Aleister Crowley and Thelema—Equinox of the Gods

Aleister Crowley preferred to cast himself in the mould of the Eliatic Greek school, going so far as to adopt the argumentative methods and intellectual idealism of Socrates.

Crowley Equinox: Bulaq Stele of RevealingThe (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, rails against such reasoning and argument. The rationalist science of today has its roots firmly immersed in the clay of classical Greek dogma. Thus scientism is not only against nature but has also tricked mankind with its stream of inventions. Consequently, all life on the planet is now under threat of imminent extinction.

Natural law (or Thelema) is in fact esoteric. Esotericism is at the core of Liber AL vel Legis, but it is precisely the logic-defying nature of this doctrine that leads Thelemites to embrace what is an essentially isolationist interpretation of the path.[1]

The aim of magick is to make direct contact with occult intelligences. Historically, such contact refutes mainstream dogma. Religion is about belief. The value of belief is in the telling of a good story but that is ultimately a bar to Gnosis. The ancient Egyptians had no word in their language for ‘religion’; the concept did not exist for them. The Book of the Law is a transmission from an ancient Egyptian source. As such, it is a knowledge stream that vastly predates both science and religion. According to Liber AL, III: 2,

There is division hither homeward; there is a word not known. Spelling is defunct; all is not aught. Beware! Hold! Raise the spell of Ra-Hoor-Khuit!

‘All is not aught’ is a succinct though subtle refutation of certain streams of the Eastern philosophy as construed by Western academic atheism. The circle of ‘all’ is the infinite expression of all possibility (Nuit), as defined by the point (Hadit), the esoteric factor. The absence of sense objects is not the same as ‘nothing at all’. In Qabalah, the source of all, AIN, is called ‘negativity’, as it is beyond description. Yet even AIN has a dual meaning, for it is the eye (A’ain) of the beholder. Postmodern or faux Non-Dualism declares that ‘everything is true and equally untrue’.

The statement declares a ‘truth’ (untruth) that is descriptive only of human reason, denying even the possibility of reality. As symbol, it admits only to relativism, and falls back ultimately on self-determinism and self-love as the solution to the dilemma it produces.[2]

Causal determinism originated with Socrates, who demanded there should be a naturalistic explanation for all sacred myths.[3] The prevailing dogma of scientism owes to this ancient Greek argument. In the 19th century, Schopenhauer put forward his doctrine of self-willed intellectual determinism in The World as Will and Representation (1818). This is the basis of Crowley’s rationalist interpretation of the Law of Thelema. It is the basis of today’s academic psychologisation of the mysteries. The postmodern school of the ‘Left Hand path’ also requires causal determinism as its philosophical basis.

The dogmatic assumption is that there is a natural order of the cosmos that is rationally comprehensible (and so limiting). Such a natural order is not even differentiated from, say, social order or convention. It then follows, if one accepts this, that one must isolate or separate one’s intelligence from this situation to resolve the paradox with free will and achieve meaningful individual expression.[4]

Taken to the logical extreme, the postmodern Left Hand path school of thought produces the self-confining, self-limiting doctrine of Isolate Intelligence.[5]

Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita, the Hindu sage and devotee of Kali, held a view that reconciled the inevitable nihilism and isolationism of rational Non-Dualism with the apparent emotionalism of devotional mysticism.

God has form and He is formless too. Further, He is beyond both form and formlessness. No one can limit Him.[6]

Crowley and the Equinox of the Gods

It is probable that Crowley received the writing of the Book of the Law on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd April 1904, not the 8th, 9th and 10th as he subsequently claimed. This was first noted by Kenneth Grant, who studied the diaries and holograph MSS of Crowley at first hand, while receiving personal tuition from him.[7] Crowley cared little for such trifles as historical times and dates. The time and date of his birth is a documented fact. By his own admission his recorded time of birth indicated that Cancer, ruled by the Moon, was rising on the hour.[8] Crowley much preferred the fiery solar-masculine sign of Leo the Lion over the watery, feminine-lunar Cancer the Crab. He therefore simply changed the time of his birth to suit.

Does it matter? If it matters at all, then it matters only for the purposes of understanding how practical magick works. The timing of things is vital in magick. To separate magick from nature is to separate man from truth with the divisive sword of intellectual reason. When a magical operation is performed on the Equinox of Aries (20th March, the initiation of the Cairo working), the fulmination of that work arrives with the full Moon. In 1904, the full Moon in Libra very nearly coincided with Easter (Friday 1st April), and there was a lunar eclipse so that any corresponding events would be marked ever more deeply.

None of this need be of any concern to historians or scholars of the life and times of Aleister Crowley. Let it be then, that Crowley wrote down the book on the 8th, 9th and 10th April 1904. Then we can all sleep safe in our beds. After all, some observe this ritually, by reading aloud from the three chapters of Liber AL vel Legis, one for each day. A magical (and poetic) approach is to read from the book on the full Moon immediately following the Equinox of Aries each year. Anciently it has always been the Moon, and not any arbitrary calendrical date that determined the times for rituals. Crowley, on the other hand, wisely suggested it might be best to burn the book after the first reading.

Crowley and Ouarda the Seer

Equinox of the Gods: Ouarda the Seer, Rose Edith KellyShould it bother us that Crowley suppressed the truth concerning the role of his wife, Rose or Ouarda the Seer, in the reception of the Book of the Law? As she was the mediumistic agent throughout the Cairo Working, Rose may very well have received and telepathically (or otherwise) transmitted the book to the scribe Crowley. This would account for the instructions on practice given him in the middle of the second chapter that he clearly refused to obey. It would account for the fact of Rose’s handwritten notes added to the manuscript, not to mention that even by his own account the ‘Beast’ had to consult with her concerning his anxiety over the neologism, ‘unfragmentary’ (Liber XXX, I: 26). After that, the tone of the book becomes increasingly cryptic and menacing—hence the second verse of the third chapter that we have quoted.

Wise Words and Foolish

Some have interpreted, “there is a word not known” (AL, III: 2), as meaning that Crowley somehow failed to utter a word to inaugurate the New Aeon. The Aeon that subsequently ensued was abortive, so it is said. This has deluded some (including perhaps Crowley) into thinking an actual word—a word that can be spelled or spoken—is a necessary part of the equipment of a Magus that is somehow in charge or governance of an entire epoch in the history of human civilisation. Some have posited that an Aeon of Ma’at swiftly superseded Crowley’s Aeon of Horus.[9] This was later qualified by Kenneth Grant as a dual Aeon of Horus-Maat. Grant also made much mention in his books and letters of a ‘Wordless Aeon’. Others would have it that all aeons in time are presided over by Horus and Ma’at in both ancient Egyptian and astrological terms. The balance of the year is Aries and Libra. There is nothing in the Book of the Law about any ‘New Aeon’. All of this has introduced some bewilderment in the minds of those students of the occult wishing to find truth in written words and historical facts, so called. According to Liber AL, III: 75,

The ending of the words is the Word Abrahadabra.

ABRAHADABRA adds Qabalistically to 418. It appears in the Key of Solomon as a spell for invisibility; one of the original forms of the spell was ABRAKALA.[9] Crowley’s favoured interpretation was typically solar-phallic, ‘Father-Sun-Satan’. However, the seven-lettered ABRAKALA expresses the power of the divine creatrix, summed up in 256 or 16 x 16, the shade of the full Moon. There are three colours or primary kalas for the face of the White Goddess, white, black and red. She is either visible, invisible or in eclipse. During eclipse, a shade appears ahead of time, so to speak, thanks to the intervention of the body of the earth. Thus the powers of a lunar eclipse include prophecy, divination and oracular utterance.

One thing we can be certain of is that Rose Edith Kelly (Rose Crowley) was the Pythoness and oracular seer that brought us the Book of the Law.


Notes

1. From ‘Lapis Philosophorum’, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs [Ordo Astri].
2. ‘Lapis Philosophorum’ [ibid].
3. See R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, Sacred Science (pp. 18, Inner Traditions International) and Plato’s Phaedrus for the naturalistic explanation that Socrates gives for all sacred myths. The interested reader is encouraged to read the Foreword by Robert Graves to his second edition of The White Goddess, as it is relevant in the present context [Faber and Faber].
4. ‘Lapis Philosophorum’ [ibid].
5. Isolate Intelligence is the core doctrine of some postmodern Left-hand path occult organisations. The Temple of Set, founded by Michael Aquino, is a notable example as Aquino coined the term. Zos Kia Cultus, ‘Self-Love’ and ‘As-If’ cults also posit the Isolate Intelligence or ‘single Self as supreme reality’.
6. Recorded by Sri Mandiram, March 11, 1883: Conversations with Sri Ramakrishna [Vedanta Press].
7. See Kenneth Grant, Beyond the Mauve Zone pp. 34 [Starfire Publishing].
8. Confessions of Aleister Crowley, by Aleister Crowley.
9. A disaffected disciple of Crowley, Charles Stansfeld Jones (Frater Achad) posited an Aeon of Ma’at as commencing from 1948 e.v. See The Incoming of the Aeon of Maat [Starfire Publishing].
10. See also ABRQRBA, another less corrupt form of ‘Abrahadabra’.

© Oliver St. John, 2018, 2019

Related articles
Babalon Unveiled!
Magick of the Aries Equinox
Crisis of the Modern Age
Books
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Magick of the Aries Equinox

The Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot trump for the Aries Equinox is The Emperor IV. It is a surprisingly conventional image compared to the rest of the deck. As an alternative Tarot for the equinox, we present here The Aeon XX. Here we have Nuit, Hadit and Heru-ra-ha, the double form of Horus. The principle of governance is extended to the cosmic level.[1]

Aries Equinox: Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot trump The Aeon XX

Evocation is among the magical powers of this path. Whereas invocation means ‘calling in’, evocation is ‘calling forth’, or to call up. Thus images of the Tarot card based on the Renaissance Tarot de Marseille deck depict the dead being called up from their tombs on the day of judgement by an Angel blowing a trumpet. Aleister Crowley changed the title and the image of the card so The Aeon XX depicts the Egyptian gods or neters, Nuit, Hadit and Ra-Hoor-Khuit. Here, Horus becomes the Avenging Angel, the Lord of Judgement. It is notable that in this image Horus is shown in dual form, as Heru-ra-ha. He is crowned and throned as Ra-Hoor-Khuit but at the same time is surrounded by a figure of Harpocrates or Hoor-paar-kraat, the God of Silence. There is a dark side to this, for in the present age man has replaced the image of Logos, the word, and Theos, divinity, with the image of himself. If a word is not heard then it may not be uttered. At the apotheosis of his technical and scientific wizardry, man has become dumb. The ventriloquist’s dummy is thus an apt totem of the present technological age.[2]

Aries Equinox: Natural Intelligence

The 28th path of Tzaddi connects Netzach, the sphere of Venus, with Yesod, the sphere of the Moon. The title of the 28th path is the Natural Intelligence, for it is the perfection of the nature of all things under the orb of the Sun. The desire of Venus reflected into the mirror of the Moon makes impressions upon the Astral Light. Much of the work of occultism is to create new forms as suitable vehicles for the incarnation of the will to transcendence. On the other side of the coin, forms are created to hook or enslave the soul, as revealed by the ‘fishhook’ of the letter tzaddi.

The king portrayed in the traditional Tarot trump is the fisher-king found in the myths and legends of many cultures. The king is an image of meditation and magick where key symbols are held and fixed by concentration of will. Meditation requires sustained and persistent effort over a lengthy period of time—years, not days or weeks—before it ceases to be regarded as a personal exercise. The powerful astral glamour that pervades this path gives rise to the delusion of instant enlightenment, the notion that much can be gained spiritually in return for very little effort. The desire for acquisition of spiritual or magical powers, or the belief that one can be made ‘healthy, wealthy and wise’ through magical manipulation, psychological improvement or hypnotism is no more than the restless urge of the human ego to maintain its tyranny over the soul. The beginner at meditation discovers that instead of making things more comfortable, the practice irritates the body and is annoying to the ego. Most therefore terminate the discipline within a few days or weeks, deciding that it is not their ‘path’, after all—they soon return to the market place where vendors are eager to trade in miracles. The magical power of the 28th path is the Power of Consecrating Things.[3]

The Aries Equinox and 28th path thus embody the principle of governance. The King and the land are one. The ego and body are one. There is a need to seek out a holy graal, lest the body of the king becomes a wasteland, and the soul is dragged down with it.

Aries Equinox: Esoteric Title of the Path

There is a note of interest here on the esoteric title of the Tarot trump, Sun of the Morning, Chief among the Mighty. These titles were passed down from the historic Golden Dawn of 1888 and presumably came from the inexhaustible genius of the Golden Dawn founder, SL Macgregor Mathers. Some Golden Dawn sources—and there are many—render the title as Son of the Morning. It is impossible to know for sure what was originally intended as the papers of the Golden Dawn were all passed on and copied by hand. Those that have rendered it Sun of the Morning have taken it from the tables in Liber 777. However, these were compiled from the same kind of sources and even the most recently published editions contain ‘typos’ never corrected in the first draft. Crowley never got round to updating his key scales to conform to the Liber AL change of the trump’s allocation from the 15th path of Hé to the 28th path of Tzaddi.

Ithell Colquhoun used Sun of the Morning in her surrealist Tarot, though it is possible she had access to other sources than that of Crowley. We are happy in any case to take the title as it was given in 777, and by Colquhoun, though our intuitive sense tells us that Mathers most likely named it Son of the Morning after all! The first placement of the card was on the 15th path from Chokmah to Tiphereth, and so the King is called Chief among the Mighty as his root is directly with the supernals. As for Son of the Morning, this would be an allusion to the Holy Guardian Angel in Tiphereth as well as the name of the Order, the Golden Dawn. The title has provoked interesting lines of thought, whether the trump is placed with Hé or Tzaddi. For example, as Tzaddi, the King becomes the Son of the Morning Star. To save losing any sleep, it is well to remember that ‘son’ and ‘sun’ are cognate terms.


Notes

1. The Egyptian Tarot of Thelema Atu Hrumachis IV fully reveals Horus as risen Lord of the Equinox. See the Tarot card and description here at Ordo Astri.
2. From The Mystic Tarot and the Trees of Eternity, ‘The King of Tzaddi’.
3. The description of the 28th path is from The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth.

© Oliver St. John 2015, 2018 (revised)

Related articles: Equinox of the Gods

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Beethoven, Philosophy and the Stars

Ludwig van Beethoven was born at 03:40 am on December 16th, 1770 in Bonn. His horoscope has the Sun, Moon and Mercury in Sagittarius. Jupiter, ruler of Sagittarius, is accentuated by conjunction with the Sun. This is apt considering that Beethoven developed the music of the Classical era so far beyond its existing parameters that many persons at the time could not comprehend what he was doing.

Beethoven, Philosophy and the Stars: Ludwig van BeethovenBorn at the dark of the Moon, Beethoven was strongly influenced by the revolutionary movement in Europe. The position of Uranus in Taurus directly opposite his Scorpio Ascendant is descriptive of his love for ancient traditions combined with magnetic compulsion towards individual freedom and liberty. Beethoven openly despised the rigid class system of the time. Friends and patrons alike found him unconventional, uncompromising and ‘difficult’.

The disruptivBeethoven, Philosophy and the Stars: Natal Horoscopee placement of Uranus in the 7th house indicates misfortune in matters of love. The field of the 7th house embraces ‘all others’, including any marriage partners. Beethoven never married but fell passionately in love with a succession of unattainable women. That is to say, the women were unattainable by virtue of their higher social class or ‘position’.[1] In the case of his love for Antonie Brentano, the problem was that she was already married. In July 1812, the composer spent two days writing a now famous love letter that he never sent, and possibly never intended to send. It was addressed to “you, my Immortal Beloved”, and went on to include,

“My heart is full of so many things to say to you—ah—there are moments when I feel that speech amounts to nothing at all. Cheer up—remain my true, my only love, my all as I am yours.”

The unaspected Venus in Capricorn in the 3rd house of the chart indicates that Beethoven had an inclination towards falling in love with women that he taught the piano to. Women of ‘noble breeding’ were expected to play a little music as an ‘accomplishment’, so their husbands would not be bored by their company. While exalting the women to the heights (Saturn at Midheaven), Beethoven would remain isolated in the relationship for one reason or another, and so unable to form what was in those days called ‘an attachment’ with the object of his desire.

Beethoven, Philosophy and the Stars: portrait of the young man (detail)Anecdotes and letters show the Uranian element to be very powerful with Beethoven. He supported the French Revolution until Napoleon declared himself Emperor. On hearing the news, Beethoven took the front page of the score for his 3rd Symphony, upon which he had written a dedication to Bonaparte, and tore it in half, separating his name from that of the self-proclaimed Emperor. When his brother once acquired some land and signed himself as “van Beethoven, land proprietor”, Beethoven replied, “van Beethoven, brain proprietor”. Beethoven famously said to the noble Prince Lichnowsky (a patron and admirer),

“What you are, you are by accident of birth; what I am, I am by myself. There are and will be a thousand princes; there is only one Beethoven.”

Mars is the Lord of the Horoscope, as ruler of the Scorpio Ascendant. Mars, from his location in the 8th house, sends three formidable opposing rays against the Sun, Moon and Mercury in the 2nd house. As the 2nd house generally governs the physical body, it is impossible not to think of the crippling deafness that brought the maestro to the brink of suicide. Survival of that period was accomplished by a heroic effort of will. Only love of God, and the gift of music—that there was so much more music he had yet to give to the world—saved Beethoven from self-annihilation.

A further notable configuration in the natal horoscope is the Grand Trine formed between Neptune, Uranus and Pluto in the earth triplicity. The slow-moving outer planets are traditionally regarded as ‘impersonal’ factors in a horoscope, marking the character and experience of an entire generation. There are various placements, however, that can indicate the potentially subversive intrusion of supersensory phenomena.[2] Scientific orthodoxy will not accept the ‘supersensible’. Nonetheless thousands, perhaps millions of persons have experienced something that is only expressed in terms of spiritual philosophy, for example, ‘transfiguration’, when listening to the music of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Ludwig van Beethoven and Philosophy

Alexander Wheelock Thayer (1817–1897) was the author of the first biography of Ludwig van Beethoven. The work is still regarded as a standard reference on the composer’s life. Ludwig was well versed in classical Greek literature as well as that of the German philosophers of his time. Of the German writers, the composer particularly revered Schiller and Goethe. At around the middle of his career, Beethoven wrote to a friend,

Beethoven, Philosophy and the Stars: the composer“Since that summer in Karlsbad I read Goethe every day, that is, when I read at all. He has killed Klopstock for me. You are surprised? And now you laugh? Ah ha! It is because I have read Klopstock. I carried him about with me for years while walking and also at other times. Well, I did not always understand him, of course. He leaps about so much and he begins at too lofty an elevation. Always Maestoso, D-flat major! Isn’t it so? But he is great and uplifts the soul nevertheless. When I could not understand him I could sort of guess. If only he did not always want to die! That will come quickly enough. Well, at any rate, what he writes always sounds well. But Goethe—he is alive, and he wants us all to live with him. That is why he can be set to music. There is no one who lends himself to musical setting as well as he.”[3]

‘Maestoso’ is a musical term, meaning, ‘majestic, dignified’, usually quite slow in tempo. To Beethoven, the key of D-flat major, with many black notes if played on the piano, would have epitomised a mood of depression or despair.

Thayer reports that in 1823, the Englishman Edward Schulz wrote of his visit to Beethoven. He had found in him a friend of ancient Greek literature such as the works of Homer, particularly his Odyssey. Beethoven preferred Plutarch above all classical writers; from there he developed an admiration for ancient Egypt. In Isis and Osiris, which was written as a letter to Clea, a priestess of Isis, Plutarch writes,

“All good things, my dear Clea, a sensible men must ask from the gods; and especially do we pray that from those mighty gods we may, in our quest, gain a knowledge of themselves, so far as such a thing is attainable by men. For we believe that there is nothing more important for man to receive, or more ennobling for God of His grace to grant, than the truth. … Therefore the effort to arrive at the Truth, and especially the truth about the gods, is a longing for the divine. For the search for truth requires for its study and investigation the consideration of sacred subjects, and it is a work more hallowed than any form of holy living or temple service; and, not least of all, it is well-pleasing to that goddess whom you worship, a goddess exceptionally wise and a lover of wisdom, to whom, as her name at least seems to indicate, knowledge and understanding are in the highest degree appropriate.”


Notes

1. A musician, even a composer and performer of exceptional ability, was no different from a merchant in the social order. A woman of the nobility, or otherwise of high standing, could not enter into a liaison with a person of inferior rank without risking her reputation and inheritance. Indeed, she could risk more than that. If unsupported she could not gain employment even as a menial servant. The embankment of London, for example, was densely populated in those days with completely destitute women from all social classes.

2. The book Hermetic Astrology has a chapter devoted to ‘Outer Gateways’  formed when outer planets make a personal impact on the native. These are sometimes associated with supersensory phenomena. Some dictionaries do not include the word, ‘supersensory’, as it is not acceptable to conventional science. The Oxford dictionary gives, ‘transcending the senses; that is above or beyond what is perceptible by the senses’. It would be more accurately described, ‘beyond what is perceptible to the ordinary human senses’. Some persons, and many species of animal and bird, have extraordinary senses. The word was coined by the 19th century psychical researcher, Edmund Gurney.

3. Beethoven, by Thayer, pp. 802.

© Oliver St. John 2019

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