Matrix of Possibilities
There are many ways to perform the operation of theurgy and the evocation of spirits. Most of those who practice this kind of magical operation work through one or more of the many available grimoires. However, there are other ways to perform this operation that have little to do with the old grimoires; yet these other methods require the invention of a completely alternative magical technology. A practitioner is generally stuck between using existing information and available materials or creating something entirely new. The path that I took was to create a new methodology for invocation and evocation; but the clues on how to proceed were already well documented, even though they were subtle and obscure.
Ever since I first examined the Goetia of the Lemegeton, or Lesser Key of Solomon, I have been fascinated by those entities called Goetic Demons, but found the methodologies for invoking them to be too abbreviated and incomplete to be entirely useful. Others have made use of this grimoire, but I found it beyond my ability to produce an effective methodology for evocation. I also found the 72 angels of the Shemhemphorasch (ha-Shem) in this same category, even though they were not specifically listed in any grimoire that I had at the time. To me there seemed to be a lot of pieces of occult lore without the ability to pull them all together. So I tended to work with the spirits and powers that I was able to access through my developed ritual systems, and ignore all of the other spirits that didn’t fit into those structures.
However, when I first read Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth and also studied Israel Regardie’s The Golden Dawn (specifically, Book T) there seemed to be a new structure implied that might associate the tarot, astrology, Qabalah and the hierarchy of spirits into one unified system. That structure was found in the 36 Naib cards of the minor arcana of the tarot and the 36 astrological decans.
Aleister Crowley discusses that there is an associated spiritual hierarchy with each of the Naib cards, stating it as such: “It is governed from the angelic world by two Beings, one during the hours of Light, the other during the hours of Darkness. Therefore, in order to use the properties of this card, one way is to get into communication with the Intelligence concerned, and to induce him to execute his function.”1
Crowley goes on to write that these two spirits are the angels of the Shehemphorash and that there are a total of 72 of them, corresponding to the five degree astrological segment of the “quinaries,” or what I refer to as the quinarians.2 Crowley omits relating the astrological decans to these 36 Naib cards, but he does use the old style planetary rulers that are associated with them in assigning the planets to these tarot cards. One can see this illustrated in a table on page 283 of the Book of Thoth.
Book T goes further than Crowley by not only showing that the astrological decans correspond to the 36 Naib cards of the tarot, but also that there is a larger matrix consisting of the 16 court cards and the four aces.3
So it would seem that there is a very tight tabular system consisting of all of the 56 cards of the lesser arcana. This tabular system can also be used to represent a spiritual hierarchy of the four elements, the ten sephiroth of the tree of life and the twelve signs of the zodiac. The one association that is missing is where the decans are shown to be hierarchically related to the quinarians, since the former would represent a ten degree segment of the zodiacal wheel and the latter, a five degree segment.
A decan would therefore be the higher order structure of two corresponding quinarians. What this means is that the decan and its associated spirit correspondences rules over the associated quinarian and its spirit correspondences. If the angels of the ha-Shem and the demons of the Goetia are associated with the quinarians, then the angelic ruler of the decanate would be their hierarchical lord, and the decan would be the key to the quinarian.
Clues to the nature of the astrological structure of these spirits are found in the lore from the Golden Dawn and Alesiter Crowley. In the book 777 (cols. CXXIX CXXXII, CXLV CLXVI), the angels of the Ha-Shem,4 angelic rulers of the decans and demons of the Goetia are organized by the zodiac, using the ascendant, cadent and succeedent parts of the wheel of the zodiac, by day and night.
It would seem that the number 72 would lend itself to occult interpretations, being a multiple of six times twelve, both very sacred numbers in Judaism. Also, there already was an astrological structure for the quinarians as lesser aspects of the decans, so I think that it would fit into a neat hierarchy.
I don’t know where this idea originally came from, but I was using existing schemes for all of this, as well as hints from Aleister Crowley in the appendices of the Book of Thoth, so I didn’t invent it.5 As a system it fits really well together, and it’s better than using the Shemhemphorash as a unique and separate set of spirits without any correspondences. As I have stated above, determining a context for spiritual entities so that they may be defined and highly qualified is important if the magician seeks to invoke them.
When I carefully researched the clues, I found where the angels of the Shemhemphorash were given their astrological correspondences. It was in Agrippa’s Book III of Occult Philosophy, Chapter XXV, paragraph 6. Agrippa writes: “And these are those [angels of ha-Shem] that are set over the seventy two celestial quinaries.” So if the angels of ha-Shem are set over the seventy two celestial quinarians, then their hierarchy would naturally be associated with the 36 decans and the twelve signs of the Zodiac, and also with their associated archangels and angelic rulers. This relation between decan and quinarian is not spoken of either by Agrippa or anyone else, but is alluded to in Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth,6 and also Book T of The Golden Dawn. If you put what he says together with the tables in 777, you come up with the system that I am using. To my knowledge, no else quite makes all of the combinations that I have made; but it seems to be functionally elegant.
Needless to say, I was quite thrilled at how neat and tidy all of these various elements were pulled together through the cards of the Lesser Arcana of the Tarot. I speculated that if one could identify the various correspondences associated with each of these cards, that one could put together a system to invoke and evoke all of the associated spirits. So, after basking in this wondrous revelation, I set to work to build a system of magick that would do just that.
To recap, the angelic ruler of the decan and tarot Naib card has the following hierarchy:
- Element godhead
- Qabalistic sephirah
- Zodiacal base element
- Zodiacal triple spiritual intelligences (archangel, angel, house ruler) — these qualify the specific zodiacal sign
- Planetary ruler of the decan
- Angelic ruler of the decanate
- ha-Shem angel of day and night
- Goetic demon of day and night (from Lemegeton — Goetia)
- Angel of the zodiacal degree (From Lemegeton — Ars Paulina — Part 2)
Obviously, if one were to perform an invocation of the angelic ruler of the decanate, one of the angels of the ha-Shem, or one of the Goetic demons, then one would establish or invoke the associated spiritual hierarchy, beginning with the element godhead. Tools used to assist in the establishment of these qualities would be the pentagram (element), lesser hexagram (astrological triplicities), greater hexagram or septagram (planetary ruler) and the enneagram (sephirah).
My methodology uses a technique that defines a spirit through a matrix of correspondences and generates the elemental body and planetary intelligences of the spirit from them. I will defer that explanation to a future article, but I believe that the above information is enough to get occultists thinking of an alternative method to performing invocation and evocation.
Importance of the Astrological Decans
So, what is the importance and significance of the astrological decans? Even if they seem to fit into a nice tidy structure that defines a whole hierarchy of spirits, why is it such a compelling structure by itself? These are good questions, but in order to answer them, we will need to share some historical information about the decans. Once that is done, I am sure it will be obvious why they are significant.
The decans have a long history in the annals of magical religion — the Egyptians had minor deities associated with each of them and these play an important part in the Book of Gates.7 The decans are used in horary (predictive) astrology to determine the dignity of planets in the divinatory chart and they have been represented in both the Egyptian and Mesopotamian theological systems as sidereal gods of time and destiny. Thus the magician contacts the angelic ruler in order to realize and control his destiny, and to affect the general causality of the world. The decans were also used by the Egyptians to indicate the hour of the night.
What gave me a startling clue to the importance of the decans is when I came across a passage in the book Magic, Mystery, and Science — The Occult in Western Civilization by Dan Barton and David Grandy. That passage said that the Egyptians used the decans (and their associated godheads and marking stars) to determine and qualify the hours of the night sky. During the night, the decan that appeared at the ascendant (eastern horizon) would tell the Egyptians what time it was. A decan period would last approximately 40 minutes, so for each night approximately 18 of the 36 decans could be revealed. During the changing of the seasons, the evening would potentially begin with a different decan over time, passing through the whole zodiacal wheel during an annual period.
So the decans were possibly used as magical hours during the night, but these hours would have lasted 40 minutes instead of 60, and each decan would have been accorded a different minor godhead and quality, not to mention the 12 gates of the diurnal solar boat transit through the underworld.
It would also seem that the Egyptians used a system of reckoning when attempting to determine the hours at night, using the decans passing over the horizon as a kind of clock. Since twilight would have made this reckoning impossible, there would have been 12 hours of night associated with the decans, since making this measurement would have required complete darkness. Dawning light would have also potentially interfered, so there would have been an hour and a half both before full night and before dawn when such reckoning would have been impossible.
A device called a merkhet (plumb line) was discovered in an Egyptian tomb. This tool, whose invention was late, probably around 600 BCE, was used to determine the north-south axis. Two of these devices were set up in a specific measured line from each other, and the subject would observe the rising of the decan star between the line of these two devices. It’s likely that this late tool was based on more primitive technology, which would have been used to perform the same kind of sighting.
Another interesting thing about the decans is that every ten days a new decan would appear at the horizon at the first observable hour of the night. It’s from this array of 36 decans, each lasting ten days, that the Egyptians determined their solar based calendar, where the last decan coincided with the period just before the annual inundation of the Nile river. They had a yearly calendar of 36 decans with five days added to the end to make 365 days in all. The five additional days would probably represent a 73rd quinarian in the Egyptian astrological system, but that is another interesting item to discuss in another article.
As you can see, the decans were used to measure time during the night. They also represented the hours of the domain of the underworld, where the solar boat and its occupants fought the threatening chthonic foes in order to gain passage to the gateway of the dawn in the east. This underworld passage occurred every evening, but to the Egyptians it represented the mythic passage from death and mortality to the immortality of the gods — an initiation cycle of profound consequences.
If we now observe that the decans and the Naib cards of the lesser arcana of the tarot are analogous, then not only do we have an elegant system of occult correspondences, but we also have a map for an aspect of the Inner planes, governed by various spirits and representing the underworld passage of occult initiation.
- Barton, Dan and Grandy, David Magic, Mystery, and Science — The Occult in Western Civilization (Indiana University Press 2004)
- Crowley, Aleister 777 and Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley (Samuel Weiser, 1994)
- Crowley, Aleister The Book of Thoth (Samuel Weiser, 1972)
- Regardie, Israel The Golden Dawn (Llewellyn — 6th edition, 1995)
- See The Book of Thoth p. 43
- David Griffin, in his book Ritual Magic calls them “quinants.”
- This association was first documented in the Golden Dawn material, particularly Book T — Tarot. See The Golden Dawn by Israel Regardie, 6th edition, p. 87 & p. 551.
- Actually, the angels of the ha-Shem correspond to nine of the ten sephiroth of the tree of life for the four suits of the tarot, paired by day and night. Pulling the various pieces together requires a correspondence between the decans and the Naib cards of the lesser arcana of the tarot.
- The Goetia of Dr. Rudd has paired the angels of the ha-Shem with the Goetic demons. The relationship of the 72 spirits to the quinarians is quite old, and may be a part of the ancient system of astrological magick, such as that proposed in the Picatrix (11th century). However, there is no precedence for grouping the decans and the quinarians together, and organizing the associated spirits into a hierarchy.
- See The Book of Thoth by Aleister Crowley, “Part I — Theory,” p. 40 — 44, and “Appendix B,” p. 283
- The Book of Gates, or Am-Tuat, was a hieroglyphic book depicted in Egyptian tombs of the New Kingdom, but may have been conceived from earlier sources. The Tomb of Seti I is a prime example.
Frater Barrabbas is a writer and practitioner of witchcraft and ritual magick. He has published two books — Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick, and the two volumes of a trilogy, entitled Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick — Foundation and Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick — Grimoire. The third volume in this series, Mastering the Art of Ritual Magick — Greater Key will be published soon. You can contact him at this email address and visit his website.
©2010 by Frater Barrabbas.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.
“Then, when thou knowest first the Wheel of Destiny complete, mayest thou perceive THAT Will which moved it first. (There is no first or last.)” — #78, The Book of Lies, By To Mega Therion
No breath, no time
Neither darkness nor light
Then wind, the sound of pipes
Pain of birth, awareness dawns
A beast-man dancing
Amidst the chaos
Water, flame, rock and storm
Heavy breath of fetid swamp
Lizard god on gray throne
Fashioned from the soul of matter
Seeds break open; cycles
The Great Mother opens her eyes
Sweeping all before her in a flood
The play of a child
She gives the beasts of the forest tongues
And teaches them the spells of life
To her a sun of fire is born
Upon the sacred hill of winter
He sits upon her throne
As her symbol
Gold and green, horns of fire upon his head
The beasts who worshiped killed him
They ate his flesh and drank his blood
Forgetting the Mother who tends the grave
From the East a star is shining
The Mother again gives birth;
Light shines forth from her belly
A golden hawk
Scatters the beasts
Tears down the tarnished image
Slaying the priests of the dead god
Fire falls upon the throne
Turning to red then black and twisting
Shadows are white
A woman appears
Stepping from the flame
She is black and featureless
She holds before her a black feather
And a luminous jewel
These she has balanced with her hands
A shadow covers all
The feather is left upon the throne
Until the starry tide washes all away. . .
©2010 by Aion131
The Point of Light is within the Darkness of Matter
Malkuth is a Gateway direct to Kether
As Kether is both the seed (1) and actuality (10) of One
The 10- Thousand Things are the
And the 1-Thing is reflected/refracted
In every single Facet/Manifestation
Thus Ever the Bride
The 10-thousand things are the Throne of Making
Upon it sits the non-sub-supra particle
The Point of Light
In every shard, every facet, every angle of the Bride
The Mother of All; Ma
What you say you do
What you think you have done
What you contemplate is the unfolding cosmos
What you strive for is a tightrope walk
The thin string is streaaaaaached between
Kether and Malkuth
This is the hidden way of the Sage
Not the Right Hand Path of endless Pontificating
Not the Left Hand Path of emptiness and detachment
The Hidden Third Way
This is the Kingdom, the Heaven, the Nirvana — it really is that simple.
Kether is in Malkuth
Malkuth in Kether
1 is in 10
And 10 in 1
the path is through the non existent 0
In other words
It never was.
1 is all ways = 1
So unnoticed by all who are wrapped
In a nasty blanket of Woe and Samsara
The Root & Tree Touch Crown Root
Call it: KetKuth
It is the Self-Reflected Mind
Mirror and Being
The Double Tree
The Lightning Bolt Dhyana Synapse
. . .
As all words unravel, it is the absurd that slips in
Stealing just a bit
Of the Fire of Heaven
Back to that rock and hungry vulture later!
It is self-indulgent anyway.
The Promethean Fire leaps up and the chains break
The gods have fled or are drowsy/sleeping
There is none to oppose his reemergence but the Old One
The Old Man — the crabby old Archon
But light and laughter and love
Trump politics and pissing contests in the end
So the verbiage slowly. . . stills. . .
The mind worms are settled — a shimmer like dawn or dusk
Pervaded the mind
From Mind it comes
To Mind it goes
The actuality is the proof of the Unity
The dispersion is proof of the unfocused dis-ease.
Our world brings us to the focus we will
And we will it to be and bring forth itself with Love
So simple, so complex — so utterly without form or logic
Ah! But with joy! Ha!
Catching the Firefly
In the Garden
©2010 by Aion131
Earlier, I said that every single modern, western magician is responding, in one way or another, to Plato. We are all either Neoplatonists, or reacting against Neoplatonism. The strange thing is, in most of our daily lives, we are not Neoplatonists at all — in fact, in most other contemporary intellectual fields, Neoplatonism has been set aside so firmly that one doesn’t even have to react against it anymore. Most scientists embrace material monism, which denies even the possibility of a nonphysical existence. In many of the humanities, scholars embrace postmodernism, which denies the possibility of an ideal or original meaning. And even in popular music and art, we have thrown away the mathematical harmonies thought to be fundamental in ancient times; if you doubt it, just listen to a Metallica song.
So how is it that we magicians are still acting like Neoplatonism is the Thing? It’d be as if scientists still included disclaimers against the existence of Aether in their papers, or if Metallica thought they were clever because they avoided the complex mathematical counterpoint of Bach. Yet we either embrace Neoplatonism (perhaps not knowing that’s what we’re doing) or we reject it explicitly (again, perhaps not by name, but Chaos magicians argue against its ideas). The reason comes down to a particularly influential, and particularly useful, formulation of Neoplatonism that arose in the Middle Ages, although its roots stretch back long: This is the mystical, religious, and magical system of the Cabala.
Briefly, the Cabala is a system of number and word mysticism that grew out of the medieval Jewish study of the Talmud. In its original formulation, if an oral tradition can be said to have such a thing, it concerned chiefly the relationship between and meaning hidden within words. But it also taught a system of emanations from deity, probably borrowed from Greek Neoplatonism. There are ten such emanations, the sephiroth, corresponding to the ten numerals, and each is given a correspondence to a direction, a body part, and so forth. Finally, the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet are seen as a sort of intermediate between these emanations.
Every single modern magician in America and England, whether Wiccan or Hoodoo root doctor, Chaos magician or Brit Trade Witch, has made some use of the Cabala, knowingly or not. Catherine Yrenwode points out that Hoodoo, for example, borrowed from European grimoires such as the The Key of Solomon which themselves borrowed from the Cabala. Even the “Charge of the Goddess,” which reads in part:
Upon Earth I give the knowledge of the Spirit Eternal, and beyond death I give peace and freedom, and reunion with those who have gone before. Nor do I demand aught in sacrifice, for behold, I am the Mother of all things, and my love is poured out upon earth1.
is a borrowing from Crowley’s The Book of the Law, a book filled with Cabalistic and Neoplatonic ideas:
I:58 I give unimaginable joys on earth: certainty, not faith, while in life, upon death; peace unutterable, rest, ecstasy; nor do I demand aught in sacrifice2.
While this sentence may not, out of context, seem particularly cabalistic, it is surrounded by a suggestion that the Hebrew letter tzaddai should not be associated with the tarot card The Star, as well as bits of complex numerical mysticism.
So how did this system become so popular, while similar systems did not? After all, we could all be practicing some system based on Sufi mysticism, or even Merkabah rather than Cabala. So what is it that made Cabala so ubiquitous? We could explore historical accidents of all kinds, from the invasion of the Mongols to the fall of the Temple, but ultimately, it comes down to utility. The Cabala is a Neoplatonic formulation of the universe with an eye toward use, and later developments and refinements of the cabala, such as Hermetic Cabala, emphasized and built on those uses.
The primary utility of the Cabala is as a system of classification, which might sounds rather lame — a Dewey decimal system for magic? — but is in reality foundational. The Cabala offers a system of symbols that interlock coherently. Obviously, any system of symbols could work, but just as one individual might find it hard to invent his or her own language (not impossible, mind you, but hard), so an individual might find it hard to invent a symbol system of such richness. If I take any two symbols from any two domains, I can relate them together in the cabala and figure out which shape in Plato’s cave they ultimately point to.
Think about the implications of that. Take a planet, a big gassy one with rings, orbiting out there at about the limit of our ability to see it. Take an herb, bitter, astringent — a gum actually, used as an embalming agent. Take a metal, dark, heavy, often used to seal containers in ancient times because of its low melting point. Take a grave. Take a womb. The Cabala tells us that all of these things are connected, that they all are reflections of the same shadowy shape in Plato’s cave of images: specifically, one named Binah. These are things that mark limits: the limit of our sight, the boundaries of life and death, the inside and outside of containers. Binah is about limits and boundaries. This Binah manifests in the world in numerous ways, but each shares some of that essence of limiting, and each is touching all the others in the world of ideas.
This system acts as a calculus of leverage. I know that to push this thing here — a poppet made of lead and anointed with myrrh — might push that thing there — an enemy. Of course, you can use this same leverage for good. I can gather things associated with Hesed and create an expansion of power or wealth, or I can call up the powers of Tifareth and manipulate the shining light in the center of everything that gives it the impetus to be what it is.
So everyone should run out and study the Cabala. Or perhaps not. After all, we often use it without knowing that we’re using it, and other systems can do the same thing. It’s just that the Cabala is an example of a system that’s so well-developed and carefully defined, it’s hard to ignore. It’s also hard to keep away from: if you study magic in the west, you will at some point or another study the Cabala, whether you like it or not. And sometimes whether you know it or not, because the Cabala is an amoeba.
What I wrote about above, the connections between Saturn, lead, and myrrh, actually wasn’t originally Cabalistic. The Cabala incorporated those associations like an amoeba eating a paramecium. And there’s no reason not to imagine that the Cabala won’t absorb anything else set near it. There are Cabalistic associations with tarot cards, musical notes and genres, and the characters of the The Rocky Horror Picture Show. This amoebic nature of the Cabala means two things: First, there are thousands of doorways in. Second, everything is a tool.
There are a thousand doorways into the Cabala. A lot of tarot readers, for example, begin studying it because the cards’ associations with the sephiroth and the paths can lead to illuminating connections during readings. And the cards can even be used in the opposite direction: Donald Tyson has a splendid little book about using the tarot as an entire temple, and while he doesn’t make a big complicated deal out of it (one of the things I like about his books), it’s all quietly and calmly Cabalistic. Whatever you’re into, whether it’s herbalism or epic poetry, you can find a way into the Cabala from there.
Second, as I suggested above, everything is a tool. You can use the tarot as a set of magical tools once you understand their Cabalistic associations. But in a pinch, you can use anything. Once you see what idea an object reflects, you can use that object to represent that idea. This notion sounds counterrational, and I suppose to some degree it is. But you can literally do magic with some pocket lint and a few spare coins, if you realize the ways in which those things connect to the platonic ideal reality. And the Cabala is a handy heuristic for figuring that out.
Now let’s interrupt this paean to the Cabala to say that, in fact, it’s more complicated than this. For example, while most Hermetic Cabalists place Saturn in the path of Tav, others place the Moon there. While most place the sun in Tifareth, some place Mercury. It seems, indeed, that they get results. So which is it? Who’s wrong?
Well, they are. Not because their associations are wrong, but insofar as they insist that they’re the right and true associations. Because the Cabala is, at its most basic level, a language for describing ultimate reality. It’s not a map of that reality, or an image of it, or even an abstraction of it. It’s just a set of symbols set into relation to describe it. And ultimate reality can be described in multiple ways, some useful, some useless. Putting Mercury in Tifareth has some negative side effects (it screws up the order of the Neoplatonic crystal spheres which the order of the planets in the sephiroth is based on, for example) and some benefits (it creates a balanced tree in terms of binary oppositions). We can imagine hundreds of useful organizations of the sephiroth, and in fact we should remember that the current popular diagram is only one of many historical diagrams of them, and one of the oldest simply places the sephiroth as rays from a central point.
To say that the Cabala points to an ultimate reality implies that reality exists, of course. But it doesn’t say how it exists. Some people pretend that there’s a “true” cabala pointing to a “true” reality, but “absolute” doesn’t mean “objective.” It doesn’t even mean that our symbols are anything but arbitrary. We could imagine a useless Cabala, probably, but that doesn’t mean that there’s one better than all others: we can imagine a useless language, but that doesn’t mean that one language is better than another.
It’s not so much a matter, then, of unlocking ourselves from the chains in Plato’s cave and walking back, grabbing the shadow images, and saying, “Oh, look, it’s really a paper swan!” Instead, it’s more like walking back and saying, “it appears to be the sound the color blue makes when it’s cast out of tin and struck with a hammer at the speed of joy.” We don’t have eyes to see that ultimate reality. All we have are crude sketches that show some links between them, and no guarantee that what you see is what I will see. And yet, if we’re Neoplatonists, even for a few moments when we’re practicing magic, we have faith that these absolutes exist — even if we can’t know them.
©2010 by Patrick Dunn.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Patrick Dunn has written two books on the occult, Postmodern Magic: The Art of Magic in the Information Age and Magic Power Language Symbol: A Magician’s Exploration of Linguistics. He lives near Chicago, where he teaches and writes. You can find his blog here.
As the Year darkens and grows cold, and as we fall into the depths of the oncoming Winter, we perceive a drop of bright energy in all the chilly gloom. The Winter Solstice season has traditionally been associated not with darkness and despair, but with hope, renewal and light. We feel a deep acceptance of limitation and loss that allows us to surrender into the dark, surrender ourselves and our dearest attachments of ego to the Source, in order that we may be renewed. This energy is manifest as the Solstice dawn lights up the depths of the barrow at New Grange and paints a piercing sliver of light known as the Sun Dagger on the stellar calendar at Chaco Canyon. These observances morphed into the ancient Roman celebrations of the Saturnalia and the Kalends, and found their most recent expression in the dozens of celebrations of the Christmas and New Year season. The Winter Solstice is as close to a global holiday as we Earthlings have, and these metaphors of renewal, rebirth and undying light persist through millennia.
I feel the relief and repose of the land as it goes fallow, of life turning itself gently inward against the cold. It’s reassuring, in its way. As I fall into the growing dark in the weeks after Samhain, I find myself craving sleep, craving tranquility, craving my meditation mat. I’ve brought my harvests in, I’ve fed and praised my ancestors, I’ve done my divinations — all that’s left to do is to drop into my tenderest places, and dream. It’s the time of deep mystery, of silence and stillness and of great joy blooming in the dark and cold.
Sadly, the beginning of Winter as it manifests in our culture and time most certainly does not support introspection or slowing down. The things I dislike about this season — the frenetic crush of activity, the pathological drive towards consumption, toxic family dynamics, the unnecessary glorification of Christian culture — are largely avoidable, so I consciously try to spend my energy wisely. But given the psychic overload of this time it’s no surprise to me that many people claim to despise the whole Christmas season. I certainly hated the whole Christmas season for many years. But I didn’t really want to hate it. I loved Christmas as a kid, and not just because of all the gifts. I wanted to reclaim the Winter Solstice for myself, to honor what I felt were the important lessons of this time. I had to rediscover the magic that I had resonated with so strongly as child.
My earliest memory of Christmas centers on the story of a magical quest. The story of the Nativity, as I learned it, was always couched in magical terms. The story began with the Magi king Melchior, noting the Star in the Eastern Sky, and obsessing over its meaning. I was fascinated by heavenly portents and the wise astrologer-king who alone could read the signs and felt compelled to follow them. I was thrilled by the perilous expedition to follow the Star, and moved by its surprising end: the birth of the Child of Grace in the humblest surroundings.
This is why there always seems to be magick afoot on Christmas Eve. When I stopped celebrating Christmas, I continued to feel that sense of wonder and expectation of joy. In tracing the pagan roots of Christmas traditions, one finds that the Nativity story is just the most recent iteration of this myth. In neo-pagan celebrations of Yule, this child of light may be evoked as Llew, Attis or Horus. This Child is the new Aeon coming about, the resolution of the Dyadic pair into something greater than the sum of its parts. This is the Mystery that the Magi were seeking. This is the promise of renewal that speaks to us from the dark.
Seen in this light, the Nativity myth takes on added depth. Christ’s parents symbolically occupy places on the Pillars of Severity and Mercy, but by moving towards the Middle Pillar they are able to give birth to a being who balances that polarity. Christ’s foster father, Joseph, descendant of the line of King David, is an exemplar of the Law as handed down by his forefathers, representing Logos (logic, law, the written word). As such, he stands firmly on the Pillar of Severity. According to the Law, he could demand that his bride-to-be be killed, since she is pregnant but not with his child. He is moved by compassion to spare her in defiance of the Law. Mary, on the other hand, has long been a symbol of the selfless devotion of motherhood, placing her on the Pillar of Mercy. Yet by embodying the Child’s physical being, she is also condemning what is mortal and human in him to torture and death. From her position on the Pillar of Mercy, and in contradiction of every maternal instinct, she offers her child to expiate the world’s sins. The resolution of these two opposites is the child Christ, who unites these principles and offers up a vision of a perfected Universe that neither paradigm could have predicted.
These potentials exist in every one of us, for all of us are seekers, all of us stand in our turns on the Pillars of Light and Dark, and all of us struggle to come to balance. We all spend time as logical beings trapped in our own histories, cultures and heritages. We are all beings of compassion who give of ourselves. And we are all Children of Light, emanations of the heart of flame that burns in the core of every star and in the soul of all who live. “Every man and every woman is a Star.” We as magicians are always seeking the Star which is our most perfected, essential self. We seek it as the only reliable guide to the Aeon, to the promise of a renewed World. This is the potential of which every Solstice season reminds us, and that we cannot help celebrating, in some small way.
©2009 by Leni Hester.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Leni Hester is a writer, ritualist, Witch and scholar. Her latest work is included in Women’s Voices in Magic from Megalithica Press (out November 30). Her work also appears in the anthologies Pop Culture Magick and Manifesting Prosperity from Megalithica Press, and in various pagan magazines including Sagewoman, NewWitch, Cup of Wonder, In a Witch Eye and Pangaia. She practices Transformational Magick and serves the Orisa near Denver, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.
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.
(Yoga, Theosophy) A term invented and popularized by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. The idea is that the Akasha is a thought substance which can be imprinted by experience, making it possible to retrieve otherwise inaccessible information from the past, such as a person’s past life. This is remarkably close idea to the concept of Jung’s Universal Unconscious and may in fact be a reference to the same phenomena.
(Gnostic) Literally, “Unreason.” The act of misusing thought.
(Alchemy) A naked child symbolizes the perfect intelligence, the innocent soul. In alchemy and in magical tomes, the child represents the Union of Opposites. A crowned child or child clothed in purple robes signifies Salt or the Philosopher’s Stone.
(Philosophy) A statements or declaration whose meaning is shown in terms of reporting or describing actual or possible facts have descriptive meaning. Compare to Emotive Meaning.
(Alchemy) The egg represents the hermetically sealed vessel of creation. In alchemy, corked retorts, coffins, and sepulchers represent the same principles.
(Alchemy) The most perfect of all the metals, gold in ages past represented the perfection of all matter on any level, including that of the mind, spirit, and soul. The Sun is often used to hint to gold.
(Qabalah) Hebrew Master or teacher. Synonymous with the Holy Guardian Angel, Higher Self, etc.
(Alchemy, Roman mythology) The smallest of the inner planets and the one nearest the sun. The Roman god of pranks, thievery and commerce, which says something of how Romans conducted their business affairs. Called Hermes by the Greeks, Mercury is the messenger for the other gods, as well as being the god of science and travel, and patron saint of athletes. He is typically represented as a young man wearing a winged helmet and sandals and holding a caduceus. Mercury is also a heavy, metallic silver poisonous element that is liquid at room temperature. Often used in scientific instruments. Also called also quicksilver, alchemists acquired it by roasting cinnabar (mercury sulfide). The mercury would sweat out of the rocks and drip down where it could be collected. When mixed with other metals, liquid mercury has a tendency to bond with them and develop amalgams. These properties seemed to make mercury the master of duality in solid and liquid states; earth and heaven; life and death, and the Above and Below.
Philosophy of Science
(Philosophy) The branch of philosophy which scrutinizes the nature and results of scientific inquiry. Central questions include: Do scientist describe reality or just appearances? Can we have good reason to believe in the existence of unobservable entities (e.g. quarks)? What happens when one scientific theory replaces an older theory?
Ruach ha Kodesh
(Qabalah) Hebrew The child of the Supernals, she is the unmanifested essence that lingers like a curtain beneath her parents. Marked on the Tree of Life by the illusive, non-Sephirah Daath, or Knowledge. It is a portal through which the Absolute may enter to intervene directly with existence. Mystic Christians think of Daath as The Holy Spirit.
©2009 by Gerald del Campo.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Gerald del Campo has authored three books on the subject of Thelema: A Heretic’s Guide to Thelema, New Aeon Magick: Thelema Without Tears, and New Aeon English Qabalah Revealed. He is a photographer, musician and CEO for the Order of Thelemic Knights, the first Thelemic charitable organization. You can visit his blog at http://solis93.livejournal.com and his websites at http://thelemicknights.org and http://egoandtheids.com. Gerald serves as Senior Managing Editor of Rending the Veil.
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
O thou who sails Binah’s black sea
Whose term is undefined
O thou whose sickle circumscribes
The arc of a lifetime
O thou who gives but twenty-four
Divisions in a day
And never grants a moment more
No matter how much we delay
O thou that mocketh every pow’r
That we here on Earth may know
From your seat above the Great Abyss
Ruling times to reap and sow
O thou that giveth birth to gods
And then devoureth one by one
Great civilizations of mankind
Left in dust as you plow on
O thou who comest to collect
Souls as the clock begins to chime
Thou known throughout the Aeons
By the feared name Father . . . tick. tick. tick.
Against the now I raise my cry,
“Death is not the end of all!
— save only of the dross of Earth
returning downward in the Fall.”
For here I raise the flaming Lance
And from the pulsing wonder-tree
Eyes open now I smite thee with
The blazing spear of Eternity.
©2009 Shawn Gray
Edited by Sheta Kaey
Shawn is an ex-pat Canadian who lives in Japan studying and teaching martial arts. A practicing ceremonial magician and Thelemite, he is currently in the final year of a Masters Degree in Western Esotericism from the University of Exeter. You can view his website here.
Modern Magick: Eleven Lessons in the High Magickal Arts
Donald Michael Kraig
Llewellyn Publications (1988)
Reviewer: Sheta Kaey
As this book is typically the first book recommended to anyone interested in learning ceremonial or ritual magick, I thought a review here was appropriate, if only for the purpose of having it in our archives. As a primer in high magick, Modern Magick is not bad. It has its faults, however.
Mr. Kraig sets up the book as a series of lessons (hence the subtitle) meant to take the budding ritualist from complete novice to someone with a clue within twelve months. It can do it if one is prepared to stay focused, but not many people do. The book is designed to teach largely via negative consequences, and since so many novices are already uncertain, this can drive them to abandoning their studies almost as soon as they’ve begun. However, the student won’t discover the negative consequences unless he or she is smart enough to uncover his or her mistakes via crosschecking with other sources. Most, therefore, may continue along blithely unaware of how foolish they are to place their trust in Mr. Kraig or to assume his honesty.
Mr. Kraig takes the student (you, for the course of this review) through basic lessons in learning to control the four elements, not in the ways you might think (i.e., you don’t learn to summon storms), but in terms of energy and its effects on you. He also teaches the methods for creating the ritual tools for each element, as well as additional tools that comprise the standard ritual altar. The early sections of the book also teach the basic rituals that not only are the standard beginnings in any course of ceremonial magick, but which also serve you as needed for the rest of your life. The most important of these is typically agreed to be the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.
A word of caution, however, and here’s where we look at that presumed honesty: Take nothing for granted in Mr. Kraig’s book. Nothing. Or, so help me, you’ll be heartbroken when you discover that all the energy, work, and pure heart you applied to his instructions has been wasted due to the blinds he quite deliberately puts in his instructions. Double check everything against other sources before you spend time, energy, or money for things he instructs you to do. Blinds, or deliberately placed errors and code words designed to trip you up and make you learn the hard way, are everywhere in ceremonial magick works, and Mr. Kraig’s use of them could therefore be viewed as a blessing — learn early, so that it’s ingrained in you to check your sources, check your definitions, read between the lines, assume nothing. It’s good advice, and it’s a hard lesson to learn that a tool you’ve made with your whole heart is useless because it’s been inscribed with the wrong symbols, and so on. But in spite of its pragmatism, it sticks in my craw that a modern writer — in an age when oaths are rarely taken and even more rarely kept — would take advantage of the trust of someone who gave him money to learn from him. I’m in the minority, though, I think. Various ceremonial friends of mine hate it when I give away the blinds, so I’m not going to tell you where they are, but there are several and they start early on.
Aside from that most irritating and admittedly effective technique, which is used early and often in this book, Mr. Kraig provides a solid foundation in the basics of ritual arts. The book is recommended to novices, with the single caveat that they take care in validating the information at hand, especially when they might find more convenient to just take Kraig’s word for it. He makes clever use of his misinformation, adding it where it might seem unlikely and keeping it real where he might be assumed to set traps. Keep a sharp eye, and learn the lesson well — but hopefully without too much pain in the end.
Four stars out of five.
Review ©2009 Sheta Kaey