Virgo: Lamp and Staff of the Hermit

Virgo is the sign of the pure maiden, the inviolate sceptre—which is all a way of veiling with words and images an inexpressible truth. The yod, bindu, flame or seed-star that is the letter of the 20th path and Tarot trump The Hermit IX on the Hermetic Tree is, in the absolute sense, Hadit, the giver of Life, the animator of all things that live and move and have their being.

The Hermit IX Thoth Tarot Atu

The Tarot image for this path has the esoteric title, Prophet of the Eternal: Magus of the Voice of Power. The 20th path of Yod connects Chesed, the sphere of Jupiter, with Tiphereth, the sphere of the Sun. The path is imaged forth by the Tarot key, The Hermit IX. The path is called The Intelligence of Will since it is the stream of light or intelligence forming the innermost structures of mind or intellect in man. The Intelligence of Will is called thus “because it forms all patterns, and to know this Intelligence is to know the whole reality of the Primordial Wisdom.” The knowledge of the spiritual will constitutes the full realisation of the cosmic purpose or meaning in all things; on this path arises the possibility of knowing and doing the True Will, as it is termed in the cults of Thelema.[1]

The Hermit as Mercury

The Thoth Tarot picture for this path depicts a hermit, for Hermes is the Greek deity that the Romans called Mercury. Hadit is Mercury in the highest—or most simple or abstract—form. Mercury is the planetary ruler of the astrological sign of Virgo, and Virgo is unique in the Zodiac in that Mercury rules her sign and is also exalted therein. The lamp of the hermit is a metaphor for the Hermetic Light, which he veils from the world. His staff is the energy, the Occult Force, which he applies with strict vigilance and economy of means towards the Great Work. Behind him is Cerberus the three-headed hound of hell. Cerberus, the son of Typhon, doubles as both scourge and Guardian of the Gate—for he prevents those that have become ensnared in the underworld from ever escaping.

It is to be noted that Aleister Crowley directed the artist Frieda Harris to depict the Hermit as according to his ‘phallic’ magical philosophy. The spermatozoon in the lower left corner is thus an unintentional ‘blind’. While Crowley felt he might be revealing too much of the mysteries, he was in fact not even revealing the half of it! Even in the Golden Dawn system of correspondences adopted by the ‘Beast’, Virgo is the sign of Isis. The will-seed is hers in a subtler sense. While Asar (Osiris) has this seed-star latent within him, if he limits or restricts Isis (the woman) through adoration of his personalised will then he dooms her (thusly, his soul) to the fate of the scarlet woman as described in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, III: 43.

Fragmentation of the Atomic Age

The mundane character of Virgo, the mutable earth sign, is all about the particulars, the details of every-thing. The conceptual mind, driven forwards by the scourge of Hadit, yet thrown back into the abyss by the son of Typhon, breeds and begets more and more infernal children. Thus Conceptual Art is now the predominant doctrine in today’s academic institutions. It is a sign or omen that the analytical mind has attained its full immersion in the realm of matter at its lowest or most dense level. At this material extremity of the human mind, the situation depicted in the minor Tarot card called the Ten of Swords comes about. The human heart or soul is broken up into fragments that are blasted, blown and scattered through the echoing emptiness of space—torn apart by the divisive power of the sword of the reasoning mind.

As a race, we are still in the aftermath of the explosion of the first atom bomb. We live in an age that trembles before the terrifying shadow of the Ape of Thoth as it is depicted in the Tarot trump assigned to Hermes-Mercury. That is why we sometimes use the atom and particle physics as a metaphysical analogy.[2] The fragmented atom sweeps matter away in a lightning-fast cloud of fire and smoke. The trauma of that tremendous atom-smashing event, that has rended apart far more than even physical matter, now continues to reverberate on the plane of mind. The cell phones, computers and other digital devices that are now the plague-fetishes of our times are no more than ‘particular’ vehicles of expression for the lasting imprint of that hellish atomic atrocity upon the collective intelligence of humanity. That singular event demonstrated that the most clever and subtle scientific minds the race could produce were only, in the end, capable of producing senseless, barbaric mass-destruction on a scale never before imagined.

Kenneth Grant, in his Typhonian Trilogies, told how even the very first atom-splitting test tore open the fabric of space and time. A crack was then opened up in the delicate membrane that encircles the planet—the invisible egg of light that once served as a barrier or ring-pass-not against the intrusion of those from ‘Outside’. That is why The Fool 0 that Frieda Harris had painted for the highest path of Aleph on the Hermetic Tree wears a mask of madness and horror—for he has opened a veil that was once so tightly drawn to appear seamless, and therefore invisible to mortal eyes. What is the secret that the Fool beholds? It is himself that he sees, hurtling downwards towards the abyss.

The physical destruction unleashed by the atom is itself a metaphor for the intellectually destructive philosophical atomism, which was introduced through the arguments of the ancient Greeks. Causal determinism is still the dominant intellectual mode of our times. The tragic consequences of this are but dimly perceived by the legions of cerebrally and sensually anaesthetised hominids—those who dare not take their eyes and ears away from the beguiling artificial world of digital information. The configuration of stars and planets signifies that we have truly entered a new era. It is an era in which Initiates must conserve all of their energy and direct it towards the Great Work. Only then will they succeed in rising up above what is metaphorically termed, the waters of the Nile flood. While the water of the flood is not evil in itself, the dwellers that lurk within present a foe more formidable than mankind has ever imagined.


Notes

1. The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth [Ordo Astri] provides a commentary on the wisdom texts of the Sepher Yetzirah.
2. The Law of Thelema—Quantum Yoga [Ordo Astri].
© Oliver St. John 2013, 2018 (revised and extended)

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Lion-serpent of Babalon

Lion-serpent of Babalon: Here is the main entry from our Sepher Sephiroth for the 19th path of Leo the Lion.[1]

Lion-serpent of Babalon: Lust-XI, Crowley-Harris Thoth deck

The 19th path connects Chesed, the sphere of Jupiter, with Geburah, the sphere of Mars, and is imaged forth by the Tarot key Lust XI. The path is called the Intelligence of the Secret of all Spiritual Activities or the Occult Intelligence. The 19th path is the first that is wholly beneath the Abyss when descending, and the last before the Abyss when ascending the Tree. It is therefore the secret ruler and governor of all that is below, even as it receives the influence (mezla) from that which is above. The earlier versions of the 11th Tarot trump, such as the first printed Tarot of Marseille, depict a curious form of what the ancient Egyptians termed as the ‘Opening of the Mouth’. The woman appeared to be forcing the mouth of a lion or other beast open. This is an image of the tearing open of the Gate of Knowledge, Da’ath—something that requires great spiritual strength and courage to do without suffering calamity, since there is a high risk of obsession by the flow of images on this high-powered path. The secret of the path is that visible nature veils or conceals the numinous source of all. The magical power of the 19th path is the Power of Training Wild Beasts.

Lion-serpent

The Training of Wild Beasts is the art of deriving oracles from snakes and women. The power of hypnotism is also associated with the snake. The snake of light extends from the base of the spine to the medulla oblongata where the spinal column enters the brain at the back of the head. Occultly, the serpent then forms the third eye chakra. The secret of the 19th path is known to magi, and has been intuited by those that have travelled the intellectual path to its limits. To those seeking the realms beyond the Abyss, every bodhisattva is a lion in the road, an obstacle to the attainment of Gnosis. To be saved by Crowley is no better than being sent to hell by Jesus. Below the Abyss, should the adept fall (and so fail), “There is help and hope in other spells” (Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, II: 70).

There follows a fuller (though abridged) exposition on the magical nature of the Lion-serpent, the 19th path.[2]

Lion-serpent of Teth: Mystic Tarot

Over the course of time the letter teth evolved so that it came to mean ‘serpent’, although the serpent of old times was always nahash, the letter that was banished from the 24th path. The early Semitic and Cretan forms of the letter teth depicted the circle cross or Mark of the Beast, a symbol identical to that used by the ancient Egyptians to show a terrestrial or astral location:

Lion-serpent: Circle-Cross

The Mark of the Beast was also used as a protective amulet by the Egyptians, and was associated with Sekhet the lion goddess and Tauret the keeper of the Net, the starry cosmic matrix. The serpent and cross have always enjoyed a special relationship. The crossing of the 13th and 19th paths of the Tree forms the shadow or inverse reflection below the Abyss of the Calvary cross. The crossing of the two paths of the Moon of the Priestess and the Sun of the Lion-serpent form the special Mark of the Beast in the centre of the Unicursal or Alchemical Hexagram, a type of the Rosy Cross:

Lion-serpent: Unicursal or Alchemical Hexagram with Elements

The Moon was the earliest calendrical device. As the signature of time, periodicity, the Moon was the crown of Thoth or Tahuti [pronounce, djehuti]. Thoth gave knowledge and magick to Isis after she followed the advice of her dark sister Nephthys and stopped the flow of time by appealing to Ra the Sun God. At the cessation of time at the crossroads where the essences of the Woman and Beast intermingle (the 13th and 19th paths), Thoth was able to descend from heaven to earth in order to whisper magical words and spells into the ear of Isis.

The tale was replicated, in corrupt dualistic terms, in the apocryphal Book of Enoch, which describes how the sons of the Elohim descended to earth to copulate with the daughters of Eve. The sons of the Elohim then stayed with the women and taught them the knowledge of magick, alchemy and sciences. The congress produced a race of giants or ‘lofty ones’, called the Nephalim.

The 19th path, along with the 20th of the Hermit and the 21st of the Wheel of Force, is worked by the Adeptus Major. The Adeptus, having attained the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, the ‘five equals six’ degree, must now reverse this formula and make the six of the Macrocosm equal to the five of the Microcosm. This requires works of alchemy and evocation, summed up by the magical formulae of VITRIOL and ARARITA.

The Unicursal Hexagram is alchemical, depicting the four elements of Fire, Earth, Water and Air, equilibrated by Spirit under the governance of Sol and Luna. ARARITA is a notariqon for,

One is thy Beginning. One is thy Spirit. One is thy Transmutation.

VITRIOL is Latin:

Visitae Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidum.

The Adeptus is exhorted: “Go ye forth into the hollow hills of the earth. By rectification, there ye shall discover the secret stone of the wise.” The philosophers stone is thus found in the interior places of the earth, or Malkuth, hidden among the roots of the Tree of Life. Rectification means extracting the subtle from the gross, the gold from base metal and the elixir of life from among the poisons of the mind, which are as the excretions of the body.

The Quintessence of all, summed up by ARARITA, is also known as the magical AZOTH, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end expressed in three languages. The end of time is with the beginning, and vice versa. AZOTH consists of Alpha and Omega, Aleph and Tav, A and Z:

Lion-Serpent: AZOTH

The Sun cradled by the Moon is a form of the Holy Graal, the cup of our Lady BABALON. On the 19th path, Nuit and Hadit, cosmic principles of space and consciousness, attain their material expression as Babalon riding the Lion, the Woman and the Beast or Lion-serpent. Eve and the Serpent in the Garden of Eden is a kindred image. The Egyptian ceremony of Opening the Mouth (of the deceased) enabled the King or Initiate to pass through the underworld and traverse the fragrant paths of light that lead to the starry bowers of the garden of Nuit.

Some have described the Lion-serpent image of the 11th Tarot key as a woman closing the mouth of a lion, and from there comes the association with the magical power of The Taming of Wild Beasts. The ability to converse with and understand the secret languages of wild creatures is listed among the powers of the ‘fallen angels’ or Spirits of The Goetia. The Goetic Spirits are conjured by ceremonial evocation—one of the most glamorous sword and sorcery operations of magick. The Goetia is at the same time considered to be highly dangerous by many occultists. However, it is not necessary for those with developed faculties to evoke any Goetic Spirits in order to converse with birds and other wild animals. The method, which involves a sensitive understanding and practice of the magical Law of Thelema, is not one that can be taught or learned in the ordinary way. Those that imagine Nuit’s declared law to be merely a formula for using sexual magick to serve personal or political ends are naturally excluded from such conversations. Human consciousness is not at all the crown of creation, though man very much likes to think that it is; neither is man the only sentient creature on earth, let alone among all the other worlds that are and shall be. The sevenfold ARARITA and VITRIOL express a secret written and concealed in the sevenfold Law of Thelema:

Love is the law, love under will.


Notes

1. The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth, entry for the 19th number [Ordo Astri].
2. From Mystic Tarot and the Trees of Eternity, “The Lustre of Teth” [Ordo Astri].
© Oliver St. John 2013; revised and extended 2018

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Solstice Chariot to the Stars

Cancer is the 18th path on the Hermetic Tree of Life and is the intelligence linking the Understanding of Binah, the throne of Saturn, with Geburah, the energy of Mars. The esoteric title of the path is Child of the Powers of the Waters: Lord of the Triumph of Light. The Thoth Tarot trump is The Chariot VII, depicting Binah as the Holy Graal and Geburah as the furnace of the Sun, which is the blood or energy poured into the Cup by the magician.

Thoth Atu VII Chariot to the StarsThe sixteen subquadrants of the elemental Watchtowers of the Universe are depicted as composite sphinxes drawing the Chariot forward. The letter of the Tarot Atu is cheth, ‘fence or enclosure’. Cheth spelled in full (ChITh) is equal to 418, the number of Abrahadabra, which is emblazoned upon the Chariot’s canopy. Aleister Crowley’s solar interpretation of Abrahadabra as ‘Father-Sun-Hadit’ conceals a lunar formula, which is that of the magical spirit-body called the Khu in ancient Egyptian sacred texts and in Liber AL vel Legis. In cosmic aspect the Khu is the ‘company of heaven’ referred to in the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis I: 1–4:

Had! The manifestation of Nuit. The unveiling of the company of heaven. Every man and every woman is a star. Every number is infinite; there is no difference.

The 18th path of Cheth is called the Intelligence of the House of Influence. Cheth means ‘a wall’ or ‘enclosure’. From the interior of Binah, runes of secret knowledge flow forth via the Abyss. Secreted in these shades or stars are the keys of union with Nuit, the Queen of Space. The power or intelligence of the 18th path is experienced as consciousness that flows like water from the innermost depths, symbolised as the walled City of the Pyramids (Vision and the Voice, Aleister Crowley).

Secrets of the Chariot

Much of the labour of the Great Work is to make the frail human personality a suitable vehicle for the influx of cosmic consciousness that would otherwise overwhelm it. The preliminary work is to train the mind and increase the power of concentration—to hold an image steady in the mind like an unwavering flame. The mental powers are then applied to the building of a ‘Chariot’ or Merkebah, as depicted in the Tarot trump. This is the vehicle of will, called the resurrection body in mysticism. By this vehicle, the secret paths of the Hermetic Tree may be negotiated. The Holy Ghost and Holy Graal are cognate terms. The Cup of Babalon or Binah is the receptacle from which the feminine spirit, Khu or Shekinah, is imbibed, producing divine intoxication—not to be confused with ordinary drunkenness. The magical power of the 18th path is the Power of Casting Enchantments.[1]

Khephra Scarab by Jeff-DahlTaken at the most superficial level, the Power of Casting Enchantments is suggestive of the kind of magick usually associated with witchcraft or voodoo, where village folk consult with their shaman to settle a dispute with their neighbour, get revenge on someone that has slighted them, or perhaps cook up a potion to help them seduce someone. More seriously, the ancient Egyptian image for Cancer is the scarab beetle, Khephra. Khephra, or the sun at media nox, is the supreme totem of enchantment and of all transformations. Khephra is the neter (principle) of Becoming. Khephra is self-created, self-born, self-becoming, ever-changing and ever-living. Khephra is the Becoming—the magical transformative principle itself. Through this principle the soul is able to pass through the underworld and undergo transformation into a radiant Khu or Phoenix—the resurrection bird.

The magical discipline is such that powers of the mind are directed towards the building of a ‘Chariot’ (merkebah), as depicted in the Tarot trump. In mysticism, this is called the resurrection body. The Holy Ghost and Holy Graal are cognate terms: the Cup of Babalon or Binah is the receptacle from which the feminine spirit, the Egyptian Khu, is imbibed. The resurrection body is introduced in Liber AL vel Legis, I: 8, “The Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in the Khabs”.

Influential occultists of the 20th century were deluded by the pseudo doctrine of the Theosophists, where the individual ego is supposed to ‘reincarnate’ for life after life. Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune and others readily embraced the Theosophical notion as it provided almost limitless possibilities for story-telling. Fictional characters could travel back and forth in time; a magician could be anything they want to imagine in a ‘past life’—very often a priest or priestess from the sunken isle of Atlantis with incredible supernatural powers, or a mysterious adept endlessly reincarnating into new earthly lives to fulfil a supremely appointed destiny. If taken in any way seriously this is flattering for the individual while leading the aspirant into a spiritual cul-de-sac. The misinterpretation of ancient Greek and Hindu scriptures was later packaged and sold to naïve Westerners by New Age entrepreneurs.

Acceptance of the Theosophical doctrine has prevented Crowley and his followers from interpreting the Egyptian Book of the Law on vital matters, such as, “What happens to the soul after death?” “What must an Initiate do to prepare for this?” Even the aim and purpose of a Great Work becomes obscure once the pseudo doctrines of the New Age movement are accepted. Crowley, who was heavily influenced by Madame Blavatsky and her ‘Secret Chiefs’, proclaimed that Thelema is a ‘New Law for Humanity’. It is in fact the very ancient law and eternal truth that governs Initiation and soul survival. The doctrine of Thelema is identical with the Setian Gnosis of ancient Egypt, and in particular, of the Setian cult of Menthu in Thebes of the 26th Dynasty.[2] Egyptologists have served to further obfuscate the truth by placing emphasis on the late dynastic Osirian mummification process. Yet even The Egyptian Book of the Dead (so-called) reveals a consistent ancient Egyptian doctrine of the afterlife. The work of one unique incarnation determines whether the soul survives the second death or suffers annihilation through the dispersive forces of the underworld. Thelema, as according to Liber AL vel Legis, continues the ancient Egyptian Setian Gnosis where magical initiation and the life of the soul after mortal death are notions so intimately related as to be identical.[3]


Notes

1. This passage and the previous were adapted from The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth [Ordo Astri].

2. The source of the Thelemic transmission mediated by Rose Crowley in Cairo in 1904 was the Stele of Revealing, the funeral stele of a priest of the cult of Ankh-af-na-khonsu, Thebes, 26th Dynasty (around 500 BCE).

3. See Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs for new translations and commentaries on spells from The Egyptian Book of the Dead. The ancient Egyptian (and Thelemic) doctrine of the afterlife is there fully explained.

© Oliver St. John 2013, 2018
Khephra Scarab drawn by Jeff Dahl

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