Magical Orders: We here explore the relation between Thelema and magical Orders in the Rosicrucian tradition. We will also cover the cosmology and philosophy of Thelema. [This is an abridged form of the essay that has been substantially revised and rewritten for a Second Edition of Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs.]
Thelema is a lunar and feminine mystery that vastly predates the Rosicrucian mysteries, upon which has been superimposed the grade or degree system we are familiar with.
Thelema is frequently described as a ‘magical system’ but it is no such thing in reality. Neither is it any kind of religion, though it has some affinities with Gnosticism. The true function of an initiatic Order is transmission. Such transmission has its source outside of and beyond the human sphere, or sphere of the individuality. Such an aim cannot, ipso facto, be fulfilled through any social or political agenda. As declared in AL, I: 11,
These are fools that men adore; both their Gods and their men are fools.
According to René Guénon,
… it is easy to understand that the role of the individual who confers initiation on another is veritably one of transmitter in the most exact sense of the word. Such a person does not act as an individual, but as the support of an influence not belonging to the individual order; he is only a link in the chain of which the starting-point lies outside and beyond humanity. This is why he acts not in his own name but in the name of the organisation to which he is attached and from which he holds his powers; or, more exactly still, he acts in the name of the principle that the organisation visibly represents.
The (Egyptian) Book of the Law was dictated through the agency of a praeterhuman intelligence, named Aiwass in the book. It is the aim of magick to prepare the person for initiatic transmission. The fact that such transmission takes place, however, does not in itself mean that effective initiation is a certainty, for there must be latency within the person that makes it possible. There are also many other factors, social and environmental, for example, that may determine if the person is so resistant to spiritual realisation that they are impervious to its influence. The ideal of the Rosicrucian legacy is that initiation only becomes valid when the person is prepared to make a sacrifice, which in ancient Egyptian terms makes a priest ma’a kheru, ‘true-speaking’ or ‘true of voice’. The ego and accumulated obstructive aggregates of the person must essentially be realised as having no true existence.
A ‘Black Brother’, in the peculiar language of the Western Mystery Tradition, is one that believes, or that wishes others to believe, that the material universe is the sole reality and that it may be understood wholly through rational process. A Black Brother may be a scientist, but may equally be a theologian, religious leader or philosopher in the modern sense of the word—the masks are endless in their variety. According to Kenneth Grant, Introduction to Part Two, Nightside of Eden,
The atavisms of the Black Brothers are the sterile stars born of the speechless or lisping Aeon, for the Word may be vibrated without distortion only via the menstruum of the female.
Thelema is a lunar and feminine mystery that vastly predates the Rosicrucian mysteries, upon which has been superimposed the grade or degree system we are familiar with. Seemingly disparate traditions, including deviations from tradition—which would include all modern organisations—are nonetheless linked as though by an invisible chain so long as they still carry the possibility of real initiation. By ‘real’ initiation, we mean here not the etymological meaning of the word, which is merely ‘to start something off’, but the technical meaning, which refers to initiatic transmission conveyed through authentic tradition—no matter how obscured that tradition has become even from the members that make up the external body of an organisation.
Rosicrucian fraternities (unless very degenerate) always differ from religious orthodoxy in two vital points. Firstly, the aim is to obtain direct knowledge as distinct from ‘salvation’ through belief, which is an exoteric or religious concern. Secondly, the feminine rôle as Initiatrix is reinstated, though it is frequently veiled in symbolism such as the rose, or the glyph of Venus. Rosicrucian source texts make it clear that what the fraternity alludes to is first and foremost active and alive on the interior, although one could be excused for thinking otherwise when studying the works of ‘authorities’ that produce tome after tome filled with the evidence of facts, dates and names of personages. The Order of the Rosy Cross is not a name for historical clubs, archaic fraternities or ‘societies’, secret or otherwise.
The titles afforded the three Orders are poetic metaphors for varying degrees of spiritual realisation. Any person that founds an Order of the Golden Dawn—that is, the first five grades—must be in contact with the three higher degrees of the Order of the Rosy Cross. And likewise, anyone that founds an Order of the Rosy Cross must be in contact with the supernal Order of the Silver Star. The Tree of Life ‘begins’ with Kether—it is not possible to start a Rosicrucian Order from a position halfway down the Tree and pretend there is nothing above!
None of these considerations discourage the fantasists, of course, who are persuaded by the Serpent of Knowledge arising in them to set up their own puppet theatre in which they play the starring rôle. It is by now quite common to hear of those who claim to have ‘crossed the Abyss’ and so obtained full and permanent spiritual realisation. It does not seem to occur to them that if they had realised in any way what they claim then they would know there is nothing to claim and no one to claim it.
Magical Orders: Argenteum Astrum
There are various exoteric factions of the Order known generically as the A∴A∴ It has become quite common for Orders with this title to assert exclusive ‘lineage’ and rights to the name. Curiously, some groups prefer to be mysterious—or even mysteriously ignorant!—as to what the abbreviated title actually stands for. Aster Argos (Greek) or ‘Silver Star’ is the poetic title of the Rosicrucian-based Order corresponding to the supernal triad. In Latin, it is Argenteum Astrum.
The name is derived from the esoteric title of the Priestess II of Tarot, assigned to the 13th path of Gimel. The path of the Priestess of the Silver Star extends from Kether the Crown of the Tree of Life to Tiphereth, the centre of the Ruach Elohim. In the Sepher Yetzirah the 13th path is called the Uniting Intelligence, or Intelligence of the Unities. Note that ‘Unities’ is plural, not singular. As it is revealed by Aiwass in Liber AL, I: 1–4 concerning the Star of Nuit,
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.
Magical Orders and the Word of the Law
Thelema (Θελημα) is the “word of the Law” as stated in AL, I: 39. It is not a law of scriptures, decrees or any exoteric doctrine or body of religious teachings. According to AL, III: 49,
I am in a secret fourfold word, the blasphemy against all gods of men.
The fourfold word is Do what thou wilt. The Law of Thelema is a spiritual and natural one, not a human one. Some but not all human beings have this secret nature within them and of those, some are destined to discover it. The word Thelema means ‘will’—not the personal will with its illusory deterministic power but the will-force indicated by the Greek word used, which is rooted in Theos (Θεος), the influence of the divine or spiritual realm that is by definition of non-human origin.
Thelema and Agape (Αγαπη), ‘love’, both add to the number 93 by Greek Qabalah. The word Thelema is therefore cognate with the word Agape, which is spiritual love and intelligence, not romantic or erotic love. Consciousness exists everywhere in the universe, though it is not of the universe that we perceive. As declared by the Serpent of Knowledge, Hadit, in AL, II: 3–4:
In the sphere I [Hadit] am everywhere the centre, as she [Nuit], the circumference, is nowhere found. Yet she shall be known and I never.
Consciousness is everywhere and is not limited to the domain of the human. Wild birds and creatures are sentient, in contradiction to the prevailing scientism that forms its degenerate doctrines to preserve the artificial hell in which Adam and Eve are imprisoned until they come to know the true state of affairs.
The best sense of the word ‘cosmology’ is the literal one, from the Greek: ‘a conversation about the universe’. However, that is not the meaning of the term as it is commonly understood. Likewise, the conventional academic understanding of metaphysics is only ‘about the matter’, the physics, which paved the way for scientism. The ancients had an entirely different way of thinking that cannot be grasped by rational process, whether its resulting dogma is slanted towards scientism, religion or religious theology. As it is succinctly put in AL, II: 32,
Also reason is a lie; for there is a factor infinite and unknown; and all their words are skew-wise.
Metaphysics literally means ‘to pass beyond the form of a thing’, and thus it really owes to pure esotericism. Ancient metaphysics, aeons before the term was coined, could be expressed only through symbols formed from a detailed observation of nature.
Originally, there was only one Tree of Life that was also a Tree of Knowledge. From the fragrant emanation of Nuit-Babalon comes forth the tree from which the gods are sprung. As a cognate study, Ishtar is the happy goddess of the three worlds of heaven, earth and the underworld. The same three worlds are depicted on the obverse of the Stele of Revealing and there is certainly a Thelemic Trinity implied in the structure of the (Egyptian) Book of the Law. There is also a trinity of sorts in the title of the book’s manuscript, ‘L’, as 30. The primal trinity is Binah, the root of all form, the cosmic Matrix or womb—and so the basis, through relationship, of all understanding.
The Sethian Gnosis, which is included among the books ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus, asserts a trinity of spirit or fragrance, light and dark. The light and dark had no moral implications of good or evil—the Gnosis precedes religious theologies by vast ages of time. The fragrance, or spirit-intelligence, permeates the light and dark equally; it knows them; thus the cosmic womb or Matrix is formed.
1. Perspectives on Initiation [Sophia Perennis].
2. The Egyptian name ‘Aiwass’ means, ‘He who was ordained in Thebes’.
3. Kenneth Grant studied and copied the manuscripts and diaries of Crowley while posing as his ‘assistant’ at his retirement home in Hastings towards the end of his life. He found there the only unequivocal reference to the meaning of the two initial letters of the name.
‘Romance of the Magical Orders’ has been substantially revised and is to appear in the Second Edition of Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs.
Romance of the Magical Orders
© Oliver St. John 2018, 2021 (revised).
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