Enigmatic Magick of Set and Thelema

There is very little known, or at least recorded, concerning the nature of the god Set. Light research will reveal little other than the legendary battles between Set and Horus, which owe to middle and late dynastic times by which time Set had become thoroughly demonised. It was not always that way, since Set was originally the only begotten son (or star) of Nuit, by divine parthenogenesis. As such, Set is identical to Hadit, for he is the manifester of Nuit through her star.[1]

The God Set as drawn by Jeff Dahl

Set, as drawn by Jeff Dahl

Some of the mysteries of Set can be found in the Sethian Gnosis, which forms part of the collection of works attributed to Hermes Trismegistus.[2] There we find a unique non-dualistic cosmological trinity, where light and darkness are permeated by spirit or fragrance, forming the matrix for manifestation. The mystery deepens with the Gnostic scriptures of Set. In Pistis Sophia the name of Jesus is said to be ABERAMENTHO. While to most Christians the name is that of a historical personage, the Graeco-Egyptian name clearly means, “image (or likeness) of Ra-Menthu”. The Coptic name, which begins with alpha and ends with omega, adds Qabalistically to the number 1013. The name identifies the Gnostic Christ with Set-Typhon as the Initiator. The Qabalah indicates there is more to “likeness” than mere similarity, for the number 1013 is that of syzygy, a word indicative of a method by which one knows ‘through another’.[3] The polar twin or double is central to the elemental magick of the ancient Egyptian priesthood of Set. The surviving fragments of this knowledge were attributed to the Greek god Hermes (Roman Mercury) to obscure the fact that it was derived from Egypt, the “black land” of Khem-menthu.

Menthu is the name of the god that appears on the obverse of the Stele of Revealing. The fact that this god, the “Lord of Thebes”, is commonly held to be Ra Hoor Khuit, or Horakhty, serves as a convenient veil drawn over the identification with Set. This god Menthu or Set of the ancient Theban cult of Thelema, then, embodies the attributes of Ra, Horus, Set and Apophis (as serpent) in one image. Study of the hieroglyphics on the obverse and reverse of the Stele demonstrates that Kenneth Grant was not mistaken when he insisted that Thelema, or the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, veils the cult of Set-Typhon.[4]

Set and the Solstice

We tend to focus on the spiritual and magical import of the Capricorn solstice, since the industrial commercialisation of Christmas sweeps all else away. The hedonist revelry is all the more bizarre considering its principal icon, Santa, is derived from an obscure Roman Catholic anointed luminary, St Nicholas! Nonetheless, three days after the winter solstice the Light is most certainly born into the darkness of the world—whether the world cares or not.

[About Solstice Timing: See our post of 27-12-17]

Socrates and his modern day adorants prefer the naturalistic explanation of supernatural phenomena, which does not dare contradict the sacred shrine of science (astronomy in this case). While asceticism demands that visible nature is abhorrent, pre-religious spiritual doctrines assert that visible nature is the form of the formless, even a miraculous demonstration, to use latter day terms, of the existence of God. This cannot of course be proved by argument, persuasion, reason or fact, since the miracle is entirely in the eye of the beholder. While nature is the object here, our doctrine asserts there are no objects as such and that all worlds of existence arise from pure subjectivity. For that reason, the nature of Set is impossible to pin down, for he is both the pin and the thing pinned; he is the hook, the line and the sinker; the cross (way) and the one crucified; the stone of the wise, the stone for stumbling and the one that stumbles.

If we look to the Pyramid Texts, we find that the ancient Egyptians, shrewd in such matters, depicted the serpent (cognate with messiah) going forth on two legs—when everyone knows the serpent is uniquely identified by the fact of having no legs. Thus do we go forth, be it in darkness or light!

The Egyptian and Thelemic New Year

It is no accident that Saturn should be Lord of two signs and not one, though the harmony was not realised by modern astrologers who wished to align their particular form of black art with profane science. They thus wheeled in the outer planets as new rulers of Capricorn, Scorpio and Pisces, invoking the Lords of Unbalanced Force. Aleister Crowley had a much better idea of what to do with the outer planets in astrology but his idea was not taken up—it requires Qabalistic knowledge before it can be understood (Ref. The Book of Thoth).

The ancient Egyptians marked the New Year by the reappearance of Sirius or Set, “who came first before the gods”. The appearance of Sirius coincided with the Nile flood. Though it is a break from mainstream tradition, the Thelemic New Year begins with the Capricorn solstice. So far as nature is concerned, this is so obvious as not to require an explanation. We could also term this the Qabalistic or Platonic New Year, while bearing in mind that Plato learned it all from the Egyptian priesthood. So let us focus on Khem. Set was, and is, the Opener of the Year, and for that reason was always present at the coronation of a pharaoh. As the child of Nuit he is her manifesting star. Now if we follow the natural progression of that wondrous Decad, the Tree of Life, we will see how the year is mapped out in spiritual terms and follows the Sword and Serpent, evolution and involution:

Opening the year, Capricorn ruled by Saturn (Binah and the supernal wisdom). Next, Aquarius, also ruled by Saturn. The pair forms the ‘winter cup’ in which the light is born—the son (sun) of Nuit. After Aquarius comes Pisces, ruled by Jupiter (Chesed). Next, Aries ruled by Mars (Geburah) and the first equinox of the year. After Aries comes Taurus, ruled by Venus (Netzach). Next, Gemini ruled by Mercury (Hod), then, at summer solstice, Cancer ruled by the Moon (Yesod). With the sign of Leo, ruled by the Sun, Malkuth is brought to Tiphereth via the Alchemical Wedding of Sun and Moon. From here we begin the ascent via the Serpent: Virgo is ruled by Mercury (Hod), and next, at the second equinoctial gate of the year, comes Libra ruled by Venus (Netzach). Then comes Scorpio ruled by Mars (Geburah). Finally, Sagittarius ruled by Jupiter (Chesed). The end is with the beginning as we once more enter the Capricorn solstice.


[1] In the writings of Kenneth Grant, “Saturn is the power behind Venus”. For a magical reappraisal of divine parthenogenesis, and its importance in theurgy, see The Phoenix and other Stellar Rites of Initiation (Ordo Astri).
[2] See Thrice Greatest Hermes: Studies in Hellenistic Theosophy and Gnosis, G.R.S. Mead (Kessinger Books).
[3] See The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth Volume Two (Ordo Astri).
[4] For more information on the key role of Menthu, see the article, New Light on Stele 666.

Nephthys, Goddess of Night

In our Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth, the main entry for Nephthys, “Lady of the Temple” (neb-hwt), can be found under the number 71 (NBTI). Her name is derived from the ancient Egyptian root neb, meaning “mistress”, and hwt, “temple enclosure”. Thus she is the Lady of the House and the archetypal temple priestess. She is the principle (neter) of eternal life in transition. Her powers of protection are thus given to the sun barque of Ra upon entry to the Duat at dusk or twilight, at the commencement of the journey through night.


Nephthys, as drawn by Jeff Dahl

Egyptian Goddess Nephthys as drawn by Jeff Dahl

The words and spells of Nephthys are vital for passing safely through the underworld, for demons tremble in fear at her utterance. At dawn, Ra is greeted by Isis. It is said in the Pyramid Text Utterance 222, line 210:

Ascend and descend; descend with Nephthys, sink into darkness with the Night-bark. Ascend and descend; ascend with Isis, rise with the Day-bark.

(Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, R.O. Faulkner, Oxford University Press 1969.)

Qabalistically, Nephthys is referred to Geburah, the 5th sephira of the Hermetic Tree of Life, and is the counterpart to Isis, who is placed in Gedulah. The pair embodies the Pillar of Force (Isis) and the Pillar of Form (Nephthys). The sisters are the inner power of the Sun and the Moon respectively and are the personification of the waxing and waning Moon (on each side of the Tree). Nephthys, as the waning Moon, symbolises the dissolution of the mind-ego complex and its identity with the personality. This is necessary before the word of the Holy Guardian Angel in Tiphereth can be received. Thus Aleister Crowley said, of the number 71 (in his 777): “A number of Binah. The image of nothingness and silence which is a fulfilment of the aspiration.”

Astrum Draconis

Liber 373 Astrum Draconis was released at the solstice, 21st June 2017. The book includes our Liturgical Rite, the Mass of Hormaku with Litany and Collects. The best way to study the Liturgy and gain a complete understanding is in the context of the book, Liber 373, especially for those new to the rituals and methods of the Order. So that all brother and sister Thelemites may join us in the celebration, we published the Liturgy in full on our website at the solstice:

www.ordoastri.org/liturgy

There follows an introduction to Liber 373 Astrum Draconis with Qabalistic exegesis.

Ordo Astri Dragon Star: Liber 373 Astrum DraconisThe Tantra of the West is here fully revealed and made accessible to the practical Thelemic magician through seven rays of the Dragon Star. While the decad of the Qabalistic Tree of Life is not usually equated with the better known sevenfold chakra system, the sevenfold Way of the Dragon was always implicit. The number 373 is that of Logos, the divine word or primal utterance by which all things in existence are ordered and given life. The number 373 is also that of the Greek word ataxia, “confusion”—the confusion of many voices that make up the discordant noise of the human ego. The number 373 provides the antidote, ShKM AChD, “to be of one mind”. The mind and body must be calmed before meditation can be achieved. The Oath, which also corresponds to 373, invokes the soul as silent witness to the ritual act. “Hail! ye twin warriors about the pillars of the world! for your time is nigh at hand.” Who or what, then, are these twin warriors? They have arisen and are entwined about the axis of the universe; they manifest all phenomena. The division invoked by a magical Act of Will may arise as a dual force, symbolised on the Tree of Life by the two pillars or Moon and Sun of dreaming and waking consciousness. Liber 373 is suitable for the Thelemic aspirant of the grade of Philosophus, or anyone that dares to know, to will and to keep silence! It is also a course in magical Initiation that includes knowledge lectures, rituals, yoga, meditation, invocation, skrying and tasks to perform.

So this book is self-contained as far as possible, an extensive Appendices is included. Here we give the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram and Comment; the Gates of Babalon Ritual and Comment; Meditation and Preparations for Meditation; the Magician as Hierogyph; Purification and Consecration; Invoking Pentagrams of the Elements and Signatures of the Spirit.

Included here is also a newly revised version of the small book concerned with the Dedication of a Sanctuary or Temple. A magical Temple does not need to be an impressive structure made from stone, or a Masonic hall with tiled floor and pillars of Solomon. Buildings and specially equipped rooms are a fine thing and can be very beautiful, but the real shrine of deity is the heart of the devotee. Altars, wands, robes and lamps assist in linking magical forces with the physical plane of existence—and so the mind and body of the Initiate—but effective magical work can nonetheless be done without any special equipment. The dedication of a Sanctuary or Temple to its deity does not therefore depend on physical structures.

View  / order the book from the author’s website here.

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Obeah and Wanga

Even Aleister Crowley, frequently cast in the mould of black magician—a role that he evidently delighted in playing—was unequivocal regarding the supreme importance of service freely given. That one must be prepared to give all that one is and all that one has to the Great Work.

Tyros nowadays tend to regard a magical Order as a brand product like any other. The quest or inner searching that supposedly precedes application to a mystery school then becomes a question of, “What can it (or they) do for me?” They are considering whether the Order is suitable for them. Whether it fits; whether it suits them. Over to our sales manager:

“Madam, perhaps you would care to look at our range of colours in this style? We have a delicious shade of tangerine that would perfectly match your highlights. Dislike Qabalah? I am sure we could find a substitute that will take your fancy. We have a range of mystic methods from diverse global sources. Let us see what we have on our shelves, we will surely find something to please you…”

We may be excused for thinking that such presumption reveals ignorance of a magnitude; yet that is not even the half of it. The majority of magical shoppers plan to give nothing in return apart from their complaints when the immortal stone of the wise has not dropped into their lap within the first month (rest assured that no work will have been done). That approach to the Great Work is, as we all know, a fast track to failure, for we can only get precisely what we are prepared to give. Apart from “What ails thee, o king?” and similar Graal classics, the question of what to do about knowledge should firstly involve, “How can I serve?”

Service to the Great Work

Even Aleister Crowley, frequently cast in the mould of black magician—a role that he evidently delighted in playing—was unequivocal regarding the supreme importance of service freely given. That one must be prepared to give all that one is and all that one has to the Great Work. Unfortunately, few nowadays have heard of Eckhartshousen’s Rosicrucian Cloud on the Sanctuary, and if they were to see a copy (aside from a chance web trawling trance) it is unlikely they would think it had anything to do with them. Likewise, there are those who think that John Bunyon’s classic of English literature Pilgrim’s Progress is only relevant for pious Sunday School pupils (the book was highly regarded by Crowley).

The illustration (below) is a votive plaque depicting elements of the Eleusinian Mysteries, discovered in the sanctuary at Eleusis (mid-4th century BC).

Service to the Great Work: Mysteries of Eleusis, Votive Plaque

Let us move to the holier ground and look at service, the ‘give and take’ of things, from a more spiritual perspective. We use the word “spiritual”, but none of this is outside or in any way beyond the natural world. It is only that the world of the profane is far removed from that of nature let alone anything spiritual. Initiate members that persist with the discipline as far as the third degree of Practicus are expected by then to be keeping their own personal Sepher Sephiroth, and aiming to become proficient at the Qabalistic art of Gematria. In this way, each practitioner adds to the store of knowledge. The honeybee is the cognate symbol, for that miraculous creature gathers the raw material from flowers, cross-pollinating as it goes on its way. The hive, with its hexagonal cells, is the emblem of the primal Matrix. Flowers open to the sun, and the relevant path is the 30th, called The Gathering Intelligence. The six-fold opened cube of the universe, Tiphereth, is naturally the flower of the Golden Dawn of any functional magical Order. As knowledge is freely given out, so individual aspirants give freely to the Order that sustains them spiritually.


Our Book References

The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth
The indispensible resource for the Hermetic Qabalist and magician: “Where appropriate, Gematria with detailed Qabalistic notes has been provided. The book also serves as a veritable grimoire for those engaged with the more specialised work of the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, and the Thelemic or ‘93’ curent.”

The Enterer of the Threshold
The book that “everyone that genuinely seeks Initiation into magick should study.”

Magical Theurgy—Rituals of the Tarot
A complete course in magick, covering “the extended use of elemental mudras or Godforms, meditation and Tantra-yoga, plus examples of simple and advanced magical rituals.”

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Nu Golden Dawn and Phoenix: Night Magick vs Light Magick

A further step towards a Nu Golden Dawn: The Phoenix and other Stellar Rites of Initiation.

The post-truth age is a chilling but unavoidable truth.[1] At least, it is a truth so long as we can no longer discern the true from the false, good from evil. While truth cannot be absolutely true, true discernment is made in the heart and not the reasoning mind alone. This is the seat of what is called the True Will or Thelema.

Deconstructionism was used as a method in the arts long before it was recognised as driving political debate (so-called). Kenneth Grant—perhaps first of the post-modern occultists—laid a trail so littered with ‘blinds’ that even the most perceptive individuals have difficulty deciphering the way. Yet when he neared the end of his time—and foresaw the end of ours—he was unequivocal so far as stating that Initiates should prepare for the incoming wave of Qliphoth. To explain this in the terms coined by Grant: rends in the subtle fabric that once protected the planet are now admitting overwhelming incursions from Outside. The uninitiated have no defence against the resultant atavistic resurgence and succumb to obsession in their legions. Grant’s instructions for the needful preparations are nonetheless scattered about the Typhonian Trilogies in a way that makes them difficult to find and identify.[2]

The Phoenix: Golden Dawn Malkuth LamenIt is our stated aim to redefine the operation of the Magick of Light for the New Aeon. The term, “Magick of Light”, owes to the Golden Dawn tradition established by Samuel Liddell MacGregor and Moïna Mathers, Wyn Westcott, William Woodman, Florence Farr and company. The deconstruction of that legacy was carefully prepared and set in motion by Aleister Crowley and George Cecil Jones. It could be said that half a century later Kenneth Grant finished off completely the job they started. Or did he simply weave a seductively alluring tapestry, a fantastic veil to hide the real secret of the Golden Dawn from the profane—thus doing the bidding of the Secret Chiefs in a way more subtle than the darkly devious devices of his own imagining?

It was Kenneth Grant that cleverly noticed the Golden Dawn expression of the reification of the Magick of Light as spelling “The Great L.I.E.” (Light in Extension). This is an Eastern and indeed dualistic philosophical view to take, though in reality not much different from that of Aleister Crowley who increasingly resorted to the Yi-King over the Tarot (which he was never good at by his own admission) and the Taoist way over that of the Hermetic. Crowley littered his work with paradoxical assertions and negations, as did Kenneth Grant, albeit in a very different style.

The dualistic denial of matter and proclamation of spiritual supremacy is nothing new; it was included in the knowledge of the syncretic Golden Dawn tradition. The use of the Chaldean Oracles, attributed to the Persian sage Zoroaster, provides a fine example. The Upanishads are full of it. Strangely enough, everyone seems to be more or less in agreement that the way of the West differs from that of the East in so far as matter is not to be denied but transformed. The extraordinarily lurid works of Kenneth Grant are as syncretic as those of any Golden Dawn. After all, he was not urging us to become Hindus or Buddhists. The “Typhonian tradition” is usually taken to refer not to an ancient Egyptian pre-dynastic cult but to the legacy of Kenneth Grant’s writings. The said writing embraces all manner of expressions, from an inverted view of the Golden Dawn, Grant’s extended use of Gematria, which he called “Creative Qabalah”, and on to Zen, Taoism, witchcraft, voodoo, demonology and even ufology.

The redoubtable Scientific Illuminism of Aleister Crowley is austere in comparison with the amorphous Nightside of Grant, but it continued the Golden Dawn tradition—after a fashion at least—in the declared aim of universalism. The universalism of the syncretic Golden Dawn was established at least a decade before a young Aleister Crowley was introduced to the household. It is perhaps unfortunate that Crowley and other first wave Golden Dawn dissidents discarded elements of the tradition that were valuable and magically vital. For example, the early Golden Dawn temples had equal rights and privileges for women that meant far more than paying mere lip service to a lofty ideal. When Mathers moved base from London to Paris he appointed Florence Farr as head. The respect afforded the women of the Golden Dawn is less surprising when we consider that the primary magical contact behind MacGregor and Moïna Mathers was the Egyptian goddess Isis. The first Golden Dawn temple in London was therefore named Isis-Urania. Crowley, on the other hand, revered women only when poeticising, and was otherwise consistent in asserting male supremacy in all things—an attitude that has continued in his legacy even to the present times.[3]

Nu Golden Dawn

While Grant proposed a way (if you can see it) that is essentially Against the Light, he nonetheless insisted, in his earlier writings at least, that one must attain the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel before bravely immersing oneself in the demon worlds of the Qliphoth.[4] And here is a strange thing to relate in view of the polemic against luminosity: the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel is a Hermetic and Theurgic magical operation. The irony of Kenneth Grant’s Tunnels of Set is that they lead nowhere; the longer one stays in the cloying labyrinth the further one is from the fragrance of the mystic rose. The Holy Guardian Angel, a divine messenger that conveys direct mystical experience to the soul, is very much part of the Rosicrucian scheme of things. That means working the grades of the Golden Dawn as far as Tiphereth, the central solar radiance of the whole Tree of Life. At the foot of the Tree, coiled about the Kingdom of Malkuth, Thanatos and Eros weave the Ring-Pass-Not that mockingly bars all ways to the canopied couch of Logos and Agape.

Golden Dawn Material BasisDetails about The Phoenix and other Stellar Rites of Initiation are posted on the Ordo Astri website and at Tantrika Books. The book is scheduled for release 14th April 2017. Get the book here from the author’s website.

There is an extended commentary  by the author in the Temple of Babalon podcast, Episode 17.


Notes

[1] Post-truth is where personal opinion and agenda is made to obscure or simply deny obvious facts. It is usually descriptive of faux political debate, but has wide application.
[2] Kenneth Grant refers to a certain “Sign of Protection”. This is described in The Ninth Arch, Appendices I (Starfire Publishing).
[3] One only has to read Aleister Crowley’s The Law is for All to understand where he stood regarding the place of women. Ref: The Law is For All, by Aleister Crowley, New Falcon Publications 1991; pp. 305–12 and 315–6.
[4] Against the Light: A Nightside Narrative is the title of a book by Kenneth Grant (Starfire Publishing, 2016).

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