In the second place, there has been much drama over the Simon Necronomicon, most of which concerns the identity of Simon himself rather than the substance of the book. Simon has addressed these issues in his own Dead Names: The Dark History of the Necronomicon, and I have addressed them in various interviews over the years. One may or may not believe in the “reality” of the Necronomicon; what is germane to this book is the fact that Kenneth Grant—an occultist, occult author, and occult leader of no small importance—found the book essential reading and took it very, very seriously indeed.
In the third and final place, many of the issues we will discuss will be considered anathema or heretical by doctrinaire Thelemites—such as the works of Frater Achad, A. O. Spare, and even Jack Parsons. While “normative” Thelema (if by that we mean the OTO of the Grady McMurtry line) may be likened to the official Church, it is possible that later generations will consider the writings of Frater Achad, Spare, and Parsons (among others, and possibly including the works of Necronomicon editor Simon himself) to be “gnostic” versions of the official gospels, much the way one approaches the Nag Hammadi texts or the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is not my place to defend any of these ideas on doctrinal grounds. Indeed, in that I have little or no interest. My usage of them in this place only reflects Grant’s own incorporation of them in his Gnosis, and should be taken to reflect no agenda of my own.
With these caveats in mind, then, let us proceed to an investigation of one of the most-neglected theses in the history of modern occultism: the nature of the Typhonian Current and its relationship to Aleister Crowley’s Thelema and H. P. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon.
Let us approach the throne of the Dark Lord.
The Tree of Life. Its ten spheres or Sephiroth are identified with the planets, the twenty-two paths with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This one follows Crowley’s attributions for the paths of Hé and Tzaddi.
- H.P. Lovecraft, “The Beast in the Cave.”
- Typhon is referred to by Grant as either male or female, depending on the context. To the Greeks, Typhon was male, but Grant often identifies deities across cultural lines and subsumes their genders according to his system.
- From H. P. Lovecraft, “The Shadow Out of Time.”
That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die.
This child Horus is a twin, two in one. Horus and Harpocrates are one, and they are also one with Set or Apophis, the destroyer of Osiris. It is by the destruction of the principle of death that they are born. The establishment of this new Aeon, this new fundamental principle, is the great work now to be accomplished in the world.
Let not the reverence for the God of thy self cause thee by a misconception to lose thy reverence for the Gods who live for ever
—the Aeons of Infinite Years.
—The Golden Dawn, “The Symbolism of the Admission of the
THE CONCEPT OF THE AEON may seem like an odd place to start this discussion, but the idea that humanity has entered a new phase of existence
—of evolution, perhaps—is central to the belief-system called Thelema and to Crowley’s theology in general. For if Crowley’s new religion was of a piece with everything that had preceded it, there would be no point to it, or to discussing it at any great length except as a curiosity.
A contemporary of Crowley, the author of gothic horror stories H. P. Lovecraft, had his own idea about Aeons: that they represented enormous lengths of time, and that the contemplation of them (and what life-forms may have evolved during them) would drive a normal person insane, as would the contemplation of the vast distances of space between the Earth and the stars. Yet, as with Crowley, he wrote that in certain cases, and with certain Aeons, “even death may die,” or will result, as Crowley wrote, in
“the destruction of the principle of death.” This conquering of death has been a focus of virtually every major religion in the last five or six millenia (probably beginning with the Egyptians). This represents hope for Crowley but absolute horror for Lovecraft; for if death is overcome for some, it would be overcome for all: mass murderers, serial killers, fiendish dictators … and the anthropoid monsters of the writer’s feverish imagination.
Thus we should begin with a look at the concept of the Aeon. It has been a fractious subject among Thelemites for one of Crowley’s colleagues had proposed a different schema for the Aeons, one that would have reduced Crowley’s own structure significantly. Also, the idea that the end of the world is near—vide the Mayan calendar, the Nostradamus prophecies, and other chiliastic concerns—lends more significance to any discussion of the Aeons, the New Age, and the astronomical ideas they represent.
Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) claimed to be the Prophet of the new age, the Aeon of Horus, and the Book of the Law its scripture. Received over the course of three afternoons in Cairo, Egypt in April of 1904, Crowley himself rejected it at first. Some of the language is offensive, particularly when it comes to describing the world’s great religions. The vehemence with which Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc are denigrated seems far from what we have come to expect of spiritual literature. However, a re- read of the first few books of the Bible would be educational in this regard, for the God of the Jews was just as vehement in his attack on all other gods, all other religions. A re-read of the Book of Revelations (also known as the Apocalypse) would reinforce this impatience of the God of Christians and Jews with any and all other forms of religious expression. This vehemence was often backed up with military force, and the massacres of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children was the bloody result. Thus the anger and hatred for earlier faiths shown in the Book of the Law is consistent with Old and New Testament attitudes, if nothing else, and seems of a piece with the contemporary world’s religious polarization.
The structure of the Book of the Law is that of three chapters, each devoted to a different Egyptian deity or deities and each represented as the speech of that deity via a praeterhuman intelligence or spiritual
intermediary called Aiwass, a being that Crowley later claimed was his Holy Guardian Angel. This occurred as a series of inspired or channeled scriptures over the course of those three days from April 8 to 10, 1904. The readings began after Crowley’s wife—Rose Kelly—alerted Crowley to the immediacy of the contact during a visit to the Boulaq Museum in Cairo on the vernal equinox that year, at which time she drew his attention to a stele numbered 666, now known to the faithful as the “Stele of Revealing.” This particular stele was a burial plaque for a priest of the Egyptian god Mentu. The priest’s name was Ankh-ef-en-khonsu. Each session took place in their apartment between the hours of 12 and 1 pm. (It is possible that the dictations occurred at the precise hour of the mid-day call to prayer, and that they would have heard the muezzin’s cry outside their hotel room window right before, during or after the séance.)
It could be considered natural that the scripture would have an Egyptian coloration, considering all the external circumstances. However, the character of Crowley’s own previous initiations into a British secret society known as the Golden Dawn would also have an impact on the terminology (if not the philosophy) of the text as we will see. So what we will look at first in this chapter is the nature of the “Egyptology” of the Book of the Law and its relation to the concept of the Aeons.
The three chapters are the utterances of the Egyptian gods Nuit, Hadit, and Ra-Hoor-Khuit (respectively). Structurally, this seems consistent with Egyptian practice. The Egyptian religion contains many such “trinities” of supreme gods at the head of the various pantheons. One of the oldest is that of Ptah, Sekhmet and Nefertum; another would be that of Amun, Mut and Khonsu. The most famous is perhaps that of Osiris, Isis and Horus. In each case, we are presented with a male god, a female goddess, and a child god. In other words, a nuclear family. We rarely, if ever, come across this type of configuration in the Tantric pantheons of Tibet and India, for instance, where the emphasis is usually on a male and a female deity; while there are offspring of these unions, they are rarely depicted as a family unit in the way of the Egyptian examples.
However, the trinity Nuit/Hadit/Ra-Hoor-Khuit is not a typical one in Egyptian texts. Nuit is a star goddess and the mother of Set and Nephthys. Hadit—according to the Book of the Law and to Crowley’s subsequent writings—is either a star within that empyrean or a solar disk; as the sun is a star this is not as inconsistent as it might appear. The third god, Ra-Hoor- Khuit, has much more in common with forms of Horus—offspring of Isis and Osiris—rather than with any conceivable union of Nuit and the lesser- known Hadit (which is itself a form of Horus). We may venture to say that this combination is unique to Crowley and to the Book of the Law.
Yet, there is another deity specifically mentioned in the scripture, and that is Khonsu. Crowley, in his role as scribe of Aiwass and of the gods, is given the title Ankh af-n-Khonsu after the name of the priest whose burial plaque was the Stele of Revealing. The two terms ankh and Khonsu bear some further investigation.
Ankh, of course, is the iconic symbol of the Egyptian idea of immortality. The word ankh means “life” and is found on temples and tombs everywhere in Egypt with the associated idea of immortality and life after death. Egyptian pharaohs as well as deities are often depicted holding an ankh, sometimes also called the crux ansata or “cross with handle.”
Khonsu, however, may not be as well known. It is the name of another child god, sacred to the moon. This god was usually depicted in mummified form, but with the lock of hair on the right side of his head
typical of Egyptian children of ancient times. This is used to emphasize the youth of the god with the implication that he is pre-pubescent. His mother was Mut (not to be confused with Maat), a self-created mother goddess whose symbols were the vulture and the lion and whose name means “mother.” In northern Egypt, she became identified with the lion goddess Sekhmet and, at various times, with the cat goddess Bast. Khonsu’s father was Amun (sometimes Amen or Amoun), the mysterious self-created god of whom Ra was often considered to be the external image, hence the composite form Amun-Ra.
While Khonsu was a lunar deity, and often depicted as a child, he also had warrior tendencies in the Egyptian religion. He was believed to be a defender of the king, who destroyed his enemies by removing their internal organs and presenting them to the king for nourishment. This odd mythologem gave rise to one epithet of Khonsu as the “king’s placenta” and, indeed, he later became identified with childbirth (just as Set would later be identified with miscarriage and abortion).
This idea of Khonsu as the king’s defender shares some ideas in common with Horus, who avenged the murder of his father, Osiris. Often, Khonsu is depicted with a hawk’s head—recalling Horus explicitly—with a lunar disk and crescent above it to identify him more carefully with the moon, as opposed to the more solar aspect of Horus. In addition, Khonsu was also depicted in a very suggestive way at his temple in Karnak: as “a ram-headed snake who fertilized the cosmic egg.”4 This identification of Khonsu with the Cosmic Egg of creation will have resonance later, as the vision of the Egg comes to play in the Amalantrah Working of Crowley and associates,5 as well as with the “Blue Egg of Harpocrates” in the rituals of the Golden Dawn.
But it is the presentation of Khonsu as a child that has relevance for the Book of the Law. Khonsu is referred to in Egyptian mythology as the “Moon Child,” which would become the title of one of Aleister Crowley’s novels. This same image—of a child god—is found in the statues and bas- reliefs of Harpocrates, a form of Horus and, indeed, this form is mentioned in the Book of the Law several times.6 Crowley, as a “priest of Khonsu” deliberately makes the association with a child-god who is also a martial deity, a defender of the king. In the case of Khonsu’s father—Amun—we have the archetype of the “Hidden God” that figures so prominently in the work of Kenneth Grant and to which we will return from time to time.
The first chapter of the Book of the Law consists of the words of Nuit, the goddess of the night sky, who is often depicted with her feet in the west, her hands in the east, and her body thus gracefully arched over the earth, and dotted with stars.
The second chapter reveals the words of Hadit, the Heru-Behdeti of the Egyptian pantheon, called Haidith in Greek. Hadit was recruited by Thoth (the Egyptian god of magic, writing, and wisdom) to assist Horus in the latter’s famous battle with Set. Hadit represents a single point of light, a single star in the empyrean of Nuit. If Nuit is visualized as a circle, then Hadit would be the point in the center. In the Thelemic universe Nuit and Hadit also may represent different forms or ideas about infinity, perhaps infinite expansion and infinite contraction respectively.
The third chapter consists of the revelation of Ra-Hoor-Khuit, or Ra- Herakhty in Greek recension. This is a deity composed of two different ideas: Ra and Horus. The translation of Ra-Herakhty is “Ra, Horus on the Horizon.” Thus there is the sense that Ra—the quintessential Sun god of the Egyptians—manifests as Horus when on the horizon, i.e., when the sun is rising or setting. Horus is the son of Osiris and Isis and is the god who battled Set (in one version of the story) to avenge his father’s murder. Thus, there is the implication that the identity of Horus is inextricably linked to his parentage, and that Horus’s purpose as the Avenging Son thus connects him eternally with Set: a union not of love, but of war. This “unity” of Horus with Set is an idea that Crowley embraced and which appears several times in his published work.7 Ra-Hoor-Khuit is mentioned frequently throughout all three chapters of the Book of the Law, and is obviously the focal point of the scripture.