Thelema say: You can’t always get what you want, but you’ll get what you need. Ah yeah.

November 7, 2010 by  
Filed under mysticism

Thelema say: You can't always get what you want, but you'll get what you need. Ah yeah.

I consider myself a Thelemite. I’ve never been a member of the O.T.O. or any other magical fraternity, other than a two-week stint in the QBLH. Why? I’ve never been very talented at toeing the line, or at believing things just because someone else said they were true. Dogma is very much a part of Thelema, especially as dictated by magical orders, and I’ve seen many friends undergo dogmatic transformations upon joining a magical order. However, to me, Thelema is very much about blazing your own trail and declining to let others do your thinking for you (and spoon feed you the results). Aleister Crowley went to great lengths to weed out the chaff, the students too willing to swallow his instruction literally. Much like other great masters of philosophy and religion, he had no respect for those who couldn’t be bothered to do their own work. Somehow I don’t think he’d be all that friendly to the bulk of those claiming to be Thelemites today. They’re far too willing to denounce any practice of Thelema that doesn’t follow Crowley to the letter.

I’m going to have to disappoint you, if you are one of those “Crowleyites.” I’ve read appallingly little Crowley for a Thelemite. I tend to take him in small doses with long breaks between. But in my heart, I am a Thelemite. I have a great love for the philosophy as I understand it. It’s that understanding I’d like to share with you. I’m going to provide my view of a few Thelemic tenets, interspersed with my beliefs as a human being who has searched within, long and hard, to find her core. And while I feel I’ve found many concepts that represent core realities to me, I consciously strive to allow my views and my system of Thelema to evolve as new information and concepts arrive. Thelema is a living system, and it doesn’t deserve to be shoved into a hope chest for generations until Prince Charming (or the next leader of the next “real” O.T.O.) happens along.

Up until a few days ago, I’d never succinctly defined my beliefs. I think that’s because they’re complicated and involve a huge amount of nuance. I do prescribe to the tenets of True Will, the Abyss, and the Holy Guardian Angel, and I am a passionate proponent of Qabalah, which of course Thelema employs at length. However, unlike most ceremonial magicians, I am a mystic (and perhaps a shaman) in these ways:

  1. I work with spirits, and use this work to the best of my ability to aid others in my community.
  2. 90% of the work I do is internal or is processing the internal via external means.
  3. 90% of my current practice is completely self-originated. I am under-read, because I have read very little Crowley to date and don’t study the works of other magicians at any great length. What I do, I learned to do by doing it. I’m not taking someone else’s formula and mimicking it. As they like to say, “The map is not the territory,” and I left the map behind a long time ago. When I do read books on magick, I frequently recognize things I’ve done on my own that I never would have comprehended upon reading if I’d read the material in advance.

Regarding the tenets above, here’s my view:

True Will

While this and the HGA are covered in my above-linked article, I’ll provide a basic explanation of my views here, for those who’d rather not click. In a nutshell: The True Will that can be identified is not the True Will. I paraphrase the Tao Te Ching here, because it’s true. Thelemites like to speak of their True Will as if it gives them license to do whatever they damn well please. Or they’ll say, “I am turning on the light switch. Therefore, it is my True Will to turn on the light so that I may see better, bringing me closer to the manifestation of my purpose.” Blah blah blah.

While we may well have our individual callings, and discovering and working toward those callings (and fulfilling them) may put the winds of the Universe against our backs, this is the True Will that can be identified. Those callings are but stepping stones or way stations along the path to our true True Will — that of the Great Work of self-transformation. This earthly calling is something we can apply our real world effort towards, while we truly are evolving as spirits and as individuals, toward some incomprehensible whole that we will not discover until we cross the Abyss. (And I don’t care what Crowley said: Show me a human being who can convince me he’s crossed the Abyss while still alive, and I’ll kiss his ass live on CNN.)

(As an aside, I should mention that I don’t see Crowley as a human being worthy of emulation. But he was a brilliant magician, and he was an instrument in a higher message coming through. So yeah, he was the prophet. But that doesn’t make him a god.)

To further expound upon my view of True Will:

  • I believe that it’s impossible to not follow your True Will, once you have made any effort to apply yourself to your personal evolution via a spiritual or magical path. We may be taking the long and circuitous route until we gain clarity, but the True Will is always keeping the end goal in sight. Even without conscious contact with the HGA, our desire to push forward toward that goal invites our HGA to take the reins. It gets easier, obviously, once that contact is made and we have a much clearer idea of what we’re meant to do. But the True Will is always there, in the background, issuing whatever nudges are necessary. To continue. . .
  • I believe that wherever we are and whatever we’re experiencing, the Universe is always striving to put (and keep) us on the most direct path possible (at any given moment) to our destiny. Destiny, to me, is not as simple as having fate laid out for you. There are nuances to destiny — a higher destiny as well as a mundane one, as I described above — and we always have a choice. Meridjet likens this to a river. The river is the path to our higher destiny — evolution. But as we travel the river, we have an infinite array of choices about our experience along the way. We can take tributaries; hang out in lagoons; dock at a big, exciting distraction; take the rapids and do some whitewatering; use a canoe or a speedboat. But we’re all traveling the same course toward the same destination (which isn’t a destination at all).
    Obstacles that arise in our lives occur to direct our course, to call our attention to things, and sometimes to issue one hell of a wake-up call. They also occur because there are things we need to learn that those experiences teach us — though sometimes we don’t comprehend those lessons until years later. If a lesson happens to be terminal (such as a fatal disease), then I’d surmise that we gain that understanding after death if not before, during our Abyss journey if nothing else.
  • I believe that synchronicity and déjà vu are indicators that we are traveling along an optimal course. When you are making the most beneficial choices, the momentum of the Universe is behind you and things fall into place.
  • I believe that, therefore, everything happens for a reason. Even trivial little mundane moments, when taken as filling the moments of your day that lead you to the Next Big Thing, have reasons for their occurrence. They provide influence not only on our timing but also on our psyches. We just don’t tend to notice those things until they accumulate enough to call our attention to them, and by then oftentimes the original moment of influence has been lost in a stew of trivial moments and will never be recognized. And by “trivial,” I don’t mean meaningless. I mean they are moments we take for granted and never give a second thought to.

The Abyss

I’ve had the benefit of a glimpse of this through Meridjet’s eyes, and what follows are his words (channeled):

Imagine entering a darkness, not only in your sight, but in your mind. All around you is foreign, emerging suddenly into your vision and receding with equal speed. You’re frightened, and you’re lost, and you have no idea how to correct either. You remember something from your past, and it gives you a moment of strength before it is stripped away, gone, as if it had never been.
Each issue of your lifetime — the happy, the sad, the guilt-ridden, the resentful, all of them — are faced and become your everything until you have made peace with them. Then they, too, are taken from you. The challenges of the Keeper at the Gates bear teeth, and they will rend you.

Everything you know, everything of your life or your history that gives you a sense of belonging, your place in the scheme of things — even your name, it’s all stripped away, layer by painful layer until you are naked. You have nothing — no sense of individuality, no sense of self; you are reduced to a point of consciousness in a vast dark (and occasionally screaming) nothing, unaware that you observe, unable to direct your focus. You are an infant in the vastness of the Universe, with no frame of reference to provide an awareness of your existence.

And there you float, lie, swim — pick your preference — until eventually it changes. It may be, in the measures of time on Earth, moments. It may be millennia. Typically, it is merely years. But eventually, there’s a glimmer, a tiny little glow at the center of your consciousness that is different from how it’s “always” been. There’s no explanation for this change except one: you are becoming. In spite of all that brought you here and all that would hold you, you are becoming and you will not be thwarted.

As the glimmering point of light that is love, self, God, All, everything and nothing, grows, you begin to . . . not re-form, but re-emerge, birth yourself from the emptiness that emanates from Kether and gives shape to all. You become not who you were, because that person or being is no more. You become who you are, who you were always meant to be underneath the baggage and the blinders and the endless rules of conformity that strain to contain each of us our entire lives. It’s almost like a deflated vinyl balloon, shapeless in the attic for 11 months, re-emerges as the beloved December snowman or nutcracker, brought to life once more for another holiday season.

As your consciousness expands from awareness of self to awareness of All to awareness of Self-as-All-As-Self, you regain the knowledge of your deeds and ideas, as well as their process of understanding. You have made it across the chasm of the lost and the damned, and you will walk away not only unscathed, not only healed, but whole in a way you have never imagined.
You Become. And the knowledge of that Becoming inspires a desire to find expression for your gratitude. So, if you’re like me, you go back to that special person you once had to leave, and you take up the mantle of Teacher. You begin to guide her to reach her own Becoming, with hope, love, and pure unadulterated joy.

Words are not the best tools for such rapture or for describing what happens to each of us, but know this: Becoming is not the end of the journey. It is the Beginning.

The Holy Guardian Angel

I’ve written on this topic before (see link above), but to put not too fine a shine on it: The HGA is the embodiment of our potential, a potential so great we can’t conceive of it. It takes the form of an autonomous spirit, insanely attractive, fully involved, and largely without mercy. It teaches us hard lessons and refuses to submit to any request for either coddling or consoling, until the lesson is past and there is no danger of sympathy causing us to falter. It tests your strength in ways you would swear were intolerable. And it facilitates your growth like nothing else can. Through it all, you never doubt that you are loved, in spite of the cruelty, the challenges, and whatever you may feel about yourself in your moments of weakness.

It will lead you to face things in yourself that you’ve denied your entire life. It will reveal bliss undreamed of. When a decade or more has passed, you will wonder how you became who you are now, out of who you used to be. With this in mind, I present my remaining beliefs (or those that come to mind):

  • I believe that living consciously and mindfully should be a goal of every living person, so that we strive to be aware of our effect on other people and ourselves, and also strive to fill our waking moments with something more than automatic pilot. This is a difficult thing to do, rather like trying to maintain a meditative state throughout your entire active day. We must do our best to remind ourselves until it becomes a habit of living without habits or automatic responses. Have you ever walked into a dark room when the power was out, and flipped on the light switch expecting it to work? Most of our actions are of this nature. If we could feel as foolish every time we chose automatically, as we do when flipping that light switch without thinking, it would teach us to be more mindful.
  • I believe to “Know thyself” is profoundly important and that most people don’t. See above. Lives lived completely based upon superficial concerns are a tragedy.
  • I believe the rational mind is both a blessing and a curse. I believe that this world’s emphasis on facts (while calling them “truths”) and rationalism is unbalanced and therefore crippling, but without rational thought we would learn much, much more slowly. Abstract concepts are powerful things (and include true gnosis) and should always be included in any balanced person, but it’s not until an idea swims around in our deeper selves a while then percolates up into thought and realization via the intellect that we gain knowledge and understanding beyond instinctive response. Yet our skeptical insistence (and oh, I’m a skeptic) upon things being rational keeps us from understanding worlds that don’t fit that very firm mold. We are indeed crippled when it comes to astral projection to any world other than this one, and we insist on defining things that are beyond our experience. (For instance, any thought of parallel universes usually results in a person thinking of them as nearly identical to this one, if not in appearance or geography, at least in terms of the most basic things: Breathing, food, water, belongings, other creatures, etc. Any thought of a spirit world, conversely, usually involves the person visualizing an endless expanse of gray fog through which featureless and ethereal spirits float about. BOR-ing!)
  • I believe that conventional religion is a means of control, offering the congregation (is there a better word?) salvation if they toe the line and give away their money, and offering the congregation true knowledge not at all. I believe magical orders are shaping up to do the same thing.
  • I believe that politicians should be accountable for deception and any type of malicious manipulation of the people or their resources. I believe that corporations should be regulated and held accountable, particularly when acting out of greed at the expense of the environment, their workers, or the public. I believe in socialist medicine. I believe this world has a long way to go and that we might not survive as a species long enough to put away the war machine for good and start truly thinking of our fellow man.
  • I believe in compassion, empathy, and honesty. I believe in cultivating gratitude and optimism. I try to practice them consciously. I’m not perfect, by any means, but I keep trying. “Compassion is the Vice of Kings.” This, to me, does not mean that compassion is a vice to be avoided. It means that compassion, feeling empathy and the desire to help, for our fellow living creatures and our planet, is something that as “kings” we must accept and utilize. It is an emotion that is addicting, because giving to or helping someone feels good, as does the power to create their happiness or gratitude. It becomes a vice due to that addiction, but as kings we must accept that vice in exchange for the power to help someone in need. And it is a lesson long overdue for those in power. Don’t shit where you eat. Be generous and compassionate toward those who can’t help themselves, and the whole universe gains.

I am a Thelemite. I am dedicated to the Great Work. I am a star, dancing in the heavens in celebration of my ability to experience this world, with its joys and tragedies. Would you care to dance?

©2010 by Sheta Kaey.

Sheta Kaey is a lifelong occultist and longtime spirit worker, as well as Editor in Chief of Rending the Veil. She counsels others with regard to spirit contact and astral work. She can be reached via her blog.

Baba-loca-lips – A Priestess, a Prostitute, and a Persistent Priapism

Baba-loca-lips - A Priestess, a Prostitute, and a Persistent Priapism

To the Goose, and the outcast dead of Cross Bones Graveyard, and to John Crow, the caretaker.931
To all the girls I ever loved before, and to Chris de Burgh.
To the Lady in Red, and to the Lady in Scarlet.

We both read the Bible day and night,
But thou readest black and I read white

— William Blake

It is I who am the wife; it is I who am the virgin.
It is I who am pregnant; it is I who am the midwife.
It is I who am the one that comforts pains of travail.
It is my husband who bore me; and it is I who am his mother.
And it is he who is my father and my lord.
It is he who is my force;
What he desires, he says with reason.
I am in the process of becoming; yet I have borne a man as lord.932

On the Origin of the World (late third century)

On Halloween 2006, I forwent my usual ritual of dressing up in rubber shorts and a gasmask codpiece and attended a belated wake for the medieval dead of Cross Bones. It was a fluffy affair, full of dyed-in-the-woolly armpit pagans, but it was certainly necromantic enough for an old romantic like me, and the dead were as lively as ever.

But this story begins with a comic book two weeks before. Alan Moore’s stunning Promethea series was blowing my mind with every installment, and then I came to The Wine of Her Fornications. The issue in this issue, and the paradox central to Uncle Al’s cosmology, is that the Virgin Mary and the Whore of Babylon are one and the same. Whilst this had always appealed to my sense of aesthetics, I couldn’t get my head around the concept, but neither was it something I could forget, because in Thelema this secret is tightly bound up with the apocalypse.

Who can say when a story begins? This one winds back at least two more years, to a night promoting streetwear at a Japanese nightclub. I was inspired that night, ranting tirelessly about hemp and graffiti and London, and the B-boys were interested, but I was more interested in women. I was very horny indeed, but there were very few ladies out. This was the curse of working for an uber-trendy drum n’ bass brand in a country without much of a scene; it was so cutting-edge that the clubbers were nearly all boys in puffer jackets with vinyl fixations.

So the horn rose, ascended into my throat, and splashed out all over the club in ecstatic praise of the goddess hemp, the fabric, the fuel, the ecologistics, the medicine, the buzz, and a whole lot more. I left in the morning, alone of course, and boarded a train bound for Kyoto and my deeply lonely abode, a large, dilapidated, two-storey house. It had no furniture, three naked light bulbs, and no decoration at all. The rent was very cheap, however, because the house was awaiting renovation, as were my housemate and I, both of us getting over our respective wives. He took me in when she threw me out for the sixth time, and we spent the time drinking heavily, making misogynistic jokes, and playing computer games in the room with the communal light bulb. Those were the days! A cold winter of discontent with a poisonous caterpillar plague in the garden, the slow throb of loneliness disturbed only by drunken bicycle injuries and suicide notes from the ex.

Figuring that I was unlikely to attract any women in this pitiful state, I had started practicing Taoist seed retention, and three weeks in, my nuts were about to explode. The train was not leaving for another half an hour, and I was literally squirming in my seat. Something had to give, and that something was my attitude towards prostitution. This was one of the few sexual taboos I had left intact, and I would sit quietly contemptuous when my expat friends reminisced about their sordid trips to Bangkok. No one was going to bust me at six in the morning, so I jumped off the train and hit the smutty streets of Minami-Hankyu.

Getting laid in the red light district is not as easy as one might imagine. Although prostitution is perfectly legal in Japan, most establishments are closed to foreigners, and it took me half an hour of polite Japanese refusals from scantily clad women before I found a welcome with Ai-chan, who was friendly and had nice teeth. Unfortunately another ugly foreigner found her shortly after I did, and was not cultured enough to wait quietly in the waiting room. He poked his bald head into our tacky love-nest and asked if he could watch in appalling Japanese. Ai-chan shouted “NO!” in English, and pulled the covers over us, an harlot genuinely abashed. She asked me if he was a friend of mine. I shouted “NO!” in English, and sank into the bed in horror, painfully aware of why most knocking shops are closed to foreign barbarians.

Ai-chan quickly regained her composure, asked him to wait, and fleeced me blind. She also left me hooked on hookers, and there begins a whorey story, because the brothel door is difficult to shut once opened. It lasted about six months, until I witnessed the deeply unreverend Nemu running at full speed through the streets of Kuala Lumpur in a frenzied and ultimately futile search for an open brothel. I was unsatisfied by two other prostitutes that night, but the ladies of the night melted away as the sun came up, and the Reverend Neverend give up his quest frustrated.

Back in England a winter later, I had regained my composure, though not, of course, the mojo of a Western man in Japan. The whore was on my mind again, and this time I decided to approach her with a little more ceremony. A friend and I were conducting a healing ayahuasca session with a third friend, who had just had an operation for cervical cancer, and it seemed appropriate to invite BABALON, the Thelemic goddess of the cosmic uterus. Her tarot card Lust went on the altar, a naked temptress straddling the beast with seven heads, reins tight in her hand and head thrown back in exquisite abandon. In the ceremony I was too busy concentrating on playing the music to think about her, or even look at the card. The beast was reined for the session, we held it together, and two years on, news from her cervix is good.

The following day I awoke with a burning desire to know a particular whore in a Biblical sense. I began chasing women through the pages of The New Testament, The Golden Bough and The Greek Myths with the one track mind of a depraved divorcee chasing hookers through the streets of Southeast Asia. It soon became clear that there was something about Mary, the name shared by all the significant women in The New Testament, but five days later I had a party to get to, so I toweled down my sweaty palms and went to the Cross Bones bash.

The party was held in SE One club, on the site of a Roman temple to Isis, and featured bawdy medieval drinking songs and sordid verse from the lips of London sex-workers. I had to bully Seth into coming; though he is usually up for a spot of necromancy, his plan was to curl up at home under a duvet, listening to Goth music and weeping over his ex-girlfriend.

My girlfriend refused to come, asking why I was so into dead people. (I told her they usually had fewer hang-ups than the living.) Seth had a great time, despite himself. I regretted his company only once, during the group tantric exercise, squeezing our neighbour’s hands in time with our perineal muscles and pelvic floors. He was my first tarot teacher and a dedicated Thelemite, so we had occasion to nod knowingly at each other whenever the poetry wound round to the Whore of Babylon, or when the divine harlots sung choruses of the “a-poca-poca-poca-lypse”. Widdershins around the altar, where I had left my Lust card, and incantations to the goddess and to he of hoof and horn. A masked priestess gave each of us a word on a leaf-shaped card. Mine was ‘Strength’, the name for Lust in traditional tarot decks. This was the card that had set the ball rolling in the first place, the energy of the lion that sets all balls rolling.

John was curb-crawling the shadier streets of the astral in his acid-fueled pimpmobile when he first met his muse, the Goose, a seventeenth century prostitute with an ear for verse. The Revelation of my mate John (otherwise known as The Book of the Goose) begins as she sets the scene:

For tonight in Hell they are tolling the bell
For the Whore that lay at the Tabard.
And well we know how the carrion crow
Doth feast in our Cross Bones graveyard.933

“Cross Bones” struck him as a fitting poetic name for an outcast’s graveyard, but later John discovered that it really was the name of an unconsecrated burial ground, where bodies unwelcome in Southwark Cathedral cemetery were interred. Outcasts included the Winchester Geese, prostitutes licensed by the Bishop of Winchester since 1161. They rested in peace until the mid 1990s, when London Underground began developing the derelict site, and digging up skeletons. John received his first message in November 1996, since which time he and his chaotic confederates have made a Discordian shrine of this urban wasteland, conducting monthly rituals to honour the dead.

The hookers and their John led a procession of pagans, ayahuasqueros and other Halloween fiends from the club to Cross Bones, singing songs of gin and syphilis. We remembered the dead by reading their names, which had been given out on ribbons. I had one for a baby girl, and another for a man from the workhouse who shared a name with the founder of my school. I met some lovely randoms, and ended up fried at a dirty tekno party in Stoke Newington, in my reverend’s robe and my gasmask at last. A nearly divine London harlot gave me a kiss, then turned and left me pining, remembering the SM temptress I once married, whose face glowed scarlet with anger, the lion’s mistress who had turned me out and inside-out, who fleeced me of everything worth anything, and left me empty.

On the bus home I did some automatic writing, producing a page of filth (see Appendix Automatic 1). It was the wrong bus so I had to walk for miles. I ended up in A & E, on E, pondering the A (it is indeed an A, not a Y, but best not ask too many whys of hoes; it always adds up the way the lady says). I wasn’t sick, just a little dizzy from the MDMAganism, but it was freezing outside and I needed somewhere to catch the flood of words. BABALON’s limitless lovejuice was drowning me in pungent poetry (see Appendix Automatic 2).

As Noah’s flood subsided, the dry island of consciousness rose out of the waters of chaos, and everything that had been remembered stepped off the Ark. Noah’s family multiplied, and “the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.”934 They voiced the same idea with the same tongue, to build a tower to the heavens:

And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven935

The first project of the first New World Order was a noble goal, but soon the structure became more beloved than the builders. The Talmud relates how even pregnant women were forced to build, and the sick were cursed for their uselessness. As the Tower of Babel grew, it took ever more effort to raise masonry to the top. Builders wept for a falling brick, but not for a falling man.936

What was the Tower of Babel? There was a seventy-meter ziggurat in Babylon called Etemanaki, the End Platform of Heaven and Earth, but bricks were not all that were baked in Babylon. Babylonians also baked clay tablets pressed with one of the earliest alphabetic scripts, setting treaties and tax agreements beyond argument, fixing regulations and codifying correct conduct. The ziggurat is dust today, but Hammurabi’s law code survives, four millennia after it was made, carved into an ancient obelisk in the Louvre.937 Its shadow falls over the entire planet.

Marked tablets formed the foundation of our law codes, built up ever since by kings and presidents. When one truth is inflicted on all, the structure become more important than the builders; Milgram’s nightmare begins, and people start dropping from the scaffolding. “The Truth” is lethal, but whilst the letter of the law is fixed, interpretation is a different matter. Tongues become confused, and the project is derailed. Man is saved from his fixations as “Truth” is fractured into a multitude of languages.

The Bible relates the word Babel to the Hebrew balal (to confuse). It is derived from the Akkadian bab ili (the gate of god),938 and this ba-ba-baby talk is also the root of the English “babble.” In a world of confused babblers at the gates of infinity, names are changed to protect the intransient, and meaning streams into seventy currents of consciousness. Matthew turns on a new tap with a redefinition in the first chapter of The New Testament:

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.939

The prophet referred to is Isaiah, translated in the KJV as follows:

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin [sic] shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.940

But what about this virgin? Mark and John never mention a virgin. The Greek word in Matthew is parthenos, which does indeed mean “virgin,” but the Hebrew in Isaiah is almah, which simply means “young woman.” This is not an ambiguous Hebrew word; it is a mistranslation. Wherever almah is found in The Old Testament, the KJV renders it “virgin” (or “maid,” meaning virgin), but it makes for some silly scripture. In Proverbs, for example, the Hebrew clearly refers to a little bump and grind, but in the KJV:

There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid [sic].941

There is nothing wonderful about the way of a man with a virgin; it makes no sense. Another time it makes a nonsense of The Song of Solomon:

There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins [sic] without number. My dove, my undefiled is but one.942

What are all these virgins doing in a harem? If they are virgins, how can there only be one who is not defiled? This wouldn’t fool a rabbi. In translated Jewish Bibles, these virgins are all young women, because to a Jew, altering the word of God is high blasphemy. To anyone with a sense of aesthetics, it is a crime against poetry, surely.

Whilst virginity is exalted in Christianity, there is none of this in The Old Testament. When Jephthah, a hero born of a whore, has to sacrifice his only child to fulfill a promise to the Lord, his dutiful daughter insists that he honour his word, and she does not complain about her death. She asks only “let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity.”943 Presumably there were plenty of shepherd boys willing to take the sting out of her sentence. Virginity is a curse in Judaism, not a virtue. Sex is a duty, every day for men of independent means, once a week for scholars and ass-drivers.944 Two weeks without nookie was already reasonable grounds for divorce,945 and you can leave the hole in the sheet for the Puritans. In Jewish law, lovers must be completely naked, so nothing can come between them.946

The Israelites were neither prudish nor moralistic about sex. Judah went a-whoring, and he fathered a great tribe.947 In The Talmud, Eleazar ben Dordia “did not leave out any harlot in the world without coming to her.”948 At the end of his life, after a revelation which began when the classiest whore in the world farted during coitus, God calls him “Rabbi,” and tells him he is “destined for the life of the world to come”! So why the mistranslation? Did an honest mistake change the nature of the religion? What about later clerics, who reconstructed the hymens of various Old Testament young women to fit in with the evangelist’s fetish? Once is a mistake, as my dad likes to say, twice is stupid, but three times is on purpose. True for a night’s whoring, certainly, and for translating scripture as well. This virgin is here to stay. Did Matthew have a thing for virgins, or was there a particular virgin on his mind?

Virgin mothers were worshiped all over the pagan world, from the Amazon to Babylon. Was it Isis or Ishtar or Astarte remembered in Matthew, or was this almah Al-Mah, the Persian virgin goddess of the moon? One of the earliest virgin mothers was from Sumer, one of the oldest settled civilisations, where some of the oldest surviving text was laid down. Her name was Inanna, and her habits are not what one might expect from a maid. Ancient poems relate how she went scantily clad into town wearing “the pearls of a prostitute”, to play drinking games and “snatch a man from the tavern.”949 “She praised herself, full of delight at her. . . remarkable genitals,”950 but she was always a virgin, regardless of what she got up to. Like the moon, and like a woman, she always returns to her pristine state, ready to bear again.

Inanna was goddess of many things, including shepherds,951 carpenters,952 love, sex, and temple lovers.953 Her priestesses kept a sacred institution, a ritual dramatisation of the value of sexual love, and even respectable married laywomen would make love to strangers who approached in the darkness and left a coin. This is called “sacred prostitution” in modern terminology, but the term is deceptive, because of what prostitution means to us. Back in the day, these women were devout temple attendants performing a vital service for the community, a role that is still necessary today, but performed with less ceremony in scummy hotels and backstreets. The sacred harlot, the Har of Babylon, is remembered as the Whore of Babylon. She was one of many virgin mothers who bore solar heroes on the winter solstice as Virgo popped over the horizon, saviours destined to be murdered. Whilst the mythology survives in part, his mother’s nature has been forgotten. But is The New Testament betrayed by a smudge of scarlet lipstick?

In The Second Book of Kings, Ashtoreth is the abomination of the Zidonians, This is Astarte, who was called Asat in Egypt (whom we know as Isis), mother of the saviour Horus. Like early Christian images of the virgin and child, Egyptian representations depicted Horus suckling at his mother’s breast, though Mary’s breast was covered up as Christianity became increasingly prudish.

Asat was protectress of the dying god Azar (Osiris), and she was addressed as Meri in Egyptian, meaning beloved.954 In The New Testament all the Marys, with the exception of the virgin, are helpers or protectresses. Mary Magdalene accompanies Jesus to his death and to his tomb,955 where she watches over him, and is the first to meet him after his resurrection.956 The Mary in Romans “bestowed much labour on us,”957 and another from Acts hides St. Peter when he is on the run.958

Another Mary is a helpful soul who spends much of her time weeping over her brother Lazarus, who had been dead for four days. Lazarus is the only character besides Christ resurrected in The Bible. In Egyptian mythology, Asat wept over her brother Azar until he was resurrected. Azar’s name Latinised becomes Azarus, and with an honorary “El” (like El Shaddai), the name becomes a familiar El Azarus, or Lazarus. Mary, sister of Lazarus, spends a year’s wages on ointment to anoint Jesus’ feet,959 an extremely significant act which makes Jesus the Messiah (literally, “anointed one”). Two verses later, the Messiah is betrayed as Azar was betrayed, setting the scene for his execution and resurrection.960 Asat’s sister Nephytys also took part in Azar’s resurrection. She was also titled Meri, and hence both sisters together were called by the plural Merti.961 This is very close to Marta (Martha in English), the name of Lazarus’ other sister.962

There is something else about Mary, something both exalted and shameful. The anointer is named in Matthew, Mark, and John, but in Luke she is unnamed, and she is not connected to Lazarus. It is also in Luke that she does more than just anoint his feet. She showers him with kisses, and gives his feet some serious attention.963 We learn “what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner”,964 and the people pass judgement upon her, but “her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much.”965

Luke brings the holy harlot back into the story in this pivotal role as Messiah maker, at a time when she was falling out of favour in the Roman world. The geographer Strabo wrote in 23 A.D. that sacred prostitution continued at the Temple of Aphrodite in Corinth, but he called it “wholly shameful.”966 Whether he actually visited is unknown, but it shows that the idea was still in currency, and frowned upon in his time. Perhaps this is why the other canonical Gospels, which give the anointer the honourable name Mary, do not allude to her harlotry. Mary Magdalene is one of those who “ministered unto him of their substance.”967 She had her demons, but she was no slapper. All the other Marys are spotless, but the unnamed Messiah maker in Luke was “a sinner.”

It was no simple task merging the exalted feminine of the old pagan world with the paternalistic mores of the Hebrews and the Roman Empire, and the explosive success of early Christianity is a testament to the ingenuity of its authors.968 Inevitably, however, and tragically, Christianity was institutionalised and sanitised as it grew. Any ambiguity about the anointer was ironed out by Pope Gregory in 591, who ruled that the sinner’s sin was sexual, and that Mary Magdalene, Mary sister of Lazarus, and the unnamed sinner, were one and the same hussy.969 The beloved nurturer was dragged from the foot of the cross of the King to the grimy streets of King’s Cross. The work of her priestesses became the shame of prostitution, and there begins a tale of misogyny and the repression of female sexuality, which continues to impoverish both women and men of Christendom today. Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ lover in The Gospel of Philip, but such scandalous stories were purged from the Biblical canon. The only woman worthy of devotion was the Virgin, who most certainly does not put out, not for love nor money.

Within a few centuries, aging celibate church fathers were decrying the perils of sex. St. Ambrose exalted virginity in lengthy prose, and St. Jerome went as far as to write that even martyrdom could barely cleanse a woman of the stain of marriage. St. Augustine argued how both impotency and unwanted erections reveal that sex turns the body against the will. (St. Augustine, who was a genuinely compassionate and forward thinking man, lamented that we have more control over our farts than our willies, evidenced by the fact that many can produce melodies at will from their bottoms.970) Christianity quickly become a dreadfully frigid faith most unlike its Jewish and pagan roots.

Goddesses worth their salt, however, are not in the habit of being dominated by stuffy old clerics, at least not for long; the holy whore went underground. Asat’s sacred geese were sacrificed well into the Common Era, all the way from North Africa to South Londinium. Goosey-goosey gander waddled across the continents and the millennia, upstairs, downstairs and in the master’s chamber, and all the way to Medieval England, where the Old English term for prostitute was “goose.”971 The Winchester Geese lived in the Liberty of the Clink and were buried in Cross Bones graveyard, where they rested in disgrace until London Underground disturbed their sleep.

Asat may have been forgotten, but her rites continue to this day at Easter. The name “Easter” derives from Astarte, and the festival was a heathen fertility rite. It is mentioned only once in The Bible: the evil King Herod attends Easter as Peter languishes in his dungeon awaiting execution.972 Hot cross buns were offered to pagan gods 1500 years before Christ. The Easter pig is eaten for the boar that killed Ishtar’s lover Tammuz, whose rites are called “abominations” in Ezekiel,973 and he is still mourned today with forty days of lent. There are no bunnies in The Bible. The Easter bunny hopping about delighting Christian children is a celebration of the defining characteristic of a rabbit, which is sex, and the eggs he distributes are, of course, fertility symbols.

It is obvious when you think about it, but thinking is exactly what church fathers sought to prevent, with threats of excommunication, such as the papal decree of 431:

If any one refuses to confess that the Emmanuel is in truth God, and that the holy Virgin is Mother of God, for she gave birth after a fleshly manner to the Word of God made flesh; let him be anathema.974

Like Inanna, Mary is always a virgin, and is remembered as such in the Greek Orthodox liturgy, where every mention of her name is prefixed with the words “always virgin.” Unlike Inanna, however, her virginity was protected by a new magick, which suppressed thought with fear. Mary’s virginity was far too questionable to be questioned. Catholic dogmas concerning Mary multiplied, and soon Catholics were also terrified into accepting that the immaculate conception was a unique event, and that Mary was a virgin until death, at which point her entire body, including her immaculate hymen, ascended into heaven.975 The Pope was still issuing threats in 1950:

If anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith.976

The pagan origins of Christianity have always upset purists. Jehovah’s Witnesses valiantly attempted to chase the heathen from their midst, ditching crosses, candles, Easter and Christmas, retaining little more than a Godfearing frown. For the Witnesses, the party comes at the end of time. They give eschatology a bad name, as far as I am concerned; I like to think that my group is the complete opposite of theirs. Wherever Christians gather there is the danger of Christian fascism, and sadly Daime is no exception, but for the most part we love pagan wisdom, and we shout “Viva!” for all the beings of the Celestial Court to close our ceremonies. Whereas the Witnesses dream of a past age of purity, our party is a post-modern mash-up in a free house, where all are welcome, and we sing so loud that the gods start to boogie. . .

The virgin mother has been with us for at least 6,000 years; by now we should be grown up enough to learn the truth about where her baby comes from. The Virgin Mary is the goddess of the new moon, but the cycle continues. The goddess of the full moon is the divine temptress, the nurturer for whom all nature swells into readiness, whether lemons or lingams. Mary Magdalene carries a clue in her name, the root of which is gadol, meaning both “large” and “grow” in Hebrew. She accepts all comers into her double-D cup of compassion. The goddess of the full moon accepts us because she knows us and the depravity of our desires. She knows we are all the same with our trousers down. She has seen it all before, she forgives and keeps giving. It is time for us to reciprocate, to love her as she was loved in ancient times.

Greeks and Indians sculpted sexy women for their temples. Inca effigies have enormous knockers. Women are sexy! They are nurturing, and comforting, and divine, but Christendom got stuck with a virgin fixation. The sacred harlot became a demon, as do all deities under the force of repression. Her fleshy desires became a disgrace, but her rites continue in alleyways, valued in rocks of crack. The goddess has been defiled and her divine name made vulgar. In India she was Kunti, who summoned gods with a secret mantra and bore their children. In Rome she was Cunina, protectress of babies. Derivatives of the sacred C-word were titles for goddesses, priestesses and wise-women, including, perhaps, our own “Queen,” but the word is our dirtiest, so offensive that well-raised American girls cry if you say it with enough malice. Our hang-ups about the word, the organ, and the woman surrounding it are abstractions built upon a confused mess of neuroses. Why does a healthy appetite make a slut of a woman and a stud of a man? Dogs aren’t offended by cunts, nor by the word “cunt.” What exactly are we scared of?

The feminine shifts between absolutes, indistinct in the moonlight, moving in and out of balance, swelling up and shrinking down, and always returning to the source. The mother is confusing and contradictory, one thing and then the other, and this constant wave is the wellspring of life. The Law of the Lord is laid down with a word, and the wave collapses into one particle, going one way. Its potential is fixed, later to be falsified. The masculine limits, but the cosmic cervix is limitless. Code gestates quietly until it tumbles fully formed and perfect into the world as a symphony, a cosmology, or a baby. But with the mystery of infinity comes the terror of the black hole. She drives men to poetry and to murder, and all for nothing. The feminine is a great gaping 0, pungent, potent, and dripping with blood.

The Hebrews never discovered zero, and neither did the Greeks. It was imported from India in the thirteenth century, but even then few understood it. It is more irrational than the irrational numbers the Greeks discovered, more invisible than negative numbers. It is an affront to Aristotle, neither one thing nor the other, neither negative nor positive, so how can it be anything? And yet it is not the same as nothing. “Zero children” is not the same as “an empty playground.” Zero is the assertion of nilness. It is empty potential, and that is something quite different.

Our master is a sun god, an “I” drawn across the sky, following his will(y) on his missions, penetrating territories, parching seas, illuminating and casting into darkness as he dies at the end of the day. The world fractures along the edge of sense defined. Stuck here in the rational mind, it is only the constant confusion of words and definitions that allows for reinterpretation and regeneration. Creative writing redefines the boundaries. Matthew’s ingenious slight of hand brought the virgin mother into the narrative, and some influential patriarchs thought it best to keep mum. YHVH, for all his dynamism, is not an easy father to get along with, Elohim is too dimensionless to deal with, and Jesus on the cross has his own concerns to worry about. The goddess, however, is ready to receive you without judgement.

Pagans exalted all three phases of the moon and of womanhood. Persephone, Diana and Brigit of the new moon are perfectly pure and full of potential, virgins associated with birth and the birthing bed. Selene, Luna and Ceres are full moon goddesses, nurturers, protectors, and lovers, with soft curves to cradle our confused heads. Her rite is marriage and her sacred place the nuptial bed. After a period of plump fecundity the moon shrinks into the crone, whose names are Kali, Hecate and Nephytys, a wise old woman with a pickled face and a head full of craft. She sees through your charm and has a herb for every illness, if you have the humility to ask. The crone presides over death and the deathbed; she guides the dead to the underworld, and converses with the spirits of their world.

The waning moon suffered a similar fate to the full moon. Her honorifics “crone,” “hag,” and “witch” became insults. Her craft was pushed underground. She was denied in the ninth century, and drowned and hanged from the fourteenth century. The fire of persecution began to roar in the sixteenth century, with the Spanish Inquisition adding fuel on one side and Luther fanning the flames on the other.977 It burned well into the eighteenth century, as the Age of Reason was constructed, and even today the hag continues to suffer. Old women crumbling alone in nursing homes are no less victims of this ugly prejudice than was Helen Duncan, the medium described in “São Miguel in Stockwell’.

The Biblical Marys appear in order of the phases of the moon. The Virgin Mary is present at the beginning and leaves after a few chapters. Mary the nurturer appears in various guises, pushing the story in the middle, and the crone arrives at the end as Mary, mother of James, attending Jesus’ death, following the body to the grave,978 979 sitting over the sepulchre,980 and bringing spices to anoint the corpse.981 Along with Mary Magdalene, she is the first to learn of the resurrection.982

Matthew was not the first Gospel written, but it is the first read. It appears to be a close copy of Mark with added pagan bits, such as the star of Bethlehem and the virgin birth. It is the most mystical of the canonical Gospels, the only one that mentions dreams, but there were Christian scriptures far more mysterious. All sorts were mixing in the Hellenistic crucible, including Egyptians, Jews, Romans, Arabs, Africans, and Oriental kings wandering through, following stars, carrying strange spices. Different traditions explored the story in various directions for 200 years, leaving as many as fifty contradictory Gospels reflecting a broad spectrum of belief. The Gospel of Thomas appears to be older than the canonical Gospels, and it is laden with mystical code and paradox, where the end is the beginning, where giving money to the poor harms the spirit (which makes sense in the welfare state). In The Gospel of Judas, written within decades of the canonical gospels, Jesus tells his most beloved disciple “you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothed me.”983

For many Gnostics, the Virgin Birth was the mystery of the feminine Holy Spirit giving birth to the cosmos, without anything fertilising it. The Gospel of Philip lampoons the orthodox position:

Some said, “Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit.” They are in error. They do not know what they are saying. When did a woman ever conceive by a woman?984

As Christianity became more mainstream, the lunatic fringe became a sensible side parting. The messy mop of Christianity was trimmed to make it as neat as possible, and as easy to control. Gnostic sects were stamped out, texts were declared heretical, and those that were not hidden were torched. Irineus of Lyons, a converted pagan with a political agenda, and the man who developed the idea of original sin, selected which Gospels entered The Bible. He censored most stories alluding to a nonmaterial level of reality. He cut The Acts of John, where Jesus’ steps leave no footprints,985 and The Apocalypse of Peter, where Peter goes into a trance and sees “a new light greater than the light of day.”986 In the official canon, doubting Thomas touches the resurrected Jesus, keeping the story in the material world, whereas in most Gnostic stories his hand passes through. The least mystical of all Gospels is Luke, which takes place entirely in the physical world, and it is here that the anointing woman is unnamed and sinful.

For most Gnostics, the resurrection was not fleshy but spiritual; the spirit of Jesus returns in dreams, trance, and intuition. The creed, however, made resurrection “in the flesh” a dogma to be affirmed weekly, questioned on pain of eternal damnation. This nasty piece of Roman politics was incorporated into the church liturgy, despite having no basis whatsoever in The Bible, nor in paganism. The Gospel of Philip encourages Christians to follow the Holy Spirit rather than such articles of faith. The mistrust of words in this banned gospel is almost Taoist, as is the monistic philosophy expounded.

As with censorship in the Churche of Scyense (see Chapter 3), the censorship of Gnosticism was a political exercise, and many of the same issues arose, including the existence of invisible powers and questions of authority. It is almost impossible to control a group of enthusiasts who take instructions not from appointed authorities, but directly from invisible entities in dreams or visions. In The Gospel of Mary, Jesus appears to his favourite disciple in a vision and tells her to “not lay down any rules beyond what I appointed you, and do not give a law like the lawgiver lest you be constrained by it.”987 This is not conducive to the ambitions of an empire. Tertullian insisted that a Church meeting was only valid with a bishop (poimen in Greek, meaning “shepherd”), and the bishop of Antioch explained how separation from one’s bishop meant separation “not only from the church, but from God himself.”988

For Gnostics, it was not the “dry canal”989 of a bishop that validated a church but the Holy Spirit, which was invisible but instantly recognisable. Adam was the psyche, or thinker, and Eve was the pneuma, or spirit, the connection to the invisible world. Some churches left the ceremony in the hands of the Holy Spirit, choosing the prayer leader by lot,990 or waiting in silence until someone was moved to speak, as do modern Quakers. The Holy Spirit, personified as the lovely Sophia, makes Adam’s snake rise and opens his eyes. Her ecstasies bring intimate knowledge, or gnosis, to the Gnostic, and she gave out far too much authority. Trance, miraculous healing and communication with spirits were everyday events in the Hellenistic world, and in one church, the initiation ceremony concluded with the words “Behold, Grace has come upon you; open your mouth, and prophesy.”991

In the early years of Christianity, the feminine was in the ascendant. Many churches ditched the Jewish custom of segregating the sexes during prayer, and in some churches women were uttering prophecies and even leading ceremonies. Church fathers, however, banned the worship of Mary,*992 and Tertullian preferred “the devil’s gateway” in her traditional role:

Do you not know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on your sex lives on in this age; the guilt, necessarily, lives on too.993

Tertullian filled his free moments fantasising about and gloating over the eternal torment awaiting scholars, poets, playwrights, philosophers and dancers among others,994 but whilst his spiteful imagination was rich, his theology was poor. He knew he was on shaky ground when he wrote that the resurrection of the flesh “must be believed, because it is absurd.”995 By the end of his life he had disavowed most of his early anti-Gnostic polemic, but his immature convictions became a central part of Church doctrine. The Holy Spirit was bound and gagged, the passage of the moon was arrested at the first stage, leaving us with a third of a goddess and an irrational fear of the irrational, a culture where feminine wisdom was removed from the discussion. Christians, with nothing better to believe in, fell into line behind their shepherds as a flock of docile sheep, and occasionally a gang of battering rams. But the lusty lion eats sheep for breakfast.

Gnostics questioned authority all the way from bishops up to YHVH Himself. He was Yao, the demiurge, a limited and ignorant being, master of a world where a perfectly innocent man is tortured and executed.996 He punishes Adam in envy997 and floods the world out of spite.998 He demands you “serve him in fear and slavery all the days of your life.” These ideas were quite common once; they are heretical today because of the political acumen of early church fathers.

There is a middle way between angry rejection of YHVH and capitulation to Him. This Lord is a part of us, and a condition of our world, to be accepted and observed. Whilst conditions can be overcome, He and His bishops have dominated us for millennia, and recently His Gospel of one true truth has been taken over by scientists and lawmakers who, like He, are convinced they know it all. YHVH censors BABALON’s narrative and filters out rays of infinity, but time is on her side. She flows on, a babbling brook, whilst he scribbles along, a bloody long book. YHVH thrust his way from A to Y, rubbing his way around the world, but all this friction is coming to a sticky end. BABALON keeps coming, a multiple, perpetual orgasm, pagan love juice streaming sweet scents of infinity, whereas His sense is finite. She swells, bears, shrivels, and reverts to her immaculate state. BABALON is mother of all and mistress of forms. Poetry tumbles from her void, lubricated with the intoxicating potion of liquid intelligence. She is the ever-changing moon, and He is an oldskool hardcore tune, remixed until the end of time.

The world begins with Mama. First comes Ma, Mama, Mum, Ima (Hebrew), Mae (Portuguese), and Mary, Mama’s mammaries, massive and milky and mine, for meeeeee! Baby-talk begins as cries and voiced exhalations, usually maaas, uums, aaams, maaams and mums. Nana and Inanna are mindlessly uttered, the names of the Yoruba and Sumerian mother goddesses. Maa can mean “measure” in Sanskrit, marking out the matrix and making the world. Mmmm describes pleasure. It is the sweet sound of sex, as the cosmic cervix draws us in, and makes everyone moan. “Tell me about your mother,” says the shrink, but he already knows. Mmmm may also be all the noise a dying man can make. Mother Mary is with us at the birth bed, the nuptial bed, and the deathbed, with a different face at each.

Outside of these sacred beds, however, some sense is required of us. Ma is where a baby finds her voice, but ba is the first word, an easy plosive phoneme somewhere between the immensity of ma and the point of pah, between utterance and eloquence. Ma-ma-ma comes endlessly and mindlessly from a baby’s mouth. Once we get to pah and fah, father, papa, pater (Latin) and pitara (Sanskrit), we know who we’re talking about, but thoughts begin with a bah. The Bible begins “in the beginning” with “Bereshit,” not the first but the second Hebrew letter, and it is forbidden to inquire into the breath of aleph before the beth.999 Now we’re talkin’, but listen to the sense we’re making. We’re babies talking boobies and baba. Baba is slang for “poo” in Japanese, whilst ba is the root of aunty, and Baa-san means granny. In Gujarati mother is ba, and in Greek it is buha; it is feminine, but over in Yoruba lands, baba is father, and in Hebrew father is abba. Ab is a masculine root in Hebrew, and macho man Abraham was the root of the tribe, beginning with the breath of aleph followed by beth. Ba crosses the border, as yet undecided what it wants to mean. This is where BABALON babbles and bubbles, forming sense and nonsense at the edge of the cosmic cervix, before “who’s yer dada?” becomes a question. Phonemes frame coded chaos, and the world is cut into shape. Mama/Papa is the first division, and some of the first words learned, soon followed by other dualities: on/off, hot/cold, up/down, and so on. Now spend the rest of your life trying to get over that one. . .

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,”1000 but when the divine word is uttered, the aeon crumbles. It is the beginning and the end, the Alpha, the Omega, and the mega-Om, the opening of the cosmic joke and its rib-splitting punch line. The word which contains all words is the set that contains all sets. (Georg Cantor, a pioneer of number theory, began the first of many extended stays in the nuthouse after postulating and trying to get his head around the infinite set.) All other words are limited, bound at both ends. BABALON will be bound, and you can bend her any way you wish, but whatever kinky position you have in mind, she ends up on top. Entering her mysteries at the point of ecstasy, sense fails as blinding blackness descends. The magician penetrates the unconscious void, his wand firm amidst the undulations. From here he can direct his will where he will, and shape magick worlds with magick words.

The goddess’ cycle generates a stable world, but this world doesn’t go anywhere. YHVH breaks through the wave, devastating intervention causing permanent transformation. His name changed over the rises and falls of empires, but His story has been roughly the same, ever since stories have been pressed into clay, ever since Gilgamesh spurned the goddess of love to trek to the end of the earth in a futile quest for immortality. YHVH’s earthly representatives wrote the law on a monolith raised over Babylon. His lawyers started the oldest argument and are still holding freedom hostage. He is Yaldabaoth, “child of chaos,” order arising from the noise of the void. He is the phallus, erect with desire, and He makes the goddess writhe when He respects her infinity over His limits. But when He offers her the rank shabbiness of Mr. Loverman, He degrades her, and sickness follows.

In the beginning was the Word, which split into a confusion of tongues and perspectives to interpret our beautiful universe. Under the homogenising force of Christianity, most of the world was united, but for this to happen the moon had to be fixed and the tides held back. The Western psyche has finally grown up enough to enjoy Sophia’s many tongues in his ear, and just in the nick of time. Nukes, gung-ho bioengineering, rampant materialism and fundamentalist fools threaten our survival, but meanwhile new technologies force us into a global system, a net that stretches rather than a tower that falls. It grows by forming links rather than by pressing down on old foundations. It brings us together whilst maintaining our space. We are a few clicks, not bricks, away from New Jerusalem, and a few ticks away from complete annihilation. Sit back and enjoy the grand-finale. The goddess is returning, and she’s still a virgin, but this time she’s in fishnets.

It is time to remember her, succulent and delicious, and to give her the love she deserves. The virgin planet is long since fucked, rubbed raw by the jealous god manhandling her and intellectual rapists forcing themselves upon her, siring bastards. She can’t help us anymore; she is not present at the resurrection. It is time to get a curvier goddess with “remarkable genitals” back on top where she belongs. She is eying you across the cosmic dance floor, waiting for you to come over to her side. Her pheromones permeate the air with significance and the magick of the everyday. Feel her rhythms, and your step gets funkier. Caress her curves and your clumsy desires are transformed. Her dark eyes bewitch, and she invites your embrace. Kiss her and the void is at the tip of your tongue, for she is aching with fertility. She lives for loving touches in the right places, but only a serious pervert goes looking for the G-spot with an endoscope.

The divine harlot teases us to give up our currency of exchange, the meaning we make of the world. She lures us across the abyss into wordless silence. She strips us of our material attachments and draws us up into the universal current, one small step for a man, one giant leap for a tin-canned mind. The beast that sends a respectable reverend running wild through the streets of Kuala Lumpur can be yoked and redirected towards the infinite. Hold tight the reins, for the clear light outshines the red light. The whore and the virgin are one, a mirror reflecting what you offer, an empty page dreaming of stories, a quiet space aching for song. Touched by the wand, she erupts in a fountain of words, ever-changing, redefining and recreating. Approach as you will, and receive what you deserve. Let her fleece you of everything you own, let her take you into her chamber on her terms, and she will open your eyes to the universe: Yin-yang, thank-you Ma’am! Offer her arguments and rationalisations, however, and she might tear out your balls.

However illogical and wrong it is, for her it is right, even if the neighbours are complaining, even if the last bus is leaving, even if the world is ending. . . The goddess is a mega-babe, but occasionally something dreadful comes tearing out of the void. We are due for a tremendous whack of PMT. There will be hot flushes, violent mood-swings, broken crockery and rivers of blood as the womb is cleared to make way for the birth of the New Aeon. A small-minded man deserts his beloved at a time like this, but a wise man keeps his head down, sweeping up what she smashes up, strong but silent at the eye of the storm, bringing her cups of tea as they pass through this difficult period together.

“Strength” was not the only card Uncle Al renamed. He also changed the final card from “The World” to “The Universe,” expanding horizons for the New Aeon. As the sun prepares to change its ways to save our souls and cool off Mother Earth, the awakened are breaking through the scales of this dimension into the astral, and into galactic consciousness. Kepler’s intuition about the harmonies in the solar system has been proved true with modern measurements.1001 The sizes, speeds and positions of the planets are governed by mathematical constants and laws, and related to our musical scale. The math is too complex to go into here, but the reason that the moon is exactly the right size to obscure the sun during an eclipse is because of the exquisite order governing the sizes and positions of the heavenly bodies. . .

The solar system is swimming in harmonic relationships, but macro-organisation stretches even beyond it into the apparent chaos of the galaxy. Magnetic fields have recently been discovered acting across galaxies, coherent domains over distances hitherto unimagined by physicists.1002 Sirius, the star of BABALON, is the brightest star in the sky, and almost the same size as our sun, but not quite. The ratio is an intriguing 1:1.053, a harmonic constant precise to three decimal places, putting the stars into resonance. The same ratio is said to be coded into the sizes of the pyramids, and other astronomical harmonics are coded into Stone Henge and Mayan monuments.1003

Oh my goodness gracious goddess, things are getting Sirius! Here at the end, the reverend reveals himself, with whores and heresies from East Asia to Outer Space, my goodness graceless godless me! Listen carefully, you sons of virgins and sons of whores, you daughters of purity and sin, listen to the ba-ba-bits and bobs broadcast on Radio BABALON. There is sense amongst the nonsense, order amidst the chaos, and meaning in the madness. All this crazy maths is a bit far-fetched for my pulpit, to be honest, but call it what you like, Starseed transmissions or amphibious extraterrestrials, there is something about Sirius that attracts the attention of the skyward bound. I could go on about Sirius at length, others have, at great length, but Nemu’s End has an impending and very final deadline, and I don’t have time to sift the chod from the chaff. I prefer to dream. And you are invited.

Perhaps Uncle Al’s greatest service to humanity was to get together with Auntie Frieda and redesign the tarot deck. Tarot is all about revelation. A deck of cards is a random number generator par excellence. The cut pulls code from the chaos of the shuffle, throwing out a story of numbers and elements, princes and players to reveal the themes beneath the surface. Each of the twenty-two tarot trumps represents one of the twenty-two chapters of Revelation, and trumps are named after the trumpets the angels blow in this intriguing book.

There is one final trump Uncle Al renamed, the second last, the penultimate step on “The Fool”’s journey towards “The Universe” and understanding of the whole. It was called “The Final Judgment” in traditional decks, but he called it “The Aeon,” because. . .

. . . shhhhhhhhhh. . .

Perhaps we should keep quiet about that.


931-938 — Not supplied by author.
939 — Matthew 1: 20-23
940 — Isaiah 7:14 (KJV)
941 — Proverbs 30:19 (Jewish Publication Society Bible)
942 — Song of Solomon 6:8-9
943 — Judges 11
944 — Tractate Ketubot 62b
945 — Ketubot 5:6
946 — ibid 48a
947 — Genesis 38:15
948 — Tractate Abodah Zarah 17
949 — A Hymn to Inanna as Ninegala — The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, lines 109-115
950 — Hymn to Inanna, Segment A
951 — ibid, Segment I
952 — ibid, Segment D
953 — ibid, Segment I.
954 — An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary: With an Index of English Words, King List, and Geographical List
with Indexes, List of Hieroglyphic Characters, Coptic and Semitic Alphabets etc.
by Ernest Alfred Wallis; Budge (New York, 1978) p. 310
955 — Matthew 27:61
956 — John 20:14
957 — Romans 16:6
958 — Acts 12:12
959 — John 11:2, 12:3
960 — Mark 14:10
961 — The Egyptian Book of the Dead – The Chapter of Breathing the Air and of Having Power over Water in
962 — John 11:1
963 — Luke 7:45
964 — ibid 7:37-47
965 — ibid 7:47
966 — Geography by Strabo 8.6.20
967 — Luke 8:2
968 — The Wisdom of the Egyptians by Brian Brown, [1923] p. 283
969 — The Making of the Magdalen: Preaching and Popular Devotion in the Later Middle Ages by Katherine
Ludwig; Jansen (Princeton, 2000) pp. 34-38
970 — Saint Augustine by Garry Wills (Guernsey, 1999) pp. 130-139
971 — Shakespeare’s Sexual Language by Gordon Williams (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006) p.143
972 — Acts 12:4
973 — Ezekiel 8:14
974 — Third Epistle of Cyril to Nestorius
975 — Church Dogmatics by Karl Barth, Geoffrey William Bromiley, Thomas Forsyth; Torrance (Continuum
International Publishing Group, 1961) p. 141
976 — Munificentissimus Deus by Pope Pius XII (November 1950) article 45
977 — Witchcraft Persecutions in Bavaria: Popular Magic, Religious Zealotry and Reason of State in Early
Modern Europe
bu Wolfgang Behringer, J. C. Grayson, David Lederer (J. C. Grayson, David Lederer
trans.) (Cambridge, 1997) p. 66
978 — Matthew 27:56
979 — Mark 15:40, 47
980 — Matthew 27:61
981 — Mark 16:1
982 — Matthew 28:5
983 — The Gospel of Judas, Published by the National Geographic Society, 2006 &
The Gospel according to Bart by David V. Borett in The Fortean Times 221, April 2007
984 — The Gospel of Philip (Wesley W. Isenberg trans)
985 — Acts of John, verse 93
986 — The Apocalypse of Peter (James Brashler and Roger A. Bullard trans.)
987 — The Gospel of Mary 4: 38
988 — Pagels p. 105
989 — The Apocalypse of Peter (Brashler, J & Bullard. R. A. trans.)
990 — Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels, (Penguin 1986) p. 60
991 — Libros Quinque Adversus Haereses by Irineus 1.13.5
992 — Hislop pp. 19-20
993 — On the Apparel of Women – Tertullian, Book I. (Rev. S. Thelwall trans.)
994 — De Spectaculis – Tertullian
995 — Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels, (Penguin 1986) p. 53
996 — The Apocalypse of Adam (George W. MacRae trans.)
997 — The Testimony of Truth
998. Hypostasis of the Archons
999 — Genesis Rabbah 1:10
1000 — John 1:1
1001 — Kepler by Max Casper (C. Doris Hellman trans.) (London, 1959) pp. 264-290
1002 — Precocious Galaxy’s Magnetic Field is Bizarrely StrongNew Scientist webstite 1st October, 2008
1003 — The Sirius Mystery by Robert Temple, 3rd edition

©2010 by The Reverend Nemu
Edited by Sheta Kaey

The Reverend Nemu first started thinking about the apocalypse whilst baiting the Jehovah’s Witnesses who appeared at his door. Since then he has written a fat book on the removal of the veil, studying it from various perspectives, including as a neurological process which can occur for an individual at any time, and a collective cultural cataclysm which happens occasionally in history.

Nemu’s End: The History, Psychology and Poetry of the Apocalypse is presented on his Web site, and our current unfolding apocalypse is the subject of his blog.

He really is a reverend, albeit an irreverent one, and is available for weddings, christenings and funerals.

The Purpose of Ritual, Meditation, and Other Practices in Thelema

The Purpose of Ritual, Meditation, and Other Practices in Thelema

When doing some practice or ritual, if one is a Thelemite then one must always ask this question:

How does this help the fulfillment of my Will?

Too many times do Thelemites perform ceremonial rituals and yoga practices for some aim other than the fulfillment of their Wills.
Thelema often speaks of Initiation, the Great Work, Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, Nothing/ Naught/ None, union of opposites, etc. which represents the attainment of the “consciousness of the continuity of existence” wherein one becomes “chief of all,” insofar as one becomes identified with the All. The Universe and the Self are understood as one Thing, a state of non-duality. This unity is called “Nothing” because it is continuous (see Liber Al Vel Legis I:22-23, 26-30). This is the First Step or the Next Step. One’s Will is the dynamic nature of the Self: if you don’t fully know the nature of that Self, then one cannot fully express that nature.

Therefore, attainment of “the consciousness of continuity of existence” must be every aspirant’s First Aim. “There is a single main definition of the object of all magical Ritual. It is the uniting of the Microcosm with the Macrocosm. The Supreme and Complete Ritual is therefore the Invocation of the Holy Guardian Angel; or, in the language of Mysticism, Union with God. All other magical Rituals are particular cases of this general principle. . .” (Magick in Theory and Practice). If one seeks the Will of the True Self, one must attain to that True Self. “The True Self is the meaning of the True Will: know thyself through Thy Way” (“The Heart of the Master“). In this way, all Acts must be done “To me,” with the intention of the attainment of Infinity in one’s mind.

Once one has attained to “Naught” (Solve), then one’s task is the formulation of that Divinity in motion (Coagula). The True Self has been attained, now it must express itself in the world. “To me” now takes on a new meaning: All Acts must be done as an acknowledgment of that Infinity, as a fulfillment of one of its Possibilities. “To me” means treating all Acts as sacred. . . as participation in the Joyful Sacrament of Existence. Further, since the Higher (the attainment of unity of perception) has been attained and solidified, the Lower must be consolidated. The mind and body must be fortified and enhanced by all means. The Book of the Law says “Wisdom says: be strong! Then canst thou bear more joy.” The mind and body are the means of manifestation of Divinity in the world; they are the means by which the All may become self-aware of itself in the Many. Therefore just as a polished diamond may reflect light more clearly, so must the mind and body be “polished” to reflect the Supernal Light more purely. One must “Contemplate your own Nature,” “Explore the Nature and Powers of your own Being,” and “Develop in due harmony and proportion every faculty which you posses” (Duty). The body must be strong and healthy, and the mind must be elastic and ever-expanding in its limits & knowledge. Not only must one’s faculties be strong, but one must always “exceed! exceed!” You must “Go… unto the outermost places and subdue all things” (Liber LXV) and “Extend the dominion of your consciousness, and its control of all forces alien to it, to the utmost” (Duty). This must always be done with the fulfillment of one’s Will in mind as the impetus; whether one is attempting to attain to Unity or attempting to fortify the mind and body to fashion a suitable vehicle for Divinity to manifest is up to the individual.

We’ve seen that all ritual, yoga, or any workings must be towards the end of the fulfillment of the Will. First, “the consciousness of the continuity of existence” must be attained, and secondly one’s mind and body must be strengthened, fortified, explored, contemplated, and their dominion extended. The former might be called the Mystic Half of the Path, and the latter might be called the Magick Half of the Path. Either way, both the Higher and the Lower must be attained “For Perfection abideth not in the Pinnacles, or in the Foundations, but in the ordered Harmony of one with all” (“Liber Causae“). If an Act is not made “To me,” either as a desire of one’s spirit to unite with All Things or as a rapturous love-cry coming from the joy of participation in the World… “if the ritual be not ever unto me: then expect the direful judgments of Ra Hoor Khuit!”

“There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.”

©2009 by IAO131.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.

IAO131 is the creator and editor of the Journal of Thelemic Studies and author of many essays on Thelema, magick, and mysticism including a short treatise called “Naturalistic Occultism.” You can find his blog here.

Book Review: Initiation in the Aeon of the Child

December 15, 2009 by  
Filed under books, initiation, mysticism, reviews, thelema

Book Review: Initiation in the Aeon of the Child

J. Daniel Gunther
Ibis Press (January 1, 2009)
ISBN: 978-0892541454
224 pages
Reviewer: Shawn Gray

This is truly one of the most informative new esoteric books that I’ve read in quite a while. When I heard that a new book had come out that was immediately put on the required reading list for students of the A∴A∴, I wasted no time in borrowing it from a friend. After reading it through, I wasted no time in getting myself a copy as well. Gunther’s 30-plus years of A∴A∴ experience comes shining through in this work explaining the new formula of initiation in the Aeon of Thelema and the how this applies to the methods of magick and mysticism as taught in the A∴A∴.

Gunther is not new to the field of publication, although this work will likely be the one that he becomes best known for. He serves on the editorial board of The Equinox (published by Weiser) and has also acted as consultant and adviser for other publications on the subject of occultism. This combination of both publication experience and practical knowledge in the magick of the A∴A∴ makes Gunther eminently qualified to write a book on this subject, as indicated by both Hymenaeus Beta, head of Ordo Templi Orientis, and James Wasserman, well known occult author and practitioner, in their comments on the jacket and in the introduction.

The author’s aim in writing this book is to shed light on the change brought to initiatic formulas with the advent of the New Aeon of Thelema, and how these changes affect aspirants in their practices and outlooks on life. One way in which he does this is to compare and contrast the new initiatic formula with the old motif of the Dying God with its “corrupt model of Purification Through Suffering.” This is certainly not the first time that this comparison has been made in a literary work, but the depth and knowledge that Gunther brings to the discussion makes this book a fascinating read. Rather than simply quickly and shallowly describing the Egyptian background to the Thelemic understanding of the Aeons of Isis, Osiris and Horus, as has been done many times before, Gunther brings well documented Egyptology to the table. His use of academic references provides the discussion with a solid grounding in sound scholarship, and his explanation of the detail of Egyptian hieroglyphs is one that I found fascinating.

The Egyptian angle is not the only one that the author uses to support his discussion. He also makes use of the psychological work of Jung and Neumann in discussing the role of images and archetypes in formulating our understanding of the initiatic formulas. With the weight of these scholarly sources lending stability to the academic foundation of his work, Gunther makes use of key texts of Thelemic mysticism (The Vision and the Voice, Liber LXV, etc.) to explain the unique perspective on the process of initiation encountered in Thelemic systems — both O.T.O. and A∴A∴. While the author explicitly states that he is not a member of the O.T.O., he certainly has a deep understanding of the Thelemic initiatory process in both systems (and offers an enlightening discussion on the differences between the two in a recent interview on the Thelema Now! Podcast).

Despite all of the scholarly references, the footnotes, and the impressive bibliography (which can be intimidating to some), Gunther’s book is not a difficult read. At only 191 pages (excluding the excellent glossary and appendices), it is not overly lengthy. On the contrary, one wonders just how it is that the author packs so much “advanced” information into such a short work and still manages to make it so readable and comprehensible. It’s like Aleister Crowley meets Lon Milo DuQuette. In fact I must concur with Wasserman, who on the back of the jacket states that in his opinion, this book is “the most important original work to be published since the death of Aleister Crowley.” Hymenaeus Beta even goes so far as to state that this book deserves a place in the curriculum of the O.T.O., showing what kind of reception this book is getting in the Thelemic community in general.

The originality of this work is one of its strongest points. It does deal with some material that has been covered before on a cursory level in other books, but the depth that he brings to the discussion of the theme of Thelemic initiation, and the degree to which he elaborates on themes that many people may only have a passing grasp of, make it a valuable and educational read. I cannot recommend this book highly enough to those interested in Thelema — its mysticism, cosmology, and system of initiation.

©2009 by Shawn Gray.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.

New Aeon Initiation, Part 3

October 22, 2009 by  
Filed under mysticism, qabalah, self-transformation, thelema

New Aeon Initiation, Part 3

4) Self as Redeemer

“There is no god but man” — Liber Oz

One common attribute of the Old Aeon systems is their insistence on the baseness, sinfulness, and helplessness of humanity. In this view, mankind is naturally in a state spiritual blindness, deafness, and dumbness; we don’t know what is best for ourselves, and we’re aimless when left to our own devices. This often translates into the necessity of giving oneself up to a higher power outside of oneself: to the priest class, to the guru, to God, and (most recently) to the State. In the New Aeon, we place no faith on the grace of any god or guru; we assert no need to become Initiate beyond ourselves.

As was mentioned in the last section, each person must unite with both the “lower” (“the abyss of depth,” “that Blind Creature of the Slime”) and “higher” (“the abyss of height,” “the glittering Image”) Companion — those “Upright” and “Averse” aspects of themselves beyond the current awareness of the ego, which must be released, explored, and assimilated. A very important facet of this “great mystery” is that, “that Companion is Yourself. Ye can have no other Companion” (“Liber Tzaddi,” lines 34-35). Although we seek to unite with those abysses beyond our selves (insofar as “self” is here considered as the ego-self), those abysses are parts of yourself. In terms of psychology, they are the unconscious aspects of the human psyche, which isn’t just “below” the ego (i.e. “lower,” “animalistic” drives, the “Qliphothic” in Qabalistic terms; “that Blind Creature of the Slime”) but is also “above” (insofar as it contains the “higher,” “divine,” the “Neschamah” in Qabalistic terms; “the glittering Image”). We realize then that Initiation does not consist in “coming to God” or receiving “the grace of God” insofar as we consider a God separate or “above” ourselves, but rather, in the New Aeon, each person coming to a fuller, truer understanding of the Self is what constitutes Initiation. This is because “Initiation means the Journey Inwards” (Little Essays Toward Truth, “Mastery”), and the Godhead we seek is not something other than our True Selves. As Crowley writes, “Behold! the Kingdom of God is within you, even as the Sun standeth eternal in the heavens, equal at midnight and at noon. He riseth not: he setteth not: it is but the shadow of the earth which concealeth him, or the clouds upon her face” (De Lege Libellum). Again, we assert that this Self is always present, even at the beginning of the Great Work of coming to know it, although we normally function in and revert to the state of identifying with our minds and bodies (i.e., our normal ego-conception of the self).

This Work of coming to reveal and identify with the True Self does not require the blessing of priests, the empowerment of gurus, the presence of a “Master,” the grace of God, or the funding of the State. Each person must “Lift up thyself!” (Liber Al II:78). In one sense, it is only by the individual’s own courage, persistence, and hard work that the Great Work can ever be accomplished. In another sense, Truth — the realization of one’s True Self beyond dualities — cannot be communicated.

It is as futile to try to communicate the experience of Unity with All Things as it is describing red to a blind person. We can use metaphors or analogies but they will never actually understand until they have experienced it themselves. As Crowley says, “all real secrets are incommunicable” (Magick: in Theory and Practice, Chapter 9), and this is because “truth is supra-rational” and so it is therefore “incommunicable in the language of reason” (Postcards to Probationers). Therefore, if there is any “faith,” it is the confidence conferred by the “consciousness of the continuity of existence” (Liber Al I:26). This perception of Truth can only be partially communicated in poetics, metaphors, symbols, and analogies; it is the direct, individual experience of the True Self which brings real understanding of the Truth as that which is beyond dualities.

One can imagine the perception of Truth as a flower unfolding in the heart of every man and every woman: It is something inherent in the individual, which is revealed. Humanity is not sinful, degenerate, empty, or untrustworthy, but rather each individual is a Star, each a fountain of Godhead, and each inherently Divine. It is the work of the individual to realize this Divinity in him- or herself, coming to know themselves not as the ego but as the True Self which transcends all opposites: “ye [shall] look upon yourselves, and behold All Things that are in Truth One Thing only” (De Lege Libellum). This “consciousness of the continuity of existence” is no supernatural, extraterrestrial, supra-mundane, posthumous fantasy: Each person can attain to this awareness here on earth, during this life.

Every man must overcome his own obstacles, expose his own illusions” — Liber Causae, line 4

5) No Perfection of the Soul

“The soul is in its own nature, perfect purity, perfect calm, perfect silence… This soul can never be injured, never marred, never defiled” — Soul of the Desert

This idea is related strongly to the ideas in the last section of the Self as Redeemer. We assert there is no reliance on God, guru, priest, or any external authority, but it is a misnomer to say we “redeem” ourselves, for there is nothing to redeem. Crowley writes, “Redemption is a bad word; it implies a debt. For every star possesses boundless wealth; the only proper way to deal with the ignorant is to bring them to the knowledge of their starry heritage” (The Book of Thoth). The “soul” does not need to be redeemed for it is perfect and pure in itself; it only is because of ignorance of our own Divine Birthright that we think ourselves imperfect and transient. This “soul” isn’t the personality of the individual — the ego-self which identifies with the mind and body — but rather the Self which is coterminous with All Things.

The True Self never dies, as it is beyond all limitation, containing all things and relations within Itself. The body along with the mind surely will expire but it is only through the mysterious mechanisms of this mind and body that the Self, beyond all limits and opposites, may become self-aware and consciously experience the rapture of existence. This Self does not need to be redeemed or perfected: there is no Fall of Man to be rectified (Abrahamic religions) nor a Wheel of Suffering to be liberated from (Dharmic religions). There is no sense of the soul incarnating to attain to higher and higher “spiritual states” or towards “enlightenment.” In the New Aeon, the “starting point” is not a fallen, suffering, and sinful state. Rather, we are all Royal and Divine, Divinity made manifest, and “existence is pure joy” (Liber Al II:9) if it is seen with eyes that “Bind nothing!” (Liber Al I:22), i.e., eyes that see the unity underlying apparent dualities. As it is said, “Since all things are God, in all things thou seest just so much of God as thy capacity affordeth thee” (The Vision and the Voice, 17th Aethyr). The essential symbol-metaphor is that the Star of Unity is always shining, potentially conscious, but we identify with the ego-self and are therefore mired in duality and limitation. (Once you identify with the ego, you are immediately not the non-ego or the world and therefore the world becomes Two instead of One.) Crowley writes on this imagery in The Law Is For All:

“We are not to regard ourselves as base beings, without whose sphere is Light or ‘God.’ Our minds and bodies are veils of the Light within. The uninitiate is a ‘Dark Star,’ and the Great Work for him is to make his veils transparent by ‘purifying’ them. This ‘purification’ is really ‘simplification’; it is not that the veil is dirty, but that the complexity of its folds makes it opaque. The Great Work therefore consists principally in the solution of complexes. Everything in itself is perfect, but when things are muddled, they become ‘evil.'”

The important point is that “everything in itself is perfect” but our minds inevitably “muddle” the situation which ends with us identifying with the ego instead of the True Self. Because all things are perfect in themselves, we obviously do not need any kind of God or guru to bestow redemption, liberation, or initiation upon us; the aspirant need only clear away the cloud-veils of ignorance around her Star, and the True Self will leap up within her awareness and burn away all division and limitation. As Crowley explains in The Law Is For All,

“This ‘star’ or ‘Inmost Light’ is the original, individual, eternal essence . . . we are warned against the idea of a Pleroma, a flame of which we are Sparks, and to which we return when we ‘attain.’ That would indeed be to make the whole curse of separate existence ridiculous, a senseless and inexcusable folly. It would throw us back on the dilemma of Manichaeism. The idea of incarnations ‘perfecting’ a thing originally perfect by definition is imbecile. The only sane solution is as given previously, to suppose that the Perfect enjoys experience of (apparent) Imperfection.”

In the New Aeon, we go even further than one might expect: The “ignorance” of duality is not inherently evil or bad at all, either. In short, duality is “ignorance” for one who still identifies with the ego, but once one has dissolved the ego and identified with the True Self, one recognizes duality as the necessary means for self-awareness. For the individual mired in duality and identification with the ego, “coition-dissolution” is her formula, but one who has dissolved the ego and identified with the True Self has the formula of “creation-parturition” . . . and “The All, thus interwoven of These, is Bliss” (Book of Lies). The body, and the mind with its inherently dualistic concepts, are a prison of ignorance for the uninitiate and a temple for performing the Sacrament of Life for the initiate. It may take the experience of the dissolution of the ego to overcome the morbid fear of death and accept duality not as the condition of our suffering but as the opportunity for us to rejoice in the uniting of diverse elements (self and world in each experience, along with the Supreme Union of ego and non-ego/subject and object). The world is both “None… and two” (Liber Al I:28) . . . None, the continuous, is “divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union. This is the creation of the world, that the pain of division is as nothing, and the joy of dissolution all” (Liber Al I:29-30). In this conception, duality and the creation of the world as we know it (i.e., the normal, dualistic world which we commonly inhabit) is actually the condition of “the chance of union.” Only if two things are separate can they unite and have the possibility of “the joy of dissolution” wherein the self becomes “all.” Crowley explains, “Nuit shews the object of creating the Illusion of Duality. She said: The world exists as two, for only so can there be known the Joy of Love, whereby are Two made One. Aught that is One is alone, and has little pain in making itself two, that it may know itself, and love itself, and rejoice therein” (Djeridensis Working). Thereby does one embrace both unity and multiplicity (duality) in a higher Unity.

This perception of “the consciousness of the continuity of existence” (Liber Al I:22) is not something given by a god or a guru but a natural birthright of each individual. It is, as described in the first part, a natural step of growth towards psychological-spiritual maturity. And this also leads us to the final point: Even this is a step along the Path. It may be the “end” in one sense (the end of the dominance of the ego, for once thing) but it is also the beginning, for “death is life to come” (Book of Lies). One still has to live one’s life. One might say, “Before initiation: work, live, and play; after initiation: work, live, and play,” for coming to identify with the True Self doesn’t mean the end of one’s mind and body along with their normal needs. In fact, the mind and body — the ego-self — are not destroyed permanently but rather they are reborn with renewed energy, the veils of ignorance (of duality as well as the falsity of the doctrines of the Fall of Man and the inherent Suffering of the world) having been torn away. One does not suddenly obtain the earthly power of a king or have the intellectual power of Einstein, but the change is something largely “internal” or psychological, for in initiation, “nothing is changed or can be changed; but all is trulier [sic] understood with every step” (Little Essays Toward Truth, “Mastery”). It is this understanding of our True Selves, beyond the veils of mind and body, which we each strive to attain so that we may more effectively and joyfully manifest our wills in the world. The task is then simple yet difficult: Each individual must dissolve the ego and his identification with it to identify with the True Self, always shining though we are unaware, which is beyond dualities and all limitation. In the end, “All you have to do is to be yourself, to do your will, and to rejoice” (The Law of Liberty).

“No star can stray from its self-chosen course: for in the infinite soul of space all ways are endless, all-embracing: perfect.” — The Heart of the Master

&inf;) Summary

  1. Death/Attainment as Non-cataclysmic
    • “. . . There is that which remains.” — Liber Al vel Legis II:9
    • Death (both of the ego and of the body) is no longer seen as cataclysmic in the New Aeon.
    • The New Aeon views Death not as an end but as the possibility for new Life.
    • Initiation (the myth-drama of each individual’s Path) is no longer portrayed as “The Man performing Self-Sacrifice” but as “The Child Growing to Maturity.”
    • The Old Aeon views death as a cataclysmic event whereas the New Aeon views it as a necessary step in the progress of Growth.
    • The work of each person is the release of identification with the ego and the consequent identification with Horus, that which transcends Life and Death (and all dualities).
    • “With courage conquering fear shall ye approach me: ye shall lay down your heads upon mine altar, expecting the sweep of the sword. But the first kiss of love shall be radiant on your lips; and all my darkness and terror shall turn to light and joy. Only those who fear shall fail.” — Liber Tzaddi, lines 16-18
  2. The True Self contains Good & Evil, Upright & Averse
    • “My adepts stand upright; their head above the heavens, their feet below the hells.” — Liber Tzaddi, line 40
    • In the New Aeon we assert that the True Self contains (and thereby transcends) both Good and Evil.
    • The method of Initiation in the New Aeon is therefore one of Union of Opposites and Equilibrium.
    • Horus, the Sun, is a symbol of That which contains and transcends dualities, an image of our True Selves, identical in essence yet diverse in expression for each individual.
    • “For Perfection abideth not in the Pinnacles, or in the Foundations, but in the ordered Harmony of one with all.” — Liber Causae, line 32
  3. Embrace of the World
    • “Enjoy all things of sense and rapture . . .” — Liber Al vel Legis II:22
    • Each star — each individual — is the center of self-awareness and expression of Heaven on Earth.
    • The Earth is not a prison, but a Temple where the sacrament of Life may be enacted; the body is not corrupt, but a pulsing and thriving vessel for the expression of Energy; sex is not sinful, but a mysterious conduit of pleasure and power as well as an lmage of the ecstatic nature of all Experience.
    • The Cosmological Picture of the New Aeon is that all Experiences are acts of Love between Infinite Forms (“Nuit”) and Infinite Forces (“Hadit”).
    • The Formula of the Scarlet Woman applies to every individual (not just females) and refers to the attitude of accepting all things into oneself, refusing nothing, and growing through their assimilation.
    • “Behold! these be grave mysteries; for there are also of my friends who be hermits. Now think not to find them in the forest or on the mountain; but in beds of purple, caressed by magnificent beasts of women with large limbs, and fire and light in their eyes, and masses of flaming hair about them; there shall ye find them. Ye shall see them at rule, at victorious armies, at all the joy; and there shall be in them a joy a million times greater than this.” — Liber Al vel Legis, II:24
  4. Self as Redeemer
    • “There is no god but man” — “Liber Oz
    • In the New Aeon, we place no faith on the grace of any god or guru; we assert no need to become Initiate beyond oneself.
    • We realize then that Initiation does not consist in “coming to God” or receiving “the grace of God” insofar as we consider a God separate or “above” ourselves, but rather, in the New Aeon, each person coming to a fuller, truer understanding of the Self is what constitutes Initiation.
    • This perception of Truth can only be partially communicated in poetics, metaphors, symbols, and analogies: it is the direct, individual experience of the True Self which brings real understanding of the Truth as That which is beyond dualities.
    • Every man must overcome his own obstacles, expose his own illusions” — Liber Causae, line 4
  5. No Perfection of the Soul
    • “The soul is in its own nature, perfect purity, perfect calm, perfect silence… This soul can never be injured, never marred, never defiled” — Soul of the Desert
    • The True Self never dies as it is beyond all limitation, containing all things and relations within Itself.
    • The essential symbol-metaphor is that the Star of Unity is always shining, potentially conscious, but we identify with the ego-self and are therefore mired in duality and limitation (once you identify with the ego, you are immediately not the non-ego or the world and therefore the world becomes Two instead of One).
    • Because all things are perfect in themselves, we obviously do not need any kind of God or guru to bestow redemption, liberation, or initiation upon us: the aspirant need only clear away the cloud-veils of ignorance around her Star, and the True Self will leap up within her awareness and burn away all division and limitation.
    • The body and the mind, with its inherently dualistic conceptions, are a prison of ignorance for the uninitiate and a temple for performing the Sacrament of Life for the initiate.
    • “No star can stray from its self-chosen course: for in the infinite soul of space all ways are endless, all-embracing: perfect.” — The Heart of the Master

Editor’s Note: While many titles of the libers of Thelema are typically presented in quotation marks rather than italics, we have used italics to make the references in this article easier to find while scanning quickly.

See part one of this series here, and part two here.
©2009 by IAO131
Edited by Sheta Kaey

New Aeon Initiation, Part 2

July 19, 2009 by  
Filed under mysticism, qabalah, self-transformation, thelema

New Aeon Initiation, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) Embrace of the World

“Enjoy all things of sense and rapture… —” Liber Al Vel Legis II:22

We found the True Self which we come to identify with in Initiation is beyond the duality of Life and Death (part 1) as well as the duality of Good and Evil (part 2). Now we unite yet another divide with an embrace of the physical, “mundane” world. Another common dichotomy (at least in the West) that has split the psyche of man is Spirit versus Matter, or Sacred versus Profane.

In the ancient and medieval world, the predominant conception of the universe was of an earth below and the heavens above. People conceived the law of the Heavens as perfect and the Earth as degraded. Isaac Newton was one of the main figures who helped bridge the gap between Heaven and Earth. He said that the same force which makes objects fall on earth is the same force which makes the celestial objects in heaven move in their orbits: gravity. Symbolically and literally, Newton said the heavens and earth do not have separate laws but abide by one law. Also, we now know that the heavens are not above us but surround us on all sides. There is no separation between the “mundane” Earth and the spiritual” Heavens: Earth is literally immersed in the Heavens.

In the New Aeon we assert that “Every man and every woman is a star” (Liber Al I:3). On the physical level, we are all literally made of star-stuff (or “stardust”), as Carl Sagan was fond of noting, but there is a more important meaning here. Nuit — who says of herself, “I am Heaven” (Liber Al I:21) — is a symbol of the Infinite Space in which we are all immersed. Each star — each individual — is the center of self-awareness and expression of Heaven on Earth. Crowley writes, “Know firmly, o my son, that the true Will cannot err; for this is thine appointed course in Heaven, in whose order is Perfection” (Liber Aleph, “De Somniis [delta]”). In an important sense, this asserts that we too are in a perfect course through Heaven just as the celestial stars are. In the New Aeon there is an “unveiling of the company of heaven” (Liber Al I:2): every man and every woman. We are each Gods, Stars going their unique Ways in Heaven. Crowley comments, “[The] Pantheism of AL: The Book of the Law shows forth all things as God” (“Djeridensis Comment”) and “The ‘company of heaven’ is Mankind, and its ‘unveiling’ is the assertion of the independent godhead of every man and every woman!” (The Law Is For All).

From all these considerations its easy to see that in the New Aeon, not only does the True Self transcend the duality of Heaven and Earth/Spiritual and Mundane, but there is essentially no distinction between them at all. The Earth is not a prison, but a Temple where the sacrament of Life may be enacted; the body is not corrupt, but a pulsing and thriving vessel for the expression of Energy; sex is not sinful, but a mysterious conduit of pleasure and power as well as an lmage of the ecstatic nature of all Experience.

In fact, the embrace of the world, and even an ecstatic embrace of the world, naturally comes from cosmological perspective of the New Aeon. “Existence is pure joy” (Liber Al II:9) in the New Aeon (and not pure sorrow as some old hypochondriac and many pessimists since have suggested). We are also told, “the Truth of the universe is delight” (The Vision and the Voice, 17th Aethyr). This is because the Cosmological Picture of the New Aeon is that all Experiences are acts of Love between Infinite Forms (“Nuit”) and Infinite Forces (“Hadit”).

“Hadit, who is the complement of Nuit [“the infinite in whom all we live and move and have our being”]… is eternal energy, the Infinite Motion of Things, the central core of all being. The manifested Universe comes from the marriage of Nuit and Hadit; without this could no thing be. This eternal, this perpetual marriage-feast is then the nature of things themselves; and therefore everything that is, is a crystallization of divine ecstasy.” —Liber DCCCXXXVII: The Law of Liberty

Therefore, in the New Aeon we see every experience as the joyful union between Form and Force, Infinite Space and Infinite Motion. The world itself is an expression of Divinity, and therefore there is no reason to retreat from it in New Aeon Initiation. Just as we must transcend the dualities of Life & Death and Good & Evil, we must transcend the duality of Heaven & Earth, Sacred & Profane. We are told in the 19th Aethyr of The Vision and the Voice, “Worship all things; for all things are alike necessary to the Being of the All.” This idea of worshipping all things, and not making a distinction between “spiritual” and “mundane,” leads to the Formula of the Scarlet Woman.

“The Formula of the Scarlet Woman” refers to a certain attitude to the world. The Scarlet Woman is traditionally associated with the image of a whore, who symbolically represents “that which allows anything and everything into itself.” The opposite image is that of a chaste woman who shuts herself up and does not allow any intimate contact with anything around herself. Crowley writes, “The Enemy is this Shutting up of things. Shutting the Door is preventing the Operation of Change, i.e. of Love… It is this ‘shutting up’ that is hideous, the image of death. It is the opposite of Going, which is God” (The Law Is For All). The whore is an image of Change and the embrace of all things without distinction, and the chaste woman is an image of Stagnation and the separation from all things. The chaste woman is also therefore an image of the ego which refuses to give up its claim to be “King of the Mountain” (the True Self is the rightful “King” and the ego its minister, but the ego insists on claiming this title). Just like a chaste woman will not “let herself go” to have intimate relations with others, the ego will not “let itself go” to dissolve in the non-ego, the rest of the world, so that the individual may become One (beyond dualities). As mentioned in part 1, the work of we mentioned that “the work of each person is the release of identification with the ego and the consequent identification with Horus, That which transcends Life and Death (and all dualities).” We are therefore a “chaste woman” if we refuse to release identification with the ego and insist on a world of division (i.e. a world of ego vs. world of non-ego). This is another example of the “averse” or “sinister” symbolism that is often used in the New Aeon: the symbol of stagnation is a chaste woman (chastity being a “virtue” in the Old Aeons) and the symbol of growth and change is a whore (promiscuity/sensuality being a “vice”/”sinful” in the Old Aeons). In summary: the Formula of the Scarlet Woman applies to every individual (not just females) and refers to the attitude of accepting all things into oneself, refusing nothing, and growing through their assimilation. Crowley writes, “[This is] a counsel to accept all impressions; it is the formula of the Scarlet woman; but no impression must be allowed to dominate you, only to fructify you; just as the artist, seeing an object, does not worship it, but breeds a masterpiece from it” (Book of Lies, Chapter 4). Therefore, we accept all things but we do not thereby become a passive, lifeless receptacle which is buffeted by external forces; instead we must allow all things “to fructify” us. We all accept all things but we also turn these things towards the accomplishment of our Wills.

Here is an illustration of this point: a musical composer does not neglect C# as “profane” or “not worthy” but accepts all notes as worthy and beautiful in themselves, yet that does not mean his song will consist of hitting all the keys at once. On the contrary, he selects among the possible notes, arranges them in accordance with his vision, and produces a particular composition. The same idea is true for the Scarlet Woman, for the Formula of the Scarlet Woman is the acceptance of all things no matter if they are “unclean” or “mundane.” Crowley insists, “I urge you to beware of the pride of the spirit, of the thought of anything as evil or unclean. Make all things serve you in your Magick [causing Change in conformity with Will] as weapons” (“Djeridensis Comment”).

In short, in the New Aeon we do not avoid the things of the world or the world itself in fear of it being “unspiritual,” “profane,” or “mundane.” On the contrary, each individual is immersed in Heaven itself, as a Star among Stars. In the New Aeon, each individual proclaims, “All things are sacred to me” (Liber A’ash, line 29), and enacts “the Formula of the Scarlet Woman,” refusing nothing and accepting all. Thereby does each individual come to embody the union between (and the fruit of) Heaven and Earth.

“Behold! these be grave mysteries; for there are also of my friends who be hermits. Now think not to find them in the forest or on the mountain; but in beds of purple, caressed by magnificent beasts of women with large limbs, and fire and light in their eyes, and masses of flaming hair about them; there shall ye find them. Ye shall see them at rule, at victorious armies, at all the joy; and there shall be in them a joy a million times greater than this.” — Liber Al Vel Legis, II:24

Editor’s Note: While many titles of the libers of Thelema are typically presented in quotation marks rather than italics, we have used italics to make the references in this article easier to find while scanning quickly.

See part one of this series here, and part three here.
©2009 IAO131
Edited by Sheta Kaey

The Four Suits of the Tarot Deck – A Brief Exposition

The Four Suits of the Tarot Deck - A Brief Exposition


A plethora of works exist on the subject of the Tarot; some well informed, some less so. At the outset of the formulation of this essay, permit me to state that there are two key maxims derived from the teachings of the Golden Dawn and of Aleister Crowley to which I adhere as well as I am able:

  1. As above, so below
  2. The goals of religion, the methods of science

This philosophical framework compels and requires that observations and analysis concerning the Tarot should be harbored within the contexts of broader occult and scientific philosophy, without which its symbols would have little or no meaning. For the Tarot is most assuredly not in any sense an entity with absolute properties and values as its dominant trait, but rather comprises a complex set of mirrors and microscopes through which an attuned mind may view the universe that lies beyond the confines of four-dimensional space and time. Thus, if we wish to examine the properties of complex molecules with a view to discovering more of their intrinsic physical properties, we may use an electron microscope as our tool, whereas exploration of the universe’s more subjective and spiritual phenomena and properties is aided by the instrument of the Tarot.

But before we can use any instrument, we must first understand and become intimately familiar with that instrument. In the case of the electron microscope, this requires a fairly deep understanding of physics, of the the dual wave/particle nature of electrons and their interaction with other particles of various classes. To achieve this understanding we rely on a prerequisite understanding of mathematics, and of course of engineering which is the discipline through which our scientific mastery is both expressed and expanded.

Although the Tarot is predicated on an understanding of metaphysics rather than the physics of Einstein and Penrose, et al. And yet, there are overlaps that provide tantalizing glimpses of how we might yet arrive at a “Theory of Everything,” or TOE, by eventually combining the teachings of both schools. Such an achievement lies many decades into the future though, as the criteria of measurement adopted by each of these schools are divided by differing views on the nature of consciousness and its role in perception. Let us proceed then to the framework within which the Tarot exists, and the natural world which it both reflects and focuses within the mind of the practitioner. We will not be discussing the history of the Tarot here, as we are concerned with its properties rather than its provenance, much as a physicist is generally concerned with the nature of matter rather than the history of science. The suits are those of Aleister Crowley’s Thoth deck: Wands, Swords, Cups and Disks.

Metaphysical Context

Whilst the introduction to this essay may be regarded as generally true for all students and practitioners of the occult sciences in general, this section is focused on three specific areas of practice and study of particular importance to this author:

  1. Qabalah
  2. Alchemy
  3. Astrology

The Tarot deck we shall be considering is the Thoth deck designed by Aleister Crowley and painted by Lady Frieda Harris. You may then deduce that our essay has a somewhat Thelemic bias. However, given the universal scope of the Qabalah, I venture to say that its chief metaphysical construct, the Tree of Life, encompasses all belief systems whatsoever and that by using its remarkable properties we are able to continue the Great Work of synthesis to which so many adepts from all schools have contributed for millennia. In other words, if you are a Pagan, a Witch, a Christian, A Buddhist, a Thelemite, or any other type of spiritual or occult practitioner, there’s room for you and your beliefs on the Tree. However, some may find the context in which their belief systems are set somewhat difficult to accept. Let us then make our first definitive statements on The Tarot:

  1. The Tarot is an active Mirror of the Universe comprised of agents and forces through which an adept may view the trajectory of events and forces that underpin events in the real world, and thereby achieve knowledge of “real world” events.
  2. The Tarot reflects four levels of existence, as do the Qabalah and Alchemy.
  3. The Tarot incorporates the forces of astrology.

We will illustrate the validity of these statements as we examine each of the four suits in turn. We begin with the Suit of Wands.

The Suit of Wands by Hettie Rowley

The Suit of Wands

Image ©2009 by Hettie Rowley

As is well known, alchemy claims four elements as the foundation of the universe: Fire, Air, Earth and Water. We will not here attempt a separate exegesis on this matter, but rather weave the essential nature of each element to its attributed suit.

The Suit of Wands represents the alchemical element Fire, which we consider to be a limitless force of passion that finds expression in great outbursts of energy. As much as we find the passion of Fire concealed within the nature of combustible materials, so do we also in the hearts of men. Not for nothing are the Celts known as a fiery, warlike people.

We see then that the Suit of Wands is associated with Archetypal Ideas, a concept that we will shortly reinforce. We should consider Alchemical Fire as a metaphor for its mundane namesake, and thus readily intuit the passionate yet short-lived nature of the phenomenon by which its nature is expressed: the fury of the raging bull, the battle lust of the inflamed warrior. But equally, we see the inspiration of the thinker and prophet, the sudden thought underlying the inspirational speech of the orator, and the potential for combustion lying within the atomic structure of potassium and the molecular structure of petroleum.

Moving on to Qabalistic schema, we find that this suit represents the most ethereal of the four levels of creation, Atziluth, which is the domain of archetypes, of the potential of all things in the most tenuous sense. Although we may regard the world of Atziluth as eternal, it is important to be aware that in its realization in our material existence, it takes the form of fleeting inspiration, of sudden realization and compulsion to action. We need also to understand that the element of Fire is but the vehicle that conveys the one aspect of the impulse of a higher source and state of being. So when we find a card from this suit in our spread, we immediately note these elementary aspects.

But of course, Fire is modified by its environment. For instance, in the Two of Wands we find the astrological attribution of Mars in Aries, wherein the fury of the rage of war is ascendant and a great release of energy must ensue. In a Thelemic sense, this may represent “Pure Will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result… (Liber Al I:44).” And so we see the neat interlocking of the astrological and alchemical schema with those of the Qabalah and Thelema, thus affirming our conviction that the Tarot is indeed a map of the universe.

The Suit of Swords by Hettie Rowley

The Suit of Swords

Image ©2009 by Hettie Rowley

The Suit of Swords is assigned to Air. Alchemical Air is considered to be the issue of Fire and Water. As such, it is a more complex idea than those underpinning other elements. The first and foremost power we attribute to Air is that of intellect, of cold, dispassionate analysis. The act of analysis, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is to break something into its constituent parts. And so it seems that nature itself has an inbuilt capacity for introspection.

In humans, this capacity, this expression of Air, is usually tempered with the illusions of Water, the reality of Earth and the passion of Fire. When this is not the case, we observe a sad and sorry creature, a human mind denuded of an appreciation for beauty, incapable of feeling; a calculating machine that knows logic alone.

In the Qabalistic scheme, Air corresponds to the domain of Beriah, the realm wherein the inspiration and passion of Atziluth is reduced to working schema and plans. This is the realm of the engineer as much as it is of the artist. So when viewing cards of this suit we should always be aware of the detachment implicit in the agency of Air. I have written elsewhere that we should always consider Air as the seed of the potential for division. This links most appositely with Thelemic scripture, wherein it is stated that, “For I am divided for Love’s sake, for the chance of union. . . (Liber Al 1:29).”

For as the redoubtable Mr. Crowley once told us, there are only two operations in all of nature: division and synthesis. To illustrate the astrological influences on this suit, we will use the example of the Two of Swords, which is assigned to the Moon in Libra. The Moon we regard as indicative of illusion, of distortion through the lens of Water and Libra, an Air sign as balanced force. Combining these things, we deduce that this card indicates a strongly driven intellectual force that is balanced and yet potentially misleading and illusory.

The Suit of Cups by Hettie Rowley

The Suit of Cups

Image ©2009 by Hettie Rowley

This suit is allocated to Alchemical Water. Immediately, a range of relationships and attributions spring to mind here: the Moon, Scorpio, illusion, the Sephira Binah, Cancer, Pisces and much else. An analogy with the mundane element is instructive when we consider the long term erosive effect of water; its power to confuse through reflection and distortion of reality exists together with the correlative power to most perfectly reflect an image of reality without ever being reality in itself.

Water is the fluidity of all things, nature’s capacity to dissolve the universe. Equally, Water is the element of rebirth after death, the incubator of time and life, the source of love. Which aspect is represented on any card depends as always on its position on the Tree, whether as a court card or a numbered card from one through to ten, each number representing a specific aspect of reality as existence unfolds from the nothingness of eternity into the fourfold realm of the Qabalah. Let us examine the Three of Cups as an example whereby we may illustrate the synthesis of meanings.

The Three of Cups is assigned to Mercury in Cancer. This means that the torrent of Water, or unrestrained love, symbolized by Cancer is quickened by the Word of the Logos, which provides us with the archetype of fertility, of an act of impregnation giving rise to the birth of the realization of an idea, of a concept. One of the children of water is of course Air, as described for the Suit of Swords, above. The problem for the reader and the querent is that Water is always the dominant influence in this suit, and so discerning reality from illusion may be difficult.

Further reinforcing this viewpoint is the attribution of the Suit of Cups to the Qabalistic domain Yetzirah, which is the realm of formation, of the fluidity of merged and swirling concepts that are about to differentiate and solidify in the “lowest” of the worlds, Assiyah. We readily observe that the properties of Yetzirah are fully consonant with the alchemical and astrological symbols we have so far attributed to this suit.

Further insight to The Suit of Cups is provided by the above image of Our Lady, the Holy Whore, Babalon. Here we see the Cup of the Blood of the Saints contained in Babalon’s Grail. On her forehead is the alchemical symbol of water, complemented by the Hebrew letter Mem lower down, symbol of the Great Sea of Binah, the Great Mother from whom all life and consciousness arise. Babalon accepts all, but first, every drop of blood must be surrendered to her Cup. Notice also the Moon representing the reflective powers of Water, its mystery and periodic brilliance.

To summarize then, in The Suit of Cups, we have the expression of alchemical Water, representing the womb of those things that will rise from death. And yet, Water also represents the decay of death, the final phases of corruption. We end this brief and inadequate section by repeating our assertion that Water is both truth and illusion, and remains so even under the influence of Mars or Jupiter, but most assuredly when refracting the light of Venus or the Moon.

The Suit of Disks by Hettie Rowley

The Suit of Disks

Image ©2009 by Hettie Rowley

We arrive now at the Suit of Disks, corresponding to the Qabalistic domain of Assiyah, the material world (in some respects, at least). Here we expect outcomes in measurable and identifiable morphology and dimension. Disks are assigned to the alchemical element Earth and, as such, represent the properties of the universe as we commonly perceive it. Whilst the origin of time for instance is with Binah, third of the emanations (Sephiroth) on the Tree of Life, in the domain of Earth, we are familiar with the fruits of time as aging, decay, sorrow and renewal.

There is solidity to this suit that dampens the lighter expressions of the planetary influences. There is an implied sluggishness, a lack of fluidity and fire. All of these things are well known, commonplace truths. But! The alchemists who devised these attributions were creatures of their own time, and worked to the boundaries of the knowledge available in their age. We now live in a radically different time, a transformed age within which our knowledge of the universe has grown immeasurably. Consider the following concerning the known composition of our physical universe:

  • Stars and Galaxies:   0.4%
  • Intergalactic Gas:      3.6%
  • Dark Matter:              22.0%
  • Dark Energy:             74.0%

The dark matter and energy are postulated by scientists as necessary factors to explain the expansion rate of the universe. However, they are termed dark because science as yet has no clue as to the true nature of either of these things. That last statement is most assuredly not a criticism of science, but given the gulf that still exists between the scientific and occult understanding of the universe, it seems possible that here lies at least a portion of the answer to the hiatus in our understanding.

Always we look to the gaps in our understanding for enlightenment, for the potential of synthesizing disparate facts into a greater and more cohesive whole. For this reason, I have dubbed Earth The Treasure-House of Limitless Secrets. For far from being the most understood of the elements, Earth may actually be the least, and our current understanding informs us that we must always look deeper than the surface in all earthly affairs if we are to have any chance of reaching the truth.

When we examine the Three of Disks as an example of this suit, we find the assignment of Mars in Capricorn, which denotes the fiery energy of Mars elevated in the domain of earthy Capricorn. This reminds us of the tale of Prometheus, bringer of Fire to humankind, exalted in the eyes of humanity yet brought low indeed in the eyes of the other gods.

The Qabalistic attribution of this card, assigned to Binah on the Tree of life, further damps the energy of fire with the dullness of time, and yet promises the birth of a new entity from the womb of the great mother. And so do we see the element of Earth, modified by its condition on each branch of the Tree of Life, as the dominant trait of the Suit of Disks.

The artwork of the figure just above illustrates the Sun and Moon forming the phallus of To Mega Therion, which is the counterpart of Babalon in her aspect as the fertile Earth and represented here by her seven pointed star. Their act of creation animates creation, penetrating and permeating the universe. Through the exchange of energies between these entities is the power of the Aeon of Horus unleashed. But this is no empty, unconscious outpouring of power, for the power of Horus permeates all even as he gazes over time’s latest landscape, ordering all in accordance with the precepts of Liber Al.

As Crowley states in The Book of Thoth, the newborn emerald green of Isis permeates the world, indicating the rebirth of Osiris as Horus. Again taking our cue from Crowley, the whirling spheres of nature indicate the vitality and power of Earth, of the final creation of Assiyah, and six wings support the composite globe of creation. Scattered in the darkness are the symbols of time and Earth: Saturn, the bringer of sorrow; the Earth signs of Taurus, Capricorn, and Virgo. And yet around the peripheries lies darkness, reflecting the current state of humanity’s ignorance. Surmounting the image is the Hebrew attribution to Malkhut, lowest of the Sephiroth, emphasizing the material level of the Suit of Disks. Finally, the number of the Master Therion, Aleister Crowley, Prophet of Aiwass and deliverer of The Book of the Law, is placed at the heart of the scheme.


We believe that this brief essay illustrates that the Tarot is a map of the universe synthesized from the knowledge of many mystical schools, but chiefly from Qabalah, Astrology and Alchemy. We have not attempted a complete exegesis here, but merely a brief distillation of a broader work in progress at this time.


Sincere thanks to Sheta Kaey, Editor in chief of Rending the Veil, for the opportunity to submit this article to such a wonderful, high quality publication. Hettie and I are deeply honored and grateful.

The Authors

The artwork embedded in this piece is by Hettie Rowley of the Thelema Trust. The written work is by Keith Rowley, who co-owns the Thelema Trust with Hettie. This piece is derived from an ongoing analysis of the Thoth Tarot that is being developed on the Thelema web site. A blog with RSS feeds and subscription capabilities is available for contributions and comments.

©2009 Keith Rowley
Illustrated by Hettie Rowley
Edited by Sheta Kaey

The Great Work of the Holy Guardian Angel

The Great Work of the Holy Guardian Angel by Sheta Kaey

“Angel” is a word that carries even more baggage than “soulmate” — baggage that goes back thousands of years to the beginnings of Judeo-Christian theology. While the most common definition of the word tends to be “messenger of God,” that raises the further question of “what is God?” and that’s a question I’m not going to touch with your ten-foot pole. It’s clear, however, that the Judeo-Christian majority in the Western world assumes that God and angels are known quantities, and that no one else should have any claim to them.

A long time acquaintance of mine has a relationship with a being many believe to be an archangel. His name is Azrael. My friend once told me, “Azrael says that angels are simply those who came before.” Meridjet appreciates the broad scope of that definition, and goes on to say that there is no explicit spiritual hierarchy as is often believed. There are no “higher” or “lower” beings, only less evolved and more evolved — further, if you like, but not higher. While the classification of higher and lower worlds and beings is useful, particularly in study of the Tree of Life, it’s important to remember that the map is not the territory. We should not fall into the trap of taking any symbol as literal truth, including the illusions of separation or hierarchy.

Most humans in the West, regardless of religion, tend to label worlds, planes, and beings of a subtler nature as “higher,” and worlds, planes, and beings of a less subtle, denser nature as “lower.” This labeling, while indeed useful for comprehension and aspiration, unfortunately grew into a judgment call. In time, any denser being was assumed to be evil, while any subtler being was assumed to be fundamentally good. While the hierarchical label itself isn’t a problem, the assumptions it invites are problematic because the nature of any being is not reliant upon its vibrational level any more than a television station on the “higher” digital band is essentially more divine than a television station on the “lower” analog band.

Angels, when reduced to the bare bones of the concept, are mediators between the divine and humankind, providing guidance, instruction, and service for the betterment of individuals and the whole of the species. This does not mean, however, that they are the light to a demon’s darkness in some cosmic polarity dividing the universe into “good” and “evil.” All beings have light and darkness within them, and all beings are capable of comforting as well as brutalizing us, if given sufficient cause. In the name of growth, most actions are acceptable. This is a very frightening thought.

In Thelema, my favored philosophy, there is the concept of the Holy Guardian Angel. This is not the usual “guardian angel” that hopeful individuals invoke in difficult or stressful situations, but something more akin to Socrates’ higher genius, what he called his daemon. Yet it is more than that. The function of the Holy Guardian Angel (HGA) is part higher self and part autonomous spirit guide, with a healthy dollop of animus (or anima, as the case may be), all wrapped up in mysterious, powerful attraction. It’s never firmly defined in any text, including this one, as it’s a concept that cannot be grasped without the experience to provide the Eureka!, the epiphany of understanding that accompanies all great truths.

The purpose of the HGA is generally described as “revealing your True Will,” “revealing your Great Work,” or “leading you to your life’s purpose.” These concepts, then, are often assumed to be synonymous. But as with the concept of hierarchy, these should not be taken merely at face value. I’ll attempt to explain them, and then circle back to illustrate my point. The “life’s purpose” is, of course, the reason you are here. It’s what you are meant to do. But how do you know what that purpose is? How do you discover it? Everyone judges the raison d´êtres of those who’ve passed on: When I was younger, people said that John Lennon had lived to promote peace and was killed when he’d learned all he needed to. Mother Teresa lived a life of sacrifice and love, caring for the poor; she was meant to set an example for the rest of us. Princess Diana’s life was meant to renew the inspiration of British royalty, while eschewing the status quo and traveling the world, revealing horrible conditions that even today we still seek to assuage. And so on. We speculate endlessly about the life purposes of now dead public figures because we find them easier to pigeonhole, to define according to our limited views of what’s important. Our own purposes elude us, and even as we seek them out, we may suffer doubt or fear that we’ve missed the signposts and are careening out of control, toward a death that will bring no easy epitaph.

Thelemites and magicians like to believe that they’ve got the inside scoop on what they’re meant to do with their lives. They talk about their HGAs and their True Wills, how “Love is the Law” and “compassion is the vice of Kings” as if they were members of a secret club giving out magic decoder rings to the worthy. Magical fraternities and orders perpetuate this belief by keeping certain teachings for the inner orders, available only by petition and initiation. “Would you like to learn why you’re here? Step right up and we’ll show you your life’s purpose!” This “life’s purpose” is the blind, or false information that sets the ignorant upon a pointless path, often found in magical texts and especially in the writings of Aleister Crowley. Or, if you’d rather, not really false information, in this case, so much as divergent information.

The Great Work is the term used by Thelemites to refer to the life’s purpose, which is revealed to the individual who receives Knowledge and Conversation with his or her Holy Guardian Angel (KCHGA). The blind exists in the novice’s assumption that one’s Great Work is mundane: to become something within the span of this lifetime that gains recognition, contributes something to the world, or in some way leads to the usual definition of “success.” When a magician claims to have KCHGA and in the next sentence refers to his Great Work as a mundane, finite goal, he reveals himself to be a fraud.

In actuality, the Great Work refers to the true (and infinite) goal of everyone, everywhere, regardless of race, creed, intelligence, or any other factor. This goal is simple: to evolve. To become something better today than we were yesterday. To grow as individuals. To put it in New Age terms, it’s the raising of the consciousness of humanity, ushering us into that New Age, or New Aeon, when restriction falls away and freedom equals harmony. It’s a pipe dream, when applied to the world as a whole; there is never going to be a recognizable dawning of a New Aeon, and certainly not in some great cosmic shift as so many like to believe. Dawn is incremental; by its very nature it is impossible to gauge except in retrospect: By the time the light of humanity (or day) shines brightly enough to be recognized, the dawn will have passed.

Furthermore, a single day’s worth of encounters with random humanity is enough to illustrate the vast number of people who have no interest in evolving unless it serves their most immediate needs. If they can’t see the payoff, they’re not going to bother. Case in point: Who believes that the wife-beater down the street who spends his entire welfare check on beer and weed has any desire to become more? But when you consider the individuals who do have an interest in that becoming, it’s at the very least food for thought. The world is made up of individuals, and someday maybe the majority will make that choice — to become more — one at a time, and will tip the scales in favor of that New Aeon. (In my opinion, this mundane universe is a compressed, self-contained learning system — a classroom — and eventually, everyone will move on to those “higher” vibrations and pass to a more enlightened universe. Whether this one ever really dawns into something more hopeful is very nearly immaterial.) And this brings us to the True Will.

The True Will is completely the property of the HGA. People, magicians, Thelemites can harp all day about making conscious choices and about how acting like a buffoon during an important meeting is their “true will,” but that won’t make it so. The True Will transcends conscious awareness, and it manipulates us in spite of ourselves. Make that choice, decide just one time that you’re going to seriously, truly dedicate yourself to your personal growth, and your True Will steps up to the plate and takes over. You may have never heard of the concept, but (unlike missionaries converting the savages to the love of Christ) it’s not necessary to know of it, because your conscious involvement is of little concern. The True Will is set into gear by your dedication, your choice, taking over like a spiritual autopilot, bringing you into line time and again. You may not get there — to “more” — via the most direct route, and you may not get there painlessly (in fact, the odds are against it), but you will get there, because once you’ve made the commitment, the Universe responds to every move you make with either momentum (supporting your conscious choices) or a slap upside the head. Have you ever felt battered by circumstances, asking yourself what you did to deserve this? Try looking around — what are you being shown? What is the Universe, and your HGA (KCHGA or not), trying to show you? Stop playing the victim, and take responsibility for the lesson. If you don’t, those slaps will just keep getting harder.

As the governor of True Will, your HGA will lead you in whatever way is necessary to accomplish your evolution. You’re now on the fast track, and look out, because (as a friend once said to me), your HGA will rip your arm off and smack you with it if he thinks that’s what will get the point across. I strongly advise listening before things get to the arm-ripping point.

Not your mother’s guardian angel, is it?

This article is excerpted from the upcoming book, Infinite Possibility.

Sheta Kaey is Editor in Chief of Rending the Veil and is working on her first book, Infinite Possibility. You can read her blog here.

©2009 by Sheta Kaey
Edited by Sarenth

New Aeon Initiation, Part One

June 2, 2009 by  
Filed under initiation, mysticism, thelema

New Aeon Initiation, Part One

0) Introduction

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

A New Aeon was proclaimed and begun in April of 1904 with the reception of The Book of the Law: Liber Al Vel Legis. A New Aeon implies a new paradigm or a new point of view with which to view the world. According to Liber Causae, “In all systems of religion is to be found a system of Initiation, which may be defined as the process by which a man comes to learn that unknown Crown.” If Initiation is common to “all systems of religion,” then how is Initiation to be understood in this Aeon of the Crowned and Conquering Child? What are the paradigm shifts which characterize the point of view from this New Aeon?

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

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

1) Death / Attainment as Non-Cataclysmic

“…There is that which remains.”
Liber Al Vel Legis II:9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Symbolically, this means Initiation (the myth-drama of each individual’s Path) is no longer portrayed as “The Man performing Self-Sacrifice” but as “The Child Growing to Maturity.” On this Crowley writes, “What then is the formula of the initiation of Horus? It will no longer be that of the Man, through Death. It will be the natural growth of the Child. His experiences will no more be regarded as catastrophic. Their hieroglyph is the Fool: the innocent and impotent Harpocrates Babe becomes the Horus Adult by obtaining the Wand (Crowley, Liber Samekh).” The idea is one of coming to maturity, specifically of “obtaining the Wand,” which represents the creative, generative power: this experience constitutes “spiritual puberty” for the individual, one might say. The process is not a cataclysm that needs rectifying (although puberty often seems cataclysmic!) but a natural process of growth and fulfillment of human potential.

Each person must destroy his or her ego self and come to identify with the True Self. Every man and woman must “break down the fortress of thine Individual Self, that thy Truth may spring free from the ruins (Crowley, The Heart of the Master). This necessarily involves the death or dissolution of the ego (“thine Individual Self”) to which many people are strongly attached. This is why death is seen as catastrophic: people view losses as catastrophic and the greatest lost to people is the loss of their ego. In both the Old and New Aeons, the ego must experience death in process of Initiation. The difference is the view of this phenomenon: the Old Aeon views death as a cataclysmic event whereas the New Aeon views it as a necessary step in the progress of Growth. As Crowley explains, “The Ego fears to lose control of the course of the mind… The Ego is justly apprehensive, for this ecstasy will lead to a situation when its annihilation will be decreed… Remember that the Ego is not really the centre and crown of the individual; indeed the whole trouble arises from its false claim to be so (Crowley, Commentary to Liber LXV I:60).”

Before the individual personally experiences the dissolution of his own ego, he must assimilate this New Aeon idea that “there is that which remains” after this death. Each person then must come to directly experience and even embody this truth — that is, each individual must come to know this truth through his or her own experience. “Faith must be slain by certainty,” as Crowley wrote (The Book of Thoth). We might even say that each person is psychologically stuck in the Old Aeon paradigm until he has this experience of the death of the ego. Only then can he be “freed of the obsession of the doom of the Ego in Death (Crowley, Little Essays Toward Truth, “Mastery”).” Only then can the individual identify with “that which remains,” which transcends but contains both Life and Death. In the New Aeon, each person “Let[s] the Illusion of the World pass over thee, unheeded, as thou goest from Midnight to the Morning. (Crowley, The Heart of the Master).”

The New Aeon is the Aeon of the Crowned and Conquering Child: Horus, Heru-Ra-Ha, Ra-Hoor-Khuit, and many other names. Horus is a symbol of the True Self that transcends Life and Death just as the Sun is a symbol of that which constantly shines even though day (Life) and night (Death) pass on earth, and just as the Child is a symbol of that which contains but transcends both mother (Life) and father (Death). In the “1st Aethyr” of The Vision and the Voice, Horus himself says of his nature:

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

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

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

On the formula of IAO, Crowley writes, “This formula is the principal and most characteristic formula of Osiris, of the Redemption of Mankind. ‘I’ is Isis, Nature, ruined by ‘A’, Apophis the Destroyer, and restored to life by the Redeemer Osiris (Crowley, Magick in Theory and Practice, Chapter 5 which should be consulted for a more full examination of VIAOV).” The basic idea is that I = Life which is ruined by A = Death/ Chaos which must then be redeemed by O. Existence is therefore a process of endless cataclysms which require redemption from this point of view.

How is this view changed from the point of view of New Aeon Initiation? Crowley writes, “THE MASTER THERION, in the Seventeenth year of the Aeon, has reconstructed the Word I A O to satisfy the new conditions of Magick imposed by progress.” Now, no one would deny that all things change, that “all things must pass,” but from the point of view of physics, energy is never created nor destroyed. It is simply transformed into different forms. If we identify with any of these partial phenomena which inevitably must be transformed, we are subject to death. If we “die daily” to our ego-self, to our sense of division or separateness from the world, then we come to identify with the Whole Process. “The many change and pass; the one remains (Liber Porta Lucis, line 20).”

The All contains all opposites within itself, it is the symbol of the Serpent itself whose undulations are Life and Death, and therefore is eternal. This True Self, the All which knows no division, is Horus and “that which remains.” It is with these ideas in mind we can understand why, in the New Aeon, IAO has become VIAOV. Basically, IAO has been surrounded by two Vs (these refer to the Hebrew letter “Vav” or the Greek letter “Digamma” for various reasons which can be investigated in Chapter 5 of Magick in Theory and Practice). What does this mean?

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

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

Moving onto AUM becoming AUMGN, Crowley writes,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Editor’s Note: While many titles of the libers of Thelema are typically presented in quotation marks rather than italics, we have used italics to make the references in this article easier to find while scanning quickly.

See part two of this series here, and part three here.
©2009 IAO131
Edited by Sheta Kaey

The Order of the Tarot Trumps

June 21, 2007 by  
Filed under divination, qabalah, tarot

The Order of the Tarot Trumps

Origins of the Tarot

The Tarot has been a central part of the Western esoteric tradition since 1781, when Antoine Court de Gébelin (1728-1784) made it a topic of interest by including two analytical essays on the subject in Volume 8 of his nine volume encyclopedia, Monde primitif, the separate volumes of which were published between the years 1773 and 1782. One of the essays was written by de Gébelin himself, and the other by Louis-Raphaël-Lucréce de Fayolle, comte de Mellet (1727-1804). My English translation of both essays was published in an earlier edition of Rending the Veil.

Court de Gébelin believed that the Tarot was Egyptian in its origins, that its 22 picture cards, known as the trumps, were based on the 22 letters of an Egyptian alphabet related to the Hebrew alphabet, and that it had been spread throughout the world by gypsies, who were thought by many scholars at the time to have come from Egypt. In all of these particulars he was quite wrong. Even so, his essay exerted a profound influence over the esoteric interpretation of the Tarot in France during the following century, through the writings of such occultists as Alphonse Louis Constant (1810-1875), who wrote under the pen name Éliphas Lévi, and Gérard Encausse (1865-1916), who was known as Papus. From France this bias made its way into the beliefs and practices of various esoteric schools, such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in England, and the Builders of the Adytum in America.

The true origins of the Tarot are, on the surface at least, quite mundane. They are known in a general way, although no one can say exactly when the Tarot was invented, or by whom. It first appeared in northern Italy around 1425 as a card game for bored and wealthy Italian aristocrats. The game was called the game of Tarot, and was a trick-taking game somewhat similar to bridge. It is still played today, and it is why the picture cards of the Tarot are known as trumps. The inspiration of its inventor was to add the 22 trumps to a set of 56 cards that was very similar to the common decks of playing cards in use in Europe at the time the game of Tarot was invented. More than one kind of Tarot deck came into being in the early decades of the 15th century, and the number of cards varied, but the Tarot quickly settled into its present pattern of 22 trumps and 56 minor cards in four suits.

Court de Gébelin may have been mistaken in his belief that the Tarot had an ancient and lofty origin among the priest class of Egypt, but he was not wrong to assign it a profound esoteric significance. Even today, the Tarot speaks to those who study it, using the language of symbolism. It became the central device for the system of occultism of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a secret Rosicrucian society established in London in 1888. The leaders of the Golden Dawn based much of their interpretations of the cards on the work of the French occultists of the 19th century. Through the teachings of the Golden Dawn, the Tarot correspondences used in that occult order were spread throughout the world, and are still the prevalent Tarot correspondences today.

Tarot Correspondences

Tarot correspondences are the sets of esoteric symbols associated with the Tarot. Each card is linked with symbols of occult forces, or names of spiritual beings, drawn from various sources such as alchemy, astrology, numerology, the Kabbalah, and geomancy. The links are more numerous in the case of the Tarot trumps, which bear images rich in meaning. For example, the trump the Magician is linked in the Golden Dawn system of magic with the Hebrew letter Beth, the number one, the astrological planet Mercury, the twelfth path on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, and with the ox, a beast associated esoterically with the Hebrew letter of this trump. Correspondences provide bridges to other correspondences. Because the trump, the Magician, is associated with the planet Mercury, it is also linked with the angel of Mercury, Raphael, the Intelligence of Mercury, Tiriel, and the Spirit of Mercury, Taphthartharath.

Since the occult correspondences for each Tarot trump are connected by various associative bridges, to manipulate any of them is to gain a measure of control over all of them. This works on the basis of the same general magical principle that governs the well known magical law of contagion, which states that a thing that was once in physical contact with someone is still in touch with that person on some deep level, and therefore manipulating the object causes influence to be exerted on the person it formerly touched. The associations connecting the forces and beings that form the occult correspondences for a Tarot card are like links in a chain. Move one link, and they all rattle.

The Golden Dawn Tarot correspondences are rooted in Court de Gébelin’s casual observation that there are 22 trumps, and 22 Hebrew letters. The French occultists such as Éliphas Lévi had already placed the trumps on the Hebrew alphabet by the time the leader of the Golden Dawn, S. L. MacGregor Mathers (1854-1918), came to create its system of esoteric Tarot correspondences. Mathers did not adopt exactly the same relationship as that used by Lévi, and that difference and others like it are what this essay is all about, but he followed the same general principle. Each Hebrew letter has various esoteric associations. By linking the Hebrew letter to a Tarot trump, those associations can be transferred to the trump.

Since, in modern Western magic, the Tarot trumps derive their correspondences through the Hebrew letters, it is obviously a matter of great significance which Hebrew letter is linked to which trump. The ordering of the Hebrew letters is not open to reinterpretation, but has been established and accepted for thousands of years. However, the ordering of the Tarot trumps does not have such an ancient or well-established history. Indeed, the earliest Tarot decks were unnumbered. The sequence of the Tarot trumps was a matter of oral tradition. It was passed on between those who played the game of Tarot, and it appears that in the decades following the invention of the Tarot, there was more than one accepted ordering for the trumps.

But, when the pack was first standardised, the subjects of the trump cards were standardised, too; they were at first everywhere the same.

Somewhat surprisingly, however, they were not everywhere arranged in the same order. The variations in order were not a later development, but must have occurred from the earliest moment when Tarot cards were known in the principal original centres of their use — Milan, Ferrara, Bologna and Florence.1

Trump Sequence of the Marseilles Tarot

We need not go into the earliest sequences of the trumps, some of which are uncertain, but may begin with Court de Gébelin, since it is with his Tarot essay of 1781 that the esoteric history of the Tarot really begins, at least in a documented manner — for there was an esoteric tradition of the Tarot in use in France in the late 18th century, when de Gébelin published his essay, but exactly what it taught, we cannot be sure, other than that some of those teachings must be reflected in de Gébelin’s essay.

Court de Gébelin accepted the traditional ordering of the trumps of his day, as it was codified in the numbering of the French pack of Tarot cards known as the Tarot of Marseilles. As I mentioned, the earliest Italian Tarot decks were unnumbered, but as early as 1490 card makers in Ferrara, Italy, probably began to place Roman numerals on the trumps, fixing them into a specific sequence. This practice was carried on by the early French card makers. It is uncertain which of the Italian trump sequences was adopted in what came to be known as the Tarot of Marseilles, but it is speculated that it may have been the ordering used by the Tarot card makers of Milan.2 The Marseilles sequence of trumps, with its original French spellings as they appear on the 1761 pack designed by Nicolas Conver, is as follows:

I. Le Bateleur (The Juggler)
II. La Papesse (The Female Pope)
III. L´ Imperatrice (The Empress)
IIII. L´ Empereur (The Emperor)
V. Le Pape (The Pope)
VI. L´ Amovrevx (The Lover)
VII. Le Chariot (The Chariot)
VIII. La Justice (Justice)
VIIII. L´ Hermite (The Hermit)
X. La Rove De Fortvne (The Wheel of Fortune)
XI. La Force (Strength)
XII. Le Pendu (The Hanged Man)
XIII. — (Death)
XIIII. Temperance (Temperance)
XV. Le Diable (The Devil)
XVI. La Maison Diev (The House of God)
XVII. L´ Etoille (The Star)
XVIII. La Lune (The Moon)
XVIIII. Le Soleil (The Sun)
XX. Le Jugement (Judgement)
XXI. Le Monde (The World)
Le Mat (The Fool)

A few points are to be noticed. The method of writing Roman numerals is slightly different from the accepted manner of today. Instead of using IV to represent the number four, IIII was used. Sometimes the letter “v” was employed where we would put the letter “u” today. The trump L´ Amovrevx is usually called the Lovers, but the singular form, the Lover, may be more accurate. It is translated in this way on the trump in the well-known Grimaud Tarot. The trump Death did not have its name written on the face of the card at all, although the title of this card was known to everyone using the Tarot. This was in keeping with the popular superstition that to speak the name of Death was to invoke this dreaded dark angel. The trump the Fool did not bear a number of any kind.

Trump Sequence of Court de Gébelin

Court de Gébelin renamed some of the trumps to give them a more Egyptian flavor, but he retained their Marseilles sequence. It was the usual custom to place the only trump that remained unnumbered, the Fool, at the end of the sequence, following XXI the World. Court de Gébelin declared that it should be numbered zero, because like the zero of mathematics, it has no value of its own, but only acquires value when added to other cards. This statement exerted profound influence over later occultists who wrote about the Tarot.

Court de Gébelin believed that the trumps should be arranged from highest number to lowest number, in the belief that the Egyptians &”began counting from the highest number, going down to the lowest4.” To interpret the cards correctly, he asserted, they must be examined in this manner. It was on this basis that he felt free to rename the Marseilles trump Judgement, which from its name might be expected to come at the end of the sequence, as Creation, which might be expected to come at or near the beginning. Here are the changed titles that de Gébelin applied to the trumps in their reversed order, followed by their usual Marseilles titles in English.

XXI. Time (The World)
XX. Creation (Judgement)
XIX. The Sun (The Sun)
XVIII. The Nile (The Moon)
XVII. The Dog-Star (The Star)
XVI. Castle of Plutus (The House of God)
XV. Typhon (The Devil)
XIV. Temperance (Temperance)
XIII. Death (Death)
XII. Prudence (The Hanged Man)
XI. Fortitude (Strength)
X. Wheel of Fortune (Wheel of Fortune)
IX. The Sage (The Hermit)
VIII. Justice (Justice)
VII. Osiris Triumphant (The Chariot)
VI. Marriage (The Lovers)
V. Chief Hierophant (The Pope)
IV. The Emperor (The Emperor)
III. The Empress (The Empress)
II. The High Priestess (The Female Pope)
I. Lord of Chance (The Juggler)
0. The Fool (The Fool)

Trump Sequence of the comte de Mellet

What de Gébelin did not do was make a direct relationship between the trumps and the Hebrew letters. However, it is obvious what arrangement he intended, and indeed, his contributor the comte de Mellet supplied the explicit arrangement that must also have been in de Gébelin’s thoughts, and applied the inverted sequence of the trumps to the Hebrew alphabet, with the final numbered trump, XXI the World, on the first letter, Aleph, and the unnumbered trump the Fool, to which de Gébelin gave the zero, on the final letter, Tau.

De Mellet seems to have been the first person to explicitly define a relationship between the trumps and Hebrew letters. He called the Fool by the title Madness, and changed some of the other names of the trumps, although his interpretations are not always exactly like those of de Gébelin. It is evident from his descriptions of the Pope and Popess (Female Pope) that he used the Tarot of Besancon, rather than the standard Marseilles pack, where the Pope is replaced by Jupiter and the Popess by Juno.5

Here is his sequence of the trumps on the Hebrew letters, along with the interpretations he gave them, translated into English. The more conventional names for the trumps are placed in parentheses.

XXI. The Universe (The World) — Aleph
XX. Creation of Man (Judgement) — Beth
XIX. Creation of the Sun (The Sun) — Gimel
XVIII. Creation of the Moon (The Moon) — Daleth
XVII. Creation of the Stars (The Star) — He
XVI. House of God (House of God) — Vau
XV. Typhon (The Devil) — Zayin
XIV. Angel of Temperance (Temperance) — Cheth
XIII. Death (Death) — Teth
XII. Prudence (The Hanged Man) — Yod
XI. Strength (Strength) — Kaph
X. Goddess Fortune (Wheel of Fortune) — Lamed
IX. The Sage (The Hermit) — Mem
VIII. Justice (Justice) — Nun
VII. Chariot of War (The Chariot) — Samekh
VI. Choice Between Vice or Virtue (The Lovers) — Ayin
V. The God Jupiter (The Pope) — Pe
IV. The King (The Emperor) — Tzaddi
III. The Queen (The Empress) — Qoph
II. The Goddess Juno (The Female Pope) — Resh
I. The Juggler (The Juggler) — Shin
0. Madness (The Fool) — Tau

Trump Sequence of Éliphas Lévi

When Éliphas Lévi brought forth the second volume of his two-part Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, published in French in 1855-6), he applied the sequence of the Marseilles trumps to the Hebrew alphabet in its traditional order, but he placed the Fool just before the final numbered trump, on the second-last Hebrew letter. Either he did not understand Court de Gébelin’s intention to invert the sequence of trumps, or as seems more likely, he chose to ignore it. He was convinced that the posture of the upper body of the Juggler defined the shape of the first Hebrew letter, Aleph, writing “His body and arms constitute the letter Aleph6.” This cannot be denied, but since few, if any, of the other figures on the cards resemble Hebrew letters, its significance is questionable. Below are his titles for the picture cards of the Tarot, and his placement of the trumps on the Hebrew letters.

I. The Juggler — Aleph
II. The Female Pope — Beth
III. The Empress — Gimel
IV. The Emperor — Daleth
V. The Pope — He
VI. Vice and Virtue — Vau
VII. Cubic Chariot — Zayin
VIII. Justice — Cheth
IX. Prudence — Teth
X. Wheel of Fortune — Yod
XI. Strength — Kaph XII
The Hanged Man — Lamed
XIII. Death — Mem
XIV. Temperance — Nun
XV. The Devil — Samekh
XVI. Tower Struck By Lightning — Ayin
XVII. The Blazing Star — Pe
XVIII. The Moon — Tzaddi
XIX. The Sun — Qoph
XX. The Judgement — Resh
0. The Fool — Shin
XXI. Kether — Tau

The placement of the Fool second from the end of the trump sequence had considerable influence on later writers on the Tarot. It is difficult to know how to justify this location for the Fool, which appears to have been put at the end of the trumps in the earliest arrangements of the cards, and was placed at the end of the inverted trump sequence by Court de Gébelin. The French occultist Jean-Baptiste Pitois (1811-1877), known by his pen name Paul Christian, imitated Lévi in this quixotic location of the Fool second from the end of the trumps, when he published his monumental (in size if not in content) work, Histoire de la Magie in 1870.7 Papus also followed Lévi’s lead in his Tarot of the Bohemians, first published in 1889, by placing the Fool on the second-last Hebrew letter, Shin, just before the final trump, the World.8 Neither bothered to justify this location for the Fool.

A. E. Waite also followed Lévi’s example and put his Fool second from the end of the trump sequence in his Pictorial Key to the Tarot, published in 1910, even though he held it to be incorrect. As a member of the Golden Dawn, Waite was bound by oath not to reveal the occult secrets of that Hermetic order, so he could not present the Golden Dawn sequence for the Tarot trumps, which he believed to be esoterically accurate. He deliberately presented what he knew to be a false arrangement of the trumps.

On the placement of the Fool, Waite wrote:

Court de Gébelin places it at the head of the whole series as the zero or negative which is presupposed by numeration, and as this is a simpler so also it is a better arrangement. It has been abandoned because in later times the cards have been attributed to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and there has been apparently some difficulty about allocating the zero symbol satisfactorily in a sequence of letters all of which signify numbers. In the present reference of the card to the letter Shin, which corresponds to 200, the difficulty or the unreason remains. The truth is that the real arrangement of the cards has never transpired.9

This quotation from Waite’s Pictorial Key is worth examining on several points. He was wrong to state that Court de Gébelin placed the Fool “at the head” of the trumps, since de Gé inverted the sequence, making trump XXI the head, and the zero card the Fool the tail. It is true that de Gébelin shifted the Fool from the end to the beginning of the sequence, but then he inverted the sequence, which put the Fool back on the end.

It is curious that Waite did not locate the Fool at the beginning of the trumps. This was the esoteric teaching of the Golden Dawn, so perhaps he felt honor-bound not to do so, lest it be construed as a betrayal of a secret. He felt that he knew the “real arrangement” of the trumps, but also felt that it must remain hidden from profane eyes. So he imitated Lévi, fully aware that Lévi’s placement of the Fool made no sense, and stating as much to his readers in his book.

In view of his reluctance to put the Fool at the head of the trumps, it is curious that Waite felt free to invert the places of VIII Justice and XI Strength. This inversion was based on the esoteric teaching of the Golden Dawn, and should have been just as taboo for Waite as the true location of the Fool. In his Pictorial Key he made this switch, but did not explain it or justify it to his readers.

Trump Sequence of the Golden Dawn

The location of the Fool at the head of the trumps, and the inversion in the places and numbers of Justice and Strength, are innovations of S. L. MacGregor Mathers, chief of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Around the time the Golden Dawn was establishing its first London temple, in 1888, Mathers and his wife were working on an esoteric Tarot deck. His wife Moïna, formerly Mina Bergson, sister of famous French philosopher, Henri Bergson, was an artist, and it was she who actually painted the designs for the new Tarot. Since she was a psychic who often helped her husband in receiving esoteric teachings from the spiritual leaders of the Golden Dawn, known as the Secret Chiefs, it is safe to assume that she was deeply involved not merely in the design, but also in the esoteric interpretation of the new Golden Dawn Tarot. Indeed, it is quite possible that the composition of the Golden Dawn Tarot owes more to Moïna Mathers than to Samuel Mathers.

The major innovation of the Golden Dawn was the absolute determination that the Fool be placed at the front of the Tarot trumps, before the Juggler, which in the Golden Dawn Tarot was called the Magician. This bumped all the trumps up one Hebrew letter. It created the awkward condition of having a card numbered zero falling on a Hebrew letter with a numerical value of one, and so for the rest of the trumps, each out by one number from its Hebrew letter — or at least, the first ten Hebrew letters, since after the letter Yod the number values of the Hebrew letters become non-consecutive, increasing by a factor of tens, and then hundreds.

This awkwardness becomes less distasteful, from an aesthetic point of view, when we realize that the numbers on the trumps are not in any way a part of the trumps. For example, the VII on the trump the Chariot is not attached in any way to this card — it merely indicates the location of this card in the trump sequence. How do we know this? Because originally no Tarot trump was numbered. The trumps are picture cards — their identities are in their pictures. The Roman numerals were applied to the trumps merely as an aid to memory, to insure that errors were not made in their sequence. The seven on the Seven of Wands is very much a part of that Tarot card — indeed, the greater portion of its identity — but the VII on the trump the Chariot is not a part of that trump, and may be removed without in any way diminishing the meaning of the trump.

The second innovation of the Golden Dawn, the inversion of the locations of Justice and Strength, was dictated by the way Mathers and his wife applied the trumps to the Hebrew letters. They used as their guide the most ancient of Kabbalistic texts, Sepher Yetzirah. In this texts, the 22 Hebrew letters are divided into three groups:

3 Mother letters: Aleph, Mem, Shin

7 Double letters: Beth, Gimel, Daleth, Kaph, Pe, Resh, Tau

12 Simple letters: He, Vau, Zayin, Cheth, Teth, Yod, Lamed, Nun, Samekh, Ayin, Tzaddi, Qoph.

The Mother letters are associated with three of the four philosophical elements, the Double letters with the seven planets of traditional astrology, and the Simple letters with the twelve signs of the zodiac. In the version of Sepher Yetzirah translated by W. Wynn Westcott, a leading member of the Golden Dawn, the placements of the elements and zodiac signs on the letters are explicit, but the placement of the planets is somewhat obscure, and open to various interpretations.

If the Tarot trumps were simply applied in order to the Hebrew letters, with the Fool on the first letter, then the trump VIII Justice would fall on the Simple letter Teth, and XI Strength would fall on the Simple letter Lamed. In the correspondence between the Simple letters and the zodiac signs that is given in Sepher Yetzirah, this would put the sign Leo on the trump Justice, and the sign Libra on the trump Strength.

But there is an obvious problem. Leo is the sign of the lion, a beast symbolic of virility and strength, and Libra is the sign of the scales, the primary symbol of justice. The trump Strength shows in its picture a lion, and the trump Justice shows in its picture a set of scales. It was obvious to Mathers, and indeed would be obvious to almost anyone, that it would be more appropriate to link the trump Justice with Libra, and the trump Strength with Leo. How could he do this? The Hebrew letters could not be inverted. The associations of the zodiac signs with the Simple letters could not be changed, since they are quite explicit in Sepher Yetzirah. The only thing to do was to invert the locations of trumps Justice and Strength, and this Mathers did. He renumbered Justice as XI and placed it after the Wheel of Fortune, and renumbered Strength as VIII and placed it after the Chariot. This corrected the obvious error in symbolism on these two trumps.

Here is the sequence of trumps used by the Golden Dawn, along with their Kabbalistic associations from Sepher Yetzirah. The names of some of the trumps were updated by Mathers, based primarily on suggestions in the writings of Court de Gébelin and Éliphas Lévi.

0. Fool — Aleph (Air)
I. Magician — Beth (Mercury)
II. High Priestess — Gimel (Moon)
III. Empress — Daleth (Venus)
IV. Emperor — He (Aries)
V. Hierophant — Vau (Taurus)
VI. Lovers — Zayin (Gemini)
VII. Chariot — Cheth (Cancer)
VIII. Fortitude — Teth (Leo)
IX. Hermit — Yod (Virgo)
X. Wheel of Fortune — Kaph (Jupiter)
XI. Justice — Lamed (Libra)
XII. Hanged Man — Mem (Water)
XIII. Death — Nun (Scorpio)
XIV. Temperance — Samekh (Sagittarius)
XV. Devil — Ayin (Capricorn)
XVI. Blasted Tower — Pe (Mars)
XVII. The Star — Tzaddi (Aquarius)
XVIII. The Moon — Qoph (Pisces)
XIX. The Sun — Resh (Sun)
XX. Judgement — Shin (Fire)
XXI. Universe — Tau (Saturn)

Mathers chose to call the Juggler the Magician. He changed the Female Pope to the High Priestess, and the Pope to the Hierophant. Strength was called by its common alternative, Fortitude. The World became the Universe.

As you can see by examining the Golden Dawn arrangement of the trumps, the zodiac signs that fall on the twelve Simple letters of the Hebrew alphabet are in their natural order beginning with Aries. This is in keeping with the information presented in Sepher Yetzirah. The three elements on the Mother letters cannot really be said to have any fixed order, but they also are placed according to Sepher Yetzirah. The planets, however, are a different matter. They do have a natural order, and it is not preserved in Sepher Yetzirah — indeed, in the Westcott edition of that Kabbalistic book, which was used as a source by Mathers, the way in which they are intended to be placed on the seven Double letters is not explicit, but is open to interpretation.

Order of the Planets in Sepher Yetzirah

The text in Sepher Yetzirah reads: “So now, behold the Stars of our World, the Planets which are Seven: the Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars10.” It is obvious that the planets cannot be applied to the Double letters in this order, since that would result in incompatible matches. It would place Mercury on the Empress, for example, and the Moon on the Wheel of Fortune, which would be symbolically incorrect.

Mathers chose to disregard both the order of the planets presented in the text of Sepher Yetzirah, and their natural order. The natural order of the planets is based on their apparent rapidity of motion, as view from the surface of the Earth. From slowest to fastest, their order is: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon. But from fastest to slowest, their reverse order is: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. Mathers adopted neither ordering, but created his own for the Double letters and their associated Tarot trumps.

There are hints in Sepher Yetzirah as to how the author of that ancient text intended the planets to be applied to the Double letters. He gives sets of opposites for each of the letters, and it is possible to apply these sets to the seven planets, thus generating a list of the planets on the Double letters. Which planet matches which pair of opposite qualities is a matter of conjecture. Here is the relevant text, from the fourth chapter of Sepher Yetzirah.

The Seven double letters, Beth, Gimel, Daleth, Kaph, Peh, Resh, and Tau have each two sounds associated with them. They are referred to Life, Peace, Wisdom, Riches, Grace, Fertility and Power. The two sounds of each letter are the hard and the soft — the aspirated and the softened. They are called Double, because each letter presents a contrast or permutation; thus Life and Death; Peace and War; Wisdom and Folly; Riches and Poverty; Grace and Indignation; Fertility and Solitude; Power and Servitude.11

Matching up the qualities of the planets with these pairs of opposites, we might get the following list, which may be how the author of Sepher Yetzirah intended the planets to be assigned to the letters.

Beth — Life and Death — Sun
Gimel — Peace and War — Mars
Daleth — Wisdom and Folly — Saturn
Kaph — Riches and Poverty — Mercury
Pe — Grace and Indignation — Venus
Resh — Fertility and Solitude — Moon
Tau — Power and Servitude — Jupiter

This arrangement is only conjecture on my part. In any case, it does not match very well the nature of the Tarot trumps that fall on the seven Double letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It would place the planet Mars on the trump the High Priestess, which seems obviously wrong. Even had Mathers derived this list, he would not have used it. The key innovations of Mathers and the Golden Dawn with regard to the order of the trumps and their esoteric correspondences are thus the explicit numbering of the Fool as zero, and the placement of the Fool at the head of the trumps; the inversion of the locations and Roman numerals of Justice and Fortitude; and the unique assignment of the planets to the seven Double letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

Trump Sequence of Aleister Crowley

Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), who was a member of the Golden Dawn, and perhaps possessed the greatest esoteric knowledge of the Tarot of any man who has ever lived, made surprisingly few innovations in the order of the trumps. He regarded the Golden Dawn arrangement, which Mathers had received from the Secret Chiefs — they conveyed to him psychically the correct locations of the planets on the Double letters — as received sacred wisdom, and did not attempt on his own initiative to meddle with it. He may have had a low regard for Mathers after departing the Golden Dawn under a black cloud, but he always held the Secret Chiefs in the deepest respect.

It was only when Crowley’s guardian angel, Aiwass, came to him while Crowley was visiting Cairo, Egypt, in the year 1904, and dictated to Crowley a holy book titled Liber AL vel Legis, or the Book of the Law, that Crowley felt bold enough to modify the sequence of the Tarot trumps. In the received text of this book is written the statement, “All these old letters of my Book are aright; but [Tzaddi] is not the Star12.” The word “Tzaddi” was not written out, but was in the form of the Hebrew letter Tzaddi. The “old letters” obviously refer to the ancient Hebrew alphabet. The reference to “my book” is to the Book of Thoth, another name among occultists for the Tarot. The “Star” which is capitalized in Crowley’s received text, must refer to the Tarot trump the Star. In the Golden Dawn arrangement, XVII the Star is linked with the Hebrew letter Tzaddi, and the zodiac sign Aquarius.

For years Crowley puzzled about this cryptic message. If Tzaddi was not the Tarot trump the Star, to which trump should it be assigned? The solution reached by Crowley in his Book of Thoth is based on the inversion of the trumps Justice and Strength made by Mathers in the Golden Dawn Tarot. Crowley wrote the twelve signs of the zodiac in their natural order around the rim of a reclining oval, with Pisces on its left side and Virgo on its right side. When this is done, the inversion made by Mathers may be represented graphically by pinching the right end of the oval and giving it a twist to form a little loop, so that the signs of Leo and Libra exchange places around the pivot of Virgo. To balance this change, Crowley took the other end of the oval of the zodiac and gave it a similar twist around the pivot of Pisces to form a second loop, so that the signs Aquarius and Aries changes places. In this way, the model of the zodiac was balanced.13

By this trick, Crowley determined to his own satisfaction that Tzaddi was “not the Star” but was instead, the Emperor. The trump the Star receives Aquarius and the Hebrew letter Tzaddi in the Golden Dawn arrangement, and the trump the Emperor receives Aries and the Hebrew letter He. Crowley inverted this assignment. He did not make this change with the same degree of elegance as Mathers, however. Instead of giving the Emperor the Roman numeral XVII and the Star the Roman numeral IV, Crowley left them where they were in the sequence of the trumps, and broke the continuity of the Hebrew alphabet, inverting the two Hebrew letters, along with their linked esoteric correspondences.

This seems inconsistent on Crowley’s part. To exactly balance the change made by Mathers in the loop at the other end of the zodiac, Crowley should have exchanged the Roman numerals and the placements of the trumps the Emperor and the Star, but kept the integrity of the sequence of the Hebrew alphabet, which has been established for thousands of years. Mathers moved the trumps — he did not move the Hebrew letters. Crowley should have done the same, had he wished to mirror the change made by Mathers.

Instead, Crowley chose to return the Roman numeral VIII to Justice, and XI to Strength, which places them back in their original locations in the Marseilles sequence of the trumps, but he retained the Hebrew letters and zodiac signs given to these trumps by Mathers, thereby violating the sequence of the Hebrew alphabet a second time.

In the Tarot trumps of Crowley’s Thoth deck, the card of the Emperor bears the Hebrew letter Tzaddi, but still retains the zodiac sign Aries. Similarly, the card of the Star bears the Hebrew letter He, but retains the zodiac sign Aquarius. This appears to be an error, since it would be assumed that the zodiac signs should have been changed along with the Hebrew letters — indeed, this was done in the table of the trumps that appears near the end of Crowley’s Book of Thoth.14 Below is Crowley’s arrangement of the Tarot trumps, as it appears in that table. He has changed many of the names of the trumps, but not so radically that they cannot be recognized. Justice was called Adjustment, Strength became Lust, and Temperance was called by Crowley Art.

Trump Sequence of Donald Tyson

The Tarot has been central to my esoteric studies and practices for over thirty years. I have spent considerable time considering the arrangement of the trumps, and have come to some conclusions that I wish to offer here, for those who may be interested in my own sequence and occult correspondences for the trumps. This material previously appeared in the appendix to my book Portable Magic (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2006), which deals with the use of the Tarot for works of ritual magic. Since I believe it is important, I wish to make it as widely available as possible.

My own sense is that Crowley’s change is not valid. It does apply a kind of balance to the loop of the zodiac, and Crowley was obsessed with balance in magic — he believed that all true magicians have an innate sense of harmony and balance, and that they naturally abhor anything in their art that is lacking in symmetry. Well, maybe so, but I see no necessity to balance the inversion of Justice and Strength made by Mathers. The change has its own inherent balance, in that each trump replaces the other. I believe that the change made by Mathers is valid, and indeed inevitable, given the symbolism on the two cards and the zodiac signs involved. Leo must go with Strength, and Virgo must go with Justice.

My primary problem with the Golden Dawn sequence of the trumps lies in the Double letters of the Hebrew alphabet, which are linked with the seven planets. In astrology and in magic, the planets have a very definite ordering, as I explained above. Since the zodiac signs are arranged on the twelve Simple letters in their natural order, it seems to me that it would make good sense to arrange the planets on the seven Double letters in their natural order as well. The reason Mathers did not do this is because it creates some problems. However, in my opinion these issues are not beyond solution, even though some of the changes I propose may seem fairly radical.

The placements of Mercury on the trump of the Magician by Mathers, through the mediation of the Double letter Beth, and the Moon on the High Priestess through the mediation of the Double letter Gimel, have a rightness that would be difficult to challenge. This suggests that if the planets are placed on the trumps in their natural astrological order, it will be an ascending order from quickest and nearest, to slowest and furthest removed. But there is a serious problem. The first planet in this ascending order is the Moon, not Mercury, which is the second planet. To simply apply the planets to the trumps of the Double letters would result in the Magician receiving the Moon, and the High Priestess receiving Mercury. This does not seem symbolically correct.

The solution is obvious, but daring — to invert the location and Roman numerals of trumps the Magician and the High Priestess, so that the High Priestess receives the Roman numeral I and is placed directly after the Fool, and the Magician receives the Roman numeral II and comes after the High Priestess. It is safe to say that this change is the most likely to arouse controversy, among those I have advocated. There is a natural prejudice that the male Magician should come before the female Priestess. However, when we consider why this should be so, it is not easy to come up with a reason. There is something to be said for the Priestess opening the sequence of the trumps — for the Fool, although he is nominally placed at the beginning, really has no place of his own, as his zero designation indicates, but moves where he wills, and relates to all the other trumps equally. The pillars of the Priestess are like an open doorway into the mysteries of the Tarot.

There is another change necessary to apply the planets in their natural ascending order on the seven Double letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and their corresponding trumps. In the Golden Dawn arrangement, Jupiter is placed on trump X the Wheel, and the planet the Sun is placed on trump XIX the Sun. I asked myself, if the planet the Moon is not located on trump XVIII the Moon in the Golden Dawn arrangement, who should it be necessary to locate the planet the Sun on the trump of the same name? It is not necessary, and indeed, not even desirable to do so. When the planets are applied to the trumps of the Double letters in their natural order, it is the Sun that falls on the Wheel, and Jupiter that falls on the trump the Sun.

This change works very well. The Sun is a great fiery wheel rolling across the heavens, and has been characterized in this way in stone age petroglyphs of shamans, and in numerous systems of mythology around the world. It is symbolically apt to link the astrological planet the Sun with the trump the Wheel of Fortune. As for the trump of the Sun — what could be more appropriate to represent it than the beaming countenance of the god Jupiter, as represented by his planet? Jupiter is the dispenser of benevolent laws, the patriarch of the heavens. The planets Jupiter and the Sun have always had harmonious natures in astrology.

It can be seen that by inverting the locations of the trumps the Magician and the High Priestess, all seven of the planets fall on highly appropriate trumps when applied to the sequence of the Double letters in their natural ascending order. The placement of the planet the Sun on the Wheel of Fortune is so right, it is difficult to imagine how Mathers could have avoided making it. Perhaps the designation of Jupiter as the “greater fortune” in astrology swayed his judgment. Even so, I cannot agree with his choice, and believe that the Sun should be on the Wheel, and Jupiter on the trump the Sun.

There are actually three fortunes in astrology, as Cornelius Agrippa pointed out in his Occult Philosophy: “There are three Fortunes amongst the planets15.” These are the Sun, Jupiter, and Venus. However, Jupiter is usually called the Greater Fortune and Venus the Lesser Fortune. I mention this merely to point out that the Sun has at least as much connection with the Wheel of Fortune, thematically, as Jupiter. Both Sun and Jupiter are astrological fortunes. It also shows the close tie between the planet Jupiter and the trump the Sun.

There is one more essential change in the sequence of the trumps that must be made before they can be considered perfected. It involves the inversion of trumps XIV Temperance and VII the Chariot. It has long been my conviction that the zodiac sign Cancer does not belong with the Chariot. In spite of the valiant attempts by Mathers and other occultists to justify its location on the Chariot, there is nothing warlike about the sign of Cancer. The characterization of the fierce Crab with her savage pincers raised for battle strikes me with amusement every time I encounter it. The sign of the Crab is not fierce — it is watery and feminine.

Similarly, I found nothing appropriate in linking the rather warlike zodiac sign of the Archer, Sagittarius, with the feminine and watery trump Temperance. Indeed, there seems no obvious symbolic harmony between the two. The bow and arrow is a weapon of war, and a weapon of the hunt. It is designed to deal death. But the waters poured between the two vessels on the trump Temperance are the waters of life.

I have no hesitation in advocating that these trumps be inverted, and their Roman numerals exchanged, so that Temperance is placed just after the Lovers, and receives the number VII, and the Chariot is placed just after Death, and receives the number XIV. Indeed, this change strikes me as the most obvious and inevitable of all the changes that I have made, and I am amazed that Mathers did not make it himself.

You will notice that this results in an series of violent or warlike cards: the Hanged Man, Death, the Chariot, the Devil, and the Tower. In the common sequence of the trumps, and the Golden Dawn sequence as well, the card Temperance breaks up this set. Equally, the older placement of the Chariot seems completely wrong — it comes in the midst of a peaceful series of trumps, after the Hierophant and the Lovers, and before Strength and the Hermit. Strength is not violent, but is the strength of self control and restraint. The overtly violent and warlike Chariot is completely wrong for this series.

Here, then, is my rectified sequence of the Tarot trumps, according to my best judgement. It is my experience that it lends itself very well to the paths on the Tree of Life — better than the Golden Dawn sequence. Of course those accustomed to using the Golden Dawn arrangement on the Tree will find it an effort to change mental gears, and try something new, but those who make the change will not want to go back.

0. Fool — Aleph (Air)
I. High Priestess — Beth (Moon)
II. Magician — Gimel (Mercury)
III. Empress — Daleth (Venus)
IV. Emperor — He (Aries)
V. Hierophant — Vau (Taurus)
VI. Lovers — Zayin (Gemini)
VII. Temperance — Cheth (Cancer)
VIII. Strength — Teth (Leo)
IX. Hermit — Yod (Virgo)
X. Wheel — Kaph (Sun)
XI. Justice — Lamed (Libra)
XII. Hanged Man — Mem (Water)
XIII. Death — Nun (Scorpio)
XIV. Chariot — Samekh (Sagittarius)
XV. Devil — Ayin (Capricorn)
XVI. Tower — Pe (Mars)
XVII. The Star — Tzaddi (Aquarius)
XVIII. The Moon — Qoph (Pisces)
XIX. The Sun — Resh (Jupiter)
XX. Judgement — Shin (Fire)
XXI. World — Tau (Saturn)


  1. Decker, Ronald; Thierry Depaulis; Michael Dummett. A Wicked Pack of Cards. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996, page 25.
  2. Ibid., page 41.
  3. Ibid., page 43.
  4. Ibid., page 62.
  5. Ibid., page 70.
  6. Lévi, Éliphas. Transcendental Magic. New York: Weiser, 1979, page 386.
  7. Christian, Paul. The History and Practice of Magic. New York: Citadel Press, 1963, page 110.
  8. Papus. Tarot of the Bohemians. New York: US Games, 1978, page 184.
  9. Waite. A. E. The Pictorial Key to the Tarot. New York: Weiser, 1980, page 29.
  10. Westcott, W. Wynn. Sepher Yetzirah. New York: Weiser, 1980, page 23.
  11. Ibid., page 22.
  12. Crowley, Aleister. Book of the Law. Quebec: 93 Publishing, page 26.
  13. Crowley, Aleister. Book of Thoth. New York: Weiser, 1974, pages 9-11.
  14. Ibid., page 278.
  15. Agrippa, Cornelius. Three Books of Occult Philosophy. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 1993, page 250.

© 2008 by Donald Tyson.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.

Donald Tyson is the author of Sexual Alchemy: Magical Intercourse with Spirits, Familiar Spirits: A Practical Guide for Witches & Magicians, and Soul Flight: Astral Projection and the Magical Universe, among other works. You can visit his website here.

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