Romance of the Magical Orders

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.

Romance of the Magical Orders: Argenteum Astrum Richel No 1489Thelema 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.[1]

The (Egyptian) Book of the Law was dictated through the agency of a praeterhuman intelligence, named Aiwass in the book.[2] 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.[3]

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.

Cosmology

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.


Notes

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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Unicorn of the Stars

The Practicus of the Golden Dawn has the eponymous title, Monokeros de Astris, ‘Unicorn of the Stars’. This is best explained through the name of the Titan, Astris (Αστρις), which means, ‘Starry One’. Astris was born from a marriage of the Sun and the ocean (Moon or sea-foam), alchemical types of fire and water.[1] The Practicus degree corresponds to Hod (Mercury), the Water Temple that receives the fiery solar influence from Netzach (Venus).[2]

Unicorn of the Stars: Sokar BoatAccording to our tradition, a symbol may have a host of related meanings. We do not seek to make concrete definition from that which can only be conveyed through symbol and analogy, for that renders the symbol lifeless and inert. The concretisation of all knowledge, rendering it exoteric and dead, is shown forth in the tale of Osiris, where he is tricked by Set to lie in a coffin. As soon as he does so, the followers of Set promptly nail shut the lid and seal it with molten lead. The situation can only be rescued through Isis giving birth to the magical ‘child’, Horus or Hoor-paar-kraat.[3]

Unicorn: Esoteric Key

The unicorn’s horn points straight upward to heaven, and is spiralic. The Arabian white oryx is the original type of the fabled unicorn. The higher end of the hennu boat of Sokar, the hawk-headed Lord of Resurrection, is fashioned in the shape of the head of an oryx. The unicorn’s singular horn is not descriptive of the beast, which has two, but is an esoteric assignment for the upward concentration of mind, as in yoga. The unicorn symbolises the circumpolar revolution of the ‘seven’ around the ‘eighth’ or Pole Star, which marks the visible axis of the universe and the height of the visible heavens. The oryx digs a bed out of the desert sand with its hooves, to keep cool. This explains the attribution of the one horn, for the shifting sands of desert dunes have always symbolised the Abyss that lurks on the upper limit of human reason. The penetrating horn of mind (reason) must be made concave, so to speak, on the abysmal threshold that closes in upon the limits of human reason.

Over time, the Flower of Fire (or Mind) is cultivated as the ‘fruits’ of the flower are rejected in favour of pure receptivity to the intelligence from beyond.[4] The ‘flame’ hieroglyph has both a physical and a metaphysical level of interpretation. It carries all the meanings of a fire, flame or luminosity, and that of a ‘flame of flames’. The latter is esoteric, and comparable to the yoga trance of atmadarshana in the Eastern Tantras.[5] In AL, II: 27, the oracular voicing of Set in Serpent-form conveys a warning:

There is great danger in me; for who doth not understand these runes shall make a great miss. He shall fall down into the pit called Because, and there he shall perish with the dogs of Reason.

The ‘dogs of Reason’ is a word for those who cling to the threshold and exalt the reasoning faculty above all else, either for personal gain or power or simply because they are ignorant of the true state of affairs. In so doing, they deny the possibility of the Flower of Fire, or its ‘child’ born in Silence, called Hoor-paar-kraat, symbol of the incommunicable mystery and true initiation. Veritably, the threshold to the post-abysmal Mind of Minds is fiercely guarded and barred.

The role of guardians or ‘watchers’ such as Anubis, and other Setian creatures including the crocodile and jackal, is complex. These are guardians of the gates, ferociously attacking or even devouring those who would enter. At the same time, they symbolise the drawing forth of the bolt, which is the means by which the gates are opened.[6] The action of the bolt symbolises both ‘opening’ and the image-making phallic power withdrawn or inverted, which is a reversal of the usual flow of consciousness.[7]

The two doors of heaven are not opened by any mortal man but, for example, it was the office of Ankh-af-na-khonsu to literally ‘open the doors to the sky’. He performed the ritual of opening the doors to the roof of the temple at certain times of the year, so the image of the goddess, taken from the subterranean vault below, could observe Sirius rising. As declared in AL, III: 37,

For me unveils the veilèd sky, the self-slain Ankh-af-na-khonsu whose words are truth.

Sirius (Σθις), the Star of Egypt and of the Order, symbolises both Isis (or Hathoor) and her ‘son’ or magical child, born of the ascent of consciousness arising from the depth.


Notes

1. Monokeros de Astris adds to 2,175 or 29 x 75, ‘Moon (or child) of Nuit’.
2. The Initiate of Hod also has first to traverse the fiery paths of Shin (31) and Resh (30) before entering Hod, the Water Temple. Hod is thus seen in every way as a sphere of transmutation. Although Hod also symbolises the concrete mind, it is not the goal of Initiates to become detained by the limits of ordinary reason.
3. The tales of Isis and Osiris, as recounted by Plutarch.
4. ‘Flower of Mind’ or ‘Flower of Fire’ is a Gnostic term. It is not mind or intellect in the ordinary sense, but may be likened to an essence drawn up. See G.R.S. Mead, The Chaldean Oracles.
5. It is impossible for Egyptologists to construe ancient Egyptian sacred texts, as they cannot admit to the existence or even the possibility of an esoteric level of interpretation. They are thus dogged by the limitation of their exaltation of the reasoning faculty above all else, for they then produce nonsensical ‘translations’ of the texts, and say it is nonsense because the ancient Egyptians were themselves confused and irrational!
6. See John Anthony West, Serpent in the Sky, pp. 149–157 (on Spell 316).
7. Phallus (Greek φαλλος) literally means, ‘image’ or ‘image-making’.

This article is from Nu Hermetica, Unicorn of the Stars, a work in progress.
The hennu boat with oryx illustration is a detail from the Egyptian Tarot of Thelema.

© Oliver St. John, 2020

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Crisis of the Modern World Revisited

Five years ago we wrote an article inspired by the René Guénon 1927 essay, Crisis of the Modern World. Two years ago the article was further edited for publication in Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs.[1]

René Guenon Revisited 2020: Soul Prepared for ResurrectionEven two years ago (2018), it was impossible to forecast the extent of the somnambulism that has swept over the world. The René Guénon essay is a work of unparalleled prophetic genius. It is best studied and carefully considered in full.

This, from Chapter One, ‘The Dark Age’, is of vital significance to the path of Esoteric Thelema:

“Since that time [6000 years ago], the truths which were formerly within reach of all have become more and more hidden and inaccessible; those who possess them grow fewer and fewer, and although the treasure of ‘non-human’ (that is, supra-human) wisdom that was prior to all the ages can never be lost, it nevertheless becomes enveloped in more and more impenetrable veils, which hide it from men’s sight and make it extremely difficult to discover. This is why we find everywhere, under various symbols, the same theme of something that has been lost—at least to all appearances and as far as the outer world is concerned—and that those who aspire to true knowledge must rediscover; but it is also said that what is thus hidden will become visible again at the end of the cycle, which, because of the continuity binding all things together, will coincide with the beginning of a new cycle.”

—René Guénon

We give below Guénon’s concluding two pages, which were addressed directly to Initiates, and to those on the knowledge path.

VINCIT OMNIA VERITAS

Truth triumphs over all

A warning must be addressed to those who, because of their capacity for a higher understanding, if not because of the degree of knowledge to which they have actually attained, seem destined to become elements of a possible elite. There is no doubt that the force of modernism, which is truly diabolic in every sense of the word, strives by every means in its power to prevent these elements, today isolated and scattered, from achieving the cohesion that is necessary if they are to exert any real influence on the general mentality. It is therefore for those who have already more or less completely become aware of the end toward which their efforts should be directed to stand firm against whatever difficulties may arise in their path and threaten to turn them aside. Those who have not yet reached the point beyond which an infallible guidance makes it henceforth impossible to stray from the true path always remain in danger of the most serious deviations; they need to display the utmost prudence; we would even say that prudence should be carried to the point of distrust, for the adversary, who up to this point has not yet been definitively overcome, can assume the most varied, and at times the most unexpected, disguises.

“It can happen that those who think they have escaped from modern materialism fall prey to things that, while seemingly opposed to it, are really of the same order; and, in view of the turn of mind of modern Westerners, a special warning needs to be uttered against the attraction that more or less extraordinary phenomena may hold for them; it is this attraction that is to a large extent responsible for all the errors of neo-spiritualism, and it is to be foreseen that the dangers it represents will grow even worse, for the forces of darkness, which keep alive the present confusion, find in it one of their most potent instruments.”

It is even probable that we are not very far from the time referred to by the prophecy of the Gospel to which we have already alluded elsewhere: ‘For false Christs and false prophets shall arise, and shall show signs and wonders to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.’

The elect (‘the chosen’) are the elite in the fullness of its meaning, according to the sense in which we have invariably used the word: those who, by virtue of the inner realisation they have achieved, can no longer be seduced; but this is not the case with those who, as yet, possess only the possibilities of knowledge, and who are therefore, properly speaking, only the ‘called’; and this is why the Gospels say that “many are called, but few are chosen”.

“We are entering upon a period when it will be extremely difficult to separate the grain from the chaff and carry out effectively what theologians call the ‘discerning of spirits’, both because of the general confusion manifesting itself in intensified and ever more varied forms, and also because of the want of true knowledge on the part of those whose normal function should be to guide the rest, but who today only too often are no more than blind guides.”

We shall see whether the subtleties of dialectic are of any avail in such circumstances, and whether any philosophy, even were it the best possible, can have the strength to prevent the ‘infernal powers’ from being let loose; this also is an illusion against which some people need to guard, for it is too often supposed, in ignorance of what pure intellectuality really is, that a merely philosophical knowledge, which even in the best of cases is a bare shadow of true knowledge, can put everything to rights and turn the contemporary mentality away from its deviation; in the same way, there are those who think they can find in modern science itself a means of raising themselves to the higher truths, whereas this science is in fact founded on the negation of those truths. All these illusions are so many influences leading people astray, and by their means many who sincerely desire to react against the modern outlook are reduced to impotence, since, having failed to find the essential principles without which all action is in vain, they have been swept into blind alleys from which there is no escape.

Those who will succeed in overcoming all these obstacles, and triumphing over the hostility of an environment opposed to all spirituality, will doubtless be few in number; but let it be said once more that it is not numbers that count, for we are here in a domain whose laws are quite different from those of matter.

“There is therefore no cause for despair, and, even were there no hope of achieving any visible result before the modern world collapses under some catastrophe, this would still be no valid reason for not undertaking a work whose scope extends far beyond the present time.”

Those who might be tempted to give way to despair should realise that nothing accomplished in this order can ever be lost, that confusion, error, and darkness can win the day only in appearance and in a purely ephemeral way, that all partial and transitory disequilibriums must perforce contribute toward the greater equilibrium of the whole, and that nothing can ultimately prevail against the power of truth; their motto should be the one formerly used by certain initiatic organisations of the West: Vincit Omnia Veritas.

René Guénon, Crisis of the Modern World.[2]

Guénon and the Great Work

In 1927, Guénon and a handful of others still clung to the hope, though they did not put much store in it, that esotericism could exert an influence on “the general mentality”. We now know that hypnotic techniques, misinformation and other means of coercion as applied through today’s global information networks have confused and subjugated the masses to a degree that was never before possible. Nonetheless, Guénon adhered to the first principle of the Great Work, that it must involve service to others. How is this possible now? How can we triumph, as Guénon puts it, “over the hostility of an environment opposed to all spirituality”? We must go forward with unfailing conviction, knowing that Vincit Omnia Veritas declares spiritual reality, not temporal illusion. The oracle of Isis, given in ‘Liber 364 vel Lux Occulta’, tells us that Isis continues to pray for the soul in darkness.[3] If the soul should open to truth and hear her, then salvation is accomplished in that hour. The soul is thus prepared for resurrection.

I am the woman who gives light in darkness. I have come to lighten the darkness. I have lightened the darkness and overthrown the destroyers. Thrice times, the darkness is made light! I have prayed for all those who as yet dwell in darkness, who have hidden their faces, who have fallen and who weep. If they should only look upon me, then at last they shall know me! Then I shall raise them up. For I am the woman of whom the profane know not. I cannot speak for those who will not hear me.

We are all doomed to die as soon as we are born on this earth. Only love triumphs over all, even death. Isolationism is the absence of love. When love is entirely absent, death ensues for mind, body and soul. As for the ailments that afflict the soul, of which scientism knows nothing, these can be cured in an instant, by a word. There is nothing that can be done, though, to save those who will not hear it.


Notes

1. Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs [Ordo Astri]. The 2015 article can be read here at Tantrika Arts.
2. The italics are ours. The spelling has been standardised (‘English UK’) and some unnecessary single quotation marks removed to restore the immediacy of the 1927 text for the modern reader.
3. See ‘Spell 80’,  Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs [ibid].

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