This article is to provide some background and the historical basis to our course, Hermetic Qabalah Foundation. It also provides some useful guidelines to how the course is worked.
Crowley once remarked of Thelema that “do what thou wilt” was to bid stars to shine, vines to bear fruit, water to seek its own level, etc. Thus Thelema can be seen as self-regulation or—perhaps better—as self-fulfilment. Like the Hindu analogy of Brahma being the one actor who has forgotten that he is playing all rôles, we are all expressions of the 93 Current, with our parts to play, and in this play, the Current is expressing itself through us. Thus there is no need to look upon the work of Crowley, or Grant, or Spare as being a fixed body of work before which we can only, awestruck, bend the knee; rather, we should use it as one source amongst several from which we can develop our own body of work.
Michael Staley, Starfire Volume II No. 3
There is a Thelema beyond Aleister Crowley, whose magical system was put together between 1909 and 1947. Working through a correspondence course to achieve magical initiation nonetheless seems to have originated with Crowley, though he is rarely given credit for it. In the old style Golden Dawn Lodges, where initiation was supposed to be achieved with group ceremonies, few persons did any personal work. There was little or no supervision unless they were fortunate to know the right people. Crowley was taught by Allen Bennett, but that was a rare case. There was a tendency therefore for quite a lot of people to get into relatively high grades without gaining real knowledge. They attended meetings and paid their dues.
The correspondence method, introduced by Crowley and continued for a short time by Kenneth Grant, is necessarily didactic. Initiation is then about personal work done and the discipline of the magical diary Record. Dion Fortune further developed the correspondence course method in her Fraternity of Inner Light, and it came to us through that route. It was a former student of Dion Fortune that first put it to us that we might continue the tradition. We are now in the 4th generation and everyone has added and contributed along the way.
Hermetic Qabalah Foundation
The Hermetic Qabalah Foundation is unique and original to the O∴ A∴ but the mode of working, where the Tree of Life is travelled from top to bottom instead of bottom to top, was first developed by the Helios Group in England in the late 1950s. The Helios Group was a project that was developed in association with the Fraternity of Inner Light. The author and Qabalist Gareth Knight (Basil Wilby) had much to do with what was then called the Helios Course in practical Qabalah, in consultation with Israel Regardie. The bulk of that course, fifty lessons and fifty months of study and work was penned by W.E. Butler, working on commission.
Our course, the Hermetic Qabalah Foundation, bears little comparison with the Helios course; there is no Arthurian symbolism, no Graal castle and—with all due respect to our mentors—Thelema is not a word used to clear the room after a party. The course takes one year to complete and is presented in the Hermetic Qabalah Initiation Workbook. The textbook that supplies the theoretical knowledge is Hermetic Qabalah—A Foundation in the Art of Magick. The letters received from the course guide on a monthly basis fill out the rest. That way, the instruction can be tailored to suit the individual.
There is in reality no such thing as a beginner’s course in magick. The ancient Egyptian’s did not have one set of hieroglyphs for novices and another set for priest-kings; they are all the same hieroglyphs. The Hermetic Qabalah Foundation was written and structured in such a way as to teach the novice how to make their way through the labyrinth of symbolism that pervades the subject. This requires that the student is willing not only to read books but also to carefully study them in detail, making their own notes as they go.
The course also serves the purpose of enabling the student that is properly prepared a chance to forge the necessary inner-plane contacts. If a master of magick were to work their way through the same course, they would not be wasting one minute of their time, for they would work it to their own level of ability and knowledge. The Phoenix ritual of Admission to the grade of Neophyte, the first degree in the Order, is no different in essence than a ritual of Admission to the grade of Magister Templi, in so far as rituals might come into that.