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. 


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” (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 ←]

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. 


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 →]

The Officers of the Gnostic Mass – pt.1: Introduction & the Priest

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 Gnostic Mass is an incredibly deep, complex, multi-layered ceremony. It seems to be an inexhaustible source of meaning and illumination. This is because the Mass itself represents the Mysteries. These are not the secrets that are known by some and guarded from others, but the “Mystery of Mystery” Itself. It represents in dramatic form that which is “secret and ineffable,” “beyond speech and beyond sight,” and “beyond all term.” It celebrates “that most holy mystery.”

As The Master Therion says, “Since truth is supra-rational, it is incommunicable in the language of reason” (Postcards to Probationers), and “all real secrets are incommunicable” (Magick in Theory & Practice). The Gnostic Mass therefore “refers to a knowledge incommunicable—save by experience” (Temple of Solomon the King). This knowledge attained through experience is what is meant by gnosis, the direct experiential “knowledge” that is not (and can’t be) communicated with words – it can only be hinted at through symbol and allegory, like fingers pointing to the moon. And this is one reason our Church is the Gnostic Catholic Church. As the Master Therion says, “ye shall comprehend, when, rising above Reason, which is but a manipulation of the Mind, ye come to pure Knowledge by direct perception of the Truth” (De Lege Libellum).

One issue I see in some individuals’ writings and understanding of the Gnostic Mass is that they often get quickly “locked in” to a certain symbolic interpretation being “right.” For example, the most common I see is the understanding that the Creed or the Officers represent the formula of Tetragrammaton (YHVH) and nothing else. Since the nature of the Mysteries is that they are, by definition, not exhaustible or completely explainable through language, there is therefore a theoretically infinite amount about them that one can say or write. Because of this, what is expressed below is most certainly not exhaustive in its explanation of anything in the Gnostic Mass. What follows is neither official nor “Absolutely True,” but it is intended to offer different perspectives in the hopes of widening and deepening one’s understanding and appreciation of the Gnostic Mass.


There are technically 4 “roles” filled by 5 individuals in the Gnostic Mass: (1) The PRIEST, (2) The PRIESTESS, (3) The DEACON, and (4) The two CHILDREN. I am going to go through each one and briefly discuss different ways of understanding the Officers symbolically. This will not be an incredibly in-depth analysis because the intent is to make these different perspectives known in order to broaden and deepen one’s understanding, not to make an academic-intellectual case for one or the other. It is also intended to leave room open for one’s own scholarship, fantasy, and experience.

Before beginning, it is important to remember what is said in the 5th Aethyr, “there could be nothing true except by virtue of the contradiction that is contained in itself.” That is to say: Each symbol is not “X to the exclusion of not-X.” Something may very well symbolize something and its exact opposite. One example is the symbolism of “darkness” and “night”: It can symbolize the darkness of the uninitiate’s ignorance or it can symbolize the highest attainment of NOX, the dissolution of All into None. Remembering this, no explanation of symbolism can ever be “logically consistent” because logic insists on something being either X or not-X; symbolism works with something beyond logic – something “supra-rational” – where meanings combine, oppose, intertwine, and interrelate in many different ways.


1) John Everyman: A Man Among Men

The Priest, in many senses, represents every individual. In particular, the Priest is a representation or archetypal expression of each of the Congregants. This is reflected in the Priest’s words when he exits the Tomb: “I am a man among men.” It even says in the rubric of the Gnostic Mass that “The PRIESTESS and other officers never partake of the Sacrament, they being as it were part of the PRIEST himself” (emphasis added). He is the natural protagonist of the Gnostic Mass, although I very much agree with several people who mention that the Priest, Priestess, and Deacon are each the protagonist from their own point-of-view. Nonetheless, the Priest is the one who undergoes “the Hero’s Journey” in the mythopoetic drama of the Gnostic Mass, and individuals often naturally will identify with him. This relates to the next symbol:

2) The Conscious Self: The Subject

The Priest is the natural “protagonist” and symbol with which people identify most readily because he symbolizes the conscious self. One could say the Priest represents the “ego,” but he is deeper than that: He is the Self that expresses itself through the ego on a “lower level”. The Priest is the individuality of each individual. For comparison, one could say the Priest is the Self and the Deacon represents the ego with all of its mental-rational capabilities (memory, volition, imagination, desire, reason) that assists the Self. Qabalistically, one can think of the Priest as Tiphareth, the Sun, and the Deacon as representing the Sephiroth surrounding and aiding it. Again, since the Priest represents the conscious self, he naturally represents the Subject of awareness and represents each individual’s Subject-hood. In relation to this, the Priestess represents the Object. In terms of the language of Yoga, the Subject of awareness unites with the Object of awareness in samadhi, or non-dual awareness.

3) The Yod of Tetragrammaton: The Father of Life

In the symbolism of Tetragrammaton, the Priest can represent the “Yod” (YHVH). This Yod relates to the Father, the King, the Element of Fire, and the magical weapon of the Wand. The Priest is called “Lord” and calls himself “Priest and King,” identifying himself with the “Kingly” element of Yod. The Priest bears the Sacred Lance, which is a form of the Wand, a phallic instrument of force and power (but it is not the exact same thing as the Wand, as will be mentioned later). The Lance (Yod) combines with the Chalice (Heh), further emphasizing this connection. Further, he is clothed in scarlet, a shade of red which is attributable to Fire and therefore to Yod. Further: On his second step toward the Veil, the Priest identifies with Hadit, the heart of every man and the core of every star, which is the ultimate Paternal idea beyond even notions of gender. In the Creed, the “Father of Life” is called CHAOS, who is identifiable with “Therion” (The Great Beast 666), which are all Father-Force symbols attributable in the Qabalah to the 2nd Sephirah, Chokmah. All these things go to reinforce the fact that the Priest can be identified as the Yod of Tetragrammaton, the Father-King of Life.

4) The Vav of Tetragrammaton: The Sun/Son

To further complicate things (as is natural with symbolism), the Priest can be identified with the Vav 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, Vav is attributed to the Sun, and the Priest is called the “Priest of the Sun” by the Priestess. 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.” In this sense, the Priest begins as the Prince/Son and, by virtue of his interaction with the Princess/Daughter, uplifts her to become Queen/Mother and he assumes the place of King/Father.

Again: the symbolism intertwines and overlaps in many ways. At the end of the Gnostic Mass, the Priest consumes the two-fold Eucharist and, in the attitude of Resurrection, proclaims that “There is no part of me that is not of the gods.” This is the traditional symbol of Osiris who died and was reborn, and the attitude of Resurrection was called “the Sign of Osiris Risen” in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which was attributed to the Sephirah of Tiphareth (that was, in turn, attributed to the grade of 5=6, that of the formula of LVX, IAO, and INRI, i.e. Life-Death-Rebirth). In a certain way, the Gnostic Mass represents the “perpetuation of the Tetragrammaton,” which is to say that it represents evolution (One becoming Many, Creation) and involution (Many becoming One, Attainment) and evolution again, et cetera ad infinitum. In this light, Crowley comments on the quotation from the 4th Aethyr mentioned above, “This mystery of the Daughter awakening the eld of the all-Father and thus perpetuating Tetragrammaton is of great importance.”

5) The Masculine Operator in Sexual Magick

As if it is not already obvious from the previously mentioned symbolism (and the Mass itself), the Priest represents the masculine operator in sexual magick. I say “masculine” because he 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 Priest represents Shiva and the Priestess is Shakti. This is reflected in Atu XI: Lust where Babalon (Shakti) is astride the Beast (Shiva). From this symbolism, one comes to wonder why the Priest is constantly identified as the “active” element in this duo when the symbolism repeatedly points to Babalon-Shakti as the more “active” participant – the masculine seems to often be “along for the ride,” so to speak. She’s the one who came down and pulled the Priest out of the Tomb, after all. In fact, Babalon is literally on top of the Beast in Atu XI, and – during the Collects – the Priestess can be seen above the Priest as they exchange their loving glances and breath.

Alchemically, the Priest is the Red Lion who interacts with the White Eagle, combining their essences in the hermetic vessel (or Grail) in order to produce the Elixir of Life, the Stone of the Philosophers, the Arcane Substance, the Two-in-One (et cetera). This alchemical symbolism is shown most explicitly in Atu VI: The Lovers where the Chymical Marriage takes place, and the result of their Consummation is shown in Atu XIV: Art.

6) Parsival: The Fool’s Journey

The Priest represents Parsival, specifically the character from Wagner’s opera. The Master Therion was obviously most fond of this allegory and he references it in many different works. In fact, he notes that “The dramatic setting of Wagner’s Parsifal was arranged by the then head of the O.T.O.” (i.e. Theodor Reuss). He explains that “Parsifal in his first phase is Der reine Thor, the Pure Fool” (The Book of Thoth), so the Gnostic Mass can be seen as the archetypal narrative of “the Fool’s Journey.”

Consider this: The Priest issues from the Tomb in white, symbolizing purity and innocence, just like that of Parsifal in the first Act of Wagner’s opera. Next, “Parsifal seizes [the sacred lance]; in other words, attains to puberty.” This is shown by the 11 strokes of the Lance by which the Lord is made present among us; further, going back to the symbolism of Tetragrammaton, this shows the Priest attaining “spiritual puberty” represented by the Lance (Vav) by which he may unite with the Daughter (Final Heh) and set her upon the Throne of the Mother (Heh). As the Master Therion explains, “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. Bacchus becomes Pan. The Holy Guardian Angel is the Unconscious Creature Self – the Spiritual Phallus. His knowledge and conversation contributes occult puberty” (Liber Samekh).

Next, Parsifal must seek Monsalvat, the Mountain of Salvation, that is the same as “Abiegnus” the sacred mountain of Rosicrucians (as well as Mount Sinai, Mount Meru, the world-ash wonder-tree, and all other symbols of the axis mundi) that is symbolically shown as the High Altar in the East. The Master Therion continues, “Where is Monsalvat, the mountain of salvation, which he has sought so long in vain? He worships the lance: immediately the way, so long closed to him, is open.” This is seen in the Priest’s three circumambulations of the Temple in darkness, led only by the Light of the Sacred Lance, which eventually brings him to the Veil of the Sanctuary. Then, “Accordingly, to redeem the whole situation, to destroy death, to reconsecrate the temple, he has only to plunge the lance into the Holy Grail; he redeems not only Kundry, but himself.” This is seen in the moment of the Lance plunging the particle into the Grail with the simultaneous orgasmic “HRILIU” from Priest and Priestess. It is from this “mixture,” the Eucharist infused with Godhead Itself, that the Priest (and the People) can partake and arise as that which may truthfully proclaim, “There is no part of me that is not of the gods.” This is one reason that the Sacred Lance is not just another name for the magical implement of the Wand. Without the Lance, the entire symbolism of Parsifal’s “Fool’s Journey” (the connections of which goes much deeper than the above) is almost completely lost.

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 →]

Thelemic Mysticism

Thelemic Mysticism – part 2: Mysticism in Theory

Thelemic Mysticism

← Part 1: Introduction ← | → Part 3: Mysticism in Practice → ]


Conceived as a Goal, Mysticism is the direct experience of the ultimate spiritual goal/truth.

The Essential Nature of the Mystic Goal

What is the basic, essential nature of this spiritual “Truth” or spiritual “Goal”? The Mystic Goal involves transcending our normal consciousness of multiplicity and duality to attain the Mystic Consciousness of Unity. 

Our normal consciousness is called “Many” or “Two.”

“This Abyss is also called ‘Hell,’ and ‘The Many.’ Its name is ‘Consciousness,’ and ‘The Universe,’ among men.”
The Book of Lies, chapter 10

  • Many: We are usually aware of many “things” in the world, including the multiplicity of objects of our awareness. Trees are different from tables which are different from birds which are different from clouds, et cetera. 
  • Two: Our normal awareness or consciousness is sometimes called “Two” or “duality” because there is a fundamental split in our awareness between (a) our self and (b) the world. This is sometimes expressed as the opposition between subject and object or the opposition between ego and non-ego.

“Understand now that in yourselves is a certain discontent. Analyse well its nature: at the end is in every case one conclusion. The ill springs from the belief in two things, the Self and the Not-Self, and the conflict between them. This also is a restriction of the Will… Ultimately, therefore, the problem is how to destroy this perception of duality, to attain to the apprehension of unity.”
Liber CL: De Lege Libellum

The Mystic Goal involves transcending our normal consciousness of Many/Two and achieving the consciousness of Unity/One.

  • The Goal is called Unity because it refers to unification of consciousness: this is the unification of the multiplicity of objects of awareness as well as the more fundamental unification between the subject and object(s) of awareness.
  • Since the awareness of a “self” or “ego” requires some kind of distinction between it and something else, the self/ego is said to “die” or “dissolve” or “merge” in this Unity.
  • Since there is no distinction between anything, including self and other, this Unity is sometimes called “Non-duality.” In defining the Mystic Goal by what it is not (i.e. not duality), the name “non-duality” avoids defining the Mystic Goal by what it is. Defining things “negatively” in this way is a common method for Mystics. This is often useful because asserting something “positive” about the Mystic Experience (e.g. “it is One”) allows for the introduction of various metaphysical propositions (e.g. “The One is Kether” or “The One is God” or “The One is separate from the Many”), theories, and beliefs, yet these theories and beliefs are forms of rational-intellectual mind that the Mystic attempts to transcend in directly penetrating to the Mystic Goal that is beyond rational-intellectual thinking. Also, asserting something “positive” about the Mystic Goal allows for distinctions to begin to be made – (e.g. “If the One is infinite, it does not include the finite”; “If the One is Good, it does not include the bad”; “If the Goal is powerful, it does not include weakness,” et cetera) – yet the Mystic Goal is beyond distinctions. Nonetheless, defining the Mystic Experience negatively or positively is still defining it, and – as will be seen repeatedly – the Mystic Experience is ultimately ineffable. 

“The Quintessence [of Life] is pure Light, an ecstacy formless, and without bound or mark. In this Light naught exists, for It is homogeneous: and therefore have men called it Silence, and Darkness, and Nothing. But in this, as in all other effort to name it, is the root of every falsity and misapprehension, since all words imply some duality.”
Liber CL: De Lege Libellum

In Thelema, this Unity is often said to be “None” instead of “One.” This “None” is also called “Naught,” “Zero,” or “0.” This has its basis in The Book of the Law (I:27) where it is written, “O Nuit, continuous one of Heaven, 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!”

  • It is understood that even this term “None” is not ideal. Ideally, we should “speak not of thee at all” because of the ineffability of the Mystic Goal as mentioned previously.
  • One reason the idea of “None” is used instead of “One” is because the number 1 implies a “deviation” insofar as it is a positive number (in opposition to and balanced by negative numbers). Therefore, the “union of opposites” (one term for the Mystic Goal) can be seen to be between the “X” of ego and the “-X” of non-ego; when they combine, X+(-X), we get Zero or None.
  • This “None” is not a lack of something, it is That which contains all things and That which all things – if they united – would cancel out into. Further symbolism of this None/Naught/0 can be studied in The Book of Thoth regarding Atu 0: The Fool.
  • In the end, we must remember that “None” – just like every other name, title, or description – is ultimately inadequate to describe the ineffable nature of the Mystic Goal.

Characteristics of the Mystic Goal

The primary characteristic of the Mystic Goal is its undifferentiated Unity. There are also a few other characteristics of the Mystic Experience that are universal among all Mystics from across different times and different cultures. The characteristics of the Mystic Goal are:

1. Undifferentiated UnityThis is the fact that the Mystic Experience confers this direct experience of the Unity of all things, and one’s ultimate identity therewith. Whether this Unity is called “Non-duality,” “One,” “None,” “All,” “Infinity,” “God,” “The Absolute,” “Krishna,” “Brahman,” “Emptiness,” “Buddha-nature,” “Silence,” “Darkness,” or “Light,” it is the same fundamental idea of an undifferentiated, undivided It. There are two types of Unity that are actually two sides of the same coin, so to speak: Introvertive Unity and Extrovertive Unity. 

Introvertive Unity:
• “All is dissolved in formless Light of Unity.”
Liber CL: De Lege Libellum
• “They beheld not God; they beheld not the Image of God; therefore were they arisen to the Palace of the Splendour Ineffable.” Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV, V:35

Extrovertive Unity:
• “All is One.”Liber Aleph, chapter 187
• “No two faces are identical, still less are two individuals. Unspeakable is the variety of form and immeasurable the diversity of beauty, but in all is the seal of unity.”New Comment to Liber AL, I:52

a) Introvertive Unity – The undifferentiated unity beyond all sense, thinking, forms, and images. There are no “things” or differentiation; there is simply undifferentiated unity. It is called “introvertive” because the mystic “looks within,” beyond all sensuous and intellectual contents of consciousness to penetrate to the undifferentiated Unity at the ground of all things. It is often spoken of as being “beyond senses,” “beyond images,” “beyond space,” “beyond time,” and “beyond causality.”

b) Extrovertive Unity – The undifferentiated unity as seen within the world, typically phrased as “All things are One.” The Extrovertive Unity “looks outward” into the world of senses and sees Unity permeating the apparent diversity and multiplicity. The sensuous world (the world as experienced through the senses) is transformed or transfigured, not in that anything has changed in the sensory world, but one’s very way of perceiving the sensuous world is altered so that Unity is perceived rather than multiplicity.

“Samadhi [has] an authenticity, and confer[s] an interior certainty, which is to the experience of waking life as that is to a dream.”
Eight Lectures on Yoga, “Yoga for Yellowbellies,” Fourth Lecture

2. Sense of Objectivity/Reality – The Mystic Goal, the undifferentiated unity, is sensed or intuited to be objective and real. It is often said to be “more real” than our normal “dualistic” awareness which is therefore labeled as “illusion.” It is the intuitive insight that is normally said to be “gnosis,” the direct experiential “knowledge” that the undifferentiated unity is true; this is the non-rational “certainty” that is given by the Mystic Experience.

“Then the adept was rapt away in bliss, and the beyond of bliss, and exceeded the excess of excess. Also his body shook and staggered with the burden of that bliss and that excess and that ultimate nameless.”
Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente, II:45-46

3. Deeply felt Positive Mood – This is the “peace” and “bliss” spoken of by virtually every Mystic throughout history (called “ananda” in Sanskrit). It is sometimes referred to as “love” or “joy” or virtually any other positive emotion raised to an exponential degree, e.g. “Perfect Happiness” as is stated in “Liber XV: The Gnostic Mass.”

4. Sense of Sacredness – This is an intuitive, direct sense of the sacredness or divine nature of this Mystic Experience. Its characteristic reactions involve awe, humility, and reverence. It is called “numinous” by Rudolf Otto, which he describes as referring to a sense of a tremendous mystery that is simultaneously both (a) awful/terrible (causes trembling and reverence; the “fear of God” of Judaism) and (b) fascinating/entrancing. This is sense of sacredness is generally related to various Mystics interpreting their experience as relating to God or the Divine. Also, this is somewhat related to the ‘deeply felt positive mood’ but not necessarily identical with it; one can feel blissful without the sense of sacredness and vice versa.

“Little by little, as your eyes grow stronger, will we unveil to you the ineffable glory of the Path of the Adepts, and its nameless goal.”
Liber Porta Lucis, line 14

“I believe in one secret and ineffable LORD.”
Liber XV: The Gnostic Mass

5. Ineffability – This refers to the fact that the Mystic Experience is universally said to be “ineffable.” This means the Mystic Experience is ultimately beyond words; it is impossible to describe. One of the most classic formulations of this idea comes from the Tao Teh Ching, “The Tao that is spoken of is not the Tao.” Although the Mystic Goal is ineffable, Mystics tend to write endlessly about it. For example, the previously mentioned line from the Tao Teh Ching is followed by 80 more chapters about the nature of the Tao. Although silence would most accurately portray the ineffable nature of the Mystic Goal, Mystics often feel the need to communicate about the Truth they experience and so they must resort to words, metaphors, and symbols regardless of their inadequacy. The ineffability of the Mystic Experience is why Mystics universally assert that the Mystic Goal is “beyond words,” “beyond reason” or “supra-rational,” or “beyond definition.”

“And this is the great Mystery of the Supernals that are beyond the Abyss. For below the Abyss, contradiction is division; but above the Abyss, contradiction is Unity. And there could be nothing true except by virtue of the contradiction that is contained in itself.”
The Vision and the Voice, 5th Aethyr

6. Paradoxicality – This refers to the logical contradictions that appear if the various definitions and descriptions of the Mystic Experience are analyzed rationally. Paradoxicality is the natural result of the identity of opposites that occurs in the Mystic Experience by virtue of the fact that it transcends the normal duality of perception and speech. Mystics use many terms to refer to the Mystic Experience that appear to be blatant contradictions. There are innumerable examples of this throughout Mystical literature:

  • “It stirs and It stirs not” (Isa Upanishad)
  • “dazzling darkness” (Henry Suso)
  • “dark brightness” (Tao Teh Ching)
  • “The One is everything and not everything” (Plotinus)
  • “I am the first and the last; I am the honored one and the scorned one; I am the whore and the holy one” (“Thunder: Perfect Mind”)
  • “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” (The Vision and the Voice, 1st Aethyr)
  • there is no subject, and there is no predicate; nor is there the contradictory of either of these things” (The Book of Lies)
  • “a light undesired, most desirable” (Liber AL, II:61), et cetera. 

Therefore, there are several characteristics that can be seen to be true of the Mystic Experience regardless of time period or culture. The primary characteristic is the experience of an undifferentiated unity – this is the defining characteristic of the Mystic Goal and it is always present in some form. The other characteristics include an intuitive sense of objectivity or reality (the Mystic Experience is understood as true and with supra-rational certainty), deeply felt positive mood (joy, bliss, peace), a sense of sacredness (holy, sublime, numinous, divine), ineffability (beyond words and description), and paradoxicality (descriptions are logically contradictory).

It should be noted that expressions of the Mystic Experience do not necessarily – or even usually – include all 6 of these characteristics at once. Sometimes the ineffability is emphasized, sometimes the bliss of positive emotion is emphasized, sometimes paradoxicality is emphasized, et cetera. Certain cultures emphasize different qualities – for example, Sufism tends to stress the positive emotion of bliss and love while Buddhism tends to stress ineffability. Some Mystics write with much more clarity while others write with much more romantic poeticism; some try to speak rationally while some speak in parable or metaphor. Nonetheless, they all refer to the same Mystic Experience. When the various utterances of a Mystic are brought together, they usually encompass most or all of these characteristics. Thelema in particular is a system that has instances of all of these characteristics of the Mystic Experience.

The Various Symbols of the Mystic Goal

“If we are in any way to shadow forth the Ineffable, it must be by a degradation. Every symbol is a blasphemy against the Truth that it indicates.”
“The Big Stick” in Equinox I:4

For as many Mystics have existed, there are at least as many different symbols, names, titles, and metaphors to describe the Mystic Goal. Each of these symbols implies a view about the world or various metaphysical propositions, which is one of their shortcomings. Every symbol is an image and, since the Mystic Goal is ultimately beyond all images, names, forms, and all other partial phenomena, there is no symbol that can be “true” as opposed to all others; they are all ultimately “degradations” of the Truth. They can only be signposts – fingers pointing to the moon, so to speak – and they must be taken as such. Nonetheless, symbols are also helpful in that they can aid us in understanding the nature of the Mystic Goal, or at least the language and ideas surrounding this within a particular system.

It will be seen very quickly that these symbols overlap. Sometimes an individual will use many of these metaphors/symbols at once. In the end, these all refer to the same Mystic Goal. In general, the West tends to explain the Mystic Goal as some kind of ultimate Being whereas the East tends to explain the Mystic Goal as some kind of ultimate State of being (although there are examples where the opposites are true). 

Lytton calls him Adonai in ‘Zanoni,’ and I often use this name in the note-books. Abramelin calls him Holy Guardian Angel. I adopt this:
   1. Because Abramelin’s system is so simple and effective.
   2. Because since all theories of the universe are absurd it is better to talk in the language of one which is patently absurd, so as to mortify the metaphysical man.
   3. Because a child can understand it.

* Theosophists call him the Higher Self, Silent Watcher, or Great Master.
* The Golden Dawn calls him the Genius.
* Gnostics say the Logos.
* Zoroaster talks about uniting all these symbols into the form of a Lion — see Chaldean Oracles.
* Anna Kingsford calls him Adonai (Clothed with the Sun).
* Buddhists call him Adi-Buddha — (says H. P. [Blavatsky])
* The Bhagavad-Gita calls him Vishnu (chapter xi).
* The Yi King calls him “The Great Person.”
* The Qabalah calls him Jechidah.

We also get metaphysical analysis of His nature, deeper and deeper according to the subtlety of the writer; for this vision — it is all one same phenomenon, variously coloured by our varying Ruachs [minds] — is, I believe, the first and the last of all Spiritual Experience. For though He is attributed to Malkuth [the tenth Sephirah], and the Door of the Path of His overshadowing, He is also in Kether [the first Sephirah] (Kether is in Malkuth and Malkuth in Kether — “as above, so beneath”), and the End of the “Path of the Wise” is identity with Him. So that while he is the Holy Guardian Angel, He is also Hua [the secret title of Kether, literally ‘He’] and the Tao [The great extreme of the Yi King].

For since Intra Nobis Regnum deI [I.N.R.I., ‘The Kingdom of God is within/inside’] all things are in Ourself, and all Spiritual Experience is a more of less complete Revelation of Him. Yet it is only in the Middle Pillar that His manifestation is in any way perfect.

The Augoeides invocation is the whole thing. Only it is so difficult; one goes along through all the fifty gates of Binah [i.e. ‘crossing the Abyss’] at once, more or less illuminated, more or less deluded. But the First and the Last is this Augoeides Invocation.”
“The Temple of Solomon the King” in Equinox I:1

The One – The Goal is sometimes explained numerically as “the One.” “One” implies something that is single, undivided, and complete.

  • In the Qabalah, this “One” is Kether, the 1st Sephirah on the Tree of Life, which literally means “Crown.” In Qabalistic terms, “All numbers [are] Veils of the One, emanations of and therefore corruptions of the One” (Crowley in 777)
  • The same term is often used by Neoplatonists such as Plotinus who says, “It is the simple unbroken Unity” (EnneadsI:1:9).
  • This “One” is – in the West – identified with God as in one of the central prayers of Judaism, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4), in Christ’s statement that, “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30), and in the Quran, “Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him” (Surah 112). 

None – The Goal is sometimes, as mentioned previously, explained as “None” (or “Naught,” “Zero,” or “0”). “None” implies no division, no distinction, no opposition, no separation, and other similar negatives. 

  • In the Qabalah, this “None” is the Negative Veils of Existence that “pre-exist” Kether. The three Negative Veils are “Ain,” “Ain Soph,” and “Ain Soph Aur,” which can be translated as “Nothing,” “No Limit,” and “Limitless Light,” respectively.
  • Numerically, “None” can be expressed as 0 = X + (-X), which implies that it contains opposites as well as that it is the “result” of uniting opposites.
  • The same idea also appears in Zen, as when Shunryu Suzuki writes, “True being comes out of nothingness, moment after moment. Nothingness is always there, and from it everything appears.” Similarly, Joshu Sasaki Roshi says, “The whole universe is one: equality holds difference and discrimination within it. The activity of equality includes plus and minus. Therefore, it is zero… Inevitably, the state in which you no longer claim yourself will be manifested. Buddhism concludes that this is the true self, true love, and the ultimate truth. Zen’s view is that words cannot point out the ultimate truth. It is utterly, completely zero.”

God – In the West, God is the ultimate goal of union. God is conceived as the ultimate Being who is omnipotent (contains all forces), omnipresent (contains all forms), and omniscient (contains all knowledge or all relations); God is therefore said to be “infinite.” The examples from every single Western Mystic are too innumerable to even begin to list.

  • Because of the Western notion that each individual has or “is” a soul that is separate from God, the Mystic Goal is seen as “union with God” (called “henosis” in Neoplatonism which literally means “oneness”).
  • God is the ultimate Good, the ultimate Truth, and philosophers equate their notion of the Absolute with that of God.
  • Alternate ways to refer to this same idea include “the Divine,” “the Lord,” and “Godhead” as well as the innumerable names of God from various systems (“YHVH,” “Adonai,” “Christ,” “Allah,” “Tetragrammaton,” “Elohim,” “El,” et cetera).

“The main idea is that the Infinite, the Absolute, God, the Over-soul, or whatever you may prefer to call it, is always present; but veiled or masked by the thoughts of the mind, just as one cannot hear a heart-beat in a noisy city.”
Liber ABA: Book Four, Part I

The Absolute – In Western philosophy, the concept of the Absolute is the unconditional, infinite, ultimate Reality.

  • While it is a way that Westerners have pointed to the same Mystic Goal, religious people inevitably equate this philosophical concept of the Absolute with God.
  • The Absolute is equivalent to the “Ain Soph” of Qabalah, the “Pleroma” of Gnosticism, the “Tao” or the “Wu Ji” of Chinese philosophy, the “Brahman” of Hinduism, et cetera.

“Thou that art One, our Lord in the Universe, the Sun, our Lord in ourselves whose name is Mystery of Mystery, uttermost being whose radiance, enlightening the worlds, is also the breath that maketh every God even and Death to tremble before Thee.”
Liber XV: The Gnostic Mass

The Sun – The Sun is one of the most ancient symbols of the Mystic Goal. In the West, it is endlessly associated with God in various ways.

  • The Sun is the source of light in the world, and therefore makes us able to “see” reality. Light is constantly associated with knowledge or awareness (as in “enlightenment”) whereas darkness is constantly associated with ignorance or delusion.
  • The Sun is the source of life in the world, so it is understood as a symbol of being the source of creative power/force of this Absolute/God, i.e. omnipotence.
  • The Sun is the “eye of the world,” so it is understood as seeing or being aware of all things, i.e. omniscience.
  • The Sun rules the ordering of days, seasons, and years, so it is understood as a symbol of order, harmony, law, and the “Architect” (source of all rules/laws and all forms) of the Cosmos.
  • In the New Aeon, we know (a) the Sun is the center of our system, and (b) the Sun never ‘dies.’ Therefore, it is a symbol of being (a) the central, ordering principle of the universe and therefore the center or “soul” of ourselves, and (b) eternal, immortal, infinite, deathless, et cetera.
  • Horus in His various forms – Ra-Hoor-Khuit, Ra-Hoor, Hoor-Apep, Hoori, Heru-Ra-Ha, et cetera – is a symbol of this “Sun.” 

The common symbol of the Sun, the point in the circle, is itself a symbol of the union of opposites: in this context, the Sun represents the Whole, the One, the All, et cetera. Sometimes the Sun (Sol) is seen as a complement to the Moon (Luna): in this context, the Sun is represented as one half of the whole, the Bridegroom as opposed to the Bride, the Male as opposed to the Female, the God as opposed to the Soul, et cetera.

“The true Magick of Horus requires the passionate Union of opposites.”
Little Essays Toward Truth, “Glossary”

Union of Opposites  – Since the Mystic Goal involves transcending duality, all symbols that involve the union of opposites in some way are symbolic of the Mystic Goal. These are innumerable as well but some examples include the Union of:

  • Soul and God (virtually all Western Mystics)
  • Bride and Bridegroom (many Christian and Sufi Mystics)
  • Male and Female
  • The Child as the union of Father and Mother (Horus as Crowned and Conquering Child)
  • Sun and Moon (Planetary)
  • Microcosm and Macrocosm; Pentagram and Hexagram; 5 and 6 (Hermetic)
  • Lingam and Yoni (and virtually all sexual symbolism; Hindu)
  • Lance and Cup/Chalice/Grail (Parsival; the Gnostic Mass)
  • Cross and Rose (Rosicrucian)
  • Lion and Eagle (Alchemical)
  • Cross and Circle; Point and Circle; Square and Circle (Geometric)
  • Square and Compass (Masonic)
  • Heart and Serpent (Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV)
  • Egg and Serpent (Orphic Mysteries)

“The Ultimate Reality… the Unthinkable Reality.”
The Book of Lies

Reality – The Mystic Goal is sometimes equated with “Reality.” This implies that normal understanding or awareness is “illusion,” i.e. the “Fall” of Western religion or the “illusion” (“Maya”) of Eastern philosophies. Virtually all Mystics equate the Mystic Goal to the ultimate Reality in some way or another. It is also called “Truth.” This emphasizes the “Sense of Objectivity/Reality” aspect of the Mystic Goal mentioned previously.

“…The knowledge of his infinite Will, his destiny to perform the Great Work, the realization of his True Self.”
Liber CL: De Lege Libellum

True Self – The “True Self” is sometimes used to distinguish from the “false self” of the dualistic and limited ego-self. This emphasizes that the Mystic Goal is not something separate from oneself.

  • The True Self is sometimes called “True Nature,” the “pure soul,” or the “Oversoul.”
  • In Hinduism, it is the “Atman” in Hinduism that is understood to be identical with “Brahman,” the infinite, boundless Reality, i.e. the “Absolute” of Hindu philosophy.
  • In Buddhism, the “True Self” is sometimes called the “Adi-Buddha” (“primordial Buddha”) in Mahayana/Vajrayana Buddhism, and the “True Nature” is sometimes called the “Buddha-dhatu” (“Buddha-nature”).
  • In the Qabalistic system, this is the “Yechidah” (or “Jechidah”), the primal individuality attributed to Kether on the Tree of Life.
  • The Golden Dawn and others call this the “Genius” or “Daimon” or “Augoeides.” It can, in certain ways, be identified with the Holy Guardian Angel of Thelemic mysticism.

Enlightenment – In Eastern systems there are various terms that are essentially equivalent to our English term “enlightenment.” The term implies insight into one’s True Self or True Nature or into the true nature of Reality. Various scholars and philosophers have introduced distinctions between these terms and various other sub-sets of these terms, but they all ultimately refer to the same Mystic Goal. There are various terms for this in different systems:

  • Samadhi – In the Hindu system, the term “Samadhi” is used to refer to the union of subject and object of perception in meditation. This brings “liberation” (“moksha”) from the Wheel of Samsara, i.e. of birth, death, and rebirth.
  • Nirvana – In the Buddhist system, the term “Nirvana” is used to refer to the cessation of the sense of self or of “desire” that frees one from the First Noble Truth of suffering (“dukkha”). It is equivalent to the Muslim “fana” (“to pass away/cease”).
  • Kensho/satori  – “Kensho” and “satori” are words used in Zen Buddhism that essentially mean “seeing into one’s true nature.” 

The Various Symbols of the Mystic Goal

“We shall bring you to Absolute Truth, Absolute Light, Absolute Bliss.
Many adepts throughout the ages have sought to do this; but their words have been perverted by their successors, and again and again the Veil has fallen upon the Holy of Holies.
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 Porta Lucis”, lines 17-19

As we can see, there are more ways to symbolically express the Mystic Goal than can possibly be listed in this short essay. There are two main points to remember:

1. All of these symbols refer to the same Mystic Goal of transcending our normal consciousness of Many/Two and achieving the consciousness of Unity/One. The diversity of the symbolism veils its ultimate Unity.

2. The difference of these symbols enables us to not get dogmatically “stuck” in any one of them to the exclusion of others. One of the virtues of Thelemic Mysticism is the explicit awareness of these many different names and forms of expressing the same Mystic Goal, so we are particularly on guard against asserting one to be “more true” than another.

The question still remains: “How do I achieve the Mystic Goal?” or “What is the Mystic Path?” This will be explained in the next section, Mysticism in Practice.

← Part 1: Introduction ← | → Part 3: Mysticism in Practice → ]