular policy can be labeled as this or that –ism or is “Thelemic” enough, consider the concrete, tangible effects of implementing that policy and whether they aid or inhibit individuals in accomplishing their Wills more fully and freely. Rather than labeling something “socialism” or “fascism” or “liberalism” or whatever else, consider if the proposed actions will lead to our proposed end of helping individuals to fulfill their True Wills. Our causes are not Left or Right; in many cases they may encompass both or neither of these. The important point is whether the policy upholds our freedoms or whether it diminishes them.
These arguments go on endlessly unto eternity and no one is any better off: words are worthless unless they lead to action. There are plenty of powerful people and powerful organizations out there who are continuing to work against us and virtually everything we stand for. They are happy to let us sit around arguing with one another about non-essentials.
We stand united in support of free speech and the ability to think freely and express one’s ideas freely.
We stand united in support of women’s rights, and the general treatment of women with dignity and respect.
We stand united in support of sexual freedom and the ability of adults to engage consensually and responsibly as they will and with whom they will.
We stand united in support of sexual education which gives adults the information they need to make informed choices as responsible adults.
We stand united in support of LGBTQ individuals, and believe that each individual has the right to self-identify and to express themselves as they will.
We stand united in support of people of color and cultural and ethnic minorities, and that every individual regardless of age, color, creed, sexual orientation, nationality, disability, gender identity deserves fair, just, and respectful treatment.
We stand united in support of science and scientific literacy, acknowledging that climate change is the real and our environment needs active steps to preserve.
We stand united against the oppressive drug war that restricts and punishes individuals for their personal choices.
We stand united in support of having the right to die as one wills, and generally to combat the fear of death in our culture.
…And this is not an exhaustive list of what we agree upon. The point is that, even if we could only agree upon one of these things, we would have an inherent obligation to act to bring about that ideal to the best of our abilities. There are many fronts upon which to wage our battle for freedom, and little to prevent many from acting toward manifesting these goals. To not take action is to admit either you do not hold these ideals, or you are too ambivalent with intellectualizations to be decisive enough to act.
Of course, those who are afraid will brand you as naive, or say you are watering down the message if you simply speak in your own voice. They will bark, mock, and holler from the sidelines while the real effort is done to move our world forward, little by little, through actual service and work.
None of this means we should ignore our areas of disagreement nor should we attempt to blur distinctions between our different viewpoints. Nonetheless: We can endlessly categorize and pick apart various stances and arguments forever, and it will impress no one nor change anything. We can only cause Change in conformity with our collective Wills if we actually work and act together.
This means we absolutely must commit to generating real, tangible resources. The two primary “resources” we have are people themselves and money. These aren’t the only resources, of course. Time, energy, creativity, and endurance go a long way as well. However, in the end, success is our proof. That success will come from concrete, material resources and whether or not we use these resources intelligently.
Uniting gives us the ability to generate greater amounts of resources than if we are simply a bunch of disconnected, individual stars. We need to unite into a veritable galaxy, a conglomerate of stars that has immense gravitational power. It is not only logical, it is urgently necessary.
We are committed to the twofold goal of (1) spreading the philosophy of Thelema as enshrined in the three phrases “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”, “Love is the law, love under will”, and “Every man and every woman is a star”, and (2) supporting all those causes, organizations, and individuals who are in harmony with our aims. These things should be basically self-evident to virtually every Thelemite (and to most everyone if they were to glimpse an understanding of Thelema).
Thelemic organizations can and should turn their attention toward these aims where appropriate. Many organizations are arguably already doing this Work in many ways, such as Ordo Templi Orientis. There are many historical, recent, ongoing, and future projects toward spreading the Law as well as supporting many sympathetic organizations.
This work requires the cooperation of thousands of individuals of all types, from all different walks of life and points-of-view. This “Greater Great Work”, as Karl Germer called it, of spreading the Law of Thelema is the ongoing fight to establish Justice.
This Justice will only be established through our sweat and tears, our “fire & blood” (AL III:11). It is only through our Strength, not just our words and our best intentions, but through our toil and service that we will truly establish the Law of Thelema on Earth and begin to pave the way for an age of Truth and Justice.
“Strength will prepare the Reign of Justice. We should begin already, as I deem, to regard this Justice as the Ideal whose Way we should make ready, by virtue of our Force and Fire.” -Aleister Crowley
Love is the law, love under will.
NOTE: Feel free to repost this with a different header image:
These interpretations are interpretations – not final pronouncements of truth. They should not be uttered as such nor should they be read and heard as such.
Each text must be interpreted within its unique historical, linguistic, religious, social, and mystical context to be fully understood
An apparently obvious historical or literal interpretation is not inherently primary.
Each text must be interpreted with honesty, clarity, and conciseness.
Views contrary to one’s own must be investigated indifferently.
Honest, clear, and concise criticism is encouraged and should be expected if one dares to publicly espouse one’s own particular interpretation.
The various “meeting-places” of the texts (i.e. where the same word is used in both, where similar concepts & motifs occur, etc.) will create three possible outcomes: synthesis, separation, or contradiction. Synthesis means that the two texts actually speak about the same subject. Separation means that the two texts appear to be similar but are actually speaking of separate topics or different contexts. Contradiction means that the two places in the texts cannot be reconciled by either synthesis or separation – one interpretation contradicts another.
Interpretations of texts are dynamic and must be understood and fostered as a continually changing processes, not as fixed pronouncements of unalterable truths.
There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
This essay is intended to serve as an explication for the symbols & ideas synthesized in the diagram which heads this article. This image combines the various ideas that are to be discussed and, by the end of reading this article, you should ideally be able to understand why everything in this image is there. The main thesis is that this “Eightfold Key” represents a way to unlock a certain understanding of certain rituals, symbols, and ideas in Thelemic magick.
Disclaimer: I do not pretend to believe that this Key is the “Key to all Thelemic Magick ever” or anything like that; it is only one perspective among potentially infinite. Its worth should ultimately be judged by whether it is seen to be a perspective that is useful, that simply “clicks,” that generates new ideas, that stimulates new thoughts and connections, and so on. That is, it should be judged by each individual as to whether it aids in the accomplishment of their Wills in some manner.
The Qabalah is undoubtedly a crucial branch of knowledge required to delve into the deeper layers of symbolism and meaning that are inherent in our rituals. While the Qabalah is an incredibly flexible and versatile system in theory, an unfortunate but all-too-common common tendency is to learn a certain “attribution scheme” and to stick with it. For example, it is common for individuals to interpret the Mass as an expression of the Tetragrammaton formula and nothing else.
This Eightfold Key represents a new way of understanding certain central symbols (such as Therion and Babalon) and certain of our rituals – specifically, Liber XXV (The Star Ruby), Liber XXXVI (The Star Sapphire), and Liber XV (The Gnostic Mass). This Eightfold Key does not follow the typical attribution schemes that one would be used to in virtually all material on Golden Dawn and Thelemic rituals. Nonetheless, the basis of this Eightfold Key is fundamentally in attributions and ideas related by Aleister Crowley himself: none of these attributions in themselves are my unique insights. I have not encountered this particular application of these symbols to understanding common Thelemic rituals, and my interpretation & synthesis of these symbolic applications have led to writing this essay.
On that note, it must be stated clearly and explicitly that nothing herein is “official doctrine”, neither of Thelema nor of OTO nor of any organization nor any individual other than myself. While I am confident that these ideas will be relevant and at least somewhat illuminating to many (otherwise I would not have bothered writing this explication), I am well-aware that this is not the end-all answer to all questions. Even further, believing this is the sole solution would fly in the face of my belief that symbolism is inherently multi-layered as well as inherently inexhaustible in terms of its potential meanings. This Eightfold Key is offered to hopefully allow another perspective to be taken, along with the many connections and insights that ideally follow therefrom.
Finally, it should be noted that the intended audience of this essay are those who are already somewhat experienced and/or knowledgeable practitioners of Thelemic magick. The point is not that this material is “secret” or “above your grade,” but that it assumes a fair degree of familiarity with certain terms and ideas in order to make the most of the concepts herein.
The fundamental symbolic basis of this Eightfold Key is the table “Appendix I” in 777 & other Qabalistic Writings by Aleister Crowley, where he discusses “The Trigrams of the Yi King.” In this table, he attributes the 8 Trigrams of the Yi King to various things, most importantly to the 4 directional quarters (North-South-East-West) and the 4 cross-quarters (Northeast-S.E.-N.W.-S.W.) and certain Hermetic ideas. All the attributions are taken from this table, so nothing in terms of attributions are original, only their interpretations.
In this Eightfold Key, we do not require an extensive knowledge of the system of the Yi King along with its Trigrams, Hexagrams, and so on, nor do we need to know what their Chinese names mean. They form the fundamental basis of the Eightfold scheme, but their basic meanings can be understood by understanding the composition of Trigrams. Trigrams are all composed of 3 lines, hence the name “Trigram,” and each line is either “unbroken” or “broken.” Unbroken lines refer to yang, the masculine principle which corresponds with our Western notions of the Element of Fire, Yod of Tetragrammaton, Chokmah, and so on; the broken lines refer to yin, the feminine principle which corresponds with our Western notions of the Element of Water, Heh of Tetragrammaton, Binah, and so on.
Trigrams with more unbroken lines can be said to be “more yang” and, likewise, Trigrams with more broken lines can be said to be “more yin.” Since there are only two possibilities for each of the 3 lines, there are a total of 23 (i.e. 8) possible permutations of yang and yin for a Trigram. We may start understanding these Trigrams and their attributions by focusing first on the 4 basic directions.
To begin to explain this diagram, we may most effectively begin by looking at the 4 basic directions of the 4 quarters: North-South-East-West. This is the fundamental orientation of virtually every single Thelemic ritual, especially if we consider Boleskine to essentially be “spiritual East” (as opposed to literally East, as the direction toward it depends on where one is measuring from). Taking certain attributions from Crowley’s 777 table we get:
This helps us begin to see the basic attributions of the 4 quarters in the Eightfold Key: We can see that this forms essentially two Pairs of Opposites, or two dualities. Namely, there is the East-West duality of Sol (☉)-Luna (☾), and there is the South-North duality of Lingam (+)-Yoni (O).
Interestingly, Crowley does not use typical Elemental, Planetary, Zodiacal, or Alchemical symbols for South and North: He chooses to use a Cross (+) and a Circle (O). While crosses and circles are undoubtedly part of the Hermetic tradition, it is somewhat unorthodox to attribute them in this way (it does not occur anywhere else in 777 in nearly the same way). They are essentially equivalent to the Hindu notions of Lingam (+) and Yoni (O), of which the male penis and female womb represent the most physical symbols.
Also interesting is the attribution of Prana and Akasha to Sol and Luna, respectively. Prana is the Hindu word for “energy” or “power” or “force,” and it is understood to be the underlying energy that moves all things in the Universe including ourselves (hence, for example, the practice of pranayama, which literally means the control of energy). Akasha is the Hindu word for “Space,” and represents the underlying form or space that underlies all objects in the Universe. They are essentially the Verb (Prana) and Noun (Akasha) of Hindu cosmology, to make things patently simple. They correspond nicely to our modern notions of Energy and Matter.
In terms of dualities, for this particular context Lingam (+) and Yoni (O) are more “primary” or “primordial” or “abstract”: they are more fundamental or basic than that of Sol and Luna. This can be seen in their being simplistic or “pure” geometric figures, + & O. Lingam and Yoni correspond to “The Lord” and “The Lady” in the Collects of Liber XV, and represent the ineffable infinities that underlie all things. Qabalistically, we express this notion of being “more fundamental” by the fact that Lingam and Yoni are attributed by Crowley (in this context) to Chokmah (the 2nd Sephirah) and Binah (the 3rd Sephirah), which lie above the Abyss. Sol and Luna (in this context) are attributed to spheres further down the Tree of Life, implying more complexity and concreteness to the ideas.
Interestingly, Sol and Luna in this context are attributed to Tiphareth (the 6th Sephirah) and Malkuth (the 10th Sephirah), corresponding traditionally to Sol and Earth (i.e. not Luna, which would be Yesod, the 9th Sephirah). This may not make sense initially, but when we take a look at the Gnostic Mass, we see that the fundamental duality expressed throughout the ritual is one of Sol and Earth, or simply Heaven and Earth (terms which correspond more closely to that of the Yi King’s cosmology). Our Creed testifies to the “One Star” of the Sun as well as to the “One Earth,” we partake in the Eucharist of the essence of “the life of the Sun” and the “joy of the Earth”: plentiful examples abound throughout the Gnostic Mass in many ways. For those who are interested, this essay goes into this particular idea of Sol and Earth in the Gnostic Mass in more depth.
This all comes together once we realize where the “deities” are placed in the quarters for the Star Ruby in particular. In the East we have Therion, and in the West we have Babalon. Therion corresponds to Sol and Prana/Energy, whereas Babalon corresponds to Luna and Akasha/Space: the Sun and the Earth, both of which are explicitly identified with their respective “deities” in the Creed of the Gnostic Mass.
For the other duality, that of Lingam and Yoni, we have Hadit in the South and Nuit in the North. Hadit in the South corresponds to the Lingam and the Cross (+), whereas Nuit in the North corresponds to the Yoni and the Circle (O). This corresponds exactly with what Crowley explains in his New Comment to Liber AL I:1, “Nu is connected with North, while Had is Sad, Set, Satan, Sat (equals ‘Being’ in Sanskrit), South…” They are both traditionally associated with 0/Naught based on Liber AL and Crowley’s attributions in 777 but, in this case, they correspond “on a lower plane” with Chokmah/yang/Lingam (Hadit) and Binah/yin/Yoni (Nuit). In terms of the Trigrams, they correspond with the only two Trigrams that are completely yang or yin. Hadit is all yang lines and Nuit is all yin lines, somewhat unsurprisingly. The Sol and Luna Trigrams are the only two Trigrams that contain both yang and yin lines yet remain vertically balanced in themselves (a yang on top is balanced by a yang on the bottom, etc).
|Sephiroth||6 (Sol)||10 (Earth)||2 (Chokmah)||3 (Binah)|
In certain ways, this attribution scheme of two dualities (Lingam-Yoni, and Sol-Luna) is more satisfying than the traditional Elemental attributions. In terms of the 4 deities present in the Star Ruby (at least the later Magick in Theory & Practice version), the more traditional and typical Elemental attributions certainly fit as each of the 4 is attributed to a Kerub which together form the Sphinx. Hence, Therion “roars” (Fire/Lion) in the East, Nuit “says” (Air/Man) in the North, Babalon “whispers” (Water/Eagle) in the West, and Hadit “bellows” (Earth/Bull) in the South. Nonetheless, it seems there are aspects that do not seem to fit quite right in this typical Elemental attribution scheme.
When we take these new attributions, things seem to fall naturally into place: Lingam and Yoni, the universal or primordial duality, is attributed to Hadit and Nuit along the North-South axis (reflecting what Crowley writes about them in the aforementioned section of the New Comment). Sol and Luna, essentially the Lingam and Yoni “on a lower scale” are Sol and Luna, the macrocosmic duality. Although Luna here serves as a stand-in for Earth when contemplated in relation to the Tree of Life and other contexts (such as the Gnostic Mass), it is helpful to think of Sol and Luna in this case not as 2 planets among 7, but rather as a fundamental duality in itself, much how Alchemical symbolism often utilizes Sol and Luna to be the ultimate Masculine and Feminine symbols (respectively). This therefore means that, in this case, Sol includes other “masculine” ideas like Mars and Jupiter, and Luna includes the “feminine” ideas of Earth and Venus (as some examples).
The Hebrew letters used to designate these dualities is interesting as well: Hadit and Nuit somewhat unsurprisingly correspond to Yod and Heh, the first two letters of Tetragrammaton, representing Father/Fire/yang and Mother/Water/yin. Together, they create YH (“Jah”), a name of God, which enumerates to 15 – in a way, this simple combination of letters, Yod and Heh, to create 15 shows an underlying symbolic formula at work in the Gnostic Mass, which is designated “Liber 15.” We might then expect Sol to correspond to Vav and Luna to Heh Final, but they do not. Instead, Crowley attributes them to Resh and Gimel. The reason for these attributions is found in the Tarot Trump correspondences of the Planets: Sol corresponds to Atu XIX: The Sun to which is attributed the letter Resh, and Luna corresponds to Atu II: The Priestess to which is attributed the letter Gimel. In a way, this shows us that these attributions do not follow the typical “Tetragrammaton scheme” exactly. Perhaps a new and slightly different formula of Tetragrammaton might be derived from these letters.
Finally, we have Crowley’s traditional “Planetary Attribution” column in 777 which may initially be confusing, as it uses similar symbols to other previously mentioned attributions, but it is actually quite simple. We have considered the Lingam-Yoni, Sol-Luna dualities and it should be understood that this represents one way of slicing the pie, so to speak. The One can be divided in innumerable ways, and we might divide It into Lingam, Yoni, Sol, Luna. Another, more common way to divide It is with the 7 Planets. This means that Sol and Luna are no longer understood in the former context (similar to their Alchemical counterparts as representing the ultimate Masculine and Feminine ideas in the abstract), and now they will be understood in their context as being two of the 7 Planets. In short: Symbols can mean different things depending on their context. To further explain this idea: Consider the word “day.” How long is a day? Chances are your answer is “24 hours,” which is correct. Now how long is a night, then? 12 hours, or somewhere around there, is likely your answer. Then how long is a day? 12 hours, of course. How can “day” refer to both 12 hour periods as well as 24 hour periods? It is because of context: When “day” stands alone, it represents the entire cycle of 24 hours, but when “day” is juxtaposed with “night,” it represents half of the cycle of 12 hours. In this case, the new juxtaposition is with the other classical Planets, and therefore they take on slightly different meanings.
Crowley attributes Sol to Hadit and Luna to Nuit; he then attributes Jupiter to Therion and Saturn to Babalon. Sol and Luna, in the context of the 7 classical Planets, represent the primordial duality. They are essentially the equivalent of Lingam/+ and Yoni/O when reflected into this particular symbolic scheme. Therion and Babalon cannot then be attributed to Sol and Luna as they are in the previous formulation: They refer to Saturn and Jupiter. In a sense, Saturn and Jupiter are also the “primordial” duality insofar as they were considered the two most distant planets by the ancients. Traditionally, Saturn and Jupiter are opposites: they are the Great Malefic (Saturn) and the Great Benefic (Jupiter); they represent constriction (Saturn) and expansion (Jupiter); they represent severity and harshness (Saturn) and mercy and benevolence (Jupiter). Therefore, in terms of the 7 classical Planets, Hadit is Sol, Nuit is Luna, Therion is Jupiter, and Babalon is Saturn. Not to get too far ahead, but this leaves Mars for Elemental Fire, Venus for Elemental Water, Mercury for Elemental Air, and of course Earth for Elemental Earth.
To jump ahead slightly for a moment, we see that the 4 cross-quarters (those points halfway between the 4 quarters) are attributed to the 4 Elements, and that a general scheme is therefore formed by the Eightfold Key:
This mirrors the Officers of the Gnostic Mass: Priest & Priestess form the Ineffable Duality, the Deacon contains the Macrocosmic Duality in him/herself (note that the Deacon stands between the small altar and font, which symbolically represent Sol/Tiphareth & Luna/Yesod, respectively), and the Children form the Microcosmic Quaternity (the Positive Child holding the 2 “active” Elements while the Negative Child holds the 2 “passive” Elements).
For a final detour, consider briefly how the quarters are attributed in Resh: East is Sunrise, South is Noon, West is Sunset, and North is Midnight. In this sense, East-West is the horizontal plane, and South-North actually represents the vertical plane (Noon at the zenith, Midnight at the nadir). In this sense, we can see the Ineffable Duality in the top-down axis, the Macrocosmic Duality forming the forward-backward axis, and the 4 Elements fit into the diagonals. There are, of course, various permutations of these ideas (for example, Hadit-Nuit can be conceived as Inner-Outer, Therion-Babalon as Up-Down, and the 4 Elements covering the 4 directions, essentially covering all possible directions), but I will leave that up to your own imagination and ingenium.
The 4 cross-quarters become clear once the previous attributions are understood. They pleasingly fit into their places in a fairly natural way. The cross-quarters are North-East, South-East, South-West, and North-West. They correspond respectively to Fire, Water, Air, and Earth according to Crowley’s attributions in 777. We might add the traditional Tetragrammaton correspondences to the Elements as well.
In this case, the Hindu attributions are exactly the same as our traditional, Western 4 Elements: Tejas means Fire, Apas means Water, Vayu means Air, and Prithivi means Earth.
In terms of Hebrew letters, the 3 primary Elements are attributed to the 3 Mother Letters: Fire is attributed to Shin (ש), Water to Mem (מ), Air to Aleph (א). Earth is attributed to the final letter in Hebrew, Tav (ת).
The Planetary attributions, as previously mentioned: Fire is attributed to Mars, Water to Venus, Air to Mercury, and Earth to Earth. Some of these attributions may seem somewhat strange, but if we keep the idea of 3 primary Elements with the additional (or “encompassing”) fourth Element of Earth it becomes clear. Mars & Venus are the same “primordial duality” as Sol & Luna (or Jupiter & Saturn) but “on a lower scale” – it is not an uncommon idea that masculine is “Mars-like” and feminine is “Venus-like.” Mercury performs the role of reconciler between these two complements/opposites, much like He often does in Alchemical imagery. Planetary Earth unambiguously represents Elemental Earth.
These Planetary attributions to the Elements become especially illuminating in relation to their appearance in Liber XV, the Gnostic Mass. If we look at the creed, we see Chaos in the place of Yod/Fire, Babalon in that of Heh/Water, Baphomet in that of Vav/Air, and the Gnostic & Catholic Church in that of Heh Final/Earth. The duality of Chaos-Babalon as Mars-Venus is fairly straightforward, but the attribution of Mercury to Baphomet is especially appropriate. Mercury is the most common Alchemical symbol for the ultimate goal or result of the Great Work of Alchemy, the union of opposites. In Alchemical imagery, Mercury often stands between the dualities of Sol-Luna, Jupiter-Saturn, and Mars-Venus, reconciling the ineffable, macrocosmic, and microcosmic dualities into itself. In fact, there is a certain Mercury symbol which combines all the Planetary symbols into a single whole [see image to the right], and it looks remarkably like the traditional depiction Baphomet. Earth corresponds to the Church as the Church represents the physical manifestation of the Law. Interestingly, Baphomet therefore takes on the role that corresponds to the Old Aeon notion of Christ being the bridegroom of the Church: now we see Baphomet in the Christ-role of being bridegroom of our Church!
These attributions can be carried even farther if we look at the Collects as well. Consider the typical attribution of Tetragrammaton to the 4 Elements in this context. Sabazius X° attributes the Collects to Tetragrammaton as follows: “The Sun and The Lord = Yod; The Moon and The Lady = Heh; The Saints = Vav; The Earth and The Principles = Heh final”. With this in mind, we can see that Vav corresponds to the Element of Air, the Planet of Mercury, and the Collect of The Saints; Heh Final corresponds to the Element of Earth, the Planet of Earth, and the Collect of The Earth. These attributions from Crowley reinforce the attributions made by Sabazius to the Collects: Mercury/Saints & Earth form a duality of sorts, mirroring that of Baphomet and the Church from the Creed. The Saints are the transmitters of the Light of the Gnosis, and both knowledge and communication are traditional functions of Mercury. In this sense, the Saints may be understood as the Promethean light-bringers to Earth: they infuse the womb of Earth with the gnosis-fire of Wisdom.
These attributions to the Elements also elucidate the Officers of the Gnostic Mass: Fire/Mars corresponds to the Priest, Water/Venus to the Priestess, Air/Mercury to the Deacon, and Earth to the Children. Naturally, the Fire/Mars of the Priest is reflected in his scarlet robe, the Water of the Priestess in her wearing blue, and Air/Mercury in the Deacon wearing yellow; the Children represent Earth under the duality of black & white. Mercury is especially appropriate to be attributed to the Deacon as he is the leader of the People (Mercury as psychopomp) and bearer of the Book of the Law (Mercury as Logos/Word of God). Interestingly, the Trigrams attributed to the 4 Elements show that none of the Trigrams are entirely balanced in themselves: they are all somewhat lop-sided, and require each of the other three Trigrams in order to attain balance. In other words, it can be taken as a symbolic explanation of the necessity of Children in the Gnostic Mass: they are required for the balance of the Officers and the forces they represent.
In order to further understand the depth of this Eightfold Key, especially in terms of the cross-quarters, it is necessary to look at Liber XXXVI, The Star Sapphire.
In the Star Sapphire ritual, we go through the 4 quarters and assert a unity between various aspects of Tetragrammaton. There is a unity of Y & H, of H & V, etc. This unity is represented by the phrase “unus deus Ararita” in the ritual, which is repeated in each of the 4 quarters. “Unus deus” is Latin for “one/single god”. The word “ARARITA” is actually a notariqon, or acronym, for a phrase which is translated in one of the Thelemic Holy Books as, “O my God! One is Thy Beginning! One is Thy Spirit, and Thy Permutation One!” (Liber ARARITA). It is essentially understood as a declaration of Unity of all things, especially between opposites. As it is written in another Holy Book, “Also he taught me the holy unutterable word Ararita, so that I melted the sixfold gold into a single invisible point, whereof naught may be spoken” (Liber LXV, V:15). ARARITA represents both the method (the uniting of opposites) and the result (the union thereof). Note that it is spelled “Ararita,” as if it were a word unto itself, in both the rubric of Liber XXXVI as well as in Liber LXV. Symbolically, this union is represented in each quarter by “mak[ing] the Holy Hexagram”. The Hexagram is, in this context, a symbol of the union of two opposites, represented by the two triangles which compose the Hexagram. Note that each of the quarters as one masculine aspect and one feminine aspect that unite with one another: each quarter has one upright triangle (masculine) and downward triangle (feminine) to form the Hexagram. When we proclaim “unus deus Ararita,” the Hexagram of two separate triangles symbolically becomes the unicursal Hexagram, where there is no separation between the two triangles anymore, i.e. there is “Unity uttermost showed” in 4 different permutations in the 4 different quarters. Note on the diagram at the beginning of this essay that “VNVS DEVS” forms a circle around the center. These 8 letters are to show that, ultimately, all these permutations are permutations of the One. And yet also remember “let it be ever thus; that men speak not of Thee as One but as None; and let them speak not of thee at all, since thou art continuous!” (Liber AL, I:27).
In the Star Sapphire itself, we do some ritual signs and then advance to the East and say “Pater et Mater unus deus Ararita.” This literally means “Father and Mother are one god Ararita.” In terms of Tetragrammaton, Yod and Heh are One.
We go round to the South and say: “Mater et Filius unus deus Ararita.” This literally means “Mother and Son are one god Ararita.” In terms of Tetragrammaton, Heh and Vav are One.
We go round to the West, make the Holy Hexagram and then say: “Filius et Filia unus deus Ararita.” This literally means “Son and Daughter are one god Ararita.” In terms of Tetragrammaton, Vav and Heh final are One.
We go round to the North, make the Holy Hexagram and then say: “Filia et Pater unus deus Ararita.” This literally means “Daughter and Father are one god Ararita.” In terms of Tetragrammaton, Heh final and Yod are One. The cycle has restarted, and it perpetuates itself unto eternity. As Crowley wrote, “This mystery of the Daughter awakening the eld of the all-Father and thus perpetuating Tetragrammaton is of great importance” (Comment to 4th Aethyr).
Notice that the 4 quarters do not correspond to a single letter of Tetragrammaton. Each quarter corresponds to a union of two different letters.
This arrangement shows that each letter of Tetragrammaton is in one of the cross-quarters: Father/Pater (Yod) in the North-East, Mother/Mater (Heh) in the South-East, Son/Filius (Vav) in the South-West, and Daughter/Filia (Heh final) in the North-West. By going around the circle, one has therefore formed the sigil of N.O.X., the cross-in-the-circle when the cross is tilted like an “X.” This sigil secretly contains all 3 letters of N.O.X. within it, just as the normal upright cross “☩” contains the letters L.V.X..
If we now take the attributions of Tetragrammaton to the cross-quarters derived from the Star Sapphire, and we add back in the attributions of the Trigrams from 777, we see that they match up flawlessly.
After all this in the ritual of the Star Sapphire, we then “return to the Centre, and so to The Centre of All.” We are symbolically returning to the center of the Eightfold Key, the Unity (unus deus) underlying the eightfold permutations. We then “mak[e] the Rosy Cross,” which symbolically is essentially the union of opposites (Rose and Cross, similar to Circle/Yoni and Cross/Lingam). Eventually, the rubric states “Also shall Set appear in the Circle.” Set is a complex symbol in Thelema, but the basic meanings can be seen in his identity with Horus and by the Qabalistic spelling of his name as given by Crowley.
In this Aeon of Horus, Ra-Hoor-Khuit, or technically Heru-Ra-Ha (both of which, along with others, are essentially forms or aspects of Horus), represents the supreme Unity, often identified with the Sun or solar nature in some way. Traditionally, Set is the enemy of Horus; they are the archetypal night and day. Yet, in this new Aeon, Horus is a symbol that contains its opposite in itself. Whether it is understood as Set, or Apophis (the Greek name for Apep, the Egyptian serpent of destruction and darkness and therefore enemy of the Sun/light/day), this “anti-Christ” or “anti-Horus” is contained within itself, similar to how Heru-Ra-Ha contains both Ra-Hoor-Khuit and Hoor-paar-kraat. Crowley writes, “This child Horus is a twin, two in one. Horus and Harpocrates are one, and they are also one with Set or Apophis, the destroyer of Osiris” (Equinox of the Gods, ch.8). Set is therefore ultimately an identical symbol to that of Horus.
There are further considerations of the name “Set” itself being related to similar terms like Sat (“Being” in Sanskrit), Satan, Saturn, and the like. Set is indeed a symbol of Satan, insofar as Satan represents the eternal enemy of Christ, the darkness against the light yet again. We can also say Satan is a symbol of Set in the same way – in fact, Set showed up in writings a few millenia before Satan did. The point is really moot, for this Satan would necessarily need to contain its own opposite to be an adequate symbol: just as Christ needs Anti-Christ, Anti-Christ needs Christ. All opposites are codependent and intertwined: this is a fundamental understanding of the new Aeon, the Aeon of the Crowned and Conquering Child, which is itself the union of the past Aeons of Mother and Father into a new synthesis. Whether we see it as Set, or as Horus, or as Heru-Ra-Ha, or as Hoor-Set, or Hoor-Apep, or both or neither, they all are symbols pointing to the conjunction of opposites in a single Unity, unus deus.
So Set appears in the Circle while we are at its Centre. We just saw how Set is identified with Horus, and now we can look at the name “Set” itself. Crowley spells Set in a particular way: the Greek letter Sigma and the Greek letter Theta. The trick is that he uses certain archaic forms of both of these letters. For the Sigma, instead of the typical “Σ”, Crowley used an earlier script where Sigma looks essentially identical to our modern “C”. Note that this letter resembles a lunar crescent. For Theta, instead of the typical “Θ”, which looks like a Circle with a short horizontal line through the middle, Crowley used the older form which was a circle with a dot in the middle, essentially identical with the typical Solar glyph “☉”. Combining these, we have something like “C☉” which forms a sort-of sideways “Sol & Luna conjoined” glyph. “Set” is therefore a name for Sol & Luna conjoined, which is itself simply one archetypal expression of the union of opposites, whether Lingam & Yoni, Sol & Luna, Father & Mother, Subject & Object, Cross & Circle, etc.
Note that the final Sign of this portion of the Star Sapphire is that of “Baphomet.” BAPHOMET is a name that represents the union of all opposites. It is a fitting name to symbolize the union of the 8 permutations of this Eightfold Key into the single unity. Like “UNUS DEUS,” BAPHOMET is 8 letters, as seen in a Holy Book of Thelema where it is written, “I am Baphomet, that is the Eightfold Word…” (Liber A’ash).
And with that, one should (theoretically) be able to decipher the various aspects of the Eightfold Key. If you’ve made it this far in the essay, I give you my congratulations, and I hope that the journey allowed for some new connections and/or insights to occur. Again, I see this mainly as an extrapolation of ideas already inherent in Crowley’s own attributions and writings, but since I have been and am still unaware of any further elucidation of this particular scheme, I felt that creating this Key may be useful and interesting to some Thelemic magicians who are grappling with similar concepts. Lege. Judica. Tace.
Love is the law, love under will.
736 pages • Hardcover • $35.99
‘Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131’ represents an anthology of writings over the 7 years spanning 2007-2014 e.v. from the author IAO131. IAO131 is the author of ‘Naturalistic Occultism: The Introduction to Scientific Illuminism,’ ‘Thelema Sutras,’ and ‘The Parables & Lessons of Liber LXV.’ He is also the co-creator of the Speech in the Silence podcast, the creator & editor of the Journal of Thelemic Studies, the creator of 2nd Century Thelema, the creator of The Grady McMurtry Project, and his works have been featured in many publications including U.S. Grand Lodge of Ordo Templi Orientis’ official organ ‘Agape.’ His writings span various topics on Thelema, Magick, Aleister Crowley, and the occult. Many of his writings have not been available in published form previously, and now they are all collected together in ‘Fresh Fever From the Skies.’
PART 5: MYSTICISM IN PRACTICE – Crossing the Abyss & The Hermit
The Ordeal: The Dark Night of the Soul – The Babe of the Abyss
One might think that such light, love, and bliss has no ordeal, but there is a distinct ordeal that awaits the Mystic at this second Stage of Illumination. As mentioned previously, the Mystic is united with the Object of her devotion in this Stage but still remains separate therefrom. If this Illumination is continued through the Mystic’s persistent devotion and meditation, the by-products of this Illumination – especially the sense of overwhelming joy, bliss, and rapture – eventually “settle down.” The initial Illumination is like an explosion and if one remains in it, the clouds slowly disperse and one can see clearly.
At a certain point, the Mystic may realize that – despite all the joys and encouragements that Illumination has brought – she is still not completely united with her Beloved. In other words, a sense of distinction, separateness, or duality still remains. The opposition between self and not-self, between ego and non-ego, has not been completely transcended. Upon achieving this insight, the Mystic must re-engage with the Art of meditation with renewed vigor in order to know the Absolute so intimately and completely that there is no duality that can remain. This brings the Mystic to the final “crisis” of the Path: the ordeal of Crossing of the Abyss.
The Nature of the Ordeal of Crossing the Abyss
The crossing of the Abyss is a metaphor that essentially correlates to Saint John of the Cross’ term “the dark night of the soul.” A similar metaphor is given in Buddhism where one has “crossed the stream” to the other side, from samsara to nirvana. It is sometimes referred to by Christian mystics as “Dryness” or “aridity.” This term is adopted by Crowley when, for example, in De Lege Libellum he writes, “But this Dryness hath its virtue, in that thereby the Soul is purged of those things that impeach the Will: for when the drouth is altogether perfect, then is it certain that by no means can the Soul be satisfied, save by the Accomplishment of the Great Work. And this is in strong souls a stimulus to the Will. It is the Furnace of Thirst that burneth up all dross within us.”
In Thelemic terminology, in this process of “crossing,” one becomes a “Babe of the Abyss.” After the period of Illumination which is characterized – as mentioned previously – by joy and beauty, there is a corresponding darkness and blankness that occurs. This shift may go back and forth repeatedly but ultimately, if there is persistence, the Mystic comes to the Abyss, the dark night of their soul. This is characterized by various things:
All this serves as a great purification, a great trial by fire, by which the Mystic is purged of attachments. It is the purgation that breaks apart the life of the Mystic, allowing a new stage of attainment to arise from its destruction. It is as if all those darkest corners of the self that were not purged in the initial purification find their way to expression in the Mystic, and this is because the whole individual – the microcosm of the Mystic – must be transmuted in this ordeal. As the Alchemists might say, there is no transmutation without fire. It “cures” the aspirant of being able to settle in any lesser satisfaction than the achievement of the final stage or grade, that of the Hermit.
In order to Cross the Abyss successfully, one must be purged of all that one has and all that one is. This is what, in Thelema, is metaphorically stated as the draining out of one’s blood into the Cup of Babalon. This is called the “Universal Life” insofar as one has drained out the blood of one’s “individual life,” the separate self, to be merged with the Universal Life. That is, one must release all attachment to everything that one possesses and to everything with which one identifies. This is why this phase is often called “annihilation,” “dissolution,” “cessation,” “self-naughting,” or “self-surrender.”
The Holy Book of Thelema, Liber Cheth, lists in particular the discarding of wealth (attachment to all possessions), health (attachment to the body), and love (attachment to others). These can be simply taken as three symbols that, together, refer to all of one’s attachments.
Failure to do this results in what Thelema calls a “Black Brother,” one who has attained this far yet refuses to give up the self in dissolution; the “Black Brother” is one who insists on retaining a sense of individuality or selfhood and does not drain the blood of their individual life into the Universal Life. However, if one succeeds in persisting to the end, one achieves the final stage.
3) The Hermit: The Arising of Nemo
The complete dissolution of the sense of separate self, of the ego, constitutes the attainment of the third grade, the Hermit. One is then, in Thelemic terminology, a “Magister Templi” or “Master of the Temple.” One is an arhat or buddha in Buddhist terminology, and one has achieved moksha, or “liberation,” in Hindu terminology; it is equivalent to Samadhi in the terms of Yoga, the total union of subject and object. Since one is stripped of one’s identity, any sense of self, then one also may be called “Nemo,” which is Latin for “no man” (see The Vision and the Voice, 13th Aethyr for more on this symbolism).
Aside from this attainment being characterized negatively by a total dissolution of the sense of self or ego, it is also characterized positively by awakening to the ultimate reality, the transcendence of duality, the complete union of subject and object, or the total identification with the Absolute. These are really two sides of the same coin, so to speak, and lead Mystics to make pronouncements such as “My eye and God’s eye are one eye” (Meister Eckhart) and “I am the Truth” (Mansur al-Hallaj).
Characteristics of this grade include:
The Task: Being cast out of the Abyss and tending to the Garden
The complete dissolution, as previously said, leads to what one metaphorically may say is the birth of a New Man, the Master of the Temple or “Nemo.” The mind and body are not destroyed in this attainment, but they are purged of a sense of ego or self.
Although the trance may involve the obliteration of consciousness itself, there is consequent to this the inevitable re-formulation of awareness. This is symbolically called being “cast out from the Abyss.” The symbolism at work is that one has attained the Supernal Triangle of the Tree of Life and then one is “cast out” from it back into the lower Sephiroth of the Tree of Life. One then “re-occupies” one’s body and mind but free of ego.
This is essentially equivalent to the Bodhisattva Vow to “come back to the world” to aid others in enlightenment, and it is found in symbolism of people returning from a remote or isolated place to teach humanity (e.g. Jesus returning from the wilderness, Mohammed returning from a cave, Buddha returning from the Bodhi-tree, et cetera).
Thelema uses the symbolism of a “Star that is cast forth to give light to the Earth… [One] appears ‘as a morning star, or as an evening star, to give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.’ This is then the man himself, save that his separate individuality is no longer present; it is replaced by this single passion to rescue mankind.” (18th Aethyr).
In short, one becomes conscious once again, devoid of ego, to do one’s Work in the world, to accomplish one’s Will purified from the elements of separateness and the sense of self. In Thelema, the symbolism used is that of Nemo “tending his garden.” In the 13th Aetyhr it is stated, “Know thou that every man that is called NEMO hath a garden that he tendeth,” and Crowley comments on this by saying, “Every Magister Templi has a Work to do for the world.”
This Work is the Will of the individual, purified by the Mystic path of imbalance and egotism, invigorated by a reconnection to one’s deepest creative wellspring of power stemming from one’s own Godhead.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Liber XV, most commonly known as the Gnostic Mass, is a rich and multi-layered ritual. The Mass has many dimensions, and the more of these perspectives that one sees, the more one can have a deeper appreciation of the ritual. Sometimes individuals seem to get stuck in a single dimension and see, for example, only the dimension that the Mass is a ritual enactment of sex magick and a veiled form of the IX° O.T.O. supreme secret. This is certainly one dimension, but to only see one dimension forecloses on the possibility of seeing the many perspectives that will enrich one’s knowledge, experience, and appreciation of the Mass. Therefore, the purpose of this essay is to discuss certain important dimensions of the Gnostic Mass, although it will not (nor can it be) a completely exhaustive list.
For example: From the dimension of the Hermetic Qabalah, the Priest is in Tiphareth, the Ruach or conscious self, with the surrounding faculties (Chesed/memory, Geburah/volition, Netzach/desire, Hod/reason) being represented by the Deacon. The Priestess is both the Nephesh, the animal soul, as well as the Neschamah, aspiration toward the divine and the influx of divine intelligence/intuition. Qabalistically, the Mass shows the Nephesh (Malkuth; the Virgin Priestess as Earthly) being elevated to the Neshamah (Binah; the High Priestess enthroned as an embodied form of Nuit), and the Ruach (Tiphareth; the Priest as a man among men) being elevated to Chiah (Chokmah; the Priest whose Rod is that which was, and is, and is to come). Their final union releases Yechidah, the supreme individuality of Kether, which communes with the entire Tree down to Malkuth (the Congregants).
This is just one dimension of the Gnostic Mass given as an example. I will now go through several important dimensions of the Mass in a bit more detail to show there are many different perspectives from which to view this ritual.
If one reads the Mass fairly literally, one sees that it is a celebration of the forces of Nature. Crowley was a proponent of scientific religion that did not flaunt our current knowledge of the world. On this he wrote:
“Human nature demands (in the case of most people) the satisfaction of the religious instinct, and, to very many, this may best be done by ceremonial means. I wished therefore to construct a ritual through which people might enter into ecstasy as they have always done under the influence of appropriate ritual. In recent years, there has been an increasing failure to attain this object, because the established cults shock their intellectual convictions and outrage their common sense. Thus their minds criticize their enthusiasm; they are unable to consummate the union of their individual souls with the universal soul as a bridegroom would be to consummate his marriage if his love were constantly reminded that its assumptions were intellectually absurd.
I resolved that my ritual [the Gnostic Mass] should celebrate the sublimity of the operation of universal forces without introducing disputable metaphysical theories. I would neither make nor imply any statement about nature which would not be endorsed by the most materialistic man of science. On the surface this may sound difficult; but in practice I found it perfectly simple to combine the most rigidly rational conceptions of phenomena with the most exalted and enthusiastic celebration of their sublimity.” (Confessions)
There is a consistent Thelemic cosmology espoused in the Gnostic Mass that is fairly naturalistic. The cosmology is also reflected in many parts of The Book of Lies as they were written in the same year and show very similar views. The universe espoused in the Gnostic Mass is a series of dyads: one might call them “pairs of opposites” but they are not absolutely opposite in many ways, and their function is more to complement and work with one another. Crowley says “the universe [is] enclosed in the law of Lingam-Yoni,” which is another way to say “the law of yin-yang” or simply complementary dyads.
There is an ineffable Lord, Hadit, and an ineffable Lady, Nuit, who are consorts. This is mentioned in the Creed (“one secret and ineffable lord), the Collects (“The Lord” Collect and “The Lady” Collect), and elsewhere. Nuit is Space and Hadit is Motion. Another way to say “motion” is Time, as motion only takes place through the unfolding of time. Therefore, Nuit and Hadit are Space and Time, or simply Space-Time since it is an interwoven continuum. Nuit and Hadit are the foundations that give rise to the potential of a universe.
When manifested in the world, Hadit becomes “Chaos,” the “father of life.” Chaos is the masculine principle in all things, which on the grandest scale is Energy itself, the forces which constitute the universe. When manifested in the world, Nuit becomes “Babalon, “the mother of us all.” Babalon is the feminine principle in all things, which on the grandest scale is Matter itself. Therefore, Chaos and Babalon are the Energy and Matter which constitute the universe. “GOD is concealed in the whirling energy of Nature” (The Book of Lies). We also know that energy and matter are essentially the same thing, so Chaos and Babalon are consorts representing Matter-Energy. “[There is] a seeming duality of Chaos and Babalon; these are called Father and Mother, but it is not so. They are called Brother and Sister, but it is not so. They are called Husband and Wife, but it is not so” (The Book of Lies). As Crowley comments, “Chaos and Babalon… are really one” (The Book of Lies).
Chaos and Babalon are both reflected in the Macrocosm and the Microcosm. In the Macrocosm, the Lord is the Sun and the Lady is the Earth. The Sun is “masculine” insofar as it gives life and light, and the Earth is “feminine” insofar as it conceives and nourishes life. The union of the life- and light-giving powers of the Sun with the conceptive powers of the Earth gives rise to all life.
Chaos and Babalon reflected into the Microcosm are the Generative Powers in men and women. Hadit says of himself in The Book of the Law, “I am the flame that burns in every heart of man, and in the core of every star. I am Life, and the giver of Life, yet therefore is the knowledge of me the knowledge of death” (AL II:6). “Generative Powers” refers to our life-energy and creative power in general, but especially the power to sexually reproduce. “GOD the Father and Mother is concealed in Generation” (The Book of Lies). The union of Man and Woman give rise to the perpetuation of new life. This is known as the “Phallus,” which is the creative-generative power within each individual regardless of sex. The name goes unspoken or is called Mystery of Mystery in the Gnostic Mass, although the Priest does say “Phalle” in the rending of the Veil. It is called “the essence of every true god that is upon the surface of the Earth” in the Collects.
The Generative Power of Man is reflected in the Sacred Lance and that of Woman in the Holy Graal or Chalice. These are the reproductive organs (and their powers) of the male and female, specifically the penis and the womb. The particle represents the Semen or Seed of the Man, and the wine represents the menstruum of the Woman. Therefore, one important dimension of the Gnostic Mass is the celebration of the the process of Generation, the union of complementary powers to perpetuate Life. The Lance and Chalice are used to create the Eucharist, the masculine reflected in the Cake of Light and the feminine reflected in the Wine. The Cake of Light is that which fortifies our bodies (“life”; “sustenance of endeavour”) and the Wine is that which vitalizes our minds (“joy”; “inspiration of endeavour”).
Another dimension of the Gnostic Mass is that it is an enactment of the Path of Initiation. Initiation is the process of “spiritual advancement”; it is called “the process by which a man comes to learn that unknown Crown” (Liber Causae) as well as the path of enlightenment, the path of attainment, and many other names. In other words, the Mass depicts the unfolding of inner transformation.
The Priest represents every individual, the conscious self: he is the one who undergoes the “hero’s journey” in the narrative of the Mass. The other Officers (Priestess, Deacon, and Children) are “part of the PRIEST himself.” This shows that the interaction between the Officers shows an interaction within every individual, reinforcing that the Mass depicts an inner transformation.
The Priest begins asleep in the darkness of ignorance. The rest of the Mass involves his awakening to the Light of Truth. The Priestess represents both the spiritual forces of awakening as well as the object of attainment itself. She can be seen as the Holy Guardian Angel of the Priest. He is “directly inspired from Kether, the ultimate Self, through the Path of the High Priestess, or initiated intuition” (Liber Samekh).
The Priestess descends to the Tomb and rends the veil of darkness “by the power of Iron.” Iron represents Mars or destructive energy, and individuals are often called to the path in response to tragedy, crisis, or suffering in general. “The Aspiration to become a Master is rooted in the Trance of Sorrow” (Little Essays Toward Truth). The Priestess raises the Priest in order to “administer the virtues to the Brethren.” This shows the ultimate goal is to vitalize others, “the Way of Service” (Liber Causae), essentially identical with the bodhisattva vow to attain for the sake of all beings.
The Priest is purified and consecrated in body and soul, and he obtains the Lance, a symbol of spiritual maturity. Crowley wrote, “What then is the formula of the initiation of Horus? It will no longer be that of the Man, through Death. It will be the natural growth of the Child. His experiences will no more be regarded as catastrophic. Their hieroglyph is the Fool: the innocent and impotent Harpocrates Babe becomes the Horus Adult by obtaining the Wand. ‘Der reine Thor’ [the pure fool] seizes the Sacred Lance” (Liber Samekh).
The Priest’s spiritual fire is kindled by his aspiration toward Godhead. Through this, he has the Power to raise the Priestess to the High Altar in the East, which can be seen as the sacralization or spiritualization of the “lower self,” the transformation of the materialization of energy into its more subtle form of Spirit. After purifying and consecrating the now enthroned Priestess, the Priest is cast out into darkness in the dark night of the soul; having set upon the Path, he encounters trials and troubles. Through his aspiration, the Priest invokes Nuit in the Priestess, the ultimate object of desire and union. The Priest invokes Hadit in himself, identifying with the ultimate subject, Life and Motion itself. Finally he invokes Nuit and Hadit’s union, Ra-Hoor-Khuit, the God within who transcends space, time, and causality, who transcends all the gods and even death itself. The complete identification with Him essentially constitutes Attainment.
The veil of darkness is then thrown open, casting light from the High Altar upon the Priest and filling the whole Temple with brilliance. The Priestess is transformed and is now naked, holding the Chalice and Paten, the Godhead that is beyond particular forms with which we commune in Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. The Collects are then read, each element of the world being invoked, a perfect, complete, and balanced Microcosm of the Universe. The Priest then consecrates the Cake of Light and the wine with the power of the Lance, turning them into their Divine form, the body and blood of God. These are the elements of the Priest with which he will interact with the world: his body and his spirit. They are prepared as such through the “spiritual power” obtained through the Knowledge and Conversation of his Holy Guardian Angel.
The Priest then invokes the highest, ineffable Godhead through the Anthem, That which is “I beyond all I am who hast no nature and no name,” “male-female, quintessential, one.” This is the steady aspiration and devotion that propels the Priest to confront the Abyss, the dissolution of self whereby the True Self, that which is one with Godhead, arises. The Priest breaks off a particle, which represents “his Soul, a virgin offering to his Angel, pressed forth from his being by the intensity of this Aspiration” (Liber Samekh). It is the final offering of the self, the draining of one’s blood into the Cup of Babalon, whereby one becomes annihilated and crosses the Abyss. This occurs in the simultaneous “HRILIU,” the orgasm of the spirit wherein Two become One, the dissolution of All into None, and the Priest has thereby become a Master of the Temple.
Then, Baphomet is invoked, the Two-in-One God who is “male-female, quintessential, one,” representing a state of consciousness where opposites are fused into a unity. The Priest turns around to utter his Word. He lowers the Lance, announcing the Law, and the Congregants respond in kind, signifying the descent of this Two-in-One into all parts of the self, the entire Tree of Life from Supernals to Malkuth. This includes the Brethren for whom the Priest has attained in order that he may administer the Virtues to them. The Brethren take part in his Wisdom and Understanding through the Eucharist, and through this they come to recognize the Godhead with themselves. “God manifest in flesh” is their name. After a final blessing, the Priest exhausts his purpose and dies, descending into the darkness of the Tomb that another Priest may arise and the cycle perpetuate through the generations.
Another dimension of the Gnostic Mass is that it represents psychological transformation. The Jungian model of the psyche is especially conducive to being seen reflected in the Mass.
The Priest represents the conscious self, the sense of subjectivity. This is not confined merely to the ego, the sense of personal identity, but the conscious awareness itself (within which is the ego). The Deacon represents the faculties of the conscious self. The Priestess represents the Unconscious: she is both the earthly, animal, instinctual side as well as the heavenly, divine side. In particular, she seems to be identified at parts with the “anima,” an anthropomorphization of the unconscious mind, and an intermediary between the conscious self and the archetypal Self, the true center of one’s being.
The entire Gnostic Mass shows the psychological transformation of the Priest going from an identification with the persona to an identification with the archetypal Self, which encompasses the totality of the psyche, both conscious and unconscious. The entire process may be summarized as: the Priest identifying with Persona → Priest identifying with Ego → encounter with the Shadow → encounter with the Anima → union with the Anima to “release” or access the Self with which the Priest finally identifies.
At the beginning of the Mass, the Priest is in the Tomb representing the darkness and confinement of being identified with the persona, one’s outer personality. The Priestess descends as an unconscious impulse, experienced by the Priest as an appearance or a welling-up of unconscious forces. The Priest is awakened to a self not confined merely to persona, and he becomes identified with the ego.
As the ego, he then exerts his power over his unconscious and habitual instincts, represented as the Priestess kneeling before being upraised. Then, the Priest and the Temple are plunged into darkness as he confronts his “shadow”, those aspects of the self that are denied, repressed, and feared. His aspiration carries him through the darkness, and eventually he rends the veil to be met with an image of his “anima,” the naked Priestess enthroned. The anima is the almost like a reflection in the unconscious of the conscious self, it is the “hidden opposite gender in each individual,” representing a layer of the psyche deeper than the shadow. As Jung wrote, “Every man carries within him the eternal image of woman, not the image of this or that particular woman, but a definite feminine image. This image is fundamentally unconscious, an hereditary factor of primordial origin engraved in the living organic system of the man” (Collected Works vol.17). The “anima” or Priestess acts as mediator between the unconscious (the High Altar and all within the Veil of the Supernals) and the conscious (the Priest).
The Priest and Priestess unite, representing the acceptance and integration of the contrasexual archetype into oneself, i.e. becoming Two-in-One, represented in imagery such as the Alchemical Androgyne or, more aptly, Baphomet. The final proclamation of “There is no part of me that is not of the gods” signifies the emergence of the archetype of the Self, that which contains all elements of the psyche in a unified totality. This is not the same as “mystical union” or samadhi, but a sense of complete unity within one’s own being, the integration of all the parts of oneself into a single whole. Jung defined individuation as:
“becoming an ‘in-dividual,’ and in so far as ‘individuality’ embraces our innermost, last, and incomparable uniqueness, it also implies becoming one’s own self. We could therefore translate individuation as ‘coming to selfhood’ or ‘self-realization…’ Egotists are called ‘selfish,’ but this, naturally, has nothing to do with the concept of ‘Self’ as I am using it here… Individuation, therefore, can only mean a process of psychological development that fulfils the individual qualities given; in other words, it is a process by which a man becomes the definite, unique being he in fact is. In so doing he does not become ‘selfish’ in the ordinary sense of the word, but is merely fulfilling the peculiarity of his nature, and this… is vastly different from egotism or individualism.” (Collected Works vol.7)
In other words, the Priest has immersed himself in the unconscious self stage by stage. He has united by “love under will,” i.e. revealed, accepted, and integrated the various archetypal forces that emerge, and he has become wholly Himself.
The Gnostic Mass also contains the dimension of it being a symbolic, ritual reflection of the process of meditation whereby the subject of awareness merges with the object in samadhi.
The Temple represents the field of consciousness itself. The Priest represents the subject of awareness, the sense of “I” or self. The Priestess represents the object of concentration or devotion. The Lance of the Priest represents the power of concentration itself.
Traditionally, the process of concentration culminating in samadhi is called, as a whole, samyama. Samyama has three stages: dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. To oversimplify, dharana is when the subject begins to concentrate on the chosen object: the focus has been narrowed down to that particular object of concentration so that no other object takes the subject’s focus away. Crowley writes, “In the course of our concentration we noticed that the contents of the mind at any moment consisted of two things, and no more: the Object, variable, and the Subject, invariable, or apparently so. By success in Dharana the object has been made as invariable as the subject” (Liber ABA, Part I).
Dhyana is when dharana has been intensified to the point where there is only an awareness of the object, even the awareness of oneself as a subject has faded away. Samadhi is the culmination of dhyana whereby both subject and object “merge” or disappear into a non-dual unity.
In the Gnostic Mass, the Priest’s Lance is stroked eleven times by the Priestess; this shows the awakening to dharana, the first stage of samyama. This dharana culminates in the Priest kissing the Book on the Priestess’ chest three times and kneeling in adoration. The Priest is then in darkness for three circumambulations of the Temple. This may represent the “darkness” or struggle that often comes when beginning in the practice of samyama. Crowley likens this aspect of the work of samyama (or simply “Yoga”) to the formula of IAO:
“In beginning a meditation practice, there is always a quiet pleasure, a gentle natural growth [dharana and the raising up to the High Altar]; one takes a lively interest in the work; it seems easy; one is quite pleased to have started. This stage represents Isis. Sooner or later it is succeeded by depression—the Dark Night of the Soul, an infinite weariness and detestation of the work [the three circumambulations of the darkened Temple]. The simplest and easiest acts become almost impossible to perform. Such impotence fills the mind with apprehension and despair. The intensity of this loathing can hardly be understood by any person who has not experienced it. This is the period of Apophis.” (Magick in Theory & Practice)
By continued concentration, the dharana breaks into dhyana in the piercing of the Veil and the influx of Light from the High Altar. This trance of dhyana continues throughout the Collects.
This dhyana builds slowly through the Consecration of the Elements and the Anthem, and it culminates in the only word spoken simultaneously by Priest and Priestess in the Gnostic Mass: HRILIU. At this moment, both Priest and Priestess hold both Lance and Cup and depress the “particle,” the last bit of separateness, into the Wine so that the two become One in samadhi.
This “Eucharist” of samadhi may be understood as a subtler level of meaning to what Crowley says when he writes, “The highest form of the Eucharist is that in which the Element consecrated is One. It is one substance and not two, not living and not dead, neither liquid nor solid, neither hot nor cold, neither male nor female. This sacrament is secret in every respect” (Magick in Theory & Practice). It is “neither this nor that” because the samadhi is transcendent of dualities – it is non-dual – and it is “secret in every respect” because it is beyond the possibility of communication as all language is inherently dualistic.
The Gnostic Mass also contains the dimension of being an enactment of a Tantric rite. There are an immense amount of similarities between Tantra and Thelema, including but not limited to: seeing the body as “good” and useful for attainment, seeing the body as a microcosm of the Universe, seeing the world not as maya or illusion but as the play of the power of Godhead, the visualization of self as Deity, the transcendence of common morality and ethics, et cetera.
In Tantra, there is something called the “Great Ritual” or the “Secret Ritual,” which involves the use of wine (madya) and sexual union (maithuna). Sound familiar? There are “left-hand” Tantrics who actually engage in sexual intercourse and “right-hand” Tantrics who only engage in sexual intercourse symbolically (with sexual union itself being symbolic as well as the visualization of sexual union).
Shiva is the formless, motionless Godhead that is beyond all forms and expression, and Shakti is the Power of that Godhead when expressed in form and motion; it is very similar to the concepts of Tao (Shiva) and of Teh (Shakti). Shakti is often identified with Kundalini, reinforced in the Mass by the Priestess’ 3 and a half circles around the Temple reflecting the Kundalini serpent coiled 3 and a half times around the base of each individual’s spine. Interestingly, Shakti’s symbol is that of a triangle with the apex downward, which is the symbol of Ra-Hoor-Khuit and the sign given by the Priestess when she is first raised to the High Altar. The Priestess becomes not merely a woman but the Absolute Woman when raised to the High Altar, and she becomes Shakti devoid of all particular forms in the stripping away all clothing.
Basically, the yogi identifies with Shiva and all his corresponding properties; the female identifies with Shakti, the primordial Power inherent in all motion. This is similar to the idea of the Scarlet Woman as an earthly avatar of Babalon. Their union is a hieros gamos or “holy marriage”: the union of male and female is seen as the union of Shiva and Shakti, which may be oversimplified as the ultimate Subject and the ultimate Object. This union creates the “androgynous Shiva,” known as Ardhanarishvara, which literally means “the Lord who is half woman.” Ardhanarishvara is essentially a Two-in-One form representing both elements fused into One: nearly identical images are found in that of Baphomet and of the Alchemical Hermaphrodite or “Rebis.”
This suspension of duality occurs during the erotic rapture of union, liberating this “Force” of Ardhanarishvara or Baphomet. This Two-in-One figure transcends all, including space and time: it therefore is That which is the “breath that makest every God even and Death to tremble before Thee.” It is the Lion and Serpent that “destroys the destroyer” of Death, being That which transcends all manifestation, all motion, and all duality. This is the amrita or ambrosia, both words meaning “not mortal” or “beyond death”; this is the true Elixir of Immortality, the sacrament of which one may partake and truly proclaim “There is no part of me that is not of the gods.”
It should be emphasized once more that this list is not exhaustive: there are potentially infinite other dimensions at work in the Gnostic Mass. Also, none of these dimensions that are mentioned are fully fleshed out: one could easily write a whole book on the Gnostic Mass as a Tantric rite, for example. The real point is to emphasize that there are, in fact, many dimensions to the Gnostic Mass. I believe that the more dimensions one can appreciate, the deeper one’s experience and appreciation of the Mass can be. Therefore, I hope that this essay will spark in the reader a desire to see the Gnostic Mass as something beyond merely a Qabalistic drama or a veiled sexual magick ritual. There is a vast reservoir of potential hidden within the central rite of O.T.O., merely waiting for the ingenium and courage of an earnest seeker to tap into it.
Love is the law, love under will.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
In Thelema, the term “initiation” is used often and in varying ways. This essay is intended to elucidate the basic meaning and fundamentals of initiation, especially in the context of spiritual system of Thelema.
Basic definition: “Initiation” essentially refers to the path of spiritual progress of every individual. The “path of initiation” is synonymous with other terms such as “the path of attainment” or “the quest for enlightenment.” It is sometimes called the Great Work, or “climbing the Tree of Life,” or simply “the Path.”
Along the path, one reaches various “degrees” of initiation which can be construed as certain levels of insight or understanding or simply certain shifts in one’s awareness that move progressively from the ignorance of the mundane view of self and the world to the “initiated” or enlightened view. These “degrees” of initiation refer strictly to an internal process, and the ceremonies and “degrees” of temporal organizations can only be a symbolic reflection of one’s inner initiations. As Crowley wrote, “The Master Therion warns all Aspirants to the Sacred Wisdom and the Magick of Light that Initiation cannot be bought, or even conferred; it must be won by personal endeavor” (letter to W.T. Smith, 1934 e.v.).
This leads to some general principles of initiation that are true across all forms of spirituality:
1) Initiation can ultimately only come from the endeavors and work of the individual.
2) True initiation is always in the form of the direct experience of the individual.
3) Initiation cannot be bestowed from others through words, symbols, rituals, or any other way. The most another can do is help point the way and aid one to avoid common pitfalls.
The basics of initiation are explained fairly succinctly in a text called Liber LXI vel Causae or simply Liber Causae. It reads:
“In all systems of religion is to be found a system of Initiation, which may be defined as the process by which a man comes to learn that unknown Crown.”
This establishes that all systems of religion have some form or another of approaching the same Truth. They all contain some form of “the process by which a man comes to learn that unknown Crown,” which is here called “Initiation.” The “unknown Crown” is a Qabalistic reference to the first Sephirah on the Tree of Life, Kether, which literally means “Crown” and represents the Unity of Godhead to which man may attain. Some have called this “unknown Crown” the term “God,” some have called it “liberation,” or “unity,” or “Truth,” and countless other names. Ultimately, it is “unknown” and nameless because it is beyond the dualities of knower and known, beyond the dualities of the subject and object of language, and therefore cannot be accurately named. It is, to use the language of the Gnostic Mass, always “beyond speech and beyond sight.” Initiation is defined as the process whereby one may come to learn That. Liber Causae continues:
“Though none can communicate either the knowledge or the power to achieve this, which we may call the Great Work, it is yet possible for initiates to guide others.”
Here we are told what was mentioned above as a general principle of initiation: Initiation cannot be bestowed from others through words, symbols, rituals, or any other way. “None can communicate” does not mean there is not anyone smart or enlightened enough to communicate this Truth, but it is a Truth whose nature is simply incommunicable by virtue of it being beyond all names, forms, signs, and symbols.
Here we also see the process of “Initiation” being equated with the term “the Great Work,” as mentioned previously as well. We also learn that initiates may not communicate “that unknown Crown” but they can guide others toward it. Liber Causae continues on this theme:
“Every man must overcome his own obstacles, expose his own illusions. Yet others may assist him to do both, and they may enable him altogether to avoid many of the false paths, leading no whither, which tempt the weary feet of the uninitiated pilgrim. They can further insure that he is duly tried and tested, for there are many who think themselves to be Masters who have not even begun to tread the Way of Service that leads thereto.”
Here we have affirmation of another general principle of initiation mentioned before: Initiation can ultimately only come from the endeavors and work of the individual. We also learn that the path of initiation must involve overcoming obstacles and exposing one’s illusions about reality. As another important foundational text says, “Thou then who hast trials and troubles, rejoice because of them, for in them is Strength, and by their means is a pathway opened unto that Light… Rejoice therefore, O Initiate, for the greater thy trial the greater thy Triumph” (Liber Librae).
There is a reaffirmation of the fact that initiates may help guide others in order to enable them to not fall into common pitfalls. There is also an assertion that “there are many who think themselves to be Masters” who are not even close, “Masters” being a name for those who have succeeded in treading the Path. Those who “think themselves to be Masters” includes people who earnestly may think they have attained but have only obtained minor glimpses of truth as well as those who may be called “charlatans” insofar as they knowingly prey upon earnest seekers by deception and manipulation.
One thing that is particularly striking is the mention that “the Way of Service” is what “leads thereto,” i.e. to becoming a Master. There are several ways to understand what is meant by “the Way of Service” that are all connected. Firstly, there is the fact which has already been mentioned repeatedly: one function of initiates is to be a guide to others on the path. In many systems, once one has become judged to be sufficiently advanced in understanding (or “attainment” or any other similar term), one becomes a teacher or guide to others – there are many traditions that involve the “transmission” of wisdom from guru or Master to disciple, from the initiated to uninitiated.
Related to this way of understanding “the Way of Service” is the fact that, especially within Thelema, there is an emphasis on “coming back to the world” once one has attained. This is virtually identical to the bodhisattva vow in Mahayana Buddhism whereby one swears to return from nirvana (liberation, attainment, etc) back to samsara (the mundane world of ignorance) in order that all beings may be liberated. There are plentiful examples within the Western tradition of this same idea, often involving the symbolism of someone who has attained returning from a distant and/or isolated place; prominent examples include returning from a mountain (e.g. Moses, Muhammad, and Nietzsche’s Zarathustra) as well as returning from the wilderness (e.g. Jesus). That is, becoming a Master is tied up in the Way of Service for one does not become a Master solely for enlightening oneself but also to help others attain to the Light.
Finally, connected to these other two ways of understanding “the Way of Service,” one can understand this Service in a more general sense: it requires a diminishing of one’s attachment to the ego, the personal identity or sense of self, and one cannot become a Master if one clings to this self with its self-oriented goals. In all systems of attainment, one seeks the “unknown Crown” which is always beyond the personal sense of self or “ego”; it is, to use the language of the Gnostic Mass again, “Thou who art I beyond all I am.” It should be noted that in none of these ways of understanding the Way of Service is there any semblance of “servility,” of abasing oneself before others or self-denigration: it is a Service of strength, of one who overflows with Light and so bestows it upon others that they may partake of it.
“Now the Great Work is one, and the Initiation is one, and the Reward is one, however diverse are the symbols wherein the Unutterable is clothed.”
This is an especially important point: essentially, initiation always leads to the One, to “that unknown Crown,” to “the Unutterable.” The mystics and initiates of all times have spoken of the same “Great Work,” but everyone has used different symbols and language to explain it. In a Holy Book of Thelema it is written, “There must ever be division in the word. For the colours are many, but the light is one” (Liber LXV). This is a beautiful image where the Light, the “Unutterable,” is always One, but it enters through the prism of the world and each individual who speaks about it represents one color among many. There must always be a diversity of expression, but they are all facets pointing to the one Light. An identical idea is expressed in another Holy Book of Thelema where it is written:
“To you who yet wander in the Court of the Profane we cannot yet reveal all; but you will easily understand that the religions of the world are but symbols and veils of the Absolute Truth. So also are the philosophies. To the adept, seeing all these things from above, there seems nothing to choose between Buddha and Mohammed, between Atheism and Theism” (Liber X).
It is understood that there is a single Light, “the Absolute Truth,” “the Unutterable,” et cetera, and the diversity of expression are simply different ways to symbolize and veil that Unity. In Thelema, there is a further understanding that there are different “formulas” of initiation or attainment that are efficacious in one time but that need to be updated for a new era or “aeon.” A virtually identical notion is held in the Hindu doctrine of the “yugas” or epochs (e.g. the Kali Yuga) where the requirements to attain liberation change with each “yuga.” This is the essential meaning behind the idea that we are in a “New Aeon.” Let’s look into this idea in more depth:
In the world of Western esotericism or “occultism,” there is a certain symbolic way that the “Mysteries” of the path of initiation are explained. In general, there are a series of ceremonial rituals which each candidate undergoes, symbolizing the stages of illumination and offering guidance on the Path. Most importantly, there is a “Hierophant” (literally meaning “one who reveals sacred things”) whose purpose is to serve as the dispenser of the Mysteries. Ultimately, this Hierophant represents or reflects the God within each individual who is the true Hierophant of every initiate.
In one esoteric tradition, that of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Path was symbolized in various psycho-dramas of the various “degrees” of initiation. The Hierophant sat in the East, the place of the rising Sun, while other officers sat in other quarters. This Hierophant not only dispensed the Mysteries as the “initiator” but also represented the “formula” of the Mysteries themselves. In this system, the Hierophant was represented as Osiris, a god who underwent death and was resurrected in a more “divine” form. This essentially means that attainment was achieved through a life-death-resurrection process, the “formula” of Osiris. This, of course, includes the formula represented by the death and resurrection of Christ who is seen as one expression of the “Osirian” formula (along with Attis, Adonis, Dionysus, et cetera).
In something called the “Ceremony the Equinox,” the various officers rotate around the room, taking on new offices with a new individual becoming the Hierophant. In the same way, there was an “Equinox of the Gods” where the gods themselves shifted their positions: Osiris no longer represented the formula of initiation. This is why the era or aeon where his formula was active is called the “Aeon of Osiris” or the “Aeon of the Dying God.” Now Horus sat in the East as the Hierophant and a new formula of attainment was put in place: “the word of the Law is Thelema” (AL I:39). This is the symbolism at work in The Book of the Law when it is written, “Abrogate are all rituals, all ordeals, all words and signs. Ra-Hoor-Khuit hath taken his seat in the East at the Equinox of the Gods… Hoor in his secret name and splendour is the Lord initiating” (AL I:49). In Thelema, this Equinox of the Gods is said to have occurred on the Vernal Equinox of 1904, with the new Book of the Law – a new Law for a new aeon – being received a few days afterward. Crowley comments on this verse of The Book of the Law:
“This verse [AL I:49] declares that the old formula of Magick — the Osiris-Adonis-Jesus-Marsyas-Dionysus-Attis-et cetera formula of the Dying God – is no longer efficacious. It rested on the ignorant belief that the Sun died every day, and every year, and that its resurrection was a miracle. The Formula of the New Aeon recognizes Horus, the Child crowned and conquering, as God. We are all members of the Body of God, the Sun; and about our System is the Ocean of Space. This formula is then to be based upon these facts. Our ‘Evil’, ‘Error’, ‘Darkness’, ‘Illusion’, whatever one chooses to call it, is simply a phenomenon of accidental and temporary separateness. If you are ‘walking in darkness’, do not try to make the sun rise by self-sacrifice [i.e. the formula of Osiris], but wait in confidence for the dawn, and enjoy the pleasures of the night meanwhile. The general allusion is to the Equinox Ritual of the G[olden] D[awn].”
There are many aspects of the path of initiation that have changed – or rather, are better understood – in the New Aeon. A more in-depth look into the major aspects that have changed is given in the series of essays “New Aeon Initiation.” What is notable in Thelema is the understanding that the Law of this Aeon will shift again in the future: Thelema is for this Aeon and a new Law will come about when there is another shift, another “Equinox of the Gods.” This is what is spoken to in another line of The Book of the Law:
“But your holy place shall be untouched throughout the centuries: though with fire and sword it be burnt down & shattered, yet an invisible house there standeth, and shall stand until the fall of the Great Equinox; when Hrumachis shall arise and the double-wanded one assume my throne and place. Another prophet shall arise, and bring fresh fever from the skies; another woman shall awake the lust & worship of the Snake; another soul of God and beast shall mingle in the globèd priest; another sacrifice shall stain the tomb; another king shall reign; and blessing no longer be poured To the Hawk-headed mystical Lord!” (AL III:34).
There will be a “fall of the Great Equinox” and, instead of Horus, the god “Hrumachis” will arise, and a new god – “the double-wanded one” – will be installed in the East as Hierophant with a different “formula” for a new aeon. Crowley comments, “Hrumachis is the Dawning Sun; he therefore symbolizes any new course of events.” Therefore “Hrumachis shall arise” is another way to say the light of a new aeon will come. Crowley continues, “The ‘double-wanded one’ is ‘Thmaist of dual form as Thmais and Thmait’, from whom the Greeks derived their Themis, goddess of Justice.” Crowley is referring to Thmaist as an officer of the Golden Dawn ceremonies; Thmaist is identical to the Greek “Themis” and the Egyptian “Maat” or simply “Ma,” all gods of Justice and balance. Crowley continues, “Following him [Horus] will arise the Equinox of Ma, the Goddess of Justice, it may be a hundred or ten thousand years from now; for the Computation of Time is not here as There… Strength will prepare the Reign of Justice. We should begin already, as I deem, to regard this Justice as the Ideal whose Way we should make ready, by virtue of our Force and Fire.”
Initiation is the process whereby we come to the one Light, the “unknown Crown” within each of us. It can only be attained through our own efforts, although other initiates and adepts may guide us to point the way and help avoid common pitfalls. There is a single Light, although it is expressed in many different ways; it is the same Light regardless of belief or tradition. The old initiatory formula of Osiris became no longer efficacious with the dawning of the New Aeon of Horus whose word of the Law is Thelema. Further details of the nature of initiation in this New Aeon can be explored in the series “New Aeon Initiation.” In the distant future, the Aeon of Horus will itself end and a new god, that of Justice, will arise with a new Law.
Love is the law, love under will.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The Will is the dynamic motion of your Being, and your sole right and duty is to do that Will (AL I:42). Most of us go about our lives in a state of darkness: there is ignorance about who we really are and we are not in touch with our Will. Battered about by thoughts, emotions, and circumstance, we can be like a rudderless boat adrift in the sea. Really, we are all like this to a certain extent, sometimes more so than at other times, but we have all been “wandering in the Darkness” as it is said in the Neophyte initiation ceremony of the Golden Dawn.
Although not all individuals are called to the Path of striving to do one’s Will, there are those of us – most likely including yourself if you are taking time to read this – who have perceived that there is something more to life than merely being a victim of circumstance, of simply eating, working, sleeping, and then dying. There is a greater purpose awaiting, a fuller way to live: there is the possibility of Light.
Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change in conformity with Will. This means that Magick is essentially the science and art of Life. Those of us who are called to the Path engage in some form of Magick in order to try to find the Light of Will, whether through meditation, ritual, or whatever else. No one would engage in any form of Magick if they did not believe in the possibility of improving themselves and their lives; the very act implies a conscious desire to change. Since we perceive the possibility of the Light and don’t want to live in darkness, the most basic form of Magick involves altering the way we act in the world, trying to become more conscious and intentional in the way we engage with circumstance. That is, we don’t want to just stumble about the world through the darkness; we want the light and freedom of conscious intent. This involves, in some way or another, the discipline of not reacting to things in our typical, conditioned, habitual ways. We – for example – try to eat better, think in new and different ways, not be carried away by emotions, and not follow out every passing whim or desire. We do these things when we remember to do them, and we fail when we forget ourselves and our Path.
This is then the primary act of Magick: remembering. If you do not remember to do something, you will not do it, regardless of whether you have the strength and skill to carry it out or not. For the sake of example, if you are trying not to insult people out of anger, there are two possibilities: you will either forget and insult someone out of anger again or you will feel angry and you will remember your Path. Only then is the possibility of change open to you. Your discipline allows for the possibility of choice: without remembering you will simply react in the same habitual way. Remembering is the possibility of liberty, and forgetting is the resignation to slavery.
The most important thing to remember is who you really are. So who are you really? You are not the physical stuff of your body, the thoughts that pass through your mind, the emotions that well up, or your desires. You are not your personality or your career or your possessions. In the language of Hermeticism, you are not the four Elements: you are Spirit. You are the Light of consciousness itself, the “Khabs” or star, and every aspect of experience is merely “the dance of the Veil of Life upon the Face of the Spirit” (Liber XV). Actually, you are even beyond consciousness. Consciousness is simply the vehicle of the expression of That which you really are: boundlessness. Call it infinity, Godhead, Dharmakaya, the Absolute, True Self, Atman, the Truth, or whatever else you like, but this is ultimately what we are. This is what every mystic, yogi, and buddha who has ever lived has tried to express and this is also what Thelema expresses.
In a sense, The Book of the Law is a text telling you to remember who you really are. Crowley wrote, “There are many ethical injunctions of a revolutionary character in the Book, but they are all particular cases of the general precept to realize one’s own absolute God-head and to act with the nobility which springs from that knowledge. Practically all vices springs from failure to do this” (Confessions).
Well, what does The Book of the Law have to say about remembering? There are two instances of the word “remember” and they both essentially say the same thing: Remember that you are Hadit. In the second chapter where Hadit is the speaker it says, “But remember, o chosen one, to be me; to follow the love of Nu in the star-lit heaven; to look forth upon men, to tell them this glad word” (AL II:76). Remember to be me, to be Hadit. You are the inexhaustible, procreative life-will, the expression of Energy through Possibility, the “love of Nu.” From this Hadit-perspective, every Experience is a sacrament, a Fulfillment of the union of Hadit with one of the infinite possibilities of Nuit. Where are your petty quarrels, your resentments, and your fears when you remember you are Hadit? “Dost thou fail? Art thou sorry? Is fear in thine heart? Where I am these are not” (AL II:46-47).
Also in the second chapter, the Book says, “Remember all ye that existence is pure joy; that all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass & are done; but there is that which remains” (AL II:9). If you remember that you are Hadit, you will naturally know that existence is pure joy: if you are All, then every Event is the fulfillment of your Will, every Experience is a new note in the music of your rapturous love-song to Nuit. Insofar as we identify with those things that pass and are done, we fall back into darkness, we become shadows and sorrow is naturally our lot. Crowley wrote, “For in each Man his Inmost Light is the Core of his Star. That is, Hadit; and his Work is the Identification of himself with that Light” (Liber Aleph).
This is the primary act of Magick, the foundation upon which all other acts should be based: Remember.
Love is the law, love under will.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The concept of “True Will”, or simply “Will”, is fundamental to the Law of Thelema since our central tenet is “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” (AL I:40), along with “Thou hast no right but to do thy will” (AL I:42) and “There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt” (AL III:60). Thelema, after all, means “Will.”
For Will being such a central concept in Thelema there are many misconceptions about it that limit our understanding as well as limit our potential for accomplishing or manifesting our Wills. Many of these myths or misconceptions are highly interrelated, but they are also different in their emphasis or approach; the list is not meant to be exhaustive or comprehensive but to hopefully lead to further thought and clarity about the notion of Will. Most fundamentally, this is a short list intended to challenge some common misconceptions about the Will in order that we may know and do our Wills more freely and joyously.
1) True Will is found at a certain point in time.
The first myth is that True Will is discovered during a discrete event, a certain point in history. This means that you don’t know your Will but in the future you might, upon having some kind of insight or experience, suddenly know it. In contrast, Crowley informs us that “The will is but the dynamic aspect of the self…” (Liber II). In this sense, the Will is simply the expression of our Nature. However poorly or incompletely, our Nature can’t help but be expressed in some way, which is to say: We are always doing our Wills to some extent, but we could also always do a little “better” in the sense of doing it more fully and with more awareness. Even if we do have sudden or life-altering insight into the nature of our Wills, this doesn’t mean that this understanding might not need to change or be revised in the future.
2) True Will is something to be found in the distant future.
Related to the first myth is the notion that True Will is not found in the present but at some point in the future. That is, one thinks “I don’t know my Will now but I will hopefully know it in the future.” Now, it is perfectly reasonable to believe that one’s knowledge or understanding of one’s Will may increase in the future, but – again – we are always doing our Wills to some extent. That is, the Will is not “found,” but our awareness and understanding of it may increase. Viewing Will as something found in the future forecloses on the potential for us working our best to do our Wills in the present moment. We may bemoan our circumstances, wishing that “if we only knew our Wills…” that everything would be alright, rather than working with ourselves in the present to be more fully aware and joyful with what is already occurring. That is, our very concepts of the Will as being something distant prevent us from seeing what is already here: we are all stars (AL I:3) and Hadit, the flame of our Wills, is always at the core of our Being (AL II:6). It is our job or duty to figure out how to work with ourselves and our environment in order to most fully manifest that inherent Truth within us.
3) You’re either doing your Will or you’re not doing it.
The language used around Will is often “digital” in the sense that we speak of it in “on or off” terms. I believe it is both more effective and more accurate to think of Will in “analog” terms, i.e. that we are always doing Will to some extent. The language of “True Will” implies this kind of digital dichotomy of true/false. In contrast, the idea of “pure will” is one of a matter of degrees. A totally “pure” Will is 100% Will with no admixture or contaminants, just like pure juice is 100% juice – there is no moral connotation whatsoever. We may (for the sake of explanation) say that we may not be currently doing 100% of our Will but we may be at 30% or 80% of our potential at any given moment. This puts the responsibility on ourselves to try to enact our Will in the fullest, most “pure” way possible. It also means that we don’t need to think of others in terms of them doing or not doing their Wills; rather, everyone is doing their Will to some extent or another, and we can all engage in more intentional effort to get closer to the ideal of “100% Will.”
4) True Will is a single, unchanging thing.
The language used around Will also often implies that Will is a single thing, i.e. “It is my Will to be a doctor.” In fact, the idea of Will being a certain career in particular is one of the most common examples of this misconception. One example Crowley speaking in this way is when he writes, “to each will come the knowledge of his finite will, whereby one is a poet, one prophet, one worker in steel, another in jade” (De Lege Libellum). The error comes in taking the idea of “Will = the right career” literally rather than metaphorically. That is, a career is a metaphor for what you do with your life, hopefully suited to your proclivities, talents, and aspirations. Obviously the Will is not confined to a single career – especially nowadays when most people on average have multiple careers throughout their lives – as is apparent with Crowley’s own life. It would not be correct to say it was Crowley’s Will to be a poet because it would neglect that he was a magician; it would not be correct to say it was Crowley’s Will to be a mountain climber because it would neglect that he was a chess player, etc. In fact, the Will is – as already mentioned – “the dynamic aspect of the self…” (Liber II). It is dynamic, meaning constantly in motion. Crowley reinforces this when he writes that the “True Self[‘s]… Nature is to move continually, it must be understood not as static, but as dynamic, not as a Noun but as a Verb” (Duty). This dynamic nature of Will is further implied in the language that describes it as “Motion” as when Crowley writes that the Will is “the true Motion of thine inmost Being” (Liber Aleph, chapter 9).
5) True Will can be completely encapsulated in a phrase.
Connected to the previous misconception is the notion that Will can be completely encapsulated in a phrase. Since the Will is dynamic, its Nature being “to Go”, no phrase can ever completely encapsulate it. There are certainly benefits to being able to encapsulate one’s Will in a phrase such as having a consciously articulated standard by which one can judge if a certain course of action is expressive or inhibitive of the Will. For example, one might formulate the Will as “It is my Will for my body to be healthy,” which can act as a standard by which you determine that eating junk food is not part of your Will (for all practical purposes). That being said, there must be an understanding that the Will is ultimately beyond verbal articulation. As it is said, “Also reason is a lie; for there is a factor infinite & unknown; & all their words are skew-wise” (AL II:32). The Will is supra-rational insofar as it cannot be accurately described or completely described by the faculty of Reason and thought. As Crowley says, “[The mind] should be a perfect machine, an apparatus for representing the universe accurately and impartially to its master. The Self, its Will, and its Apprehension, should be utterly beyond it” (New Comment to AL II:28). The mind with its thoughts and Reason is simply a part of one’s Being; the Will is the Verb of our whole Being so naturally a small part can not entirely comprehend or encompass the Whole.
6) True Will requires a mystical experience.
In connection with Myth #2, there is a tendency to believe that knowledge of the Will only comes with some kind of mystical experience, whether one believes (or conceives of) it as Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, enlightenment, crossing the Abyss, or whatever else. While we might say that Knowledge and Conversation (or other mystic experiences) might help clarify the Will or get rid of some of its obstacles such as excessive egotism, the Will is both always present to some extent and can always be worked with to some extent. The notion of Will as only knowable through mystical experiences neglects the fact that there are very simple, straightforward, and even “mundane” ways in which we can work with ourselves to do our Wills better or more fully. For example, one could realize that a certain relationship is not working anymore: it causes constant turmoil, suffering, bitterness, and resentment. One could then realize that, in order to do one’s Will more fully, one needs to end the relationship. “O lover, if thou wilt, depart!” (AL I:41). There are many things in our lives that we know, on some level, can be changed to more fully enact our Wills such as getting rid of certain habits that are already known to be troublesome. Whether this is as simple as “watching less television” or as concrete as “quitting opiates” or more subtle like “being less attached to expectations” or more general like “becoming more mindful and less emotionally reactive”, there are many ways to work on ourselves that are available to everyone without the slightest experience of or inclination toward mystical experiences. Even more troubling, believing that only some mystical experience in the future can be used as an excuse or a “spiritual bypass” to avoid dealing with these more “mundane” issues such as unprocessed emotions or unwanted habits.
7) It is everyone’s Will to attain.
A generally pervasive belief among Thelemites is that there is a certain kind of “true Thelemite” or “ideal Thelemite.” Another essay more fully explains why this is a misconception but, in short, it relies on having preconceptions as to what is “right” and “wrong” for others’ Wills when the entire foundation of Thelema rests on the notion that each individual is unique. One manifestation of this preconception about what is “right” is the notion that everyone should be striving to “attain,” meaning achieve some kind of mystic gnosis or enlightenment. In fact, The Book of the Law says in the same line as its central maxim: “Who calls us Thelemites will do no wrong, if he look but close into the word. For there are therein Three Grades, the Hermit, and the Lover, and the man of Earth. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” (AL I:40).This is further explained in The Vision and the Voice when it is said, “The man of earth is the adherent. The lover giveth his life unto the work among men. The hermit goeth solitary, and giveth only of his light unto men.” It is not inherently everyone’s Will to become a hermit and attain the heights of spiritual illumination – it may very well be someone’s Will to live their lives without concern for these things. More clearly, it says in The Book of the Law that “the Law is for all” (AL I:34). This insistence that everyone must “attain” can easily devolve into a form of spiritual self-superiority that is contrary to the spirit of Liberty that permeates the Law.
8) Your Will has nothing to do with other people.
It is typical to conceive of the Will as something inherent in the individual that has nothing do with other people or their circumstances. I believe this is simply a fault of the language used to describe Will rather than a reality. We are all embedded in a complex interconnection of forces – we are all stars in the web of Infinite Space – and we both affect and are affected by everything around us: “his actions affect not only what he called himself, but also the whole universe” (Liber Librae). Seeing as how the Will is the dynamic aspect of our Nature, it must inherently adapt to the situation or circumstance in which it finds itself. Crowley speaks to this when he writes that the Will is “our true orbit, as marked out by the nature of our position, the law of our growth, the impulse of our past experiences.” (Introduction to Liber AL). Our “position” constantly changes and the Will is “marked out” in part by the nature of our position. Our “position” involves our environment and the people around us. Virtually any kind of articulation of the Will – however provisional or tentative – must include the environment or other people in some way. To say “It is my Will to eat less” involves the food in your environment; to say “It is my Will to be kind” involves your kindness toward other people; to say “It is my Will to promulgate the Law of Thelema” involves those to whom you are promulgating, etc. Even to say “It is my Will to attain Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel” necessarily requires that you create the properly conducive environment to attain that goal. In fact, some of the best lessons come from being attuned to one’s environment and those around you as opposed to ignoring its import or impact. If you are getting constant messages in the form of unnecessary difficulties of whatever type, it is perhaps a lesson to alter the way you are adapting to your environment rather than insisting more strongly on going about your way and just bulldozing over others.
9) True Will means you’ll be free from suffering.
The idea of True Will often leads to unrealistic utopian notions as to what Will looks like. The idea that doing one’s Will frees one from suffering is unrealistic on multiple levels. Firstly, suffering is inherent in existence in some form or another insofar as we all get sick, suffer loss, get old, sustain injury, and die. We will always encounter some form of resistance or difficulty in our lives. This should not be seen as some kind of mark of failure on your attempt to do your Will; rather, these inevitable occurrences of suffering, resistance, and difficulty are the means by which we learn and grow. As it is said, “Thou then who hast trials and troubles, rejoice because of them, for in them is Strength, and by their means is a pathway opened unto that Light… the greater thy trial the greater thy Triumph” (Liber Librae). This idea that “doing your Will = no suffering” also depends on the notion that Will is either “on” or “off” as mentioned in Myth #3: even if we are in the mode of “100% Will” for a while, we all inevitably make missteps, encounter unforeseen difficulties, or simply “slip” and don’t do the best we can. Further, the very desire to be free from suffering is, in a sense, an Old Aeon idea: Thelemites do not seek to transcend the material world, exempt ourselves from Samsara, or even avoid suffering. We acknowledge reality as it is without insisting it conform to our a priori ideals as to “how the world should be.” We accept suffering and difficulty in life as “sharp Sauce to the Dish of Pleasure” (Liber Aleph, chapter 59). I believe it is more accurate to say that doing one’s Will means you’ll be free from a great deal of unnecessary suffering. A great deal of our suffering is indeed not inherent or necessary but we, through our various poor habits and misconceptions, subject ourselves to difficulty that can be avoided largely or entirely if we become more aware of and tuned into our Wills.
10) True Will means you’ll be free from conflict.
Connected to the previous myth is the notion that doing one’s True Will means we will be free from all conflict. This is usually based on the fact that The Book of the Law says “thou hast no right but to do thy will. Do that, and no other shall say nay” (AL I:42-43) and Crowley wrote that “[the Law] seems to imply a theory that if every man and every woman did his and her will— the true will— there would be no clashing” (Liber II). Realistically, there will always be people who “say nay,” regardless of the extent to which you are doing your Will, and there will always be “clashing.” The real issue comes from an understanding of “clashing”: If clashing means interpersonal conflict in the form of disagreement and argument, there will never be an end to this unless we all become unthinking, desire-less automatons which is certainly not the goal of the Law of Liberty. Similar to the previous myth, I believe it is more accurate to say that doing one’s Will means you will be free from a great deal of unnecessary conflict. Much of our conflict with others depends on our insistence on knowing what is “right” for others, our own expectations and standards placed upon others, insisting on maintaining a position based on our ego’s self-esteem and identity being tied up with our position, and many other missteps that often naturally fall away to the extent that one focuses on Will rather than arguing. Perhaps that is one reason we are taught to “argue not; convert not; talk not overmuch!” (AL III:42). Again, it is a somewhat Old Aeon fantasy for the world or one’s life to be conflict-free. I believe the acceptance of and involvement with conflict is a distinguishing mark of one who has a New Aeon mentality rather than an Old Aeon one. As Crowley wrote, “Combat stimulates the virile or creative energy” (Duty). Even the most trivial and mundane forms of conflict such as opposing teams in sports or opposing viewpoints in a debate allow for the fun of the game to occur in the first place. Rather than seeking to be free of conflict, we might do better to examine the conflicts in our lives and determine to what extent they are a result of our inability to fully actualize our Wills in order to live more fully and joyfully.
What all 10 of these myths imply is a view of Will as something always present to some extent, always dynamic and changing, always able to be worked with and worked on regardless of having mystical experiences or not, embedded within the context of our surroundings and other individuals, and accepting of suffering and conflict as things inherent in existence and things to be worked with rather than avoided. This list is not comprehensive in any way, and there are obviously many nuances to the idea of Will and many ways to approach understanding it. Nonetheless, my hope is that challenging some of these ideas as myths or misconceptions can help free our thinking up in order to become aware of the great potential in every moment to enact and rejoice in our Wills.
Love is the law, love under will.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions related herein are strictly my own. They do not represent any kind of official stance of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, Ordo Templi Orientis, or anyone else.
1) The Master of Ceremonies: Leader of the People
The Deacon generally serves as the “master of ceremonies” in several ways. The Deacon acts as the leader of the People (i.e. the Congregation) right from the beginning. Before the Mass begins, the Deacon commonly is the individual who explains the participatory elements of the Mass to newcomers, he is the Officer that technically opens the door of the Temple to lead in the Congregation, and the Deacon leads the People in the participatory elements (Step, Creed, Signs, Anthem, et cetera) within the Mass itself. This “role” of the Deacon is intertwined with several others:
2) The Mediator: Mercurial Psychopomp
Similar to being the leader of the People, the Deacon acts as the Mercurial “psychopomp.” The psychopomp was traditionally the spirit or god (or whatever else) that led someone through the afterlife like Mercury, Virgil to Dante, Valkyries to the Norse, et cetera. In this way, the Deacon symbolizes the mediator between several things. The Deacon is the mediator between the Supernal Triangle (represented by the High Altar) and the rest of the Tree of Life; the Deacon is able to go up to the High Altar and come back down in the beginning of the Mass, and he is also able to go up and receive the Eucharist for communion to bring it down for the Children to hold. The Deacon therefore also serves as mediator between the Priest/Priestess and the People, either leading the People to emulate the Priest/Priestess (as when the People are guided to strike their breasts like the Priest) or helping the Priest to communciate with the People (such as by holding the Lance).
3) Aid of Priest & Priestess
In a similar role as above, the Deacon acts as the aid for the Priest and Priestess. The Deacon brings the Priestess the Priest’s robe, cap and crown, he holds the Priest’s Lance, and he also aids the Priest and Priestess by generally taking care of and leading the People as previously mentioned.
4) The Faculties of the Conscious Self
Much like the Deacon literally aids the Priest in his endeavors, the Deacon can symbolize the faculties of the conscious self. If the Priest represents the Subject-hood of each individual, the Deacon symbolizes the various conscious faculties of memory, volition, imagination, desire, and reason. Qabalistically, this can be seen as the Priest being Tiphareth (Sol) and the Deacon represents the surrounding Sephiroth that aid and are coordinated by Tiphareth. This also shows several other ideas symbolically at play: Firstly, this symbolism shows the conscious mental faculties (the Deacon) as that which helps mediate between the Self (or “Individuality”; the Priest) and the physical world, including the body (the People/Congregation). Secondly, it shows the conscious mental faculties as guiding the Self and inflaming it to continue to union with the Not-Self (the Unconscious; the Priestess), as when the Deacon remains “below the Abyss” and intones the Collects while the Priest and Priestess commune in the Supernal Triangle (the High Altar).
5) The Vav of Tetragrammaton: The Hermetic Androgyne, Mercurius
In terms of the symbolism of Tetragrammaton, the Deacon is the Vav (YHVH). Reinforcing this, the Priest wears red (Fire/Yod), the Priestess wears blue (Water/Heh), and the Deacon wears yellow (Air/Vav). Further, the Deacon’s “stand” is “between the small altar and the font.” This often, for practical reasons, looks more like the Deacon is standing at the small altar (situated symbolically at Tiphareth in terms of the Temple layout), which is the place of Vav of Tetragrammaton. More subtly, the Deacon’s stand is specifically between the small altar (Sol/Tiphareth) and the font (Luna/Yesod). That is, the Deacon stands as the Hermetic-Mercurial Androgyne between Sol and Luna. The Tarot trump associated with the Path connecting Yesod and Tiphareth is Atu XIV: Art. This card shows the intermixing of Sol & Luna in the Alchemical Grail, and the Hermetic-Mercurial Androgyne can be seen presiding over the operation in the center. Further reinforcing this symbolism is that Atu XIV: Art is attributed to Sagittarius, the Archer, and as the Master Therion says, “The Arrow is, in fact, the simplest and purest glyph of Mercury, being the symbol of directed Will” (The Book of Thoth).
6) The Logos
Related to the Deacon’s function as Mercury is his role as bearing the Word of the Law, i.e. being the Logos. The description of the Deacon actually says “He bears The Book of the Law,” i.e. he bears the Logos (for the Qabalah-inclined, note that “Logos” = LGS = Legis, and LGS = 93). At the very beginning of the Gnostic Mass, the Deacon places The Book of the Law, symbolic of the Logos/Word of this particular Aeon, upon the High Altar. The Deacon then turns and proclaims the Law to the People, symbolically establishing a Divine Covenant between Heaven and Earth for this Aeon whose Law is “Do what thou wilt.” This reflects the previously mentioned role of being “mediator,” specifically between Heaven and Earth. Just as Prometheus brought the fire from the Heavens down to Mankind, as Aiwass is the minister of Hoor-Paar-Kraat, as Christ the Son bears the Word of his Father, as Mercury is the messenger of Jupiter (et cetera), the Deacon acts as the Logos or Word of the Ineffable Lord. The Deacon therefore represents “Mercury [who] is pre-eminently the bearer of the Wand: Energy sent forth [and] therefore represents the Wisdom, the Will, the Word, the Logos by whom the worlds were created” (The Book of Thoth); also in this light, the Master Therion writes, “In the Beginning was the Word, the Logos, who is Mercury; and is therefore to be identified with Christ. Both are messengers; their birth mysteries are similar” (The Paris Working).
1) Final Heh of Tetragrammaton
The Children form a kind of Two-in-One (or One-in-Two) Officer. They are called the “negative child” and “positive child” because the negative child bears the “passive” elements of Earth (salt) and Water, while the positive child bears the “active” elements of Air (incense) and Fire (censer). In this sense, they represent the Final Heh (YHVH) that is associated with Malkuth, the 10th Sephirah. Just as they encompass all 4 Elements, Malkuth represents the material world that is composed of these 4 Elements (in fact, Malkuth is often shown divided into 4 sections on the Qabalistic Tree of Life). Their double-nature reflects itself into other aspects of their symbolism:
2) Duality of the World
The two Children “are clothed in white and black,” which symbolizes the duality of the world below the Abyss. As Helena and Tau Apiryon note, “The black and white squares [of the dais] may be seen as symbolizing the interplay of primal opposites,” and the Children are dressed in colors reflecting this interplay of primal opposites. In general, the two Children travel up and down the Pillars of Mercy and Severity, acting as reflections thereof.
3) Aids of Priest & Priestess
The Children aid the Priest & Priestess in their roles in several ways including holding the active and passive Elements for the Priestess to purify and consecrate the Priest (and vice versa), they “attend the PRIEST and PRIESTESS, ready to hold any appropriate weapon as may be necessary” during the Consecration of the Elements, and they hold the two elements of the Eucharist during communication.
4) Future Priest & Priestess
The two Children act as the future Priest and Priestess. They are, after all, called “Children” which implies, in a way, they will mature into different roles in time. They bear active and passive Elements, reflecting the Lance and Grail on a “lower scale,” and they move and act complementarily much as the Priest and Priestess do.
1) The Gnostic and Catholic Church: Final Heh of Tetragrammaton
The Congregation – or “the People” – also act as the Final Heh of Tetragrammaton (YHVH) in their own way. In this way, the People act as the symbolic representation of humanity in general or the Earth itself. If we are using the symbolic map of Tetragrammaton, we can see in the Creed that Baphomet is in the place of Vav (YHVH) and the “one Gnostic and Catholic Church of Light, Life, Love and Liberty, the Word of whose Law is ΘΕΛΗΜΑ” as the Final Heh (YHVH). In this way, the Church is the “bride” of Baphomet much as the Christian Church saw itself as the “bride of Christ.” Consider in this light what is said in Revelation 21:1, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem [Gnostic Catholic Church, Final Heh], coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband [Baphomet, Vav].”
2) The Brethren: The Company of Heaven
The People are mentioned as “the Brethren” to whom the virtues are administered. As the famous saying goes, “As above, so below.” The order of the Stars in Heaven is reflects in the order of “every man and every woman” (AL, I:3) on Earth, with Hadit burning at the core of stars and in the hearts of men (AL, II:6). As it says in Matthew 5:14, “Ye are the light of the world.” This shows each individual as being part of “the company of heaven” (AL, I:2), sources of Light & Life on Earth as the stars are in the Heavens. There is a deep symbolic connection between the company of stars in Heaven and the “communion of Saints,” with the many stars representing the many Saints “that transmitted the Light of the Gnosis.” Note that the Priest strikes his breast, showing his communion with the Saints, and all the People similarly strike their breasts. Jung discusses the medieval Alchemists’ understanding of this when he writes:
“Dorn, like Khunrath, owes much to Paracelsus with whom he concurs when he supposes an ‘invisibilem solem plurimis incognitum’ in man (an invisible sun unknown to many). [Also], ‘Sol est invisibilis in hominibus, in terra vero visibilis, tamen ex uno et eodem sole sunt ambo’ (The sun is invisible in men, but visible in the world, yet both are of one and the same sun)… Thus the one archetype emphasized by Khunrath is known also to Dorn as the sol invisibilis [invisible sun] or imago Dei [image of God]. In Paracelsus the lumen naturae comes primarily from the ‘astrum’ or ‘sydus,’ the ‘star’ in man… Indeed, man himself is an ‘Astrum’: not by himself alone, but for ever and ever with all apostles and saints; each and every one is an astrum, the heaven a star… therefore saith also the Scripture: ye are lights of the world [Matthew 5:14].”
3) Reflections of the Priest
As mentioned previously, the Priest represents each individual in the Congregation. At the culmination of the Gnostic Mass, “The PEOPLE communicate as did the PRIEST, uttering the same words in an attitude of Resurrection,” in effect imitating him and showing an identity therewith. Similarly, as mentioned previously, the People strike their breast as the Priest does, showing all of their connection to and communion with the eternal Priesthood of the Saints. Since “the PRIESTESS and other officers never partake of the Sacrament, they being as it were part of the PRIEST himself,” the various Officers of the Gnostic Mass can be seen as aspects of the Priest. By extension, the entire Gnostic Mass can therefore be seen as an enactment of a mythopoetic psychodrama within the consciousness or “soul” of each Congregant, showing-forth the internal process of the Great Work and allowing each individual present to partake thereof.
Again: This list is not exhaustive, nor is the symbolism of any of those meanings listed above completely fleshed out. The idea is to show there are many interconnected, intertwining, overlapping sets of symbolism by which one can more fully appreciate the mysterious depths of the central ceremony of Ordo Templi Orientis.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions related herein are strictly my own. They do not represent any kind of official stance of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, Ordo Templi Orientis, or anyone else.
1) The Unconscious Self
Just as the Priest symbolizes the conscious self, the Priestess symbolizes the unconscious self. The “unconscious self” constitutes all those parts of the psyche (which originally meant “soul”) that are not conscious, including both the “lower” instincts of the body and the “higher” impulses of the spirit. The unconscious encompasses both the Nephesh (“animal soul”; material impulses) and the Neshamah (divine intuition; spiritual impulses) in terms of the Qabalistic view of the soul. The Priestess is therefore the “greeting of Earth and Heaven” in herself. In terms of the unconscious self, the Priestess represents those impulses that appear to the Priest (or conscious self) to come from “outside.” This basic idea will be expanded in the different symbolic ideas that follow:
2) The Object of Desire
The Priestess represents the Object that complements the Subject-hood of the Priest. In terms of Yoga, the Priestess represents the Object of concentration with which the Subject of awareness unites in samadhi.
The Priestess therefore represents the ultimate Object of Desire, which we understand as symbolized by “Nuit” in Thelema. In Liber AL it says, “At all my meetings with you shall the priestess say—and her eyes shall burn with desire as she stands bare and rejoicing in my secret temple—To me! To me! calling forth the flame of the hearts of all in her love-chant. Sing the rapturous love-song unto me! Burn to me perfumes! Wear to me jewels! Drink to me, for I love you! I love you!” (I:62-63). The Master Therion comments on this: “Nuit: Her public Cult. Now lastly she ordains her public cult. Her image, she being All-Desired, shall be a living Woman, calling to her that Spirit which shall make her perfect in Event. Of all this Rite I have written in another place” (The Comment Called D). The “Rite” referenced is an explicit reference to the Gnostic Mass where these lines from Liber AL are actually spoken by the Priestess.
The Priestess represents the object of desire but not simply the object of sexual desire; the idea is that sexual desire (and all other desires) are masks or veils upon the ultimate Desire to accomplish the Great Work, to unite Microcosm and Macrocosm, Subject and Object, Adept and Angel, Lance and Cup (et cetera), in the ecstatic union of Love. In fact, the Gnostic Mass can be seen as a ritualized way to harness the power of sexuality to accomplish the “spiritual” aim of the Great Work. As the Master Therion says, “We of Thelema are not the slaves of Love. ‘Love under will’ is the Law. We refuse to regard love as shameful and degrading, as a peril to body and soul. We refuse to accept it as the surrender of the divine to the animal; to us it is the means by which the animal may be made the Winged Sphinx which shall bear man aloft to the House of the Gods” (New Comment to AL I:51).
3) The Heh of Tetragrammaton: The Mother of Life
In the symbolism of Tetragrammaton, the Priestess can represent the “Heh” (YHVH). This Heh relates to the Mother, the Queen, the Element of Water, and the magical weapon of the Cup. The Priestess bears the Holy Graal, a form of the Cup, a receptive instrument of Universal Life. She is clothed in blue, the color of the Element of Water that is attributable to Heh of Tetragrammaton. On the Priest’s first step toward the Veil, the Priestess identifies with Nuit, the star-goddess of Infinite Space and the Infinite Stars thereof, which is the ultimate Maternal idea beyond even notions of gender. In the Creed, the “Mother of all” is called BABALON, who is “the Mother of Abominations” and the “mighty Mother” who bears “the cup of her whoredom” (12th Aethyr). All of these things are Mother-Form symbols attributable in the Qabalah to the 3rd Sephirah, Binah. All these things go to reinforce the fact that the Priestess can be identified as the Heh of Tetragrammaton, the Mother-Queen of Life.
4) The Final Heh of Tetragrammaton: The Virgin Daughter
To further complicate things (as is natural with symbolism), the Priestess can be identified with the Final Heh of Tetragrammaton (YHVH). On the Tree of Life, Yod can be attributed to Chokmah, Heh to Binah, Vav to Tiphareth (and the surrounding Sephiroth), and Final Heh to Malkuth. In this scheme, Final is attributed to the Earth, and the Priestess’ first words are “Greeting of Earth and Heaven” (showing her identity with both). She is also called “Virgin pure without spot” by the Priest, and she is explicitly named “The VIRGIN” in the beginning of the rubric of the Gnostic Mass (and she is said to be “Virgo Intacta”).
Further, in the incestuous Qabalistic drama of Tetragrammaton, the Son/Prince is said to marry the Daughter/Princess and set her upon the Throne of the Mother. This is explicitly seen when the Priest says, “I, PRIEST and KING, take thee, Virgin pure without spot; I upraise thee; I lead thee to the East; I set thee upon the summit of the Earth.” The Priest then literally sets the Priestess upon the Throne in the East. As it says in the 4th Aethyr, “And this is that which is written: Malkuth shall be uplifted and set upon the throne of Binah.” Also in the 9th Aethyr it says, “This is the daughter of BABALON the Beautiful, that she hath borne unto the Father of All. And unto all hath she borne her. This is the Daughter of the King [Final Heh of YHVH]. This is the Virgin of Eternity. This is she that the Holy One hath wrested from the Giant Time, and the prize of them that have overcome Space. This is she that is set upon the Throne of Understanding [Heh of YHVH]. Holy, Holy, Holy is her name, not to be spoken among men. For Kor they have called her, and Malkuth, and Betulah, and Persephone [all Earthly names attributable to Earth, the 10th Sephirah of Malkuth].” In this sense, the Priestess begins as the Princess/Daughter and, by virtue of her interaction with the Prince/Son, is uplifted to become Queen/Mother on the Throne of the East.
5) The Holy Guardian Angel: The Heavenly Virgin
The Priestess represents the Mother of Life (Atu III: The Empress/Binah), the Virgin-Earth Daughter (Atu XXI: The Universe/Malkuth), and she also represents the Heavenly Virgin or Initiatrix (Atu II: The High Priestess). In this way, she can be attributed to the Path of Gimel on the Tree of Life which descends from Kether across the Abyss to Tiphareth. Atu II is called “The High Priestess” and the role is called the “Priestess.” If we take the Gnostic Mass temple as being laid out according to the Tree of Life, when the Priestess is set upon the High Altar in the East she sits exactly in the place of the Path of Gimel/High Priestess in between Kether (represented by the Stele of Revealing raised up all the way in the East) and Tiphareth (represented by the small altar in the center of the Temple). As the Master Therion says, “She is the symbol of the Angel as represented by the Path of Gimel where is ‘The High Priestess.’ This Path connects Macroprosopus (Kether) and Microprosopus (Tiphereth), the supreme divinity and its human manifestation” (Commentary to Liber LXV). The Master Therion also writes, “To the aspirant, that is, to the adept who is already in Tiphareth, to him who has attained to the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, this is the path which leads upwards; and this card, in one system entitled the Priestess of the Silver Star, is symbolic of the thought (or rather of the intelligible radiance) of that Angel. It is, in short, a symbol of the highest Initiation” (The Book of Thoth). In the beginning of the Mass, she descends as the spiritual impulse that draws the Priest out of the darkness of the Tomb to the Path of the Great Work represented by the rest of the Gnostic Mass.
6) The Woman of the New Aeon
In yet another sense, the Priestess represents the Woman of the New Aeon. As Liber AL says, “Let the woman be girt with a sword before me” (III:11), and “in his woman called the Scarlet Woman is all power given” (I:15). In the foreground of Atu V: The Hierophant, we see “the woman girt with a sword; she represents the Scarlet Woman in the hierarchy of the new Aeon… This woman represents Venus as she now is in this new aeon; no longer the mere vehicle of her male counterpart, but armed and militant” (The Book of Thoth). We can see in the rubric of the Gnostic Mass that the Priestess “bears the Sword from a red girdle.” This shows her “girt with a sword” and the “red girdle” identifies her with Nuit when She says her symbol is “The Five Pointed Star, with a Circle in the Middle, & the circle is Red” (Liber AL, I:60). The Gnostic Mass therefore is, on one level, showing that the Feminine is now equal and complementary to the Masculine, for this is the Aeon of the Child who combines Mother and Father, feminine and masculine, as Two-in-One in each star.
7) The Feminine Operator in Sexual Magick
As if it is not already obvious from the previously mentioned symbolism (and the Mass itself), the Priestess represents the feminine operator in sexual magick. I say “feminine” because she represents one half of the equation, and each individual “soul” is androgynous, containing both male and female (and all other opposites) in itself. In this way, in Hindu symbolism, the Priestess represents Shakti and the Priest is Shiva. The Lance represents the lingam, the Cup represents the yoni, the particle of the Host represents the Seed of the lingam, and the wine of the Cup represents the menstruum of the yoni. They are combined in the Grail and then the Two-in-One Eucharist is ingested so that the partaker thereof becomes Godhead Itself.
If the Priest represents Parsival, the Priestess represents Kundry. As the Master Therion says, “for every Parsifal there is a Kundry” (Liber Aleph). Kundry assumes multiple forms and roles in Wagner’s opera, reflecting the fact that the Priestess is Venus, Earth, and Luna all wrapped into one (as explained in the previous sections). She is even called the “nameless one” in Parsival, implying she has many identities and many forms.
In Act I, Kundry is the messenger of the Grail (Kundry is used by Wagner as a play on the German “Kunde” that implies a news-bringer or messenger), who comes into the scene and allows for the entire rest of the drama to unfold, for Parsival is a pure fool and does not even know his own name; it is Kundry who knows of Parsival’s true identity and past, allowing him to remember his heritage and his purpose. This is reflected in the Gnostic Mass when the Priest issues from the Tomb and says “I am a man among men, how should I be worthy to administer the virtues to the Brethren?” The Priestess then answers him the purification, consecration, robing, and “activation” of the power of the Sacred Lance.
In Act II, Kundry tempts Parsival which represents the necessity of the Priest’s purity of aspiration to the Highest, not being dragged down into more animalistic-materialistic forms of desire (i.e. what is mentioned previously about the Priestess as the Ultimate Object of Desire behind the veils of other desires). As the Master Therion says, “In order to live his own life, the child must leave the Mother, and overcome the temptation to return to her for refuge. Kundry, Armida, Jocasta, Circe, etc., are symbols of this force which tempts the Hero” (Magick in Theory and Practice) and “in the second act, it is the same quality [of innocent purity] that enables him [Parsival] to withstand the blandishments of the ladies in the garden of Kundry” (The Book of Thoth). In the end, as the Master Therion says, “Kundry is saved in Parsifal’s redemption” (Astrology) and also “[Parsival] redeems not only Kundry, but himself” (The Book of Thoth). This is reflected in the fact that “The PRIESTESS and other officers never partake of the Sacrament, they being as it were part of the PRIEST himself.” In fact, the entire Temple is transformed by the Sacrament, which is to say that the entire Tree of Life – or the entire Being of the individual – is transformed through the partaking thereof. The Master Therion notes that “the only words spoken by Kundry after her redemption were ‘Dienen! Dienen!’ [‘Serving! Serving!’]” (Moonchild). This shows that the retrieval of the Lance and its immersion in the Cup has “ordered Kundry to right Service” (Liber Aleph); that is, the Feminine is in “service” to the Highest and not animalistic impulses, being a pure vehicle of the “joy of the earth” as the Lance is a pure vehicle of “the life of the Sun.”
Again: This list is not exhaustive, nor is the symbolism of any of those meanings listed above completely fleshed out. The idea is to show there are many interconnected, intertwining, overlapping sets of symbolism by which one can more fully appreciate the mysterious depths of the central ceremony of Ordo Templi Orientis.