Thelema Lodge Calendar for July 2002 e.v.
Thelema Lodge Calendar
for July 2002 e.v.
The viewpoints and opinions expressed herein are the responsibility of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of OTO or its officers.Copyright © O.T.O. and the Individual Authors, 2002 e.v.
Ordo Templi Orientis
Berkeley, CA 94702 USA
July 2002 e.v. at Thelema Lodge
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Lodge Members and Officers
Communion of Saints
In Horus Temple at Thelema Lodge members, friends, and guests assemble as
Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica each Sunday evening at 8:00 for a joyous
celebration of Aleister Crowley's gnostic mass. This weekly communion service
provides the best opportunity for visitors to meet the local Thelemic
community. When attending for the first time, contact the lodgemaster for
directions and additional information by calling (510) 652-3171 well in
advance of your visit. Our mass is a participatory ritual in which all
present work along with the officers throughout the celebration to instill
significance into the two elements of the consecrated talisman, which is then
activated for each person individually as, facing the priestess on the altar,
they consume their own "cake of light" (a small ginger cookie) and goblet of
wine. We encourage all communicants to study our gnostic liturgy and to learn
the roles of the officers. To serve as a deacon in the mass, make yourself
master of the part and then find a priestess and priest to work with,
rehearsing privately together until you function easily as a mass team, at
which point you are ready to request a date on the temple calendar, which is
kept by the lodgemaster.
---- Aleister Crowley, "The Seer"
|In the Arms of the Summer Sun
|O secret Rose!
O secret Flame!
|The west wind blows
The secret Name
|Into the ears
Of the wandering lights
|That love their fears
In the summer nights.
For anyone not completely absorbed in preparations for our upcoming ritual
cycle of the Rites of Eleusis (underway next month beginning with "The Rite of
Saturn" on Saturday evening 10th August), various study groups, classes, and
other shared endeavors continue around the lodge community this season, with
interested participants always welcome to become involved. Except where the
O.T.O. initiation rituals are being performed or discussed, lodge activities
are nearly all open to interested visitors and friends. Events here are free
of charge, although donations are always accepted to help defray costs.
A new monthly series of afternoon workshops for O.T.O. initiates
progressing through the Man of Earth degrees will be offered this summer at
Sirius Encampment, meeting in Berkeley on the final Sunday of each month. The
series opens with an afternoon dedicated to the Minerval degree, with
attendance limited to 0° initiates (and above). Our discussion will address
the historical symbolism of the degree, some implications of the oath and the
knowledge lecture, and a review of the signs, grip, and word with which the
ritual invests initiates. Chartered initiators and auxiliary officers are
welcome to share their experiences of the ceremony, but the workshop will be
oriented toward Minerval initiates seeking a fuller understanding of their
ceremonial reception into the Order to build upon that experience a foundation
for further advancement. Contact Glenn for additional information at (510)
Irregular attendance and the moving of Cheth House seem to have driven the
Maat-Tahuti reading circle back into Plato's cave of illusion for the time
being. Participants are continuing on their own to study the Platonic dialogues, with informal discussions whenever possible, but the fortnightly
gatherings around the ancient table in the great hall at Cheth House have been
suspended. Those still interested in participating with this enterprise are
welcome to contact the group at (510) 525-0666, to be included if regular
meetings are resumed. In the meantime, the current month's reading covers the
dialogues Gorgias, Hippias Minor, and Men. Enjoy.
Although not conducted under the auspices of the lodge, a weekly study
series on the Tarot, currently being led by Frater Baalam in Berkeley, is
highly recommended to members of the local Thelemic community. Entitled
"Masks of the Self," this lecture and discussion series devotes an entire
carefully organized and tightly prepared two-hour session to each of the cards
in turn. Meetings are hosted by the Companions of Monsalvat and held on
Thursday evenings at Ashby House, beginning (on time) at 8:00 (with latecomers
welcome to creep in). Contact Nathan at firstname.lastname@example.org for directions and
information, or consult the web-site at www.Monsalvat.org.
The calendar of classes and events is quite light this month at the
lodge, due in part to other committments and summer vacations planned by
various members. Contact the lodgemaster to discuss requests and proposals
for new events: classes, workshops, rituals, performances, outings,
demonstrations, or discussions, to suit the current interests of the community
On Monday evening 22nd July in the library at Thelema Lodge from 8:00 until
9:30, join Caitlin and the "Section Two" reading group for an evening with
Milton's, Paradise Lost. We will be reading selected passages from the epic
of Eden, and glancing back at the traditions Milton employed in reconstructing
this foundation myth of Western spirituality in the aeon of Osirus. Saint
William Blake believed that his favorite and most influential literary
precursor, John Milton, "was a true Poet and of the Devil's party without
knowing it" (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1793). Blake's gnostic
perspective may not have been precisely aligned with Milton's own very
heterodox variation upon Christianity in identifying the qabbalistic
transposition between the Messiah and the Serpent in Paradise Lost (1667), but
the acknowledgement of Satan as the romantic "hero" of the sacred epic was so
compelling for Blake's generation that a whole new genre of doomed but self-
defined protagonists emerged, from Goethe's Faust to Byron's Manfred and
Shelley's Prometheus. Milton followed the example of Torquato Tasso's Italian
epic of the first crusade, Jerusalem Delivered (completed about 1575), in
representing "the lost archangel" as a literary character with his own
psychological verisimilitude and dramatic motivation. In finally giving the
Devil his due, and letting him speak for himself from the outset of the poem,
Milton (much more so than Tasso before him) opened up the gnostic possibility
that readers might come to identify more strongly with the demonic spirit of
rebellious freedom than with the unalterable stability of divine righteousness
dwelling upon "high."
Milton sustained the grand epic voice in our language more clearly and
authentically than any other poet, and his influence has never been eclipsed.
Aleister Crowley saw Milton's achievement as part of a literary tradition
leading directly to his own poetic ideals: "Baudelaire and Swinburne, at their
best, succeed in celebrating the victory of the human soul over its
adversaries, just as truly as Milton and Shelley. I never had a moment's
doubt that I belonged to this school. To me it is a question of virility," he
writes in Confessions, chapter 17. Crowley read Paradise Lost in childhood,
and recorded these impressions from among his earliest encounters with poetry
in chapter 7 of his autohagiography: "Apart from the few regular pieces for recitation, there was Paradise Lost. This bored me for the most part as much as it does now, but allowed me to gloat over the figures of Satan and sin. After all, Milton was a great poet; and the subconscious artistic self of him was therefore bitterly antagonistic to Christianity. Not only is Satan the hero, but the triumphant hero. God's threats have not 'come off.' It is the forces of evil, so called, that manifest in strength and beauty of form. The glories of the saints are tinsel. It is impossible to draw goodness with character. On the Christian theory, goodness is, in fact, nothing but absence of character, for it implies complete submission to God. Satan's original fault is not pride; that is secondary. It springs from the consciousness of separateness. Now of course this is, mystically speaking, sinful, because the mystic holds that all manifestation is imperfection. Christian theology has not had sufficient logic to see, like its elder sister, Hindu theology, that any attributes soever must distinguish their possessor from some other possible being. But their instinct has been to go as far in that direction as possible and consequently the divine characters in Milton are comparatively colourless. Such was the transmutation in the nature of God effected by building a super-structure of Greek philosophy upon the foundation of the savage phantasm of Jehovah. My own attitude in the matter is to be seen in my aesthetic tendencies. I could never tolerate smooth, insipid beauty. The ugliness of decrepitude revolted me; but that of strength absorbed my whole soul. I despised the tame scenery of the Swiss lakes; the ruggedness of barren pinnacles of rock and the gloomy isolation of such lakes as Llyn Idwal appealed to my imagination. Wastwater disappointed me. It did not come up to the level of its poetic reputation. It was only when I got among the crags themselves that I was happy. I demanded to be at grips with death in one way or another. The bourgeois ambition to get through life without unpleasantness seemed to me the lowest vileness and entirely in keeping with the moral attitude of the heavenly people in Paradise Lost."
Previous Section Two Next Section Two
Mingling in the Godly Rout
All involved in this summer's twenty-third cycle of Aleister Crowley's
Rites of Eleusis are invited to a meeting with Caitlin on Monday evening 1st
July at 8:00 in the lodge library. All of the planetary "god-forms"
organizing the rites are asked either to attend or arrange to be represented
by someone involved with them in the production. Each of the rites should
have their venue arrangements finalized by this meeting, so that publicity
material can be prepared this month to advertise the complete cycle. Everyone
will also have a chance to hear about the casting and production progress of
each of the rites, to compare script revisions, and to share ideas for
costuming, music, and catering. These rites were originally intended to
showcase the performance talents of a particular body of members 92 years ago,
and sometimes need to be adapted to the available talents in our own
community. Live music is strongly recommended, along with ecstatic dancing
and inspired recitations. God-forms are requested to be ready to consult the
other ritualists about specific challenges facing their productions, so that
we can assist each other to make this a comfortably coordinated and
enthusiastically dedicated cycle of workings. In seven acts our variety show
of Eleusis demonstrates the majesty of each of the classical planetary gods,
and also dramatizes the downfall of each, as we draw down the energy through
the spheres to ground it in the great god Pan.
This little drama was originally published in The International (New York: 1918), pages 86-7. It was recently performed in Horus Temple by members of Thelema Lodge in celebration of the vernal equinox, anno IIIIx.
From the Coptic of IAO SABAO
by Aleister Crowley
In the blackness of infinite space are stars, Aldeboran, Gemini, Orion, Cor Leonis, accurately represented.
In the foreground is the top of a lemon-colored, luminous globe, around which is a set of darker rings, tilted at an angle of some 10 to 15 degrees sideways to the horizontal. Left, a tall man of green skin, clothed in a vast mantle of scarlet, with gold embroideries like flames; his right leg swings constantly in space upon the rim of the Ring. Left centre, a boy of bluish violet skin, clad fantastically in light yellow rays, plays upon the flute. Right, a woman, tawny orange, lies folded in her cloak of blue, which is adorned like the fan of a peacock.
Above, throned upon the globe, sits a man of immense size; his hair, his beard, his robe, his skin, are vast and snowy. The hair is rayed like a crown; the beard covers his whole body. His eyes, lost in the vastness of his face, are inky black.
His name is AOTH; that of the man, AROGOGOROBRAO; of the woman, ASSALONAI;
of the boy, ATHELEBERSETH.
Upon this scene the curtain rises. There is a long silence, while
AROGOGOROBRAO swings his leg.
ATHELEBERSETH (plays idly on the flute two or three short snatches, as in a
mood of boredom).
ASSALONAI (as if summing a long consideration, shaking her head slowly): No.
AROGOGOROBRAO (shrugs his shoulders heavily, then drops his head between
them): No. (A pause.) How much -- ah -- Time -- did you say had passed?
ASSALONAI: Eighty-eight thousand, three hundred and sixty-three millions,
five hundred and twelve thousand and forty-two aeons -- of aeons.
AROGOGOROBRAO: I still do not understand. But it is very little.
ASSALONAI: Before me there was no Time at all?
AROGOGOROBRAO: No. (A pause.) It was very peaceful.
ASSALONAI: I cannot understand what it can have been. There was no motion?
AROGOGOROBRAO: Of course not. It was all Now.
ASSALONAI: Yet nothing has happened, ever since I came, and Time began.
AROGOGOROBRAO: Only the journey of that comet by which you measure this time
ASSALONAI (brightly): Oh yes! Every billion times it comes back it changes
color a little: I count that one Wink. And a billion winks make a Flash,
and a billion Flashes make a Spark, and a billion Sparks make an Aeon.
AROGOGOROBRAO: It is clever. Yes. It is clever. But I do not see the use
ASSALONAI: But see! How useful it is now! Now that Athelebersath has come.
AROGOGOROBRAO: But it does not explain how he has come -- or why.
AROGOGOROBRAO (very badly): No. (A pause.) I do not understand even why you
came -- bringing Time.
ASSALONAI: No. He does not know?
AROGOGOROBRAO: No. He was asleep even in the Now.
ASSALONAI: He has never stirred. What is that -- "asleep"?
AROGOGOROBRAO: In the Now one either knows or knows not. AOTH knew not. I
ASSALONAI: But --
AROGOGOROBRAO: You think that I am a dream of AOTH? It may be.
ASSALONAI: And shall we not sleep again?
AROGOGOROBRAO: Who may say -- after that strange thing that came to us last
ASSALONAI (enthusiastic): That rushing sleep!
AROGOGOROBRAO: And we woke up to find ATHELEBERSETH and his flute.
ASSALONAI: Then only did we speak.
AROGOGOROBRAO: He gave us our names. He gave -- Him -- His name.
ASSALONAI: I do not think these are the true names. (ATHELEBERSETH plays a
short tune upon his flute, dancing.)
AROGOGOROBRAO: Names cannot be true. Silence is truth -- perhaps. This Time
of yours is all a lie. It means that things change. And true things
ATHELEBERSETH: Oh, tra-la-la! There was a foolish word. Change is itself
truth. I am sorry I invented speech -- or that I bestowed it on these
elder gods -- these beings without intelligence or experience.
AROGOGOROBRAO: Boy, you do not understand that the secret of Wisdom is in
knowing nothing, in saying nothing, and, above all, in doing nothing.
ATHELEBERSETH: True, since you broke silence then to say a foolish thing.
AROGOGOROBRAO: Ay, you are but the fruit of a great curse.
ASSALONAI: Nay, he amuses me. He is dear, he is delicate. I love his mirth,
AROGOGOROBRAO: It does not matter. AOTH will wake.
ATHELEBERSETH: Not he!
AROGOGOROBRAO: He will wake. He will see what he has done -- us. And he
will pass his hand over his brow -- and we shall be as if we had never
ATHELEBERSETH: How could that be? We are.
AROGOGOROBRAO (with a contemptuous little laugh): We are only the dreams of
AOTH. What has been is not. What is no more was not. There is no
substance, save only in the Now.
ATHELEBERSETH: Then it doesn't matter what we do.
AROGOGOROBRAO: No. Not in the Silence, the Now, the Truth.
ATHELEBERSETH: Then I will have a wonderful time! I will set fire to the
beard of AOTH!
AROGOGOROBRAO (grimly): You would wake Him -- and an End of your time!
ASSALONAI: What is End?
AROGOGOROBRAO: All would be Now -- but we should be Not.
ATHELEBERSETH: I don't believe it. It is all change. Change changes.
Change cannot cease to change. (He plays the flute.)
AROGOGOROBRAO: Play not so loud!
ATHELEBERSETH (alarmed): Is there really a danger?
AROGOGOROBRAO: For you, perhaps. It might be as fatal as if one should
pronounce IAO backwards. But I should not find an end. All this time is
terrible to me.
ATHELEBERSETH: All that is out of date.
ASSALONAI is delighted.
ASSALONAI: Are you sorry that I came?
AROGOGOROBRAO: No -- (A pause). Yes. (A pause) It is contrary to Truth, to
Silence. I am sorry.
ATHELEBERSETH (with a trill upon the flute): I am glad. I am going to play
AROGOGOROBRAO: What are "games"?
ATHELEBERSETH: See! You know nothing! I mean to make this old Ring spin.
After all, you are responsible. You made ASSALONAI; you made me.
AROGOGOROBRAO: I was lonely in the Now. I must have thought. I see that it
was wrong. I have set a star in motion. Who can say what may come of it?
ATHELEBERSETH: Oh, tra-la-la! Mother, let us play a game!
ASSALONAI (smiling and shaking her head): I do not know any games. I love;
that is all I know.
ATHELEBERSETH: You invented this game Time.
AROGOGOROBRAO: A fearful thing! Something evil will come of it.
ASSALONAI: Why should not good come of it?
AROGOGOROBRAO: I have told you. It was "good" in the Now -- (A pause) But I
did not know it. So I thought. Alas!
ATHELEBERSETH: Oh come! let us play a game! (Silence.) Then I must have a
sister to play with.
AROGOGOROBRAO: Already he plots evil.
ASSALONAI: Surely that is harmless enough.
AROGOGOROBRAO: I tell you that you do not know; you do not understand.
ASSALONAI: Oh! but you fear without reason.
AROGOGOROBRAO (with bitter contempt): Reason! I had Wisdom -- until I
ATHELEBERSETH: Come, she shall be all made of music.
He plays upon the flute. From the Ring, beneath his feet, arises BARRAIO,
a black hunchbacked dwarf, with a hooked nose, a hanging jaw, a single, bloodshot eye. She is dressed in rags of rusty red. ATHELEBERSETH screams with laughter as he sees her; ASSALONAI shudders in disgust; AROGOGOROBRAO
nods his head, as if that which he had foreseen had come to pass.
BARRAIO performs a dance of ever-increasing obscenity, which delights
ATHELEBERSETH as much as it disgusts the others. Presently she kisses him on the mouth. He is nauseated, and throws her back with a gesture of violent repulsion. She, screaming with laughter, produces from her rags a terrestrial globe.
ATHELEBERSETH (in surprise and horror): Oh!
ASSALONAI (in agony): Ah!
AROGOGOROBRAO (with hissing intake of the breath): Ih!
AOTH raises His hand, and draws it across His brow. Darkness. It clears for
one blinding flash as He opens His eye. He is alone.
Previous Crowley Classic Next Crowley Classic
from the Grady Project:
Originally published in The Magickal Link volume II, number 9 (September 1982), pages 1-2, this little essay is the conclusion to a series of monthly articles lately reprinted in these pages, whose combined title was "On Technical Information and Curriculum."
On the Physics of Metaphysics
by Hymenaeus Alpha 777
If some of you think my articles "On Technical Information and Curriculum"
are off the wall, wait until you get to comparing universes as an exercise in
theoretical alchemy. In that world all is fantasy; nothing but the equations
are real. Or, as Niels Bohr has been quoted as saying to an aspiring
physicist, "Young man, your idea is crazy, but it's not crazy enough to be
real." Welcome to the plenum.
Take, for example, the Hadit point of view: "One point is all points; all
points are one point." Imagine a laserium show: a single light source from
one krypton tube painting all the colors of the spectrum above you in the
planetarium. "Yep, folks, it's Allegory of the Cave time again! -- for those
of you who thoughtfully skipped Philosophy 1A, that is in Plato's Republic --
in which what we call reality is explained as a shadow-play on the screen,
while 'true' reality lurks behind the projector?" So who is behind the
projector? As in the movie Wizards. Who is the script writer? -- the
Director? -- the Producer? -- but most important of all, who is the audience? -- i.e. who is paying to see it? Well, you might ask your H.G.A. "who finds
added perfection when invoked by his client, the gold of Tiphereth" (col.
XVIII, the Empress Scale, 777 Revised). Whereupon we get into a lot of Rosy
Crosses (col. XLI), Mysteries of the Crucifixion (col. XLV) and so on. If so,
then the "hollow earth" theory is as true as any, since so far as your eyes
are concerned the universe is hollow like the Innocence of the God
Harpocrates, and everything you see is being maintained by a projected Force the Sages of India have referred to as the tanmantras, but which we prefer to
illustrate as the animated humanoid "programs" of the movie Tron. Show me the
difference. And if you want to see the Projector, all you have to do is look
at the Resh card in the Thoth deck or the tanka "Buddha in Meditation"
(Rietberg Museum, Zurich). Same-same.
Okay. Now let's try a universe of planes and islands. According to
Crowley, "the Tree of Life and the Thirty Aethyrs coincide only at certain
points." Let's run that down.
Notice that , "The Whirling Virgin Sun", is a description that will do
just as well for a beanie as Schechinah ( = 385), since it means a wheel
( = 66), and 50 = "curls" ( = 440) = white whorl ( = 412) = the
thousand-petaled lotus of the Sahasrara Chakra, since "one thousand" just
means "from then on" in this instance. Notice that the aethyrs are not in
sequence with the Sepheroth. Obviously they are coming in at an angle. A
third universe created by the interlacing of two others. How many more such
are there? And a mathematics based on a triangle (see Three of Disks, Thoth
deck) instead of a single point. Interesting thought.
| = 620
| = 80
| = 496
Same for the paths, starting from the top:
The only obvious point of coincidence being the Sixteenth Aethyr, LEA,
accommodating both Kether and Mars ( = 85 = Blasted Tower). Of course this
study is incomplete. You may find many more. But what are you going to do
with a universe of islands and planes? I suggest you study it and see how
Crowley related it to the study and development of your own psychic body.
The High Priestess
Speaking of which -- the study and development of the psychic body -- I
wonder if it has occurred to anyone in our State Department that the Russian
invasion of Afghanistan was a declaration of psychic warfare? Since we
Americans are not into developing the psychic body it would never occur to us
that the most valuable thing Afghanistan has to export is not oil but hashish.
This takes us back to the beginning of our tradition, when the Templars met
the Saracen during the Crusades and got turned on to a lot of groovy
condiments that are freely available to anyone in the Orient. But more of
this another time.
|Finished at THE FEAST OF THE BEAST AND HIS BRIDE
at Battery Alexander in the Marin Headlands.
May our tribe increase.
Previous Grady Project Next Grady Project
Studies in the
Gnostic Catholic Tradition
Some Ancient Savage Aptitude
Notes Toward a History of Ecclesiastical Nudity
by John Brunie
"The Gnostic Mass," as Crowley explains in his "New Comment" upon the Book
of the Law, "is intended to supply" the need for "some more or less open form
of worship suited for the laity." The basic direction is taken from the first
chapter of Liber AL, verse 62: "At all my meetings with you shall the priestess say -- and her eyes shall burn with desire as she stands bare and rejoicing in my secret temple -- To me! To me! calling forth the flame of the hearts of all in her love-chant." Crowley begins his commentary on this
verse by acknowledging its instructions as the "practical and literal" outline
for a gnostic liturgy in the new aeon. Obviously it would have been a serious
challenge, around 1904 e.v. when Liber AL was originally received, to
institute this sort of ecclesiastical nudity very openly, but Crowley was
looking forward to a time when with "the establishment of the Law something of
this sort may become possible. It is only necessary to kill the sense of
'sin,' with its false shame and its fear of nature." The "New Comment" goes
on to explore this conflict: "All those acts which excite the divine in man
are proper to the Rite of Invocation," he explains with regard to the next
verse. "Religion, as understood by the vile Puritan, is the very opposite of
all this," however, and such repression "seems to wish to kill" the life of
the spirit "by forbidding every expression of it, and every practice which
might awaken it to expression. To hell with this Verbotenism!"
"True Religion," continues the Liber AL Commentary, "is intoxication," and
"the word 'wine' should be taken in its widest sense as meaning that which
brings out the soul. Climate, soil, and race change conditions; each man or
woman must find and choose the fit intoxicant. Thus hashish in one or the
other of its forms seems to suit the Moslem, to go with dry heat; opium is
right for the Mongol; whiskey for the dour temperament and damp cold climate
of the Scot." For this reason the "ancients, both in the highest
civilizations, as in Greece and Egypt, and in the most primitive savagery"
constructed "their religious ceremonies" as "orgia." Unfortunately, the
reaction of "Puritan foulness, failing to understand what was happening," was
to misconstrue these mysteries "to mean debauches." The constitutional
prohibition of alcohol in the United States from 1919 to 1933 e.v. is singled
out in this comment as a drastic example of intolerance for religious freedom
based on Puritanical fear of spiritual expression. "Verbotenism has gone so
far in certain slave-communities that the use of wine is actually prohibited
by law! I wish here to emphasize that the Law of Thelema definitely enjoins
us, as a necessary act of religion, to 'drink sweet wines and wines that
foam.' Any free man or woman who resides in any community where this is
verboten has a choice between two duties: insurrection and emigration. The
furtive disregard of Restriction is not Freedom. It tends to make men slaves
and hypocrites, and to destroy respect for Law." (He did not point out --
although he might have -- that the "bare and rejoicing" priestess, which the
Law likewise "definitely enjoins," also constitutes "a necessary act of
religion" unto Nuit, however inconvenient or embarrassing some may find it.)
Crowley prepared our gnostic liturgy in the summer of 1913 e.v. to be
instituted as the "central ceremony of the public and private celebrations of
the O.T.O." Based upon passages from the Book of the Law and upon formulas of
magick taught by the progressive degrees of initiation in Ordo Templi
Orientis, the gnostic mass was thus constructed to serve a double function.
In its "public" aspect the mass sustains a community of celebration, keeping the Law of Thelema, and the phrases of our sacred texts, vital in the voices
of us all. At the same time the "private celebrations of the O.T.O." are
observed within each of the officers and communicants as individual encounters
with the gnosis, experienced by each person according to the specific training
each brings to the ritual and the unique enthusiasm each generates in
participation. Our mass is a celebration on two planes: public and private,
communal and individual, "openly in the marketplaces and secretly in the
chambers of our houses, in temples of gold and ivory and marble as in these
other temples of our bodies." Originally its author seems to have had some
doubt about possible conflicts and confusions between these two functions.
When early in 1918 e.v. Crowley -- serving as usual as his own editor -- first
published the canon of the gnostic mass in an "all drama" issue of the New
York monthly magazine The International, he did not include the central
direction in the ritual which explicitly fulfills Nuit's exhortation in the
Book of the Law. This direction, included first in the "blue" Equinox when
Crowley reprinted the mass a year later, is given just prior to the
Priestess's speech, in the words of Nuit, from the veiled altar: "During this
speech the Priestess must have divested herself completely of her robe. See
Taken in the "widest sense as meaning that which brings out the soul," the
nudity of the priestess in our mass is part of the essential intoxicating
"wine" of the ritual. Embodying the goddess of infinite space, "bare and
rejoicing," she celebrates the mysteries in the "secret temple" of Nuit. At
times when the ritual is presented "openly in the marketplaces," however, is
she likewise to flaunt her godhead so shamelessly? Crowley may worried about
the feasibility of such a display, and at the first great crisis in the mass,
as the priestess is about to be revealed in her glory, the "blue" Equinox text
contains an optional direction which seems intentionally ambiguous, and even
antithetical to the function of the ritual. This puzzling option comes just
as the altar curtain is parted by the priest at the climax of the "ceremony of
the opening of the veil." It reads: "The PRIEST parts the veil with his
lance. During the previous speeches the PRIESTESS has, if necessary, as in
savage countries, resumed her robe." (This direction had not been present in
the International text of the mass, which likewise lacked the instruction to
"divest" the goddess in the first place.)
Crowley's phrase about it being sometimes "necessary, as in savage
countries," to show no nudity seems quite odd, especially in light of the
commentary on AL I:62 just cited. In the "Comment" the distinction was drawn
between free Thelemic celebrants of the gnosis (on the one hand) and "slaves"
to "Puritan" fear (on the other). What has the concept of the "savage" to do
with either one of these opposing forces? (Are Puritans, however pathetic and
benighted, anything like savages? In many ways they seem sadder and less
savage than most Gnostics!) Thelemites in a position to resist repressive
Puritan measures seem to be directed here to guard their celebrations with
exactly that "furtive" compromise with "Restriction" which "tends to make men
slaves and hypocrites." We might easily read into these phrases the notion
that "Restriction" is the method by which "Puritan" forces recruit their
"slaves." Why does Liber XV seem to compromise so far in the direction of
We have very few details regarding Crowley's own efforts to institute Liber
XV as a regular celebration, either with his London O.T.O. temple early in
1914 e.v., or several years later at the Abbey of Thelema in Sicily. It seems
most likely that this paucity of accounts simply reflects his failure to get
an E.G.C. communion established at all. At any rate, the text was toned down
even further at this point when the mass was printed (for the third and final
time during Crowley's life) as an appendix to Magick in Theory and Practice in
1929 e.v. This edition, which ought to have been the definitive text of the
mass, has instead to be understood in the shadows of its historical period,
with specific reference to the challenges Crowley faced in getting MT&P
published commercially in the late '20s. Gerald Yorke, acting on Crowley's behalf to approach many of the leading British publishing houses with this
major new work by a renowned (if also infamous) author, encountered
considerable interest but no acceptance without substantial censorship of
certain "objectionable" passages. Generally Crowley took the long view and
resisted such cuts, knowing that the world would gradually grow up enough to
read his book; thus the first edition was eventually printed on its author's
own account and sold mostly by subscription. Somewhere along the way,
however, as the rejections piled up, significant deletions had been made in
the appended text of the gnostic mass. Thus in MT&P in the semi-chorus lines
of the Anthem, one of the couplets is simply missing: "Glory to Thee, beyond
all term, / Thy spring of sperm, thy seed and germ!" These lines have been
cut, leaving the sequence of the semi-choral parts so corrupted that this text
cannot be used in conjunction with previous editions by a congregation
celebrating the mass. In addition, although the direction for divestment
remains in the MT&P text before the Priestess's speech from the altar, it is
now countermanded by unambiguous instructions to put everything back on again
quick before anybody sees. Gone is the puzzling Equinox comment about "savage
countries," where now the direction reads simply: "During the previous
speeches the PRIESTESS has resumed her robe."
By the time of the "New Comment" Crowley could proudly note that Liber XV
"has been said continuously in California for some years." This practice --
which after nearly seventy years we still have going strong here -- began in
1933 e.v. (the year of the repeal of Prohibition). Attendance at the weekly
celebration of the "mass of the Gnostic Catholic Thelemites" (as new-comer
Grady McMurtry referred to it in his diary) seems to have been enough of a
challenge for most aspiring occultists of that time. Grady records taking his
"two girl-friends," Claire and Foxie, "over to Smith's to see the mass" for
the first time on Sunday 5th January 1941 e.v., with the women "nearly scared
to death" by the situation, and Grady himself unable to summon the courage to
communicate. Three weeks later (and after a long talk with Jack Parsons about
the O.T.O.) he was back, along with Jack and his wife Helen and Grady's close
friend Paul Freehaber, recording afterwards in his diary "Took the sacrament
for the first time." The sexual symbolism of the ritual was much discussed
among the members of Agape Lodge, but their mass reportedly never featured any
visible nudity. Wilfred Smith and later even Jack Parsons apparently took it
for granted that Los Angeles was one of those "savage countries" mentioned in
the Equinox, where it was "necessary" for the priestess to have "resumed her
robe" before the veil could be parted.
In publishing the canon of the gnostic mass, Crowley recognized that at
first there might be circumstances where some communicants would have
difficulties encountering the "bare and rejoicing" priestess specified by the
Goddess in Liber AL. In order to establish his new liturgy for the new aeon,
he was prepared to allow (and at last even seemed to enjoin) a compromise upon
this point, keeping the priestess vested when she was not veiled. Crowley (so
far as I can determine) did not specifically discuss the issue again, nor
acknowledge that his direction to clothe the priestess obscures an essential
element of the ritual. There were doubtless many communities at the opening
of the aeon -- certainly there are even some still today, although not around
here -- where extreme discretion would be necessary if an active gnostic
community were to maintain a public presence as a minority religion without
falling victim to repressive social conditions. But it remains unclear why
Crowley should have referred to such areas as "savage countries" -- instead of
"slave-communities," for example, or areas of "Puritan foulness" and
"verbotenism" (as he says in the "New Comment"). Perhaps his phrase about
"savage countries," in an emendation which appeared in print once only before
being deleted, was formulated not for the sake of clarity but in a spirit of
satire, simply using the word "savage" to mean "British," or "American," or
"Christian" (and therefore guilty, furtive, and repressive). If we examine Crowley's use of this term in other writings over the course of his life, we
find that its appearance in the mass here is typical of the moral and cultural
ambiguity which "savagery" held for the language of his times. Our Prophet
was after all a man educated in the social and racial paradigms which served
to sustain Britain's dominion over a world-wide empire, justifying the
assimilation and exploitation of those indigenous cultures identified as
"Savage" is for Crowley (judging from a computerized word-search of his
writings graciously provided by Bill Heidrick when I first proposed this
article many months ago) not always a term of abuse, although it does signify
a very basic sense of alienation. Ordinarily "savage" is used to mean that
which the writer himself, along with his presumed readership, is not. The
word comes from vulgar Latin "salvaticus" (out of the woods), from "silva"
(forest), meaning wild or uncultivated or rude. "Savage" implies, to begin
with, "primitive" people (or "brute" animals) and their behavior, although to
think of an indigenous culture as "primitive" suggests (without the least
evidence) that such a population is destined to "develop" into some more
"advanced" culture later on. The "savage tribes described by Frazer" (MT&P,
chapter 14) and the accounts by Burton of "his adventures among savages"
(Confessions) were among Crowley's favorite reading. The paradigm of the
"primitive savage," to which such works contributed, allowed colonial powers
to relate to isolated, non-technological populations as if they were "earlier"
versions of themselves, who they were thus justified in treating like
children. During the Renaissance "age of exploration," European myths and
archetypes concerning the "savage" aspects of humanity had been systematically
projected onto previously unknown cultures all over the world, with widely
varying results that have continued to influence issues of "globalization," as
much for Crowley's generation as for our own.
To be "savage" is to be bound by ritual and custom, to be unable to escape
the superstitions with which one was raised, to be trapped in repetition,
unable to experiment, unable to learn or develop. Because the proverbial
"savage" leads a life which is obsessively bound by ritual and taboo, the term
can come to mean for Crowley the opposite of "Thelemite" (which implies the
mastery of ritual as a technique for the working of the individual will), just
as for others "savage" meant the opposite of their British civilized
refinement, or the opposite of their Christian moral arrogance. In one of his
1917 e.v. wartime propaganda essays Crowley writes of "our progress from the
savage state toward the Brotherhood of Man." The essence of "savagery" is a
failure to emerge from the abyss of primal ignorance; those who remain
uncultivated by social systems of self-awareness live continually in fear of
any disruptions in their patterns of familiarity. In Book Four he recommends
Liber Jugorum for the development of "those inhibiting centres in the brain
which are, according to some psychologists, the mainspring of the mechanism by
which civilized man has raised himself above the savage". To remain in or
revert to "savagery" may constitute a refusal to learn, almost an opting out
of the running in the human race along its evolutionary path toward a complex
enlightened power of understanding.
"Savages" are those whose understanding is so limited that they take all
reports literally, and thus the word becomes for Crowley a synonym for
"fundamentalist." "The savage has none but the most simple association of
ideas," he writes in Book Four. Unlike those who are "enlightened and
mystical," the "savage," along with "modern so-called literalists," cannot
comprehend any meaning beyond the bare words of a text (Liber 888). Lacking
concepts for the analysis of motivation, and unable to assimilate ambiguity of
intention, the "savage" is unable to partake in the play of meaning, or the
figures of speech, which enable cultivated speakers to share the fine details
of their individual concepts and experiences. Refined and free discourse
depends ultimately upon the sense of mutual respect which is shared amongst
the participants, and "savage" behavior signifies an impulse toward brutal and arbitrary power which is the failure of such respect leading gradually to the
collapse of culture.
"Savages" are the forces of slavish conservatism and dull unquestioned
repetition. They fear criticism and investigation because they cannot see
beyond the practical operations of the systems in which they live; thus they
resist the understanding of others and any spiritual techniques which are
beyond their experience. These they oppose with violence and rage and fierce
desperate strength, acknowledging no alternative which could form the basis
for development, or progress, or compromise. Christianity and "savagery"
clearly emerge as parallel traditions, amounting to much the same thing.
Missionaries only manage to convert the stupider natives, who lack the
cultural resources to sustain any opposition to their foreign trickery.
"Where ignorant savages perform propitiatory rites, there and there only
Christianity takes hold," says Crowley in the (banned) "Gilles de Rayes"
essay. Indeed all of the rituals of the old time, the superseded religious
traditions which allowed insufficient scope to the sanctity of the individual
will, partake of savagery: "The splendid savage Jehovah is sane enough and
grand enough for nomadic Israel" (preface to The World's Tragedy).
Christianity developed out of "the transmutation in the nature of God effected
by building a superstructure of Greek philosophy upon the foundation of the
savage phantasm of Jehovah" (Confessions).
Conditions of "savagery" are those which limit freedom, whether of the self
or of others. Crowley writes that Americans abroad seem "desperately anxious
to make the Cingalese wear furs, and the Tibetans vote, and the whole world
chew gum, utterly dense to the fact that most other nations, especially the
French and British, regard 'American institutions' as the lowest savagery, and
forgetful or ignorant of the circumstances that the original brand of American
freedom -- which really was Freedom -- contained the percept to leave other
people severely alone, and thus assured the possibility of expansion on his
own lines to every man" (Commentary on Liber AL). "Savagery" thus becomes a
metaphor for social restriction, and since even the most sophisticated
cosmopolitan societies seem to limit some individual freedoms, "savage"
society comes by extension to represent society in general. Speaking of "the
Tabus of savage tribes in such matters as Love" and how they "constrain that
True Love which is born in us" and so cause "ills of Body and Mind" (Liber
Aleph), Crowley is not referring only to foreigners (nor would such constraint
ever hinder "the savage monkey leaping on his mate" in one of his early
poems). Like some other world travelers, Crowley sometimes enjoyed pointing
out the savage qualities of his homelands, and he seems to have taken
particular joy in revealing the "savagery" of England (and America). He
recalls a comment by a "witty Irishman" in India that "the Hindu, with all his
faults, was civilized, like the Frenchman; the Musulman, with all his virtues,
was, like the Englishman, a savage" (Works, vol. 2). The parallel between
primitive and advanced savages frequently amused Crowley, for example with
"the swilling of the savage as he crams his enemy's raw liver into his mouth,
or tilts the bottle of trade gin, and gulps" (Liber AL Commentary).
"Savage," on the other hand, also comes to mean a kind of freedom from the
accretions of culture, and specifically from the encumbrance of possessions.
In the K2 expedition Crowley was criticized by his mountaineering mentor for
exceeding the weight limit with his personal baggage due to the books
(including Paradise Lost) which he required his porters to carry up for him.
"Eckenstein wanted me to leave behind my library. His theory of travelling in
wild countries was that one should temporarily become an absolute savage; but
my experience had already shown me that man shall not live by bread alone, but
by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Confessions, chapter
37), and although it would be too much to "say that I couldn't have stood the
Baltoro glacier in the absence of Milton and the rest," it did seem to him at
the time that just about everyone else up there who hadn't brought anything to
read had begun to go mad (from altitude sickness, which was barely understood
back then). There is an especially interesting reference in a 1909 e.v. article on mountaineering, where Crowley identifies as "presumably a relic of
some ancient savage aptitude" his own intuitive feeling at one point that he
is being observed from the rear. This "ancient savage aptitude" is a
praeternatural awareness "which most people will recognize:" the "curious
certitude that there was somebody behind." Unseen, unheard, the unknown
intruder may be subtilely detected by a magician sufficiently in touch with
the animal powers of his proto-human heritage. "Eckenstein had all the
civilized qualities and I had all the savage ones," he says with relish in
Confessions, and Crowley was proud of such skills, going on to boast that he
had "several other savage faculties: in particular, I can smell snow and
As might be expected from To Mega Therion, not all usages of so strong
and animal a word as this in Crowley's writings are negative, or even
alienated. "O! warriors, ye cannot be too savage, to barbarous, too strong"
(Temple of Solomon the King). In the modern admiring stance explored by
nature mystics such as D. H. Lawrence, "savage" may mean "wild" in a positive
sense, splendidly alive and strong, indomitable, a power within the system of
nature, as seen in the
. . . curves
Subtle as breasts and limbs and tresses
Of this caressed suave sorceress's
That raves and rests in wildernesses
Whose giant gifts are strength that scars
Her soul and lifts her to the stars,
Savage, and tenderness that tunes
Her spirit's splendour to the moon's,
And music of passion to outrun
The fiery fashion of the sun.
-- Liber 335
The Liber Reguli instructions tell us that "Aiwaz should be visualized as 'a
tall dark man in his thirties, well-knit, active and strong, with the face of
a savage king!"
The primitive impulses of others are more difficult to appreciate, of
course, particularly "the savage instinct to stamp on anything that seemed to
them sensitive." There is frequently a distinction in the term "savage" from
the increased ability of the disciplined, systematic, technological mind in
controlling more powerful systems. Crowley notes that "just as the trained
athlete is superior to the savage, so is the magic of Osirus stronger than the
magic of Isis" (Across the Gulf). His own "first occult studies," were
conducted "under circumstances of romantic and savage interest" (Works, vol.
Crowley seems happiest in using the word "savage" reflexively to mean the
opposite of what it is usually assumed to imply. With such wide-ranging
usage, the powerful -- even perhaps uncontrollable -- word "savage" cannot
certainly be said to have any one specific meaning as used in the "blue"
Equinox text of the gnostic mass.
(To be continued)
Thelema Lodge Events Calendar for July 2002 e.v.
|Rites of Eleusis Planning Meeting
8:00PM Horus Temple
|Gnostic Mass 8:00PM Horus Temple
|New Moon in Cancer 3:26 AM
|Gnostic Mass 8:00PM Horus Temple
|Gnostic Mass 8:00PM Horus Temple
|Section II reading group with
Caitlin: John Milton's Paradise Lost
8PM in library
|Full Moon in Aquarius 2:07 AM
|OTO Initiations. Call to attend
|Gnostic Mass 8:00PM Horus Temple
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