The Great Work

The legacy of modern times tends to place the development of psychic powers as the aim or even the goal of the Great Work. Such a degraded notion of a spiritual path places personal or material improvement at its very centre. Initiation, however, is central to the Great Work and is the aim, not the goal. Yet even initiation has been reduced to the personal sphere.

Great Work: Ordo Astri SymbolThe confusion of the spiritual with the personal is very deeply ingrained; however we express the Great Work most will see it as a noble ideal and will pay it lip service only. Their real motives for doing what we call a Great Work are no more than the aspirations of ordinary men and women. They hope for magical powers that will help them gain advantage, get their own way and do what they imagine is their ‘True Will’. Or otherwise, if they do not even believe in magical powers as such, they will hope to develop latent powers of some kind, psychological or otherwise—a key of all knowledge and power that will help them effortlessly achieve what are in reality completely profane ambitions.

Any statement of the Ideal of the Great Work often involves ‘service’. Primarily, such service, given freely without hope of reward, is the service to truth. And before truth can be served, we must place the seeking of truth as central to our aims, over and above any personal considerations whatsoever. However, there is a personal and a cosmic side to the Great Work but these can never be truly separate things. On the personal level, there is a need to know Reality. This entirely evades the average person, for they will imagine they already know what ‘reality’ is. No one can ever know Reality in its entirety, but we can extend our knowledge so that whatever we knew before is revealed as merely contingent or incidental. When such an extension reaches to the supra-human level then it is part of what initiation is in the true sense of the word. This involves development of the highest intellectual faculties—though it must be noted that ‘intellect’ here must not be thought of as involving the acquisition of ordinary knowledge. It would be useless then to try and describe what Reality is, as no words can convey it, nor any symbol—though symbols, if we approach them in the right way can convey knowledge more directly than language, which is also symbolism of a kind, but indirect.

Great Work: Immortal Stone

The immortal stone is one such symbol. It is called a ‘stone’ for good reasons. This can be actual or physical, as incorporated into sacred architecture, or otherwise built into the rites of initiation and the sphere of the practitioner. The Sri Yantra is an example of such a ‘stone’ symbolised geometrically, and the omphalos symbolises the true world centre or heart of all. The stone is also considered to be ‘substance’, which is frequently confused with matter (materia) in the conventional sense of that word. Technically, substance is emanation from the principal, which corresponds to the true state of affairs. In the words of St. John, I: 1, in the Latin version:

In principio erat verbum.

This is translated in the King James and other English Bibles as, “In the beginning was the Word”. However, this is not correct. The Word is the principle, or in the Greek, arche. In other words, the translation has degraded the meaning so that it implies a causal ‘beginning’, whereas a beginning can at best be an analogous term for that which has neither beginning nor end, because it is with spirit. The verse continues to say that the Word (Greek logos) “was with God” and “the Word was God”. The Greek version gives theos or ‘divine’, which is translated as the noun ‘God’. The translation also places this in a past tense, again implying a state of affairs that existed, whereas the true state of affairs always exists. Similarly, among the obfuscations of modern magick, the Greek word aeon is frequently misconstrued as a period of time, whereas its proper meaning is that of ‘eternity’. Thus all spiritual conveyances of old languages such as Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Arabic and indeed to an even worse extent, ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, have been reduced to the phantom of ‘matter’ and considerations of corporeal time and space subject to the confusion of numerical measures and assignments.[1]

In order to comprehend anything of the Great Work of initiation, a person must cleanse their mind of all materialistic preconceptions. They must be prepared to learn a new language that involves a contemplative apprach to symbolism. This means learning to think in a different way from that which we have learned through the conditioning of culture, environment and so-called education. This will not be acquired effortlessly through some vague ‘intuition’.

Great Work: Eternity

We obtain a better sense of the value of eternity or immortality when we grow older. If we have given enough time to contemplation then we will also certainly grow at least a little wiser. While in our youth we live in a kind of blissful ignorance concerning the true state of affairs. We cannot help having a delusionary sense that we are already immortal, or as immortal as we want to be. The question of soul survival is nonetheless quite simple. Do we want to be extinguished after mortal death, to suffer the dispersion and oblivion that is called the ‘second death’, or do we want to continue, perhaps forever? Curiously, if we believe that only oblivion awaits the end of our short-lived mortal existence then that negates any meaning or purpose to the life we are having; everything will be cancelled and be as nothing.[2] However, that is what most people now believe and so from the initiated point of view the thoughts, actions and aspirations of most human beings are useless and saddening, for they are only possible where there is more or less total ignorance of spiritual realities.

The cosmic aspect of the Great Work is that initiates of the present time, now very few in number, play a part in preparing what will come after the decline and fall of the present race, which is now well in progress. In terms of time we are referring to a future age, but there are possibilities that reach far beyond any such terrestrial concerns; such concerns are modified by the restrictive conditions of the human state at the present time, which is very degenerate. Time, in any case, only exists in the corporeal state. There are infinite modes of being and of existence in the supra-human realm.


1. This is explained in depth by René Guénon in Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times, and other of the collected works [Sophia Perennis].
2. This is especially true of deeds or actions that have no substance, as we have defined that word.

From Nu Hermetica (work in progress)
© Oliver St. John 2021

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Taurus: Egyptian Tarot of Thelema Hathoor V

The Egyptian Tarot of Thelema trump for the 16th path of Taurus is Hathoor V. Venus, the Egyptian Hathoor, is the ruler of Taurus, while the Moon, the Lunar Flame, is exalted therein. The traditional title of the trump is ‘The Hierophant’ or ‘Pope’.

Taurus: Egyptian Tarot of Thelema Hathoor VThe name of Hathoor, as given in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, is derived from Het-Hor, literally, ‘House of Horus’.[1] The esoteric title of the Tarot trump is The Magus of the Eternal.

In the centre of the Tarot picture is Hathoor, seated on a cubical throne, for Taurus is the Foundation of the Earth. The throne is deep indigo, the colour of the 16th path in the Queen Scale. It is placed between two pillars of silver and gold. Lotus flowers surmount the tetrahedronal capitals. Hathoor is crowned with the solar disc and lunar cow horns. She bears the lotus wand in her right hand, symbol of the perfume of immortality, and in her left she bears the Rosy Cross of Life and Love. She is naked but for a translucent garment worn on the lower half of her body and legs. Her ornaments are a collar and armbands of red-orange and indigo, which is nature’s fourth primary colour.[2] She is the Scarlet Woman of the Book of the Law, and the soul of the world. She is Venus, the goddess of Love under will, and the ruling star of Taurus, the Bull of Earth.

The Egyptian hieroglyphic name of Het-Hor is at the top of the Tarot picture. It is the simplest and most elegant expression of Hathoor’s name, the ‘house’ with the Horus falcon within. On either side are the symbols of Hathoor, her mirror and her sistrum rattle. The nature of the Moon, as with the human psyche, is cathodic, reflective. The world is the mirror of the soul; Venus appears to us as a star in the morning or evening by virtue of the fact that she reflects the rays of the sun, as does the Moon and other planets. The sistrum rattle is the emblem of music and dance, and is at the same time the sharp call to attention, to ‘wake up’!

Word of Hathoor

As Magus of the Eternal, Hathoor is the will to love. As stated in the oracle of Nuit, Liber AL vel Legis, I: 57,

Invoke me under my stars! Love is the law, love under will.

The Word of Hathoor is the phallic image, the solar power of Horus, her sun-star, born by divine parthenogenesis. Thus by esoteric will, Nuit is manifested upon the earth, clothed in form. The word is thus veiled in flesh. In older depictions of the Tarot trump, the Hierophant or Magus of the Eternal is shown as a pope or mysterious patriarch, or otherwise masked. When man seizes the power of the phallic image for himself, he evokes the false crown of the Abyss. He is thus enslaved by that power and it matters not whether the slave calls his master Satan, God, Religion, Fate or Science. The goddess of truth and beauty will reveal nothing and mean nothing to those who do not seek her only, and with a pure heart. Thus she looks serenely and steadily straight back at the observer of the Tarot picture. As declared in Liber AL, I: 60,

But to love me is better than all things: if under the night-stars in the desert thou presently burnest mine incense before me, invoking me with a pure heart, and the Serpent flame therein, thou shalt come a little to lie in my bosom.

The astroglyphs for the Sun and Taurus are shown on the border at the top of the card. On the lower edge of the card are the astroglyphs for Venus, the ruling planet of Taurus, and the Moon, who achieves her exaltation therein. Vav, the letter of the 16th path, is to the right of the title. The Roman ‘V’ numeral is the letter-shape and number ‘5’ of the pentagram. The pentagram is expressive of the phi ratio or Golden Mean, symbol of the foundation of all creation. The Golden Mean is used in sacred architecture and forms part of the Egyptian hieroglyph for the ‘throne’. The planet Venus was anciently associated with the pentagram. Her conjunctions with the sun, as viewed from the earth, form two pentagrams, aright and averse. The apple, a Venusian symbol, is cognate with the Garden of Eden, which is the Tree of Eternity, and Hathoor the indwelling soul. When the ‘five’ is added to the ‘six’ of the phallic image, the vav, the result is 11, the number of Magick and of Knowledge, and of all those who follow Nuit. As according to Liber AL, I: 60,

My number is 11, as all their numbers who are of us.

Maga of the Eternal

The 16th path of Vav connects Sophia or Chokmah, the sphere of the Zodiac, with Chesed the magnificent or glorious sphere of Jupiter.[3] The path is called the Triumphant or Eternal Intelligence, since it is the way of return to the Garden of Eden. The descent of the path is aptly figured in the letter vav, where the creative seed or essential fire is carried downwards towards manifestation. The letter’s name means ‘a nail’ or ‘pin’; it symbolises the power of fixing an image in consciousness, an act of will on the level of pure mind. The power of imagining is an attribute of Venus, the Egyptian Hathoor. The lunar nature of this path is to reflect the dark radiance pouring forth from the Ain Soph into the pool of cosmic memory in Chesed, the sphere of Jupiter.

The magical power of the 16th path is traditionally the Secret of Physical Strength. The secret bears no relation to athleticism, for it is the knowledge of that which animates all things that live and move and have their being—it is no less than the secret of life itself. The power may thus be construed as the Vitality of the Ka. It is Hathoor’s Word, the Serpent Hadit, who gives this life.


1. According to Liber AL, III: 38, the Song of the Stele, “I have made a secret door into the House of Ra and Tum, of Khephra and of Ahathoor”. This is a rare variant spelling of Hathoor’s name; we have adopted the spelling more commonly found in the works of the Golden Dawn and Crowley, based on transliteration from Coptic.

2. See ‘Ultraviolet Light of Set-Typhon’, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs, for an explanation of the ‘miraculous intervention’ of indigo, when considered as a primary colour.

3. Qabalistic references are adapted from The Flaming sword Sepher Sephiroth [Ordo Astri].

From the book, Egyptian Tarot of Thelema.
© Oliver St. John 2020

The Egyptian Tarot of Thelema is an entirely new concept in the field of practical magick, divination and Thelema. The 12 Zodiac trumps can be viewed here. The Tarot is available  as of December 2020. Preview and purchase the Tarot here. More information on our ‘Books’ page may be found here.

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Enochian Keys to the Apocalypse

Some have speculated that John Dee’s Enochian Keys (or Calls) of the Thirty Aethyrs are a theurgic operation comparable to opening the seven seals of the Apocalypse. Commentators and critics regard the subject from a strictly scholarly and so exoteric point of view, and are not in any way qualified to explain esoteric matters. However, the line of thought is an interesting one and appears to have some justification when the Keys are studied and practiced over a lengthy period of time.

Enochian Keys to Apocalypse: Death on a Pale Horse William Blake (1800)‘Apocalypse’ is of course the title of the well-known New Testament book of St. John, his book of Revelation. The word ‘apocalypse’, from the Greek root apokalypto, means ‘to reveal’. The book’s title is frequently confused with ‘Armageddon’, a word from Revelation 16: 16 that refers to a kind of ‘last battle on earth’, a war between spiritual forces and evil (anti-spiritual) forces before the Day of Judgement. The meaning of the word is sometimes taken out of context and reduced so that it refers to any catastrophic war between contending human forces. Such a battle, when understood as taking place between the spiritual and the material, is not the same as a ‘revelation’, though it might form a part of that revelation under some circumstances. The battle between spiritual and material forces must, by definition, always be ‘won’ finally by the spiritual, since the material has no existence beyond that which is strictly limited to the world of human affairs.

The Enochian Keys seem to include elements both of revelation and of the ‘last battle’. This is no doubt tempered by the fact that Dee’s translation (and so understanding) of the Enochian Keys was placed in language very similar to that of the King James English Bible—though that was not published until after his death, thought to be around 1609. Nonetheless, even if we re-translate some of the Enochian Keys, or apply an understanding not necessarily dependent on Christian theology, the sense of urgency remains—it is impossible not to feel the call to prepare for the ‘day-of-be-with-us’.

This urgency has its reflection on more than one level. Spiritually, it is the expression of an eternal truth. On the psychic level, it expresses the need for regeneration so that spiritual revelation is even possible. On the terrestrial level one is reminded of the Great Wheel of Time in the Indian (or Hindu) tradition, where the present age is the final phase of the Kali Yuga, wherein the spirit of Antichrist or of pure materialism temporarily (or apparently) triumphs absolutely before the final end.[2] One should then bear in mind that such an end is the beginning of renewal, wherein by fire all of nature is renewed and restored to original perfection: Igne Natura Renovata Integra.

Enochian Keys: The 8th

It is not the intention here to create a commentary on all of the Enochian Keys, which would take at least a small book to accomplish. We will focus here on one of them, the 8th Key. This Key invokes the subquadrant angle of Earth of Air in the Terrestrial Watchtower of Air.[3]

The 8th Enochian Key begins,

Beautiful is the first, which is as the third heaven made of pillars of Hycacinth, in whom the Elders have become strong, which I have prepared for my own truth, so saith the Lord; whose Eternal reign shall be as bucklers to the Stooping Dragon, and like unto the harvest of a widow.

The “first” and “the third heaven” is a technical reference to the order of the Watchtower Tablets and their subquadrants—in this case, the third angle (Earth) of the first Tablet (Air). Hyacinth is traditionally associated with peace but also desire in the spiritual sense of longing for eternal truth, in which alone is peace of mind in any real and lasting sense. The violet flowers in some varieties of hyacinth do indeed form ‘pillars’ of six-petalled stars. The ‘six’ symbolises the meeting of time and eternity in the world centre or heart of all, and is figured by the hexagram of two interlaced triangles.

The Elders or Old Ones are frequently mentioned in the spells of the so-called Egyptian Book of the Dead. According to tradition these are the children of the Sons of the Gods (Beni Elohim) that spawned the original life-wave on the earth. In the Bible, the children of Gods and women are called the Nephilim, and their descendants the Anak—a word that has an identical meaning to that of Nephilim, ‘giants, tall, noble or renowned’.

Curiously, the name ‘Watchers’ has been applied to the Elders or Nephilim as mentioned in the book of Genesis.[4] The apocryphal Book of Enoch, which has a more detailed and probably older account of this very ancient mystery, was not discovered until centuries after the time of John Dee. Dee named the language of the Angels ‘Enochian’ as his intention had been to psychically recover what was at that time the ‘lost’ book of Enoch.

The last line of this first stanza, where it says that the eternal reign of the Lord shall be as “bucklers to the Stooping Dragon, and like unto the harvest of a widow”, may be understood metaphysically. The word ‘buckler’ is used in the book of Psalms, 18: 2:

The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my rock; in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

The Hebrew word is mageni, from the root MGN, which has the value of 93 and is thus equal to Thelema. A buckler was the name given to a heraldic device born upon shields; it sometimes refers to a goatskin shield (Greek aegis) worn by Athene. In broad terms, the strength and protection is the path itself, the Way. “The Lord is my rock” may also be associated with the holy mountain, for example Hermon in the ancient land of Canaan or Phoenicia, where Ashtaroth is both the name of a place and that of a hornéd goddess.

It may have been on mount Hermon that Christ Jesus was transfigured before his disciples, according to some sources.[5] From this same holy mountain—near the summit of which still remains, built from blocks of stone, the highest shrine in the world—that the angels descended, according to the apocryphal book of Enoch. It can thus be understood why they are called ‘Watchers’. From this it may be seen that the Nephilim were the first type of avatars.[6] The transfiguration of Christ Jesus is then, at the very least, a recollection of the Elder race, to which he properly belongs according to tradition. For example, some of the Orphic texts support the same Gnostic theme: “I am a child of earth and stars, but my race is of the heavenly order”.[7]

The “harvest of a widow” is an allusion to Binah, the Mother of Faith and the Foundation of the Primordial Wisdom (Sepher Yetzirah). Here is indicated the hidden or left side of Hekate, revealed to no mortal man. It is the ‘night’ or unmanifest side, that is pure observance or watchfulness, yet without manifest projection, ‘light’ or extrusion. It is the ‘hidden light’ (AVR MPLA) of the Qabalah, an attribute afforded Kether as the ‘height’, beyond the visible stars. There is mention of Machpalah, a ‘double cave’, in Genesis (19: 30–50:13), where one chamber is the light or manifest, and the other is the dark or unmanifest side. In terms of initiation this equates to the ‘second birth’, Tiphereth, and ‘third birth’, Kether.[8] In the present context, a withdrawal of manifestation is implied, as at the end of a Great Age.

The Key continues,

How many are there which remain in the glory of the earth, which are, and shall not see death until the Fall of the Great House, and the dragon shall sink!

In the 11th of the Enochian Keys, there is reference to the ‘House of Death’, which seems to have identical meaning. This seems to place the Day of Judgement, if we use the Apocalypse frame of reference, literally in the present times. If the precessional wheel of the equinoxes is seen to commence from the house of Leo (some time before the end of the last Ice Age), which was named by the Egyptians the ‘First Time’, then we are now at the Fall of the Great House, which is Aquarius.

Come away, for the thunders have spoken; come away, for the crown of the temple, and the robe of Him that is, was, and shall be crowned, are divided.

“Him that is, was, and shall be crowned” is a reference to the Lord and Master of Time, for example Christ and Shiva—for both these bear the symbols of the key of eternity and the sceptre of time, three-fold (past, present and future).[9] The division of the “crown of the temple” is the division of the earth from all spiritual influence during the reign of Antichrist. The division of the robe seems to be a direct allusion to the Romans, who divided up the robe of Jesus to sell, before his crucifixion.[10] Thus the world, or at least the human world, is sold into slavery and condemned to hell through rejection of Christ and the denial of all spiritual possibilities. The ‘robe of Christ’ is his resurrection garment or body, which is to say, the possibility by which a soul may enter the ‘kingdom of heaven’.

Come forth, appear to the terror of the earthbound, and to our joy, and to those who in thy knowledge are prepared!

It is now revealed that those who remained “in the glory of the earth” are in fact earthbound, which is to say they will not rise again—for these, death is finality. The Angels of Truth and Justice, appearing at the end of time, will seem terrible to the wicked, but are a wonder and joy to those that have retained spiritual realisation, and so have not lost their souls as have the damned. This includes those that have faithfully followed out the path of pure knowledge, or of devotion (as according to tradition).


1. See Guénon, Reign of Quantity [Sophia Perennis].
2. Ibid.
3. There are four tablets of Enochian letters and spirit names corresponding to each of the classical elements, and each of these is divided into four subquadrants of lesser elements: Air of Air, Water of Air, Earth of Air and Fire of Air, for example. There is also a Black Cross or Spirit Tablet (in the Golden Dawn scheme) that binds them all together. There are 91 Genii or Governors that determine which of the Thirty Aethyrs or Aires is invoked when the one Key that calls them is sounded.
4. The term is thought to have originated with The Manuscript Found in Saragossa by Count Jan Potocki (early 1800s). He used the word ‘egregores’ (Greek egregoros), referring to what he called “fallen angels”. The Nephilim were a race said to be born of congress between the Sons of Gods (Beni Elohim) and the daughters of earth (Genesis 6: 4). The sense of the Nephilim as ‘fallen angels’ is true in so far as they descended—compare to the Sanskrit avatara, by which a spiritual force is reified. The word ‘egregore’ was later corrupted so that it came only to mean a kind of collective psychic force.
5. Transfiguration of Christ Jesus: R.T. France, Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries) [IVP Academic, 2008].
6. See avatara, above (4). This is entirely contrary to what is said of the angels in the book of Enoch, where they are described as “iniquitous”, spawning a race of evil giants that ate men. It would be better to understand that the race of men are eaten up by their own pride. The book of Enoch is a corruption of the original legend, of which only a fragment remains. See the ‘Sons of Seth’ in Thrice Greatest Hermes, translated by GRS Mead.
7. Orphic inscription from the Petalia Gold Tablet, 300–200 BCE [British Museum].
8. The second birth and third birth is also described as a ‘first and second crossing’, in relation to the symbol of the double cave. This is compared to the Egyptian hekat and nekhakha, commonly mistaken for a ‘crook and flail’. See pp. 228–231, Babalon Unveiled—Thelemic Monographs [Ordo Astri].
9. See Guénon, Symbols of Sacred Science, pp. 120.
10. Matthew 27: 35; Mark 15: 24; John, 19: 23.

Enochian Keys to the Apocalypse is abridged from Nu Hermetica, a work in progress.
© Oliver St. John 2021

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