Liber 231 is one of the Holy Books, which was received, along with the others we have already discussed earlier, that were written by Crowley during a white heat of inspiration at the same time that Lovecraft decided the Rites of Cthulhu were taking place in New Orleans. Crowley does not give any instructions for how the mysterious tables of the 22 qlippot—the 22 “scales of the serpent”—should be used. It was eventually up to Grant and his Lodge to explore the possibilities and to use the tables as a map for penetrating the Mauve Zone. These 22 “demonic” or “qlippothic” paths are the Tunnels of Set that Grant opines lies between the realm of dreams and the realm of dreamless sleep (which latter is itself analogous to the state of
non-duality). They are reflexes of the 22 paths on the Tree of Life, shadows of those paths, forming a Shadow Tree of which Daath is the central Gate. His New Isis Lodge worked extensively with the qlippot and specifically with Liber 231 in an attempt to map its potentialities.
Grant goes further, attempting to link the 22 qlippot with an equal number of kalas. The number of kalas seem to multiply with the systems applied, and this equating of them with the Tunnels of Set may be ill- advised. (A similar problem exists with Crowley’s attribution of the I Jing trigrams with the sefirot on the Tree of Life; the number systems do not equate and it is a violence to try to force them to fit. There are other, better solutions.) While the kalas are vaginal secretions that can be used as elixirs it is not certain whether these secretions can or should be equated with the qlippot on a one-to-one basis. If the qlippot are pathways—the Tunnels of Set, as Grant calls them—then the kalas may very well be the fuel that enables one to travel them, or the keys to opening their gates.
Grant employs both systems—Tantra and Kabbalah—in his lengthy digressions on the nature of the Mauve Zone and the realm of Darkness where the Old Ones dwell. And it is through ceremonial technologies such as the Ritual of the Fire Snake that contact can be made with this realm by using specific gateways. The Kabbalists would employ the qlippot system and the sphere of the Abyss, Daath, in their approach to what Grant calls the “Nightside of Eden.” And the practitioners of the Kaula Circles or the Anuttara Amnaya would employ appropriate marmas and sandhis of the Sri Chakra, in combination with the kalas and the ojas. In either case, a psycho-sexual technique is employed: either the sexual magic of Aleister Crowley, the OTO, or the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light, or the Tantric rituals of the Kaula Circles. Kenneth Grant was able to combine both of these approaches, largely through identifying cognate ideas and methods and by “porting” one system over to the other, incorporating Tantric techniques within a Western, ceremonial framework.
While this approach may seem wholly arbitrary to some, the infusion of genuine Tantric methods within the Thelemic rituale produced a spark of new life into the latter. As we can see from Grant’s published work the new insights that were obtained by using Tantric techniques in a Western ceremonial setting were remarkable. And the rush of prose out of Grant’s pen due to this combustible mix is alone evidence of how the secret rites of the Nu-Isis Lodge were able to fuel nine non-fiction works on the subject,
as well as much fiction and poetry, not counting the contributions of other members of the Grant circle.
And this is as it should be, according to Grant, for it is the Mauve Zone that is the source of all human creativity, imagination, fascination, and obsession. It is represented in the microcosm by a zone that exists between the dream state and the deeper, dreamless state, and is the source of artistic impulses and contact with divine and demonic forces. But these are its positive characteristics. There are negative ones as well, and they are the forces that challenge the magician on an individual basis just as they confront society in general. These are the demonic forces that so frighten the protagonists of the Lovecraft ouevre. And summoning them—or any aspect of the Mauve Zone—can have disastrous consequences.
The French poet Artur Rimbaud famously declared that it was necessary, in order to become a Seer, to engage the complete “derangement of the senses.” Our normal sensory state is designed to cope with the visible world, in order to ensure the survival of the body; only the shamans, initiates, magicians and alchemists look beyond maintaining the integrity of the physical body and extending consciousness beyond that of the visible, tangible universe. In order to do this, risks are taken.
The methods used to “derange the senses” or alter perception may include drugs, alcohol, fasting, or other tools that are potentially dangerous to the human organism and counter-intuitive when it comes to discussing the health and survival of the body. It is as if the body’s normal systems and processes must be challenged in order that a space be made for the new experiences. This is because our minds and bodies are part of an integrated “psychosomatic” system, and an effect on one will have an impact on the other. This is what Grant calls the “retroversion” of the body’s normal processes. Retroversion is a method he identifies specifically with Set, the Dark Lord—as Set represents “evil” in the cosmic scheme, or those things that challenge the status quo.
We have already seen this in our discussion of the necessity of conscious control over the body’s autonomic nervous system and the reptilian brain. In order to experience altered states of the mind it is therefore necessary to alter the state of the body.
In the Afro-Caribbean tradition, this altering of the body’s autonomic systems can be effected through the use of drums. Drums exert a control over the heartbeat of the devotees, which is one of the autonomic
processes. In this situation, the drummers control the psycho-biological response of an entire group of devotees, and it is within this highly- charged environment that the phenomenon of possession by the gods takes place, often in multiple devotees. The type of drums used and the rhythms employed will change the results, invoking specific deities. But the drumming still takes place within the greater context of the ritual itself, which is under the control of the priest. These methods—while they can cause change to occur in and of themselves—must be used within the ritual structure in order to be effective. Anyone can take drugs or alcohol, for instance, but although the senses may be deranged as a result, the long- term effects will not be conducive to the attainment of spiritual illumination or occult capabilities. As we have already indicated, sexual activity by itself is not capable of producing the type of spiritual breakthroughs of which the writings of Grant, Crowley, and the entire field of the Tantras are an indication. What is necessary is the deliberate structure of the ritual, for that is where the effect of the Will will be felt and that is what will provide the channel for the energy raised. As the Crowleyan imperative has it, “love under will.”
There is no guarantee that the experience will be pleasant or productive. The ritual structure will provide a certain level of operational security if the ritual participants have been prepared carefully beforehand. This preparation is not only in terms of yogic-type practices, meditation, etc. but also intellectual study so that the various moving parts of the ritual are understood and made part of the psyches of the participants. In other words, the various techniques used to insure protection must be internalized so that they are second-nature. The instinctual response of the individuals to perceived danger is what will protect them, since there is no physical weapon that can be used to defeat what is essentially an ethereal or at least non-corporeal threat. The mind will be forced to locate the appropriate defense mechanism—for instance, during a confrontation with an entity from the Mauve Zone that appears hostile or somehow dangerous
—and the only weapons at its disposal will be those learned in the preliminary phase of the training.
Even then, however, the effects of such intense ritual workings may be felt for days, weeks, or even years after the fact as the experience is digested and connections to other—unconscious—material is strengthened. That is why such an experienced occultist as Francis Israel Regardie—a
one-time secretary to Aleister Crowley and a Golden Dawn and Rosicrucian initiate—strongly recommended that those interested in entering onto a path of occult practice first go through several years of psychological analysis in order to identify as much as possible any deeply hidden problems that would be inadvertently triggered or exacerbated by occult practice.
To Grant, who experienced most of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first, the enormous changes that took place during that time were an indication that something had gone terribly wrong with the cosmos. Grant believed that the type of changes a magician effects on his own psyche as a result of his occult practice can have an impact on the world at large. This is, after all, the whole basis of magic as a system for manipulating reality and the experience of reality. Grant’s thesis is that the present state of affairs is the result of an accumulation of occult operations on the one hand (acting on the ethereal plane, perhaps), and scientific, social, and technological operations on the other operating in the “real” world.
Today we hear of sights and sounds experienced outside the body, in the skies, in the oceans, and deep within the earth. It is as if a cosmic Fire Snake activated the terrestrial power-zones, or reflected into space the chakras awakened by sub-atomic radiations. the
Earth is beginning to exhibit the catastrophic effects of such artificial stimulations of the Fire Snake.185
When Grant writes “as if” he is being coy, for it is clear that he believes this is precisely what happened. One must read Grant carefully with a view towards extrapolating some of the broader statements from the minutiae of sexual rituals and Hebrew, Greek and even English gematria. His clearest paragraphs are those that reveal his certainty that the stories of H. P. Lovecraft, the art of the Surrealists and of Austin Osman Spare, and the modern phenomena of UFOs and abductees, are all in a sense reflections of a real universe beyond our own. His incorporation of Tantra, Kabbalah, magic, and all the rest can be seen as an attempt to reconcile his deeper, inner belief in the reality of the horror fantasies of Lovecraft with a comprehensive worldview that could explain them in some kind of internally-consistent way.
Grant clearly believed that the world was undergoing an invasion from some other dimension or from somewhere Beyond. This invasion was being experienced as the UFO phenomenon, among other things. The eruption of interest in occultism, horror films, alternative religions, etc. indicated to Grant that something was already working its way into our world and that the only ones who could interpret this event were the sensitives. Not limited to magicians or occultists, sensitives include artists, writers, and other people who deal extensively with imagination and creativity: qualities that are associated with the Mauve Zone. In this Grant takes his cue from Lovecraft, of course, but that doesn’t make his conclusions any less reasonable.
In present times, with the massive reawakening in man of the subtle faculties connected with the Ajna-Vishuddha complex of chakras, a more sinister element pervades the picture. Man is no longer subject only to his innate tendencies, his organism has undergone changes which render him increasingly susceptible to influences from Outside. … Whatever ‘it’ is, or whatever its provenance, it poses serious problems for the magician. Alien intelligence is intimately involved with the movements of the Fire Snake, the energies of which are known to be interactive with the denizens of other dimensions.186
At the same time, there are occultists who are deliberately attempting to make contact with these beings from other dimensions, other worlds, through the medium of the Mauve Zone, and they included the membership of his own occult lodge in London. These contacts did not stop when his lodge ceased activity in the 1960s, however, for he writes:
… there are today magicians who are forging links with power-zones in unfathomable space and with voids beyond time.187
Again, we can clearly recognize the Lovecraftian influence in Grant’s vision. Grant specifically links Cthulhu with the Fire Snake, i.e. with Kundalini, as it is asleep in the waters of the deep (which Grant links to the two lowest chakras, the muladhara and svadisthana chakras)188 and can be raised by the right evocations and when the “stars are right.” To support this, he also quotes frequently from the Schlangekraft recension of the Necronomicon.
It is quite possible that the famous Lovecraftian description of Cthulhu as “dead but dreaming” indicates Kundalini which is asleep until it is awakened, but also refers to Grant’s three forms of consciousness: awake, dreaming, and dreamless sleep. Cthulhu, as “dead but dreaming” seems to refer to a realm between “death”—dreamless sleep—and dreams: in other words, the Mauve Zone. Kundalini is also a Serpent, an amphibious creature that could be linked with Cthulhu. A Serpent in her cave beneath the earth; Cthulhu in his house beneath the sea. Both raised by magicians and occult practice and, when they do, they change our world forever.
This is the point at which Grant makes a rather astonishing claim, among many astonishing claims. He begins a story that sounds like something out of a fantasy magazine yet later insists that it is not metaphor but an account of a real event that occurred “recently” (Beyond the Mauve Zone was published in 1999). It contains much that is only comprehensible if the previous material we have discussed is understood.
In this tale, Grant references an Order that exists in the present Indian state of Assam. This Order is Tantric and initiates into the type of Tantra we have been discussing. He links this Order to “stray references” found in the Necronomicon, among other places, and says it represents an oral tradition spanning generations. The Order at some point created or contacted or somehow incarnated an Entity from the realm of what Grant calls “transplutonic Isis”: a star not necessarily in our dimension, but one from which Grant’s Nu-Isis or New Isis Lodge obtained its heritage and legacy.
The Entity dwelled on the Earth during which time “more and more women gave birth to offspring imbued with the ‘child’s’ alien propensities.
… Many earth-dwellers experience strange dreams and horrendous nightmares in which they glimpse the fantastic force of their own terror.”189 Eventually, our planet became a “far-flung outpost of Nu- Isis.”190