Maat: Daughter of the Lords of Truth

There is a special relation between Leo and Libra-Maat, through the esoteric title of the Tarot trump Adjustment VIII, the Daughter of the Lords of Truth. Aleister Crowley used a clever design, based on the möbius strip, to show how this works in The Book of Thoth.

Sekhet and Maat: Leo and LibraThe Tarot and path correspondences of the Tree of Life are most ingenious. Leo and Libra revolve about Virgo, while Aquarius and Aries revolve about Pisces. The original type of lamed, the letter ‘L’ of the Law of Thelema and 22nd path of Libra or Maat, was the ancient Egyptian ‘sickle’ hieroglyph. According to Golden Dawn Isis-Urania founder member, Wynn Westcott,

“VIII Justice [corresponds to] Lamed and Libra, and Strength [to] Teth and Leo—which causeth a transposition for these are cognate symbols. But at one time the sword of Justice was the Egyptian knife symbol of the sickle of Leo whilst the Scales meant the Sun having quitted the balance point of highest declaration. So the female and the lion gave the idea of Venus, Lady of Libra repressing the Fire of Vulcan (Saturn in Libra) exalted. But earliest was the lion goddess to Leo and Ma to Libra with her scales, and this is better. Also Libra was given to Horus at one time.”[1]

The Golden Dawn changed the order of trumps to fit on the Tree of Life. La Force or Fortitude was usually numbered XI and Justice VIII. MacGregor Mathers and Westcott elected to swap the numbers round so the order of paths and letters and signs is the same as the order of trumps. Leo then corresponds with teth the serpent, the letter of path 19, and Libra to lamed and path 22. What Westcott was driving at in his lecture was the interchangeable relation between the Lion (ma’a) and the Woman with the Sword (ma’at). This is comparable with mutual reception in astrology, where the attributes are held in common through ‘dignity’. If we place the Scales of Maat on the Tree of Life then inevitably the beam will fall across the 19th path. Maat has a natural affinity with Gedulah, and Sekhet with Geburah: THE LION OF TRUTH. Furthermore, the esoteric title of the Lion of the 19th path is Daughter of the Flaming Sword.

The next part of the Tarot story comes a few years later in Cairo, 1904, when Aiwass, conveying the oracle of Nuit (Liber AL, I: 57), tells Aleister and Rose Crowley that,

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

This greatly perplexed Aleister Crowley. It took him years to work out that the idea is to counterchange the positions on the Tree of The Star XVII and The Emperor IV. Presumably he got to this by meditating on the earlier counterchange of Justice and Fortitude by Mathers and Westcott. Next—Eureka!—he finds that we can show the perfection of the arrangement with the diagram, ’Double Loop of the Zodiac’.[2] He thought to revert the numbering of the Tarot to that which it had always been, Justice VIII and Fortitude XI. Otherwise he would have needed to make the Star the IV and the Emperor the XVII, which disrupts the integrity of the Tarot sequence. So the numbers of the Tarot, the ‘Book T’, are unchanged; only the locations of the two cards change on the paths.

Maat and the Lion of Truth: Double Loop of the ZodiacIt happens, though Crowley never mentioned it, that this method of placement reconciles the Tropical Zodiac with the Sidereal Zodiac. By Alexandrian astrology, Aries is the sign of the spring equinox and Libra that of the autumn equinox. This is so natural and right that it cannot be argued against sensibly. In the present precessional epoch, by Sidereal reckoning, the Sun aligns with Aquarius on 21st March, and with Leo on 21st September. So there, with our Tarot and Tree of Life schema, we have the perfect reconciliation—and the magical images, the Woman and Beast both in time and outside of time.

The original title given to the Cairo transmission, the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, was Liber L. By Qabalistic values, the letter ‘L’ corresponds to Libra and the Scales of Maat, ‘truth’, having the value of 30. The letter lamed is derived from the Egyptian ‘sickle’ or ‘scythe’. It is literally ‘the Measure’ of Maat. The sickle hieroglyph has the meanings of ‘truth’, ‘justified’, ‘true vision’, ‘true-speaking’ and ‘true-seer’. It also spells LION. Mau or Sekhmet is the principle of love in the most powerful or dynamic aspect, the love of truth. Thus Sekhet (power) and Maat (truth) are inseparable to our way of thinking. The Book of the Law, which is the Book of L, might be better named, the Book of the Seer (Soror Ouarda, Rose Edith Kelly).

Sickle Maat Leo and Libra

Venus rules Libra, Saturn is exalted therein. The path of the Lion connects Jupiter (Maat) and Mars (Sekhet). Sekhet and Maat, Fortitude and Justice, are cognate symbols. The sickle hieroglyph is identical to the astrological glyph for Saturn, save for the tau cross-bar. Saturn is the ‘power behind Venus’, as Set-Hadit (the stellar Sirius) is the manifester of the seven stars of Ursa Major: Love is the law, love under will. Lamed is the sickle of Saturn and Sekhet, and as we know, this means both ‘true-speaker’ and ‘true-seer’. To speak truth and to see the truth through the eye of beholding are one and the same. The sickle has a dual function. Firstly, it is needed to clear the field for ploughing the furrow in which we seek the flint or jewel of Maat. It is the Opener of the Ways. Secondly it is needed to reap the harvest, which is analogous with the emergence or ‘second birth’ of a justified soul.

Scales of Maat: Knowledge and Power

The twin pillars of Maat have sometimes been named, ‘Knowledge and Power’. It is also quite common to hear it said that ‘knowledge is power’, and that the whole purpose of the magical arts is to gain knowledge and thereby increase power. This rests on the assumption that power is something that can be acquired, purchased, gained or lost—as though it were a thing in itself. There is much made of the term ‘empowerment’ in New Age literature and academic (or psychological) occultism. Yet, with all this careless use of jargon, one seldom if ever finds anyone taking the trouble to define the term, to say what they mean when they use this word, ‘power’. The first definition in the Oxford Dictionary is, ‘the ability or capacity to do something or act in a particular way’. Very well then; so if we understand power as ‘the ability or capacity to do something’, then what is the source of such an ability or capacity? The emphasis with this common definition is on the verb ‘to do’; it is all about doing and acting. Yet all such doing, moving, going about the place, is merely the observed effect, the appearance.

The exoteric concept of power then owes to causal determinism, where one thing or event is caused by another that preceded it, and so on for perpetuity. If we seek for the cause, the Will, we find that we know nothing whatsoever about it. All we know is effect or appearance, and we mistakenly judge this to be a cause. This whole idea of power then collapses in upon itself, revealing nothing. The solution is really quite simple. In the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL, II: 3–4, Hadit (Will) declares his nature:

In the sphere I am everywhere the centre, as she, the circumference, is nowhere found. Yet she shall be known and I never.

To use a geometric analogy, the circle of all possibility (Nuit) is determined by the hypothetical point (Hadit). If we move the point, the curvature changes. Yet the point only exists by virtue of the circle. Neither comes first or second; every event is simultaneous and spontaneous. The ‘Will’ is esoteric. The ‘Effect’ is exoteric.  Hadit will not be known because he is the Knower, consciousness itself, which causes things to appear. Rational thought stops short, reaching its ring-pass-not at causal determinism.

Let us return to the question of power. What then is true power? For example, do politicians really possess a thing called ‘power’? They may produce acts of governance, and those acts may be enforced by the power of the State via the police and military forces. But if politicians seemingly have the power to command forces, from whence does that power originate? In the case of the politician, it depends entirely on the bargains, the deals they have made with others behind closed doors. It depends on the confidence of their financial backers. Warfare, the inevitable consequence of financial greed and lust for power, may depend on the weather, as evidenced by the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. Blind forces move modern economic systems, which is called a ‘market economy’. That power owes much to the chance element of the roulette wheel. The gamblers feel powerful on winning, powerless when losing, especially if losing all, in which case they may be seen sky-diving from an apartment window twenty floors above the ground. What then is the real meaning of such power?

There is only one true power in the universe. That power is the power of attention, observance. Every creature on earth but one exercises that power continually and with utmost precision, not being deluded for one moment into thinking that it can be won, lost, acquired, given or received. The one creature that alone confuses power and will is the human creature. The isolating doctrine of scientism and psychological determinism has ensnared the modern esoteric movement, including mainstream Thelema, and thwarted its true purpose. Initiation, direct knowledge, is the remedy for the ill. The foundation of true initiation is not in learning what to think, but how to think differently—through the mode of analogous thought, which is the method of communication used by the ancient mystery schools.


Notes

1. Westcott, ‘Tarot Lecture, Part 4’, The Complete Golden Dawn Cipher Manuscripts, Translated and Edited by Darcy Küntz [Holmes Publishing Group, Washington, 1996]. The transcript is in note form and we have taken the liberty here of inserting parantheses and punctuation marks to clarify the meaning.
2. See Crowley, The Book of Thoth pp. 9–10, ‘The Double Loop in the Zodiac’.

© Oliver St John 2018
This essay appears, fully annotated and illustrated, in the collection, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs [Ordo Astri].
Sickle-Maat-Lion hieroglyph and ‘Double Loop of the Zodiac’ drawn by Oliver St. John.
Drawings of Sekhet and Maat by Jeff Dahl.

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Serpent Tongue of Liber AL vel Legis

Some of the passages in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law seem to have been put there expressly to bamboozle Aleister Crowley, the scribe. The same passages have befuddled many other persons since. Not least of which, is the passage of III: 47, which includes a word concerning the translation of the book into “all other tongues”. If the book is regarded as an encrypted esoteric treatise, there is some chance that wisdom might send her kiss to soothe our troubled brows. If the book is approached in the same way that lay preachers sometimes choose to construe their ‘holy bibles’, as literal instruction to be blindly obeyed, then what is there to distinguish Thelemites from those who burned so-called witches at the stake on the advice of the biblical book of Exodus? Interestingly, perhaps, Crowley never authorised or produced a translation of Liber AL vel Legis in his lifetime, even though the book’s instruction of III: 47 is one that appears to have been delivered to him personally.

Serpent Tongue: Loki’s Brood, Emil Doepler 1905

The written word may be taken literally or metaphorically. The laws of state governance, for example, are literally intended. Even then it is not straightforward; the difficulties of literal interpretation are such that a large army of lawyers and judges are required. When the written word is taken as spiritual wisdom, a matter for the soul, then the use of poetic metaphor is taken for granted. There is an exception to that. When persons wish to use scripture as a means of exercising political power and control, then the written word becomes a matter of dogmatic doctrinal assertion.

Hissing Serpent of Exodus

The eight hissing serpent words in the King James Bible version of Exodus, 22: 18, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”, can be understood esoterically. There is a caveat to be applied to the Old Testament when applying the Qabalah to make sense of it. Some of the books, and Exodus is no exception, are merely political diatribes. Some chapters consist of lengthy lists of social and moral prohibitions and, as a consequence, dire curses and punishments to be meted out on sinners. The primary intention of producing such scriptures was to force mass compliance with emerging nation states. These require, along with the flag and usual hereditary emblems of governance, centralised religious worship to reinforce national identity. Military plans for conquest require finance and so increased taxation; by appealing to ignorance and xenophobia, support may be garnered for what would otherwise be unpopular legislation (what else is new?). Nonetheless, Aramaic, the language of the scriptures, is a magical language. As with ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, the written word affords multiple levels of interpretation—for there is no vowel pointing to indicate precise meaning, as with Modern Hebrew.

The word that was translated as ‘witch’ in the King James edition (and most others) is KShP (400), a verb which means, ‘to use magick or sorcery’. The noun for a magician or sorcerer is AShP (381), and this same name is also used to describe astrologers, for example—who, in those times, were regarded no differently than astronomers and physicians. Ironically, the three magi that follow a star to witness the birth of the magical child Jesus of Nazareth, as recorded in the New Testament, were likewise astrologers or magicians. The Qabalistic Gematria for the numbers 381 and 400 yields rich treasure.[1] The association of keshef with the Egyptian word for the constellation we know as Ursa Major, ShPK, ‘foreleg (or thigh) of the Bull’, also bears much fruit. We can avoid digression, though, by simply looking into the name for ‘a person that does magick’. AShP is ashah, ‘woman’, or ‘fire’, with the letter of the ‘mouth’ or ‘utterance’ added (P). The old magick, persisting even centuries after the end of the precessional age of the Bull, always concerned oracular women or priestesses. From times of great antiquity, the serpent was the zoötype of the oracular word. Eve was named simply ‘the woman’ (ashah) in the first book of Genesis. Eve and the Serpent are one, as typified in Thelemic imagery by Babalon and the Beast. We may also think of the zodiacal Bull and its polar twin, glyphed by the serpent and eagle as well as the scorpion. Thus it is not uncommon to find ancient depictions of the magician as a woman, naked as the sky, with the wings of a bird and bearing two serpents, one in each hand, all set against a background of stars. The three letters of the verb ‘to do magick’ (KPSh) encompass all these ideas, along with their Yetziratic path and Tarot correspondences. The ‘hand’ (kaph) of the goddess Fortuna that turns the wheel or chakra of time; the word from the ‘mouth’ () of the fire snake (shin).

The biblical association with the tricky Old Serpent produces the time-honoured instruction, known by every hermit, that if we succumb wholly to the proud persuasion of the reasoning intellect then we pour our life’s blood into the Ark of Evil and mistake dead things (including all ‘holy books’) for the living word. And that is exactly the error of the witch-burners and fundamentalists—not to mention the self-righteous worthies that sign up with the lynch mob every time the popular press pruriently parades the latest victim of some outrage—whether the alleged perpetrator is an individual person or ecclesiastical institution.

This book shall be translated into all tongues: but always with the original in the writing of the Beast; for in the chance shape of the letters and their position to one another: in these are mysteries that no Beast shall divine.

Serpent Tongue of AL, III: 47

The instruction of Liber AL, III: 47 appears, on the face of it, to be a lighter matter than that of Exodus, 22: 18. Yet the consequences for slavish obedience to the literal interpretation of an arcane treatise are incalculable, certainly in spiritual terms. “This book shall be translated into all tongues” has been enthusiastically taken up, so that the book is by now translated into almost every European language, and quite a few others. Unfortunately, it is impossible to translate the book into any language other than the ‘barbaric’ English that was heard by Rose and Aleister Crowley in Cairo in 1904 without making nonsense of it. When the book is translated into other tongues, the meaning is changed and strictly limited. As with ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, it is intentional, nay essential, that the text carries multiple levels of meaning. This can easily be demonstrated. If we go through some of the key verses or tenets and translate them into modern English, it no longer works. The book was written down in a peculiar hybrid of archaic and modern prose. Add to that some Greek and Coptic words, plus the very curious ‘Coph Nia’ (III: 72). The grammar does not conform to any accepted standard. There are neologisms, specially created words that do not appear in any dictionary, namely ‘unfragmentary’ and ‘abstruction’.[2] Thus, to translate into any other language renders the book completely useless as esoteric treatise. In ordinary translation work—and this is no ordinary book and no ordinary writing—one must make a clear difference between translating a text and interpreting that text. With the enigmatic Liber AL vel Legis, it is not possible to translate without applying precise definition of meaning. All attempts to translate the book have therefore failed utterly, and will continue to do so.

The elevenfold spell, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”, for example, translates into modern English as “Do what you will shall be the whole of the Law”. The substitution of ‘you’ for the archaic ‘thou’ automatically places personal emphasis on the nature of the will in question, which has already been defined in the book, I: 39, by the Greek word Thelema (Θελημα). The meaningful context for the use of that word owes to sixteen centuries of cultural and linguistic tradition. Furthermore, the ambiguity of present and future tense in the phrase automatically invokes the curse of causal determinism. We are then stuck with something perhaps worse than the rationalist argument of philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer in his treatise, The World as Will and Representation (1818).

II: 21 Nuit! Hadit! Ra-Hoor-Khuit! The Sun, Strength and Sight, Light; these are for the servants of the Star and the Snake.

To take one further example—each of the 220 verses of the book presents unique translation problems, some of which are completely insoluble—the noun ‘snake’ is neutral in English. The word appears four times in the book.[3] In some tongues other than English the noun must be either masculine or feminine. While it has become traditional to speak of the snake Hadit as ‘he’ in English, in some languages the masculine gender form of ‘snake’ has rather amusing connotations. In the Eastern Tantras, the serpent as Occult Force is usually identified with the feminine (shakti) power and intelligence. However, in the Book of the Law, Hadit is the polar complement of the star goddess Nuit, who is unmistakably female in form. The poetic sense of the book becomes lost in translation, as does its real spiritual and magical import.

The (Egyptian) Book of the Law shall certainly be ‘translated into all tongues’ in the sense that individuals will uniquely understand it each according to their wisdom.


Notes

The painting used here as an illustration is titled, Lokis Gezücht (Loki’s Brood), and was painted by Emil Doepler in 1905 (photograph Wikimedia Commons). It depicts the Nordic gods Hel, Fenrir and Jörmungandr the world serpent. Angrboða, the mother of sorrows, is thought to be shown in the background and to the left. The body of the serpent arches to form the mouth of the entrance to hell or the underworld, guarded over by the serpent’s mother. Thus the serpent nahesh and the letter , ‘a mouth’, are combined. As explained above, the Aramaic noun for a magical practitioner or ‘witch’, as termed in the King James Bible, is AShP, combining ‘woman’, ‘mouth’ or ‘oracle’ with the hissing sound of the serpent or fire snake.

1. See The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth, numbers 381 and 400 [Ordo Astri].
2. ‘Unfragmentary’ was the original (received) word of the Book of the Law, I: 26, “And the sign shall be my ecstasy, the consciousness of the continuity of existence, the unfragmentary non-atomic fact of my universality.” Aleister Crowley later sought to change the wording. The neologism, ‘abstruction’, was not changed by Crowley and appears in III: 11, “I will make easy to you the abstruction from the ill-ordered house in the Victorious City.”
3. Liber AL vel Legis, II: 21; II: 22; III: 34; III: 38.

© Oliver St. John 2018

Related articles:
Fill or Kill, that is the question!
Liber AL vel Legis (all posts in this category)

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Left Hand Path of Magick and Thelema

There is wide interpretation of left hand path and right hand path even in India and Tibet, where the terms originated. The way of the left hand (vama marga) generally denotes a path of knowledge where ritual and yoga is rendered effective and meaningful through devotion to the shakti or feminine power.

DevotioLeft Hand Path of Magick and Theleman to the shakti, and any spiritual path inclusive of sensory pleasure, is most often associated with tantra, though tantra only denotes method or practice (literally, ‘to weave’). The right hand way (dakshina) aspires to truth and purity (of mind) and is often associated with asceticism. Nonetheless, tantra or the left hand path may well include practices considered by the average person to be ascetic, since nothing is achieved without discipline. And likewise, the way of the right hand path may sometimes include heterodox methodology.

Notably, the sage Ramakrishna never used the terms ‘left hand path’, ‘right hand path’. He practiced celibacy, through personal inclination, yet there is no evidence that he recommended this to his disciples as rule of thumb. While he wryly denounced those who merely desire sensual gratification, or that lust after ‘gold’ and temporal power, recorded anecdotes reveal that Ramakrishna was not at all orthodox. Indeed, he saw any dogmatic approach to God or religion as the consequence of ignorance and egotism.[1]

In the West, the misappropriation of these terms over the last century or so has resulted in confusion. Thus the left hand path is commonly thought to refer to black or ‘evil’ practices. The way of the right hand is associated with religious asceticism, repression and moral hypocrisy, especially by those for whom the term ‘left hand path’ is a means of self-identification. Aleister Crowley rejected the left hand path in his writings yet has frequently been accused of advocating the same.[2] Dion Fortune followed suit, yet would have been scandalised if she had not kept some of practices secret even among her adepts. The confusion deepens when it is considered there are many followers of Crowley who proclaim they practice the left hand path, while those who continue the legacy of Fortune would have us know they are chaste adherents of the right hand path.[3] Whether left or right, tantrik or ascetic, it seems to be the case that while adepts are willing to undergo rigorous self-discipline, this is not so with the more vociferous outer court followers of traditions having the stated purpose of direct knowledge of the mysteries. The revival of popular interest in magick and the occult that gathered momentum in Europe and America from the 1950s through to the late 1980s emerged, after all, from a burgeoning beatnik subculture.

Thelema sprang directly from the ancient Egyptian starry wisdom cult of Thebes, from whence the oracular voices that sprang from the Stele of Revealing in Cairo, 1904. We shall therefore examine the left and right of the magick of old Egypt. The left hand path is frequently identified with heterodox practices that are sometimes condemned as immoral. We shall begin, therefore, with the Egyptian festival of the goddess Bastet, which outsiders deemed lewd.

Left Hand Path: Way to Bubastis

According to E.A. Wallis Budge, April and May was the time of the festival of the cat goddess Bast or Bastet in the Nile Delta region of ancient Egypt. The passing of the Sun from Taurus to Gemini is well figured where, in Gods of the Egyptians, Budge quotes a passage from the Greek traveller Herodotus, describing the festival of Bast.[4] Herodotus recounts how the city of Bubastis was artificially raised in height, yet the island temple of Bast, which had stood there long before the city was built, could be seen from every part of the city as a “lofty and stately tower.”[5]

Round about the tower is a wall, engraved with hieroglyphics and depictions of various beasts. The inner temple is enclosed by a high grove of cultivated trees, and in it is set up an image. The length of the temple is 220 yards each way. From the entrance of the temple Eastward, there is a fairly large causeway leading to the house of Hermes, 660 yards long and four acres broad, all of good stone. It is bordered on each side with tall trees.[6]

Here is described a processional route along which the shrine containing the image of the solar-venusian Bast would be taken to the temple of Tahuti (or Thoth), which Herodotus identifies with the Greek god Hermes.[7] A brief Qabalistic digression is necessary. Venus is the ruler of Taurus while Hermes-Mercury is Lord of the dual house of Gemini.

Mercury Glyph, threefold: Astrology, Alchemy, MagickThe glyph of Mercury is threefold, combining the symbols of both the Moon and Venus in one. Thus it is said of Hermes that he is ‘thrice greatest’, Trismegistus. The Moon, Mercury and Venus form the lowest triad on the Tree of Life, oft associated with the astral plane or Yetzirah. It is through this lower triad that the starry wisdom is communicated to the human mind. We shall see later how the spiritual fact concerning this function was told and retold in various myths, including the biblical one of how the Nephalim, a race of ‘giants’, were said to have been the progeny of angels who fell from the stars to mate with the daughters of earth and teach them magick and science.

The festivities on the Nile route to Bubastis took place on a grand scale. Celebrants were carried there in boats along the Nile. According to Herodotus they numbered 7000 men and women, for children were excluded. The reasons for the exclusion become apparent when it is described how Egyptian women would beat loudly upon drums, while others would shout ribald insults at the townsfolk that had gathered to watch from the river banks. Others among them would lift up their clothing, showing themselves naked. All of this was carried out in high spirits and good humour. Once the celebrants arrived at Bubastis, the multitude set to the devotional rites with great solemnity. Lavish offerings were made, including costly grape wine, which was rather more than the average farm worker could afford in those times. In spite of the renowned Egyptian ribaldry and sense of fun, commentators have thought the ancient festivals to be ‘licentious’. In later times, when religion superseded the old ways, prurient zealots found such festivities so abominable that eventually they succeeded in getting them abolished altogether.

The Voice from the Deep

The feline Bast and lioness Sekhet were representative of Lower and Upper Egypt respectively. The ancient ways of the bestial goddess, a sexually ambivalent creature of the night, exemplify the left hand path. Bast was frequently identified with Buto, the oracular cobra serpent. The famous Delphic oracle was undoubtedly a much later Greek edition of ancient Egyptian methods of obtaining an oracular ‘voice’ through the mediumship of priestesses, who possessed the secret knowledge of the snake. In the context of the 17th path of Gemini, the Children of the Voice, the sacred vibration of the priestess is sent forth from Chokmah and Binah above the Abyss to inform the Intelligence of the Heart in Tiphereth.

In countless Egyptian hieroglyphics, cat or lion-headed deities are twinned, most notably in the aker or ‘lion-gate’. The gate is variously representative of the two ends of the year (equinoxes) or the entrance to and from the Egyptian underworld or duat. The Egyptian hieroglyph for the sky has two peaks or horizons pointing upwards to show the day. When the peaks are pointing downward, it is a depiction of the night sky. In the underworld, everything is mirrored and in some cases even shown upside down or averse.

Artefact depicting three regions of the Duat or Underworld

Three Worlds: Egyptian Artefact depicting regions of the duat

a) The upper section of the artefact depicts souls travelling to the Great Neter who looks both ways (i.e., to the East and West horizons, yesterday and tomorrow).

b) The middle section portrays the four Apes who steer the sun boat of Ra. They are shown in their cosmic form, as star gods, and are generally associated with fire. They are paying homage to a dual figure of the ram-headed god of Mendes, otherwise Amen-Ra, who has four faces and an ornate crown. On each side, Amen-Ra bears a threefold sceptre combining the Set-headed (was) sceptre of power, the Ankh of Life and Djed pillar of Mendes. The Djed is similar in meaning to the path of Samekh on the middle pillar of the Tree of Life, and symbolises the spinal column as the passage for the inner fire of the soul. The cross ‘x’ is to show the threshold that must be passed by the Initiate.

c) The lower section is an inverse mirror for the constellations of heaven, as shown by the totem form of the sky-goddess Hathoor. This is the dreaming world or subconscious. Notably, the seated god with a bird’s tail feathers, and the serpent, are ithyphallic. Both male and female become tumescent when dreaming at night, as was well known to the ancients. Dreaming is the principle power of the gods. All power has been transferred to the underworld region (left hand, left eye).

Now ye shall know that the chosen priest and apostle of infinite space is the prince-priest the Beast; and in his woman called the Scarlet Woman is all power given.

The (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, I: 15

Orion: The Left and Right of it All

The left and right eyes of Ra are the moon and sun respectively. The moon is the mirror of the sun’s radiance, and the sinister jewel of the left hand path. According to the Emerald Tablet of Hermes:

That which is below is like unto that which is above, and that which is above corresponds to that which is below, to accomplish the miracle of the one essence … Its father is the sun, its mother the moon. The wind carried it in its womb, from the bosom of the earth it is nourished. It is the source of all works of wonder in the world. Its power is complete.

The flow of consciousness involves both projection and radiance (sun, the right eye) and absorption and reflection (moon, the left eye). The primary dual power of consciousness is objectivity and subjectivity. The goal of yoga is to achieve transcendence through uniting subject with object. Thus, the eye is made ‘single’. The way of knowledge (ynana yoga) is typified by the path of Gemini, to which is ascribed the letter zayin, the sword of division. Union, on the other hand, comes through the love of Nuit or Venus, which is the governance of Taurus, the Magus of the Eternal. As we shall see, love under will or Thelema (Logos-Agape) is aptly imaged forth in nature and mythology by the constellation of Orion, which spans Taurus and Gemini, or Isis and the word of Thoth.

Stele of Revealing, Bulaq Museuem CairoOn the front side of the Stele of Revealing, the priest Ankh-af-na-khonsu mirrors the god Mentu, who embodies both Ra and Set-Typhon. The priest is called ‘Khonsu’ (sky-traveller) after the moon god. At Thebes, the home of the priest, Khonsu is the child of Mut and Amen-Ra. The priest makes the gesture of invocation and offering with his right hand, as he wishes to offer the god all that he is and can ever be, his whole self. The right hand is giving, as the sun gives light and life to the world. As the right hand is giving, the left hand receives. We cannot have one without the other. The act of giving contains receiving latent within it. The act of receiving has the seed of giving, latent. A true invocation is at the same time an offering, for only the whole self is a fit offering to the gods.

Egyptian gods and priests are frequently depicted with their left foot forward. The constellation of Orion the Hunter, known as Sah to the Egyptians, has his left foot forward in the sky. Orion is close to the constellations of Taurus and Gemini, and was known to the Babylonians as a herald or messenger as well as the guardian of land and boundaries. Orion is variously depicted as a god, giant, shepherd, walking bird or phoenix. The magical race of Nephalim mentioned in the biblical book of Genesis 6: 1–4 were in all probability children of Orion (Aramaic Niphelah). The mysterious genealogy is explained by Sumerian myths, which tell of wise Akkadians that survived the flood, or otherwise came ‘out of the sea’ (viz., the depths of inner space).[8] Whether gods, demigods or priests of the Mercurial deep-sea god Enki, the Akkadians taught knowledge of science and magick to the terrestrials.

The star that marks the left foot of Orion is Rigel, positioned at 17 degrees Gemini. Rigel is the brightest star in Orion and one of the seven brightest stars in the night sky. Rigel was very important in the ancient Egyptian scheme of things as it rises before Sirius, the heliacal rising of which marked the solar year. Pharaohs and priest-kings were considered to take the form of Sah upon death (the sahu), so the constellation was associated with resurrection and immortality.

The Left Eye of the Moon.

Left Eye of the Moon, Egyptian IAHThe meaning of the left eye, left hand, left foot, left side or profile became distorted over long ages of time. All that was considered feminine and ‘left’ was identified with the night or the underworld and was eventually demonised. Interpretation therefore requires the use of careful discernment. The feminine power of the left side, which is personified as the Egyptian Sekhet (or Shakti) was always honoured in ancient Egypt, though in later dynasties it was hidden. When Sekhet acts as Initiatrix, she takes the form of a lioness and kicks the person (or demon) with her left foot, as recounted in the Pyramid Texts. This has the effect of burning up everything inside them that is concerned with the poisons of the body and ego, the false king and tyrant over the soul. Once the person is empty of falsehood and the way is thus prepared for illumination, Sekhet may fill the Initiate with her fire and light. In this way, the Thelemite with both feet firmly on the path is capable of transformation into an eternally living star. As it is put by Nuit in Liber AL, I: 3, whose manifest star is Sirius:

Every man and every woman is a star.

Liber AL vel Legis, I: 3

By the Qabalistic method of Kenneth Grant, where the chapter and verse numbers of the book may be compounded, the verse equals 13, the number of the Priestess of the Silver Star. The star in question doubles as both moon and star, for the path of Kether, the ‘height’, signifies the Supreme Attainment. Kether, the Crown of the Tree of Life, may only be approached through the reflecting mirror of Da’ath, the ‘higher moon’ at the outer threshold of the planetary system, glyphed by the lower sephiroth. Da’ath is best understood as the apex of a tetrahedronal pyramid, of which the first three numbers form the base.[9] Thus, at the summit all ways meet. The left hand path and right hand path cease to have meaning, as do all other conventions.

The intimacy of lunar and stellar relationships may easily be demonstrated Qabalistically. By conventional numeric values, IA ChNSV (sky-traveller the moon) yields 375. Dividing 375 by its factor of 5 (number of the ‘star’) results in 75, the number of NVIT. Thus the priest of Thelema is as the moon or sky-traveller. His star is that of Nuit, to whom he is guided through reflecting the radiance of Ra the sun god.

Is the Left Hand Path the Right Way to Follow?

In India and Tibet there has ever been a guru tradition. Initiation, if it comes, is passed directly from master to pupil. Sometimes the right way is left and the left way is right—it all depends, for the meaning differs according to the school of thought and the individual. While there does not appear to have been a guru tradition as such in ancient Egypt, the schools of thought (and so practices) were as diverse and numerous as the nome or earth locations down the length of the Nile. Likewise, individual teachers and practitioners could be counted as reeds strewn upon the surface of that great river, or as stars in the night sky.

While it may be convenient to classify all magical and spiritual practices as either ‘left hand path’ or ‘right hand path’, we must consider whether such arbitrary divisions draw us nearer to truth or lead us further away from it. Or perhaps even that—as is now the case in the technological age—such simplistic devices might blind us to the possibility that truth can even exist.

There is a modern development of the left hand path that is a far cry from the festivities of ancient Bubastis. Rational scientism has exerted its influence on esotericism to the extent that some will, in all sincerity, assert that nothing exists beyond the self. All else, they will say, is ‘impermanence’, nothing but dream. Such atomistic cults—for they posit a unitary intelligence as sole reality—invert the principle of Buddhist impermanence and at the same time translate the ‘one God’ of monotheism into a ‘Dark Lord’. In that, they hope to find an amplification of personal power as a means of gaining unlimited self-gratification. There is nothing very new about that. The technological, industrially driven age we have entered is fuelled by greed and selfishness. As a consequence, despair, alienation or otherwise sheer indifference is now commonplace. Amidst such a spiritual vacuum it should come as no surprise that some will worship at the altar of a tyrannical overlord whose monstrous, mocking image reflects the wish of that which Freud termed, the ‘infantile ego’.


Notes

1. See The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, translated by Swami Nikhilananda [Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Centre, New York, 1942]. In relation to Tantra, which Ramakrishna mastered quite early in his life, see pp. 20–22.
2. See Magick Without  Tears, Aleister Crowley. He there defines the left hand path as that of the ‘Black Brothers’, who refuse to surrender their ego and must depend on the ‘blood of victims’ to cheat the second death. Ultimately they are torn apart by the dispersive forces of the Abyss.
3. “High standards are expected of an initiate of the Right Hand Path”, Magical Images and the Magical Imagination by Gareth Knight, pp. 71. [Skylight Press, 2012.]
4. Gods of the Egyptians Volume 1, pp. 449.
5. The Greek name Bubastis is derived from the ancient Egyptian per-bastet, ‘House of Bast’.
6. We have rendered the archaic Latin translation into modern English.
7. The Histories of Herodotus were translated from Greek into Latin and from there to other tongues. Some versions therefore give the Roman god Mercury as the equivalent of the Greek Hermes and Egyptian Thoth. Likewise, Diana is mentioned as the equivalent of the Greek goddess Artemis and Egyptian Isis or Hathoor.
8. Akkadia (Mesopotamia, Sumeria, etc.) is formed from ak-ka-d-w, which is etymologically related to the Egyptian term for a magical body (aka) achieving resurrection by passing through the underworld or starry duat.
9. Aleister Crowley, The Equinox Volume 1, No. 5, pp. 89, ‘The Temple of Solomon the King’. The note on Da’ath is thought to have been written by Frater Achad (Stansfeld Jones).

© Oliver St. John 2018. This essay appears in the book, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs [Ordo Astri].

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