Hermetic Qabalah Foundation

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. … 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

Hermetic Qabalah Foundation: Lightning Flash

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, 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 Hermetic Qabalah Foundation—Complete Course. 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 Egyptians 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. 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.

Holy Guardian Angel

The primary objective of the Great Work is the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. In many ways the Angel can be regarded as a divine lover, for the Knowledge and Conversation is the most complete form of consummation within human experience. Qabalistically, union between the ego and the non-ego takes place in Tiphereth, the heart and centre of the Tree of Life. This then becomes the seat of the True Will or True Self. In the normal state of affairs Tiphereth is merely the place of the lower ego, which has usurped the position of its true ruler, prince and king. The mundane chakra attributed to Tiphereth—its physical vehicle in the cosmos—is the Sun. The symbol used for this star is a circle with a point in the centre. The circle with a point in the centre is also the symbol of Kether concentrated from the Ain Soph Aur, the void from which emerges the point of consciousness. As Kether is in Malkuth and Malkuth is in Kether, the Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel is attributed to Malkuth on the Tree. The Holy Guardian Angel informs the person while they are incarnated in a body of flesh—the Great Work as understood by Hermeticists is not something that is postponed until an after-life.[1]


1. From Hermetic Qabalah Foundation—Complete Course, pp. 38.

© Oliver St. John, 2018

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When is the Solstice?

Some were confused this year by a science news bulletin informing them that the latest sunrise would not occur until January. In fact the astronomical solstice took place as usual, on the 21st December. A variance in methods of measuring by clock and solar time means that the earliest sunset occurs a few days before the solstice while the latest sunrise comes a few days after. In the northern hemisphere the 21st December was still the shortest day in terms of daylight hours. However, the widely broadcast news report led many persons to think the winter solstice would not take place until some time in January.

The precise point of solstice is measured according to the angle of the sun’s declination. When the sun reaches its lowest angle of declination relative to the earth, we experience the longest night and shortest day. In summer this is reversed as the sun reaches its zenith. At the equinoxes, days and nights are equal in length—for the poles of the earth are tilted in relation to earth’s orbit around the sun. Around the solstices, the difference each day in time for sunrise and sunset is fractional—a matter of seconds at best.

Urizen Measuring the Universe, William Blake

Solstice: Europe: A Prophecy by William Blake

We generally mark the solstices and equinoxes of the year according to the circle of the ecliptic. When the sun enters zero degrees of Capricorn, around the 21st December each year, it marks the winter solstice festivity for those of us dwelling in the northern hemisphere of the globe. For those situated in the southern hemisphere the same date marks the summer solstice. The 360-degree circle of the ecliptic is formed by the apparent course of the sun, moon and planets, as relative to earth. We divide the ecliptic into 12 equal sections or ‘signs’. This we call the zodiac, and each 30-degree sign is represented by a very ancient glyph, for example, Capricorn the sea-goat.

Man is a measurer, and there are countless ways in which things can be measured. All measurement is arbitrary and the division of the circle into 360 degrees serves a practical purpose; it is not a declaration of any absolute in itself. Though the fanatic frequently forgets it, neither science nor any spiritual philosophy was intended to produce absolute truth.

For many of us, the technocratic industrial calendar is not in any way meaningful. We therefore look to a reliable mark for our communion with nature, spirit, mind and soul. We do not worship at the altar of the sun and the moon any more than we would wish to worship at the altar of profane science. Visible nature is nonetheless the only miracle required should we seek for a demonstration of eternal beauty and truth—for as according to the ancient Egyptian wisdom, “As above, so below”. Our scale is necessarily a human one, not a mechanical one. We do not search for meaning in arc minutes, yet we may make a meaningful observation of nature’s course, seeing there many wonders to behold in her form and geometry.

The music of Mozart is precise in itself; the scores can be ‘played’ automatically, by a machine. Yet when Mozart is played by a machine, it is no longer music and it is no longer wonderful. It is perhaps a miracle in itself that it requires an imprecise human being to produce the music of Mozart. For this reason, music lovers down the centuries have thought that God must have moved the hand of Mozart, for they have experienced something therein that will not be explained otherwise. This same ineffable presence moves behind all of visible nature and is closer to us than our own heartbeat

For more about the Capricorn Solstice, see Enigmatic Magick of Set and Thelema.
See also, Magick of the Capricorn Solstice at Tantrika.

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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.
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.
4. For more information on the key role of Menthu, see the article, New Light on Stele 666.

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