Tag Archives: holy books

How to Kill a Dragon

How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics by Calvert Watkins, a 1995 paperback from Oxford University Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Calvert Watkins How to Kill a Dragon from Oxford University Press

“In How to Kill a Dragon Calvert Watkins follows the continuum of poetic formulae in Indo-European languages, from Old Hittite to medieval Irish. He uses the comparative method to reconstruct traditional poetic formulae of considerable complexity that stretch as far back as the original common language. Thus, Watkins reveals the antiquity and tenacity of the Indo-European poetic tradition.

Watkins begins this study with an introduction to the field of comparative Indo-European poetics; he explores the Saussurian notions of synchrony and diachrony, and locates the various Indo-European traditions and ideologies of the spoken word. Further, his overview presents case studies on the forms of verbal art, with selected texts drawn from Indic, Iranian, Greek, Latin, Hittite, Armenian, Celtic, and Germanic languages.

In the remainder of the book, Watkins examines in detail the structure of the dragon/serpent-slaying myths, which recur in various guises throughout the Indo-European poetic tradition. He finds the ‘signature’ formula for the myth—the divine hero who slays the serpent or overcomes adversaries—occurs in the same linguistic form in a wide range of sources and over millennia, including Old and Middle Iranian holy books, Greek epic, Celtic and Germanic sagas, down to Armenian oral folk epic of the last century. Watkins argues that this formula is the vehicle for the central theme of a proto-text, and a central part of the symbolic culture of speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language: the relation of humans to their universe, the values and expectations of their society. Therefore, he further argues, poetry was a social necessity for Indo- European society, where the poet could confer on patrons what they and their culture valued above all else: ‘imperishable fame.'” — back cover

A Concordance to the Holy Books of Thelema

A Concordance to the Holy Books of Thelema by Hermetic Library fellow Colin Campbell, the 2008 hardcover limited to 418 copies from Teitan Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Colin Campbell Richard Kaczynski A Concordance to the Holy Books of Thelema from Teitan Press

“‘The Holy Books of Thelema,’ is the collective name given to the group of inspired texts received by Aleister Crowley between the years 1904 and 1911. These texts lie at the very heart of the teachings of his magical fraternity, the A∴ A∴, and consequently have been the subject of intense study and commentary by Crowley himself, and also by many of his students.

A Concordance to the Holy Books of Thelema is an important new tool for those engaged in the study of these beautiful and enigmatic books. It comprises a survey of every word in these texts, along with a brief quotation to give the context in which each word is used, and the location in which it appears.

On the most basic level A Concordance to the Holy Books of Thelema serves as a convenient reference guide or index to the contents of The Holy Books. More importantly, it provides a level of access to the basic elements of the structure and composition of the texts that no conventional reading would afford. Key words and their frequencies of use become apparent, broader usage patterns are revealed, and the identification of particular phraseologies and idioms is simplified. The new paths of exploration that it opens for those with knowledge of the Kabbalah and Gematria are too numerous to list.

The Concordance includes an Introduction by the compiler, Colin D. Campbell, a student and teacher of the Thelemic, Kabbalistic, and Enochian magickal systems, and a Foreword by Crowley biographer and scholar, Dr. Richard Kaczynski.”

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

The Holy Books of Thelema

The Holy Books of Thelema, containing the Class A libri by Aleister Crowley, is part of the collection at the Reading Room. This is the 1988 paperback published as Equinox III 9 by Weiser.

Aleister Crowley's The Holy Books of Thelema, or Equinox III 9, from Weiser

 

 

The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.

My Life with the Fill Kill Kult

You may have felt a tremor within the normally calm and placid Thelemic community lately over the words “fill” and kill” as they appear, or not, in the Book of the Law, Chapter III Verse 37. I’ve seen a number of people arrive on the site and blog looking for information about a recent proposed textual change in this core Thelemic document. I thought I’d pull together some notes and references about this for those who might be interested in reading such things in context or who are curious. I also ramble a bit, which rambles are, of course, nothing more than my own thoughts, occurring to me at this particular time …

Unicursal Fill Me Kill Me poster
FILL ME KILL ME

News

Embedded in a recent April 10, 2013 update (the previous update was posted back in June 2008!) to the international Ordo Templi Orientis news pages was a comment about some marginalia in a copy of the 1909 single-volume edition of ΘΕΛΗΜΑ (Thelema, or The Holy Books of Thelema) acquired from a significant James Thomas Windram Accession:

… the book includes several early comments on verses of Liber Legis (a few of which are important), as well as a very important text correction to Liber CCXX III:37 which resolves a longstanding textual difference between three sources: (1) the versification of the Stèle of Revealing from a now-lost vellum notebook, which was published with the reading “kill me!” in The Equinox I(7) (1912) and The Equinox of the Gods (1936); (2) a quotation (“fill me!”) given in a pencil note to Liber XXXI, the MS. of Liber AL, giving directions for the extent of the quotation to be inserted from a contemporary vellum notebook; and (3) the editions of Liber Legis published by Crowley, all of which gave “fill me!”. In this copy Crowley’s marginal holograph note clearly corrects “fill me!” to “kill me!” in the text of Liber CCXX.

Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) News

So, look for the next edition of The Holy Books of Thelema to include this change and perhaps some additional notes derived from the newly available marginalia from that acquisition. And, there were a number of interesting bits about other pending publications in that new update, so it’s great to have something like this textual change to distract people from that, especially since this offers a nice change from the generally unanswered constant complaints about various books being out of print or unavailable.

Provenance

The speed at which this change has rippled around the community is pretty striking, and also very familiar.

Recently, for example, in the last year, there was a document being called “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” which was put forth as being written historical evidence that referenced a wife of Jesus. Of course, the saga of that fragment of papyrus was one of rapid fame that was steadily eroded by the work of a number of careful and considered critics. (That is actually a very interesting saga, if you didn’t keep track of it. It is also an example of the kind of similar things that happen periodically.)

What has been presented so far is a textual statement about what does seem to be solid provenance accompanied by some rather poor photographs in which it was largely impossible to see any details. I’m not saying that the evidence presented is faked as I’m in no position to know one way or the other. Certainly, I tend to believe the statement of a respected Crowley scholar and the head of an order in which I am a member about his belief in regard to the item and the details of the provenance, but it is important to remember that even experts can be mistaken.

But, with that said, I’m of the mind to assume that the marginal note is genuine and go from there. I just wanted to point these reasonable academically-minded considerations out to those who tend to leap on such news without being careful about it.

Equinox I / The Temple of Solomon the King / Equinox of the Gods

If one looks at Equinox I vii, one will find that in The Priest from the serialization of The Temple of Solomon the King, this verse of Crowley poetry appears with the final line, “Aum! let it kill me!”:

I am the Lord of Thebes, and I
The inspired forth-speaker of Mentu;
For me unveils the veiled sky,
The self-slain Ankh-f-n-Khonsu
Whose words are truth. I invoke, I greet
Thy presence, o Ra-Hoor-Khuit!

Unity uttermost showed!
I adore the might of Thy breath,
Supreme and terrible God,
Who makest the gods and death
To tremble before Thee: —
I, I adore thee!

Appear on the throne of Ra!
Open the ways of the Khu!
Lighten the ways of the Ka!
The ways of the Khabs run through
To stir me or still me!
Aum! let it kill me!

The Priest in The Temple of Solomon the King

This is the version which I used for the poem on the page about the Stèle of Revealing, so the version that appears there has read “kill” for some time both in print and on the site.

This final line is also in the text of the book Equinox of the Gods, largely a reprinting of the relevant parts of The Temple of Solomon the King. Previously, the version of Liber AL vel Legis that was part of the Equinox of the Gods pages on the library site was elided in favour of pointing people to other pages, but I have now restored this specific version from the old text files, so there now appears there that full version of Liber AL vel Legis using the word “kill” and I will finish formatting it soon for improved presentation.

The Holy Books of Thelema & c.

In many printed versions of The Book of the Law: Liber Al Vel Legis (such as the 2004 centennial edition, and others) and in The Holy Books of Thelema, edited by Hymenaeus Beta, published in 1983 as Equinox III ix, the text of Liber CCXX, Chapter III 37 [also] appears with the final line “Aum! let it fill me!”:

I adore thee in the song—

I am the Lord of Thebes, and I
The inspired forth-speaker of Mentu;
For me unveils the veilèd sky,
The self-slain Ankh-af-na-khonsu
Whose words are truth. I invoke, I greet
Thy presence, O Ra-Hoor-Khuit!

Unity uttermost showed!
I adore the might of Thy breath,
Supreme and terrible God,
Who makest the gods and death
To tremble before Thee:—
I, I adore thee!

Appear on the throne of Ra!
Open the ways of the Khu!
Lighten the ways of the Ka!
The ways of the Khabs run through
To stir me or still me!
Aum! let it fill me!

This is the version that has been generally, until now, preferenced at the library, for the most part. And, since it is the version that appears in the Technical Libers of Thelema directory, it has been signified as the canonical version, of the several across the site. The two primary versions of this text that appear on the site, both in the Aleister Crowley and Liber Legis sections, were proofed by me recently against the 1983 edition of The Holy Books of Thelema and thus tend to conform to that rendering. Both of these currently show “fill” for III 37.

Manuscript

In Equinox I x there were facsimile versions of the manuscript pages from which the typescripts have been produced. Of course, as instructed in the Book of the Law itself, the images of these manuscript pages should be included with any typed text. I have versions of the manuscript for Liber XXXI both with my own transcription (which I did as a personal project) and a version without transcription. Also, there is a transcription over in the Eidelons of Ash as well.

MS of Liber Legis, Chapter 3 page 10
MS of Liber Legis, Chapter 3 page 10

37 I adore thee in the song
“I am the Lord of Thebes” & c from vellum book
Unity –
— “fill me”

MS chapter 3, page 10 – AL (Liber Legis)

So, the actual manuscript of the Book of the Law does not include more than the suggestion of the first and last couple words from the section of poem intended, but rather includes it by reference from a now lost vellum notebook. However, you will note that this does mean, even if the rest of the poem isn’t, “fill me” is in the manuscript. On that same manuscript page appear both initial ‘f’ and ‘k’ glyphs to which this can be compared, if one is curious about that.

The Comment

One of the amusing twists to this is that The Comment, or the Tunis Comment, would appear to clearly warn us away, and perhaps inoculate us, from this very kind of centum-satem struggle over textual interpretation that might lead to schism or in-fighting, but what if, as in this case, the actual text to which one might appeal is itself in question?

All questions of the Law are to be decided only by appeal to my writings, each for himself.

The Comment

The Old and New Comment

No comment by Crowley really has much to say about the verse in question, and one might take a message from that, or no. The Old Comment is just a note that these lines come from the Stèle, which is perhaps important to saying that the poetry is not integral to the text of the book itself.

“36-38. Mostly translations from the stele.” [via]

The New Comment does offer at least some additional reflection and sense to the verse.

“Stanza 3 suggests the Rosicrucian Benediction:
May thy Mind be open unto the Higher!
May thy Heart be the centre of Light!
May thy Body be the Temple of the Rosy Cross!” [via]

Of the three stanzas in this verse of the book, the end of stanza 3 is exactly the place in question, so this comment is particularly relevant in offering a sense of the words; and, one can decide for themselves if the comment or the notion of a Rosicrucian Benediction suggest a sense more suited to “fill” or “kill” in the last line.

D

The Djeridensis, or D, Comment on the Book of the Law is particularly terse in relation to the third chapter:

“The first two chapters of this Book describe Ideas without limit; the third concerns a fixed Event due to one union of them, namely the coming of

HERU-RA-HA.

The contents of the chapter are instructions to those who are to govern His Aeon in His Name; and these rulers will appeal to me The Beast 666 for a comment upon the text when need is.” [via]

The suggestion here appears that the third chapter is about “union” and thus, perhaps, particularly relevant and reflective to the way that something as seemingly simple as a word change can create division and conflict.

The Translations

In addition to checking out the various Crowley comments, I had the idea to check out the translations of the Stèle to see if there was something interesting there to add. Crowley had a translation done of the Stèle and a newer, more up to date translation was done as part of The Holy Books of Thelema, Equinox III ix. Those may be interesting to take a look at, but, unfortunately, from my reading neither offer clear source for the section of Crowley’s poem in question. The section of the poem where this change occurs seems to be one derived from something other than the direct text of the Stèle itself; and thus the Stèle text does not seem to offer a clear reference tending to support one or the other word in the Crowley poem.


Unicursal My Life With The Fill Kill Kult poster

MY LIFE WITH THE FILL KILL KULT

A is Not A

One of the complications that makes this minor textual change of a single word such a potentially big deal is that the wording in question appears in relation to a “Class A” document.

As previous noted, the poetry pre-existed the reception of the Book of the Law. The poetry was only included by reference within the actual manuscript. Including the entire poem within any subsequent typescript was itself an innovation and change over the hand-written manuscript.

One document classification for Thelemic text is “Class A”, or Holy Books of Thelema, and the description of this classification should help make clear why just the idea of making a change, even without considering that the Book of the Law also contains an internal proscription against changes.

“Class “A” consists of books of which may be changed not so much as the style of a letter: that is, they represent the utterance of an Adept entirely beyond the criticism of even the Visible Head of the Organization.” — A Syllabus of the Official Instructions of the A∴A∴

Therefore, a “Class A” document is intended as inviolate and unchangeable. Typically, both Liber CCXX and Liber XXXI are classified as “Class A” documents as released by A∴A∴.

However, even if one were to take the typescript text of the Book of the Law as a “Class A” document issued under the authority of A∴A∴, like the various other cases where one class of document co-exists with others, it might be important to recognize that the poetry is not directly included in Liber Legis, except by transclusion. One might consider the poetry from the Stèle to be something other than “Class A”, and not particularly, therefore, immune to changes either by virtue of being “Class A” or even, since it was not, by direct inclusion in the Book of the Law itself self-protected from change.

The Wisdom of Robert C Stein

I’m also reminded here of Bob Stein’s presentation at NOTOCON VII, “Liber XXXI and Liber CCXX, Liber L, The Book of the Law“, which leads me to the suggestion that it is, perhaps, not even Liber CCXX which is Class A, but rather only the actual manuscript, Liber XXXI, which should be considered Class A. Thus, the poem from the Stèle is clearly excluded from protection from changes by any virtue of classification as Class A or as part of Liber Legis, since it would be neither.

Somewhat facetiously, the other day, I joked to someone that perhaps Thelemites should have Books of the Law with only the reproductions of the manuscript and not the typescript at all …

Atemporal Truth

One of the interesting tendencies that I think I’ve noticed in this recent turn of events is a kind of anachronistic memory hole where an instant event is taken to colour every other moment in time. The one thing that the news from O.T.O. suggests is that at the time of the marginal note, in what purports to be the handwriting of Crowley, there was a correction to the printed text. This, in and of itself, is a fact, not a proof. It is evidence used to derive a conclusion. The conclusion that seems to be most quickly announced is that any deviation from the handwritten correction was a typo, or mistake; whether before or after that moment in time the note was made.

I thought I’d like to see a bit of a timeline of when things where one way or the other, so I quickly sketched out for myself a list of just a couple points in time. From the evidence, here’s a few not-exhaustive points in time with corresponding statements that can be made about this particular line of text.

1904 ??? in the missing and presumed lost vellum notebook
1904 “fill” in Liber Legis MS
1909 “fill” in Thelema / The Holy Books of Thelema
aft 1909 – bef 1913 “fill” hand corrected via marginal note to “kill” in THELEMA
1912 “kill” in The Priest from The Temple of Solomon the King, Eq I vii
1936 “kill” in The Equinox of the Gods
1983 “fill” in The Holy Books of Thelema, Equinox III ix

However, during these period there are also attested contemporaneous oral teaching that has delivered the text of the poem as “fill” for over 40 years, even during periods when textual evidence might suggest otherwise.

But, it does appear that during Aleister Crowley’s lifetime the text changed at least once from “fill” to “kill” after 1909 and before 1913. It also appears that there was after his death a change from “kill” to “fill” after 1936 and before 1983.

Curiously, the person who was in charge of many of the posthumous editions of Crowley’s work during the period when this seems to have entered publication is now pointing out this change as a mistake. So, for context, this recent change may be a form of admission of a mistake, and understood as the natural and normal attempt to correct the text based on developing understanding of facts.

We have always been at war with Eastasia

What seems clear to me from the timeline is that this particular text was at no time “always” one way or the other. There are multiple points in time, some while Crowley was alive and some after his death, when this particular line changed in the published texts. To consider either “fill” or “kill” to have always been the case would be a mistake and hyperbole.

Respect Ma Authoritah!

Another complication to this particular issue is one of authority. In some ways, the long-standing question of authority within the Thelemic community, which has seemed to cool and calm a bit in the last few years, is merely exacerbated by this recent development, but changing anything about a core, one could say the core, document in a tradition is liable to irritate wounds that have not fully healed.

The issue of authority that I’ve heard might be summed up by pointing out that the Book of the Law, Liber Legis, was released under the authority of Crowley’s esoteric teaching order A∴A∴. The Outer Head of the Order, O.H.O., who is currently Frater Superior Hymenaeus Beta, is charge of O.T.O. internationally and is also the Crowley scholar who’s authored the news announcement making the discovery and apparently decision about the authoritative reading of “kill” over “fill” … only technically he’s not in charge of A∴A∴. Although, to be sure, there has been a generally close relationship between O.T.O. and the A∴A∴ as presenting itself publicly via outercol.org. However, only a little research will surface how the question of authority over A∴A∴ is in various degrees of dispute, as, historically, so too with O.T.O. itself. And, although O.T.O. was given the copyrights, that doesn’t necessarily also give the organizational authority over the spirit of them.

So, the announcement about the authoritative reading of “kill” was by someone other than in direct and clear authority over documents that were released under the auspices of A∴A∴, and exactly who could be that authority could be seen as in dispute.

Litmus Test of Loyalty

One of the most disturbing aspects of these current events, at least for me, is the degree of exuberance with which partisans on either extreme have had in their leaping to the ramparts on this issue. Unfortunately as disturbing as it may be, it is by equal measure not at all surprising.

This seems to have become a kind of loyalty test, and one where differences of opinion are taken to be failures of moral character. This leads to both direct, indirect and internalized censoring of ideas and thoughts in the community. Authoritarian control over ideas is one of the core criteria on schedules designed to identify dangerous cults, so there seems to me a slippery slope forming under some people’s feet.

And, I’ve already heard disturbing rumours of people being told by some authority, or someone purporting to represent authority, not to post or “like” certain things on social networks … I’ve personally experienced back channel harassment from certain antagonistic members who, desperate to assume some importance, take it upon themselves to represent their opinion as that of others, or of some authority, and that’s bad enough; but, it seems entirely another matter if actual authority is being used to silence people …

Reactionary Antagonists

Whether it’s reactionary haters or reactionary loyalists, there seem to be many of the same sectarian lines being drawn on this issue as there are on any issue whatsoever. The reactionary factions and sectarians can all agree to duel to the death, for all I care, and I kinda wish they would, but somewhere isolated I hope. However, there also seem to be normally reasonable people becoming upset as well, not to mention the rest caught in the middle.

One aspect of this that touches closely to home for me is that as the librarian of Hermetic Library no matter what I do about maintaining the site both extreme sides will take issue. There’s a few voices who will slag the library any chance they get, of course, and rationalize their consuming hatred in some fashion when presenting it to others in an attempt to make themselves seem reasonable; when the core of it is a pattern of abuse not directly connected to any particular issue. So, to them I really don’t need to respond nor on them do I particularly care to waste energy; because they’ll continue their pattern of behaviour no matter what.

For everyone else, my current stance is that I’ve several places where I maintain at the library versions with “kill” and several where I maintain “fill”. The documents where these appear, respectively, are those in which they appear in the timeline I previous outlined. And, to that end, one of the things I’ve done is to restore the text of Liber AL vel Legis that was part of the Equinox of the Gods pages, where it previously had not been included in favour of a link to another location on the site.

Suggestions

So, from what I’ve described it should be clear that the typescript has changed over the years, and bodies of practice have been developed around various versions, regardless of what at any one time the typescript has suggested or no. Therefore, for one’s personal practice it seems primarily a matter of choice. In the same way that there are multiple version of the Gnostic Mass, published at different times with various differences; so too is the versification of the Stèle something which has changed from time to time.

One of the main places where this versifaction is used is in the practice of Liber Resh. There are already, even without this issue, variations in the celebration of Liber Resh including which grade signs are used and in how or if one composes oneself to holy meditation; not to mention the minor variations of timing and so forth. The versioning of the Stèle versification is just one more variation among many others in the overall tradition.

Another example of a bit of poetry that is transcluded within another document is within the Gnostic Mass. The first and father Anthem for the Gnostic Mass is not only from but is modified from how it appears in the play, The Ship. Not only is this included in modified form, but is also replaceable by another anthem, if one has permission to do so, but there are already variations on the words used introduced by local bodies, based on the premise that the transcluded poetry of the Anthem is not a canonical part of the Gnostic Mass, and, therefore one will often hear some mixture of people who say “Glory and worship be to Thee” and others “Glory and worship unto Thee” in almost any celebration. Anyhow, my point is, there’s an example of differences, from the original and from versions, in a transcluded poetry coexisting in the overall tradition.

I suggest that it is both true that the “Class A” manuscript says “fill” and at the same time that the poetic rendering of the Stèle has been at various times “fill” or “kill”.

It seems to me those who take an immovable stand on the issue one way or the other are probably using this issue as an excuse for something else, as an ersatz catalyst for a conflict they were already feeling and needed some way to rationalize their expression. I mean this of both those who are reactionary naysayers as well as those who are reactionary advocates. A plague on both your houses.

One might even point out the rest of the poem from the Stèle as it appears in Chapter III Verse 37 and suggest this is an opportunity for “Unity uttermost showed!”, supported by the overall synthesis of points of view in the 3rd chapter, in the spirit of union; this is not a time to get stuck in 1st or 2nd chapter extremes, unable to grow up or out of ego and into a New Aeon.

Independence
Is still important for us though (we realise)
It’s easy to make
The stupid mistake
Of letting go (do you know what I mean)

My weaknesses
You know each and every one (it frightens me)
But I need to drink
More than you seem to think
Before I’m anyone’s
And you know

It’s a question of lust
It’s a question of trust
It’s a question of not letting
What we’ve built up
Crumble to dust
It is all of these things and more
That keep us together

— Depeche Mode

Kill Me!

Hermetic Library fellow Colin Campbell has a new post about the recent update from OTO Grand Lodge that includes a new development in the long-standing issue of Aleister Crowley‘s poetic rendering of the Stele of Revealing offering two versions in print, and as it appears transcluded within the Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, over on his blog at “Kill Me!” And, makes note also of how this relates to The Concordance of the Holy Books of Thelema:

“For those of you kind enough to have purchased The Concordance of the Holy Books of Thelema, all of the proceeds of which go to USGL, incidentally, this means striking verse III:37 from page 248 and adding it to the bottom of 258 under “kill”. For those of you that have not yet obtained a copy, there are more available, so you should definitely purchase one and then make the correction.” [via]

Excerpt from The Argument That Took the Wrong Turning

Here’s an excerpt, pages 1–8, from The Argument That Took the Wrong Turning: A Vindication of Priest/ess and Queer Gnostic Mass in Reply to T Polyphilus by Michael Effertz, which is offered at the Reading Room courtesy of the author. While you may have had a chance to read T Polyphilus’ review previously posted and heard various other responses about Priest/ess, unless you have had access to one of the few privately printed and distributed volumes, this may be your first glimpse of Effertz’s argument, as well as the tone and tenor, as it appears in the book; and unless you have acquired one of the new editions with which it is offered this may be your first chance to read some of the substance contained within the new pamphlet.

Michael Effertz's The Argument That Took the Wrong Turning from Luxor Media Group

I thank E.G.C. Bishop T Polyphilus for his critical review1 of my book, Priest/ess: In Advocacy of Queer Gnostic Mass. Polyphilus kindly prefaces his critique with the observation that “significant expense and care” went into the production of what became an “attractive little book.” In writing and designing the private edition of Priest/ess, I resolved to evince the same commitment to quality that Crowley once stressed in a letter to Frank Bennett, writing that “it has always been a point of honor with us to make our publications physically worthy of their contents.”2 The Bishop may not share my estimation of Priest/ess’ contents, but his praise is nevertheless well received. It is for this reason that I have endeavored to ensure that the trade edition, handsomely bound in hardcover and released in both a standard and deluxe edition, will likewise please the reader in form.

With this supplementary essay, I offer a reply to Polyphilus’ review in the same spirit as the arguments given in Priest/ess. As such, I will neither speculate as to Polyphilus’ motives nor ascribe to him any ill will in criticizing my work. I cannot say with certainty, and so will not assert, whether the errors in his review indicate an accidental or a willful misunderstanding of my arguments. I will, therefore, focus on the content of the review itself, checking its claims against the facts of each case rather than dwelling on the character of the author or his possible intentions. Where a misunderstanding is evident, I lay the fault squarely on my own deficient exposition; this will require the occasional reiteration of points originally made in the Priest/ess, in which I anticipated several of the criticisms made in Polyphilus’ review.

In his brief review, Polyphilus makes a series of claims about Priest/ess, the Gnostic Mass, and related subjects, which I will address seriatim. These include the claims that:

  1. I am wrong about the purpose of E.G.C. clergy,
  2. Nobody has the generic right to ordination or to serve as an ordained member of the clergy in the performance of E.G.C. rituals,
  3. Clergy do not have the authority to impose their own interpretation on the Gnostic Mass, because it is not a vehicle for personal expression,
  4. I obscure and misrepresent E.G.C. policy concerning private and public celebrations of queer Gnostic Mass,
  5. For public Gnostic Masses, E.G.C. policy requires Priests who are socially masculine in their life outside the temple and Priestesses who are similarly feminine,
  6. Restricting queer Gnostic Mass to private celebrations enhances it, and
  7. Prohibiting public queer Gnostic Masses does not “closet” queer personal relationships.

In addition to these explicit claims, Polyphilus insinuates that there are still more issues at stake and criticisms to be made, but opts not to specify in the course of his review what those issues are beyond alluding to their magical and doctrinal nature. E.G.C. policy, he argues, is constructed with a view toward assuring the simultaneous fulfillment of three effects or purposes of the Gnostic Mass (magical, communal, and doctrinal), even when individual celebrants do not consciously comprehend all three. Polyphilus directs the reader to his essay “Discourse on the Sixth Article,” wherein he elucidates his views on these three purposes of the Mass. The essay genuinely rewards study. Contrary to settling the question of queer Gnostic Mass against its acceptance, the three purposes of the Mass proposed by Polyphilus provide us with fertile ground for defending the propriety of its public celebration. While we cannot scrutinize his reasons for dismissing queer Gnostic Mass on magical, communal, and doctrinal grounds, since those reasons are not divulged in his review, we can make our own assessment of the merits of public queer Gnostic Mass as it might pertain to these matters with reference to the wealth of published and publicly available writings by Crowley on the Mass, the Eucharist, the O.T.O. and its various degrees, magick, sex and gender, and other kindred subjects. As Polyphilus’ review is consciously informed by his concept of the three purposes of the Gnostic Mass, we turn first to an evaluation of the magical, communal, and doctrinal considerations at the heart of his critique.

The Magical Purpose of the Gnostic Mass

Polyphilus cites magical issues as under the purview of the E.G.C. in the oversight of its clergy, which issues motivate and guide the construction and enforcement of E.G.C. policy in prohibiting public celebrations of queer Gnostic Mass. In so stating, Polyphilus implies, without evidence or explanation, that public celebrations of queer Gnostic Mass could not fulfill the magical purpose of the Mass. Presumably, the problem of magical bankruptcy is evaded through private celebration.

Of the magical purpose of the Gnostic Mass, Polyphilus writes:

The Magical effect for the individual
Is the one that Crowley explains in Magick in Theory and Practice:
The communicant is gradually made divine,
Being brought swallow by swallow
Towards Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel
And to the ultimate attainment that lies beyond.
And this effect is secret in the sense that it is utterly ineffable.3

We may then reasonably infer Polyphilus to contend that communicants in a public celebration of a queer Gnostic Mass could not be “gradually made divine, being brought swallow by swallow towards the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel and to the ultimate attainment that lies beyond.” Such a suggestion is contradicted by Crowley’s teachings concerning magical ritual and the Eucharist, as documented in his diaries and other works. For example, in defining the universal object of magical ritual, Crowley instructs the magician to use ritual to confront weaknesses in his understanding and offers sexual identity as one such area for exploration:

There is a single main definition of the object of all magical ritual. It is the uniting of the Microcosm with the Macrocosm. The Supreme and Complete Ritual is therefore the Invocation of the Holy Guardian Angel; or, in the language of Mysticism, Union with God.

All other magical rituals are particular cases of this general principle, and the only excuse for doing them is that it sometimes occurs that one particular portion of the Microcosm is so weak that its imperfection or impurity would vitiate the Macrocosm of which it is the image, eidolon, or reflection. For example, God is above sex; and therefore neither man nor woman as such can be said fully to understand, much less to represent, God. It is therefore incumbent on the male Magician to cultivate those female virtues in which he is deficient, and this task he must of course accomplish without in any way impairing his virility. It will then be lawful for a Magician to invoke Isis, and identify himself with her; if he fail to do this, his apprehension of the Universe when he attains samādhi will lack the conception of maternity. The result will be a metaphysical and—by corollary—ethical limitation in the Religion which he founds. Judaism and Islām are striking examples of this failure.4

Ritual offers the magician one avenue for symbolically uniting diverse elements within his being, though it is by no means the only method for achieving such union:

The doctrine here put forth is that the initiate cannot be polluted by any particular environment. He accepts and enjoys everything that is proper to his nature. Thus, a man’s sexual character is one form of his self-expression; he unites Hadit with Nuit sacramentally when he satisfies his instinct of physical love. Of course, this is only one partial projection; to govern, to fight, and so on, must fulfil other needs. We must not imagine that any form of activity is ipso facto incapable of supplying the elements of an Eucharist: suum cuique [Lat. “to each his own”]. Observe, however, the constant factor in this enumeration of the practices proper to “hermits:” it is ecstatic delight.5

The actual or symbolic union of the self with another, or even of different aspects of the self within oneself, is characterized by Crowley as the key to preparing the Eucharist, which process may be carried out through methods proper to the nature of each individual. This notion resonates alongside the previous passage with Liber A’ASH, which proclaims:

All holy things and all symbolic things shall be my sacraments.6

Among those Gnostic sacraments is semen, which Crowley says may possess different potencies depending upon one’s point of view:

Semen itself is mercury, the river of life flowing throughout the generations. That is fluid mercury. What is (from the point of view of life) waste, is knowledge. Hence the opposition between knowledge and life. One is homo- and the other heterosexuality. Those are reconciled in Mercury, who is wisdom.7

As with all opposing points of view, it is the work of the magician to reconcile these contradictions in a higher understanding. In this “fluid mercury” Crowley finds one resolution to the “opposition between knowledge and life” in a single Eucharist, which may elevate the communicant to divinity. Crowley provides us with an unambiguous illustration of the transformative power of this type of Eucharist in his notes to the Cephaloedium Working, which sacrament was prepared initially by two men together:

[…]
(7) Make Iacchaion God, by Ether. 

(8) Sacrifice him to the Beast, who thus becomes God. Use here the accendat & the right Mantram, the Tu qui es & the Quia Patris.8 

The “accendat,” “Tu qui es,” and “Quia Patris” all refer to the Grimorium Sanctissimum, ritual instructions for a mass along analogous lines to that of the Gnostic Mass (e.g., the consecration and dressing in ritual vestments of the “priest” by the “maiden,” speeches from “The Ship,” etc.) Another queer interpretation of the mass formula given in Grimorium Sanctissimum is provided in the Paris Working, during which Crowley assumed the role of “maiden” to Victor Neuburg’s “priest.” Throughout his diaries and instructions, Crowley evinces an understanding of the Eucharist that reconciles heterosexuality and homosexuality, life and knowledge, in one transcendent wisdom.

Polyphilus’ implicit contention that a Eucharist produced by a queer pairing cannot lead one “swallow by swallow” to Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel seems especially strange, given Crowley’s description of the relation between the Adept and his Angel:

In a secret code the Adept affirms that he is of the same sex (so to speak) as his Angel. It is not a union of opposites to produce a tertium quid [Lat. “third thing”], but a realization of identity, like the return to consciousness from delirium, whose ecstasy bears no fruit involving new responsibilities, new possibilities of sorrow, but is all-sufficient to itself, with neither past nor future.

The “peeled wand” is the creative Energy of the Angel, stripped of all veils, pointing to the Zenith, ready and eager to act. The Adept exclaims with joy that he has aspired to unite himself with this Idea, and has attained.

Thus concludes the description of the relations of the Adept and his Angel so far as the element of Earth, the concrete and manifest aspect of Nature, is concerned. The whole illusion has been destroyed; the bread has become the body of God.9

As was delineated above, the sacrament by which bread is transmuted into the “body of God” may take any of various forms. Heterosexual union, whether actual or symbolic, is a commonly cited formula for effecting this transmutation. In Liber Aleph, Crowley provides commentary on “the ultimate attainment that lies beyond” and the manner in which homosexual formulae are efficacious in achieving this attainment:

O my Son, behold now the Mystery and Virtue of the Silver Star! For of these Four Works not one leadeth to the Crown, because Tetragrammaton hath His Root only in Chokmah. So therefore the Formula of the Rosy Cross availeth no more in the Highest. Now then in the Pentagram are Two Lines that invoke Spirit, though they lead not thereunto, and they are the Works of Hé with Hé, and of Yod with Vau. Of these twain the former is a Work Magical of the Nature of Musick, and it draweth down the Fire of the HIGHER by Seduction or Bewitchment. Shall I say Enchantment? Shall I say Incantation? It is Song. But Bewitchment is a Work opposite thereunto, whose Effect formulateth itself by direct Creation in the Sphere of its Purpose and Intent. But there remain yet Two of the Eight Works, namely the straight Aspiration of the Chiah or Creator in thee to the Crown, and the Surrender of the Nephesch or Animal Soul to the Possession thereof; and these be the twin geodesic Formulæ of the Final Attainment, being Archetypes of the Paths of Magick (the one) and Mysticism (the other) unto the End.10

If we agree with Polyphilus and assert that the magical purpose of the Gnostic Mass is to lead one to the “Final” or “ultimate attainment,” then one may reasonably maintain that the formula of the Gnostic Mass must be, by that fact, robust and flexible enough to find expression in “the Works of Hé with Hé, and of Yod with Vau” as well as those of Yod with Hé and Vau with Hé.

Though it remains unclear why, from the standpoint of E.G.C. policy and its hierarchy, a private celebration of queer Gnostic Mass could adequately fulfill the magical purpose of the Mass while a public celebration could not, a thorough survey of Crowley’s writings on the subject of the magical effect of the Mass, as Polyphilus describes it, offers decisive evidence in favor of the efficacy of queer Gnostic Mass, public and private.

 

1. T Polyphilus. “Priest/ess.” The Hermetic Library Blog. The Hermetic Library. 20 Feb. 2013. <http://library.hrmtc.com/2013/02/20/priest-ess/>.

2. Crowley, Aleister. The Progradior Correspondence: Letters by Aleister Crowley, Frank Bennett, C.S. Jones, & Others. Ed. Keith Richmond. York Beach, ME: 2009. 84.

3. T Polyphilus. “Discourse on the Sixth Article.” Vigorous Food & Divine Madness. The Hermetic Library, n.d. 22 Feb. 2013. <http://hermetic.com/dionysos/art6.htm>. [Formatting and emphasis as in original].

4. Crowley, Aleister. “The Principles of Ritual.” Magick: Liber ABA, Book 4. 2nd ed. York Beach: Red Wheel/Weiser, 2004. 144. [emphasis in original].

5. New Comment to AL, II:24, Magical and Philosophical Commentaries on the Book of the Law. Symonds, John and Kenneth Grant, eds. Montreal: 93 Publishing, 1974. 200.

6. Liber A’ASH Vel Capricorni Pneumatici, 20. The Holy Books of Thelema. 1st ed. York Beach: Samuel Weiser, 1983.

7. “The Paris Working.” The Vision & The Voice with Commentary and Other Papers. Boston: Red Wheel/Weiser, 1998. 363.

8. “The Cephaloedium Working.” The Hermetic Library, n.d. 22 Feb. 2013. <http://hermetic.com/crowley/cephaloedium.html>. [emphasis added].

9. “Commentary to Liber 65 – Chapter I.” Commentaries on the Holy Books and Other Papers. York Beach, Samuel Weiser, 1996. 98-99.

10. “On the Four Major Operations of the Microcosmic Star.” Liber Aleph. York Beach: Red Wheel/Weiser, 2003. 107.

Liber Liberi, Chapter V with Comment

Liber Liberi vel Lapidis Lazuli Adumbratio Kabbalæ Ægyptorum, Chapter V with Comment is the newest in the series from Coph Nia, a local body of Ordo Templi Orientis in the valley of Eugene, OR, which has arrived at the Reading Room courtesy of that local body.

Coph Nia has been issuing a small number of pamphlets, as part of the work of a study group and also as a thank you for supporters of the body, which contain Class A technical libri by Aleister Crowley. The text of the technical libri are taken, of course, from the excellent versions online at the Hermetic Library, but are supplemented with a variety of additional commentary, which come a variety of sources including otherwise unpublished papers and notes. These works are being curated by the team at Coph Nia, which includes Hermetic Library fellow David R Jones.

Coph Nia's Liber Liberi, Chapter V with comment

Not only are these nice in and of themselves, but they are the praxis of a Holy Books study group, as David R. Jones writes, “… they are really nice little editions and they help us with our Holy Books study group. I do the first drafts and our group proofs them and adds input.”

I’ve had a chance to check out a number of these pamphlets and think they are quite well done. It is especially nice to have not only the text, but the comment and notes handily available together.

The first three Coph Nia editions of the Holy Books of Thelema, with commentaries

I just added some images of the first three Coph Nia editions of the Holy Books of Thelema, with commentaries, to the visual pool. So far, they are Liber B vel Magi and Liber Liberi vel Lapidis Lazuli chapter I & chapter II. I thought people might be interested in taking a look. I did mention Coph Nia’s edition of Liber VII, pt 1 when I got it a while back, but I thought I’d post again now that the next in the series has arrived.

The first three Coph Nia editions of the Holy Books of Thelema, with commentaries
The first three Coph Nia editions of the Holy Books of Thelema, with commentaries

"I creep under Thy carapace, like a lover into the bed of his beautiful." - Liber Liberi II.8
“I creep under Thy carapace, like a lover into the bed of his beautiful.” – Liber Liberi II.8

A Commentary to Liber VII
A Commentary to Liber VII

Coph Nia, a local body of Ordo Templi Orientis in the valley of Eugene, OR, has started issuing a small number of pamphlets which contain Class A technical libri by Aleister Crowley along with comment and notes. The text of the technical libri are taken, of course, from the excellent versions online at the Hermetic Library, but are supplemented with a variety of additional commentary, which come variously from sources such as Equinox IV, I as well as from otherwise unpublished papers and notes. These works are being curated by the team at Coph Nia, which includes Hermetic Library fellow David R Jones.

New pdf for Liber Liberi vel Lapidis Lazuli Adumbratio Kabbalæ Ægyptiorum sub figura VII

Liber Liberi vel Lapidis Lazuli Adumbratio Kabbalæ Ægyptiorum sub figurâ VII, Book 7, in the Libri of Aleister Crowley has seen another update. A while ago, I went through all The Holy Books of Thelema, the technical writings of Aleister Crowley, publications in class A, and tried to catch and correct any errors there were in the HTML versions. I’ve put online an experimental new PDF to replace the old legacy version of this liber. Not only will this correct any errors that may have been in the old PDF, but this will also make it easier to make corrections in the future; which is great because I was up pretty late last night doing multiple re-uploads of this PDF because I kept finding things to fix at the last minute.

I also changed the HTML page for the liber itself to have links in the bottom navigation area to a renamed text and the new PDF formats, and updated the index for the libri by number on the main Aleister Crowley page.

So, check out the new experimental Liber Liberi vel Lapidis Lazuli Adumbratio Kabbalæ Ægyptiorum sub figurâ VII on the site.

New pdf for Liber B vel Magi sub figura I

I’ve done a little bit of work on Liber B vel Magi sub figurâ I, Book 1, in the Libri of Aleister Crowley. A while ago, I went through all The Holy Books of Thelema, the technical writings of Aleister Crowley, publications in class A, and tried to catch and correct any errors there were in the HTML versions. It’s long been a plan to make new PDFs for the site to match corrected HTML versions. Today, I created an experimental new PDF to replace the old legacy version of the first liber. Not only will this correct any errors that may have been in the old PDF, but this will also make it easier to make corrections in the future.

I also changed the HTML page for the liber itself to have links in the bottom navigation area to a renamed text and the new PDF formats, and updated the index for the libri by number on the main Aleister Crowley page.

So, check out the new experimental PDF for Liber B vel Magi sub figurâ I on the site.