Lineage of the Magi

Faith in ‘lineage’ or Apostolic Succession has cast a shadow over organised occult communities for centuries.

Lineage of Magi: 'Unofficial' Argenteum Astrum Richel No 1489Authenticity, validation and legitimisation are essential to the world of law, business, government, politics, publishing and finances. Legitimisation conveys certain rights and privileges. It conveys authority. The ‘real’, the authentic, is a signature of trust, so that, for example, a person may be guided in their investments. When such validation is transferred to the realm of the esoteric, then the whole subject becomes somewhat less than transparent.

For example, the Apostolic Succession of Bishops is fundamental to the Roman Catholic doctrine. An unbroken line of patriarchs can be traced, according to the Vatican, back to the apostles of Jesus Christ. This conveys sacramental authority. According to the Epistle of Clement, the apostles appointed bishops as successors and directed the bishops to appoint successors. Since the Church has for centuries been divided into factions, many of these refuse to acknowledge the validity of the others. Legitimacy then exists within each exclusive group, while it is denied to all others. The arguments have continued for millennia, and will continue to perpetuity.

The causal chain quickly breaks apart when it serves to yoke an esoteric principle. Thus in some of the older Tarot decks, the 15th Atu depicts the polar twins, Adam and Eve, bound to the altar of the Devil of material and temporal power. The chain only holds Adam and Eve while they remain enthralled by the power of the wealthy governors of the world and their armies of obedient priests, bureaucrats and militia. Looked at another way, the Devil is simply the human ego, where identity is the primary concern.

This situation is by no means exclusive to the Roman Church. Magical Orders have followed the phantom of Apostolic Succession even to the present day. Each magical ‘brand’ makes capital of the trust invested by the faithful, while denouncing the others as charlatans. And so the lurching dance of the official apostles of verified truth surges ever onward, all about the altar of the Devil of World Illusion, spurred on by the trumpets and drums of the slaves that serve mammon.

Faith in ‘lineage’ or Apostolic Succession has cast a shadow over organised occult communities for centuries. To seek external validation or legitimisation is magical failure. As declared in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, II: 5,

Behold! the rituals of the old time are black.

Cloud Upon the Sanctuary

The Order of A∴A∴ or Astrum Argenteum is the term coined by Aleister Crowley for his continuation of the Rosicrucian system of degrees based on the Hermetic Tree of Life. That system was the legacy of the Golden Dawn of SL MacGregor and Moina Mathers, founded in the late 19th century. In the first number of The Equinox Journal, Crowley presented ‘One Star in Sight’. This was his rewritten version of an earlier work by German philosopher Karl von Eckartshousen, The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary. The work was originally one of Christian mysticism, expressing the inner spiritual tradition of the West in allegorical terms.

Lineage of the Magi: Vault of Christian Rosenkreutz

The use of such allegory already existed in the Rosicrucian tradition, for example, Fama Fraternitatis (1614). The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary refers to a mysterious Elect, which has existed since the beginning of time. Its vision of a future theocracy, embracing the world, contains echoes of systems of governance that have already existed historically but are swathed in the mist of legend—as for example, that of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs.

While the terms used are allegorical—indeed, extremely romantic—it has always been the work of esotericism to make contact with what are called ‘inner plane intelligences’. Some, such as Crowley, have even sought to prove Their existence, though all such attempts must end in failure. The stone of the wise is not a material substance and cannot be proved by the means of rational scientism, though it may be known. Karl von Eckartshousen resigned from the Bavarian Order of Illuminati when he learned of their insistence that enlightenment could only be obtained through rationalism. Crowley, on the other hand, in rewriting Eckartshousen’s work to suit his own designs, and to assume leadership of the Golden Dawn, declared ‘Scientific Illuminism’ as the true path.

Lineage of the Magi: Heart of the Rosy CrossThe passing of the torch or beacon of light from one person to another, veiled in secrecy and silence, was not meant to refer to Apostolic Succession after the manner of Roman Catholic bishops. Such a succession or ‘lineage’ nonetheless holds considerable power for those who believe in it. Consequently there will always be those who claim it, so as to wield power and authority over others. Lineage then becomes, as with any much sought after commodity, a contentious subject. Argument sometimes leads to litigation, though more often than not the protagonists give vent to their rage through vilification and slander—much in the way that tomb robbers may argue and fight over the booty.

The question of authentication by lineage will nonetheless continue to hold a power of allurement, or ‘magical glamour’. The idea is intensely magnetic; its charge comes not from history or facts, but from romance and allegory, which has always been the language of the mysteries. The analogous mode of thought is a means of approaching truth that cannot be explained or described in rational terms without veiling that truth. The veil then becomes, as it were, a false Graal or object of the quest for knowledge and wisdom. Men and women may spend their whole lives pursuing such an object, for it is made luminous in the silver rays of hope; it is exalted in the golden halo of imagining. No sooner is it grasped than it becomes a handful of dry leaves that turns to dust, to be blown in the wind.

Lineage and the Blood of Saints

The mystery of blood and lineage, or Apostolic Succession, is best explained through an examination of the 15th and 24th paths on the Hermetic Tree of Life. These correspond to the Tarot trumps The Star XVII (Aquarius) and Death XIII (Scorpio). The placing of the Star of Nuit, Aquarius, on the 15th path is to end the ages old confusion between the blood of material generation and the pure essence that is the substance of spiritual regeneration.

Lineage of Magi: Star XVII and Death XIII Thoth TarotThe 15th path of the Star of Aquarius is the intelligence linking Chokmah (Wisdom) with Tiphereth (Beauty) on the Tree of Life.  The path is called The Constituting Intelligence, of which it is said, “The essence of creative force arises in pure darkness”.[1] The ‘pure darkness’ is the thread of the infinite Ain Soph, the formless, limitless space that is the numinous source of all. The power of manifesting or begetting by division is the power of Nuit, the Goddess of the Stars. Thus, in the Tarot trump of the path, a woman, naked as truth herself, pours forth the waters of life from two vases. In Liber AL vel Legis, I: 59, Nuit declares:

My incense is of resinous woods and gums; and there is no blood therein: because of my hair the trees of Eternity.

Incense and fragrance are ancient metaphors for pure spirit or essence—that ‘creative force that arises in pure darkness’. The ‘darkness’ is more than merely an absence of light. There were two trees in the Garden of Eden: the Tree of Life or visible light, and the Tree of Death, Night or Nuit—the invisible light or pure essence. ‘Blood’ is the self-replicating power or energy that moves through all incarnated creatures. Nuit asserts, however, that her creative essence is not of blood—for her function is not to perpetuate life forms on the physical plane. For this reason it was necessary to counterchange the Tarot trumps on the 15th and 28th paths of the Hermetic Tree as according to the cryptic instruction of Liber AL vel Legis, I: 57.

All these old letters of my Book are aright; but Tzaddi is not the Star.

Lineage of the Magi: Aquarius Glyph

By the change to the order of trumps, the starry 15th path or ‘window of imagining’ corresponds to Aquarius and Nuit, our Lady of the Stars. Aries, previously assigned to the 15th path, is the sign of the fire of blood, the blood of the Lamb in Christian mysticism. Aquarius, on the other hand, is the sign of the Waters of Space typified by the Egyptian hieroglyph of two streams of water or radiation. Nuit is the Egyptian goddess concerned with the occult or hidden side of nature. Her mysteries are those of sex and generation—not the generation of physical progeny, but that of the magical ‘child’ that is the true son or Sun-Star of Nuit.

The root of the Hebrew word for ‘resemblance’ or ‘imagination’ (DMINVI) means, ‘blood’. It is the self-replicating formula of all created beings personified by the ancient Egyptian god Besz. The Imaginative Intelligence of the 24th path of Scorpio works from the centre of the self in Tiphereth towards the desire plane of Netzach in order to bring about new modes of expression, vehicles for the self. On the way of return to Nuit, such vehicles are transcended and broken down—thus the full title of the Tarot trump associated with the 24th path is Child of the Great Transformers: Lord of the Gates of Death. The activity of this path comes about through the power of projecting mental images or thought-forms. The self-replicating formula is related to the creation of a magical ‘child’. This takes place through emergence, the process by which a network of interactions between individuals becomes an entity in itself. Such a complex, adaptive system transmits a particular current, vibration or wave pattern. Thus, spiritual regeneration, the occult formation of a magical Khu as opposed to an egregore sustained by a blood line, is well illustrated by the principle of wave patterns in physics—or the astrological glyph of Aquarius, the ancient Egyptian determinative for Nuit or ‘heaven’.

The proper role and function of a magical Order is to serve others in the Great Work. The role of the members of such an organisation is to assist men and women with their initiation. The service, if freely given, does not require external validation from patriarchs or peers. True initiation cannot be given, bestowed or conferred by any man or woman to any other. What can be passed on, given or validated in that way is worthless in spiritual terms. In fact, it is worse than that, for it conveys self-importance and, ultimately, betrayal for the soul—a bitter cup indeed. Investment of power in lineage is therefore a misdirection of the will and a wasting of the energy of the self.

If we can free our minds from the archaic limitations of the rituals of ‘blood’ we may find that in the path of the Imaginative Intelligence, in the emergence of the Khabs and Khu, is hidden the stone of the wise and elixir of life. The stone or jewel is not a remedy for the inevitable afflictions of the mortal life. It is far more than that. It is the opening of the way that leads to ultimate transcendence of the earth-bound limitations of time and death.


1. See the entry for number 15, The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth [Ordo Astri].

© Oliver St. John 2018
This is an abridgment of the essay, complete with annotations, that forms part of the collection, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs.

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Liber 364 Spells from Egyptian Papyri

The practical use of these spells or magical invocations is more or less identical to that of the better-known Graeco Egyptian papyrus called the ‘Bornless Ritual’. That use is defined poetically as the ‘Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel’. This work is also to prepare us for the ultimate crossing or passing through the duat, which is the overcoming of physical death in the miracle of the soul’s resurrection and transcendence.

Weighing of the Heart from Papyrus of Ani

In our desire to understand the wisdom of Egypt, we tend to draw Egypt into the sphere of our modern mentality. But our effort will bear no fruit unless we pierce that sphere and try to draw nearer to Egypt.[1]

The Egyptian Book of the Dead is more correctly ‘The Book of Coming Forth into Light’. According to Bika Reed, ‘The Book of the Dead Man’ was a name coined by tomb robbers.[2] Egyptologists have used the term ever since, for reasons best known to themselves. They are entirely unable to translate Egyptian sacred texts but will not admit the fact, or if they do, they will deny that anyone else can do it either. Most commonly, they will say the confusion in their literal word-by-word translations is the fault of the ‘primitive’ ancient Egyptians, who did not know what they were doing. They assume that the language of hieroglyphics could only be used to convey simple ideas. On the contrary, the ancient Egyptian language includes poetry and prose. The meaning may be construed literally, when that is required, or metaphorically.

This article is abridged from the introduction to ‘Liber 364 vel Lux Occulta’, from the book, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs.

There are three levels of the mysteries.

1. The literal or simple sense, where concrete meaning is applied to the symbol.
2. The allegorical or symbolic sense, which requires study and learning to master.
3. The gnostic sense, which requires meditation. The symbol is followed back to its source with all other symbols, through reversal of the consciousness current. Analogous thought is a means of approaching direct knowledge.

Spells for Eternity

The E.A. Wallis Budge translation, famously The Egyptian Book of the Dead or Papyrus of Ani (1895), was first published seven years after the British Museum acquired the 18th Dynasty papyrus that makes up a large part of the text.[3] Early Egyptologists assumed the name ‘Ani’ to be that of an ecclesiastical dignitary of the priesthood of Aunnu (Heliopolis) that produced the funerary papyrus. The name actually means ‘anyone’—it is clearly in the plural form! The idea, as with any oath or magical spell, is to insert our own name in the place of ‘N’ if we are going to use it for sacred or magical purposes. The great usefulness of the Budge presentation is that it is threefold. The top line is a transliteration into English with some phonetic keys. The middle line is a beautiful copy of the hieroglyphic text. The lower line renders Budge’s attempt to make some sense of it all through word-by-word translation. This has enabled our prose translation and commentary on three selected spells. The difficulty in translation becomes apparent when we consider there are countless ways to spell one word in Egyptian; even the same spelling of a word may convey as many shades of meaning.

It may seem strange that some short sentences in the papyrus often have long explanations in the commentary. However, those ‘short sentences’ relate to definite mythological themes and yield sense only through them. To appreciate the development of the argument and therefore the depth of its conclusion, one must understand how these mythological themes relate to the papyrus. It is through such long explanations that we arrive at a consistent interpretation; they therefore prove themselves necessary.[4]

Bika Reed, in producing the only initiated translation of a complete Egyptian sacred text to date, has shed a great deal of light on what has previously been a very dark area. She has opened the ways for us. Her method is to take the literal Egyptological rendition and compare it side by side with all the variations of meaning given in the hieroglyphic dictionary. By applying her knowledge of the hieroglyphics and deep understanding of the mythological basis—without which, nothing can be achieved as these are profoundly sacred texts—Reed was able to produce the first meaningful translation of Egyptian prose. The text cannot be interpreted on a word by word or even a line-by-line basis. It is only when the context of the whole is taken into consideration that a small light begins to glow in the night of obscurity—a light that grows in intensity if the person is receptive to the initiatic ancient Egyptian current. Conditions being suitable, previously unknown faculties are awakened in the mind of the translator.

Spells 80, 78 and 84 Translated

We began this present work with the spell numbered 80 by Budge, ‘Making the transformation into the God who giveth Light in the Darkness’. It later transpired that Spell 80 was the correct place to begin such a work—which seems obvious now but it certainly was not when we made the first draft some fifteen years ago, not as a linguistic exercise but for practical use. We agree with Bika Reed that such texts had more than one use, and that originally at least—for they were edited and recopied over thousands of years—their use was initiatic. The Papyrus of Ani was produced, according to Budge, during the second half of the 18th Dynasty, a relatively late time in the long history of the ancient Egyptian civilisation.[5] Scribes and others entitled to full funeral rites would believe in the power of magical words and spells to secure a passage in the afterlife. Thus the papyrus was treated much in the way of a talisman. The use of such texts as initiatory devices involves memorising the words and images. Thus in speaking forth the words, the appropriate images are at the same time invoked. In fact, with much practice the visualisation technique is not required as such, for the words automatically summon the images and the powers associated with them.

Spells of the Papyrus of Ani

By the time the Papyrus of Ani was created, the popular cult of Osiris had become dominant over all of Egypt; the far more ancient Setian gnosis was preserved through secret orders of priests such as the cult of Mentu at Thebes, from whence the Stele of Revealing. The gnosis is preserved throughout the texts of the Papyrus of Ani, however, as with the Pyramid Texts. Most persons wished only to continue a dreaming life in the underworld. This was achieved through familial offerings and observances made to the Ka double at the mastaba tomb. This life in the underworld was seen as being much like the life lived on earth, though in an idealised form, consisting of rest, pleasure and recreation. Indeed, the underworld, Yetzirah, is a kind of mirror reflection or image of the terrestrial life, Assiah. In the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, I: 49, the duality is likened to Osiris and Isis who are “not of me” (i.e., Nuit-Hadit), existing in symbiotic relationship.

Abrogate are all rituals, all ordeals, all words and signs. Ra-Hoor-Khuit hath taken his seat in the East at the Equinox of the Gods; and let Asar be with Isa, who also are one. But they are not of me. Let Asar be the adorant, Isa the sufferer; Hoor in his secret name and splendour is the Lord initiating.

The spelling of the name of Horus, ‘Hoor’, occurs in this passage uniquely. Hoor has the numerical value of 217, equal to Set (Σηθ). This is the “secret name and splendour” of Horus in the form of Mentu or Set, the Lord of Initiation. Aiwass, the intelligence that communicated the Book of the Law, would have it known that he was revealing a secret doctrine known only to a few—and not the doctrine of the Osirians. Set and Horus are a dual form of Nuit’s only begotten child—for she requires no paternal intervention to manifest her star or ‘son’. Hadit is Nuit’s power of manifestation or self-realisation. The key to this secret doctrine becomes clear if we consider the nature of Set, whose number is 217.

Set … embodies the principles of dividing, cleaving, breaking, slaying and reversing. Set is the means of ingress and egress between the worlds, and of passing backwards and forwards between time and eternity. Set is the ‘slayer of the real’ who breaks the circle of infinity to beget creation. Conversely, Set moves through creation as the destroyer perpetually annihilating the forms he created out of chaos. His dwelling place is the desert, the burning and transforming expanse of the Abyss in which knowledge and the contents of mind turn to dust. Set is the double; he is always where consciousness, embodied by his twin brother Horus, is not. Thus he drives consciousness forwards—which may mean backwards, depending on one’s point of view![6]

At Thebes in Upper Egypt, the dual form of Horus and Set was personified in one figure as Mentu. The principal cult of Thebes was that of Amoun, Mut and Khonsu—known as the Theban triad. The local deity Mentu, who appeared as a warrior god in the form of Horus, or as a lunar god, hawk-headed, at other times the serpent Apep, continued to be honoured. The ancient Egyptians never adopted monotheism save for the brief twenty-year reign of the profane ruler Akhenaten, who forcibly imposed his belief on them.

The Osirians hoped to cheat the second death by the ineffable power of words and spells, the sacred rites. By that time this included animal sacrifices, expensive unguents, professional mourners and two or more officiating priests to perform the opening of the mouth ceremony at the door of the tomb. The ‘second death’, or dispersion of the astral body following physical death, could then be averted and the Ka of the deceased live on as Osiris, coming and going as he pleased. His domain, though, like that of Osiris, was strictly limited to the underworld. If the offerings of flowers, cakes, meat and beer were discontinued, the Ka became an astral vampire.

Egyptian Spells: Bennu bird drawn by Jeff-Dahl

Initiates, however, learn the secret power of rectification or VITRIOL.[7] They have overcome, while in their life on earth, the state of thraldom where the magnetic power of the underworld moves them in any given direction. The power is thereby made subject to the True Will (Thelema). It is the Holy Guardian Angel, not the person, who works the magick of transmutation on the soul whereby the twin serpents of kundalini are woven into the eternal starlight of Nuit.[8]

The three spells we have translated, Spell 80, 78 and 84, are all located, mythically speaking at least, in the North of Egypt. The North was the region of the watery lakes and canals of the Delta. The Delta uniquely symbolises the place of birth of all things from the primordial abyss. At the same time it symbolises the second birth of Horus, as all-transcendent spiritualised soul, and his flight to the immeasurable regions. The spells are concerned with the ultimate resurrection of the soul to an immortal life in ‘heaven’ or eternity.


1. Rebel in the Soul, Bika Reed, pp. 89. The author’s initiated translation and commentary on the Berlin Papyrus 3024, assisted by Lucy Lamy [Inner Traditions International, 1978].
2. Pp. 89 [ibid].
3. The Egyptian Book of the Dead, E.A. Wallis Budge.
4. Rebel in the Soul, pp. 105 [ibid].
5. 1500–1400 BCE.
6. See The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth, Volume One [Ordo Astri].
7. Visitae Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidum.
8. Kundalini is a Sanskrit term for the dual operation of the life force that carries consciousness. It is also a name of the divine feminine power or Shakti. According to the Tantras, when Kundalini sleeps she weaves the dream of world appearance. When she awakens the illusion is destroyed and Reality obtains.

© Oliver St. John 2018
Bennu Bird and Egyptian Wings drawings by Jeff Dahl
Hall of Judgement from Book of the Dead, courtesy of British Museum

This article is abridged from the introduction to ‘Liber 364 vel Lux Occulta’ from the book, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs [Ordo Astri].

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Hermetic Qabalah Foundation

This article is to provide some background and the historical basis to our course, Hermetic Qabalah Foundation. It also provides some useful guidelines to how the course is worked.

Crowley once remarked of Thelema that ‘do what thou wilt’ was to bid stars to shine, vines to bear fruit, water to seek its own level, etc. … we are all expressions of the 93 Current, with our parts to play, and in this play, the Current is expressing itself through us. Thus there is no need to look upon the work of Crowley, or Grant, or Spare as being a fixed body of work before which we can only, awestruck, bend the knee; rather, we should use it as one source amongst several from which we can develop our own body of work.

Michael Staley, Starfire Volume II No. 3

There is a Thelema beyond Aleister Crowley, whose magical system was put together between 1909 and 1947. Working through a correspondence course to achieve magical initiation nonetheless seems to have originated with Crowley, though he is rarely given credit for it. In the old style Golden Dawn Lodges, where initiation was supposed to be achieved with group ceremonies, few persons did any personal work. There was little or no supervision unless they were fortunate to know the right people. Crowley was taught by Allen Bennett, but that was a rare case. There was a tendency therefore for quite a lot of people to get into relatively high grades without gaining real knowledge. They attended meetings and paid their dues.

The correspondence method, introduced by Crowley and continued for a short time by Kenneth Grant, is necessarily didactic. Initiation is then about personal work done and the discipline of the magical diary Record. Dion Fortune further developed the correspondence course method in her Fraternity of Inner Light, and it came to us through that route. It was a former student of Dion Fortune that first put it to us that we might continue the tradition. We are now in the 4th generation and everyone has added and contributed along the way.

Hermetic Qabalah Foundation

Hermetic Qabalah Foundation: Lightning Flash

The Hermetic Qabalah Foundation is unique and original to the O∴ A∴ but the mode of working, where the Tree of Life is travelled from top to bottom instead of bottom to top, 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 W. E. Butler, working on commission.

Our course, 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 and is presented in Hermetic Qabalah Foundation—Complete Course. The letters received from the course guide on a monthly basis fill out the rest. That way, the instruction can be tailored to suit the individual.

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.

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]


1. From Hermetic Qabalah Foundation—Complete Course, pp. 38.

© Oliver St. John, 2018

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