Magical Philosophy of Thelema

In the year 1904 while in Cairo, Egypt, Aleister and Rose Crowley unwittingly earthed the magical transmission or prophetic utterance named Liber AL vel Legis, the (Egyptian) Book of the Law.

Book of the Law: Stele of Revealing, Bulaq Museuem CairoThe contents of the Book of the Law are rooted in the Egyptian Gnostic Tradition. More particularly, the book reveals the Great Work of the Egyptian priests of Ankh-af-na-khonsu, Initiates who vow to become Ma-Kheru—one whose ‘word is made perfect in Maat’.

The Great Work of the initiatic cult of Ankh-af-na-khonsu is the magical transmutation of the soul and the knowledge of the spiritual and natural law governing the operation. The formula of the opus is recorded on the funeral stone of one such Initiate, called the Stele of Revealing, of which the Book of the Law, Liber AL, is a theurgical activation.

Thelema is frequently described as a ‘magical system’ but it is no such thing in reality. Neither is it any kind of religion, though it has some affinities with Gnosticism. The magick of Thelema is a transmission. The function of a Thelemic magical Order is to transmit a particular stream of consciousness—which we term as the 93 Current—by which men and women can obtain Gnosis, direct revelation. The purpose of such revelation is to become free from imprisonment in the artificial construct that is commonly thought to be reality. Such an aim cannot, ipso facto, be fulfilled through any social or political agenda. As declared in Liber AL, I: 11,

These are fools that men adore; both their Gods and their men are fools.

The Book of the Law was dictated to Aleister Crowley through the cosmic mediation of Ouarda the Seer (born Rose Edith Kelly). This required the agency of a praeterhuman intelligence, named Aiwass in the book.[1] It is the aim of magick to obtain direct contact with the inner planes. The diagram called the Tree of Life best explains the term, ‘inner planes’. The material or objective world of things and objects is called Malkuth the Kingdom, and is placed as the tenth emanation at the foot of the Tree. The greater part of the universe is therefore invisible to the ordinary human senses and reason.

The Greek word Thelema (Θελημα) is the ‘word of the Law’ as stated in Liber AL, I: 39. It is not a law of scriptures, decrees or any exoteric doctrine or body of religious teachings. According to Liber AL, III: 49,

I am in a secret fourfold word, the blasphemy against all gods of men.

The fourfold word is Do what thou wilt. The Law of Thelema is wholly a spiritual and natural one, not a human one. Some but not all human beings have this secret nature within them, and of those, some are destined to discover it. There is nothing new about Thelema; it is not limited by time. The word Thelema means, ‘will’—not the personal will that imagines it has deterministic power but the impersonal will-force that is personified as Hadit. A comparative and perhaps better-known deity is Shiva in the Tantrik tradition, the supreme creator and destroyer of the universe.

Thelema, ‘will’, and Agape, ‘love’, both add to 93 by Greek Qabalah, expressive of the 93 Current. As the word Thelema is Qabalistically identical to Agape—spiritual love, not romantic or erotic love—the 93 Current expresses the spiritual intelligence of the universe going forth. Consciousness exists everywhere in the universe, though it is not of the universe that we perceive, and can never be known for it is the Knower, otherwise termed Hadit. As declared by the Serpent of Knowledge, Hadit, in Liber AL, II: 3–4,

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

As consciousness is everywhere, it is not limited to the earth and the human species that has infected the planet with an artificial construct it likes to think of as ‘intelligence’. Wild birds and creatures are sentient, in contradiction to the prevailing scientism that has formed its doctrines around the need to preserve and continue the artificial hell in which Adam and Eve are imprisoned until they come to know the true state of affairs.

Book of the Law: Thelemic Cosmology

All cosmologies are misleading. The best sense of the word ‘cosmology’ is the literal one, from the Greek: ‘a conversation about the universe’. However, that is not the meaning of the term as it is commonly understood. Metaphysics is also misleading, because the academic understanding of that word is only ‘about the matter’, the physics, which paved the way for scientism. The ancients had an entirely different way of thinking that cannot be grasped by dogmatic reasoning, whether that is slanted towards scientism, religion or religious theology. As it is succinctly put in Liber AL, II: 32,

Also reason is a lie; for there is a factor infinite and unknown; and all their words are skew-wise.

Ancient metaphysics, aeons before the term was coined, was based on detailed observation of nature, no different from the Thelemic love under will. Originally, there was only one Tree of Life that was also a Tree of Knowledge. To assist the restoration of the Tree of Life, we can happily forget the old word of Moses and instead invoke AShRH, the ‘woman’, as deity name in Kether. From the fragrance or Shakti emanations of Nuit-Babalon comes forth the tree from which the gods are sprung. As a cognate study, Ishtar is the happy goddess of the three worlds, heaven, earth and the underworld. The same three worlds are depicted on the obverse of the Stele of Revealing.

The gods of the Book of the Law are interchangeable, as are all Egyptian gods or neters (‘principles’). They can be different things on different planes—as is the Holy Guardian Angel, another metaphor. There is a Thelemic Trinity implied in the structure of Liber AL, and also in the Stele of Revealing, the only fragment we have of the original Theban Thelemic cult of Ankh-af-na-khonsu. There is also a trinity of sorts in the title of the book’s manuscript, ‘L’, as 30. The primal trinity is the Qabalistic Binah, the root of all form, the cosmic Matrix or womb. The Sethian Gnosis, among the books ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus, asserts a trinity of spirit or fragrance, light and dark. The light and dark had no moral implications of good or evil, for the Gnosis precedes, by vast ages of time, all dualistic theologies. The fragrance, or spirit-intelligence, permeates the light and dark equally; it knows them; thus the cosmic womb or Matrix is formed.


1. The Egyptian name Aiwass means, ‘He who was ordained in Thebes’.
Abridged from ‘Romance of the Magical Orders’, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs [Ordo Astri].

© Oliver St. John 2016, 2019

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Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs

Babalon Unveiled! We are pleased to announce the release of this long-awaited book. This collection of 36 monographs serves as a well-rounded introduction to the Law of Thelema. It is also a luminous esoteric study to widen the horizons of those familiar with the rationalist explanations that have prevailed until now.

Babalon Unveiled! Book Cover from Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs‘Lapis Philosophorum’ redefines the magical philosophy of Thelema, liberating it from the accretions of the past as well as those of the modern age. The philosophy of the West only understands consciousness in terms of a supreme demiurge, pristinely ‘one’ and therefore alone, or as the isolating confinement of the self as its own God in its own reality. Both points of view posit an atomistic intelligence that cannot be. They excuse the impossibility of the premise by insisting that true reality can never be known. They allure the faithful with promises of a hereafter reward for those obedient to dogma or otherwise draw the proud ones with the glamour of unlimited power in self-created worlds. Both projections are based on the paranoia of self-isolation.

Babalon, Lion of Truth

While the text of the (Egyptian) Book of the Law transmission carries great value for some, for most it will remain a disturbing enigma. The Law of Thelema will not be grasped by intellect alone, or by merely studying the text of the Cairo transmission, yet the doctrine can be explained in clear and simple terms. For those so prepared, and that are willing to translate thought into action, full activation of the 93 Current is possible. This was expressed in the language of the alchemists as the ‘philosophic stone’. The mode of thought is not the stone itself, for the stone is a symbol. All thought is symbolic. Consciousness is.

Babalon Unveiled! Rose Edith Kelly, Ouarda the Seer The book is dedicated to the memory of Rose Edith Kelly, Ouarda the Seer. Rose was the medium and intelligence for the transmission activated through the Stele of Revealing in the Cairo museum in 1904.

‘Babalon Unveiled!’ forms the centrepiece of this collection and is one of seven related studies on the mystery of the Scarlet Woman. Each shows an aspect of her oracular voice as it has been heard and recorded down the ages. The use of the word meretrix over time reveals how the oracular word was sold into prostitution when the patriarchal death cults of religion and science superseded the old ways. ‘Angels of Sacred Dance, Love and Whoredom’ examines how the divine feminine of pre-religious antiquity was demonised, resulting in a host of ‘fallen angels’ whose identity is yet preserved, albeit under a heavy veil in traditional Qabalistic texts.

View / order book from the author’s website here

Format: 6 x 9 hardbound dustjacket; blue linen boards; gold foil stamp lettering on spine; black on cream pages, white end-papers.


Read abridgement of the monograph, Babalon Unveiled! here at Tantrika Books.
Read abridgement of the Esoteric Doctrine of Thelema here at Ordo Astri.

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Fill or Kill, that is the Question!

Should we kill or fulfil the Will to Love? There has been some consternation over an editorial ‘correction’ issued by the O.T.O. on the work of Aleister Crowley, specifically, the Song of the Stele. The evidence for the change, 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]

Song of the Stele Fill or Kill? Stele of Revealing, Bulaq Museuem CairoThe work in question was not a publication of the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, known as Liber AL vel Legis, otherwise Liber CCXX.[2] 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 Crowley regard certain documents of his that were categorised (by him) as ‘Class A’ to be ‘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 ourselves.

It is not our intention here to examine the question of authority in spiritual matters, let alone of those who happen to work in an editorial capacity. Neither are we concerned with so-called historical evidence for the purpose of editorial correctness—a notion so absurd in itself as to be scarcely worth wasting time over. None of that is required to understand the import of either the Book of the Law, poems penned by Crowley, or ancient Egyptian sacred texts.

Song of the Stele vs Dogs of Reason

The Song of the Stele, though added to the Liber CCXX transcript by Crowley after the transmission of the book, is nonetheless a key component in the book’s import. The first draft that Crowley made used the words, “Aum! let it fill me”, in the last line of the third verse. There are some who think this ought to be changed, especially in ritualised invocations, to ‘kill me’. Crowley’s joke, ‘die daily’, was 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 context of the Song of the Stele, in its practical application, is ritual magick. It is likewise with ancient Egyptian sacred texts. 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 depicted on the obverse side of the Stele.

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 are not the words of the priest: “I am the Lord of Thebes”. That is Mentu, the god that is speaking. After that, the priest or priestess continues, “And I, the inspired forth-speaker of Mentu”. The theurgist begins a declaration of their magical identity, as 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. The nature of the psyche is to reflect.

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”. We declare that we are self-slain, that is to say, we have killed that desire which is in us that would ultimately turn against our 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 this 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-Isis) simultaneously stir (evoke) in the soul the magical power required for the resurrection, and still (silence) any thoughts that would oppose this. “Aum” expresses the continuity of existence, including both ‘stirring’ or evocation and ‘stilling’, which is the 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 filledwith 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’.

The ‘killing’ is expressed in ‘still me’. The purpose of the stilling 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. We cannot ignore the two verses that follow in Liber AL, III: 38.

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!

“The light is mine; its rays consume me” is descriptive of the transformation in the soul that is actually taking place. 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 declared that they have ‘died to their self’ (is self-slain) at the beginning of the opus. To reintroduce this past accomplishment at a critical stage, when the full powers of the soul are released for the purpose of a greater mystery, is to thwart the operation. 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.

Insistence on dogmatic adherence as a matter of belief or blind faith is termed in the Book of the Law as the “word of Sin” that is “Restriction”.[3] 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 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 for the dogs” (AL, II: 45), which is to say, there is death for the dogs of reason. The mysteries will not be apprehended by the human intellect alone—Love is the law, love under will.[5]


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. 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. The holograph manuscript copy itself is titled ‘L’, XXX, on the cover. Crowley referred to typescripts of the book as Liber CCXX, as there are 220  verses. To add to the confusion, he later changed the title to ‘AL’, XXXI.
3. Liber AL vel Legis, I: 41.
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
This essay is part of the collection, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs.

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