In the earlier stages of the process—which can take many years to perfect—the amrita is cultivated, taking care that it does not become a poison instead of a medicine. The Tantras are full of instructions towards
this end, although they may at times seem incomprehensible as they are written in the “twilight language” common to all the deeper forms of esotericism both in Asia and in the West. The amrita is the combined essences of the male and female practitioner, as has been described, with the caveat that it is not the grosser elements that are important, for they are only the vehicle for the subtle powers they represent. Only accomplished Tantrikas—or, in the Western context, magicians—are capable of generating these subtle essences. As can be seen, the Gnostic Mass would be capable of this function in only the most advanced case, as well as the Star Sapphire ritual which makes use of the same ideas. But is there really a connection between the Tantras that Grant praises so highly and Thelema? Aside from the obvious similarities, there is other evidence to show that there might be a stronger connection than previously understood. As Tantric scholar David Gordon White describes in his The Alchemical
Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India:
In the royal consumption origin myth … the moon was revived and replenished in its bright fortnight through the offering of a soma sacrifice. Soma is the fluid essence of the moon, which, in the sacrificial context, must be bought. With what does King Moon buy back his vital fluids? With a red cow, whose name, rohin , is the same as that of the starry woman who was the original cause of his woes.124
This is a rich vein of symbolism that could be mined by any Kabbalist with great benefit. As scholar of Judaism Rafael Patai and Kabbalah scholar Moshe Idel have both indicated in their writings, Tantra may very well have been the unseen influence behind European and Middle Eastern forms of alchemy and Kabbalah. In this single myth, we have an indication that there was some cross-fertilization between Jewish mysticism and Tantric alchemy in startling ways.
As Jewish scholars know, a red cow (sometimes called a red heifer, a parah adumah in Hebrew) is required for the purification of anyone who came into contact with a corpse (Numbers, 19:2-19). The cow had to be unblemished, completely red, and had never been yoked or used to perform any work. It would be sacrificed and burned, its ashes placed in a ritual vessel that contains pure “living” water, i.e. from a spring as opposed to collected rain water. Along with the ashes of the red cow, cedar
and hyssop are also burned along with the cow, as well as wool that has been dyed red. The resulting water is then sprinkled on a contaminated person using a branch of hyssop.
It is a requirement to have the ashes of a red cow available in the Temple, and for that reason the building of a Third Temple in Jerusalem could not take place until such a red cow had been found that would be a suitable candidate for this ritual requirement. There is no logical argument for this requirement, no reference to other sources that would provide a context for this rather bizarre ritual, and for that reason Talmudic scholars consider it to be a divine mandate. But the connection between a red cow, ritual purity, and living water seems to have a precedent in ancient India and the above citation offers a way towards understanding this rather arcane stipulation.
The word rohin is the key. It does not mean “red cow” specifically but simply “the red one.” It is the name of a Goddess, the “starry woman” of the citation, and is assigned to one of the nakshatras—the rohini nakshatra
—which is the star Aldebaran,125 found in the constellation Taurus, or the Bull. Rohini is the wife of Chandra, a lunar deity who is identified with Soma. The symbols for Rohini/Aldebaran are the Temple and the Chariot.
Thus we have a Red Goddess, a Red Cow, the waters of purification and Soma, and the Temple. The Moon must buy a red cow and offer it in exchange for Soma, which seems to be a myth cognate to the idea of a red cow being burned and its ashes used to create purifying water. Add to that the symbolic connection to Aldebaran and the Temple and you seem to have a perfect explanation for the Jewish requirement.
Further, the fact that the symbol of the Chariot is also included takes us into another, deeper realm entirely. The “descent to the Chariot” is a practice known in the Jewish mystical practice of the Merkavah (“chariot”) also known as Hekhalot (“palace”) mysticism. The aim of the practice is to ascend seven levels, or chariots, or palaces, to finally appear before the Throne of God. I have made the case elsewhere that this ancient mystical practice was the inspiration for the degree rituals of the Golden Dawn, which then became the basis for Aleister Crowley’s A A degree structure.126
There is more evidence that this may be correct. In that in various world mythologies Aldebaran is usually connected to the constellation of the
Pleiades, the “Seven Sisters,” in the same way that the asterism of the Big Dipper consists of seven stars that are called “the Chariot” in Middle Eastern (and Chinese) cultures. They surround the Pole Star which forms the Throne of God in this system, because it is unmoving and eternal, the axis around which the world turns.
This entire complex of ideas is reprised in the Thelemic idea of the Scarlet Woman, Babalon, as the partner of Therion and whose relationship with the Beast provides the Soma, the life-giving elixir.
To continue the astronomical theme one step further, the brightest supernova explosion ever recorded in human history took place in the year 1006 CE. It occurred on April 30 of that year, which is—as the Necronomicon tells us—the “day the Great Bear hangs from its tail in the sky,” i.e., the day the Gate between this world and the next is opened. On the same day, the volcanic eruption of Mount Merapi on the Indonesian island of Java destroyed an entire civilization and buried the spectacular monument Borobudur. It lay under volcanic ash and vegetation for centuries before being rediscovered and eventually reconsecrated by the Dalai Lama—recognized as a temple of Vajrayana, i.e. Tantric, Buddhism.
The supernova occurred in a constellation known to the ancients as
Therion. The Beast.
These ancient cults—of the Yezidi, of the Afro-Caribbean religions and their secret societies, and of the Tantrikas—are carriers of specific information that modern cultists find indispensable for an understanding of their own traditions, rites, and practices. But these practices are dangerous. They involve trafficking with the contents of the unconscious mind through manipulation of psycho-biological processes that are still little- understood and recognized even less. To writers like Grant and Lovecraft, they are analogous to trafficking with supramundane entities … not “analogous” in the way the word is normally used, but perhaps better understood in the sense of “analogue” as opposed to “digital.” To Grant and Lovecraft, plumbing the depths of the unconscious mind is not metaphorically similar to plumbing the depths of deep space, they are different ways of expressing the same thing. The practices may be analogues of each other to the non-initiate, but they meet in the rituals and practices of the adept, of the initiate.
The most ancient mysteries were of a physical, not a metaphysical nature. There was an esoteric and an exoteric version of them, corresponding to the written and the oral Law of the Jews. But, contrary to what is usually supposed, the metaphysical was the exoteric version, not vice versa…. The secret, oral, or hidden wisdom embodied in the gloss [to the seventeenth chapter of the Egyptian Book of the Dead], refers to the physical origins of the abstract concepts which appear in the text; spiritual matters are experienced in terms of physical, more precisely of physiological, phenomena.127
- Should probably read Unaussprechliche Kulte.
- One of the earliest sources was the famous British archaeologist Austen Henry Layard in his Nineveh and Its Remains, London, John Murray, 1849. Articles on the Yezidi had appeared in French a few years earlier by M. Boré in his “De la vie religieuse chez les Chaldéens” in two parts, July and August 1843, in the Annales de Philosophie Chrétienne. Isya Joseph published some preliminary articles on the Yezidi in the American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, in January and April, 1909 in a two-part series entitled “Yezidi Texts.” These would be followed by his book Devil Worship in 1919. Another book-length treatment of the subject was The Cult of the Peacock Angel by
R.H.W. Empson, London, Witherby, 1928, appearing a year after Crowley associate William Seabrook’s Adventures in Arabia: Among the Bedouins, Druses, Whirling Dervishes, and Yezidee Devil Worshippers, 1927; New York, Blue Ribbon, 1930. For a more recent and scholarly source, see John Guest, The Yezidis: A Study in Survival, London, Routledge, Kegan and Paul, 1987, and Giulia Sfameni Gasparro, “I Miti Cosmogonici Degli Yezidi” in Numen, Vol. XXI, Fasc. 3, pp. 197-227, and Vol. XXII, Fasc. 1, pp. 24-41, Leiden, Brill, 1974. It should be noted that Crowley’s identification with Sumer predates the appearance of popular books on the subject by at least ten years.
- See for instance J.F. Coakley, “Manuscripts for sale: Urmia. 1890-2” in Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies, Vol. 20, no.2, 2006 where the trade of one Jeremiah Shamir in Mosul was cited as a source for documents of dubious provenance. See the Encyclopedia Iranica, online edition, New York, 1996- entry, “Jelwa, Ketab Al-” for the reasons (mostly linguistic) behind this claim. Also see the above cited book by John Guest for more information on Shamir.
- One author has suggested that the word Ta’us comes from Ta’uz, a form of the ancient Babylonian god Tammuz. Empson, op.cit., p. 184. If so, this would further bolster at least a Babylonian (if not Sumerian) connection to the Yezidis.
- The theory that the ancient Sumerians might have come to Mesopotamia from India is one of the options being seriously considered by linguists and physical anthropologists. That they were non- Semitic seems to be generally accepted. That their origins are mysterious and shrouded in the eldritch tendrils of the mists of antiquity is also accepted. See for instance Arkadiusz Sohysiak, “Physical anthropology and the ‘Sumerian problem,’” in Studies in Historical Anthropology, vol. 4:2004 , pp 145-158 for an overview of the prevailing theories. At any rate, this new theory is consistent with what the Yezidi say about themselves. It is also implied in the Schlangekraft recension of the Necronomicon when it is attested that the symbol of the Sumerian “race” is the Ar with “Aryan” as cognate.
- See, for instance, Empson, op. cit., p. 174-175.
- Nineveh, discovered by the archaeologist Layard who also wrote of his meeting with the Yezidis, was an ancient city famously cursed by the Biblical prophet Nahum, who called it a “harlot that was beautiful and agreeable and that made use of witchcraft …” (Nahum 3:4), as good a Biblical description of Crowley’s Babalon as any. Nineveh was also the city where Jonah was sent to preach, and from where he subsequently fled to the sea, only to find himself swallowed by a whale. There is today a shrine to Jonah at Nineveh, believed to be his tomb.
- Kenneth Grant, Outer Gateways, p. 92
- Agharta is frequently confused with Shambhala. Shambhala is a well-known Tibetan Buddhist concept, which became the “Shangri-La” of Hollywood fame. The origin of the word Agharta and the mythology connected with it is ambiguous and possibly a fictional creation of European travelers and mystics. The Theosophists believe it is a kind of polar opposite to Shambhala and the domain of demonic forces.
- As may be observed in the beliefs and practices of the Qumran sect that gave us the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Qumranites set themselves up as the true Jews in opposition to the Jerusalem Temple Jews.
- Empson, op. cit., p. 183.
- William B. Seabrook, Jungle Ways, London, George G. Harrap, 1931.
- William B. Seabrook, Adventures in Arabia: Among the Bedouins, Druses, Whirling Dervishes, and Yezidee Devil Worshippers, 1927; New York, Blue Ribbon, 1930.
- Kenneth Grant, Outer Gateways, p. 106.
- This claim is made by Crowley in several places, as we have seen. In his Cephaloedium Working (1920), he is quite clear in the statement that lists his titles: “… whose Holy Angel his Guardian is Aiwaz 93, the God first dawning upon Man in the land of Sumer ”
- Indeed, as one Yezidi leader said to a journalist at the time of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2002, Melek Ta’us means “the ancient one.” (Patrick Graham, “Iraq’s ‘Devil Worshippers’” in the Canadian National Post, December 17, 2002.) This fits perfectly with the terminology used in the Necronomicon Gnosis.
- A symbol that also appears in the Schlangekraft recension of the Necronomicon many times on the various seals of the planetary forces as well as prominently on the Crown of Anu (p. 112).
- Grant, Outer Gateways, p. 103. Acording to Grant the word Yezid signifies one of the three persons in one “god” of the Yezidi, the other two being Melek Ta’us and Sheikh Adi, the latter of whom many scholars assume was the real creator of the Yezidi clan although this is still hotly contested. Grant’s theology here is suspect.
107 Ibid., p. 104.
- Aleister Crowley, Confessions, Chapter 61, p. 554.
- R. v. Krafft-Ebing, Psychopathia Sexualis, New York, Rebman Co., n.d., p. 3.
- See Ivor Morrish, Obeah, Christ, and Rastaman: Jamaica and its religion, Cambridge UK, James Clarke & Co., 1982, pp. 22-23. It is referred to as one of the “blacker arts.” (p. 40)
- See A. Metraux, Voodoo in Haiti, New York, Schocken Books, 1972, p. 285 where the wanga is defined as “the magical weapon par excellence” which has “a property that is harmful to one or more people.”
- Arthur C. Holly, Les daïmons du culte voudo, Port-au-Prince, Imp. Edm. Chenet, 1918. See also his Dra-Po: étude ésotérique de Égrégore africain, traditionel, social, et natural de Haiti, Port-au- Prince, Imp. Nemours Telhomme, 1928.
- Holly (1918), p. iii.
114 Ibid., p. 506.
115 Ibid., p. xi.
116 Ibid., p. 514.
- Kenneth Grant, The Ninth Arch, London, Starfire, 2002, p. xxv.
- Milo Rigaud, Secrets of Voodoo, San Francisco, City Lights, 1969, 1985, pp. 10-11. 119 Edward Said, Orientalism, New York, Vintage, 1979.
- Authors such as Robert Irwin and Bernard Lewis have attacked Said’s work on methodological grounds as well as on charges of erroneous data and sweeping generalizations that include every Western scholar and reporter on Middle Eastern and Asian affairs and culture.
- Wade Davis, The Serpent and the Rainbow, New York, Warner Books, 1985; Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1988.