Obeah and Wanga: Service to the Great Work

Service given to the Great Work is a vital spiritual obligation. It is vital because giving and receiving are one and the same act. Therefore service has practical import to the art of magick. It is not merely a ‘moral’ requirement.

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

According to the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL, I: 37,

Also the mantras and spells; the obeah and the wanga; the work of the wand and the work of the sword; these he shall learn and teach.

The seeking out of esoteric knowledge should firstly involve the question, “How can I serve?” 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. One must be prepared to give all that one is and all that one has to the Great Work.

Tyros nonetheless regard a magical Order as a brand product like any other. The quest or inner searching that supposedly precedes application to a mystery school is reduced to trivial nonsense: ‘Does it match my personal preferences, my self-image? Will it enhance my profile? What can they do for me?’ They vainly consider whether the Order is suitable for them, not the other way round as it should be and is, in reality. Perhaps a sales manager can help with such a difficult choice?

Madam, perhaps you would care to look at our range of colours in this style? We have a delicious shade of violet that would perfectly match your highlights. Dislike Qabalah? I am sure we could find another game 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…

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—we can rest assured that no work will have been done. In magick we get precisely what we are prepared to give.

Service to the Great Work

Eckhartshousen’s Cloud on the Sanctuary is the Rosicrucian template for a magical Order, used by Crowley and many others since—though most have sought to avoid its rigorous obligations. Few now have even heard of it, yet should they happen to read it, they would probably think it has nothing 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. It does in fact apply to any spiritual path in any tradition.

Members of the O∴ A∴ Collegium are expected to manage their own contributions to the Order. Usually they make regular or occasional donations, as according to their means. Ideally, each practitioner also adds to the store of knowledge. A Neophyte is literally a ‘new flower’ (neo photon). The honeybee is the cognate symbol, for that miraculous creature gathers the raw material from flowers, cross-pollinating along the way. The hive, with its hexagonal cells, is the emblem of the primal Matrix. Flowers open to the sun, for which the relevant Qabalistic 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.

Books Required for Probationer Study

The Enterer of the Threshold
Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs
The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth
The Phoenix and other Stellar Rites of Initiation

© Oliver St. John 2017, 2019

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Star and the Rosy Cross

The Rosy Cross, emblem of sacrifice and love freely given, is the heart of the Order of the Star, whose members aspire to the Will and Love that is Thelema. The Order is for those who “follow the love of Nu in the star-lit heaven” (Liber AL, II: 21).

Rosy Cross: The Rose gives honey to the bees

The Golden Dawn or Invisible Sun of Spirit is for the “servants of the Star and the Snake” (II: 21), which is the manifestation of Nuit and Hadit, and of the Great Work.

Let my servants be few and secret: they shall rule the many and the known.

Liber AL vel Legis, I: 10, conveys the Esoteric Doctrine of Thelema. Nuit and Hadit are absolute principles, whereas the Star and Snake manifest all possibilities as events in time and space. Thus, those who serve the Star and Snake express their will to manifest the law of Thelema, which is the law of love. Love and Will is the dual expression of Thelema, figured as Babalon and the Beast, a dynamic form of the Rosy Cross.

Rosy Cross and Heart of Aiwass

To find the Gnosis in the clear light we must first love and then understand the magical mythology of the words and spells, the hieroglyphs of the stars. From the Cross of Gold then blooms the Red Rose of love and life. The path of knowledge is by no means a path of purely intellectual attainment, for it requires the immersion of the whole self in the matter of the Great Work. The Holy Guardian Angel will not work the alchemy of transformation on the soul unless that task first be accomplished, which is itself of the nature of sacrifice, as symbolised by the Rosy Cross.

Order of the Star: Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Shemsu en Khabs

The Egyptian name of the Order of the Star initiated by Aiwass is Shemsu en Khabs, which has the value of 527.[1] The number 527 is the sum of the three ‘lights’ of the Caduceus, Aub, Aur and Aud added to spirit-fire.[2] The name is thus an expression of the Hermetic Light. The number 527 is also the sum of Wisdom (ChKMH), Truth (AMTh) and Love (AHBH). When the corresponding sephiroth Chokmah, Binah and Tiphereth are added together, the result is 11, the number of magical transmutation. As declared by Nuit, in Liber AL, I: 60,

My number is 11, as are all their numbers who are of us.

The number 527 is that of ZMH ZMH OZH RChM OZIAH, the five words that the Master of Pistis Sophia saw written in the robe given him after his transfiguration. The words can be translated, ‘Thought! Imagination! The sacrament of love and truth’. The sacrament is Thelema, for OZIAH has the value of 93, Will (Θελημα) and Love (Αγαπη).[3] RChM is a name of the Egyptian vulture, the emblem of Isis. The vulture (Neophron percnopterus) uses twigs as a tool to weave her nest. She is the zoötype of the weaver and of weaving—in this case, the weaving of the robe or magical Khu of the Master.

Egyptian Shen Ring of EternityThe vulture is the original type of the Tarot Fool, numbered Zero, placed on the 11th path of the Tree of Life. The vulture, protector of Egypt, carries the shen ring of eternal truth, a symbol of both zero as circle of All, and Libra, the attribution of Maat and the 8th Tarot trump Justice or Adjustment.

The Master explains the meaning of the five words he saw hidden in the woven garment thus:

O Mystery, which is without in the world, for whose sake the universe hath arisen, this is the total outgoing and the total ascent, which hath emanated all emanations and all that is.

The Greek name of the book, Pistis Sophia, is equal to 1,581. When this number is divided by 3, its lowest factor, the result is 527. The five words are therefore the three parts of the sum total of the wisdom of Hermes Trismegistus, which is that of ancient Egypt. The number 527 is also that of the Pleiades or ‘Doves’. The name of the stellar complex in the constellation of Taurus also means, ‘wonderful’, and ‘miraculous’. The small, sparkling cluster of seven stars was anciently associated with Venus as the evening star, which is depicted in the Crowley-Harris Thoth Tarot as the 17th Atu The Star (of Nuit). Earlier Tarot decks, such as the French Tarot de Marseille, depict a very large bright star amidst seven smaller stars. This is indicative of the evening star in the constellation of Taurus—and so life, love, strength, beauty, aspiration and inspiration.

Rosy Cross and Heart of Ouarda the Seer

When 527 is divided by its factor 17, the result is 31, AL, a number and title of the Book of the Law. Ouarda the Seer, the magical name of Rose Edith Kelly, the medium for the transmission of the book, has the value of 576, or 527 added to the 49 petals of the Rosy Cross.[4] Rose Edith Kelly, whom Crowley abandoned in Cairo and subsequently wrote off as a magical ‘failure’, was nonetheless the seer that, in Crowley’s words, “put me in touch with Aiwass”.[5] Rose made the ultimate sacrifice to the Great Work, that of her whole self, out of love. Aiwass, the minister of Hoor-paar-kraat, is the revealer of the timeless wisdom of Thelema, and of the secrets of the priest-kings and princes of the cult of Set in Upper Egypt. Set or Saturn, as the ‘manifester of the seven’ and destroyer through identity, is the power behind Venus.

Rose Kelly thereby opened a door in space, the starry window of imagining, that enabled Aiwass, the Setian prince-priest, to transmit the word of the law to those that would come after the ‘beast’ Crowley. As was written in Liber AL, II: 76,

Thou knowest not; nor shalt though know ever. There cometh one to follow thee: he shall expound it.[6]

The integers of the number 527 convey, ‘Wisdom (2) borne forth by the star (5) of Venus (7)’. Venus is Lucifer, the ‘light-bringer’. As morning star, she is the dawn herald—precurser of the Golden Dawn. As evening star, she is the Occult Light, the twilight envoy of dreams and nocturnal imagining, and the naked splendour of Nuit.

There is a ready comparison to be made between the journey of ascent described in the Gnostic Pistis Sophia and the ascending of the Enochian magical system of Thirty Aethyrs. There are Thirty Aeons in the Valentinian Gnosis, and the original title of the Book of the Law was Liber L or Liber XXX.[7] The first pair of Aeons in the Valentinian Gnostic schema that must be encountered and mastered by the Initiate are ‘Love’ and ‘Will’ respectively, which are summed up in Thelema, the word of the Law.[8]

The Enochian word KROODZI adds to 527, and has the meaning of ‘beginning of things’ or ‘first image’. This refers to the Beast or Chaos as the manifester of Babalon or Cosmos, a notion central to the initiatory system of Thirty Aeons. The ‘first image’ is the power of imagining, ZMH. The word ZMH (zummah) is used in a technical sense as the kind of thought or meditation that follows a symbol back to its source with the infinite. It is the inner level of understanding the mysteries, where the outer level is symbolic or allegorical.

OZH RChM, the ‘powerful matrix’, is Binah or Babalon as cosmic creatrix, and Chokmah or the Beast as the cosmic will-force or utterance. The pair is the primal duality from which all emanations or manifestations on lower planes issue forth. When the primal duality is realised as infinite then “that which remains” (Liber AL, II: 9) is the spaciousness of Nuit, in whom is the containment of all possibilities, all imagining.

Rosy Cross and the Serpent of Wisdom

The initials of Shemsu en Khabs form the word ShNCh, ‘of the eternal’, which has the value of 358 and is a metathesis of NChSh (nahesh), the Serpent of Wisdom. The number 358 is that of MShICh (messiah), the ‘anointed one’, which anciently refers to a consecrated priest or priestess of the mysteries. Babalon and the Beast, Eve (Sophia) and the Serpent are one. The symbolism of the snake goddess Asherah or Tanith was corrupted in biblical scriptures to portray the Serpent as evil and Eve, the woman, as prone to sin and therefore deserving of eternal punishment at the hand of the vengeful biblical deity (IHVH). Gnostics regard Jehovah or Yahweh as an evil demiurge, and the love of Sophia and the Holy Spirit as the means of liberation.

Jesus and Magdalene, Babalon and the Beast, the Moon and the Sun, Isis and Horus, the Rose and the Cross, are simultaneously human, cosmic and supercosmic figures that teach the art of magick to those who love wisdom. The eternal abode of Nuit is a seamless garment or Khu.[9] It is an ark of love and a beacon of light to the servants of the Star and Snake, as declared in Liber AL, II: 21.

Think not, o king, upon that lie: That Thou Must Die: verily thou shalt not die, but live. Now let it be understood: If the body of the King dissolve, he shall remain in pure ecstasy for ever. Nuit! Hadit! Ra-Hoor-Khuit! The Sun, Strength and Sight, Light; these are for the servants of the Star and the Snake.


1. ShMSV N ChABS = 527.
2. Aub + Aur + Aud = 227. The Aub is the Astral Light, symbolised by two serpents, solar and lunar. The light of Aur is the channel for the spirit-fire, 300, that transforms Astral Light into Aud or ‘fragrance’, 11, the Starlight of Nuit. This is the key to the transmutation of the elements in the ritual called the Mass of Hormaku.
3. OZIAH is ‘truth’ (IAH) and ‘strength’ (OZ). OZH RChM can be construed, ‘powerful matrix’. RChM is the root of ‘womb’ and ‘love’ in the divine or impersonal sense (Agape).
4. Ουαρδα = 576 by Greek number values. The Rosy Cross of 49 petals variously symbolises Venus (7 x 7) as the principle of love, sacrifice and resurrection to new life. The sum of the sephiroth below the Abyss is 49, thus there are ‘50 Gates of Babalon’ the Initiatrix.
5. Quotation from The Law is for all. As evidenced by the list given in the aforesaid book, Rose was the first of at least half a dozen ‘scarlet women’ that Crowley subsequently wrote off as having failed him in some way. The tall, dark man with ‘hooded eyes’ and a ‘cruel mouth’ that appeared to Crowley in Cairo was certainly not Aiwass—whose identity was never known or guessed at by Crowley.
6. The riddle of the numbers and letters in the same verse adds to 419, according to the cypher key of AL, III: 47. The number 419 is that of teth the serpent spelled in full and of Sothis or Sirius; thus, one to follow the star.
7. The number 30 is that of ‘L’, as lamed or lamda. The corresponding 22nd path on the Tree of Life is imaged forth by Maat, the Egyptian goddess of the scales. The Book of the Law is thus the Book of Maat, ‘Truth and Justice’—the expression of cosmic and natural law.
8. The Valentinian Gnosis (2nd century CE) is attributed to the learned Egyptian theologian Valentinus. According to the account of Epiphaneus, Valentinus was born in the Nile Delta and educated at Alexandria. It is probable he was there influenced by the Christian philosopher Basilides. The Basilidian sect included three grades or degrees,  Material, Intellectual and Spiritual. Its aspirants were sworn to keep silence for a period of five years. The pillars of the temple were male and female figures.
9. The holograph MS of Liber AL, I: 26, informs us thus: “Thou knowest! And the sign shall be my ecstasy, the consciousness of the continuity of existence, the unfragmentary non-atomic fact of my universality.”

© Oliver St. John 2018
This essay is part of the collection, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs.

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Lineage of the Magi

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

Lineage of the Magi: Marseille Tarot Devil XVAuthenticity, 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.

The 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 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 extract from the essay that forms part of the collection, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs.

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Visit Ordo Astri (or return to home): Thelemic Magical Collegium
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