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.
The 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.
Taken 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. 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.
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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