About Me

My photo

Oliver St. John is the author of fifteen books covering Hermetic and Thelemic philosophy, Qabalah, operative magical Theurgy, the Tarot and astrology. He is a founding member of the Thelemic Magical Collegium, Ordo Astri, and has been a member of the Typhonian Order since 2000 e.v.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Magick of Light

This article is taken from the book, Ritual Magick—The Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic Light.
Ordo Astri Qabalah: The Flaming Sword
The Flaming Sword

The “Z” formula, or Magick of Light, is the basis for the consecration of talismans, invocation and evocation. It is also the basis of magical Initiation and was devised by the historical Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and continued in Aleister Crowley’s Argenteum Astrum. Since it is based on universal natural principles, it is also used in Ordo Astri, albeit in a revised and modernised form.(1)
The General Exordium declares the method by which the Hermetic Light is transmitted—for the 93 current or Hermetic Light is comparable to electricity, sometimes described as a fluid, Azoth, or an electromagnetic force. There follows our commentary on the General Exordium and the universal formula of magical Initiation:

1. The Speech in the Silence: the Words against the Son of Night.

Ceremonies begin with some form of banishing, to clear the universe (the ritual place of work) from all inimical forces. Traditionally the ritualist give a warning, Procul o procul, este profani!—“Away, away, all ye profane!”

2. The Voice of Thoth before the Universe in the presence of the eternal Gods.

Hermes is present in the ritual as soon as the priest utters a word: “By names and images are all powers awakened and reawakened”.

3. The Formulas of Knowledge.

There follows a sevenfold exposition on the technical means of invocation and evocation, all of which are the “Knowledge of Thoth”:

i) The Wisdom of Breath.

The root of the Word-vibration is Chokmah (Wisdom), the seat of the Will; the subtle light or virile force is circulated by the breath, called pranayama in the East; in rituals, the circulation of the breath in meditation is translated into the movement of the magician, the circumambulations, around the circle of the work. The ritual circle is an extension of the astrosome of the magician; in this field he or she moves, in the same way that Hadit is the giver and the animator of life. An atomic analogy would be that of the electron.

ii) The Radix of Vibration.

The root or base of vibration refers to the ritual sonic utterance, the vibratory method of sending forth the divine names by drawing down the thread of light from the Ain Soph Aur beyond Kether, into the Tiphereth (by inhalation of breath), and then forcibly outwards (by exhalation of breath) as an image. The secret is that the magician is replicating the primal act of creation. By the Hermetic axiom, “As above, so below”, the magician is God and verily God—created in the image of that God and imbued with the divine power of creation. The personal ego imagines that it is separate, that its actions are its own—yet the ego does not exist, save as an expression of the true Self or Holy Guardian Angel. A large part of Initiation is to fully realise this fact.

iii) The Shaking of the Invisible.

By the vibratory formula, that which is invisible, latent, comes to life and activity.

iv) The Rolling Asunder of the Darkness.

This refers to the Opening of the Veil, the rending of the fabric of space that makes creation possible. It also refers to the illumination of Initiation itself, for each step is a dispelling of the darkness of the previous state.

v) The Becoming Visible of Matter.

The eye of the beholder is one with that which is seen. This refers to the creative power of the imagination, which is the power behind all visible things.

vi) The Piercing of the Coils of the Stooping Dragon.

This refers to the magnetic force that surrounds the earth, for the power of manifestation does not belong to the separate ego. The ignorance of unknowing binds the uninitiated with this magnetic force, for the unawakened spirit perceives only the visible appearance of things and does not comprehend the Hermetic Light that is the secret operator behind all phenomena.

vii) The Breaking forth of the Light.

The Word-vibration has issued forth from the mouth of the Creator, dividing the light and the darkness, and bringing order and form to the universe. There is a further meaning to the piercing of the coils of the Stooping Dragon and the breaking forth of Light: the work of the magician is to create astral shells, Godforms that are located in various places in the magical Temple, the universe. This is accomplished by the formula previously declared, “By names and images are all powers awakened and reawakened”. These astral images are linked to the astrosome of the magician, and are linked to his or her Tiphereth. Lest we think this is all merely a psychological exercise, the creation of a magical theatre in the mind, we are reminded that the life-force animating all of creation is one and the same, and springs from the same source. That source does not rest with the human ego, which is in itself merely a puppet doll, a transitory shadow formed by a reflection of light. The source is the well-spring of the eternal, from which the circle of the Gods came forth before the Beginning of Time. Therefore, the living Gods, the Neters, are able to inhabit the shells that we have made for them, and are able to speak through those images created in the mind’s eye.
Now what of this “Z” formula, so-called? Why “Z” and not “X” or “Y”? The shape of the English letter forms the symbol of the Lightning Flash, the descending current that concentrates out of the Ain Soph into Kether, and then pours forth to fill the cups or vessels of the Hermetic Tree. The Hebrew letter zain, “a sword”, is the power of division that is the means of creation.
The letter zain (z) is the seventh letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and the seventh path counted from aleph (a). The number 7 is that of Venus and Netzach, which encompasses the whole Tree of Life and is sometimes called the “Brazen Serpent”, the serpent of brass or copper that identifies Venus with the twenty-two scales of the serpent of wisdom—the shining paths of the Hermetic Tree. The sword and the serpent are the descending and ascending current or flow of force that is set in motion through the practice of breath control and silent concentration of mind. The sword and the serpent are two and one, or none. When the serpent has climbed to the top of the Tree, the sword of flame issues from its mouth and runs to earth as a charge of lightning.
The number 7 is also a number of Set; as the manifestor of the seven stars of the Thigh constellation that we call Ursa Major, Set is both 7 (Sept or Sepet) and 8, since he is the first and the eighth, the ogdoad. Any musician will have a deep intuition of the relevance of the seven-note musical scale that ends and begins with the octave, the eighth. Sound and colour, light, follow the same principles, and those mathematical and geometric principles have been learned by school children since Pythagoras first drew out the triangle, the square and the circle. The Hermetic Tree itself is based on the Pythagorean decad, the Tetractys, from which the three principles and four elements are drawn. From there, the entire basis of astrology, alchemy and magick comes forth, as laid down by Cornelius Agrippa and those before him.
The “Z” formula is applied equally to the consecration of talismans, to the invocation and evocation of occult forces and to the Initiation of the individual. The ritual for the consecration of a talisman—by which life and movement is brought to inert matter—is identical to the ritual of Initiation for any grade, sephira, number or path. The aspirant necessarily begins as blindfolded and bound with cords of ignorance, as surely as Malkuth is bound by the coils of the Great Dragon, Leviathan, and separated from the rest of the Tree of Life. As in the words of the Golden Dawn ceremony of Initiation of the Neophyte:

Inheritor of a dying world, arise and enter the darkness!
—The Mother of Darkness hath blinded him with her hair.
The Father of Darkness hath hidden him under His wings.
—His limbs are still weary from the wars that were in heaven.
Unpurified and unconsecrated, thou cannot enter the hall of the Initiates!

In this state of darkness and unknowing, the person must be purified by lustral water and consecrated by the living fire before any Great Work can begin. Upon reception into the circle, the candidate is made to swear an oath. The oath does not limit the person’s freedom; on the contrary, by binding the chaos and the night within, there is a chance of the only real freedom, the freedom of knowing and doing the True Will on earth. All ‘choices’ and ‘decisions’ made by the personal ego are a joke, the spasmodic twitching of a golem or automaton, as it responds to the tides and motions of fate.
Having declared the oath, under the sword of Horus in the guise of an executioner, the sword is lifted and the Neophyte, still bound and hoodwinked, begins the movement around the Temple, stopping at various stations along the way. By analogy, this person has learned to shut up about the mysteries, has stopped talking and arguing with the fools in the marketplace, and has sat down to meditate and to circulate the Hermetic light upon the breath.

Unseen by the Neophyte, the lamp of Anubis goes before. The fear and darkness of the Neophyte is embodied by Horus, Guardian of the West, whose throne is the station of the path of the Shades. Isis, or Thoum-Aest, speaks kind words on behalf of the soul of the Neophyte. Her throne is in the East, station of the Light arising in Darkness. Unseen by the Neophyte as they travel around the circle, a reflection of the Tree of Life, at first a dim light, begins to shine about them—a light shining in the darkness. When each part of the chamber has been visited in turn, and a glimpse of knowledge obtained from the Gods that inhabit the stations, the Neophyte is taken to the cubical altar at the centre of the universe, the blindfold removed. Three Gods raise wand, sword, and sceptre, to form a triangle of light above the head of the new Initiate. The light has risen in darkness. The Neophyte is called to Life and Light.
Finally, the Neophyte is taken between the two pillars of Solomon; the bindings are removed, and they are informed of their new life in the Temple of the Gods. The removal of the binding from the hands means the person is now free to act, to move in the way of their True Will.


1. The book for the Probationer, which introduces them to the Magick of Light, is The Enterer of the Threshold

Other books by Oliver St John 

Subscribe to The 93 Current Newsletter

Visit Ordo Astri: Thelemic Magical Collegium

© Oliver St. John 2013, 2016