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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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.

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]

Weighing of the Heart from Papyrus of Ani

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 taken from the Prologue to ‘Liber 364 vel Lux Occulta’, from the book, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs [Ordo Astri].

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.

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 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 saying the spells or invocations, 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 Menthu 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 Menthu or Set, the Lord of Initiation. The intelligences that communicated the Book of the Law would have it known that theirs is not the doctrine of the Osirians, but a secret doctrine known only to a few. Set and Horus are a dual form of the only begotten child of Nuit, who required 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 is provided under the entry for Set, 217, in The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth.[6]

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!

At Thebes in Upper Egypt, the dual form of Horus and Set was personified in one figure as Menthu. The principal cult of Thebes was that of Amoun, Mut and Khonsu—known as the Theban triad. The local deity Menthu, 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 imposed his belief on them.

The Osirians hoped to cheat the second death by the ineffable power of the words and spells. 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. By reversion of the senses, there is a ‘turning back’ (to source) by which the desire of the body for objectification is stilled. 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. The Holy Guardian Angel works the magick of transmutation on the soul whereby the twin serpents of kundalini are woven into the eternal starlight of Nuit.[7]

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. Thus, these spells are concerned with the ultimate resurrection of the soul to an immortal life in ‘heaven’ or eternity.

Egyptian Spells: Wings drawn by Jeff-Dahl


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. Rebel in the Soul, Bika Reed, 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. 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 taken from the Prologue to ‘Liber 364 vel Lux Occulta’ from the book, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs [Ordo Astri].

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When is the Solstice?

Some were confused this year by a science news bulletin informing them that the latest sunrise would not occur until January. In fact the astronomical solstice took place as usual, on the 21st December. A variance in methods of measuring by clock and solar time means that the earliest sunset occurs a few days before the solstice while the latest sunrise comes a few days after. In the northern hemisphere the 21st December was still the shortest day in terms of daylight hours. However, the widely broadcast news report led many persons to think the winter solstice would not take place until some time in January.

The precise point of solstice is measured according to the angle of the sun’s declination. When the sun reaches its lowest angle of declination relative to the earth, we experience the longest night and shortest day. In summer this is reversed as the sun reaches its zenith. At the equinoxes, days and nights are equal in length—for the poles of the earth are tilted in relation to earth’s orbit around the sun. Around the solstices, the difference each day in time for sunrise and sunset is fractional—a matter of seconds at best.

Urizen Measuring the Universe, William Blake

Solstice: Europe: A Prophecy by William Blake

We generally mark the solstices and equinoxes of the year according to the circle of the ecliptic. When the sun enters zero degrees of Capricorn, around the 21st December each year, it marks the winter solstice festivity for those of us dwelling in the northern hemisphere of the globe. For those situated in the southern hemisphere the same date marks the summer solstice. The 360-degree circle of the ecliptic is formed by the apparent course of the sun, moon and planets, as relative to earth. We divide the ecliptic into 12 equal sections or ‘signs’. This we call the zodiac, and each 30-degree sign is represented by a very ancient glyph, for example, Capricorn the sea-goat.

Man is a measurer, and there are countless ways in which things can be measured. All measurement is arbitrary and the division of the circle into 360 degrees serves a practical purpose; it is not a declaration of any absolute in itself. Though the fanatic frequently forgets it, neither science nor any spiritual philosophy was intended to produce absolute truth.

For many of us, the technocratic industrial calendar is not in any way meaningful. We therefore look to a reliable mark for our communion with nature, spirit, mind and soul. We do not worship at the altar of the sun and the moon any more than we would wish to worship at the altar of profane science. Visible nature is nonetheless the only miracle required should we seek for a demonstration of eternal beauty and truth—for as according to the ancient Egyptian wisdom, ‘As above, so below’. Our scale is necessarily a human one, not a mechanical one. We do not search for meaning in arc minutes, yet we may make a meaningful observation of nature’s course, seeing there many wonders to behold in her form and geometry.

The music of Mozart is precise in itself; the scores can be ‘played’ automatically, by a machine. Yet when Mozart is played by a machine, it is no longer music and it is no longer wonderful. It is perhaps a miracle in itself that it requires an imprecise human being to produce the music of Mozart. For this reason, music lovers down the centuries have thought that God must have moved the hand of Mozart, for they have experienced something therein that will not be explained otherwise. This same ineffable presence moves behind all of visible nature and is closer to us than our own heartbeat

For more about the Capricorn Solstice, see Enigmatic Magick of Set and Thelema.
See also, Magick of the Capricorn Solstice at Tantrika.

Subscribe to our monthly Journal, The 93 Current. The Journal is free of charge and is delivered by email.

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