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.


Notes

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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Obeah and Wanga

Even Aleister Crowley, frequently cast in the mould of black magician—a role that he evidently delighted in playing—was unequivocal regarding the supreme importance of service freely given. That one must be prepared to give all that one is and all that one has to the Great Work.

Service to the Great Work: Pilgrim's Progress, H. Melville, W. Floyd (engraver)

Tyros nowadays tend to regard a magical Order as a brand product like any other. The quest or inner searching that supposedly precedes application to a mystery school then becomes a question of, ‘What can it (or they) do for me?’ They are considering whether the Order is suitable for them. Whether it fits; whether it suits them. Over to our sales manager:

Madam, perhaps you would care to look at our range of colours in this style? We have a delicious shade of tangerine that would perfectly match your highlights. Dislike Qabalah? I am sure we could find a substitute that will take your fancy. We have a range of mystic methods from diverse global sources. Let us see what we have on our shelves, we will surely find something to please you…

We may be excused for thinking that such presumption reveals ignorance of a magnitude; yet that is not even the half of it. The majority of magical shoppers plan to give nothing in return apart from their complaints when the immortal stone of the wise has not dropped into their lap within the first month (rest assured that no work will have been done). That approach to the Great Work is, as we all know, a fast track to failure, for we can only get precisely what we are prepared to give. Apart from “What ails thee, o king?” and similar Graal classics, the question of what to do about knowledge should firstly involve, “How can I serve?”

Service to the Great Work

Even Aleister Crowley, frequently cast in the mould of black magician—a role that he evidently delighted in playing—was unequivocal regarding the supreme importance of service freely given. That one must be prepared to give all that one is and all that one has to the Great Work. Unfortunately, few nowadays have heard of Eckhartshousen’s Rosicrucian Cloud on the Sanctuary, and if they were to see a copy it is unlikely they would think it had anything to do with them. Likewise, there are those who think that John Bunyon’s classic of English literature Pilgrim’s Progress is only relevant for pious Sunday School pupils (the book was highly regarded by Crowley).

Let us move to the holier ground and look at service, the ‘give and take’ of things, from a more spiritual perspective. We use the word ‘spiritual’, but none of this is outside or in any way beyond the natural world. It is only that the world of the profane is far removed from that of nature let alone anything spiritual. Initiate members that persist with the discipline as far as the third degree of Practicus are expected by then to be keeping their own personal Sepher Sephiroth, and aiming to become proficient at the Qabalistic art of Gematria. In this way, each practitioner adds to the store of knowledge. The honeybee is the cognate symbol, for that miraculous creature gathers the raw material from flowers, cross-pollinating as it goes on its way. The hive, with its hexagonal cells, is the emblem of the primal Matrix. Flowers open to the sun, and the relevant path is the 30th, called The Gathering Intelligence. The six-fold opened cube of the universe, Tiphereth, is naturally the flower of the Golden Dawn of any functional magical Order. As knowledge is freely given out, so individual aspirants give freely to the Order that sustains them spiritually.


Book References

The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth: The indispensible resource for the Hermetic Qabalist and magician: “Where appropriate, Gematria with detailed Qabalistic notes has been provided. The book also serves as a veritable grimoire for those engaged with the more specialised work of the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, and the Thelemic or 93 Curent.”
The Enterer of the Threshold: The book that “everyone that genuinely seeks Initiation into magick should study”.
Magical Theurgy—Rituals of the Tarot: A complete course in magick, covering “the extended use of elemental mudras or Godforms, meditation and Tantra-yoga, plus examples of simple and advanced magical rituals.”

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Golden Dawn and Phoenix: Night Magick vs Light Magick

The Holy Guardian Angel and the Phoenix: While truth cannot be absolutely true, true discernment is made in the heart and not the reasoning mind alone. This is the seat of what is called the True Will or Thelema.

Deconstructionism was used as a method in the arts long before it was recognised as driving political debate (so-called). Kenneth Grant—perhaps first of the post-modern occultists—laid a trail so littered with ‘blinds’ that even the most perceptive individuals have difficulty deciphering the way. Yet when he neared the end of his time—and foresaw the end of ours—he was unequivocal so far as stating that Initiates should prepare for the incoming wave of Qliphoth. To explain this in the terms coined by Grant: rends in the subtle fabric that once protected the planet are now admitting overwhelming incursions from Outside. The uninitiated have no defence against the resultant atavistic resurgence and succumb to obsession in their legions. Grant’s instructions for the needful preparations are nonetheless scattered about the Typhonian Trilogies in a way that makes them difficult to find and identify.[1]

Holy Guardian Angel: Golden Dawn Malkuth LamenThe term, ‘Magick of Light’, owes to the Golden Dawn tradition established by Samuel Liddell MacGregor and Moïna Mathers, Wyn Westcott, William Woodman, Florence Farr and company. The deconstruction of that legacy was carefully prepared and set in motion by Aleister Crowley and George Cecil Jones. It could be said that half a century later Kenneth Grant finished off completely the job they started. Or did he simply weave a seductively alluring tapestry, a fantastic veil to hide the real secret of the Golden Dawn from the profane—thus doing the bidding of the Secret Chiefs in a way more subtle than the darkly devious devices of his own imagining?

It was Kenneth Grant that cleverly noticed the Golden Dawn expression of the reification of the Magick of Light as spelling ‘The Great L.I.E.’ (Light in Extension). This is an Eastern and indeed dualistic philosophical view to take, though in reality not much different from that of Aleister Crowley who increasingly resorted to the Yi-King over the Tarot (which he was never good at by his own admission) and the Taoist way over that of the Hermetic. Crowley littered his work with paradoxical assertions and negations, as did Kenneth Grant, albeit in a very different style.

The dualistic denial of matter and proclamation of spiritual supremacy is nothing new; it was included in the knowledge of the syncretic Golden Dawn tradition. The use of the Chaldean Oracles, attributed to the Persian sage Zoroaster, provides a fine example. The Upanishads are full of it. Strangely enough, everyone seems to be more or less in agreement that the way of the West differs from that of the East in so far as matter is not to be denied but transformed. The extraordinarily lurid works of Kenneth Grant are as syncretic as those of any Golden Dawn. After all, he was not urging us to become Hindus or Buddhists. The ‘Typhonian tradition’ is usually taken to refer not to an ancient Egyptian pre-dynastic cult but to the legacy of Kenneth Grant’s writings. The said writing embraces all manner of expressions, from an inverted view of the Golden Dawn, Grant’s extended use of Gematria, which he called ‘Creative Qabalah’, and on to Zen, Taoism, witchcraft, voodoo, demonology and even ufology.

The redoubtable Scientific Illuminism of Crowley is austere in comparison with the amorphous Nightside of Grant, but it continued the Golden Dawn tradition—after a fashion at least—in the declared aim of universalism. The universalism of the syncretic Golden Dawn was established at least a decade before a young Crowley was introduced to the household. It is perhaps unfortunate that Crowley and other first wave Golden Dawn dissidents discarded elements of the tradition that were valuable and magically vital. For example, the early Golden Dawn temples had equal rights and privileges for women that meant far more than paying mere lip service to a lofty ideal. When Mathers moved base from London to Paris he appointed Florence Farr as head.

Holy Guardian Angel

While Grant proposed a way (if you can see it) that is essentially Against the Light, he nonetheless insisted, in his earlier writings at least, that one must attain the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel before bravely immersing oneself in the demon worlds of the Qliphoth.[2] And here is a strange thing to relate in view of the polemic against luminosity: the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel is a Hermetic and Theurgic magical operation. The irony of Kenneth Grant’s Tunnels of Set is that they lead nowhere; the longer one stays in the cloying labyrinth the further one is from the fragrance of the mystic rose. The Holy Guardian Angel, a divine messenger that conveys direct mystical experience to the soul, is very much part of the Rosicrucian scheme of things. That means working the grades of the Golden Dawn as far as Tiphereth, the central solar radiance of the whole Tree of Life. At the foot of the Tree, coiled about the Kingdom of Malkuth, Thanatos and Eros weave the Ring-Pass-Not that mockingly bars all ways to the canopied couch of Logos and Agape.


Notes

1. Kenneth Grant refers to a certain “Sign of Protection”. This is described in The Ninth Arch, Appendices I (Starfire Publishing).
2. Against the Light: A Nightside Narrative is the title of a book by Kenneth Grant (Starfire Publishing, 2016).
Details about The Phoenix and other Stellar Rites of Initiation are posted on the Ordo Astri website and at Tantrika Books.
There is an extended commentary on Phoenix in the Temple of Babalon podcast, Episode 17.

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