In our lives today we have been ceding the territory of our unconscious little by little: to reality television, to social networking sites, to CCTV cameras on every street corner, to our credit card transactions, to vulgarity in cinema and entertainment generally, to even casual use of the Internet. Electronic databases may know more about our lives and our desires than we can remember ourselves. Profiles can be established that delineate our personalities and plumb the depths of our unconscious using clever algorithms that manipulate the electronic trails we leave behind in our passage through cyberspace—like electromagnetic snails on silicon glass. In this environment it becomes harder and harder to function secretly,
either as members of secret societies or as individuals. (Are there any true secret societies left; any society that has the maturity to avoid broadcasting itself on the Internet?) Our inner lives are in danger of being ripped open, a process that began in the 1950s when some G-scale doctors and imbecilic psychiatrists pried open the black box of consciousness like sorcerers’s apprentices in a Grade-B horror film.
Perhaps it began even earlier, at the dawn of the twentieth century, in a small apartment in Cairo where an English couple were spending their honeymoon cruising the Nile, visiting museums, and talking to gods.
This is a dark science, this occultism of the nightside. The word “occult” means “secret,” “hidden,” “dark.” There is no occultism without darkness. There is no religion without darkness, either, but that is one of the secrets that religion keeps to itself. Religions are of the daylight, of the Sun, of society and community, of public rituals and private anxieties. But any religion that speaks only of the Sun and its Light is lying: to others and to itself.
For religion is nothing more than the refuge of failed magicians.
We erect edifices of ritual and dogma against the darkness and call it faith, call it religion. But the most useful element of any religion is its ability to exorcise demons. It is a practical ability, one with observable and measureable results. Everything else, all sacraments, depend on faith and the suspension of disbelief: penance, baptism, Holy Orders, Extreme Unction, matrimony, even Holy Communion. But a possessed person is a fact, and the successful exorcism of the demon is another fact. Many otherwise lukewarm individuals have been brought to the faith after having witnessed demonic possession. It is a great recruiting tool for the Church, if nothing else. Sacraments may bind one to the community, reinforce the bonds between the individual and the group. They are rituals of identity. But exorcism … well, that’s another story. Exorcism is not a sacrament. It’s a tool, something useful, something with an easily definable mission. It is the place within religion where true magic lies, as if in wait. It is the essential contradiction in religion, this axis of possession and exorcism, of cause and effect. It is the strongest connection in religion to ancient knowledge of the dark side of human experience. It reveals what religion wants kept hidden. Secret. Occult.
Thelema calls itself a new religion, and at the heart of this new religion is the very darkness of which we speak. There is a general desire among some believers to represent Thelema as a religion of the Sun, of the ancient Egyptian deities Osiris, Isis and Horus, of Thoth and Sekhmet.
But it is not.
As we shall see, the very creed of the Gnostic Mass—the ritual designed to be the public face of Thelema to the world—speaks of a god called Chaos. And Chaos is the code-word for Set.
The Dark Lord.
The interrelationship of the concepts Tutulu, Cthulhu, Oz, Zaa, Yezid, AL, L, Nu-Isis, etc., demonstrates unequivocally the essential identity of the Necronomicon (555) and the Therionic (666) Currents. Oz as the Manifesto and Manifestation of Man are equated in the Necronomicon Gnosis: “The Power of Man is the Power of the Ancient Ones. And this is the Covenant.”
—Kenneth Grant, Outer Gateways, p. 14
The above correspondences link irrefragibly the Necronomicon, Kamite, and Thelemic currents, showing the three strands as a continual linear development, in both a chronological and a magical sense.
—Kenneth Grant, Outer Gateways, p. 92
In the above two citations from the work of Kenneth Grant we are faced with a bold—if outlandish—concept.
Grant—the late head of the Typhonian Order in England and an intimate of Aleister Crowley—has insisted throughout many books that the magical current represented by Crowley’s Thelema and that represented specifically by the “Schlangekraft recension” of the Necronomicon (sometimes referred to as the “Simonomicon”) are not only compatible but in fact are identical. He refers to the Necronomicon Gnosis—a system representative of not only the Necronomicon itself but also of the stories that fall under the heading of the “Cthulhu Mythos” and which include works by H.P. Lovecraft as well as by his friends and imitators—as a credible magical doctrine and practice. He makes numerous references to Lovecraft, Cthulhu, and the Necronomicon throughout his later works in order to
substantiate and justify his position on themes as disparate as the magical methods of Austin Osman Spare, the UFO phenomenon, the visions of Crowley, Jack Parsons, and Charles Stansfeld Jones (Frater Achad), Afro- Caribbean cults, Tantric rituals, and much, much more.
What does all this mean?
Thelema is a Greek word meaning “will” and was used by Crowley to refer to his new religion, one developed through the practice of magic (or “magick” as he preferred to spell the word in order to differentiate it from other forms), and established upon the concept that the world is entering a major new phase of spiritual evolution, a phase he called the Aeon of Horus. The previous age was the Aeon of Osiris: the slain and resurrected god that prefigured that of Mithra and of Jesus, among others. The age before that was the matriarchal Aeon of Isis. The present Aeon of Horus is to be the age of the Child: the offspring of Isis and Osiris, and thus a Magickal Child.
The seminal text of this new religion is the Book of the Law—or Liber AL vel Legis to give it its Latin title—received by Crowley in a series of communications obtained in Cairo, Egypt in April of 1904. In order to promulgate his new faith, Crowley enlisted the aid of a German secret society called the Ordo Templi Orientis or Order of the Eastern Temple. This Order exists today in several forms and on virtually every continent. It is comprised of a series of degrees of initiation, and its members are called Thelemites, or followers of Thelema. The Order rituals are based on the idea that the Knights Templar of the Crusader era formed a kind of alliance with a Muslim secret society from which they obtained initiations. Indeed, today the Islamic influence is felt not only in some of the Order rituals but also in the fact that the American-based version of the Order often is referred to as the “Caliphate”—a word that is used in Islam to describe the legitimate successors to the Prophet Muhammad.
This is not so strange as it may appear. The theme of European mystics going to the Middle East to obtain secret knowledge is an old one and can be seen in the origin legend of the Rosicrucians (Christian Rosenkreutz, their putative founder, went to the Middle East in search of wisdom). The German founders of the Ordo Templi Orientis itself also claimed to have visited Muslim lands where they obtained secret initiations. It has been shown by historians that Helena Blavatsky herself—the founder of the
Theosophical Society—had links to the Brotherhood of Luxor, an Egyptian-based secret society. Thus, this is a tradition among European occultists that has a long pedigree.
The Necronomicon—the grimoire or magician’s workbook to which Kenneth Grant refers in his writings—also has a Middle Eastern pedigree. According to the stories created by gothic horror author H. P. Lovecraft, the book was written by a “Mad Arab” in the eighth century CE. It contains themes and invocations that are the heirs of a Sumerian tradition: the same tradition that Crowley claimed to be rediscovering in his own magical development. Indeed, the English translation of the Necronomicon is dedicated to Crowley himself.
Thus of the two basic texts to which Kenneth Grant refers in his books on Thelema—The Book of the Law, and the Necronomicon—the first was received in Egypt, and the second has its origins in Mesopotamia.
The Middle East is the birthplace of the three great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam—sometimes called the Abrahamic religions after their common ancestor, the prophet Abraham. But is also where some of the world’s oldest recorded religions were born, millenia before the birth of Moses, the founder of the Jewish faith: the Egyptian religion with its plethora of gods and goddesses … the religions of Sumer and Akkad and Babylon … and of some even stranger cults, as we shall see.
This insistence on ancient origins is a key factor in reading Grant. In fact, Grant is not satisfied with the antiquity of even these religions but points to an older, more distant, set of ancestors. Even ancient Egypt—the “Kamite” of the second quotation given earlier, is not old enough. The oldest—in Grant’s chronology—is that of the Necronomicon and of its associated Sumerian Tradition. To Grant (as well as to Crowley) the tradition that is represented by Thelema had its origins in Sumer, and from Sumer to Egypt, and from there to Aleister Crowley’s stunning communications with an alien intelligence in Cairo in 1904.
There is another element to Grant’s thesis that is difficult to overlook, and that is the importance he places on sexuality as a method to be employed for the evocation of these dark powers and as a means of entering the mysterious realm he calls the “Mauve Zone.” His liberal use of Tantric terms and concepts is a hallmark of Grant’s work, and his intimations that unorthodox forms of sexual congress be employed towards
magical ends is a theme that runs through his books. There has been much nonsense written about “sex magic” in the literature of the New Age; Grant’s specific descriptions of the complex psycho-sexual processes involved should make it clear that “sex magic” does not mean normal coitus performed while meditating or burning scented candles. The fact that the Ordo Templi Orientis itself is considered to be a repository of this type of information should make one aware that a more sophisticated if not more strenuous approach to the use of sexuality in ritual is required.
That said, Kenneth Grant has been criticized by occultists and members of various Orders for a number of reasons. In the first place, he once claimed to be the head of the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) upon the death of previous chief (actually the Order’s treasurer) Karl Germer. This was hotly contested by the American (Grady McMurtry) branch of the Order known as the “Caliphate.” In the end, Grant decided that the title wasn’t worth the fight although many of his fans considered him to have been the rightful heir to the throne. Instead, he founded what he called the Typhonian Order: a magical group more in line with the discoveries he and his followers were making and which was based on the identification of Typhon2—the Dark Lord—as the operative Power of what he termed the “Mauve Zone” on the hidden side of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life and the place from whence all true magical power originates.
In the second place, Grant was in many ways his own worst enemy when it came to explaining his doctrines. His works are impossible to understand unless one has a deep grounding in Kabbalah, Asian religions, Afro-Caribbean religions, Egyptology, and the rituals and grade structures of the Golden Dawn, the Ordo Templi Orientis, and the Argentum Astrum
… to name just a few. His gematria—the system of Kabbalistic analysis that uses numerological equivalents for Hebrew (and Greek) letters—is off the charts, and so internally inconsistent that it seems more like stream of consciousness than it does numerical or numerological evidence. To read Grant is to become aware that he is not communicating in a linear, methodical fashion but after the style of a James Joyce: magic as art, art as magic.
Nevertheless, there is buried in the heavy text of Grant’s hypothesis a profound and passionate belief in what he is saying and what he has discovered. And rightly so: for if what Grant says is in any way “true,” our
entire perspective on human history will have to be reconsidered from a terrifying vantage point.
For what Grant is saying is that all religions and especially all antinomian cults have their origin in a single cult, a single magical order, that has its origin not on earth but in the stars.
It is this belief—this discovery—that finds itself in line with the most cynical of Lovecraft’s horror stories concerning a race of alien beings that once colonized our planet and which will come again to reclaim it, a race whose religion is the mother of all cults.
And it is this belief—this doctrine—that finds itself hidden within many of the most important texts of Aleister Crowley’s Thelema.
It is at the heart of the current fascination with “ancient aliens” and “alien archaeology” and all those Discovery Channel and History Channel specials about the theories of von Danniken and Zecharia Sitchin, for example. It is central to fears about the coming of the Antichrist, the prophecies of Nostradamus, and the chiliastic panic about the Mayan calendar and the end of the year 2012.
Other ugly reports concerned my intimacy with leaders of occultist groups, and scholars suspected of connection with nameless bands of abhorrent elder world hierophants. These rumors, though never proved at the time, were doubtless stimulated by the known tenor of some of my reading …3
The purpose of this book is to deconstruct and decode the works of Kenneth Grant as much as possible, at least insofar as the Necronomicon Gnosis and the Typhonian Current are concerned. To do justice to the entire Grant ouevre would be a major task outside the scope of this work. What we will do instead is try to understand how the Necronomicon Gnosis fits in with the Thelemic Current, and how both of these together inform Grant’s Typhonian hypothesis.
Before we begin, however, it is necessary to address three important points:
In the first place, the author is not a member of the OTO or, indeed, of any magical order or group and never has been. His previous membership in various churches of the “wandering bishop” classification is public knowledge, including at least one church that gave apostolic succession to
the Gnostic Catholic Church: an auxiliary branch of the OTO. But that is as far as the association goes. Therefore nothing the author writes about here is to be considered official OTO doctrine nor does it have the blessing, nihil obstat, or imprimatur of that or any Order.