Lineage of the Magi

Faith in ‘lineage’ or Apostolic Succession has cast a shadow over organised occult communities for centuries.

Lineage of Magi: 'Unofficial' Argenteum Astrum Richel No 1489Authenticity, validation and legitimisation are essential to the world of law, business, government, politics, publishing and finances. Legitimisation conveys certain rights and privileges. It conveys authority. The ‘real’, the authentic, is a signature of trust, so that, for example, a person may be guided in their investments. When such validation is transferred to the realm of the esoteric, then the whole subject becomes somewhat less than transparent.

For example, the Apostolic Succession of Bishops is fundamental to the Roman Catholic doctrine. An unbroken line of patriarchs can be traced, according to the Vatican, back to the apostles of Jesus Christ. This conveys sacramental authority. According to the Epistle of Clement, the apostles appointed bishops as successors and directed the bishops to appoint successors. Since the Church has for centuries been divided into factions, many of these refuse to acknowledge the validity of the others. Legitimacy then exists within each exclusive group, while it is denied to all others. The arguments have continued for millennia, and will continue to perpetuity.

The causal chain quickly breaks apart when it serves to yoke an esoteric principle. Thus in some of the older Tarot decks, the 15th Atu depicts the polar twins, Adam and Eve, bound to the altar of the Devil of material and temporal power. The chain only holds Adam and Eve while they remain enthralled by the power of the wealthy governors of the world and their armies of obedient priests, bureaucrats and militia. Looked at another way, the Devil is simply the human ego, where identity is the primary concern.

This situation is by no means exclusive to the Roman Church. Magical Orders have followed the phantom of Apostolic Succession even to the present day. Each magical ‘brand’ makes capital of the trust invested by the faithful, while denouncing the others as charlatans. And so the lurching dance of the official apostles of verified truth surges ever onward, all about the altar of the Devil of World Illusion, spurred on by the trumpets and drums of the slaves that serve mammon.

Faith in ‘lineage’ or Apostolic Succession has cast a shadow over organised occult communities for centuries. To seek external validation or legitimisation is magical failure. As declared in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, II: 5,

Behold! the rituals of the old time are black.

Cloud Upon the Sanctuary

The Order of A∴A∴ or Astrum Argenteum is the term coined by Aleister Crowley for his continuation of the Rosicrucian system of degrees based on the Hermetic Tree of Life. That system was the legacy of the Golden Dawn of SL MacGregor and Moina Mathers, founded in the late 19th century. In the first number of The Equinox Journal, Crowley presented ‘One Star in Sight’. This was his rewritten version of an earlier work by German philosopher Karl von Eckartshousen, The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary. The work was originally one of Christian mysticism, expressing the inner spiritual tradition of the West in allegorical terms.

Lineage of the Magi: Vault of Christian Rosenkreutz

The use of such allegory already existed in the Rosicrucian tradition, for example, Fama Fraternitatis (1614). The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary refers to a mysterious Elect, which has existed since the beginning of time. Its vision of a future theocracy, embracing the world, contains echoes of systems of governance that have already existed historically but are swathed in the mist of legend—as for example, that of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs.

While the terms used are allegorical—indeed, extremely romantic—it has always been the work of esotericism to make contact with what are called ‘inner plane intelligences’. Some, such as Crowley, have even sought to prove Their existence, though all such attempts must end in failure. The stone of the wise is not a material substance and cannot be proved by the means of rational scientism, though it may be known. Karl von Eckartshousen resigned from the Bavarian Order of Illuminati when he learned of their insistence that enlightenment could only be obtained through rationalism. Crowley, on the other hand, in rewriting Eckartshousen’s work to suit his own designs, and to assume leadership of the Golden Dawn, declared ‘Scientific Illuminism’ as the true path.

Lineage of the Magi: Heart of the Rosy CrossThe passing of the torch or beacon of light from one person to another, veiled in secrecy and silence, was not meant to refer to Apostolic Succession after the manner of Roman Catholic bishops. Such a succession or ‘lineage’ nonetheless holds considerable power for those who believe in it. Consequently there will always be those who claim it, so as to wield power and authority over others. Lineage then becomes, as with any much sought after commodity, a contentious subject. Argument sometimes leads to litigation, though more often than not the protagonists give vent to their rage through vilification and slander—much in the way that tomb robbers may argue and fight over the booty.

The question of authentication by lineage will nonetheless continue to hold a power of allurement, or ‘magical glamour’. The idea is intensely magnetic; its charge comes not from history or facts, but from romance and allegory, which has always been the language of the mysteries. The analogous mode of thought is a means of approaching truth that cannot be explained or described in rational terms without veiling that truth. The veil then becomes, as it were, a false Graal or object of the quest for knowledge and wisdom. Men and women may spend their whole lives pursuing such an object, for it is made luminous in the silver rays of hope; it is exalted in the golden halo of imagining. No sooner is it grasped than it becomes a handful of dry leaves that turns to dust, to be blown in the wind.

Lineage and the Blood of Saints

The mystery of blood and lineage, or Apostolic Succession, is best explained through an examination of the 15th and 24th paths on the Hermetic Tree of Life. These correspond to the Tarot trumps The Star XVII (Aquarius) and Death XIII (Scorpio). The placing of the Star of Nuit, Aquarius, on the 15th path is to end the ages old confusion between the blood of material generation and the pure essence that is the substance of spiritual regeneration.

Lineage of Magi: Star XVII and Death XIII Thoth TarotThe 15th path of the Star of Aquarius is the intelligence linking Chokmah (Wisdom) with Tiphereth (Beauty) on the Tree of Life.  The path is called The Constituting Intelligence, of which it is said, “The essence of creative force arises in pure darkness”.[1] The ‘pure darkness’ is the thread of the infinite Ain Soph, the formless, limitless space that is the numinous source of all. The power of manifesting or begetting by division is the power of Nuit, the Goddess of the Stars. Thus, in the Tarot trump of the path, a woman, naked as truth herself, pours forth the waters of life from two vases. In Liber AL vel Legis, I: 59, Nuit declares:

My incense is of resinous woods and gums; and there is no blood therein: because of my hair the trees of Eternity.

Incense and fragrance are ancient metaphors for pure spirit or essence—that ‘creative force that arises in pure darkness’. The ‘darkness’ is more than merely an absence of light. There were two trees in the Garden of Eden: the Tree of Life or visible light, and the Tree of Death, Night or Nuit—the invisible light or pure essence. ‘Blood’ is the self-replicating power or energy that moves through all incarnated creatures. Nuit asserts, however, that her creative essence is not of blood—for her function is not to perpetuate life forms on the physical plane. For this reason it was necessary to counterchange the Tarot trumps on the 15th and 28th paths of the Hermetic Tree as according to the cryptic instruction of Liber AL vel Legis, I: 57.

All these old letters of my Book are aright; but Tzaddi is not the Star.

Lineage of the Magi: Aquarius Glyph

By the change to the order of trumps, the starry 15th path or ‘window of imagining’ corresponds to Aquarius and Nuit, our Lady of the Stars. Aries, previously assigned to the 15th path, is the sign of the fire of blood, the blood of the Lamb in Christian mysticism. Aquarius, on the other hand, is the sign of the Waters of Space typified by the Egyptian hieroglyph of two streams of water or radiation. Nuit is the Egyptian goddess concerned with the occult or hidden side of nature. Her mysteries are those of sex and generation—not the generation of physical progeny, but that of the magical ‘child’ that is the true son or Sun-Star of Nuit.

The root of the Hebrew word for ‘resemblance’ or ‘imagination’ (DMINVI) means, ‘blood’. It is the self-replicating formula of all created beings personified by the ancient Egyptian god Besz. The Imaginative Intelligence of the 24th path of Scorpio works from the centre of the self in Tiphereth towards the desire plane of Netzach in order to bring about new modes of expression, vehicles for the self. On the way of return to Nuit, such vehicles are transcended and broken down—thus the full title of the Tarot trump associated with the 24th path is Child of the Great Transformers: Lord of the Gates of Death. The activity of this path comes about through the power of projecting mental images or thought-forms. The self-replicating formula is related to the creation of a magical ‘child’. This takes place through emergence, the process by which a network of interactions between individuals becomes an entity in itself. Such a complex, adaptive system transmits a particular current, vibration or wave pattern. Thus, spiritual regeneration, the occult formation of a magical Khu as opposed to an egregore sustained by a blood line, is well illustrated by the principle of wave patterns in physics—or the astrological glyph of Aquarius, the ancient Egyptian determinative for Nuit or ‘heaven’.

The proper role and function of a magical Order is to serve others in the Great Work. The role of the members of such an organisation is to assist men and women with their initiation. The service, if freely given, does not require external validation from patriarchs or peers. True initiation cannot be given, bestowed or conferred by any man or woman to any other. What can be passed on, given or validated in that way is worthless in spiritual terms. In fact, it is worse than that, for it conveys self-importance and, ultimately, betrayal for the soul—a bitter cup indeed. Investment of power in lineage is therefore a misdirection of the will and a wasting of the energy of the self.

If we can free our minds from the archaic limitations of the rituals of ‘blood’ we may find that in the path of the Imaginative Intelligence, in the emergence of the Khabs and Khu, is hidden the stone of the wise and elixir of life. The stone or jewel is not a remedy for the inevitable afflictions of the mortal life. It is far more than that. It is the opening of the way that leads to ultimate transcendence of the earth-bound limitations of time and death.


Notes

1. See the entry for number 15, The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth [Ordo Astri].

© Oliver St. John 2018
This is an abridgment of the essay, complete with annotations, that forms part of the collection, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs [Ordo Astri].

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Maat: Daughter of the Lords of Truth

There is a special relation between Leo and Libra-Maat, through the esoteric title of the Tarot trump Adjustment VIII, the Daughter of the Lords of Truth. Aleister Crowley used a clever design, based on the möbius strip, to show how this works in The Book of Thoth.

Sekhet and Maat: Leo and LibraThe Tarot and path correspondences of the Tree of Life are most ingenious. Leo and Libra revolve about Virgo, while Aquarius and Aries revolve about Pisces. The original type of lamed, the letter ‘L’ of the Law of Thelema and 22nd path of Libra or Maat, was the ancient Egyptian ‘sickle’ hieroglyph. According to Golden Dawn Isis-Urania founder member, Wynn Westcott,

“VIII Justice [corresponds to] Lamed and Libra, and Strength [to] Teth and Leo—which causeth a transposition for these are cognate symbols. But at one time the sword of Justice was the Egyptian knife symbol of the sickle of Leo whilst the Scales meant the Sun having quitted the balance point of highest declaration. So the female and the lion gave the idea of Venus, Lady of Libra repressing the Fire of Vulcan (Saturn in Libra) exalted. But earliest was the lion goddess to Leo and Ma to Libra with her scales, and this is better. Also Libra was given to Horus at one time.”[1]

The Golden Dawn changed the order of trumps to fit on the Tree of Life. La Force or Fortitude was usually numbered XI and Justice VIII. MacGregor Mathers and Westcott elected to swap the numbers round so the order of paths and letters and signs is the same as the order of trumps. Leo then corresponds with teth the serpent, the letter of path 19, and Libra to lamed and path 22. What Westcott was driving at in his lecture was the interchangeable relation between the Lion (ma’a) and the Woman with the Sword (ma’at). This is comparable with mutual reception in astrology, where the attributes are held in common through ‘dignity’. If we place the Scales of Maat on the Tree of Life then inevitably the beam will fall across the 19th path. Maat has a natural affinity with Gedulah, and Sekhet with Geburah: THE LION OF TRUTH. Furthermore, the esoteric title of the Lion of the 19th path is Daughter of the Flaming Sword.

The next part of the Tarot story comes a few years later in Cairo, 1904, when Aiwass, conveying the oracle of Nuit (Liber AL, I: 57), tells Aleister and Rose Crowley that,

All those old letters of my Book are aright; but Tzaddi is not the Star.

This greatly perplexed Aleister Crowley. It took him years to work out that the idea is to counterchange the positions on the Tree of The Star XVII and The Emperor IV. Presumably he got to this by meditating on the earlier counterchange of Justice and Fortitude by Mathers and Westcott. Next—Eureka!—he finds that we can show the perfection of the arrangement with the diagram, ’Double Loop of the Zodiac’.[2] He thought to revert the numbering of the Tarot to that which it had always been, Justice VIII and Fortitude XI. Otherwise he would have needed to make the Star the IV and the Emperor the XVII, which disrupts the integrity of the Tarot sequence. So the numbers of the Tarot, the ‘Book T’, are unchanged; only the locations of the two cards change on the paths.

Maat and the Lion of Truth: Double Loop of the ZodiacIt happens, though Crowley never mentioned it, that this method of placement reconciles the Tropical Zodiac with the Sidereal Zodiac. By Alexandrian astrology, Aries is the sign of the spring equinox and Libra that of the autumn equinox. This is so natural and right that it cannot be argued against sensibly. In the present precessional epoch, by Sidereal reckoning, the Sun aligns with Aquarius on 21st March, and with Leo on 21st September. So there, with our Tarot and Tree of Life schema, we have the perfect reconciliation—and the magical images, the Woman and Beast both in time and outside of time.

The original title given to the Cairo transmission, the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, was Liber L. By Qabalistic values, the letter ‘L’ corresponds to Libra and the Scales of Maat, ‘truth’, having the value of 30. The letter lamed is derived from the Egyptian ‘sickle’ or ‘scythe’. It is literally ‘the Measure’ of Maat. The sickle hieroglyph has the meanings of ‘truth’, ‘justified’, ‘true vision’, ‘true-speaking’ and ‘true-seer’. It also spells LION. Mau or Sekhmet is the principle of love in the most powerful or dynamic aspect, the love of truth. Thus Sekhet (power) and Maat (truth) are inseparable to our way of thinking. The Book of the Law, which is the Book of L, might be better named, the Book of the Seer (Soror Ouarda, Rose Edith Kelly).

Sickle Maat Leo and Libra

Venus rules Libra, Saturn is exalted therein. The path of the Lion connects Jupiter (Maat) and Mars (Sekhet). Sekhet and Maat, Fortitude and Justice, are cognate symbols. The sickle hieroglyph is identical to the astrological glyph for Saturn, save for the tau cross-bar. Saturn is the ‘power behind Venus’, as Set-Hadit (the stellar Sirius) is the manifester of the seven stars of Ursa Major: Love is the law, love under will. Lamed is the sickle of Saturn and Sekhet, and as we know, this means both ‘true-speaker’ and ‘true-seer’. To speak truth and to see the truth through the eye of beholding are one and the same. The sickle has a dual function. Firstly, it is needed to clear the field for ploughing the furrow in which we seek the flint or jewel of Maat. It is the Opener of the Ways. Secondly it is needed to reap the harvest, which is analogous with the emergence or ‘second birth’ of a justified soul.

Scales of Maat: Knowledge and Power

The twin pillars of Maat have sometimes been named, ‘Knowledge and Power’. It is also quite common to hear it said that ‘knowledge is power’, and that the whole purpose of the magical arts is to gain knowledge and thereby increase power. This rests on the assumption that power is something that can be acquired, purchased, gained or lost—as though it were a thing in itself. There is much made of the term ‘empowerment’ in New Age literature and academic (or psychological) occultism. Yet, with all this careless use of jargon, one seldom if ever finds anyone taking the trouble to define the term, to say what they mean when they use this word, ‘power’. The first definition in the Oxford Dictionary is, ‘the ability or capacity to do something or act in a particular way’. Very well then; so if we understand power as ‘the ability or capacity to do something’, then what is the source of such an ability or capacity? The emphasis with this common definition is on the verb ‘to do’; it is all about doing and acting. Yet all such doing, moving, going about the place, is merely the observed effect, the appearance.

The exoteric concept of power then owes to causal determinism, where one thing or event is caused by another that preceded it, and so on for perpetuity. If we seek for the cause, the Will, we find that we know nothing whatsoever about it. All we know is effect or appearance, and we mistakenly judge this to be a cause. This whole idea of power then collapses in upon itself, revealing nothing. The solution is really quite simple. In the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL, II: 3–4, Hadit (Will) declares his nature:

In the sphere I am everywhere the centre, as she, the circumference, is nowhere found. Yet she shall be known and I never.

To use a geometric analogy, the circle of all possibility (Nuit) is determined by the hypothetical point (Hadit). If we move the point, the curvature changes. Yet the point only exists by virtue of the circle. Neither comes first or second; every event is simultaneous and spontaneous. The ‘Will’ is esoteric. The ‘Effect’ is exoteric.  Hadit will not be known because he is the Knower, consciousness itself, which causes things to appear. Rational thought stops short, reaching its ring-pass-not at causal determinism.

Let us return to the question of power. What then is true power? For example, do politicians really possess a thing called ‘power’? They may produce acts of governance, and those acts may be enforced by the power of the State via the police and military forces. But if politicians seemingly have the power to command forces, from whence does that power originate? In the case of the politician, it depends entirely on the bargains, the deals they have made with others behind closed doors. It depends on the confidence of their financial backers. Warfare, the inevitable consequence of financial greed and lust for power, may depend on the weather, as evidenced by the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Blind forces move modern economic systems, which is called a ‘market economy’. That power owes much to the chance element of the roulette wheel. The gamblers feel powerful on winning, powerless when losing, especially if losing all, in which case they may be seen sky-diving from an apartment window twenty floors above the ground. What then is the real meaning of such power?

There is only one true power in the universe. That power is the power of attention, observance. Every creature on earth but one exercises that power continually and with utmost precision, not being deluded for one moment into thinking that it can be won, lost, acquired, given or received. The one creature that alone confuses power and will is the human creature. The isolating doctrine of scientism and psychological determinism has ensnared the modern esoteric movement, including mainstream Thelema, and thwarted its true purpose. Initiation, direct knowledge, is the remedy for the ill. The foundation of true initiation is not in learning what to think, but how to think differently—through the mode of analogous thought, which is the method of communication used by the ancient mystery schools.


Notes

1. Westcott, ‘Tarot Lecture, Part 4’, The Complete Golden Dawn Cipher Manuscripts, Translated and Edited by Darcy Küntz [Holmes Publishing Group, Washington, 1996]. The transcript is in note form and we have taken the liberty here of inserting parantheses and punctuation marks to clarify the meaning.
2. See Crowley, The Book of Thoth pp. 9–10, ‘The Double Loop in the Zodiac’.

© Oliver St John 2018
This essay appears, fully annotated and illustrated, in the collection, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs [Ordo Astri].
Sickle-Maat-Lion hieroglyph and ‘Double Loop of the Zodiac’ drawn by Oliver St. John.
Drawings of Sekhet and Maat by Jeff Dahl.

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Serpent Tongue of Liber AL vel Legis

Some of the passages in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law seem to have been put there expressly to bamboozle Aleister Crowley, the scribe. The same passages have befuddled many other persons since. Not least of which, is the passage of III: 47, which includes a word concerning the translation of the book into “all other tongues”. If the book is regarded as an encrypted esoteric treatise, there is some chance that wisdom might send her kiss to soothe our troubled brows. If the book is approached in the same way that lay preachers sometimes choose to construe their ‘holy bibles’, as literal instruction to be blindly obeyed, then what is there to distinguish Thelemites from those who burned so-called witches at the stake on the advice of the biblical book of Exodus? Interestingly, perhaps, Crowley never authorised or produced a translation of Liber AL vel Legis in his lifetime, even though the book’s instruction of III: 47 is one that appears to have been delivered to him personally.

Serpent Tongue: Loki’s Brood, Emil Doepler 1905

The written word may be taken literally or metaphorically. The laws of state governance, for example, are literally intended. Even then it is not straightforward; the difficulties of literal interpretation are such that a large army of lawyers and judges are required. When the written word is taken as spiritual wisdom, a matter for the soul, then the use of poetic metaphor is taken for granted. There is an exception to that. When persons wish to use scripture as a means of exercising political power and control, then the written word becomes a matter of dogmatic doctrinal assertion.

Hissing Serpent of Exodus

The eight hissing serpent words in the King James Bible version of Exodus, 22: 18, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”, can be understood esoterically. There is a caveat to be applied to the Old Testament when applying the Qabalah to make sense of it. Some of the books, and Exodus is no exception, are merely political diatribes. Some chapters consist of lengthy lists of social and moral prohibitions and, as a consequence, dire curses and punishments to be meted out on sinners. The primary intention of producing such scriptures was to force mass compliance with emerging nation states. These require, along with the flag and usual hereditary emblems of governance, centralised religious worship to reinforce national identity. Military plans for conquest require finance and so increased taxation; by appealing to ignorance and xenophobia, support may be garnered for what would otherwise be unpopular legislation (what else is new?). Nonetheless, Aramaic, the language of the scriptures, is a magical language. As with ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, the written word affords multiple levels of interpretation—for there is no vowel pointing to indicate precise meaning, as with Modern Hebrew.

The word that was translated as ‘witch’ in the King James edition (and most others) is KShP (400), a verb which means, ‘to use magick or sorcery’. The noun for a magician or sorcerer is AShP (381), and this same name is also used to describe astrologers, for example—who, in those times, were regarded no differently than astronomers and physicians. Ironically, the three magi that follow a star to witness the birth of the magical child Jesus of Nazareth, as recorded in the New Testament, were likewise astrologers or magicians. The Qabalistic Gematria for the numbers 381 and 400 yields rich treasure.[1] The association of keshef with the Egyptian word for the constellation we know as Ursa Major, ShPK, ‘foreleg (or thigh) of the Bull’, also bears much fruit. We can avoid digression, though, by simply looking into the name for ‘a person that does magick’. AShP is ashah, ‘woman’, or ‘fire’, with the letter of the ‘mouth’ or ‘utterance’ added (P). The old magick, persisting even centuries after the end of the precessional age of the Bull, always concerned oracular women or priestesses. From times of great antiquity, the serpent was the zoötype of the oracular word. Eve was named simply ‘the woman’ (ashah) in the first book of Genesis. Eve and the Serpent are one, as typified in Thelemic imagery by Babalon and the Beast. We may also think of the zodiacal Bull and its polar twin, glyphed by the serpent and eagle as well as the scorpion. Thus it is not uncommon to find ancient depictions of the magician as a woman, naked as the sky, with the wings of a bird and bearing two serpents, one in each hand, all set against a background of stars. The three letters of the verb ‘to do magick’ (KPSh) encompass all these ideas, along with their Yetziratic path and Tarot correspondences. The ‘hand’ (kaph) of the goddess Fortuna that turns the wheel or chakra of time; the word from the ‘mouth’ () of the fire snake (shin).

The biblical association with the tricky Old Serpent produces the time-honoured instruction, known by every hermit, that if we succumb wholly to the proud persuasion of the reasoning intellect then we pour our life’s blood into the Ark of Evil and mistake dead things (including all ‘holy books’) for the living word. And that is exactly the error of the witch-burners and fundamentalists—not to mention the self-righteous worthies that sign up with the lynch mob every time the popular press pruriently parades the latest victim of some outrage—whether the alleged perpetrator is an individual person or ecclesiastical institution.

This book shall be translated into all tongues: but always with the original in the writing of the Beast; for in the chance shape of the letters and their position to one another: in these are mysteries that no Beast shall divine.

Serpent Tongue of AL, III: 47

The instruction of Liber AL, III: 47 appears, on the face of it, to be a lighter matter than that of Exodus, 22: 18. Yet the consequences for slavish obedience to the literal interpretation of an arcane treatise are incalculable, certainly in spiritual terms. “This book shall be translated into all tongues” has been enthusiastically taken up, so that the book is by now translated into almost every European language, and quite a few others. Unfortunately, it is impossible to translate the book into any language other than the ‘barbaric’ English that was heard by Rose and Aleister Crowley in Cairo in 1904 without making nonsense of it. When the book is translated into other tongues, the meaning is changed and strictly limited. As with ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, it is intentional, nay essential, that the text carries multiple levels of meaning. This can easily be demonstrated. If we go through some of the key verses or tenets and translate them into modern English, it no longer works. The book was written down in a peculiar hybrid of archaic and modern prose. Add to that some Greek and Coptic words, plus the very curious ‘Coph Nia’ (III: 72). The grammar does not conform to any accepted standard. There are neologisms, specially created words that do not appear in any dictionary, namely ‘unfragmentary’ and ‘abstruction’.[2] Thus, to translate into any other language renders the book completely useless as esoteric treatise. In ordinary translation work—and this is no ordinary book and no ordinary writing—one must make a clear difference between translating a text and interpreting that text. With the enigmatic Liber AL vel Legis, it is not possible to translate without applying precise definition of meaning. All attempts to translate the book have therefore failed utterly, and will continue to do so.

The elevenfold spell, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”, for example, translates into modern English as “Do what you will shall be the whole of the Law”. The substitution of ‘you’ for the archaic ‘thou’ automatically places personal emphasis on the nature of the will in question, which has already been defined in the book, I: 39, by the Greek word Thelema (Θελημα). The meaningful context for the use of that word owes to sixteen centuries of cultural and linguistic tradition. Furthermore, the ambiguity of present and future tense in the phrase automatically invokes the curse of causal determinism. We are then stuck with something perhaps worse than the rationalist argument of philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer in his treatise, The World as Will and Representation (1818).

II: 21 Nuit! Hadit! Ra-Hoor-Khuit! The Sun, Strength and Sight, Light; these are for the servants of the Star and the Snake.

To take one further example—each of the 220 verses of the book presents unique translation problems, some of which are completely insoluble—the noun ‘snake’ is neutral in English. The word appears four times in the book.[3] In some tongues other than English the noun must be either masculine or feminine. While it has become traditional to speak of the snake Hadit as ‘he’ in English, in some languages the masculine gender form of ‘snake’ has rather amusing connotations. In the Eastern Tantras, the serpent as Occult Force is usually identified with the feminine (shakti) power and intelligence. However, in the Book of the Law, Hadit is the polar complement of the star goddess Nuit, who is unmistakably female in form. The poetic sense of the book becomes lost in translation, as does its real spiritual and magical import.

The (Egyptian) Book of the Law shall certainly be ‘translated into all tongues’ in the sense that individuals will uniquely understand it each according to their wisdom.


Notes

The painting used here as an illustration is titled, Lokis Gezücht (Loki’s Brood), and was painted by Emil Doepler in 1905 (photograph Wikimedia Commons). It depicts the Nordic gods Hel, Fenrir and Jörmungandr the world serpent. Angrboða, the mother of sorrows, is thought to be shown in the background and to the left. The body of the serpent arches to form the mouth of the entrance to hell or the underworld, guarded over by the serpent’s mother. Thus the serpent nahesh and the letter , ‘a mouth’, are combined. As explained above, the Aramaic noun for a magical practitioner or ‘witch’, as termed in the King James Bible, is AShP, combining ‘woman’, ‘mouth’ or ‘oracle’ with the hissing sound of the serpent or fire snake.

1. See The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth, numbers 381 and 400 [Ordo Astri].
2. ‘Unfragmentary’ was the original (received) word of the Book of the Law, I: 26, “And the sign shall be my ecstasy, the consciousness of the continuity of existence, the unfragmentary non-atomic fact of my universality.” Aleister Crowley later sought to change the wording. The neologism, ‘abstruction’, was not changed by Crowley and appears in III: 11, “I will make easy to you the abstruction from the ill-ordered house in the Victorious City.”
3. Liber AL vel Legis, II: 21; II: 22; III: 34; III: 38.

© Oliver St. John 2018

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Fill or Kill, that is the question!
Liber AL vel Legis (all posts in this category)

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