Fill or Kill, that is the Question!

Should we kill or fulfil the Will to Love? This article or comment is for the assistance of anyone that has been perplexed by an editorial ‘correction’ issued on the work of Aleister Crowley, specifically, the Song of the Stele. The poetic verses are based on a translation, commissioned by Crowley, of some of the hieroglyphics inscribed on the aforesaid stele. The funeral stele of the priest and scribe Ankh-af-na-khonsu was created at some time during the 26th Dynasty of ancient Egypt.

Song of the Stele Fill or Kill? Stele of Revealing, Bulaq Museuem CairoThe evidence for the change to the Song of the Stele, which some seem to have taken as an imperative, owes to a pencilled note on a proof copy of a work by Crowley created at a later date.[1] The work in question was not a publication of the Book of the Law, known as Liber AL vel Legis, otherwise Liber CCXX. The Song of the Stele poem was not part of the transmission received in the Cairo Working, but was always intended to be inserted in the typescript, and this was duly done. No publication of the Book of the Law authorised by Crowley in his life included the change to one word, which is the subject of our enquiry.

The disciples of Aleister Crowley regard certain documents of his that were categorised (by him) as ‘Class A’, as ‘holy words of truth’ that must not be changed in one letter. Naturally, following out such a command from a person that died 70 years ago carries certain difficulties in execution. Nearly all publications, no matter what their category, inevitably contain some ‘typos’ or errata, whether the source was the writer’s own hand, the proofreaders, editors, typesetters and so forth. Needless to say, such difficulties would not arise unless some persons are regarded as ‘sole authorities’, or otherwise very important in the matter of how we should think and conduct and ourselves. It is not the purpose of this enquiry, though, to examine the whole question of authority in spiritual and magical matters, let alone of those who happen to work in an editorial capacity.

It is the destiny of the magi to follow the star. It is not the destiny of stars to follow a fool.

Song of the Stele vs Dogs of Reason

Our enquiry here has nothing to do with so-called historical evidence for the purpose of editorial correctness—a notion so absurd in itself as to be scarcely worth wasting our time. We do not need any of that to understand the import of either the Book of the Law, poems penned by Crowley, or ancient Egyptian sacred texts. What we will do here is look into the context and the meaning of the wording of the Song of the Stele. Our conclusions, nonetheless, will carry for some a grave warning. Whether they take notice of such a warning is, of course, entirely up to them. We do not wish to make a dogma of doctrine, and would prefer to leave that for the petty tyrants (i.e., unregenerate egos) of this world. The insistence on dogmatic adherence, as a matter of belief or ‘blind faith’, is termed in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law as the “word of Sin” that is “Restriction”.[2]

The Song of the Stele, though added to the Liber CCXX transcript by Aleister Crowley after the transmission of the book, is nonetheless a key component in the book’s import. The Stele of Revealing, as everyone knows, was the source of the activation of the transmission that took place in Cairo, 1904 e.v. The first draft that Crowley made for the Song of the Stele used the words “fill me”. There are some persons that now think this ought to be changed, especially in ritualised invocations, to “kill me”. We all know about Crowley’s joke, ‘die daily’, based on the Latin word dies, ‘day’, which is traditionally used for a daily diary record entry. We can take that as accepted. As with anything from ancient Egypt, even if it is a poetised version of a translation, we need to look at the whole context if we are to understand any line, word or detail. The particular context of the Song of the Stele, in its practical application, is ritual magick. It is likewise with ancient Egyptian magick. For example, the ‘spells’ from what has come to be known as The Egyptian Book of the Dead, are the words of a ritual, they are not merely prose. In saying these verses that Crowley penned from a translation, the aspirant enters the magical scene that is depicted on the Stele of Revealing obverse side.

I am the Lord of Thebes, and I
The inspired forth-speaker of Mentu;
For me unveils the veilèd sky,
The self-slain Ankh-af-na-khonsu~
Whose words are truth. I invoke, I greet
Thy presence, O Ra-Hoor-Khuit!

The first words in the Song of the Stele are not the words of the priest: “I am the Lord of Thebes”. That is the god, Mentu, speaking to the priest. After that, the priest (or priestess) continues: “And I, the inspired forth-speaker of Mentu”. The priest or priestess begins a declaration of their magical identity. They are the oracular prophet of the god. This is why the priest assumes the magical name of Ankh-af-na-khonsu, ‘Living soul (body) of Khonsu (sky-rider, the moon)’. To be the oracle, to speak true words issued from a god or divine principle, we must reflect the radiating current, as the moon reflects the light of the sun. Furthermore, nothing originates with the human psyche (the error of modern psychology). The nature and true function of the psyche is to reflect.[3]

We can summarise the last four lines of the first verse. The particular priest who made (or commissioned) this stele had the official duty of opening the doors to the roof of the temple at Thebes. At particular times of the year, such as the heliacal rising of Sirius, the image of a god (often a goddess such as Hathoor) was carried in a shrine up to the roof so the light of the star was reflected in the gemstones of the eyes or body of the figure. Of particular relevance to this discussion is the fourth line, “self-slain Ankh-af-na-khonsu”. He or she is self-slain, that is to say, they have killed that desire which is in them that would ultimately turn against their soul in the afterlife. Until the dual function of Set (the slayer of ego-identity) is properly understood, there is risk of annihilation of the soul through the dispersive forces of the underworld.

Unity uttermost showed!
I adore the might of Thy breath,
Supreme and terrible God,
Who makest the gods and death
To tremble before Thee:—
I, I adore thee!

The second verse is to invoke the god, Mentu, as first before all gods (which also is Set). This verse ends with the hieroglyphic gesture of ‘adoration’, which is the worshipping of a five-rayed star (figuratively).

Appear on the throne of Ra!
Open the ways of the Khu!
Lighten the ways of the Ka!
The ways of the Khabs run through
To stir me or still me!
Aum! let it fill me!

The third verse (above) is the main subject of our enquiry: Mentu (Set) is affirmed in his identity with Ra, the Sun, which is the source of all life to the earth. He opens the path for the spiritualised body, the Khu or Phoenix—the vehicle of the soul’s resurrection. In order to achieve this, the Ka, which includes earthly appetites and desires, must be relieved of the burden of yearning and regret for the earthly existence, now passed. Thus the Ka is ‘lightened’ of this burden or load. Another term would be ‘purified’. In the fourth line, the soul is irradiated by the emanations of the Khabs, the spiritual ‘star’. The star, like the human psyche, is also reflective. It is only through reflection that transmission or irradiation takes place. The emanations, called by the Egyptians ‘fragrance’ (incense of Nuit), simultaneously stir (evoke) in the soul the magical power required for the resurrection, and still (silence) the thoughts that would oppose this. “Aum” expresses the continuity of existence, and includes both ‘stirring’ (evocation) and ‘stilling’ (silence of yoga, with increased concentration tending towards samadhi).

Finally, “let it fill me!” That is to say, the soul, made empty through stillness and silence, is now filled with the necessary powers of resurrection evoked through power of the god or word. Such powers are not conferred by any god, priest or scribe; they are latent within the soul. The latency requires unlocking, by the words and spells, through the actions of magical ritual, and through reflection—as in the case of the technique called ‘Assumption of the Godform’.

We hope this might ‘still’ any further doubts (or ‘dogs of reason’) on the meaning and use of this verse. The ‘killing’ is expressed in ‘still me’. This is necessarily dualistic: the purpose of the stilling (or killing) is so the secret (or latent) resurrection powers of the soul are evoked, released, brought forth. Thus, “let it fill me” is absolutely necessary so this magick is worked correctly. The verses are not merely expressive of poetry, or a technical instruction or advice, they are the words of a magical operation. The words themselves are the function, the operative mode. It is all about word and symbol.

The light is mine; its rays consume
Me: I have made a secret door
Into the House of Ra and Tum,
Of Khephra and of Ahathoor.
I am thy Theban, O Mentu,
The prophet Ankh-af-na-khonsu!

By Bes-na-Maut my breast I beat;
By wise Ta-Nech I weave my spell.
Show thy star-splendour, O Nuit!
Bid me within thine House to dwell,
O wingèd snake of light Hadit!
Abide with me, Ra-Hoor-Khuit!

We cannot ignore the two verses of the Song of the Stele that follow in Liber AL, III: 38. “The light is mine; its rays consume me” is descriptive of the transformation in the soul that is actually taking place. There is an instruction given to aspirants that when we speak these words in the ritual, we should wholly experience what is being described. If not, we have some way yet to go in learning this magical art. In the utterance, the person for whom this stele was made is already dead, quite literally, in the flesh. Furthermore so far as any magical working goes, the adept has already ‘died to their self’ (is self-slain) at the beginning of the opus. To reintroduce this past accomplishment at a critical stage of the operation, when the full powers of the soul are released for the purpose of a greater mystery, is ordinary stupidity. The first rule of magick is to know what we are doing and why we are doing it. According to Liber AL vel Legis, II: 76:

There cometh one to follow thee: he shall expound it. But remember, o chosen one, to be me; to follow the love of Nu in the star-lit heaven; to look forth upon men, to tell them this glad word.

It is the destiny of the magi to follow the star. It is not the destiny of stars to follow a fool. What if we should abandon the love of Nuit and choose instead to follow out the advice of fools and madmen? It is written, “wisdom giveth life to them that have it”.[4] The Greek word used in the scripture is zoe, ‘life’, not thanatos, ‘death’. Also, “There is death is for the dogs” (Liber AL, II: 45). That is to say, there is death for the dogs of reason. These mysteries cannot be apprehended by the ordinary human intellect alone.[5] For as we say:

Love is the law, love under will.


[1] For the interest of those persons who may wish to examine all of the available ‘evidence’ in this curious matter—and the evidence is substantial, involving painstaking detail—there is an article posted here. That is, if anyone really wants to. We will only note here that matters of writing, editing and publishing correspond Qabalistically to the 17th path of Gemini. The Qliphoth, or evil inversion of the path, is traditionally termed, ‘The Changers’. Perhaps ironically, the entry for this in Crowley’s book of tables in his Liber 777 is given as ‘The Clangers’, which was an ordinary ‘typo’, never corrected.
[2] Liber AL vel Legis, I: 41.
[3] This is fully explained in Will and Evocation [Ordo Astri].
[4] Ecclesiastes, 7: 12: “The excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.” In the Greek, the word used for ‘wisdom’ is sophias (σοφιας); the word used for ‘life’ is zoe (ξοη).
[5] Love is a law of relationship. It cannot therefore be followed out, practiced or understood in isolation.

© Oliver St. John 2018

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