Masque of the Red Death

Masque of the Red Death: Is truth fact or is it fiction? In the technological age, truth has come to be seen as relative, so that effectively, for the great majority of the people, there is no truth, only necessity. The natural consequence of the philosophy, that by now holds the world in the grip of its claw, is that truth is destroyed. Human beings are turned into unthinking automatons, obedient slaves of faceless and frequently masked corporations.

Some writers of fiction and fantasy, for example Edgar Allan Poe, HP Lovecraft and Robert W Chambers have, whether they knew it or not, touched on profound truth through the reach of their imagining. They did not think they were prophets or that their purpose was in any way to produce prophecy, yet they intuited future events that were unimaginable to others. Some inspired thinkers, such as Huxley, Guénon and Lubicz, knowingly set down their vision based on what they saw as already latent and perhaps, inevitable, in their own time. They usually warned the world, blind and deaf to their vision, that they hoped it would not be so, but that it might very well come about unless some radical intervention should be wrought.

The matter of identity is a recurring theme in prophetic fiction. It has become pivotal in an abrupt technological coup d’état across the whole of a civilisation. The chaotic technological new world order matches and even surpasses the worst scenarios described by the visionaries. It is therefore necessary to examine the greatest fiction of all, which is called personal identity.

The Masque of the Red Death, by Edgar Allan Poe, was first published in 1842. The story takes place at the castellated, fortified and sealed abbey of Prince Prospero. It has been a great influence on writers of the bizarre and macabre. For example, Robert W Chambers, The King in Yellow, Act I, Scene 2.

CAMILLA: You, sir, should unmask.
STRANGER: Indeed?
CASSILDA: Indeed it’s time. We all have laid aside disguise but you.
STRANGER: I wear no mask.
CAMILLA: (Terrified, aside to Cassilda.) No mask? No mask!

Identity is a curious thing. In Poe’s story the ‘Red Death’ is a real plague, that devastates an entire kingdom. What we see in the world today, however, is the covert implementation, through technological surveillance and mass hypnosis, of a merger between virtual reality and ‘real’ reality for the purpose of mass control and behavioural modification. The people are the new financial base for the benefit of a wealthy elite—plutocractic, totalitarian governance perpetuated through staged ‘democracy’.

The masque has lately focussed on a dominance and submission theme, replete with the fetishes and strict rules of conduct of sadomasochism. Doubtless there will be other games to play before another masked stranger enters the palace, this time called Oblivion. The decoy plays an important rôle in the fictional narrative as well as the ‘real’ one. Nothing remains when the mask (or masque) is torn off—the illusion seen for what it is.

The Masque of the Red Death, by Edgar Allan Poe

The red death had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal—the madness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress, and termination of the disease, were incidents of half an hour.

Masque of the Red Death, illustration by Harry ClarkeBut Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his crenellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince’s own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts.

They resolved to leave means neither of ingress nor egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the ‘Red Death’.

The Masque

It was toward the close of the fifth or sixth month of his seclusion that the Prince Prospero entertained his thousand friends at a masked ball of the most unusual magnificence.

It was a voluptuous scene, that masquerade. But first let me tell of the rooms in which it was held. There were seven—an imperial suite. In many palaces, however, such suites form a long and straight vista, while the folding doors slide back nearly to the walls on either hand, so that the view of the whole extant is scarcely impeded. Here the case was very different; as might have been expected from the duke’s love of the ‘bizarre’. The apartments were so irregularly disposed that the vision embraced but little more than one at a time. There was a sharp turn at the right and left, in the middle of each wall, a tall and narrow Gothic window looked out upon a closed corridor of which pursued the windings of the suite. These windows were of stained glass whose color varied in accordance with the prevailing hue of the decorations of the chamber into which it opened. That at the eastern extremity was hung, for example, in blue—and vividly blue were its windows.

The second chamber was purple in its ornaments and tapestries, and here the panes were purple. The third was green throughout, and so were the casements. The fourth was furnished and lighted with orange—the fifth with white—the sixth with violet. The seventh apartment was closely shrouded in black velvet tapestries that hung all over the ceiling and down the walls, falling in heavy folds upon a carpet of the same material and hue. But in this chamber only, the color of the windows failed to correspond with the decorations. The panes were scarlet—a deep blood color. Now in no one of any of the seven apartments was there any lamp or candelabrum, amid the profusion of golden ornaments that lay scattered to and fro and depended from the roof. There was no light of any kind emanating from lamp or candle within the suite of chambers. But in the corridors that followed the suite, there stood, opposite each window, a heavy tripod, bearing a brazier of fire, that projected its rays through the tinted glass and so glaringly lit the room. And thus were produced a multitude of gaudy and fantastic appearances. But in the western or back chamber the effect of the fire-light that streamed upon the dark hangings through the blood-tinted panes was ghastly in the extreme, and produced so wild a look upon the countenances of those who entered, that there were few of the company bold enough to set foot within its precincts at all.

It was within this apartment, also, that there stood against the western wall, a gigantic clock of ebony. It pendulum swung to and fro with a dull, heavy, monotonous clang; and when the minute-hand made the circuit of the face, and the hour was to be stricken, there came from the brazen lungs of the clock a sound which was clear and loud and deep and exceedingly musical, but of so peculiar a note and emphasis that, at each lapse of an hour, the musicians of the orchestra were constrained to pause, momentarily, in their performance, to hearken to the sound; and thus the waltzers perforce ceased their evolutions; and there was a brief disconcert of the whole gay company; and while the chimes of the clock yet rang. it was observed that the giddiest grew pale, and the more aged and sedate passed their hands over their brows as if in confused revery or meditation. But when the echoes had fully ceased, a light laughter at once pervaded the assembly; the musicians looked at each other and smiled as if at their own nervousness and folly, and made whispering vows, each to the other, that the next chiming of the clock should produce in them no similar emotion; and then, after the lapse of sixty minutes (which embrace three thousand and six hundred seconds of Time that flies), there came yet another chiming of the clock, and then were the same disconcert and tremulousness and meditation as before.

But, in spite of these things, it was a gay and magnificent revel. The tastes of the duke were peculiar. He had a fine eye for color and effects. He disregarded the ‘decora’ of mere fashion. His plans were bold and fiery, and his conceptions glowed with barbaric lustre. There are some who would have thought him mad. His followers felt that he was not. It was necessary to hear and see and touch him to be sure he was not.

Fashionable Madmen at the Masque

He had directed, in great part, the movable embellishments of the seven chambers, upon occasion of this great fete; and it was his own guiding taste which had given character to the masqueraders. Be sure they were grotesque. There were much glare and glitter and piquancy and phantasm—much of what has been seen in ‘Hernani’. There were arabesque figures with unsuited limbs and appointments. There were delirious fancies such as the madman fashions. There were much of the beautiful, much of the wanton, much of the bizarre, something of the terrible, and not a little of that which might have excited disgust. To and fro in the seven chambers stalked, in fact, a multitude of dreams. And these the dreams—writhed in and about, taking hue from the rooms, and causing the wild music of the orchestra to seem as the echo of their steps. And, anon, there strikes the ebony clock which stands in the hall of the velvet. And then, for a moment, all is still, and all is silent save the voice of the clock. The dreams are stiff-frozen as they stand. But the echoes of the chime die away—they have endured but an instant—and a light half-subdued laughter floats after them as they depart. And now the music swells, and the dreams live, and writhe to and fro more merrily than ever, taking hue from the many-tinted windows through which stream the rays of the tripods. But to the chamber which lies most westwardly of the seven there are now none of the maskers who venture, for the night is waning away; and there flows a ruddier light through the blood-colored panes; and the blackness of the sable drapery appalls; and to him whose foot falls on the sable carpet, there comes from the near clock of ebony a muffled peal more solemnly emphatic than any which reaches their ears who indulge in the more remote gaieties of the other apartments.

A Stranger at the Masque

But these other apartments were densely crowded, and in them beat feverishly the heart of life. And the revel went whirlingly on, until at length there commenced the sounding of midnight upon the clock. And then the music ceased, as I have told; and the evolutions of the waltzers were quieted; and there was an uneasy cessation of all things as before. But now there were twelve strokes to be sounded by the bell of the clock; and thus it happened, perhaps that more of thought crept, with more of time into the meditations of the thoughtful among those who revelled. And thus too, it happened, that before the last echoes of the last chime had utterly sunk into silence, there were many individuals in the crowd who had found leisure to become aware of the presence of a masked figure which had arrested the attention of no single individual before. And the rumor of this new presence having spread itself whisperingly around, there arose at length from the whole company a buzz, or murmur, of horror, and of disgust.

In an assembly of phantasms such as I have painted, it may well be supposed that no ordinary appearance could have excited such sensation. In truth the masquerade license of the night was nearly unlimited; but the figure in question had out-Heroded Herod, and gone beyond the bounds of even the prince’s indefinite decorum. There are chords in the hearts of the most reckless which cannot be touched without emotion. Even with the utterly lost, to whom life and death are equally jests, there are matters of which no jest can be made.

The whole company, indeed, seemed now deeply to feel that in the costume and bearing of the stranger neither wit nor propriety existed. The figure was tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave. The mask which concealed the visage was made so nearly to resemble the countenance of a stiffened corpse that the closest scrutiny must have difficulty in detecting the cheat. And yet all this might have been endured, if not approved, by the mad revellers around. But the mummer had gone so far as to assume the type of the Red Death. His vesture was dabbled in blood—and his broad brow, with all the features of his face, was besprinkled with the scarlet horror.

When the eyes of Prince Prospero fell on this spectral image (which, with a slow and solemn movement, as if more fully to sustain its role, stalked to and fro among the waltzers) he was seen to be convulsed, in the first moment with a strong shudder either of terror or distaste; but in the next, his brow reddened with rage.

“Who dares”—he demanded hoarsely of the courtiers who stood near him—“who dares insult us with this blasphemous mockery? Seize him and unmask him—that we may know whom we have to hang, at sunrise, from the battlements!”

It was in the eastern or blue chamber in which stood Prince Prospero as he uttered these words. They rang throughout the seven rooms loudly and clearly, for the prince was a bold and robust man, and the music had become hushed at the waving of his hand.

It was in the blue room where stood the prince, with a group of pale courtiers by his side. At first, as he spoke, there was a slight rushing movement of this group in the direction of the intruder, who, at the moment was also near at hand, and now, with deliberate and stately step, made closer approach to the speaker. But from a certain nameless awe with which the mad assumptions of the mummer had inspired the whole party, there were found none who put forth a hand to seize him; so that, unimpeded, he passed within a yard of the prince’s person; and while the vast assembly, as with one impulse, shrank from the centers of the rooms to the walls, he made his way uninterruptedly, but with the same solemn and measured step which had distinguished him from the first, through the blue chamber to the purple—to the purple to the green—through the green to the orange—through this again to the white—and even thence to the violet, ere a decided movement had been made to arrest him. It was then, however, that the Prince Prospero, maddened with rage and the shame of his own momentary cowardice, rushed hurriedly through the six chambers, while none followed him on account of a deadly terror that had seized upon all. He bore aloft a drawn dagger, and had approached, in rapid impetuosity, to within three or four feet of the retreating figure, when the latter, having attained the extremity of the velvet apartment, turned suddenly and confronted his pursuer. There was a sharp cry —and the dagger dropped gleaming upon the sable carpet, upon which most instantly afterward, fell prostrate in death the Prince Prospero.

Then summoning the wild courage of despair, a throng of the revellers at once threw themselves into the black apartment, and seizing the mummer whose tall figure stood erect and motionless within the shadow of the ebony clock, gasped in unutterable horror at finding the grave cerements and corpse-like mask, which they handled with so violent a rudeness, untenanted by any tangible form.

And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.


Notes

The Masque of the Red Death, by Edgar Allen Poe was first published in 1842. The subheadings are ours, not the author’s.

What is a masque? It is a form of amateur dramatic entertainment, popular among the nobility in 16th and 17th-century England, which consisted of dancing and acting performed by masked players. Masque is also a variant spelling of mask. For example, “The victim or submissive frequently wears a masque in the perverted sex amusements of sadomasochists”.

A masque can be a manner or expression that hides one’s true character or feelings: “I let my masque (or mask) of respectability slip”.

A masque (or mask) may be a covering for all or part of the face, worn as a disguise, or to amuse or frighten others. A masque may also be a likeness of a person’s face moulded or sculpted in clay or wax. A masque may be a person’s face regarded as having set into a particular expression: “His face was a masque of rage.”

A masque is also a hollow model of a human head worn by ancient Greek and Roman actors.

Origin: Early 16th century, in the sense ‘masquerade or masked ball’. Probably a back-formation (influenced by French masque, ‘mask’) from masker, from Italian mascar ‘person wearing a mask’.

At the end of Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, when the masque of the stranger is forcibly removed, there is absolutely nothing beneath it, or the costume.

© Oliver St. John 2020

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Mystery of Sokar

Sokar (or Seker) means ‘pure’. Depending on how the name is spelled, there is also a link with the principle of power itself (sekhem), for Sokar is Lord of Death and Resurrection. He is sometimes depicted as a mummified hawk and at other times as a white mound or shroud surmounted by a black hawk’s head.

Egyptian God SokarAccording to EA Wallis Budge, Sokar was “originally a power of darkness, or of the night”.[1] As such, his attributes are identical with those of Set. Sokar is called the ‘great god, who came into being in the beginning, he who resteth upon the darkness’. As such he was ancient even when the Pyramids were built, as are his rites. Among other of his titles are ‘He who raises up in the desert’ and ‘Dweller in the secret place, king of eternity, power of the everlasting’. The region of the underworld particularly associated with Sokar is Imhet (or Amhet), meaning ‘Abode of the Desert’. He is also ‘Lord of the gates of the tomb’ as the opener of the sealed entrances to the labyrinthine Necropolis. As lord of transformations in the underworld he is depicted as winged and standing on the back of a serpent. He is sometimes depicted as crowned with a disc and the twin plumes of Ma’at.

Sokar’s chief cult centre was at Memphis, which was also the principle cult centre of Ptah. Sokar was frequently merged with the attributes of Ptah, the self-created craftsman of the gods. Silver bowls and artefacts made from metal were frequently consecrated in his name. He was associated with agriculture as well as irrigation. His cult followers did rites of purification and embalming in his name.

The fiction writer Algernon Blackwood was able to convey some profound insights into the soul of Egypt, and of the vast expanse of the desert wilderness. In ‘Sand’, his writing was inspired by his experiences of the desert near Cairo.

Through this sand which was the wreck of countless geological ages, rushed life that was terrific and uplifting, too huge to include melancholy, too deep to betray itself in movement. Here was the stillness of eternity. Behind the spread grey masque of apparent death lay stores of accumulated life, ready to break forth at any point. In the Desert he felt himself absolutely royal.

And this contrast of Life, veiling itself in Death, was a contradiction that somehow intoxicated. The Desert exhilaration never left him. He was never alone. A companionship of millions went with him, and he felt the Desert close, as stars are close to one another, or grains of sand.

Hennu Boat of Sokar

Of all the rites of Sokar the procession of the hennu boat is perhaps the most striking and unique to him. The Sokar boat or hennu represents the sun’s journey by night through the underworld. The image of the hawk-headed Sokar was placed in a boat shaped like a sledge with runners. The boat was never intended to sail on water, it was built to be carried, and was said by some to be steered by the dead. If so, then the navigation took place among the stars, for the hennu was an astral vessel.

Depictions of Sokar in the hennu boat sometimes show his hawk’s head only, while his body is covered in a white, luminous shroud. According to Antoine Gigal, the shroud was made of special luminous cells.[2] The luminosity is the covering of ‘all that is created and all that can ever be created’. On the day of the festival of Sokar, the high priest raised up an ark or small wooden shrine at the moment of sunrise and placed it on the hennu boat. The shrine and hennu boat was then pulled along across the sands in a circular procession about the temple of the god, mirroring the revolution of the sun, planets or other celestial bodies.

The higher end of the sledge was fashioned in the shape of the head of an oryx, a species of desert antelope and the original type of the unicorn. The hennu boat was in the charge of the High Priest of Memphis, called Ur-kherp-hem, ‘Great One of the Hammer’, a reference to Ptah as cosmic creator god.

We associate Sokar with Scorpio and the month of October, which according to the alchemists is the only time when iron can be turned into gold.[3] The desert oryx, a gentle creature unless attacked, seems an unlikely association. However, Scorpio’s twin sign in the Zodiac is Taurus, denoting a horned beast, and October embraces the Sun’s entry into Sagittarius, the Centaur.

‘Oryx’ is an anglicisation of the Greek ορυξ, derived from the Libyan orus, ‘digger’. The white Arabic oryx is known to dig out a bed in the sand to keep cool. The desert beast can survive for long periods without water, like the camel. It can detect rainfall at a great distance and can travel thousands of miles in pursuit of the water.

Sokar Boat: Oryx maau-hetch hieroglyphsThe hieroglyphic determinative for ‘oryx’ is frequently mistaken for that of a goat. The Egyptian name is ma’au hetch, denoting the bright white colour of the Arabian species of oryx and the straightness (ma’at) of its horn. The ma’au is cognate with ‘truth’, ‘regularly and always’, ‘purity’ and ‘a gift’. According to Budge it is also the name of ‘a star’ and ‘a god’.[4] Taking all into consideration the star may be Regulus, heart of the Lion constellation. Ma’au is the name of Apep in the form of a lion-serpent, the most ancient astroglyph for Leo. The lion-serpent image combines Leo (lion) with Scorpio (snake). The eagle is a further symbol of Scorpio frequently paired with the lion in alchemy. Hetech means ‘white’, ‘shining’, and the name can be spelled with a stylised staff and shen loop for ‘eternity’. The name is etymologically linked with ‘elders’ and ‘nobility’. The Egyptian name of the oryx is usually spelled in hieroglyphics with the sickle ma’a, ‘Lion of Truth’. The same hieroglyph, in combination with the hetch mace, denotes any sharp instrument as well as the action of digging or piercing.

Sokar and the Unicorn

The oryx is mentioned six times in the King James Bible. The Aramaic re’em is mistranslated there as ‘unicorn’. The same word was translated into Greek as monokeros (μονoκερως) in the Septuagint. In Psalm 22: 21, the word karen, meaning ‘horn’, is written in the singular form. According to Jewish folklore, when King David was a shepherd he was carried up into the sky by an oryx after he mistook its horn for a mountain. He is then saved by the intervention of a passing lion, which causes the oryx to bow its head in respect. Another legend has it that Noah strapped the long, sharp horns of the oryx to the Ark so the animals inside could breathe.[5] The transposition of the tale of Noah’s Ark from that of the exceedingly ancient hennu boat is fairly obvious. There were long held associations between the oryx, the lion—with its connotations of nobility—and mountains, as ‘high’, ‘strong’.

The Aramaic re’em (RAM) has the value of 241 and is a metathesis of aramea (ARM), ‘mountain or mountainous place’. It is also equal to ‘speak forth, command or give a word’ (AMR) and is the root of Genesis I: 3, “And the Elohim said, Let there be light: and there was light”. The number 241 is that of Albarah, ‘wings of God’, which is a term used in alchemy for Mercury or Quicksilver. As with other species of antelope, the oryx is able to run at great speed.

The word ‘oryx’ is used as a name for a stonemason’s pickaxe, owing to the strength and sharpness of the creature’s horn, and possibly owing to the fact that the oryx sometimes uses it to excavate the desert sand. In Greek it has the value 630, equal to ‘Holy Spirit’ (RVChA QDIShA) and Seraphim (ShRPIM), ‘fiery serpents’.

The oryx carries the secret of the Lord of the Necropolis in its heart and its name, which is a reliquary for a vast tract of forgotten knowledge. The Golden Dawn named the initiate of Hod, the 8th sephira, Monokeros de Astris, ‘unicorn of the stars’. Hod is the Temple of Water on the Hermetic Tree of Life, and at the same time corresponds to Mercury. The unicorn is thus an apt cipher for the way of returning through the double gates of the underworld to the abode of the Gods.

Lord of the Necropolis

Sokar is and has always been Lord of the Saqqara Necropolis near Memphis and Giza. In predynastic times, a labyrinth was dug out of the desert sands beneath the Saqqara complex. Finely fashioned, highly polished granite arks weighing upwards of 50 tons were placed in cavities there. The arks or vessels are cathodic, for they are polished like glass on the inside. There are no historical records of the builders of these impossible artefacts but they are thought by some to be the ‘old ones’ or ‘elders’ referred to in sacred texts, or their descendants.

The Great Old Ones is a term used in scriptures referring to an elder race that pre-existed that of the human, indistinguishable from gods. Either they, or their descendants, are referred to in the book of Genesis as Nephilim or ‘giants’, ‘men of renown’. Between Memphis and the Saqqara Necropolis was once a sacred acacia tree. One of the Egyptian names for Memphis is Ankh-Tawy, ‘Life of the Two Lands’. Thus the Tree of Eternity spreads its roots and branches between the worlds of the living and the dead.


Notes

1. Budge, Gods of the Egyptians Vol. I, pp. 504–505.
2. The Mystery of the Sokar Hennu Boat, Antoine Gigal, 2013. From Gigal Research—Archaeological and historical researches.
3. The month of Scorpio (October–November) is the ‘death’ of the year in the northern hemisphere of the globe. Thus the Tarot card Death XIII, corresponding to Scorpio, is called Child of the Great Transformers: Lord of the Gate of Death.
4. Budge, An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, Volume I, pp. 270 A.
5. Robert Graves, Hebrew Myths: The Book of Genesis, Chapter 7, ‘The Reem and the Ziz’.

The portrait of Sokar at the head of the article is from Egyptian Tarot of Thelema Sokar XIII. The Tarot card and its full description can be viewed here at Ordo Astri.

© Oliver St. John 2019

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Oracle of Babalon

The Enochian Legacy: A book collector, Sir Robert Cotton (1571–1631), purchased the field where John Dee had buried his diary records, and proceeded to dig them up. The Cotton Manuscripts were subsequently edited and published by Meric Casaubon in his A True and Faithful Relation (1659).

Babalon Oracle and Enochian

An operation recorded by John Dee on the 23rd May 1587 is commonly thought to have been the result of skrying the 7th Aethyr of the Enochian system. There is no evidence from John Dee’s diaries that Dee and Kelly ever skryed any of the 30 Aethyrs directly; the idea originated from comparison of the Daughter of Fortitude oracle with Aleister Crowley’s skrying of the 7th Aethyr, centuries later. The spirit invoked in the skrying crystal by John Dee was Madimi, the same spirit that was contacted at the beginning of the Enochian work. The mischievous spirit had sometimes appeared naked, causing some consternation to the two men.

Enochian Oracle of Babalon: Whore of Babylon, William Blake

There is a popular myth that the vision so unnerved Kelly that it caused him to permanently part company with Dee and sever all relations. This story was elaborated and dramatised somewhat by Kenneth Grant in his book, The Magical Revival and has been oft repeated; the alleged criminal activities of Kelly that supposedly followed might owe more to Crowley’s past life fantasies than any historical evidence. In fact, according to Dee’s record, the reading over of the Oracle from the Daughter of Fortitude, described in the diary as the “Golden Woman”, caused the two men “great comfort”. The vision was received soon after Dee and Kelly, with some reluctance, obeyed an instruction to share their wives in common. This is all the more extraordinary on consideration that all four parties involved were devout, God-fearing Christians. On 3rd May, the four had signed a pledge, concerning what was termed as a strange and secret doctrine that “should unto no mortal man be disclosed”:

We four (whose heads appeared under one crystalline crown, and in one pillar united and enclosed) do most humbly and heartily thank thee (O Almighty God, our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier) for all thy mercies and benefits hitherto received in our own persons, and in them that appertain unto us; and at this present do faithfully and sincerely confess and acknowledge that thy profound wisdom in this most new and strange doctrine (among Christians) propounded, commended and enjoined unto us four only, is above our human reason, and our Catholic Christian profession to like of…

John Dee’s method of invocation appears to have been a simple prayer to be “instructed in the understanding and practice of wisdom”. The result was a beautiful and truly remarkable oracle received from Sophia or Babalon, whose mystery is that she is a harlot, loved by many, and yet remains a virgin. A Hermeticist may readily understand this to be Isis, Nuit-Babalon or the Shakti of the Eastern Tantras. As Shekinah or female holy presence her natural abode is Binah or Saturn, above the Abyss of the Hermetic Tree of Life. As the Graal or Graal cup holder, she is naturally the receiver of all and the refuser of none. The vision was, however, received by two men during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Kelly described Babalon in terms evocative of the Scarlet Woman (Babylon) of the book of Revelation or Apocalypse:

All her attire is like beaten gold; she hath on her forehead a cross crystalline, her neck and breast are bare unto under her dugs. She hath a girdle of beaten gold slackly buckled unto her with a pendant of gold down to the ground.

The Oracle of Babalon

I am the daughter of fortitude and ravished every hour, from my youth. For behold, I am understanding, and science dwelleth in me; and the heavens oppress me. They covet and desire me with infinite appetite; for none that are earthly have embraced me, for I am shadowed with the circle of the sun, and covered with the morning clouds. My feet are swifter than the winds, and my hands are sweeter than the morning dew. My garments are from the beginning, and my dwelling place is in my self. The lion knoweth not where I walk, neither do the beasts of the field understand me. I am deflowered, and yet a virgin; I sanctify, and am not sanctified. Happy is he that embraceth me: for in the night season I am sweet, and in the day full of pleasure. My company is a harmony of many symbols, and my lips sweeter than health itself. I am a harlot for such as ravish me, and a virgin with such as know me not: For lo, I am loved by many, and I am a lover to many; and as many as come unto me as they should do, have [my knowledge].

As yet, I walk in the clouds; as yet, I am carried by the winds, and cannot descend unto you for the multitude of your abominations, and the filthy loathsomeness of your dwelling places.

Purge your streets, o ye sons of men, and wash your houses clean; make yourselves holy, and put on [the garments of truth]. Cast out your old strumpets, and burn their clothes; [avoid the company of the profane, for they do not know me] and then will I come and dwell amongst you. I will open my garments, and stand naked before you, that your love may be more enflamed towards me. And behold, I will bring forth children unto you, and they shall be [as vessels of love and truth].

Babalon added repeated warnings not ever to disclose this knowledge to the profane. The vision describes the method of Enochian sexual magick best termed as Jnanamudra; when practiced by the adept, Jnanamudra leads automatically to Mahamudra. The Oracle bears comparison with the Sethian Gnostic text, Thunder Perfect Mind or Divine Barbelo, dated to the middle of the 2nd century CE. However, Dee and Kelly could not possibly have seen this, since the Nag Hammadi texts were buried in a cave in Egypt and not discovered until 1945 e.v. It is worth noting that John Dee began his Enochian magical operation to recover lost ancient books through the means of clairvoyance.


Notes

From the forthcoming book, Enochian Magick—Skrying the Aethyrs.
We have taken the liberty of revising some of the Oracle as it appears in the Cotton Ms. for the purpose of magical invocation: In Nomine Babalon. Any altered or moved text is placed in paranthesis.

a) The word ‘symbols’ is sometimes given as ‘cymbals’; the English language of the time had no standard spelling, the word could be either, and either word fits the context.
b) The original text gives ‘entertainment’ which we have rendered ‘knowledge’. Babalon is clearly not an entrepreneur.
c) The sentence, “As yet I walk in the clouds…” was originally the last; we have placed it here where it sits more comfortably in the overall flow of the passage.
d) The last line, originally “sons of love”, could be interpreted ‘sons of God’, since in the Enochian language, ‘love’, BLIOR, is a name of the Holy Guardian Angel. One thinks also of the Nephalim, mentioned in the book of Genesis and Apocryphal book of Enoch—the lost book that John Dee was in fact hoping to recover by clairvoyant means.

A Note on Jack Parsons and the Babalon Working: It was most probably Jack Parsons, a rocket scientist and former disciple of Aleister Crowley, that initially made the comparison between the vision of Babalon and Crowley’s skrying of the 7th Aethyr. The Babalon Working of Jack Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, is now widely documented. Through this, Parsons obtained his Liber 49, an Oracle from Babalon that Parsons imagined to be a fourth chapter of the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis.

© Oliver St. John 2013, 2021
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