This leads us into another ritual developed by Crowley and based, once again, upon the rites of the Golden Dawn into which he had been initiated and which continued to influence his magical worldview his entire life. This is the Ritual of the Star Sapphire, known as Liber XXXVI (or “Book 36).
First appearing in Crowley’s Book of Lies, this ritual was designed to replace the Golden Dawn’s Ritual of the Hexagram. The Golden Dawn had two foundational rituals that everyone was expected to learn and to perform: the first of these being the Ritual of the Pentagram which was used to invoke or banish—depending on the direction the pentagram was drawn—the four “Platonic” elements (earth, air, fire and water) plus “spirit.” Each of the five points of the pentagram was assigned to one of these elements. It is the basic circle casting ritual of the Golden Dawn and versions of it have been used widely in occult groups and practice for more than one hundred years. This includes Wiccan groups, whose members often are not aware of the origins of their rite which is sometimes called invoking the Watchtowers (a direct reference to the Golden Dawn ritual,
which was itself based on the Angelic Magic of Elizabethan magician John Dee and his medium, Edward Kelly—of whom Crowley believed he was the reincarnation).
The other, more complex, ceremony is known as the Ritual of the Hexagram. In this ritual, each of the six points of the hexagram is assigned one of the six visible “planets,” with the center of the hexagram representing the sun. Thus, depending on how the hexagram is drawn, one is invoking or banishing the influences of one of the planets.
Crowley replaced both of these rituals with his own, Thelemic, versions. The Pentagram ritual was replaced by the Star Ruby ritual whose original angelic beings—Michael, Raphael, Gabriel and Uriel—were substituted with godforms more appropriate to Thelema: Therion (the “Beast”) Nuit, Babalon and Hadit.87
However, when it came to the Hexagram ritual, a fundamental change took place, one that may not be particularly obvious at first glance. This was the ritual that attracted the attention of Theodor Reuss, one of the founders of the OTO, who visited Crowley in London and accused him of publishing the secret of the IX° of the Order in his 1912 book The Book of Lies, a situation that led to Crowley’s receiving the IX° from Reuss on the spot—and the rest, as they say, is history. Crowley had already received the grades up to and including the VII° from Reuss, but had no idea that the higher grades consisted of the sexual secrets that he had published. Crowley, in writing out these sexually-charged texts, was just being Crowley; he claimed that Star Sapphire came to him in the same sort of heightened state of consciousness that brought forth the other Holy Books that we have discussed, above. It was Reuss who revealed to him what has become the biggest “secret” of western occultism, that the core of the practices—from alchemy to ceremonial magic—are sexual in nature, and that the iconography of occultism (including Rosicrucianism, alchemy, mysticism and magic) conceal sexual (or, at least, psycho-biological) secrets.
Crowley went on to rewrite many of the OTO rituals, to become head of the Order in the English-speaking countries, and eventually head of the Order itself after the contentious Weida Conference in Germany. Thus, this particular ritual deserves close scrutiny as it was the catalyst that propelled Crowley to the headship of the OTO; it is also, according to Reuss himself,
the secret of the IX° in printed form. In addition, and most importantly for this study, it is a ritual that puts Set—the Dark Lord—front and center.
An entire book could be written on the Star Sapphire, as simple as it seems to be, and we will not explore all its implications and ramifications here. What concerns us directly is how Crowley perceived Set in his own Thelemic context.
The ritual begins with the key phrase, “Let the Adept be armed with his Magick Rood (and provided with his Mystic Rose).” This is the phrase the caught the attention of Theodor Reuss. A “Magick Rood” of course is a rod or wand, and specifically refers to the cross on which Christ was crucified, the “Holy Rood.” Thus this first sentence tells the adept to be armed with a cross and a rose, which is the symbol of one of the most famous European secret societies, the Rosicrucians (which name means, of course, Rose Cross or Rosey Cross). A rose and cross emblem was also the coat-of-arms of the man who ignited the Reformation, Martin Luther. Thus, we can see this instruction as being, if not wholly innocent, at least bereft of any overtly sexual connotation if taken in the context of seventeenth-century European occult societies.
However, the rest of the ritual puts this initial phrase into a completely different context.
After giving a number of quasi-Masonic gestures—the L.V.X. signs or the N.O.X. signs both of which have their origins in the Golden Dawn— the adept is then instructed to go to the four cardinal directions, beginning with the East and proceeding clockwise to the other quarters, uttering a series of Latin phrases and drawing a hexagram in each direction.
The Latin phrases are instructive. Translated, they are:
Father and Mother, One God, ARARITA. Mother and Son, One God, ARARITA. Son and Daughter, One God, ARARITA.
Daughter and Father, One God, ARARITA.
Ararita is the same word that appears in the original Golden Dawn version of the Hexagram ritual, and is an acronym for a Hebrew phrase that means “One is his beginning. One is his individuality. His permutation is One.”
At the end, the adept returns to his original position in the center of the circle thus made, and “making the sign of the Rosy Cross” he then repeats the word ARARITA three times, after which he makes:
“… the Sign of Set Triumphant and of Baphomet. Also shall Set appear in the circle. Let him drink of the Sacrament and let him communicate the same.”
There are further Latin phrases after this, which translated read:
“All in Two; Two in One; One in none; these are neither Four nor All nor Two nor One nor None.”
“Glory be to the Father and the Mother and the Son and the Daughter and the Holy Spirit without and the Holy Spirit within which was, and is, and is to come, for ever and ever, six in one through the seven in one name ARARITA.”
The emphasis in these phrases seems to be the reduction of all dualities to a singularity, evidence of Crowley’s fascination with the Indian concept of advaita or non-duality. Yet, duality is at the heart of the ritual, so it is worthwhile to pause here to contemplate its intention.
In the first place, remember that Crowley himself insisted that he did not realize that this was the IX° secret until Theodor Reuss pointed it out to him, and told him that it was the secret behind all of western occultism. Crowley wrote it as a sexual rite and expanded upon this intention in a later chapter88 of the Book of Lies, but was unaware of what he had stumbled upon. It may be that Crowley felt he was simply re-interpreting the rituals in sexual terms rather than discovering the real basis behind them. But what does Set have to do with any of this? And why is Set “Triumphant”?
If this ritual is interpreted in sexual terms, as was the intention, we are left with the uncomfortable realization that three of the four “pairings” are incestuous in nature: Mother and Son, Son and Daughter, Father and Daughter. Crowley was delicate enough, or pragmatic enough, not to have included “Mother and Daughter” or “Father and Son” most likely since heterosexual couplings would be necessary in a ritual of the IX° in which
both male and female fluids are required for the creation of the Sacrament. This Sacrament is to be consumed by the operator and “communicated.” The last word comes from the Latin Mass, and indicates that the Sacrament is to be shared, so that those sharing “commune” with the spiritual force invoked. In the Latin Mass this is done with the sacred Elements—the bread and wine that have been transubstantiated into the body and blood of Christ—so that all those who communicate (i.e., take Communion) share in the experience of contact with Jesus, the slain and resurrected God.
In the case of the Star Sapphire, since the ritual is patently sexual, the Sacrament is composed of the male and female sexual fluids and is a form of the Gnostic Mass in miniature, as it were. What Grant points out, again and again in his Typhonian Trilogies, is that these are not simply the gross fluids in and of themselves, but have been transformed through correct performance of ritual. They thus contain occult qualities which normal semen and female secretions (whether menstrual blood or the secretions of the mucus membranes of the vagina—which are carriers of special essences known as kalas to Tantra and to Grant) normally do not possess. These qualities have nothing to do with the process of physical reproduction; they are obviously not necessary to facilitate the conception of a human child. An essential element of this ritual (and, indeed, of all sexual magic) is contact with other forces, those beyond the physical world, so that all the grosser physical aspects of sexual intercourse (from desire, to arousal, to intercourse, to orgasm, to the fluids that result) must be re-imagined, transformed, and transcended.
As a ritual of transgressive sexuality, it would be appropriate for Set. Set is “triumphant”—according to the Egyptian texts so far deciphered—in situations of murder, rape, sodomy, etc. In Set’s defence of Ra’s solar barque, his violence is put to good use in service of the pantheon, and he is triumphant there as well: he destroys a serpent god, Apep or Apophis (with whom, paradoxically, he is sometimes identified). In the Star Sapphire ritual, it may be that the transgressive powers of Set are first identified and then employed in an act designed to bring the adept into contact with his Holy Guardian Angel (as Crowley himself seems to suggest in Chapter 69 of the Book of Lies—where the subject of the Hexagram is discussed in terms that are patently sexual and obvious, including an explicit reference to the sexual position known as “69” or mutual oral sex).
The Golden Dawn instructions concerning the Hexagram ritual make it clear that this is a ritual of the macrocosm (the seven planets, seven of the ten sefirot on the Tree of Life), as opposed to the Pentagram ritual which is a rite of the microcosm (the four elements plus spirit, or the five Indian tattvas). We may say, then, that the Hexagram ritual (both the Golden Dawn original and Crowley’s reworking of it in the Star Sapphire) is a ritual of the heavens, the sky, and the Pentagram ritual is of the earth.
Therefore, the invocation of Set Triumphant at the climax of the rite indicates the unlocking of a Gate between this world and the next, a Gate that is not quite the same as that which Osiris would have unlocked. It has nothing to do with death and resurrection, per se, but of opening a portal to the Nightside of the Tree of Life, to what Grant refers to as the Tunnels of Set. Here once again Crowley has demonstrated the true nature of his mythos, moreover in a ritual that was written in a heightened state of consciousness similar to that which gave us the Book of the Heart Girt with a Serpent: the book that formed the link between Crowley the magician and Lovecraft the seer. That there is the performance of a sexual act in the center of the ceremony and the consumption of the “Elements” thereafter is only another piece of evidence that Grant’s understanding of the Thelemic praxis as representing contact with the Dark Lord is the correct one.
In religion, humans are subservient to God or the Gods, especially in the Abrahamic, monotheistic religions. In Thelema, the emphasis is reversed with all the focus on human potential. There is no religious dogma in magic, as much as it might seem to be implied. Magicians dare to do what religious, pious human beings do not: to actively approach the Thrones of the Gods using whatever means are available, even the most blasphemous. The Gods may be more powerful, and even dangerous, but the properly trained human being can navigate the heavens and the hells with impunity.
Chaos and Babalon—we might say Set and Ishtar, Dumuzi and Inanna, Shiva and Shakti—represent the deepest occult processes that lie beneath the play of Maya, of the Illusory World of Creation. Chaos and Babalon are also the gateways to the Dark Side of Creation, just as human sexuality is a gateway to deeper unconscious processes that function—powerfully— below the horizon of conscious thought, calculation, and conjecture. They are irrational forces, which is the characteristic that alarmed Lovecraft the most: they were immune to sober, scientific understanding just as the
immense vastness of deep space lies outside the ability of the human mind to contemplate.
The other Gods—Isis, Osiris, Horus, Thoth, Anubis, the list goes on and on and not only for Egyptian deities but also the Greek, Roman, African, Indian, Chinese and so many other pantheons—are aspects of the basic and fundamental two, of Chaos and Babalon. For convenience, they can be considered refinements of specific aspects, points of view, chemical components, psycho-biological qualities—but that is not to denigrate their importance or value to the magician. Any one of these deities is a potent force far in excess of any human capacity to contain completely.
The Typhonian Tradition—according to Grant’s thesis—is the most ancient of all religious and occult traditions. Its origin is in the stars, and it lies at the base of all later cults. That would indicate that its gods are the basis for all later gods, its rituals the purer forms of all later rituals. But that would be to deny that human beings are capable of refining those ancient rites from time to time, of fine-tuning the original processes for reasons of self-preservation, if nothing else. For Grant is not entirely optimistic concerning the designs of the ultramundane, extraterrestrial forces of which he writes so eloquently. His works are not only guides through the Tunnels of Set to the Dark Side of the Tree of Life: they are also warnings, warnings as sincere as those of Lovecraft were fanciful.
And in order to understand those forces, it is necessary to see how they were invoked by a plethora of “unspeakable cults” around the world, in rituals secret and at times profane.
- Durkheim (1912) p. 39
- There are other attainments beyond the Knowledge and Conversation of the HGA, and they will be discussed as they come up.
- Evidence for this may be found in the Sumerian Maqlu text, the “Burning” grimoire that consists of spells against “witches” which may be taken to mean independent spiritual experts who work on behalf of individuals—for love, money, power, etc—rather than for the group. An abbreviated form of this text appears in the Schlangekraft recension of the Necronomicon.
- Crowley’s approach can be characterized as bricolage, after its use as a term of art in cultural studies and anthropology, notably by Claude Levi-Strauss (The Savage Mind, 1962). This refers to a method of taking whatever is useful at the time from whatever source and building a system or a philosophy out of the assembled parts. Anyone reading Crowley’s vast published work will readily come to the conclusion that Crowley indeed was a bricoleur par excellence. Of course, central to the ritual environment of the Golden Dawn—the occult society that gave Crowley his first initiations— was the doctrine of correspondences, in which disparate religious and spiritual elements were given
equivalence through the medium of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. This, in a sense, was a systematized form of bricolage.
- He used the Golden Dawn grade system as the template for his own A A Both degree systems are based on a version of the Tree of Life of the Kabbalists.
- Crowley’s instructions to his disciples on these techniques form the substance of his Book Four which is completely focused on yoga and which—in Crowley’s system—became an important adjunct to the more western ceremonial practices of the Golden Dawn. Along with Book Four were his Eight Lectures on Yoga in which he develops these ideas even more specifically. In a sense, the yogic methods were the missing element in the grimoires which simply gave the rituals as recipes to be followed by those already trained in yoga (or in some corresponding form of mental and physiological control represented in the western, European systems by fasting, celibacy, prayer, etc.).
- This may be due to the emphasis put on samadhi in The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali, a Hindu text of which Crowley was fond and which he recommended to his followers. It is also an essential aspect of Buddhist meditation, and references to it can be found in the Sikh religion as well.
- This excerpt from Crowley’s Book Four is illustrative of his contempt for Buddhism: “The vulgarism and provincialism of the Buddhist canon is infinitely repulsive to all nice minds; and the attempt to use the terms of an ego-centric philosophy to explain the details of a psychology whose principle doctrine is the denial of the ego, was the work of a mischievous idiot.” (p. 80, footnote)
- One can compare the Biblical Book of Revelation (Apocalypse) with documents discovered at Qumran, such as the Song of the Sabbath Sacrifice, for similar predictions of a great cosmic battle and the loss of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.
- More properly referred to as “isopsephy” when applied to the Greek language and alphabet.
- This idea would be adopted and elaborated upon by the cult around Crowley’s contemporary, Maria de Naglowska (1883-1936) in Paris, as well as by the German offshoot of the original OTO, the Fraternitas Saturni and even the groups around the Italian mystic and fascist ideologue Julius Evola (1898-1974). The influence of these groups on the OTO and eventually on Thelema cannot be discounted or ignored, and even may contribute to a fuller understanding of Thelema, as well as an expansion of its major themes. See Chapter 5.
- Another French depiction of a Black Mass can be found in the twentieth century novel by Georges Bataille, L’histoire de l’oeil—“The History of the Eye”—which is concerned with sexual as well as religious transgression. It was published in 1928, and contains scenes in which sexual fluids are intermingled in such a way as to suggest some of the deeper mysteries of the western Tantric- influenced cults.
- The word “bond” in this context expands upon the definition of religio and ligare, given above, but more importantly it may reflect a modern iteration of Giordano Bruno’s revealing text, De vinculis in genera (“Of Bonds in General”). Here Bruno identifies the “bond” as love or eros, and especially in a magical context, thus agreeing completely with AL I:41 in which “bond” is equated with “love.” Bruno was burned at the stake by the Catholic Church in the year 1600 for heresy.
- In this Crowley was anticipating the revolutionary psychological theories of Deleuze and Guattari in their Anti-Oedipus, where they argue that families and society at large conspire to repress desire and act as vehicles of neuroses which are necessary to the smooth functioning of capitalist society. In such a situation schizophrenia is the only logical outcome. See also R. D. Laing, The Politics of Experience.
- See Jacco Dieleman, Priests, Tongues, and Rites: The London-Leiden Magical Manuscripts and Translation in Egyptian Ritual (100—300 CE), Brill, Leiden (2005) p. 134: “The Greek invocation develops the Sethian elements of the rite further by calling the deity the god of cosmic upheaval, who is hostile to the social order and dwells in foreign countries.”
- Levenda, Stairway to Heaven, pp. 135-145.
- See the author’s Tantric Temples: Eros and Magic in Java, for many examples of this meme.
- Gail Corrington Streete, The Strange Woman: Power and Sex in the Bible, Lousiville (KY), Westminster John Knox Press, 1997.
- Naturally, this present volume ignores that stricture! To do otherwise would be, in the words of Liber AL, a “sin.”
- Crowley, Liber Liberi vel Lapidus Lazuli, Chapter VII, verses 1-8. Verse six mentions Tutulu and states that it is written in an “ancient book”: Tutulu in an ancient book, and Cthulhu in the Necronomicon.
- Crowley, Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente, Chapter I:57. The earthquake is an important element in the Lovecraft story.
- Ibid, II:37. Cthulhu is a monster of the Abyss of the Great Deep. 65 Ibid, III:30
- Ibid, IV:33-35. These verses could just as easily be descriptions of Cthulhu.
- H.P. Lovecraft, “The Call of Cthulhu,” from the first section sub-titled “The Horror in Clay.” A “pulpy, tentacled head” seems to recall Crowley’s “He enveloped me with his demon tentacles …” The term “Cyclopean architecture” is one we will come across again in Thelemic literature.
- “After returning from Morocco, the spirit came upon me and I wrote a number of books in a way which I hardly know how to describe. The prose of these books, the chief of which are Liber Cordis
Cincti Serpente, The Book of the Heart girt with the Serpent, and Libri vel Lapidis Lazuli, is wholly different from anything that I have written myself. I cannot doubt that these books are the work of an intelligence independent of my own.” Aleister Crowley, Confessions, Chapter 62, p. 558.
- The following year—1908—the word “Tutulu” would reappear as Crowley was involved in evoking the Aires or Aethyrs of the Enochian system in North Africa at the time. The word was heard during the invocation of the 27th Aethyr. At that time Crowley admitted that the word was untranslatable. See Crowley, The Vision and the Voice.
- Accessed from Rangjung Yeshe Tibetan-English Dharma Dictionary.
- This is a theme familiar to anyone who has studied Siberian shamanism, and reference to this concept can be found in the works of Mircea Eliade (especially his magnum opus Shamanism) as well as in books by the present author, such as his Sinister Forces trilogy. In this tradition, a shaman is one who has undergone the death and rebirth experience after a long period of meditation and solitary ritual in the forest. The death and rebirth formula is also an integral part of the initiation structure of the Golden Dawn and of Aleister Crowley’s A A , as well as of the third degree of Freemasonry. In that sense one could say that anyone who has gone through these systems can be called a “kusulu,” but there is a difference between the formalized rituals of the western esoteric tradition and the intense psychological experience of genuine Asian shamanistic initiation.
- Liber XXXVI is also known as The Star Sapphire, see below. Kenneth Grant, Beyond the Mauve Zone, London, Starfire Publishing, 1999.
- See, for instance, Jean-Pierre Vernant, The Origins of Greek Thought, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1982, pp. 110-111.
- One notable exception is his Liber XXXVI or Star Sapphire, which is a reworking of the Golden Dawn Ritual of the Hexagram, to be discussed below.
- This is particularly evident in the Golden Dawn’s document entitled “Z.1, The Enterer of the Threshold” which is an analysis of the Neophyte initiation ritual. Set-Typhon occupies one of the Invisible Stations in this ritual, where he is described as “Omoo-Sathan, Typhon, Apophis, Set. The Evil Persona is a composite figure of the powers arising from the Qlippoth. ” The other two stations
on this Path—on the Middle Pillar of the Tree of Life, the segment named Samekh after the Hebrew letter—are Hathor and Harparkrat. Hathor is sometimes considered a consort of Set and a partner in his drunken revels; the presence of Harparkrat (Harpocrates or Hoor-paar-krat, the child form of Horus) along with Set and Hathor is a dead give-away as to the true nature of the Aeon of Horus. See Regardie, The Golden Dawn, St. Paul, Llewellyn, 2005, pp. 356-357.
- See his Stairway to Heaven, New York, Continuum, 2008, pp. 16-18. 77 Necronomicon, Lake Worth, Ibis Press, 2008, p. 124.