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Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica - The Gnostic Mass

The Officers of the Gnostic Mass – pt.3: The Deacon, Children, & the Congregation

Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica - The Gnostic Mass

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. 

THE DEACON

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).

THE CHILDREN

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.

THE CONGREGATION

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” (ALI:3) on Earth, with Hadit burning at the core of stars and in the hearts of men (ALII: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” (ALI: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.

[← Part 2: The Priestess ←]

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Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica - The Gnostic Mass

The Officers of the Gnostic Mass – pt.2: The Priestess

Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica - The Gnostic Mass

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. 

THE PRIESTESS

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 ALI: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.

6) Kundry

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.

[← Part 1: Introduction & the Priest ← | → Part 3: The Deacon, Children, & the Congregation →]