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.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Towards a New Golden Dawn

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

The Sun enters Capricorn at the darkest, or brightest time of the year, depending on whether you are situated north or south of the equator. The letter of the 26th path of Capricorn is Ayin, the eye. There is nothing more seductive and convincing to the intellect than the appearance of things—how things look. How things look is not determined by how things really are, but by the condition of the soul or beholder. The antidote to the fearsome apparitions of the Devil of the 26th path was thoughtfully provided by Lewis Carroll in The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland: “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!” This breaks the spell, and Alice wakes up from the dream.

At Aunnu (Heliopolis), Set was understood to be the child of Nuit the sky and Geb the earth. This is a retelling of a far more ancient myth where Set is the only begotten son of Nuit. As her star or manifesting power, Set had no father, as he was also the consort of Nuit. In the Theban cult of Ankh af-na-khonsu, this is continued in the dual cosmic depiction of Nuit and Set-Hadit on the Stele of Revealing. On the same stele, Horus and Set are combined in the form of the enthroned God Mentu, before which the priest and scribe stands, offering himself as a perfected word (makheru or Hormaku). All Egyptian gods are polymorphic.

He who looks both ways: Heru-Set
The gold relief offsetting a leaden background in this combined image of the brothers Horus and Set rescued from the ruins of ancient Aunnu is suggestive of an early epithet of Set before he was demonised, the “Black and Gold One” (Sut-Nubti). Heru-Set was known to the Egyptians as “He who looks both ways”. Qabalists might note that the Mystic Number of the 26th path of Capricorn is 351, while the Mystic Number of the 17th path of Gemini is 153. Whichever way we look, we are seeing either a devil or a double—and the two nouns have identical meaning. The sword of discrimination (Zain) is needed to negotiate the persuasive phantoms that appear to the eye (Ayin) that has not yet been made single through long practice of yoga. When the letters of the two paths are combined, OZ spells the name of a goat, as well as that of a goatish wizard.

The Phoenix Initiation

There is a ritual called the Phoenix, which is based on the Golden Dawn Neophyte “Z” Initiation.(1) The Phoenix is the bridge between the Outer World of Darkness and the Illuminated Souls or inner plane Adepti. Many persons quit the path through a misapprehension of what Initiation entails. They hope, perhaps, to work ritual for a few weeks and see at once the glimmering of new light in their world, the beginning of a transfiguration that will raise them aloft to Apollonian heights while at the same time satisfying every Dionysian wish and desire. In fact, anyone who has studied the Neophyte ceremony of the Golden Dawn will know that the first thing the Candidate hears on entering the place is, “Inheritor of a dying world, prepare to enter the path of darkness!” The role of Horus in the West is here the dread Lord of the Averse Pathways, whose name is Darkness. In the East is Isis or Thoum-Aest (one of three forms of Maat in the original ceremony). She is “Light dawning in Darkness”. The Holy Guardian Angel thus takes on a light and a dark aspect here, which is mediated in the ritual by the invisible but vast presence of Thoth, the word or Logos.

Towards a New Golden Dawn

We seem to have entered dark times, in terms of the collective consciousness as well as actual global events. If that is in any way true, then it seems apt to be revisiting some of the core teachings and practices in our tradition. The Golden Dawn symbolism of the red cross that brings down the white triangle of the supernal sephiroth to the relative darkness of the lower sephiroth, via the harmonious radiance of Tiphereth, is as relevant now as it ever was. The fact we have now seen a hundred years of general intellectual acceptance of Freud’s theories on the nature of Theos does nothing to change reality (or Theos), it only changes how men and women are disposed to see things. Likewise, neither Carl Jung not Aleister Crowley could discern a difference between two Greek words that have very different meanings: Eros and Agape. Love herself has not been offended, neither has Wisdom blushed. No God forbids. It is the human soul that will pick up the tab on the day of be-with-us. Though the name Eve means “to fall or stumble”, it is Adam (viz., human ego) that casts his soul into the Abyss—or realises her as his only chance for the Kingdom.

Aleister Crowley chose to put a Freudian interpretation on the operation of the Hermetic Light. Ithell Colquhoun, in an article written in 1955, suggested that Crowley typified the ‘Dying God’ or ‘Aeon of Osiris’ that was the very thing he claimed to be standing against.(2) The Occult Science has certainly been crushed beneath the juggernaut wheels of the Freudian view of Occult Science for far to long. Psychological reductionism is one thing, the atavisms of a crowned and conquering all-male Logos Spermatikos are quite another. If we could but remember what Alice said, and dispel in an instant the latest pack of jokers. If we could but remember that the abode of the Signum Symbol is the heart—and that the real occult secrets are only secret because they cannot be put into words. The other kind of secrets are ones we can all do well without; they are in fact a recipe for the very neuroses that Freud went to such lengths to examine.

Undoubtedly, there is a Great Work to be done before we may all see the light born into the darkness of the world!

Love is the law, love under will.


1. The Phoenix is also known to Initiates as Liber CMXXX. Our book for the Probationer 0=0 is The Enterer of the Threshold.

2. Ithell Colquhoun’s article about Aleister Crowley, Heaven and Earth—The Dying-Kick of the Dying-God, appeared originally in the London Broadsheet, No. 4, April 1955. 

© Oliver St. John 2016

Related articles: Neophyte Initiation: Enterer of the Threshold

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Magical Beast of Apocalypse

Charles Stansfeld Jones, otherwise known as Frater Achad, showed forth brilliance and erudition in his book, The Egyptian Revival. However, although Achad said in the Preface to the book that it was written “in the spirit of Suggestive Inquiry”, further study reveals he perhaps took the Qabalistic symbolism a little too literally. He clearly felt he had made a Great Discovery in reversing the alphabet and relocating the Tarot trumps, and went so far as to think there might be some “Absolute Reason in the Primitive Universal Tradition”. In spite of this—a magical faux pas that caused some upset to his mentor, Aleister Crowley—Achad produced some highly original insights, which make his work well worth serious study. In Chapter IV of The Egyptian Revival he writes:
We have seen in tracing out the Traditions that there have been two Wills at work, the Divine and the Personal, and that through the Ages these have appeared in conflict. One is the Bright Star or Pentagram of Unconquered Will, the other the Dark Star of the Reversed Pentagram. These two Stars are symbolised by the hands of Man, or the Magician, one raised to Heaven in the Sign of Solvé, the other directed downwards in the Sign of Coagula. When united they form a Ten-fold Star, just as the hand of the man who has fallen may be grasped by the one who Raises him in the Grip of the Lion, which exactly symbolises this uniting of the Rising and Setting Sun, or the Twins Sut-Har. For the Two Wills are Harmonised in Tiphereth. But when we consider Malkuth, it is a question of Raising the Fallen Daughter, the Animal Soul, or matter, to the Throne of the Mother, Understanding … The Union of the two Stars as a Ten-fold Star in Malkuth is the Work before us … as promised by the Rainbow of the old order.
On the following pages, the inspiration fades a little as Achad grapples with the problems raised by his upturning of the correspondences. However, this one idea alone provides us with an opportunity to gain an overview of the whole path of Initiation, as mapped out in the Qabalistic grade system of Thelemic magical Orders. From the tenfold union of the upright and averse pentagrams comes forth the elevenfold star, which is the key to magical Initiation.

According to Aleister Crowley, the number 11 is “The general number of magick, or energy tending to change” (Liber 777). The number 11 is also that of Nuit, according to the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, I: 60:
My number is 11, as are all their numbers who are of us.
Da’ath, Knowledge, is the eleventh sephira—really a non-sephira. To understand the significance of the elevenfold star of Thelemic Initiation, we need to examine the importance of Malkuth the Kingdom in the whole scheme of things.

Ordo Astri: Elevenfold Star of Union
Elevenfold Star

The Pyramid

The magical formula of the Neophyte may apply to each of the three Orders of the Golden Dawn, Rosy Cross and Silver Star. The Golden Dawn “Z” Formula expresses the Magick of Light, the Sword (descending current) and Serpent (ascending current). The Sword and Serpent is also the key symbolism of the grade of 5=6, Adeptus Minor. There is no difference between Adonai, as the ascending Serpent Power within the Initiate, and Typhon or Apophis.

The ritual chamber of Malkuth may be conceived as a womb and tomb for Initiation. The four walls beyond the magick circle are the four classical elements, the faces of the Sphinx of Nature and cardinal directions. In our dynamic version of the Golden Dawn Neophyte “Z” ritual, the Phoenix, the circle is triangulated by two officers wearing the masks of Isis (Hegemon) and Horus (Hiereus), plus a third ‘invisible station’ of Thoth as the Word or Logos, the reconciler of the dual forces. Once the altar is triangulated in this way, the vertical projection from the centre evokes the apex of a pyramid above. This comes about spontaneously in the same way that the six-fold hexagram appears above and below the magician when four pentagrams are placed around the circle in the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram. The inner aspect of Malkuth is defined here by a tetrahedronal pyramid, whose apex is, figuratively speaking, Iacchus or the Holy Guardian Angel. The tetrahedron is not only a symbol corresponding to the 31st path of The Aeon XX, but is also a symbol of Da’ath, the eleventh sephira that is yet not a sephira as such. It is the key to magical transmutation.

Isis, or the Hegemon in the Neophyte ceremony, is the aspect of the Holy Guardian Angel that speaks kind words on behalf of the soul. Horus, or the Hiereus, is the Darkness of the Soul that must be overcome by the Candidate. These may be understood as dual aspects of the Holy Guardian Angel. The third aspect is symbolised by the “invisible station” of Thoth behind the two pillars in the Hall of Double Maat. Thoth, or Tahuti, stands in the sign of the Enterer until the moment that the Candidate swears the oath at the altar—for one must speak true words in the presence of the Gods. Thoth then draws back in the sign of Silence.

The Great Dragon

The apex of the Pyramid of Initiation—being pointed—may be likened to the horn on the head of the great dragon described in the visions of various prophets, and which forms the basis of the Golden Dawn Qabalistic instruction on the biblical fall of Adam and Eve. The instruction was traditionally spread through the knowledge given to the Practicus (Hod) and Philosophus (Netzach), and illustrated by two diagrams: Tree of Life before the Fall, and Tree of Life after the Fall. In the book of Isaiah, 27: 1, we find the first reference to the beast Leviathan, as a “crooked” and “piercing” serpent:
In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish Leviathan the piercing serpent, even Leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.
In the book of Daniel, 7: 24, we also find a serpent or dragon, though seemingly of a different kind. There is an explicit reference to an eleventh horn:
As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings.
Malkuth is the tenth sephira on the Tree of Life, and Da’ath, Knowledge, is counted as the eleventh. There are eleven dukes of Edom listed in the book of Genesis, 36: 31–43. The Edomites are both a historical and a mythical culture, of great antiquity. They are esoterically supposed to be an elder race, that preexisted man. Traditionally, they are Lords of Chaos and are likened to the heads of the risen red dragon after Adam fell and Malkuth was fatally linked to the world of shells (matter). The word translated as “kingdom” in the book of Daniel is the Aramaic “Malkuth”. There are various Qabalistic arrangements. Malkuth has in itself ten sephiroth, three above and seven below—the palaces of the Qliphoth or Shells. Seven palaces (or crowns or horns) may also be formed from compounding the supernal triad into one, and Malkuth and Yesod into one. In the book of Daniel, 2: 42, we find:
The toes of the feet were part of iron and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.
The esoteric interpretation of the dream of Daniel concerning Nebuchadnezzar is that the two feet, each with five toes, symbolise a dual projection in consciousness from the Holy Guardian Angel. The vision describes the feet as part of clay and part of iron—the weak force and the strong force, the personal will and the divine or “unconquered” will of the shining Angel (augoedes). Clay is the body of Adam, the ‘man of blood’, while iron is the base metal that may be transmuted into gold when the Sun is in the sign of Scorpio—since the energy of Mars is required in the operation. The duality also expresses the upright and averse pentagrams which, when added to their unity (or the point in the centre), compose the elevenfold star of the Thelemic Initiation path.

The Revelation of St. John

Death on a Pale White Horse, William Blake (1800)
Death on a Pale White Horse, William Blake (1880)

We find three references to a ten-horned beast in the book of St. John’s Revelation; in Revelation 12: 3, 13: 1 and 17: 6:
Then another sign appeared in heaven: a huge red dragon with seven heads, ten horns, and seven royal crowns on his heads.

Then I saw a beast with ten horns and seven heads rising out of the sea. There were ten royal crowns on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads.

And the ten horns and the beast that you saw will hate the prostitute. They will leave her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and burn her with fire.
The latter verse, 17: 6, is echoed in the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, III: 43:
Let the Scarlet Woman beware! If pity and compassion and tenderness visit her heart; if she leave my work to toy with old sweetnesses; then shall my vengeance be known. I will slay me her child: I will alienate her heart: I will cast her out from men: as a shrinking and despised harlot shall she crawl through dusk wet streets, and die cold and an-hungered.
Understood as an allegory, St. John’s Revelation tells of the Scarlet Woman’s initiatory trial and death, marriage to her Holy Guardian Angel (as bride of Christ or Logos) and subsequent transfiguration into the heavenly Jerusalem or body of Nuit. Malkuth is thus ‘saved’, redeemed or raised from her captivation in the material world of shells—freed from the fetters that bind her to the coils of the Qliphoth or fragmented atomic universe. The ‘prostitute’ Babalon or Scarlet Woman is the soul of the Initiate.

So far as the ‘sinful’ nature of the Scarlet Woman is concerned, it is interesting to note that in Hebrew the word “sin” actually means “thorn” and “clay”. Thorny plants such as the acacia or rose symbolise the horns of the crescent moon. The moon itself, like the clay shaped by the hands of the divine potter, is a symbol of the body and the natural soul. Liber AL vel Legis, I: 16, describes the Scarlet Woman as being “a moon”; as a moon, she is containment and receptivity, as well as the division into parts of cyclical, phasic existence. She is the placenta feeding the magical embryo or Khabs. The nuptial feast that follows the hour of doom of the Scarlet Woman is a celebration of the soul’s victory over death and world illusion, of her union with the eternal.

Transmutation of the Qliphoth

We repeatedly encounter the dual symbolism of the piercing thorn and the clay or flesh of the mortal body of Adam. The Initiated doctrine of the Qliphoth, however, instructs us that the piercing nature of the dragon’s horn is required to ascend the Tree of Life. ‘Aspiration’ cannot be merely wishful thinking. Neither can we dream our way to the summit with symbol and metaphor alone. There is no ritual or secret formula that will raise inert matter to life and movement unless the exorcist is Hadit, the magical force itself. The enginery of the universe therefore plays a vital part in the Initiation of the candidate. Hadit, the Serpent of Knowledge, declares his nature in Liber AL vel Legis, II: 7:
I am the Magician and the Exorcist. I am the axle of the wheel, and the cube in the circle. “Come unto me” is a foolish word: for it is I that go.
Note that the verse, II: 7, may symbolise “27”, the path of the magical energy of the flaming mouth of Apophis, imaged forth by the Tarot trump The Tower XVI. When the beast arises from the pit, he will bring down fire from heaven—the magical serpent will also bring plague and poisons to test the soul. The serpent, as Hadit, is the magician as well as the exorcist, for his motion gives rise to phenomena. The Logos or word of God manifests as the Chaos Beast, or impersonal generative and binding force of Leviathan, below the Abyss. The path requires that the intellect is kept sharp. The virtue of Malkuth is Discrimination, the vice, Inertia. The single horn of the unicorn is an apt symbol for a keen mind, aspiration to further knowledge, and the single-pointed meditation of yoga practice.

The task of all aspirants is to follow the word (Thelema) back to its source with the infinite. However, the means of so doing is not tenfold, but elevenfold, as hinted at in the book of Daniel (7: 24). Aspirants to the Silver Star are men; brothers of the Silver Star are women, metaphorically speaking. The supernal sephiroth cannot be penetrated from below, as there is a flaming sword placed to guard the way of Eden or Binah. The book of Daniel describes how the eleventh horn has “subdued” the three horns, that is, the supernal sephiroth—by cutting them off, which is of the nature of an eclipse. The science of man concentrates a false crown in Da’ath, which men revere and worship, for it is made in their likeness. This is the “image” of the beast, or “second beast” described in the book of Revelation (13: 11—18). The word can only be a symbol, not the thing itself; it is a mirror, as is man’s consciousness.

The relationship between Malkuth and Geburah, the 5th sephira, is a close one, as we learn from the Siphra Dzenioutha, the Qabalistic source work in these matters. Leviathan exacts severe “judgements”, or karma. By this, we can glean an insight into the true nature of such a beast. The idea of a universe made of unbalanced forces seeking completion through bonding with other unbalanced forces lies at the basis of the Qabalistic doctrine of the Qliphoth or “shells”. The shells, which by analogy with atomic theory are as the valence shell of the atom, are drawn together by their tendency to seek stability through mutual exchanges of energy. Assembled by atomic bonding, the Qliphoth form the body of the great dragon called Leviathan in the Old Testament. The body of Leviathan is mutable and polymorphic; the units forming it are forever decaying while their dispersed elements are ‘recycled’ to assemble as new forms. The body of Leviathan is an image not only of the mutability of the physical universe but also of human souls who, incomplete by nature, seek stability through union with other unbalanced forces. The purpose of the Great Work (therefore) is to transmute by the power of magick the Qliphoth or unbalanced forces of the universe from their incompleteness by uniting them to that which is fixed or constant, as opposed to that which is transient and perishable. “Love under will”, on the other hand, is a magical art of universal application. The love or bonding capacity of the unbalanced forces is not merely suppressed in the hope of attaining something better, but is directed by the Thelemic 93 current or True Will towards Nuit consciousness.

The 11th horn arising in the midst of the ten as recounted in the vision of Daniel may be understood as the (man-made) aspirational Pyramid of the Oath of the Probationer. The Pyramid is encountered in various forms throughout the Outer Order or Golden Dawn. The penetrating horn of the (personal) will and intellect is required to ascend the planes, until this is halted at Da’ath. After that, the horn of the dragon must become concave. “Storming the mountain” doesn’t work any more; the Babe in the Egg of Blue germinates in darkness and mystery.

The Black Brothers (whether scientists or theologians) that are described in Aleister Crowley’s Enochian magick workings, The Vision and the Voice, concentrate a false crown in Da’ath and worship it, since it is the image of themselves. The ‘Antichrist’, on the other hand, a term frequently applied to the magical beast of Revelation, 666, is a somewhat loaded term. It confuses the function of the beast of Revelation—which is a cosmic one, an entirely impersonal force. It also confuses the function of Christ by an assignment of arbitrary values. If we consider that the Christ of the Gnostics is called ABERAMENTHO—“Like unto Ra-Menthu”—then we must conclude that the Nazarene was, to the Gnostics at least, identical to Ankh af-na-khonsu that stands before Menthu on the Stele of Revealing. Menthu is the form of Horus revered by the cult of the prophet Ankh af-na-khonsu at Thebes,and is in fact a name of Set-Typhon, as the destructive heat and fire of the Sun. The Stele of Revealing shows clearly that the Theban cult was an oracular one centred on the Fire Snake—for the Pythoness is the only truly prophetic ‘beast of revelation’. Thelema is indeed a Draconic cult of the stars, once the Osirian (viz., patriarchal) interpretative bias on the mysteries is abolished.

Multiplying ten by eleven yields 110, a number of BABALON and the manifestation of magick, the knowledge of Da’ath. The number 110 is also that of ChBQ, “to embrace, understand, grasp”, and DMIVN, “resemblance, likeness or imagination”. Furthermore, 110 is the number of OLI “higher, uppermost”, OIL, “heaven, the height”, and TzII, “desert or wilderness—a wild beast or desert creature”. The dark angel variously depicted as Typhon or Horus-Apep, the glittering image or augoedes, Heru-ra-ha, and Babalon triumphant (as Aima Elohim) express the unity of the whole Tree as ten sephiroth plus Da’ath—all the possibilities of the Tree, and all the faces of the Angel in one.

© Oliver St. John 2016
This essay is abridged from a fully annotated work on Thelemic Initiation
With thanks to Brian Walsh of the Irish Order of Thelema for his invaluable assistance


The Law of Thelema—Quantum Yoga, Oliver St. John
The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth, Oliver St. John
The Equinox (esp. Temple of Solomon the King), Aleister Crowley
Kabbalah Unveiled, translated by MacGregor Mathers
Golden Dawn, “Microcosm” and “Macrocosm” lectures
Golden Dawn, Z1, Z2, Z3 Knowledge
The Egyptian Revival
, Frater Achad
The book of Revelation of St. John the Divine
The King James Bible

Subscribe to Newsletter, The 93 Current

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Samhain and the Star and Snake of Egypt

Hor-sema-tawy (or Harsomptus) is the child of Nuit and Hadit, or Hathor and Horus, hence his importance in the Temple of Hathor at Denderah. At the Temple of Hathor, Hor-sema-tawy, “Horus the Unifier of the Two Lands”, is depicted as a cosmic serpent. As the “pillar of his mother”, i.e., the utterance or word-vibration in the primal void, this form of Horus is a unified image of Horus and Set-Typhon that predates the adversarial role increasingly afforded the two gods over the course of time. Through his being “raised in the pillar”, the child of the gods achieves form and body.
Hor-sema-tawy: Horus Unifier of the Two Lands
Hathor has extremely antique origins, which can be understood through her identification with the astronomical image of the hippo at the hub of the universe—the Thuban gate of manifestation and non-manifestation at the celestial North Pole. Horus, the cosmic serpent or pillar in the void, is here identical with Set-Typhon, the manifesting star of Nuit. 

The entry of the Sun into Scorpio signifies the onset of winter in the northern hemisphere, and is a precursor to the season of Samhain or Halloween. Samhain (October 31st) is the commencement of the Celtic New Year, while the ancient Egyptians celebrated the birth of the cosmic serpent on the eve of their New Year, coinciding with the Nile flood. The earliest symbol for Scorpio was the snake, corresponding to the archaic Aramaic letter nahesh, “serpent”. Nun, “a fish”, was a later substitution, made when the ‘brazen serpent’ nahesh became identified with evil in monotheistic scriptures.

At the Temple of Hathor, the body of the cosmic serpent is seen emerging from a lotus flower carried by a barque: the seed of the soul or child-star emerging at the dawn of creation. Thus, entering the way of the serpent-body is to embark on a journey through the night of consciousness; the seed of light-consciousness is carried forth in secrecy and silence, until once more, when the astral alignments are made, the cosmic serpent arises in the vaults of the body of Hathor, to give birth to new self.

The chambers and vaults of the Temple of Hathor may provide us with inspiration as we journey into the night of the soul to recreate ourselves in the image of will and imagining. The Ba or soul of Hathor, her cult image, was carried out of its chamber and onto the roof before the heliacal rising of the star Sirius at the commencement of the New Year. Thus, she and the sun disk were united as the seer is united with that which is seen. As the sun, Ra, climbs above the horizon, the span of all that can be seen is realised as the sum of all that can be dreamed of and created. The bejewelled splendour of Hathor, dazzling in the reflected glory of Ra, was nonetheless a display put on for the public celebration. Hathor, whose totem is the copper mirror, is as much about appearances as about the mysteries of being, of creation itself.

About the central sanctuary or “Great Throne” were grouped eleven chapels or shrine rooms, dedicated to other gods such as Isis, Sokar and Ra, and totems and images of Hathor such as her menat necklace and sistrum. In the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis III: 22, the Initiate is instructed thus:

“The other images group around me to support me: let all be worshipped, for they shall cluster to exalt me. I am the visible object of worship; the others are secret; for the Beast and his Bride are they: and for the winners of the Ordeal x. What is this? Thou shalt know.”

Some of the most cryptic passages in Liber AL vel Legis become transparent when looked at in context of the ancient Egyptian way. Taken out of context, the fragments we are left with are cinders to kindle the smoke of deception. Initiations at the Temple of Hathor were carried out in subterranean crypts, of which there are fourteen in total, a lunar number. The “x”, to the ancient Egyptians, was the mark of a body or place itself, and a seal of protection against hostile forces. Thus talismans and other cult equipment as well as official records were stored in the crypts. At the southern end of the Temple of Hathor there are five of these crypts running along a hallway. Here, the most valuable of the temple furnishings were kept, including the Ba or soul of Hathor, lavishly decorated with precious stones—Hathor, Lady of Dendara, residing in her house. It was from the easternmost crypt that the annual procession of Hathor began on the eve of the first day of the New Year, carrying the image of the goddess out from the subterranean room. In like fashion, the newly created world arises from out of the abyss when the primal word or utterance is sounded in the depth of night.

Access to the chambers reserved for the rites of Initiation was through concealed trapdoors in the pavement and hidden sliding wall blocks. In the subterranean world below the Temple complex, the long narrow chambers and passages are arranged one above the other, so that the lowermost is laid deep within the temple foundations. Eleven of the crypts are decorated in relief—a work that was done even before the roof blocks were set. The most important reliefs, among which are included Hathor’s musical instruments, the sistrum rattles, were set on the axis of the Temple itself, while the others are aligned with it. According to the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis I: 60 and II: 16:

“My number is 11, as all their numbers who are of us. The Five Pointed Star, with a Circle in the Middle, and the circle is Red. My colour is black to the blind, but the blue and gold are seen of the seeing. Also I have a secret glory for them that love me.”

“I am The Empress and the Hierophant. Thus eleven, as my bride is eleven.”

The first voice is that of Nuit, or Hathor (these goddesses are identical when depicted in their most absolute likeness), while the second is Hadit, or Horus, her son and consort. Hence, the beast and his bride, the serpent or Occult Force that is the secret nature of the soul, the mysterious bird of creation. The serpent is the means by which a star is given body as declared in Liber AL vel Legis, II: 21:

“Now let it be understood: If the body of the King dissolve, he shall remain in pure ecstasy for ever. Nuit! Hadit! Ra-Hoor-Khuit! The Sun, Strength and Sight, Light; these are for the servants of the Star and the Snake.”

Though there are no accounts of what the rites of the crypts involved—and it is indeed unlikely that anything was ever written down—the sculpted images and texts throughout the Temple of Hathor convey more than enough to recognise that the mysteries of being and non-being, manifestation and non-manifestation, were to be experienced and fully realised by the Initiate. At certain times of the year, or when the alignments of the stars are right, it is possible to pass to and from the states of body, manifestation or appearance, and non-being, invisibility or disappearance. Thus Horus, always the primal type of the Initiate, achieves his greatest potency when unified with Set-Typhon in the form of Hor-sema-tawy—a mystery celebrated, enacted and experienced by Initiates at the Temple of Hathor.

The Egyptian year was divided into three seasons of Akhet (Inundation), Peret (Growth) and Shemu (Harvest). Akhet is a word also used to describe the horizon, as in the Egyptian name of the god Hor-em-akhet, “Horus in the horizon”. The same god, known as Hrumachis (Liber AL vel Legis), Harmachis or Hormaku, links to the double gateway of the underworld, symbolised by the Aker lions, where the Sun enters and leaves via the West (ingress at sunset) or East (egress, at dawn). In the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis II: 34:

“But your holy place shall be untouched throughout the centuries: though with fire and sword it be burnt down and shattered, yet an invisible house there standeth, and shall stand until the fall of the Great Equinox; when Hrumachis shall arise and the double-wanded one assume my throne and place.”

The name Hrumachis or Hormaku is made clearer in its Egyptian form: Hor-em-akhet, literally, “Horus in the horizon”. However, akhet, or aker, is a gateway or door. As the double gateway of the sun’s ingress and egress to and from the underworld (spring and autumn equinoxes) it is depicted as two lions. The name therefore refers to Horus as the abstract principle of the horizon itself, a particular part of the sky—for example where the sun rises at the equinox–and an equivalent portion of the Egyptian duat or underworld.

The name of Horus as horizon, or the dweller in the horizon, relates to the circle, but also the primordial boundary or limit, the first division or utterance of Logos, by which the universe is defined as having shape and meaning. The Greek horizon kyklos (οριξων κυκλος) means, “limiting or separating circle”, from the verb horizo (οριξω), “to divide, separate", from oros (ορος), “boundary, landmark”. As “x” marks the spot, it at the same time designates the crossing that is the passing beyond.

Hormaku or Hor-em-akhet was often depicted as a sphinx with the head of a man, as on the Giza plateau, at other times as a lion or a ram—especially when linked to the god Khephra, the rising or emerging sun at dawn. Ra accomplishes this, we should bear in mind, after travelling through the underworld, symbolised in utmost detail in the Pyramid Texts as the body of the cosmic serpent.

We should now return to the roof of the Temple of Hathor, where the ritual of the union of Hathor and Horus is enacted at the dawn of the New Year. Here, the soul of Hathor beholds Ra, ascendant, and conjoined with the great mother-star Sirius. Her eyes are both the mirror, the marker of the horizon and the centre-point of the observer. In like fashion, the Sphinx on the Giza plateau marks the horizon, witnesses the sun born on the equinoxes, which is the mystery of himself. In seeing Ra, Hathor unites with him, through the medium of his visible sun disk. Anyone witnessing the ritual is similarly united with the whole body, sense and meaning of it. Horus and Set-Typhon are unified in that moment, and embodied in recreated self, the new life—self-created, self-born, triumphant over all.

© Oliver St. John 2016

Subscribe to the Ordo Astri Newsletter, The 93 Current

Friday, 23 September 2016

Dreaming Thelema of Kenneth Grant and HP Lovecraft

Dreaming Thelema of Kenneth Grant and H. P. Lovecraft drives a wedge straight to the heart of what Kenneth Grant’s cosmic vision was really about. We know that American writer H. P. Lovecraft had no mystic pretensions, though he did say the dream that inspired the short story Nyarlathotep “might have been prophetic”. Kenneth Grant made much use of Lovecraft’s work, using it to reformulate the ideal of Thelema.


Dreaming Thelema of Kenneth Grant and H. P. Lovecraft, was released on the Equinox of Libra, Anno V-2 (2016). The unique project features 17 paintings created specifically for inclusion in the book, using the Surrealist method of pure psychic automatism. We reproduce two of the paintings below. The book, 172 pages in all, is printed on photographic paper, to preserve the integrity of the artwork.

Also included are three complete short stories by H. P. Lovecraft: Nyarlathotep, The Crawling Chaos, and The Haunter of the Dark, plus a reconstruction of the Lovecraftian Necronomicon.

The book’s Introduction consists of a concise guide to Thelemic cosmology and the Qabalistic Art of Gematria. The Appendices contain a Qabalah of the Necronomicon, background information to the Lovecraft stories, and tables of Greek and Hebrew number values.

We provide below a detailed description of how the artwork in this book was created. For more information about the literary content, read the article posted on the Ordo Astri website here: Dreaming Thelema or Almametaphysika.

Stone of Stars by Soror V. A. A. (below) is numbered #4 in Dreaming Thelema of Kenneth Grant and H. P. Lovecraft. This was created through a version of parsémage (scattering); oil pastel is grated over ground of the same medium and worked in with a palette knife.

Dreaming Thelema of Kenneth Grant and H. P. Lovecraft: Stone of Stars painting

Surrealist André Breton defined Magical Surrealism in his 1924 Manifesto thus:

“Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express—verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner—the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.”

Surrealist artist Ithell Colquhoun was a member of several magical Orders and knew Aleister Crowley and Kenneth Grant. The method of “pure psychic automatism” was at first applied to literature. Aleister Crowley’s Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, is perhaps the supreme example of such automatism when fused with the knowledge and discipline of the occult. In The Mantic Stain: Surrealism and Automatism (for Enquiry, 1949), Ithell Colquhoun explained how automatism could be applied to painting.

“All these automatic processes … are closely dependent on the unconscious mood of the operator; for, if a number of experiments in a single process are undertaken on one day, a great similarity of form will be noticeable throughout … It is for this reason that I feel these stains to have a ‘mantic’ or divinatory quality, which may in some sort be compared with the practices of clairvoyants, who use ink splashes, sand, pins flung together by chance, and the irregular patterns left by tea leaves and coffee grounds to release the contents of the unconscious. The famous crystal globe or ‘scrying glass’ has approximately the same function. And all have an august ancestry in that they are traceably allied to the ‘great work’ of alchemy. … the alchemist would release the contents of his own subliminal fantasy by intently watching the contents of the alembic … The method is at least as old as Leonardo da Vinci—we all know the story of his gazing at the stains of damp in an ancient wall and seeing the suggestion of the mountains, ravines, and fantastic foliage of a dream landscape.”

“With a thick brush, spread black gouache on a sheet of shiny paper, diluting the paint here and there with water. Cover it at once with a similar sheet and press them together fairly hard with the hand. Then, by the upper edge, slowly lift this second sheet … ready to reapply it and lift it again; repeat until almost dry. What you have before you is perhaps only the old paranoiac wall of da Vinci, but it is this wall carried to its own perfection. In fact, if you entitle the image thus obtained according to what you discover in it after looking at it from a little distance, you may be certain that you have expressed yourself in the most personal and valuable way.”

Dreaming Thelema of Kenneth Grant and H. P. Lovecraft: Moon-Glitter painting

Moon-Glitter (above) is numbered #14 in the book. This was created through decalcomania; gouache and ink over gesso ground.

The companion volume to Dreaming Thelema of Kenneth Grant and H. P. Lovecraft is Magical Art of Surreal Romanticism, from which the following quotation is taken.

“Colquhoun wanted to achieve a union of natural and spiritual forces as well as a union of the disciplines of art and the occult. She suggested that the four traditional elements of Hermetic magick might each have corresponding automatic methods:

Water—Écrémage and parsemage
Air—Blowing or fanning powdered materials

“The union of subject and object, the I-Self with all that is ‘other’, the Not-Self, is the goal of yoga or union, and is a prerequisite for magick and mysticism at advanced levels.”

View / order the book here from the author's website.

More information about this book is posted on the Ordo Astri website here.

© Oliver St. John 2016

See more books by the author on the Ordo Astri website here
Subscribe to the Ordo Astri Newsletter, The 93 Current

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Thelemic Feast for the First Night

There are rituals of the elements and feasts of the times.
A feast for the first night of the Prophet and his Bride!
The Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, II: 36–37

The members of Ordo Astri now celebrate the “first night of the Prophet and his Bride” every 22nd August, or when the Sun enters the zodiacal sign of Virgo. We extend an invitation to the Thelemic community worldwide to join us in this, whether by ritual or some other means of celebration.

Stone of Stars
Dreaming Thelema: Stone of Stars Painting

Stone of Stars is one of the artworks by Soror VAA that will appear in the forthcoming book, Dreaming Thelema of Kenneth Grant and H. P. Lovecraft. Is it a stone amulet, stele, window, or doorway into hyperspace? It is you, the observer, who will determine the results of this experiment in art, alchemy and the occult.

The Prophet and Bride mentioned in Liber AL, II: 36–37 do not refer to any human personages. The wedding of the Sun and Moon, or alchemical wedding, is a metaphor for what might be termed the first real breakthrough in the life and work of the mystic magician or Theurgist. The Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel corresponds to Tiphereth and Adeptus Minor in the Qabalistic scheme, while the Vision of Adonai, the necessary prerequisite, is the magical vision ascribed to Malkuth and the Neophyte.

Mystical experience, direct knowledge or Gnosis, cannot be conveyed other than in symbolism or poetic terms. Nonetheless, as indicated in the Egyptian Book of the Law, while there are eternal Aeons that are outside of time and therefore unaffected by temporal conditions, the “times” are nonetheless vital to the magician and mystic. The feminine-lunar mysteries of periodicity have their cosmic and earthly aspect.

Kenneth Grant had a firm conviction that the winter solstice of December 2012 would be deeply significant to the Thelemic Initiate. On the 12th December 2012, I published a short article entitled, Welcome to the Aeon of Hormaku, 2012. I wrote:

“Regulus, the star at the Heart of the Lion constellation, has now edged its way into the Zodiac sign of Virgo, forming a Grand Mutable Cross.”

Precisely three years later, events took place on the shores of Loch Ness, Scotland that we consider ‘fixed’ this aeonic shift—for the destruction by fire of Boleskin, Aleister Crowley’s ceremonial magical abode, was prophesied in the Egyptian Book of the Law, as noted in my article of 22nd January 2016, Prophecy of Liber AL Fulfilled. It is therefore timely to celebrate the conjunction of the Sun and Regulus, the Heart of the Lion, this 22nd August and every year for perpetuity.

Regulus is one of the four ancient “Watchers” of the heavens, marking the cardinal points of the visible universe. Those principal stars in the traditional fixed or Kerubic signs of the Zodiac—the Lion, Eagle, Bull and Woman—now form a great cross in mutable signs. The position of Regulus coincided with the summer solstice point more than 4000 years ago. Due to astronomical precession, the Sun has his annual conjunction with Regulus around the 22nd August. Regulus now makes conjunction with the Sun at the entry into Virgo, thus formulating the “Woman and Beast”, as typified by the ancient Sumerian representations of Ishtar as world axis. Ishtar embodied the astrological signs Leo (her chariot is pulled by lions), Virgo (she holds a mirror to behold her own perfection) and Libra (she wields the scales and balance). The constellations that the zodiacal signs take their name from overlap in the heavens. As the three signs are one each of fixed, mutable and cardinal types, they can be taken as representative of the whole Zodiac.

Ishtar "Queen of the Night" in the Axis Mudra
Ishtar or "Lilith" in Axis Mudra

The fixed, mutable and cardinal signs form three crosses on the great wheel of time or of the aeons, as we showed forth in The Law of Thelema—Quantum Yoga. To summarise the allegory: The mutable cross plays a key role in the magical alchemy of the hyperyantra. By fixing the volatile mutable cross, it revolves upon the axis of the universe and consciousness flows beyond the bounds of time and space and into fourth dimensional hyperspace.

The Aeonic Cross is comparable to the Kalachakra or “wheel of time” Tantra in Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism. Kalachakra and Kalachakri is a pair of deities comparable to Nuit and Hadit, they look both inside and outside of time.

Kalachakra yoga or Yidam is the Tibetan way of uniting the self with a deity so as to obtain Pure Mind. Ishtadevata is one of the principle deities for this purpose. She is a Tantrik deity associated with the Kalachakra, whose name means, “desired” or “adored” (ishta) and “divine soul” (devata).

Ishtar, placed in Aquarius in the North on our Kalachakra wheel, used in most if not all our rituals, including the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram, has the same root name, Ishta. The Ishtar hieroglyph signifies precisely the crossing of the Axis of the Universe with the Celestial Horizon. In this context, the mudra of Ishtar symbolises the Aquarian Aeonic Cross.

It will be seen by those who work the magical system of the O∴ A∴ that, in accordance with ancient tradition, we have realigned the rituals and constructed our magical temple in accordance with “the times”. The symbol of the universe accords with how things look from Earth now. This is a vital factor in all magical and tantrik theurgic operations. We hope that it will not only be our members and associates that utilise the alignments or “space marks” of our rituals, but the wider Thelemic and magical community. It makes all the difference between effective magick, and magick that does not work because it is misaligned from the terrestrial plane. “As above and so below”.

References for further study:

Magical Theurgy—Rituals of the Tarot 
The Law of Thelema—Quantum Yoga 
Ritual Magick—The Rites and Ceremonies of Hermetic Light

Dreaming Thelema of Kenneth Grant and H. P. Lovecraft (article)

The above books can be found on our website here

© Oliver St. John 2016
View books by Oliver St. John here
Visit Ordo Astri: Thelemic Magical Collegium
Subscribe to the Ordo Astri Newsletter, The 93 Current here

Friday, 22 July 2016

Magick of Divine Imagination

Magick greatly depends on two factors: will and imagination. These correspond to the Wand and Cup of art. The English mystic William Blake understood the occult aspect of will and desire. Blake held the divine power of imagining in such regard that he created a noun, Imagination, as a term for Christ or Logos. The obsession with digital media and digital images, to the extent that iconography is replacing the written word, means that human beings are fast losing the ability to practice and understand the ancient art of Magick. 

William Blake: Dante and Beatrice

Imagination: William Blake Dante and Beatrice

It may help if we explain this in terms of hand to eye coordination. Magick typically utilises the act of drawing or tracing out figures such as pentagrams, hexagrams and sigils imaginatively upon the astral aethyr. In our tradition at least, this is usually done with a wand, corresponding to the will of the magician. Inscribing pentagrams and other figures on the astral aethyr is no different from handwriting in effect. The ‘ink’ is the Occult Force, conveyed through the imagination. The ‘pen’ is the wand or a thumb, and also the will of the magician. The ‘paper’ is the fluid astral aethyr that is impressed upon by will and imagination.

One good reason why such figures are traced out imaginatively in magick is that the act of writing or drawing them connects the hand with the eye, which in turn memorably places the figures in Deep Mind. This serves as a key to the latent source of the figures that pre-exist our conscious awareness of them. A neurologist could tell us about various neural pathways in the brain that are linked through hand to eye coordination. Some of these pathways must be created, brought into existence. If we examine the magical correspondences we find that the hand and the eye are cognate terms. The hand of ‘five’ is , the letter of the 15th path of Nuit’s creative star-fire, and the window of divine imagining. The number five is that of the pentagram, the star of Nuit. The Grand Number of Five is Fifteen, and the fifteenth Tarot Atu is placed on the 26th path of Ayin, which means “an eye”. What we see is what we are.

The idea of a symbol is enough to set magick into operation. The Idea is at one with the Imagination. The aim of magick is to follow the symbol back to its source in the divine imagining. Our knowledge and understanding of any symbol is as vital as our ability to visualise and project it onto the astral aethyr. The importance of ritual sonics should never be underestimated. The wisdom of the ancient Egyptians was that the name—and therefore the sounding—of any God, is that God. The ancient Greeks would not say the name of Hades aloud, because they did not want him to notice them and perhaps become overly interested in their soul! Hades is the Lord of hell and death and detains souls forever in the underworld.

In Goethe’s version of the timeless play, Faust, all the magus did was turn the book around and show the picture of a hexagram to the spirits. That was enough to call them in. When Mephisto makes his appearance, Faust asks him, “Was it not the power of my mighty spells and conjurations that summoned you?” And Mephisto tells him it has nothing to do with that. Since Faust was inclined towards evil, the Devil did not need to be summoned, he was already aware of what Faust was up to, and would have come anyway.

When men—usually learned gentlemen, wayward monks or clergy—performed magical rituals in the 15 and 16th century, merely opening a book and seeing a hexagram or some such figure set them in awe of God. Add to that the fear of getting found out by the authorities—which meant cloaking such operations with utmost secrecy—and we can understand how their magick was extremely effective. We have to work a lot harder at it now.

Magick corresponds to Mercury, the Roman name for the Greek Hermes and the Egyptian Thoth, the god of writing, books and knowledge. Magick and the Word or Logos are therefore inseparable terms. Real books are reliquaries for the knowledge of countless generations. Digital devices cannot replicate this, and never will. A real book can open doorways in the imagination through the power of the written word. Such doorways are formed from the matter itself, the base material as a repository for the imagining. The imagining is in turn the agent for the soul’s transfiguration. To engage on this level, the reader must have enough time to not worry about time. The reader must be free from all other distractions and able to focus the mind without interruption. The reader then becomes an active participant, wholly absorbed in the imaginative creation and recreation of inner worlds.

So far as knowledge and expertise goes, the real book collection is only a starting point. True knowledge comes with actual experience—getting out in the field away from all computers and digital devices, comparing notes, thinking a great deal, practical experimentation. Nothing can be learned in the way of real knowledge from the Internet. For example, in the countryside there is a great deal of completely free food that can be gathered, or foraged, from wild plants. Much of this is highly nutritious and very good to eat. However, some wild plants are poisonous and eating them results in death. Hemlock will paralyse your nervous system slowly, from the extremities to the inside, until your heart stops and you die. Hemlock looks at first glance to be identical to a completely harmless herb called Cow Parsley. It is very hard to tell the difference without real expertise and experience in the field. Would you take the risk of gathering and eating Cow Parsley solely from advice that you found on the Internet?

If the above applies to gathering fruits and herbs in the countryside, how much more can it apply to something really abstruse, bound in secrecy and that has been veiled by metaphor for many centuries, such as magick, alchemy or theurgy?

Survival of any species depends on adaptation to changing conditions, new knowledge. We must all work to further the understanding that our use of digital information must be very carefully managed. We now have access to far more information than anyone can handle. “Information” does not equal “knowledge”. Dissociation of the mind and senses comes about through over exposure to digital images, film, television, and the millions of contradictory thoughts and opinions that pour forth through the media platforms day and night without cessation. While the Internet is a useful device for the researcher that knows what they are looking for, and that can resist the assault of peripheral nonsense, the web is also a digital skrying mirror into hell. Fact, misinformation, fantasy, horror and the utterly banal blend together in an ocean of chaos fit to collapse even the strongest mind.

The e-Book has its uses, but it is not a substitute, let alone an improvement, on the real book made of paper and glue. This is a seldom-realised fact for it is entirely in the realms of the occult to anyone that has not developed their subtle senses. Spending time with a ‘real’ book exercises special cognitive functions that are not only dormant but that are also suppressed when scanning digital information.

It is now common to see people of all ages walking—even in the rural countryside—with an iPod or other device sending its metranomic digital square wave impulse directly to their ears, thus ensuring they are oblivious to their environment. Many prefer to run rather than walk, as a form of recreational exercise. What are we running away from? What it is that we do not wish to hear, to see? Is there something we would rather not think about at all? Man has thus become the most ill equipped of all creatures on earth, since all others spend the greater part of their time paying close attention to their environment. Wild birds and creatures study the world in the utmost detail, mapping it with senses not even dreamed of by the human. The majority of humans are now afraid to go anywhere without a cell phone, lest they should miss a message, a text, a call. We have been seduced into thinking we are no longer alone, when in fact we are more alone than ever, isolated from self, others and the natural environment by our own need to ‘stay in touch’. Silence has entered the realms of the unknown. Fewer persons than ever are capable of real meditation or even coherent thought. Amnesia is fast becoming the normal condition.

The machines no longer serve, they have become the masters, and their operators have become obedient slaves. No small wonder it is then that our systems of government and business are heartless and cruel, operating according to statistics—facts and figures which cannot in themselves reveal any truth, for they can be manipulated to serve the interests of the soulless machine and its slave, the dissociated human ego.

The ways of magick and of true knowledge will therefore remain closed to any child of the 21st century that does not understand the need to be the master of machines and not the slave of them.
© Oliver St. John 2016

View books by Oliver St. John here
Visit Ordo Astri: Thelemic Magical Collegium
Subscribe to the Ordo Astri Newsletter, The 93 Current here

Friday, 17 June 2016

Thelema: Romance of the Magical Orders

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

“What is a valid magical Order?” “What is Thelema?” These are frequently asked questions. As there seems to be so much doubt and confusion around Thelemic magical Orders, I am going to take the bold step of defining what constitutes “validity” in so far as that can be ascertained. I will also provide an in-depth examination of what Thelema really is, as opposed to what is commonly believed about it. I will include a discussion of the Rosicrucian ideal, the magical philosophy and cosmology of Thelema, and the Magisterium, in other terms, the secret rites of Initiation.

The following essay is also the subject of a podcast. View the podcast here or subscribe to it through iTunes here.

The Silver Star
Richel Collection No.1489 Silver Star or AA

The illustration is from a print, issue no.2, given to me courtesy of Graham King, at one time the curator of the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, Cornwall, where the original is now held. The symbol is reputed to be from a German faction of the Order of the A.'. A.'. The imagery shows clearly that the Order is best summed up by the 13th path of The Priestess of the Silver Star, Tarot Atu II. Between the pillar of fire (force) and the pillar of water (form) stands the sword or yoni of the priestess of the path of Gimel. The whole figure is that of Mercury, inverted, suggestive of the self-slain Adept skrying the runes of knowledge in the depths of the Abyss or roots of the Tree of Life. The figure also affirms that the 93 Current of Thelema is a lunar-feminine mystery.

It will help to quote here a passage from our treatise on the subject, The Law of Thelema—Quantum Yoga:

“In the year 1904 while in Cairo, Egypt, Aleister and Rose Crowley unwittingly earthed the magical transmission or prophetic utterance named Liber AL vel Legis, the Book of the Law. The contents of the book are rooted in the Egyptian Gnostic Tradition. More particularly, the book reveals the Great Work of the Egyptian priests of Ankh-af-na-khonsu, Initiates who vowed to become Ma-Kheru—one whose “word is made perfect in Maat”. The Great Work of the Initiatic cult of Ankh-af-na-khonsu was the magical transmutation of the soul and the knowledge of the spiritual and natural law governing this operation. The formula of this opus was recorded on the funeral stone of one such Initiate, and is called the Stele of Revealing, of which Liber AL vel Legis is a theurgical activation.”

Thelema is frequently described as a “magical system” but it is no such thing in reality. Neither is it any kind of religion, though it has some affinities with Gnosticism. The magick of Thelema is a transmission. A valid Thelemic magical Order, no matter what name it goes by, transmits a particular stream of consciousness—which we term as the 93 Current—by which men and women can obtain Gnosis, direct revelation. The purpose of such revelation is to become free from imprisonment in the artificial construct that is commonly thought to be “reality”. Such an aim cannot, ipso facto, be fulfilled through any social or political agenda. As it is declared at the beginning of the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, I: 11:
These are fools that men adore; both their Gods and their men are fools.
The Egyptian Book of the Law was dictated to Aleister Crowley via the agency of a praeterhuman Intelligence, named Aiwass in the book. It is the aim of magick to obtain contact with such Intelligences.

The Rosicrucian Ideal

The ideal that Aleister Crowley continued from the old Rosicrucian legacy was that Initiation only becomes valid when the person is absolutely dedicated to service, meaning, they will sacrifice everything to help others on the path if they are so chosen. If they are not in contact with the Intelligences we have spoken of, and if they are not dedicated wholly to service, then they run the risk of becoming:

1. A Black Brother
2. Insane

A “Black Brother”, in the peculiar language of the Western Mystery Tradition, is one that believes, or that wishes others to believe, that the material universe is the sole reality. A Black Brother may be a scientist, but may equally be a theologian, religious leader or philosopher in the modern sense of the word—the masks are endless in their variety. According to Kenneth Grant, in the Introduction to Part Two of Nightside of Eden:
The atavisms of the Black Brothers are the sterile stars born of the speechless or lisping Aeon, for the Word may be vibrated without distortion only via the menstruum of the female.
Thelema, then, is a lunar and feminine mystery. This should come as no surprise, since the first chapter of Liber AL vel Legis is an oracle from the ancient Egyptian goddess Nuit, comparable to the more recent Laylah or Lilith, the name given to “Night” in the Bible.

It is helpful to know that a magical Order formed in the Rosicrucian tradition typified by the triune Order of the Golden Dawn, Order of the Rosy Cross and Order of the Silver Star, must offer highly specialised training and work structured around grades of Initiation based on the Hermetic Tree of Life. Any person that founds an Order of the Golden Dawn–that is, the first five grades from Probationer to Philosophus–must be in contact with the three higher degrees of the Order of the Rosy Cross. Anyone that founds an Order of the Rosy Cross must be in contact with the supernal Order of the Silver Star. Simple? Yes, it is. The Tree of Life begins with Kether—it is not possible to start a Rosicrucian magical Order from a position somewhere halfway down the Tree, and pretend there is nothing above. However, the titles afforded these magical Orders are poetic metaphors for a consciousness current. They are not brand names for historical clubs or archaic fraternities that depend on apostolic succession after the manner of Christian bishops. Nuit has declared an ending of such words in the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, I: 59:
My incense is of resinous woods and gums; and there is no blood therein: because of my hair the trees of Eternity.
Qabalistically speaking, there is a Flaming Sword or Lightning Flash that runs clear down the planes from Kether the Crown to Malkuth the Kingdom, the world of shells—where things appear and disappear, where creatures are born and die. When the 93 Current reaches Malkuth, it streaks back up the Tree to Kether. The way of Initiation through the grades is the way of ascent, and that is a way of involution. To evolve is to descend the Tree of Life from Kether to Malkuth.

The Plurality of the Star: the Authentic Tradition

There are various factions of the Order founded by Aleister Crowley, known generically as the A.'. A.'. It has become quite common for Orders with this title to claim exclusive “lineage” and rights to the name, and it is probably for this reason that some groups prefer to be mysterious—or even mysteriously ignorant!—as to what the abbreviated title actually stands for. It is no secret. Kenneth Grant, who studied the manuscripts and diaries of Aleister Crowley at first hand, revealed that Aster Argos or Silver Star is the poetic title of the Rosicrucian-based magical Order. Aleister Crowley took the name “Silver Star” from the esoteric title of the Tarot image of the 13th path of Gimel, The Priestess II. The 13 path or Priestess of the Silver Star extends from Kether the Crown of the Tree of Life to Tiphereth, the centre of the Ruach Elohim. The path is also called The Uniting Intelligence, or Intelligence of the Unities in the Sepher Yetzirah. Note that the word used, “Unities”, is plural as it appears in the Hebrew text, it is not singular.

An authentic name (there is more than one) can be found in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Shemsu en Khabs, “followers in the way of the star”, “company of the star”, or "company of heaven". As revealed by Nuit in Liber AL vel Legis, I: 1–4:
Had! The manifestation of Nuit.
The unveiling of the company of heaven.
Every man and every woman is a star.
Every number is infinite; there is no difference.
Shemsu en Khabs, or the Company of Heaven, also describes the ancient Egyptian Theban Initiatic cult of Ankh af-na-khonsu. Our knowledge of this cult owes to the Stele of Revealing, which Aleister and Rose Crowley discovered in the Boulak museum, Cairo in 1904. The funeral stele has that title because it reveals the true or authentic Thelema. Every Initiate is given the name Ankh af-na-khonsu, the oracular voice or prophet that is the “Life and Soul of the Moon”. Thelema is a lunar and stellar cult. Khonsu embodies the Logos, Thoth, and Horus the Phoenix bird of resurrection or Holy Guardian Angel. An Initiate must be able to stand before Menthu—which is a name of Typhon—and say without any faltering or internal consternation or doubts:
I am the inspired forth speaker of Menthu, the prophet Ankh af-na-khonsu, whose words are truth.

Star against Star, System against System

Anyone can purchase a set of the volumes of The Equinox, take the requisite Oaths and form a body of men and women and call it the A.'. A.'. if they wish. If the Shemsu en Khabs should contact them, and inform them, and they do not lose their minds as a consequence, then they might open the ways for a few more sons and daughters of Adam and Eve to obtain liberation. That is the only thing that matters.

Thelema: the Word of the Law

The Greek word Thelema is the “word of the Law” as stated in Liber AL vel Legis, I: 39. It is not a law of scriptures or decrees or any doctrine or body of religious teachings. While many persons wish to regard Thelema as a religion, based upon the writings of one Aleister Crowley, such followers are necessarily worshippers of the “gods of men” as defined in the one Thelemic source work other than the Stele of Revealing. In Liber AL vel Legis, III: 49:
I am in a secret fourfold word, the blasphemy against all gods of men.
The “fourfold word” is Do what thou wilt. The Law of Thelema is wholly a spiritual and natural one, not a human one. Some but not all human beings have this secret nature within them, and of those, some are chosen to discover it. There is nothing new about Thelema; it is not limited by time. The word Thelema means, “will”—not the personal will that imagines it has deterministic power, but the impersonal will-force that is called Hadit. A comparative and perhaps better-known deity is Shiva in the Tantrik tradition, the supreme creator and destroyer of the universe.

Thelema, “will”, and Agape, “love”, both add to 93 by Greek Qabalah, and that is why we refer to the “93 Current”. As the word Thelema is Qabalistically identical to Agape—spiritual love, not romantic or erotic love—the 93 Current well expresses the spiritual Intelligence of the universe going forth. Consciousness exists everywhere in the universe, though it is not of the universe that we perceive, and can never be known for it is the Knower, otherwise termed Hadit. As declared by the Serpent of Knowledge, Hadit, in the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis II: 3–4:
In the sphere I [Hadit] am everywhere the centre, as she [Nuit], the circumference, is nowhere found. Yet she shall be known and I never.
As consciousness is everywhere, it is not limited to the earth and the human species that has infected the planet with an artificial construct it likes to think of as “intelligence”. Wild birds and creatures are in fact sentient, in contradiction to the prevailing scientism that has formed its doctrines around the need to preserve and continue the artificial hell in which Adam and Eve are imprisoned until they come to know the true state of affairs.

Thelemic Cosmology

All cosmologies are misleading. The best sense of the word “cosmology” is the literal one, from the Greek: “a conversation about the universe”. However, that is not the meaning of the term as it is commonly understood. Metaphysics is also misleading, because the academic understanding of that word is only “about the matter”, the physics, and that paved the way for modern scientism. The ancients had an entirely different way of thinking that cannot be grasped by dogmatic reasoning, whether that is slanted towards scientism, religion or religious theology. As it is succinctly put in Liber AL vel Legis, II: 32:
Also reason is a lie; for there is a factor infinite and unknown; and all their words are skew-wise.
Ancient metaphysics (aeons before the term was coined) was based on detailed observation of nature, no different from the Thelemic love under will. Originally, there was only one Tree of Life that was also a Tree of Knowledge. If, when we wish to sound the holy name in Kether, we forget the old word of Moses and instead invoke AShRH, the “woman”—from whose fragrance or shakti emanations came forth the tree from which the gods were sprung—we can begin to put matters right. Naturally, it is for each to find this or not. As a cognate study, there is a wonderful work of ancient art, the Burney Relief held by the British Museum, which has come to be known as “Lilith”, the “Queen of the Night”. It is actually Ishtar, the happy goddess of the three worlds, queen of heaven, earth and the underworld. It is the same three worlds that are depicted on the Stele of Revealing.

The “evil” connotations of Lilith, the “woman of sin”, came about at the same time that emerging nation states censured all magick, divination and prophecy. It came about when the priestesses, the singers and the dancers, the pythonesses, were thrown out of the temples and forced into prostitution. Why was magick forbidden? Because when people obtain direct insight into the mysteries they know at once, in one single moment, that all human and scriptural law is fake.

The gods of Liber AL vel Legis are interchangeable, as are all Egyptian gods or Neters (“principles”). They can be different things on different planes—as is the Holy Guardian Angel, another metaphor. There is a kind of Thelemic Trinity implied in the structure of Liber AL vel Legis, and also in the Stele of Revealing, the only fragment we have of the original Theban Thelemic cult of Ankh af-na-khonsu. There is also a trinity of sorts in the original title of the book, “L”, as 30. The primal trinity is the Qabalistic Binah, the root of all form, the cosmic Matrix or womb.

The Setian Gnosis—the Hermetic one, not that of Kenneth Grant—has a trinity of spirit or fragrance, light and dark. The light and dark had no moral implications of good or evil, for that came along much later with dualistic reasoning. The fragrance, or spirit—we could say the Intelligence—permeates the light and dark equally, it knows them, and from this is formed the womb, the Matrix.

Magisterium: Spiritual and Magical Attainment

The original meaning of the word Magisterium is “pertaining to a mystery or secret rite”. Once the Magisterium gets into the hands of the patriarchs of Constantinople, we all begin to wish we had kept the rites of Mithras in the subterranean vaults where they belong. No one can own or possess the Magisterium. Anyone can proclaim that they do, but—sooner or later—people will find them out. All magical Orders, their custodians and adepts, their “teachings”, their Magisterium, belong to the Order of Qliphoth, the Qabalistic World of Shells. What we see is what we are. Hence, the utter impossibility of teaching anything to anyone about magick let alone anything really spiritual.

One of the snares in the system of grades expounded by Aleister Crowley is that Crowley’s writings repeat the word “attainment” hundreds of times—as though there were something to attain, and someone to attain it; this can have a hypnotic effect on the serious student. Attainment, as with Crowley’s definition of “magick”, places an emphasis on the verb “to do”, “to act”. In some ways, the book Magick was the worst book Crowley ever wrote. By setting forth to show that magick is no different than material science, Crowley inadvertently opened the path to reductionism and psychologisation by future generations born of a Wordless Aeon. However, we are in a realm where language will always limit us unless we think differently. The different mode of thinking can be described in the metaphor of the backwards flowing Setian stream, and yet it cannot be taught; magick is not what you do, or attain or can get, but what you are.

Another snare of attainment is that Aleister Crowley made quite a lot of romantic fuss and bluster about the Great Work, often playing himself up as the great man, whether with irony intended or not. The unfurling of the mighty banners of One Star in Sight, rewritten from Eckhartshousen’s Cloud on the Sanctuary, comes amidst much theatrical smoke and bombast. Secret Adepts of Awesome Greatness walk even upon this very earth, if you can but find Them, or They find you. It may even be true, but it can be very flattering to the ego even of a Neophyte. How much more to the Adeptus Major that has invoked a strain upon the universe that would break the back of any mule carrying a master into Jerusalem?

What I have to say next might possibly offend some of the more deluded fans or devotees of the man Aleister Crowley, but it has to be said: There were other people in Aleister Crowley’s time that had better knowledge than he did, and who made less noise about their so-called attainment; there is a well-known biblical saying, from Matthew 7: 17:
Ye shall know them by their fruits.
The German writer, Gustav Meyrink, demonstrated through works of fiction such as The Golem and Angel of the West Window that he had knowledge of Vajroli Tantras, and was able to integrate his knowledge of the so-called Left-hand path into the Western Mystery Tradition without trouble. However, The Golem was not translated into English until 1995, and Angel of the West Window in 1991. To conclude, I will quote from a new book I have written, one that deals with Thelema, the work of Kenneth Grant and the writings of H. P. Lovecraft:
In the writing of the book [Liber AL vel Legis], Crowley sought signs and tokens of power. It becomes evident half way through the second chapter that the praeterhuman contacts were already beginning to withdraw, leaving the man, Aleister Crowley, to his fate. Those who grasp for power become the slave of impersonal forces. Gustav Mahler completed his 9th and final symphony in the year 1909, about the same time that the English occultist Aleister Crowley was looking for his golf clubs in an attic—discovering instead the manuscript of his abandoned Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis. Crowley had forgotten the book for the previous five years. Perhaps there seemed to be nothing in it for him. Whatever the reasons for the lapse of memory, by his own account he fell into a trance-like state, forgot the golf clubs and started working out a role for himself as World Teacher. The 9th symphony of Mahler could be an ode to a Master of the Temple; it is brimful of the Trance of Sorrow and of Wonder. Fortunately, Mahler did not write that incredible score in the hope of leaving behind a legacy of triumphant magical Orders for people to get mixed up about a century or so in the future. All we have to do is listen, and hear how our Brave New World will end. Mahler’s final symphony, often understood as being a “farewell to the world”, is a farewell to the whole Romantic era. Weird dissonance, reflective of mystery and unfathomable silence overwhelms the architecture of the Order of the Rose Cross; the conventions of harmony die away with the ever-maddened song of the Nightingale in Oscar Wilde’s Nightingale and the Rose. The last sweet echoes fade amidst the ominous and tuneless fluting that accompanies the Lovecraftian tales of Cthulhu. At the end of all is the chasm, the yawning Abyss, the limit of all man’s vain striving. The beautiful dream passes like the last glory of summer, burnt out in the autumnal embers. Aleister Crowley clung on to that dream for all he was worth—and who can blame him?
Love is the law, love under will.

Oliver St. John 2016

View books by Oliver St. John here
Visit Ordo Astri: Thelemic Magical Collegium
Subscribe to the Ordo Astri Newsletter, The 93 Current here