Solstice: Egyptian Tarot of Thelema Atet VII

The Egyptian Tarot of Thelema trump for the 18th path of Cancer is Atet VII. The Moon, the Lunar Flame, is the ruler of Cancer the Crab or Scarab. The Atet or sun boat of Ra is here depicted in the centre of the Tarot design.

Sun Boat of Ra: Egyptian Tarot of Thelema Atet VIIThe motion of Ra defines the expanse of the sky, the reach of heaven. Thus the invisible Sun of Spirit is concealed or clothed in light. The barque or sun boat of Ra is also therefore the marker of time. If the sun boat should be stopped in its tracks, as is told in the legends of Isis, time would cease.

The esoteric title of the Tarot trump, traditionally named ‘The Chariot’, is Child of the Powers of the Waters: Lord of the Triumph of Light. This is best explained through the Qabalistic title of the 18th path, Intelligence of the House of Influence. Cheth, the letter of the path, means ‘a wall or enclosure’. The enclosure of cheth is the sun boat itself. It is also the magical spirit-body called the Khu (or khu-t) in ancient Egyptian sacred texts including the (Egyptian) Book of the Law. In cosmic aspect, the Khu is the company of heaven referred to in Liber AL, I: 1–4.

Had! The manifestation of Nuit. The unveiling of the company of heaven. Every man and every woman is a star. Every number is infinite; there is no difference.

The 18th path of Cancer the Crab or Scarab is the intelligence linking the Understanding of Binah, the throne of Saturn, with Geburah, the Energy of Mars. From the interior of Binah, runes of secret knowledge flow forth via the Abyss. Secreted in these shades or stars is the key of union with Nuit, the Queen of Space. The power or intelligence of the 18th path is experienced as consciousness that flows like water from the innermost depths.

The Sun is said to enter the house of his mother at the solstice. He is thus at his height, or depth from the point of view of the southern hemisphere of the globe. The Atet or sun boat of Ra is the original type of the solar chariot, which later became the triumphant vessel of kings and warriors. The Holy Graal or Cup of Binah is reflected across the Abyss in the magnificent sphere of Gedulah or Jupiter, which attains exaltation in the sign of Cancer.

The hieroglyphic name Atet is shown at the top of the Tarot picture. The name is pronounced an-djet, with the soft ‘n’ sounded as in ‘sing’.[1] The hieroglyph for andj is frequently depicted as the shuttle of Neïth, the House of the Net.[2] Thus Ra is the sky-weaver, who travels the threads of light, defining heaven and earth, manifesting the spirit-body and giving life to all the world.

Ra travels on the Atet Boat of Millions of Years when he is visible in the heavens. His companions include Sia (vision, perception) and Hu (will, command), as well as Heka (magick power). During the evening, Ra sets in the west as Atum or otherwise in the form of a ram, and enters the duat or Egyptian underworld. In some legends he is swallowed into the mouth of Nuit, the sky goddess, and thus his journey through the duat is a journey through her body. In the duat, the sun boat is named Sektet. Apep (Apophis), the opposer of the light, appears here as a great serpent. Every night Apep attempts to stop the journey of the sun boat with his hypnotic stare. Set, who accompanies Ra on the sun boat, assists Ra by overcoming the serpent. By morning, the night boat reaches the end of its journey through the underworld and Ra is reborn from the womb of Nuit.

Secrets of the Sun Boat

Much of the labour of the Great Work is to make the frail human personality a suitable vehicle for the influx of cosmic consciousness that would otherwise overwhelm it. The preliminary work is to train the mind and increase the power of concentration—to hold an image steady in the mind like an unwavering flame. The mental powers are then applied to the building of a chariot or astral vessel, as depicted in the Tarot trump.

The Atet is the vehicle of will called the resurrection body in mysticism. Such a magical vessel may negotiate the secret paths between the stars. The Holy Ghost and Holy Graal are cognate terms. The Cup of Babalon or Binah is the receptacle from which the feminine spirit, Khu or Shekinah, is imbibed, producing divine intoxication—not to be confused with ordinary drunkenness. The resurrection body is introduced in Liber AL, I: 8,

The Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in the Khabs.

Lord of the Triumph of Light

The magical power of the 18th path is the Power of Casting Enchantments. The ancient Egyptian image for Cancer is the scarab beetle, Khephra. When Ra is in the underworld, he visits all of his various forms and thus undergoes the transformations that prepare him for rebirth from the body of Nuit.

Sun Boat of Ra: Khephra Scarab from Egyptian Tarot of ThelemaKhephra, or the sun at media nox, is the supreme totem of enchantment and of all transformations. Khephra is the neter (principle) of Becoming. Khephra is self-created, self-born, self-becoming, ever changing and ever living. Khephra is the Becoming—the magical transformative principle itself, by which the soul is able to pass through the underworld. The underworld, or body of Nuit, is the vessel and means of transformation. At the end of the night, the soul emerges as a radiant Khu or Phoenix—the resurrection bird. It is the accomplishment of the Great Work.


Notes

1. At, atu, ‘moment of time, minute, hour, culmination of an act’. At-t, ‘bed, couch, bier’ and ata, ‘boat’. Also, ā-t, ‘chamber, house, place, temple’. See Budge, An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, Volume I pp. 12–13. The root of the noun is cognate with all senses of the chariot in the various traditions, including the nuptial  place of repose for Shiva and Shakti in the tantrik tradition. From it is derived ‘Atu’, the name of the Tarot trumps. In The Book of Thoth, Chapter III, Crowley poured scorn on the notion that atout, the French word for ‘trump’, might be etymologically derived from Atu, ‘House’. However, the Egyptian language is far more ancient than Latin or Greek!

2. Ā(N)TIT (andjet), Budge I, pp. 128 [ibid]. Note also that andj or antech has the meaning of ‘health, well, sound’. All is well when Ra travels in his sky boat.

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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Karma Yoga and Three Ways of Thelemic Initiation

There are three ways of Thelemic initiation corresponding to Jnana Yoga (knowledge), Bhakti Yoga (devotion) and Karma Yoga (action). These are also called the sacerdotal way or way of the priesthood, the royal way or way of kings, and the way of the warrior. The Greek word ‘Thelema’ (Θελημα) is inclusive of all three.[1] It is put thus in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, I: 40:

For there are therein Three Grades, the Hermit, and the Lover, and the man of Earth. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Karma Yoga and Three Ways: Artus Scheiner RomanceIn our time, the warrior path presents the greatest difficulties. The warrior path generally involves the Ideal expressed through exoteric religious (or other) dogma. Dogma literally means ‘what seems to be good or true’, ‘what one should think’. The shortcoming is obvious. However, religious dogma has now been replaced by universal belief in scientism. Scientism is far worse than religious dogma, for that at least had a basis in true principles, even if the basis was often lost in practice—a condition made worse in the confusion of modern times. The dogma of conventional science has no basis in any truth whatsoever. It could be said, and not without some justification, that all ways of initiation are closed in the present times—for we have reached the greatest darkness of the Kali Yuga that comes immediately before the final dissolution and regeneration of the world. However, even in times such as ours the way of initiation is open right until the last minute for the few that still have the innate possibilities.

The practices are not separate, as though having nothing to do with each other. They overlap and in some ways run concurrently. One path can also support another. The way of Bhakti, ‘devotion’, is akin to Raja Yoga, which is the way of the king or noble, yet it is also the way of the warrior or man of Earth. Karma Yoga is ‘action’, which implies immersion in time and place, names, numbers and principalities—yet that impinges on the way of the Lover, who, unless he is wholly devoted to union with God or divinity, must always be tested by the ordeals configured by the very nature of the outer world.

The three paths, as with the practices, are comparable to the three Gunas in the same tradition: Sattwas, Rajas and Tamas. This is why they are never truly separate in nature, for each one flows seamlessly into the other, and they must all partake of each other’s nature in some way. For this reason the Gunas are sometimes used in alchemical analogies. They also correspond to the Wheel of Force, the 10th Atu of the Tarot, for like the wheel they are never fixed but are a mobile force. While each manifests according to its nature they all partake of the one essence or essential Esoteric Principle.

Thus no person or being consists wholly of one or the other of these three qualities, but one or the other will be the dominant force in them. Even that is not necessarily a permanent or fixed state of affairs, for initiation can change this, and as we have said, one path can act as a support for another. It can be readily seen then that the way of Jnana Yoga suits the Sattwic disposition, while the ways of Bhakti and Karma Yoga suit the Raja disposition. The Tamas disposition, ignorant by its very nature, naturally precludes any possibility of initiation and only allows for exoteric affiliation. René Guénon has said that Tamas nonetheless has a closer relation with Rajas than with Sattwas.[2]

Those who follow the ways of Bhakti Yoga and Karma Yoga are those who must develop individual qualities. These two paths pertain to the Lesser Mysteries and the psychic sphere of the individuality. Jnana Yoga, which is the path of pure knowledge, exists for those who will leave the corporeal order permanently, and is the way of the Greater Mysteries. Yet Karma and Bhakti can provide a support to the further and full realisation that only Jnana Yoga affords. Indeed, there is no way to the pinnacle without first entering the centre of all, the omphalos at the heart of Tiphereth in our tradition.

It should be noted in respect of the three ways that the Karma Yoga path in its fullest and original sense means that each must accomplish that which accords to its proper nature, called a ‘True Will’. Unfortunately, the conditions now prevailing in the world have made that rare, almost impossible. This owes to the confusion that is now considered to be the normal state of affairs, so that every kind of deviancy is also considered to be normal. In that, it does well to bear in mind that this is so because the whole of our civilisation is deviant, not merely some parts of it or particular kinds of behaviour.

In the West, Bhakti once had its counterpart in the Graal tradition, the chivalry typified by Arthur and his knights, or in some of the ancient orders such as the Knights Templar—though we must exclude from that all modern claimants to that tradition. Karma Yoga has its counterpart with crafts, and in that we would include poetry, music and all the arts, provided these express true principles and are not merely about ‘personal expression’. In the true and also the most technical sense, Karma Yoga is ‘ritual action’, which again, owing to the general conditions of our times, is nowhere to be found in our governmental, social or domestic conventions, unless in the most degraded and meaningless forms imaginable.

The principles hold true in all traditional actions. For example, there was a time not so long ago when at the Beltane cross-quarter of the year, on or around the 1st May, a pole was firmly erected in a field and coloured ribbons were tied to its mast. Young girls, dressed in white and decorated with flowers, would then each hold on to the end of a ribbon and all would go dancing merrily about the pole. One of these would be designated ‘Queen of the May’. The Queen of the May is the ‘one chosen’ to play the part of the Daughter or Bride of the Kingdom, called Malkah or Persephone, and known by many other names in equivalent traditions around the world.

The pole is the vertical axis of the universe and of the Great Yantra. This links heaven with earth, and the spiritual order with the corporeal world. In the axis is the possibility of initiatic transmission, like lightning to the ground. The circle is the circumference of the sphere, of which the interpenetrating axis is the extended point or Esoteric Principle. It is the visible appearance of things or Nature. The maidens are the whole range of possible expressions, as the multitudinous variety of flowers, yet each retaining the purity (white colour) of the Principle itself. The coloured ribbons that connect the maidens with the axis form the rainbow of Setian manifestation, the ‘coat of many colours’ of Joseph.[3] They are the seven rays, of which the seventh is the “light higher than eyesight”, or indigo, which is an analogous term for that which is beyond the reach of the sky, or otherwise at the head of the axial column.[4]

It remains to be said  that as ‘ritual action’, various kinds of magical practice such as the making and consecration of talismans are related to Karma Yoga, though these may also, if properly done, act as a support for spiritual realisation. When talismans are made for wholly negative purposes, such as worldly ambition, material gain, persuasion of the will of others, and so forth, then the ‘karma’ of wrath and retribution is automatically evoked. This is something that many now find difficult even to believe, since our world encourages such empty ambitions as a matter of course, and even heaps honours upon those with truly abhorrent or base motives. However, this action of retribution is inevitable. It does not arise from any moral consideration, since morals, by definition, are merely completely arbitrary human conventions. The retribution arises from natural action, which is another meaning of the Sanskrit karma. If the person has invoked either deity or devil, it matters not which, in complete ignorance of the principle or true knowledge underlying the symbol, then that principle will nonetheless be present at the ritual and in the operator, but only in wholly negative form.


Karma Yoga and Three Ways Notes

1. See Babalon Unveiled, ‘The Word Thelema’, pp. 156, for a detailed exegesis of the word.
2. René Guénon, Chapter 18, Initiation and Spiritual Realisation [Sophia Perennis].
3. Genesis 37: 3: “Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours.”
4. “Purple beyond purple: it is the light higher than eyesight” (Liber AL, I: 51).

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

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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.


Notes

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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