Aleister Crowley and Thelema—Equinox of the Gods

“Although 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, the Egyptian Book of the Law rails against such reasoning and argument.”


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!

Liber AL vel Legis, III: 2

“All is not aught” is a succinct though subtle refutation of certain streams of the Eastern philosophy. Even if we make a clear distinction between Aleister Crowley, the man or personality, and the consciousness current we term ’93’, the buddhistic way is intellectually alluring—for some, compelling.[1] It also becomes a very easy way if we pay lip service to it while neglecting the core meditation practice. Sri Ramakrishna, the Hindu sage and devotee of Kali, held a view that in no way contradicts ancient Egyptian pharaonic theology:

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

Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita[2]

Great Neter: God comprehending all other Gods, E.A. Wallis Budge

Crowley and Thelema: God of all Gods

Crowley and Crowleyanity

The aim of magick is to make contact with occult intelligences. Historically, it has often been the case that such direct contact refutes mainstream dogma. Religion is about belief. The value of belief is in the telling of a good story but it is ultimately a bar to Gnosis. The ancient Egyptians had no word in their language for ‘religion’, since the concept for them did not exist. 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.

Although 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, the Egyptian Book of the Law rails against such reasoning and argument.[3] Indeed, 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 to the extent that all life on the planet is now under threat of imminent extinction.

Magical Timing

It is more likely 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.[4] 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.[5]

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. Destruction is the outcome, as surely as is splitting the atom. 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 the three chapters of Liber AL vel Legis, one for each day. A more magical (and poetic) approach to this 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.

Ouarda the Seer

Should it bother us that Crowley played down the role played by his wife, Rose or Ouarda the Seer? As she was the mediumistic agent for the whole business, Rose may very well have received and dictated the book to the scribe Crowley.[6] 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 Crowley’s Aeon of Horus was very swiftly superseded by an Aeon of Ma’at.[7] 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 Egyptian Book of the Law in any case about any “New Aeon”! All of this has introduced some bewilderment in the minds of those students of the occult that wish to find truth in written words and historical facts, so called. According to Liber AL vel Legis, III: 75:

The ending of the words is the Word Abrahadabra.

Everyone knows that ABRAHADABRA adds Qabalistically to 418. It appears in the grimoire attributed to King Solomon as a spell for invisibility, and the original form of this spell was ABRAKALA.[8] 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 certainly be sure of is that Rose Crowley, who was first abandoned by Crowley and subsequently rejected by him, was the Pythoness and oracular seer that brought us the Egyptian Book of the Law.


Notes

1. Buddhism—generally speaking, for there are many schools of thought and practice—appeals to the rationalist and employs what might be termed ‘Greek reasoning’ to set its particular truth over and above all other truths. Perhaps the statement would be better qualified as ‘intellectual Buddhism’.
2. Recorded by Sri Mandiram, March 11, 1883: Conversations with Sri Ramakrishna [Vedanta Press].
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 (Faber and Faber), as it is relevant in the present context.
4. 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 (Confessions of Aleister Crowley) his recorded time of birth indicated that Cancer, ruled by the Moon, was rising on the hour. 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!
5. See Kenneth Grant, Beyond the Mauve Zone pp. 34 [Starfire Publishing].
6. Such a book does exist and is titled Liber L vel Ouarda, or Liber DLXXVI, The Book of Ouarda the Seer. The content is identical to that of the MS version but without the interrogative interruptions of the scribe Crowley. The numbering of verses differs therefore. Ouarda has the Qabalistic value of 576. The original title of the book was “L”, not “AL”, since it is a book of the Law of Ma’at, not a book of religious precepts.
7. 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].
8. See The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth, under the number 256  [Ordo Astri].

© Oliver St. John, 2018

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Magick of the Aries Equinox

Aries Equinox: The entry of the Sun into Aries signifies the commencement of the Thelemic New Year, as dated from year zero, 20th March 1904. This commemorates the first ritual of Thelema, the Equinox of the Gods, an invocation of Horus performed by Aleister Crowley and his wife Rose, in Cairo Egypt.

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

The Crowley-Harris 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 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. Concerning The Aeon XX and the 31st path called the Perpetual Intelligence:

“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. 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, the divine, 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.”[1]

Aries Equinox: Natural Intelligence

“The 28th path of Tzaddi connects Netzach, the sphere of Venus, with Yesod, the sphere of the Moon, and is imaged forth by the Tarot key, The Emperor IV. 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.

Aries Equinox: Hebrew letter Tzaddi of the 28th path

“The king portrayed in the 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, 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.”[2]

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 Tarot Trump

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, S. L. 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 Aleister Crowley’s tables in 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 even got round to updating his key scales to conform with 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 extraordinary 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 in Qabalistic terms, ‘son’ and ‘sun’ are identical.


Notes

1. From The Mystic Tarot and the Trees of Eternity, ‘The King of Tzaddi’.
2. Description of the 31st and 28th paths from The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth.
Related articles: Equinox of the Gods
© Oliver St. John 2015, 2018 (revised)

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Crisis of the Modern Age

René Guenon had a far-reaching vision. His life covered a critical turning point in history, encompassing great changes. With the book, Crisis of the Modern Age, Guenon was seeing what he called the Kali Yuga, the ending of a Great Aeon or Mahayuga, and the sinking into dissolution of all real knowledge. René Guenon died in 1951 and could not have foreseen exactly how things would turn out half a century later. Yet much of what he wrote concerning the distortion of symbol, language and the meaning of things, the loss of tradition, everywhere prevails.

René Guenon Crisis: Ten of Swords AGMuller

Ten of Swords from pop art Neuzeit Tarot, Walter Wegmüller, AG Muller 1982: The card depicts ten swords, bearing nonsensical motifs and depending from a crazy carousel. The masses look on, enthralled by the illusion or otherwise self-absorbed. Grasping hands vainly reach upwards. Reason has become indistinguishable from the absurd and irrational.

The Kali Yuga, according to Hindu scriptures, is the Age of the Demon. The ‘demon’ is the force that opposes all spiritual knowledge, bringing on a long Dark Age of materiality. With the culmination of Kali Yuga comes the final dissolution, preparing the way for the birth of a new Mahayuga cycle. Lasting for more than 6000 years, Kali Yuga comes as the fourth and final phase in a Great Aeon. The working out of these ages of time by Eastern philosophers seems to have incorporated full knowledge of the astronomical precession of the equinoxes. According to the astronomer and sage, Aryabhatta, writing fifteen centuries ago, Kali Yuga began around 3000 BCE. We have more than a thousand years of Kali Yuga before a new Golden Age dawns; by that time there will be nothing left of our present civilisation.

Guenon vs Crowley

Aleister Crowley’s theory of three Great Aeons is very unsatisfactory, as evidenced by his garbled account of it in The Book of Thoth. Crowley tried, unconvincingly, to equate his aeonic theory with the precession of the equinoxes, though he did note that we are now entering the precessional Age of Aquarius—a mere 2000 years in the great precessional cycle of 26,000 years. The Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, has very little to say about aeons or ages of time; there is no account in the book of any New Aeon. The passage that refers to Crowley as “the prophet”, Liber AL I: 26, was expressing his own thoughts and questions on the book—he gave himself that appointment. In the same verse Crowley appealed to Nuit for “a sign”. That is, he sought a sign or token of his own supreme authority. It becomes clear that while receiving and recording the transmission, Crowley’s meditation was constantly disturbed by his desire to resurrect the fragmented Order of the Golden Dawn with himself as leader. He thus misconstrued the book’s true import.

However, if we study the Egyptian Book of the Law in the light of the precessional ages, of which the last is the apocalyptic Kali Yuga, it becomes clear that, so far as the book is concerned with time at all, it describes the present time as the final phase of the dissolution of a Great Aeon, a Mahayuga. The book then provides the keys for an Initiate to survive the dissolution in spiritual terms. We must exercise careful discernment when studying this book: while the revelation concealed in the text did not spring from the mind of Crowley, there is much other content that did, or that was influenced by his insistent thoughts and demands.

The talisman that unlocked the 93 Thelemic Current, unleashed on Aleister and Rose Crowley in a hotel room in Cairo in 1904, was the Stele of Revealing, discovered in the Museum of Cairo by Rose. It was the funeral stele of an Egyptian high priest that served in the Temple of Karnak in Thebes, around 700 BCE, and named Ankh af-na-khonsu, ‘Life and Soul of Khonsu’.[1] Khonsu is the Egyptian deity or Neter revered at Thebes, and particularly associated with the Moon. The Moon was in turn associated with the counting of time. There is no need to go further into the historical details here. What is important is that the spiritual law encrypted in the funeral stele of Ankh af-na-khonsu came near the end of the long ages of ancient Egyptian civilisation. In another thousand years the language would be completely forgotten. Even by Hellenistic times, the old Gods of Egypt would only be studied academically by Egyptian priests. Crowley’s reception of the Book of the Law in 1904 coincided simultaneously with the death of the Romantic era in Europe and the unmitigated onslaught of a Dark Age more terrible than any other—a time in which countless numbers of human beings on earth would be crushed by mechanised industrial warfare on a vast scale. When nations are not directly concerned with industrial subjugation or mass extermination of their own species the war becomes one where the weapons are either psychological or clandestine. We have arrived at the present time.

One idea unique to the Western Mystery Tradition is that one can live an ordinary life, or a ‘normal existence’, and do ritual and meditation for an hour or so a day over a prolonged period of time. One ought to be able to engage with the world and worldly concerns, work for a living and even maintain a family. One need not become an effete spiritual recluse incapable of taking a bus or managing ordinary things. The methods of training have been in use for about a century, where the person keeps a daily diary Record of their spiritual and magical work. Crowley, writing seventy years ago, said:

There are very few people today who have heard of Plato and Aristotle. Not one in a thousand, perhaps ten thousand, of those few have ever read either of them, even in translations. But there are also very few people whose thinking, such as it is, is not conditioned by the ideas of those two men.[2]

The emphasis, “such as it is”, is ours, not that of the author. Crowley was observing a decline in the ability of people to think coherently. In the twenty-first century there are now very few persons capable of concentrating their minds on one thing to the exclusion of all else. People now spend more time at work in a job, or two or three jobs, than at any other time in history. A few decades ago there was a lot of talk about how things would be in the future. Everyone imagined there would be more leisure time. Machines would take care of mundane tasks, or accelerate tasks so people had more time to themselves.

Guenon and the Future

That future has arrived now, and the opposite has occurred. With the sovereign role now played by Information Technology, many people spend hours a day looking at virtual displays on a phone, tablet or computer. They listen to digital ‘music’ in headphones while they are performing various tasks—a degradation of both music and listener. Their consciousness is buried beneath multiple layers of wallpaper distractions. Whereas at one time a person undergoing Hermetic training had to learn how to control their own thought, the information addict is already the slave of everyone else’s thoughts, however banal. Literature is being replaced by digital images and icons. No matter how high the resolution, a digital image can never be more than dots creating an illusion of form and space. Virtual reality is a lie; the software illusion is not ‘near’ reality, it has nothing to do with it. The same applies to digital music, film and television.

We are told by business professionals that very few people will actually read the present article. Though it might score millions of website ‘hits’, we understand that most people do not actually read the information on websites or other forms of digital media. What they do is scan the information—the person runs their eye quickly down the content, searching for something appealing.

Businesses make large amounts of money from mouse clicks. There is no need to think. No precious time in which to calculate the loss of a thing that cannot be bought or sold, a thing that once lost is lost forever. It is no longer about thought or imagination, which takes far too much effort. It is about comfortable self-identification. Corporations do not make profit from moral and intellectual strength; they make profit from moral and intellectual weakness.

Absorption in the digital delusion kills the intellectual and imaginative faculty that is needed in magical or spiritual practice. Although the pursuit of magick and mysticism was always for a small minority of persons, it has become more difficult in the technological age. However, it has always taken great moral courage to get anywhere with real magick. The courage to stand against the flow of fashion, to resist the mundane world and the pressures it places, the tendency towards the economically driven distraction and diversion in things alternately banal or horrifying. To paraphrase Crowley, one must earn the right to do Yoga by managing one’s time and life to make room for it in the first place.[3]

Guenon and the Present

When René Guenon commented on the modern age he used the term, ‘anti-initiation’. If initiation can be the transmission of knowledge, then there has to be an equal and opposite idea. Guenon observed a powerful movement against initiation in the modern world. He denounced many of the occult traditions from which we have taken influence. That clearing away, the denunciation of all that was not harmonious in his universe, was part of the personal initiation of René Guenon, and yet what he wrote has universal implications. Guenon could have little idea, at that time, of the massive rise of popular culture that took place in the 60s and 70s and that has continued onward to the present day. Pop culture, with all its genres and fashion cults, is a powerful force against initiation, real knowledge and meaningful tradition. Advertising, television and social media are all forces against initiation, whether blindly or no.

Guenon was seeing the emergence of what we may now term as the New Age movement. The New Age is a general term that includes many quasi-spiritual ‘paths’ that lead nowhere but to dispersion of mind and the wasting of the soul. Yet they all claim to confer magical powers, ‘healing’, self-mastery and even spiritual enlightenment.

More insidiously—though it is openly supported by pop culture and New Age spirituality—there is now a very disturbing movement of anti-intellectualism in the West. Anti-intellectualism and totalitarianism have always gone hand in hand. The blinding of words by the confusion of language has always served the authoritarian anti-intellectual movement. That service is done in the name of freedom, in the name of equality and in the name of individualism—even where there is no real individuality, no freedom and no social justice.

The Real is eternally true. Human reason and ego does not touch it, for these have no ground in the Real. Every mystic tradition for thousands of years has told us that. Civilisations rise and fall—history tells us that. The present technological age will certainly come to an end—everything does. None of that makes any difference to the Real, and what is eternally true. One must not fall into despair. That is a false trail, for despair is itself a force of anti-initiation.

There is still plenty of the natural world left, although it is fast declining under the advance of human technological and industrial totalitarianism. If we switch off our digital devices, phones, computers and other gadgets, leave our urban environments and go to the woods, the sea—if we learn to understand the language of birds and wild creatures, come to understand the subtle vibrations of plants and trees, of the sun, the moon and the stars—then we will be closer at least to the Real, to something truly authentic. No man, not even the greatest thinker, philosopher, guru or mage, can prevent the sun from rising and setting or command the moon to change her course. No one can start or stop the revolution of the Great Wheel of the Aeons. What we can do is prepare ourselves spiritually so that, like the Egyptian high priest Ankh-af-na-khonsu, we may “open the doors of Nuit”.


Notes

1. Part of the inscription on the funeral stele of Ankh-af-na-khonsu, reads, “Lord of Thebes, the Opener of the Doors of Nuit in Karnak, Ankh-af-na-khonsu, the Justified.”
2. The Book of Thoth, pp. 33.
3. Aleister Crowley, Eight Lectures on Yoga.
© Oliver St. John 2015, 2018

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