Most pornography—the books discussed here cannot be excepted—points to something more general than even sexual damage. I mean the traumatic failure of modern capitalist society to provide authentic outlets for the perennial human flair for high-temperature visionary obsessions, to satisfy the appetite for exalted self-transcending modes of concentration and seriousness. The need of human beings to transcend “the personal” is no less profound than the need to be a person, an individual. But this society serves that need poorly. It provides mainly demonic vocabularies in which to situate that need and from which to initiate action and construct rites of behavior.
I please myself with imagining a State at last which can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual with respect as a neighbor; which even would not think it inconsistent with its own repose if a few were to live aloof from it, not meddling with it, nor embraced by it, who fulfilled all the duties of neighbors and fellow men. A State which bore this kind of fruit, and suffered it to drop off as fast as it ripened, would prepare the way for a still more perfect and glorious State, which I have also imagined, but not yet anywhere seen.
“The other self, the anti-self or the antithetical self, as one may choose to name it, comes but to those who are no longer deceived, whose passion is reality”
“Yeats explains what he meant by ‘passion is reality’: ‘… for the awakening, for the vision, for the revelation of reality, tradition offers us a different word-ecstasy’ … Immersion in the anti-self brought about a ‘revelation of reality,’ an ecstatic state that enabled the artist to create works of genius. … Only when he became the anti-self could he become a totally subjective individual, overcome the illusion of duality, and find a ‘revelation of reality.'”
What is of primary importance is that the master key to the initiatory method itself becomes a permanently installed fixture in the individual. Once we have learned the process of becoming something greater than we are, we can and eventually will, apply that same alchemy to ourselves to achieve the supreme attainment.
Lon Milo DuQuette, The Sons of Osiris: A Side Degree
Adam, Eve, and the Serpent: Sex and Politics in Early Christianity by Elaine Pagels, the 1989 paperback edition from Vintage Books, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.
“How did the early Christians come to believe that sex was inherently sinful? When did the Fall of Adam become synonymous with the fall of all humanity? What turned Christianity from a dissident sect that championed the integrity of the individual and the idea of free will into the bulwark of a new imperial order—with the central belief that human beings cannot choose not to sin? In this provocative masterpiece of historical scholarship Elaine Pagels re-creates the controversies that racked the early church as it confronted the riddles of sexuality, freedom, and sin as embodied in the story of Genesis. And she shows what was once heresy came to shape our own attitudes toward the body and the soul.” — back cover
The Portal of Initiation: A Rosicrucian Mystery Drama & The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily, by Rudolf Steiner and Johann W von Goethe, respectively, the 1981 second revised edition from Spiritual Literature Library (Garber Communications), is part of the collection at the Reading Room.
“The Portal of Initiation: A Rosicrucian Mystery Drama, can best be described in Rudolf Steiner’s own words:
‘When one has worked one’s way through to an understanding perception of the world, the living need is felt to form ideas no longer, but to create artistically, that is, plastically, or in color, or musically, or poetically. In my Mystery Dramas I myself tried to give what cannot be expressed in ideas about the nature of the human being. … This leads us to enjoy, to seek out, to contemplate what one cannot possibly experience in thoughts, but in living figures, as they appear in the dramatic pictures; then we let the figures of the drama really work upon us. … Art must be added to what is abstractly known if true knowledge of the world is to be attained. Further, when such perception is attained and presses toward creative form, this experience penetrates so deeply into the human soul that this union of art with science produces a religious experience.’
‘Today, humanity may not yet be inclined to absorb into external culture what can spring from the spiritual life. however, at least in artistic pictures we can show how life may develop, and what in the form of thoughts and feelings flows into our souls and permeates them. The result can be the kindling of the presentiment that out of its present, humanity must go toward a future in which it will be able to experience the streaming down of spiritual life into man on earth. For humanity is approaching an age when man will perceive himself as the intermediary between the spiritual world and the physical world. These performances were given in order that this presentiment might be awakened.’
Steiner spoke repeatedly about the importance of Goethe’s Fairy Tale, not only in relation to the spiritual striving of our time in a general sense, but in his first Mystery Drama, The Portal of Initiation, he drew upon many of the basic themes of the Fairy Tale. Steiner also indicated that the way the pictures in Goethe’s Fairy Tale ‘unfold themselves’ shows that they possess the power ‘to transform the human soul’ which opens itself to them. He also once characterized the Goethe Fairy Tale as the ‘archetypal seed’ which offers the possibility of a new order of social life amongst humanity as a whole, and described it as the foundation upon which he based his teaching concerning the modern Science of Spirit, Anthroposophy.
Although they are surrounded by the remarkable conveniences modern technology has placed at our command and the degree of ‘freedom’ this has made possible, many people today would agree with Goethe’s observation, made long ago: “Whatever sets the human spirit free without giving us mastery over ourselves is harmful.’—ANd with this awareness goes the recognition that despite the marvels of technology, designed to set men free to an ever-increasing degree, there nevertheless prevails a widespread feeling, a longing to return ‘home’, to experience the unique guidance of the star of one’s individual destiny. … Goethe’s Fairy Tale offers, in form of artistic images, the first steps on the path which at length will enable a man to come to know himself as a being of body, soul and spirit, with all this implies. Thus the Fairy Tale of Goethe may become ‘everything’ or ‘nothing’ for the reader—and it is left entirely to his own individual freedom to let it ‘speak’ its significance to him.” — back cover
An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together …
A volvelle, with tattwa tides and astrological aspects, made by a Whare Ra temple member [via]
- “Shroud of Turin: Could Ancient Earthquake Explain Face of Jesus?” — Megan Gannon, livescience; from the but-was-it-nocturnal dept.
“Now, a study claims neutron emissions from an ancient earthquake that rocked Jerusalem could have created the iconic image, as well as messed up the radiocarbon levels that later suggested the shroud was a medieval forgery. But other scientists say this newly proposed premise leaves some major questions unanswered.”
- shota-purinsu, a Tumblr comment; from the you’re-my-medicine-open-up-and-let-me-in dept.
“Jesus also affirms the homosexual relationship between the Roman Centurion and his ‘slave’. The particular Greek word used to refer to this special slave was ‘pais’. Greek language studies and contexts show that a ‘pais’ was a male love slave. Regular slaves were called ‘dolos’. The Centurion makes this distinction clearly when he asks Jesus to heal his slave (pais), and then to prove his status he tells Jesus that his slaves (dolos) go when he tells them to. But this slave (pais) was special. He was the Centurion’s lover.
Hearing this, Jesus was so amazed he says he had not found ANYONE ELSE who had such great faith. He then blesses the Centurion and heals his male lover.”
- Bosch’s “600-years-old butt song” — Amelia, chaoscontrolled123 [HT The Appendix]; from the then-a-band-of-demons-joined-in dept.
“Luke and I were looking at Hieronymus Bosch’s painting The Garden of Earthly Delights and discovered, much to our amusement, music written upon the posterior of one of the many tortured denizens … I decided to transcribe it”
- Neoliberalism’s War Against the Radical Imagination — Henry Giroux, Tikkun; from the perhaps-a-lunatic-was-simply-a-minority-of-one dept.
“Democracy loses its character as a disruptive element, a force of dissent, an insurrectional call for responsible change, and degenerates into an assault on the radical imagination, reconfigures itself as a force for bleaching all ethical and moral considerations, and thrives in a state of exception, which in reality is a state of permanent war.”
- “OC’s Favorite Occultist Musician Writes a Song About Gun Violence. Strange? Yes.” — Joel Beers, OC Weekly, with Lon Milo DuQuette; from the it’s-all-I-think-about-dolls-and-guns dept.
“He says that those people who passionately believe that a disarmed populace under tyrannical rule is a problem have a well-taken point. But that notion, ‘still comes from a consciousness platform of fear,’ he says. ‘And if that is the focus of your life, you’re missing out on a great deal. It’s not that there’s nothing to be afraid of, but if that’s going to be the primary focus of your life, you’ve already surrendered. And if fear is the reason you want to arm yourself, you’re probably the last person who needs to be armed for all of our safety.'”
- “No One Cares About Your Damn Religion” — Larry Womack, Huffington Post’s The Blog; from the when-I-use-a-word-it-means-just-what-I-choose-it-to-mean dept.
“Was the Christian God cool with slavery? Slave owners sure thought so — and had plenty of Biblical canon to support it. Abolitionists disagreed. Did God want women to vote? Not according to anti-suffragists. Suffragists were convinced otherwise. If society continues this descent into level-headed compassion, fifty years from now people will be claiming that God is pro-fur and factory farming. When one cannot defend a belief in the current context, moving the framework back a few thousand years and putting the blame on God is a pretty good fallback strategy.
I know, I know. There’s only one God and he is not at all ambiguous: he agrees with you. It’s all right there in the Bible or whatever holy book you believe in, as you have decided to interpret it. It’s perfectly clear, right?”
- “Camels Had No Business in Genesis” — John Noble Wilford, The New York Times; from the heffalumps-and-woozles dept.
“The archaeologists, Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen, used radiocarbon dating to pinpoint the earliest known domesticated camels in Israel to the last third of the 10th century B.C. — centuries after the patriarchs lived and decades after the kingdom of David, according to the Bible. Some bones in deeper sediments, they said, probably belonged to wild camels that people hunted for their meat. Dr. Sapir-Hen could identify a domesticated animal by signs in leg bones that it had carried heavy loads.”
- “Beyond Naturalism: On Ronald Dworkin” — Michael Rosen, The Nation; from the trouble-in-the-forest dept.
“In short, while materialism encourages that characteristically modern form of political collectivism in which sacrifices that bring about the greater good are taken to be morally imperative, at the same time it leads to a world of individuals who have a sense of their own absolute uniqueness and importance—if only to themselves. The attempt to find a standpoint that can integrate this radical individualism with the claims of the common good is the great underlying ethical and political problem of modern life. It also gives a framing perspective to Ronald Dworkin’s marvelous little book, Religion without God, and helps explain how a brilliant young lawyer like Dworkin should have ended up pondering issues of theology.”
- “The Conservative Crusade For Christian Sharia Law” — Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast; from the it’s-only-hypocrisy-when-someone-else-does-it dept.
“And in the past few years, we have seen pro-life Christian groups successfully lobby State legislatures to restrict access to abortions. They have also raised religious, not public policy, objections to the government funding birth control.
But here’s the alarming thing: These views are no longer the fringe of American politics. They are increasingly becoming mainstream conservative fare.”
- “Bible Passages that Could Get You Killed” — Candida Moss, The Daily Beast; from the stunt-driver-closed-track dept.
“Where Coots is different is that he was just following the Bible as he interpreted it. Coots was just reading the Bible literally. It’s something that many Americans do on a daily basis. But God’s Holy Word is more dangerous than you’d think.”
- Flea, via tweet.
“I like myths. I put a lot of credence in them.”
- Disputed quotes attributed to Albert Einstein, Wikipedia [HT The Kill Van Kulls].
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
- “Bruise, Trash, Write” — Lilith Saintcrow.
“I am not so sure. But I know I won. Every word I wrote is burned into me, flesh and blood and breath. By throwing them away, I made them even more mine, something nobody could take away even if they killed me, secrets hidden inside me, in the only places I had left.
Now I write other stories. Between the bars, I catch glimpses of those things. Exorcism is an ongoing process.”
- Giordano Bruno quoted in “Giordano Bruno: Divinity Reveals Herself in all Things” — Donald Donato, In puris naturalibus.
“Divinity reveals herself in all things. Everything has Divinity latent within itself. For she enfolds and imparts herself even unto the smallest beings, and from the smallest beings, according to their capacity. Without her presence nothing would have being, because she is the essence of the existence of the first unto the last being.”
- “After 400 Years, Mathematicians Find A New Class Of Shapes” — Higher Perspective [HT Reality Sandwich].
“The work of the Greek polymath Plato has kept millions of people busy for millennia. A few among them have been mathematicians who have obsessed about Platonic solids, a class of geometric forms that are highly regular and are commonly found in nature.
Since Plato’s work, two other classes of equilateral convex polyhedra, as the collective of these shapes are called, have been found: Archimedean solids (including truncated icosahedron) and Kepler solids (including rhombic polyhedra). Nearly 400 years after the last class was described, researchers claim that they may have now invented a new, fourth class, which they call Goldberg polyhedra. Also, they believe that their rules show that an infinite number of such classes could exist.”
- “Wikipedia-size maths proof too big for humans to check” — Jacob Aron, New Scientist; from the now-i-am-the-master dept.
“If no human can check a proof of a theorem, does it really count as mathematics? That’s the intriguing question raised by the latest computer-assisted proof. It is as large as the entire content of Wikipedia, making it unlikely that will ever be checked by a human being.
‘It might be that somehow we have hit statements which are essentially non-human mathematics,’ says Alexei Lisitsa of the University of Liverpool, UK, who came up with the proof together with colleague Boris Konev.”
- “Math Explains Likely Long Shots, Miracles and Winning the Lottery” — David J Hand, Scientific American; from the a-glitch-in-the-matrix dept.
“A set of mathematical laws that I call the Improbability Principle tells us that we should not be surprised by coincidences. In fact, we should expect coincidences to happen. One of the key strands of the principle is the law of truly large numbers. This law says that given enough opportunities, we should expect a specified event to happen, no matter how unlikely it may be at each opportunity. Sometimes, though, when there are really many opportunities, it can look as if there are only relatively few. This misperception leads us to grossly underestimate the probability of an event: we think something is incredibly unlikely, when it’s actually very likely, perhaps almost certain.”
- “Vitruvian Man Had a Hernia” — Laura Crothers, Slate; from the not-so-perfect-after-all-eh-mister-man dept.
“Throughout history, anatomical illustrations have been made using the recently deceased as models, and many of Leonardo’s sketches were no exception. Ashrafian says that the man who served as Leonardo’s model for his illustration of human perfection probably had a hernia. If the model was a corpse, the hernia may have been what killed him. If he was a live model, he may ultimately have died from its complications.”
- Mold destroys 600,000 library books — Ellie Papadakis, The Maneater; from the tolle-lege dept.
“The MU Libraries have more than 3 million books in their collections, and they ran out of space to store those books years ago.
Recently it was discovered that 600,000 books, approximately 20 percent of MU’s entire collection, were covered in mold. The damaged books were being stored in an underground cavern north of Interstate 70. The cavern, Sub Terra, is run by an independent company.
The books in storage were lesser-used books that the libraries did not have room for in their open stacks. Some of the stored texts were published prior to the Civil War.
Library administrators will not be able to save all 600,000 texts because there is not enough money in library funds to do so.”
- “Canadian libricide” — Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing; from the where-is-your-science-now dept.
“Back in 2012, when Canada’s Harper government announced that it would close down national archive sites around the country, they promised that anything that was discarded or sold would be digitized first. But only an insignificant fraction of the archives got scanned, and much of it was simply sent to landfill or burned.”
- John Griogair Bell, Hermetic Library, via tweet.
“We should always fear the fate of our libraries, historically proven and currently demonstrated”
- The Report — Hugh Howey, Author Earnings.
“It’s no great secret that the world of publishing is changing. What is a secret is how much.”
- “The Secret History of the Venus of Willendorf” — Alexander Binsteiner, Past Horizons.
“Microscopic investigations on the world famous statuette from the Gravettian period (30,000 to 22,000 years ago) carried out at the Natural History Museum in Vienna revealed three incredible insights, and when taken together tell a secret story of this Palaeolithic figurine and her creators.
· The limestone from which the 11cm high Venus had been carved, comes almost certainly from the region around the Moravian city of Brno 136km to the northeast of Willendorf.
· The source of the flint blades discovered with the figure was North Moravia, a further 150km to the north.
· The Venus had once been completely painted with red ochre, and given the ritualistic associations of this material meant that the figure was more than likely a cultic object.”
- “Feeding Spirits and Bones” — Sarah Anne Lawless.
“Old Man and Old Woman settled their ancient bones back into the remnants of creatures native to their wild domain, no doubt having missed their shrine and the once regular offerings to be found there. The Moon’s candle was restored to its place above breasts and belly carved from stone, surrounded by offerings. She eats beeswax greedily like blood offerings, leaving nothing behind. A candle lit to welcome the spirits back with sweetest incense burned and fresh water poured to sate their hunger. The spirits sigh happily, the new house sighs like a person with a once empty belly filled. Even breathing feels easier now with the altar and all its spirits in their proper place of reverence.”
- Poem by Sulpicia quoted in “Valentine’s Day: Ancient Festival Of Sexual Frenzy” — Donna Henes, Huffington Post’s The Blog.
“At last love has come. I would be more ashamed
to hide it in cloth than leave it naked.
I prayed to the Muse and won. Venus dropped him
in my arms, doing for me what she
had promised. Let my joy be told, let those
who have none tell it in a story.
Personally, I would never send off words
in sealed tablets for none to read.
I delight in sinning and hate to compose a mask
for gossip. We met. We are both worthy.”
- T Thorn Coyle, via tweet.
“Happy Lupercalia! Blessed Full Moon! (If you see half naked boys running w goatskin whips, you may wish to stay out of their way. Or not.)”
- Eliphas Levi quoted by T Thorn Coyle, via tweet.
“It is necessary to DARE what must be attempted.”
- “Internet Trolls Really Are Horrible People: Narcissistic, Machiavellian, psychopathic, and sadistic.” — Chris Mooney, Slate.
“The research, conducted by Erin Buckels of the University of Manitoba and two colleagues, sought to directly investigate whether people who engage in trolling are characterized by personality traits that fall in the so-called Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others).
It is hard to underplay the results: The study found correlations, sometimes quite significant, between these traits and trolling behavior. What’s more, it also found a relationship between all Dark Tetrad traits (except for narcissism) and the overall time that an individual spent, per day, commenting on the Internet.”
- Colleen Fenley, via facebook comment.
“disagree, awful poster… delete”
- John Griogair Bell, via tweet.
“If you’re going to cover your eyes and plug your ears, at least have the courtesy and self-awareness to also shut your mouth.”
- “Chèvres en équilibre” [HT Bryan Fuller]; from the let-the-goat-come-to-you dept.
THEE PSYCHICK BIBLE: Thee Apocryphal Scriptures ov Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Thee Third Mind ov Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth, the 2010 paperback from Feral House, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.
“Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth (TOPY) will be remembered for its crucial influence on youth culture throughout the ’80s and ’90s, popularizing occult investigations, tattooing, body piercing, acid house raves, and other ahead-of-the-curve cultic flirtations and investigations. Its leader was Genesis P-Orridge, co-founder of Psychick TV and Throbbing Gristle, the band that created the industrial music genre.
Thee Psychick Bible is an extraordinary collection of ‘occulture’ texts and images from the TOPY period and today. We have to agree with Genesis when he said that this book may be ‘the most profund new manual on practical magick—taking from its Crowleyan level of liberation and empowermeant of the individual to a next level of realization that magick must then give back to its environment, its community…'”
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.
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.
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:
- I am wrong about the purpose of E.G.C. clergy,
- 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,
- Clergy do not have the authority to impose their own interpretation on the Gnostic Mass, because it is not a vehicle for personal expression,
- I obscure and misrepresent E.G.C. policy concerning private and public celebrations of queer Gnostic Mass,
- 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,
- Restricting queer Gnostic Mass to private celebrations enhances it, and
- 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.
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.
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.
Occasionally, I am contacted by people who are interested in the Western Esoteric Tradition, but are overwhelmed by the daunting amount of information available. They’ve found the Hermetic Library because they’re looking for information, but sometimes it can be really difficult to know where to start.
Well, honestly, I always hesitate to suggest directions and such for anyone, let alone someone I’ve never met. However, I have over the last few years managed to put together some general ideas in response to these questions when they come my way. Here’s an example of a few remarks I currently have prepared, that I thought I’d share here now.
First, I point out that I have no idea what path someone else is on, what ‘current’ or tradition they work in. There are so many, and it seems to me that anything specific about one person’s practice is not necessarily useful or suited for another’s, even if under a ‘tradition’, a general label, for which I might share a similar understanding. With that said, I suggest people consider thinking about work developing two things: theory and practice.
For theory, of course, I encourage people to read through and engage the materials at the Hermetic Library site. (If one is interested in Thelema, a good place to start is by checking out Thelema for example.) There’s a lot there, to be sure. However, there’s plenty that is not there. One technique that I’ve suggested to people is to head to a good esoteric bookshop. I don’t recommend the big chains or the fluffy new age kind of shop, but there should be, somewhere local if not nearby, a shop with a serious selection. (If there isn’t one of those latter kinds of shops, then one can made do with one of the former.) Go into that shop and start checking out books. Flip through materials until something really grabs the attention, and that one feels an enthusiastic reaction about. Now, I want to be clear: I am not saying that the material creates warm and fuzzy feelings, though it might be. I suggest taking note of anything that gets one’s attention even if, perhaps specifically because, that is something that seems transgressive and edgy. For this purpose look for things about which there are energetic reactions of any kind. Once something like that has been found, read it. Repeat that process: follow enthusiasm!
For practice, consider starting a daily practice that includes both ritual and journaling. Don’t think of the specifics of daily practice as a life-long commitment. Think of daily practice as general container for a varied series of specific experiments about which to record results in a journal. Pick a specific practice and make a commitment to do that for a month. See what happens. Record the experience, the ongoing results. Then, pick something else to do for some period of time. And remember that for experiments it’s actually the failures from which one can learn the most interesting things, so don’t self-flagellate about the particular experience and results. Just do the experiments, and if they fail half way through so be it, record that a journal as something to learn from. Experiment, experiment, experiment.
Also, for practice, consider checking the local area for groups that are actively doing public ritual of some kind, and attend those events. At that previous good esoteric book shop, look for their newsletter, bulletin board or website for notices and a calendar of events. Get to know people doing these activities and talk to them. See if they are people that seem both interesting and grounded or not. Attend a variety of events in the local area and see what they are about, and how you feel during and after the ritual they celebrate; compare them and see what seems to be the best personal fit. Then, when there is some group doing active ritual that seems compelling, start to participate.
So I suggest that people follow enthusiasm and experiment, experiment, experiment. Do a personal daily practice and participate in the community. I personally think doing some combination which works toward all those things will help people find their people and more fully follow their path, and perhaps more importantly have a strong relationship with themselves and a strong personal practice either way, from which to take next steps.
I hope these remarks offer some help, even if only a little bit. Of course, each individual’s milage may vary, and so on. If you have comments or suggestions about these remarks, do consider contacting me. If you take the advice offered, consider letting me know how it goes, if you like!
In conclusion, I find these Cole Porter lyrics to be so completely spot on that I cannot but recommend them to everyone when I get a chance: “Experiment” by Cole Porter
Before you leave these portals
To meet less fortunate mortals
There’s just one final message
I would give to you
You all have learned reliance
On the sacred teachings of science
So I hope, through life, you never will decline
In spite of Philistine defiance
To do what all good scientists do
Experiment, make it your motto day and night
Experiment and it will lead you to the light
The apple on the top of the tree is never too high to achieve
So take an example from Eve
Experiment, be curious
Though interfering friends may frown
At each attempt to hold you down
If this advice you always employ
The future can offer you infinite joy
And merriment, experiment and you’ll see