old aeon

Is Thelema a Religion or not?

Is Thelema Religion or Not?

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

One of the ever-present questions in the discourse about Thelema is whether or not it is a religion. I think this question is most poetically answered by someone – I believe the credit goes to Jake Stratton-Kent – who said:

“There is religion in Thelema for those that require it. There is also freedom from religion in Thelema, for those that require it.”

In short: Yes… and no. All I can attempt to do is elaborate on this position to make it a bit more clear.

Before going too far in depth, it should be said that – according to anthropologists, sociologists, theologists, and the like – Thelema would most definitely be classified as a “religion.” It has a “Bible” (Liber AL vel Legis), a moral code (Do what thou wilt), a Prophet (To Mega Therion), a set of practices (Magick), and even a “pantheon” (Nuit, Hadit, Ra-Hoor-Khuit, Hoor-paar-kraat, et cetera). Whether or not this is entirely an accurate designation is another question.

We might first look at why people wouldn’t want to call Thelema a “religion.” The answer is fairly obvious: “religion” in the 21st Century has become synonymous with superstition, tyranny, and oppression. There is no doubt about this: organized religion has, for millenia, been a force for all of these horrible things that stand against the spirit of Liberty. Many people who are most vocal about Thelema not being a religion are those who experienced this superstition, tyranny, and oppression first-hand in their childhood, and I personally do not find their reaction to be hard to understand. 

In this light, we can see that Crowley himself was wary of the use of the term “religion” to describe Thelema. In a letter found in Magick Without Tears, he writes:

“To sum up, our system is a religion just so far as a religion means an enthusiastic putting-together of a series of doctrines, no one of which must in any way clash with Science or Magick. Call it a new religion, then, if it so please your Gracious Majesty; but I confess that I fail to see what you will have gained by so doing, and I feel bound to add that you might easily cause a great deal of misunderstanding, and work a rather stupid kind of mischief.

We should note, firstly, that Crowley begins this quotation by saying that – according to a certain definition of religion as “an enthusiastic putting-together of a series of doctrines” – Thelema is, in fact, a religion. He then says that calling Thelema a “religion” may cause misunderstanding and mischief. He does not explain exactly why it would cause misunderstanding and mischief but we can guess that it is most likely for the aforementioned reasons: it associates it with the Old Aeon religions that are gleaming beacons of superstition, tyranny, and oppression, i.e. those exact things we are set to destroy with our Law of Liberty. People may also assume that we believe things that other religions do, especially the Judeo-Christian-Islamic type, such as the belief in a gaseous vertebrate breed of God, which is most certainly false. 

In short, we may refrain from calling Thelema a religion because it associates it with superstition, tyranny, and oppression which Thelema is firmly against in every way, being the Law of Liberty. Our Law is simultaneously more simple and more nuanced than a belief in a Judeo-Christian-Islamic Daddy-in-the-sky God. Keep in mind, though, that this implies that calling Thelema a religion may cause misunderstanding and mischief, but it does not imply that the designation is inaccurate in some fundamental way. 

Now we may turn to the reasons why Thelema is a religion. First of all, Crowley calls Thelema a religion repeatedly.

In his commentary on Liber AL, III:22, Crowley writes:

Our religion therefore, for the People, is the Cult of the Sun, who is our particular star of the Body of Nuit, from whom, in the strictest scientific sense, come this earth, a chilled spark of Him, and all our Light and Life.”

In this line, he very clearly calls Thelema a religion, although there is a caveat that it is “for the People,” by which we may assume he means “the masses” and not necessarily for the “Hermits” or “initiates” or “Adepts”  (although this is, admittedly, an assumption).

In The Constitution of the Order of Thelemites, Crowley writes this Order is against “All superstitious religion, as obstacles to the establishment of scientific religion.” Here he clearly calls Thelema a religion, but he opposes “superstitious religion” (those of the Old Aeon and many of those that have cropped up in the New Aeon as well) to “scientific religion.” We get a further clarification that Thelema, insofar as it is a religion, is not opposed to science. 

In the “Editorial” prefacing The Equinox III:1 (also known as The Blue Equinox), Crowley writes an important passage:

The world needs religion. Religion must represent Truth, and celebrate it. This truth is of two orders: one, concerning Nature external to Man; two, concerning Nature internal to Man.

Existing religions, especially Christianity, are based on primitive ignorance of the facts, particularly of external Nature. Celebrations must conform to the custom and nature of the people. Christianity has destroyed the joyful celebrations, characterized by music, dancing, feasting, and making love; and has kept only the melancholy.

The Law of Thelema offers a religion which fulfils all necessary conditions. The philosophy and metaphysics of Thelema are sound, and offer a solution of the deepest problems of humanity. The science of Thelema is orthodox; it has no false theories of Nature, no false fables of the origin of things. The psychology and ethics of Thelema are perfect. It has destroyed the damnable delusion of Original Sin, making every one unique, independent, supreme, and sufficient. The Law of Thelema is given in the Book of the Law.”

Here we have another instance of Crowley explicitly calling Thelema a religion. He insists again that it must “represent Truth, and celebrate it,” concurring with the aforementioned quotation that insists Thelema is a “scientific religion.”

From these quotations, it seems fairly clear that Crowley did – with the caveat that it represents and celebrates Truth and is “scientific” – consider Thelema a religion. There is a further point that, in my opinion, clarifies the entire matter: Thelema is a religion but it is more than just a religion. I have said several times that Thelema is an all-encompassing paradigm, and this is meant to imply that Thelema is a religion… and much more.

We have already seen inklings of this idea in the previous quotation where Crowley calls Thelema a religion while also mentioning the philosophy, metaphysics, science, psychology, and ethics of Thelema. In his Confessions, Crowley conveys this idea that Thelema is more than just a religion with great clarity when he writes:

Thelema implies not merely a new religion, but a new cosmology, a new philosophy, a new ethics. It co-ordinates the disconnected discoveries of science, from physics to psychology, into a coherent and consistent system. Its scope is so vast that it is impossible even to hint at the universality of its application.”

He says “Thelema implies not merely a new religion.” It also implies a new cosmology, philosophy, and ethics. Thelema is not limited to the small sphere of theology. This perspective is reflected in the fact that we, following Crowley, call Thelema a “Law.” This Law is given in The Book of the Law. Crowley also calls Thelema a “formula.” For example, in the essay “The Beginning of the New World” (which can be found in the recently-published The Revival of Magick), Crowley writes:

“The many religions of the world have all lost their power to guide chiefly because the development of means of transport and of international commerce have convinced the educated that any one religion is about as good or bad as another for the purposes of social discipline, and that none has any validity from the standpoint of actual fact, or historical or philosophical truth.

The remedy is evidently to be found only in one way. There must be found a formula based upon absolute common sense, without one trammel of theological theory or dogma, a formula to which no man of intelligence can refuse assent, and which at the same time affords an absolute sanction for all laws of conduct, social and political no less than individual, so that the right or wrong of any isolated or concerted action can be determined with mathematical accuracy by any trained observer, entirely irrespective of his personal idiosyncrasies. This formula is: Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”

When we consider Thelema as a “Law” or a “formula,” we are – first of all – using language that is in common with science (e.g. “the law of gravity” or “the formula for calculating velocity”). More importantly, we are using language that is universal insofar as this Law or formula applies to all aspects of life. 

Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131I believe the idea that Thelema is not just a religion but a new paradigm of cosmology, metaphysics, ethics, and psychology is the most accurate perspective on whether or not Thelema is a religion. Insofar as Thelema is a religion, it is a religion that is explicitly opposed to superstition, to “theological theory or dogma” (ideally!), and oppression. In the end, what’s in a name? Thelema’s Law is “Do what thou wilt” and people are free to call it a religion or not. Whether you choose to call it a religion or not is your own choice, and whether or not someone else chooses to call Thelema a religion is none of our business. The real question, the one that really matters, is: Are you living the Law of Thelema? Have you written “Do what thou wilt” in your heart and in your brain? Have you used the simplicity of the Key of the Law to unlock the complexities of philosophy, psychology, theology, and daily life? In short: are you doing your True Will or not? In light of this central consideration all other things, including what names and titles we give to things, are – at best – totally irrelevant and are – at worst – leading us to mischief and futility. As always: There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.

Love is the law, love under will.

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New Aeon Initiation: The True Self contains Good & Evil, Upright & Averse

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

New Aeon Initiation

NOTE: written originally on April 14, 2009

2) The True Self contains Good & Evil, Upright & Averse

“My adepts stand upright; their head above the heavens, their feet below the hells.”
– “Liber Tzaddi,” line 40

Initiation in the New Aeon is “the Child Growing to Maturity” by the slaying of the ego-self whose “death is life to come” for the True Self. But what is the nature of that True Self? Essentially, the True Self transcends dualities. Specifically, the True Self transcends the moral duality of Good and Evil.

People have a common tendency to imagine their goal as their “Higher Self” which they imagine as Absolute Good, caring, benevolent, etc. In short, many people construct an ideal or an abstraction of their highest ideals and believe that to be the goal. Crowley asserts in Magick Without Tears, “He is not, let me say with emphasis, a mere abstraction from yourself; and that is why I have insisted rather heavily that the term ‘Higher Self’ implies ‘a damnable heresy and a dangerous delusion.” The term “Higher Self” is a delusion because the aim of Initiation in the New Aeon is to bring the individual to identify with the “Total Self” or “All-Self,” not the “Higher Self” (or “Lower Self”). We must explore and conquer both the “good” and “evil” sides of ourselves: in terms of modern psychology, we cannot neglect our own Shadow. As Crowley advises, “every magician must firmly extend his empire to the depth of hell” (MIT&P, chapter 21). As Nietzsche says, “The great epochs of our life are the occasions when we gain the courage to rebaptize our evil qualities as our best qualities” (Beyond Good & Evil, Aphorism 116).

Much of Thelema’s imagery may be seen as “sinister.” Examples include the “Beast” and “Babalon” from the Book of Revelations (where they do not appear in a favorable light), the experience of divinity as “evil kisses corrupt[ing] the blood… as an acid eats into steel, as a cancer that utterly corrupts the body” (“Liber LXV” I:13, 16) and “poison” (“Liber LXV” III:39 IV: 24-25 V:52-53, 55-56), “the concealed” within oneself wherein “all things are in thine own Self” (Liber Aleph, “De Libidine Secreta”) is called Hell or Satan (who is identified with the Sun in “Liber Samekh”), etc. These could all be considered as attempts to bring the psyche of the individual to acceptance of both the upright and averse aspects of existence. One might even say it is the “darker” side of the self emerging because of its neglect in Old Aeon systems which focus on Good, Virtue, Grace, etc. and exclude their opposites. In the New Aeon we assert that the True Self contains (and thereby transcends) both Good and Evil. “Less than All cannot satisfy Man” (William Blake, “There is No Natural Religion”).

This idea of the True Self as containing both Heaven and Hell, Good and Evil, Upright and Averse, is captured succinctly in “Liber Tzaddi,” lines 33-42:

“I reveal unto you a great mystery. Ye stand between the abyss of height and the abyss of depth. In either awaits you a Companion; and that Companion is Yourself. Ye can have no other Companion. Many have arisen, being wise. They have said “Seek out the glittering Image in the place ever golden, and unite yourselves with It.” Many have arisen, being foolish. They have said, “Stoop down unto the darkly splendid world, and be wedded to that Blind Creature of the Slime.” I who am beyond Wisdom and Folly, arise and say unto you: achieve both weddings! Unite yourselves with both! Beware, beware, I say, lest ye seek after the one and lose the other! My adepts stand upright; their head above the heavens, their feet below the hells… Thus shall equilibrium become perfect.”

As mentioned in the last section, the True Self transcends the duality of Life and Death. In this section we see that the True Self transcends the duality of Upright and Averse, Good and Evil. The True Self is even “beyond Wisdom and Folly.” We must unite both with the Upright, “the glittering Image in the place ever golden,” and with the Averse, “that Blind Creature of the Slime.” Only thereby may man come to knowledge of his true Self: otherwise the individual will have a lopsided perspective of the self. One must remember that it is only because of its roots deep into the dark ground that a tree is able to produce fruit. As the psychologist Abraham Maslow noted, “Man’s higher nature rests upon man’s lower nature, needing it as a foundation and collapsing without this foundation” (Toward a Psychology of Being, 1968).

The method of Initiation in the New Aeon is therefore one of Union of Opposites and Equilibrium. The equilibrium is not that of moderation, the Middle Path of Buddha (or the Doctrine of the Mean of Aristotle), where we seek to avoid extremes and remain in the center. The equilibrium of New Aeon Initiation is understood as the balance attained by pushing to both extremes of any duality. “Go thou unto the outermost places and subdue all things” (“Liber LXV” I:45). We don’t take the upright (“white light”) or averse (“satanic”) of the Upright/Averse duality and aim for that alone, we aim for both the heavens and the hells. One might say, symbolically, the Old Aeon is like a pole or a tree, where the vertical section is straight and narrow, avoiding extremes. The New Aeon is then like a large building or a pyramid where the base is expanded horizontally. This symbolically shows that, by pushing towards the extremes (expanding the base horizontally in this metaphor), we enlarge our foundations which thereby allow us to withstand the “winds” of experience better. As it says in The Book of the Law, “Wisdom says: be strong! Then canst thou bear more joy. Be not animal; refine thy rapture! …But exceed! exceed! Strive ever to more!” (II:70-72). William Blake also enigmatically stated, “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”

Again, we can look again to Horus (with the Infinitely Contracted Core of Flame as His Heart and the Infinitely Expansive Space as His Body) as a symbol of That which transcends the dualities of Good and Evil, Upright and Averse. In uniting with both the “glittering Image” and the “Blind Creature of the Slime,” we come to know ourselves as the All which contains but transcends both: “For two things are done and a third thing is begun… Horus leaps up thrice armed from the womb of his mother” (“Liber A’ash,” line 8). As Horus says in The Vision and the Voice, “I am light, and I am night, and I am that which is beyond them. I am speech, and I am silence, and I am that which is beyond them. I am life, and I am death, and I am that which is beyond them.” We might add, “I am good, and I am evil, and I am that which is beyond them.” Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131Horus, the Sun, is a symbol of That which contains & transcends dualities, an image of our True Selves, identical in essence yet diverse in expression for each individual; other cognate symbols include the point in the circle (the Solar glyph), the Rose-Cross, semen and menstrual fluid combined (two live, generative fluids combined into a third which “is one substance and not two, not living and not dead, neither liquid nor solid, neither hot nor cold, neither male nor female” -MIT&P, chapter 20), the Heart Girt with the Serpent (see “Liber LXV”), the cross in the circle, the circle squared (Liber AL II:47), the Sun and the Moon conjoined (called “the Mark of the Beast” in “Liber Reguli” and “the secret sigil of the Beast” in the 1st Aethyr of The Vision and the Voice), the Lion and the Eagle, the word ABRAHADABRA, and infinite others. In a certain ritual where the individual comes to identify with Horus (“Liber XLIV: The Mass of the Phoenix”), we proclaim our transcendence of the moral duality: “There is no grace: there is no guilt: / This is the Law: DO WHAT THOU WILT!”

“For Perfection abideth not in the Pinnacles, or in the Foundations, but in the ordered Harmony of one with all.”
– “Liber Causae,” line 32


Love is the law, love under will.

Part 3: Embrace of the World 
← Part 1: Introduction & Death/Attainment as Non-Cataclysmic 

New Aeon Initiation: Introduction & Death/Attainment as Non-Cataclysmic

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

New Aeon Initiation

NOTE: written originally on April 12, 2009

0) Introduction

“In the name of the Lord of Initiation. Amen.”
-“Liber Tzaddi,” lines 0 & 44

A New Aeon was proclaimed and begun in April of 1904 with the reception of The Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis. A New Aeon implies a new paradigm or a new point-of-view with which to view the world. According to “Liber Causae,” “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.” If Initiation is common to “all systems of religion,” then how is Initiation to be understood in this Aeon of the Crowned & Conquering Child? What are the paradigm-shifts which characterize the point-of-view from this New Aeon?

I intend to outline the basic views of New Aeon Initiation in this essay. There will be as little recourse to esoteric jargon as possible; ideally, an individual who has never encountered Thelema should be able to grasp many of the ideas explained here. It should be noted that the various ideas & formulae which are still valid in this New Aeon, i.e. those ideas that are “superseded” and not “abrogated,” will not be mentioned (as nothing has changed in these cases from the Old Aeons).

The basic ideas surrounding New Aeon Initiation are: death/attainment as non-cataclysmic, the True Self contains both good and evil, an embracing of the world, the self as redeemer, and no perfection of the soul. All of these points will be treated in turn, and each will be exemplified by a central quotation from the corpus of Thelema.

1) Death/Attainment as Non-cataclysmic

“…There is that which remains.”
-Liber AL vel Legis II:9

The basic idea associated with the last, Old Aeon is an obsession with death. The symbolic proponents of the Old Aeon paradigms – Osiris, Dionysus, Jesus, Adonis, etc. – are all bound by the central motif of a (painful) death. Death is seen as catastrophic and a ritual act must be performed for the dead to be resurrected (or avenged). The cosmological parallel with this initiatory viewpoint is the idea that the Sun dies each night and the priesthood must perform a ritual for the Sun to rise again in the morning. Crowley often writes of the switch from the Old Aeon to the New Aeon view as paralleling the switch from a geocentric to a heliocentric view of our Solar System. Now we know that the Sun does not “die” each night, nor does any priest need to perform any kind of ritual for the Sun to rise in the morning. We know the Sun is constantly shining and it is only the turning of the earth which creates the succession of day and night: the apparent sight of the Sun “dying” and being “reborn” each night has changed to the understanding that the Sun is never born nor dies. Frater Achad, or Charles Stansfeld Jones, encapsulated this idea in his essay “Stepping Out of the Old Aeon Into the New,”

“You know how deeply we have always been impressed with the ideas of Sun-rise and Sun-set, and how our ancient brethren, seeing the Sun disappear at night and rise again in the morning, based all their religious ideas in this one conception of a Dying and Re-arisen God. This is the central idea of the religion of the Old Aeon but we have left it behind us because although it seemed to be based on Nature (and Nature’s symbols are always true), yet we have outgrown this idea which is only apparently true in Nature. Since this great Ritual of Sacrifice and Death was conceived and perpetuated, we, through the observation of our men of science, have come to know that it is not the Sun which rises and sets, but the earth on which we live which revolves so that its shadow cuts us off from the sunlight during what we call night. The Sun does not die, as the ancients thought; It is always shining, always radiating Light and Life.”

Crowley reiterates this view and explains the spiritual significance in The Heart of the Master where he writes,

“…When the time was ripe, appeared the Brethren of the Formula of Osiris, whose word is I A O; so that men worshipped Man, thinking him subject to Death, and his victory dependent upon Resurrection. Even so conceived they of the Sun as slain and reborn with every day, and every year. Now, this great Formula being fulfilled, and turned into abomination, this Lion came forth to proclaim the Aeon of Horus, the crowned and conquering child, who dieth not, nor is reborn, but goeth radiant ever upon His Way. Even so goeth the Sun: for as it is now known that night is but the shadow of the Earth, so Death is but the shadow of the Body, that veileth his Light from its bearer.”

Assimilating this idea of the Sun, in reality, never setting goes a long way to help the aspirant understand the spiritual truth of Thelema that this mirrors. In short, death (both of the ego and of the body) is no longer seen as cataclysmic in the New Aeon. This is because of two connected ideas: Death is complementary with Life, and Death is actually Change (“life to come”).

Let’s start with the first idea that Death is complementary with Life. “Death is the apex of one curve of the snake Life: behold all opposites as necessary complements, and rejoice” (The Heart of the Master). Life and death are the two complements that constitute existence, and all things are formed from the interplay of Life and Death. All things in the universe, including the mind and body of the aspirant, are subject to Life and Death. One might visualize existence as an undulating serpent, where the crest of a wave is Life and the trough is Death (which is the image Crowley uses above in The Heart of the Master).

This leads into the idea of Death as Change. We often think of Life as constituting change and Death as constituting stagnation: death implies a stop or an end. The New Aeon views Death not as an end but as the possibility for new Life. Just as the Winter brings “death” to plant life, it also gives nutrients to the soil to allow for the inevitable new Spring. (As a note, “Death” refers to the death of the physical body, but more importantly to the “death” or “dissolution” of the ego which can and does occur during an individual’s life). Chapter 18, “Dewdrops,” of The Book of Lies explains this idea that Death is Change very succinctly:

“Verily, love is death, and death is life to come. / Man returneth not again; the stream floweth not uphill; the old life is no more; there is a new life that is not his. / Yet that life is of his very essence; it is more He than all that he calls He.”

The succinct idea that “death is life to come” is expounded here along with the idea that in the life that arises from death, we become “more ourselves.” The Life which arises from Death “is more He than all that he calls He.” This is because “all that he calls He” is his ego and in the death of the ego, we come to identify with the True Self which contains both Life and Death (and is therefore Eternal and Infinite). This death is not cataclysmic, but even equated with “love.” In the Tarot, which symbolically mirrors the initiatory paradigm of its age, traditionally has “Atu XIII” (or the 13th Trump) as “Death.” In the New Aeon, we may understand this card not as “Death” but “Transformation” or “Change.” In The Heart of the Master, Crowley writes short, poetic stanzas to describe each Tarot card. For “Atu XIII: Death” he writes, “The Universe is Change; every Change is the effect of an Act of Love; all Acts of Love contain Pure Joy. Die daily. Death is the apex of one curve of the snake Life: behold all opposites as necessary complements, and rejoice.” This is the fundamental paradigm-shift of the New Aeon: not only is Death actually Change (and “life to come”), but it is a form of Love, and “all Acts of Love contain Pure Joy.” There is no trace of cataclysm, sorrow, or suffering in this conception of Death in the New Aeon.

Symbolically, this means Initiation (the myth-drama of each individual’s Path) is no longer portrayed as “The Man performing Self-Sacrifice” but as “The Child Growing to Maturity.” On this Crowley writes, “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” (“Liber Samekh”). The idea is one of coming to maturity, specifically of “obtaining the Wand” which represents the creative, generative power: this experience constitutes “spiritual puberty” for the individual, one might say. The process is not a cataclysm that needs rectifying (although puberty often seems cataclysmic!) but a natural process of growth and fulfillment of human potential.

Each person must destroy their ego self and come to identify with the True Self. Every man and woman must “break down the fortress of thine Individual Self, that thy Truth may spring free from the ruins” (The Heart of the Master). This necessarily involves the death or dissolution of the ego (“thine Individual Self”) to which many people are strongly attached. This is why death is seen as catastrophic: people view losses as catastrophic and the greatest loss to people is the loss of their personal ego-identity. In both the Old and New Aeons, the ego must experience death in process of Initiation. The difference is the view of this phenomenon: the Old Aeon views death as a cataclysmic event whereas the New Aeon views it as a necessary step in the progress of Growth. As Crowley explains, “The Ego fears to lose control of the course of the mind… The Ego is justly apprehensive, for this ecstasy will lead to a situation when its annhilation will be decreed… Remember that the Ego is not really the centre and crown of the individual; indeed the whole trouble arises from its false claim to be so” (Commentary to “Liber LXV” I:60). Before the individual personally experiences the dissolution of their own ego, they must assimilate this New Aeon idea that “there is that which remains” after this death. Each person then must come to directly experience and even embody this truth – that is, each individual must come to know this truth through their own experience. “Faith must be slain by certainty,” as Crowley wrote (The Book of Thoth). We might even say that each person is psychologically stuck in the Old Aeon paradigm until they have this experience of the death of the ego. Only then can they be “freed of the obsession of the doom of the Ego in Death” (Little Essays Toward Truth, “Mastery”). Only then can the individual identify with “that which remains,” which transcends but contains both Life and Death. In the New Aeon, each person “Let[s] the Illusion of the World pass over thee, unheeded, as thou goest from Midnight to the Morning. ” (The Heart of the Master). The New Aeon is the Aeon of the Crowned & Conquering Child: Horus, Heru-Ra-Ha, Ra-Hoor-Khuit, and many other names. Horus is a symbol of the True Self which transcends Life and Death just as the Sun is a symbol of that which constantly shines even though day (Life) and night (Death) pass on earth, and just as the Child is a symbol of that which contains but transcends both mother (Life) and father (Death). In the “1st Aethyr” of The Vision and the Voice, Horus himself says of his nature:

“I am light, and I am night, and I am that which is beyond them.
I am speech, and I am silence, and I am that which is beyond them.
I am life, and I am death, and I am that which is beyond them.
I am war, and I am peace, and I am that which is beyond them.
I am weakness, and I am strength, and I am that which is beyond them.
…And it shall be unto them a grace and a sacrament, and ye shall all sit down together at the supernal banquet, and ye shall feast upon the honey of the gods, and be drunk upon the dew of immortality — FOR I AM HORUS, THE CROWNED AND CONQUERING CHILD, WHOM THOU KNEWEST NOT!”

As mentioned in later sections, in the New Aeon we view each individual as God Him/Herself. Therefore the work of each person is the release of identification with the ego and the consequent identification with Horus, That which transcends Life and Death (and all dualities). This is expressed symbolically by Frater Achad (and Crowley) by the idea of switching one’s perspective from Earth (the geocentric viewpoint where we experience day/life and night/death; the perspective of the ego) to the perspective from the Sun (the heliocentric viewpoint where we experience perpetual shining through day and night; the perspective of the True Self).

This paradigmatic change from Old Aeon to New, in the sense of no longer seeing Death as cataclysmic, is captured symbolically in Crowley’s changes to old “formulae” to conform with the New Aeon point-of-view. Specifically, the change from IAO to VIAOV and the change from AUM to AUMGN that Crowley speaks about in Magick in Theory & Practice (chapters 5 and 7, respectively) exemplify the paradigm shift from Old Aeon to New Aeon.

On the formula of IAO, Crowley writes, “This formula is the principal and most characteristic formula of Osiris, of the Redemption of Mankind. “I” is Isis, Nature, ruined by “A”, Apophis the Destroyer, and restored to life by the Redeemer Osiris” (MIT&P, chapter 5 which should be consulted for a more full examination of VIAOV). The basic idea is that I = Life which is ruined by A = Death/Chaos which must then be redeemed by O. Existence is therefore a process of endless cataclysms which require redemption from this point-of-view. How is this view changed from the point-of-view of New Aeon Initiation? Crowley writes, “THE MASTER THERION, in the Seventeenth year of the Aeon, has reconstructed the Word I A O to satisfy the new conditions of Magick imposed by progress.” Now, no one would deny that all things change, that “all things must pass,” but from the point-of-view of physics, energy is never created nor destroyed. It is simply transformed into different forms. If we identify with any of these partial phenomena which inevitably must be transformed, we are subject to death. If we “die daily” to our ego-self, to our sense of division or separateness from the world, then we come to identify with the Whole Process. “The many change and pass; the one remains” (“Liber Porta Lucis,” line 20). The All contains all opposites within itself, it is the symbol of the Serpent itself whose undulations are Life and Death, and therefore is eternal. This True Self, the All which knows no division, is Horus and “that which remains.” It is with these ideas in mind we can understand why, in the New Aeon, IAO has become VIAOV. Basically, IAO has been surrounded by two “V”s (these refer to the Hebrew letter “Vav” or the Greek letter “Digamma” for various reasons which can be investigated in chapter 5 of MIT&P). What does this mean?

Essentially, the “V” represents “that which remains.” There may be processes of creation, destruction, and reconstruction (IAO) but there is always “that which remains.” The “V” remains unchanged through the various “IAO processes” one might say. Even though the phallus of the father must “die” in ejaculation, it is a necessary step for new Life – the Child – to emerge… And the Semen, the Quintessence, remains unchanged (“that which remains”) throughout the entire process. This symbolic process exemplifies the ideas of the New Aeon, especially because the “death” in this case is ecstatic: the death is literally orgasmic. Further, Crowley writes in The Book of Lies, “the snake is the hieroglyphic representation of semen” and so the semen which is “that which remains” is identified with the snake or serpent which, as explained above, represents That which contains the complements of Life and Death (being the crest and trough of His undulations).

There is another interesting idea which this symbolic formula, VIAOV, conceals: One might consider the original “V” as ignorant man, i.e. man as ignorant of his True Self/his identity with All Things, and the final “V” as man conscious of his own Divinity. It is through the process of IAO, or death of the ego, that each individual becomes consciously aware of him or herself as Horus, “that which remains,” for since all things are contained in the All-Self, it cannot be created or destroyed. Also, the “V” or the True Self was always there, except the individual was simply ignorant of this fact: “The series of transformations has not affected his identity; but it has explained him to himself” (MIT&P, chapter 5). Crowley explains, “…the ‘Stone’ or ‘Elixir’ which results from our labours will be the pure and perfect Individual originally inherent in the substance chosen, and nothing else… the effective element of the Product is of the essence of its own nature, and inherent therein; the Work [then] consists in isolating it from its accretions” (MIT&P, chapter 20). As Crowley writes in “Liber LXV,” “Thou wast with me from the beginning.”

Moving onto AUM becoming AUMGN, Crowley writes,

“The word AUM is the sacred Hindu mantra which was the supreme hieroglyph of Truth, a compendium of the Sacred Knowledge… Firstly, it represents the complete course of sound… Symbolically, this announces the course of Nature as proceeding from free and formless creation through controlled and formed preservation to the silence of destruction… We see accordingly how AUM is, on either system, the expression of a dogma which implies catastrophe in nature. It is cognate with the formula of the Slain God.”
(MIT&P, chapter 7 which should be consulted for a more full examination of AUMGN)

The formula of AUM therefore suffers from the same attitude problem as the formula of IAO: nature is catastrophic. Moving beyond this idea of existence as catastrophic is, as explained above, one facet of New Aeon Initiation. Crowley explains,

“The cardinal revelation of the Great Aeon of Horus is that this formula AUM does not represent the facts of nature. The point of view is based upon misapprehension of the character of existence. It soon became obvious to The Master Therion that AUM was an inadequate and misleading hieroglyph. It stated only part of the truth, and it implied a fundamental falsehood. He consequently determined to modify the word in such a manner as to fit it to represent the Arcana unveiled by the Aeon of which He had attained to be the Logos. The essential task was to emphasize the fact that nature is not catastrophic, but proceeds by means of undulations.”

The essential idea appears in the final sentence. As we have gone over above, the New Aeon point-of-view conceives existence as a Serpent whose undulations are Life and Death. The word AUM ends in “M” which symbolizes the fact that, “the formation of the individual from the absolute is closed by his death” (MIT&P, chapter 7). Again the idea is one of Death as a stop or an end instead of “life to come” or one instance of Change. Now, how would “GN” be added to the end of AUM “fix” the word? Crowley writes, “The undulatory formula of putrefaction is represented in the Qabalah by the letter N, which refers to Scorpio.” Both of these (the letter N and Scorpio) are traditionally attributed to “Atu XIII: Death” in the Tarot which was spoken of above (when it was suggested it might be more accurately titled “Change” or “Transformation”). Basically, “N” represents the idea that, “Death is life to come;” that is, Death is not an end but one apex of the curve of endless undulations. Crowley continues, “Now it so happens that the root GN signifies both knowledge [gnosis] and generation combined in a single idea, in an absolute form independent of personality.” The idea is basically that AUM does not accurately describe the course of nature because existence does not end in cataclysm. Therefore, by adding “GN” to AUM to form “AUMGN,” we assert that the process of nature is not cataclysmic. In fact, it does not end at all but instead “proceeds by means of undulations:” Death is not the end but simply one trough of the endless winding of the Serpent of the All-Self.

Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131Essentially, “all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass & are done; but there is that which remains” (Liber AL vel Legis II:9). It is the work of each individual to dissolve and de-identify with the ego-self and identify with “that which remains,” the True Self which transcends all division (especially between Life and Death) in that it contains All. The death of the ego is not cataclysmic because we know the Sun of the True, All-Self which “is more He than all that he calls He” (The Book of Lies, chapter 18) is always shining regardless of our ignorance (our “darkness”). In short, in the New Aeon we give the advice, “If you are “walking in darkness”, do not try to make the sun rise by self-sacrifice, but wait in confidence for the dawn, and enjoy the pleasures of the night meanwhile” (The Law is For All).

“With courage conquering fear shall ye approach me: ye shall lay down your heads upon mine altar, expecting the sweep of the sword. But the first kiss of love shall be radiant on your lips; and all my darkness and terror shall turn to light and joy. Only those who fear shall fail.”
-“Liber Tzaddi,” lines 16-18

Love is the law, love under will.

→ Part 2: The True Self contains Good & Evil, Upright & Averse →