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.


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
Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs [Ordo Astri].

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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.


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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Art of Sagittarius and the Holy Guardian Angel

The Tarot trump for the 25th path of Sagittarius, the Intelligence of Probation, is Art XIV, depicting the Holy Guardian Angel performing a work of transmutation on the soul. The full title of the trump is The Daughter of the Reconcilers: the Bringer-forth of Life.

Art of Sagittarius: Thoth Tarot Atu Art XIVThis trump was traditionally titled Temperance. It depicted an Angel pouring liquid between blue and red vases. In the Tarot of Aleister Crowley and Frieda Harris, the card has been retitled Art. It is the art of alchemy that is portrayed here. The trump corresponds to Sagittarius, the mutable fire sign of the Zodiac.

The signs of the Zodiac are best understood as pairs; Gemini is opposite and complementary to Sagittarius the Archer or Centaur. In the Tarot trump for Gemini, the Lovers, pairs of opposites are shown: black and white, silver and gold, good and evil, male and female. The red and white tinctures of alchemy are symbolised by a lion and an eagle. In the trump for Sagittarius all these opposites have exchanged places; the red lion has become white, the white eagle has become red. The Holy Guardian Angel, clothed in green and wearing light and dark masks, pours fire and water into a golden cauldron. In the cauldron she mixes drops of blood from the paw of the lion and tears from the mouth of the eagle.

The link between Gemini and Sagittarius is the Arrow of Will. A stream of light, guided by an arrow, rises upwards from the cauldron until it reaches the heart of the Angel; from there, the light branches into a rainbow that falls over her shoulders like a cape. Whereas the card for Gemini depicted a mystic marriage, the card called Art symbolises the consummation of that mystical union. The spiritual idea as expressed by Crowley in the Book of Thoth (pp. 103) is that an incomplete element is spiritualised only through the assimilation of its equal and opposite. The means of accomplishment is written in gold lettering upon a large orb, shining like the Sun behind the Angel: Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidum. ‘Visit the interior parts of the earth: by rectification thou shalt find the hidden stone.’ Alchemists described the stone of the wise or universal medicine variously as a stone, a powder or a tincture. It may be divided into silver and gold or red and white, but its essence is always the same.

That which is Below is like unto that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the Miracle of the One Essence.[1]

Sagittarius and the Flaming Sword

The 25th path of Samekh connects Tiphereth, the sphere of the Sun, with Yesod, the sphere of the Moon. The title of the path (Sepher Yetzirah) is the Intelligence of Probation or Trial. It is only by test, experiment, trial and experience that the harmony and beauty of Tiphereth can become permanently fixed in Yesod, the Foundation in the natural soul or body for the Ruach, the intelligent mind. The operation of the Great Work can only proceed if the aspirant practices detachment, indifference to phenomena, and refuses to identify their self with the actions of the personality and the events that seem to be taking place around. The ‘indifference’ is not to be thought of as lack of attention; in fact, the level of observation is intensified through the meditation practice. The magical power of the 25th path is the Power of Transmutations.

The deity we invoke when the Sun enters Sagittarius is the Egyptian Nephthys, sister of Isis. Nephthys is the principle of dematerialisation (waning moon) and dissolution of the ego or ‘body of the king’—a process that must begin no sooner than a foot is placed on the path. For that reason, in traditional mysticism the Intelligence of Probation is often likened to a Dark Night of the Soul. The 25th path crosses the veil called Paroketh.

Sagittarius and the Holy Guardian Angel

Most, if not all religions, have sensibly avoided trying to define ‘God’. As soon as the Absolute is explained in dualistic terms, ambiguous limitations are imposed. No less the Holy Guardian Angel, a term long used in the Western Mystery Tradition. The Holy Guardian Angel is the Messenger or Communicant of the divine Absolute. As with God, it is wise to limit ourselves to negative terms—what the Holy Guardian Angel is not. Scriptures and magical grimoires use allegory to convey truth that cannot be put into words. Promises of unlimited treasure, of worldly and supernatural powers, have lured many fools while at the same time providing evidence for the sceptic that it is all superstitious nonsense.

There are some deities that closely fulfil the divine messenger role of the Holy Guardian Angel, of which a few are: Dionysus, Jesus, Krishna and Horus. These names are perhaps religious and cultural modifications of one type, a god that is able to appear (or incarnate) in human form.

The Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel is assigned to Malkuth, yet the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel is the exclusive task of an Adeptus Minor. It is impossible not to use mystical allegory: the ‘bride’ or soul in Malkuth, the daughter or princess of the Kingdom, must be wedded to the ‘prince’ or Holy Guardian Angel in Tiphereth. Experiencing the solar centre of the Hermetic Tree does not involve ordinary clairvoyance or magical powers, so-called. The ‘Heart Girt with a Serpent’ is a metaphor for the impersonal cosmic principle fully realised as the sole source of personal existence. It is that which the ancient Egyptians called ‘Intelligence of the Heart’. This cannot be arrived at through a process of reason or argument unless the sword of reason is turned against itself.

Where belief begins, knowledge ends. Faith and belief are quite different words in the language of mysticism. Faith in the spiritual sense has more to do with acceptance of the path than adherence to dogma or fixation on some particular class of vision. The Gnostics ascertained that faith (pistis) is necessary to open the heart so that knowledge (gnosis), if it should come, will find a place to dwell. In the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis I: 58, the cosmic principle Nuit informs her disciple that,

I give unimaginable joys on earth: certainty, not faith, while in life, upon death; peace unutterable, rest, ecstasy; nor do I demand aught in sacrifice.

The Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel may come about through subtle changes of consciousness over a long period of time, or it may come as a shattering realisation—or a series of such explosive revelations. There is no architectural blueprint that can be applied to all. The attainment of this primary goal of magick will not confer omniscience—neither does any magical grade or degree—and unless discipline and vigilance is continued, there is still a risk of falling from the path. What does this mean, ‘falling from the path’? The ‘Black Brother’ is a term that can apply equally to the magician or mystic that has lost heart, or the devotee of material sciences that seeks to suppress spiritual knowledge through dogmatic denial of its existence. Either way, the person becomes shut up in their ego, and all energy is utilised towards reinforcing the delusion. In his book Nightside of Eden, Kenneth Grant likened this to obsession by the Qliphoth of the 12th path of the Hermetic Tree, the path of Tarot Atu I, The Magus.[2] All the force of the will is concentrated on the ego, and is utilised for the reinforcement of personal identity. On the other hand, the Queen of Space rewards the aspirant that stays the path, as declared in Liber, I: 53:

This shall regenerate the world, the little world my sister, my heart and my tongue, unto whom I send this kiss.

It is said that all paths end in Mystery. Surviving the ordeals of initiation defines the path in a way that only the individual can truly understand. When the knowledge is firmly embedded in the heart through prolonged meditation, aspiration and vigilance, and is carried through into the daily life and work, then Nuit’s ‘kiss’ may at last confer the gift of certainty to her chosen one.


1. From the ancient Egyptian Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus.
2. Kenneth Grant, Nightside of Eden, Part Two, Chapter 2 [Starfire Publishing].

© Oliver St. John 2012, 2018

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