Hermetic Qabalah Foundation

This article is about the Hermetic Qabalah Foundation course. The  course is presented in the book, Hermetic Qabalah Foundation—Complete Course. Those wishing to begin a Probationership with the O∴ A∴ may work the Foundation as a preliminary course of study and practice.

Hermetic Qabalah Foundation: Tree of LifeThe Hermetic Qabalah Foundation is the best place to begin for those who desire a thorough grounding in magick. Here is the Qabalah in theory and practice. The mode of practical work in the Hermetic Qabalah Foundation course is to travel the Tree of Life from top to bottom instead of bottom to top. The method 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 WE Butler, working on commission.

The modern 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.

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.

Hermetic Qabalah Foundation: 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]


Notes

1. From Hermetic Qabalah Foundation—Complete Course, pp. 38.
© Oliver St. John, 2018

View all Ordo Astri Imprimatur books
Subscribe to our monthly Journal, The 93 Current. The Journal is free of charge and is delivered by email.

Star and the Rosy Cross

The Rosy Cross, emblem of sacrifice and love freely given, is the heart of the Order of the Star, whose members aspire to the Will and Love that is Thelema. The Order is for those who “follow the love of Nu in the star-lit heaven” (Liber AL, II: 21).

Rosy Cross: The Rose gives honey to the bees

The Golden Dawn or Invisible Sun of Spirit is for the “servants of the Star and the Snake” (II: 21), which is the manifestation of Nuit and Hadit, and of the Great Work.

Let my servants be few and secret: they shall rule the many and the known.

Liber AL vel Legis, I: 10, conveys the Esoteric Doctrine of Thelema. Nuit and Hadit are absolute principles, whereas the Star and Snake manifest all possibilities as events in time and space. Thus, those who serve the Star and Snake express their will to manifest the law of Thelema, which is the law of love. Love and Will is the dual expression of Thelema, figured as Babalon and the Beast, a dynamic form of the Rosy Cross.

Rosy Cross and Heart of Aiwass

To find the Gnosis in the clear light we must first love and then understand the magical mythology of the words and spells, the hieroglyphs of the stars. From the Cross of Gold then blooms the Red Rose of love and life. The path of knowledge is by no means a path of purely intellectual attainment, for it requires the immersion of the whole self in the matter of the Great Work. The Holy Guardian Angel will not work the alchemy of transformation on the soul unless that task first be accomplished, which is itself of the nature of sacrifice, as symbolised by the Rosy Cross.

Order of the Star: Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Shemsu en Khabs

The Egyptian name of the Order of the Star initiated by Aiwass is Shemsu en Khabs, which has the value of 527.[1] The number 527 is the sum of the three ‘lights’ of the Caduceus, Aub, Aur and Aud added to spirit-fire.[2] The name is thus an expression of the Hermetic Light. The number 527 is also the sum of Wisdom (ChKMH), Truth (AMTh) and Love (AHBH). When the corresponding sephiroth Chokmah, Binah and Tiphereth are added together, the result is 11, the number of magical transmutation. As declared by Nuit, in Liber AL, I: 60,

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

The number 527 is that of ZMH ZMH OZH RChM OZIAH, the five words that the Master of Pistis Sophia saw written in the robe given him after his transfiguration. The words can be translated, ‘Thought! Imagination! The sacrament of love and truth’. The sacrament is Thelema, for OZIAH has the value of 93, Will (Θελημα) and Love (Αγαπη).[3] RChM is a name of the Egyptian vulture, the emblem of Isis. The vulture (Neophron percnopterus) uses twigs as a tool to weave her nest. She is the zoötype of the weaver and of weaving—in this case, the weaving of the robe or magical Khu of the Master.

Egyptian Shen Ring of EternityThe vulture is the original type of the Tarot Fool, numbered Zero, placed on the 11th path of the Tree of Life. The vulture, protector of Egypt, carries the shen ring of eternal truth, a symbol of both zero as circle of All, and Libra, the attribution of Maat and the 8th Tarot trump Justice or Adjustment.

The Master explains the meaning of the five words he saw hidden in the woven garment thus:

O Mystery, which is without in the world, for whose sake the universe hath arisen, this is the total outgoing and the total ascent, which hath emanated all emanations and all that is.

The Greek name of the book, Pistis Sophia, is equal to 1,581. When this number is divided by 3, its lowest factor, the result is 527. The five words are therefore the three parts of the sum total of the wisdom of Hermes Trismegistus, which is that of ancient Egypt. The number 527 is also that of the Pleiades or ‘Doves’. The name of the stellar complex in the constellation of Taurus also means, ‘wonderful’, and ‘miraculous’. The small, sparkling cluster of seven stars was anciently associated with Venus as the evening star, which is depicted in the Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot as the 17th Atu The Star (of Nuit). Earlier Tarot decks, such as the French Tarot de Marseille, depict a very large bright star amidst seven smaller stars. This is indicative of the evening star in the constellation of Taurus—and so life, love, strength, beauty, aspiration and inspiration.

Rosy Cross and Heart of Ouarda the Seer

When 527 is divided by its factor 17, the result is 31, AL, a number and title of the Book of the Law. Ouarda the Seer, the magical name of Rose Edith Kelly, the medium for the transmission of the book, has the value of 576, or 527 added to the 49 petals of the Rosy Cross.[4] Rose Edith Kelly, whom Crowley abandoned in Cairo and subsequently wrote off as a magical ‘failure’, was nonetheless the seer that, in Crowley’s words, “put me in touch with Aiwass”.[5] Rose made the ultimate sacrifice to the Great Work, that of her whole self, out of love. Aiwass, the minister of Hoor-paar-kraat, is the revealer of the timeless wisdom of Thelema, and of the secrets of the priest-kings and princes of the cult of Set in Upper Egypt. Set or Saturn, as the ‘manifester of the seven’ and destroyer through identity, is the power behind Venus.

Rose Kelly thereby opened a door in space, the starry window of imagining, that enabled Aiwass, the Setian prince-priest, to transmit the word of the law to those that would come after the ‘beast’ Crowley. As was written in Liber AL, II: 76,

Thou knowest not; nor shalt though know ever. There cometh one to follow thee: he shall expound it.[6]

The integers of the number 527 convey, ‘Wisdom (2) borne forth by the star (5) of Venus (7)’. Venus is Lucifer, the ‘light-bringer’. As morning star, she is the dawn herald—precurser of the Golden Dawn. As evening star, she is the Occult Light, the twilight envoy of dreams and nocturnal imagining, and the naked splendour of Nuit.

There is a ready comparison to be made between the journey of ascent described in the Gnostic Pistis Sophia and the ascending of the Enochian magical system of Thirty Aethyrs. There are Thirty Aeons in the Valentinian Gnosis, and the original title of the Book of the Law was Liber L or Liber XXX.[7] The first pair of Aeons in the Valentinian Gnostic schema that must be encountered and mastered by the Initiate are ‘Love’ and ‘Will’ respectively, which are summed up in Thelema, the word of the Law.[8]

The Enochian word KROODZI adds to 527, and has the meaning of ‘beginning of things’ or ‘first image’. This refers to the Beast or Chaos as the manifester of Babalon or Cosmos, a notion central to the initiatory system of Thirty Aeons. The ‘first image’ is the power of imagining, ZMH. The word ZMH (zummah) is used in a technical sense as the kind of thought or meditation that follows a symbol back to its source with the infinite. It is the inner level of understanding the mysteries, where the outer level is symbolic or allegorical.

OZH RChM, the ‘powerful matrix’, is Binah or Babalon as cosmic creatrix, and Chokmah or the Beast as the cosmic will-force or utterance. The pair is the primal duality from which all emanations or manifestations on lower planes issue forth. When the primal duality is realised as infinite then “that which remains” (Liber AL, II: 9) is the spaciousness of Nuit, in whom is the containment of all possibilities, all imagining.

Rosy Cross and the Serpent of Wisdom

The initials of Shemsu en Khabs form the word ShNCh, ‘of the eternal’, which has the value of 358 and is a metathesis of NChSh (nahesh), the Serpent of Wisdom. The number 358 is that of MShICh (messiah), the ‘anointed one’, which anciently refers to a consecrated priest or priestess of the mysteries. Babalon and the Beast, Eve (Sophia) and the Serpent are one. The symbolism of the snake goddess Asherah or Tanith was corrupted in biblical scriptures to portray the Serpent as evil and Eve, the woman, as prone to sin and therefore deserving of eternal punishment at the hand of the vengeful biblical deity (IHVH). Gnostics regard Jehovah or Yahweh as an evil demiurge, and the love of Sophia and the Holy Spirit as the means of liberation.

Jesus and Magdalene, Babalon and the Beast, the Moon and the Sun, Isis and Horus, the Rose and the Cross, are simultaneously human, cosmic and supercosmic figures that teach the art of magick to those who love wisdom. The eternal abode of Nuit is a seamless garment or Khu.[9] It is an ark of love and a beacon of light to the servants of the Star and Snake, as declared in Liber AL, II: 21.

Think not, o king, upon that lie: That Thou Must Die: verily thou shalt not die, but live. Now let it be understood: If the body of the King dissolve, he shall remain in pure ecstasy for ever. Nuit! Hadit! Ra-Hoor-Khuit! The Sun, Strength and Sight, Light; these are for the servants of the Star and the Snake.


Notes

1. ShMSV N ChABS = 527.
2. Aub + Aur + Aud = 227. The Aub is the Astral Light, symbolised by two serpents, solar and lunar. The light of Aur is the channel for the spirit-fire, 300, that transforms Astral Light into Aud or ‘fragrance’, 11, the Starlight of Nuit. This is the key to the transmutation of the elements in the ritual called the Mass of Hormaku.
3. OZIAH is ‘truth’ (IAH) and ‘strength’ (OZ). OZH RChM can be construed, ‘powerful matrix’. RChM is the root of ‘womb’ and ‘love’ in the divine or impersonal sense (Agape).
4. Ουαρδα = 576 by Greek number values. The Rosy Cross of 49 petals variously symbolises Venus (7 x 7) as the principle of love, sacrifice and resurrection to new life. The sum of the sephiroth below the Abyss is 49, thus there are ‘50 Gates of Babalon’ the Initiatrix.
5. Quotation from The Law is for all. As evidenced by the list given in the aforesaid book, Rose was the first of at least half a dozen ‘scarlet women’ that Crowley subsequently wrote off as having failed him in some way. The tall, dark man with ‘hooded eyes’ and a ‘cruel mouth’ that appeared to Crowley in Cairo was certainly not Aiwass—whose identity was never known or guessed at by Crowley.
6. The riddle of the numbers and letters in the same verse adds to 419, according to the cypher key of AL, III: 47. The number 419 is that of teth the serpent spelled in full and of Sothis or Sirius; thus, one to follow the star.
7. The number 30 is that of ‘L’, as lamed or lamda. The corresponding 22nd path on the Tree of Life is imaged forth by Maat, the Egyptian goddess of the scales. The Book of the Law is thus the Book of Maat, ‘Truth and Justice’—the expression of cosmic and natural law.
8. The Valentinian Gnosis (2nd century CE) is attributed to the learned Egyptian theologian Valentinus. According to the account of Epiphaneus, Valentinus was born in the Nile Delta and educated at Alexandria. It is probable he was there influenced by the Christian philosopher Basilides. The Basilidian sect included three grades or degrees,  Material, Intellectual and Spiritual. Its aspirants were sworn to keep silence for a period of five years. The pillars of the temple were male and female figures.
9. The holograph MS of Liber AL, I: 26, informs us thus: “Thou knowest! And the sign shall be my ecstasy, the consciousness of the continuity of existence, the unfragmentary non-atomic fact of my universality.”

© Oliver St. John 2018
This essay is part of the collection, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs.

Subscribe to The 93 Current monthly Journal
Visit Ordo Astri (or return to home): Thelemic Magical Collegium

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

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

Books by Oliver St John
Subscribe to The 93 Current monthly Journal
Visit Ordo Astri: Thelemic Magical Collegium