Edgar held forth at length upon Art, passionlessly expository. “Art,” said he, “and do not imagine that Art or anything else is other than High Magic! — is a system of holy hieroglyph. The artist, the initiate, thus frames his mysteries. The rest of the world scoff, or seek to understand, or pretend to understand; some few obtain the truth. The technical ability of the artist is the lucidity of his language; it has nothing to do with the degree of his illumination. Bougereau is better technically than Manet; he explains more clearly what he sees. But what does he see? He is the priest of a false God. Form has no importance except in this sense; we must not be revolted by the extravagance of new symbolic systems. Gauguin and Matisse may live to be understood. We acquiesce in the eccentricities of Raphael.”
An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for June 25th, 2014
Eddy Stevens’ Magical Paintings Capture The Bond Between Woman And Horse — Ellyn Ruddick-Sunstein, Beautiful/Decay
- UNEARTHED IN PARIS: The Tomb of Golden Dawn Founder S.L. MacGregor Mathers — David Griffin, Golden Dawn Blog [HT Spiral Nature]
Considering the importance of the Vault of the Adepti to the Golden Dawn and of the Tomb of the Founder, Christian Rosenkreutz, to the entire Rosicrucian movement, the discovery of the tomb of the Golden Dawn’s Rosicrucian founder, S.L. MacGregor Mathers (nearly 120 years after his death), is an event of unparalleled Rosicrucian and magickal importance.
- The Necklace of Power — Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold, The Starry Cave
Sacred necklaces, guias or elekes are a form of talismans with a rich and long history both as sacred decoration, as an extension of the witches ladder or cord and in the form of prayer beads, they be the Hindu mala or the Catholic rosary to Freya’s brisingamen. In Lucumi a set of elekes are given to mark the first step towards initiation where the candidate binds himself to the godparents responsible for giving the elekes.
- 12 Undeniable Signs That The Illuminati Is EVERYWHERE — Julia Edelman, CollegeHumor [HT disinformation]
No one is safe, but especially you (I don’t know why, you just seem sort of fragile and susceptible to accidents). At any rate, the Illuminati grows stronger every day, and it is only a matter of time before they control every aspect of your life — no detail too small. It would be too dangerous to overlook the evidence. Let this carefully curated list of Illuminati hotspots guide you, strike fear into your heart, and who knows, maybe even protect you. Godspeed.
- Tim Lambesis quoted at Christian Heavy Metal Band Frontman Admits He’s Actually an Atheist — Kyle Chayka, Time [HT disinformation]
In the process of trying to defend my faith, I started thinking the other point of view was the stronger one.
In 12 years of touring with As I Lay Dying, I would say maybe one in 10 Christian bands we toured with were actually Christian bands.
- A Reader Writes of his Experience Among the Dark Enlightenment Types — Mark Shea, Catholic and Enjoying It! [HT disinformation]
The thing about nascent movements like this is that it’s hard to know when to pay attention and when to ignore them. If you ignore them they can grow in the dark, like mushrooms on dung. If you make too much fuss, you can attract idiots–particularly extremist idiots–who automatically assume that anything normal people find objectionable must be awesome, radical, and “not PC” and therefore good.
- Dan Harms has been posting a series about “Charm Stick” objects at Charm Sticks and Charm Wands: A Little-Noted Item of Folklore, More on Charm Sticks and Charm Wands and Charm Wands and Charm Sticks: The Final Chapter? over on Papers Falling from an Attic Window.
According to Hughes, these curious shepherd’s crooks first appeared in the 1770s as part of a fashion fad, possibly inspired by ceremonial maces. They saw a resurgence in the 1820s, and they continued to be known throughout the nineteenth century. The first clue that we have as to their use as “charm sticks” is in Soames’ Curiosities of Literature, from 1847, dealing with superstitious practices in Devon.
At this point, it seems that the glass rods were originally created as fashion accessories, which later became associated with disease and good luck, and later became explicitly connected with spirits.
- Five False Rumors About Aleister Crowley — Brandy Williams, Star and Snake
His behavior is minutely chronicled by his biographers; whatever we think of him, we should at least get the facts of his life straight.
- Nathan Kesling, tweet
— Nathan Kesling (@nathan13109) June 24, 2014
- Sarah Veale, tweet
Came across a great term for prostitute-witches in antiquity: Witch-bawd.
— Sarah Veale (@sarahveale) June 24, 2014
- Older Than the Rolling Stones — Douglas Quenqua, The New York Times [HT disinformation]
Could it be that Stonehenge was actually a prehistoric glockenspiel?
“Everybody’s been running a silent movie of prehistory for so long,” [Paul Devereux] said. “We’re only just now trying to recover the soundtrack.”
- An Occult History of the Television Set — Geoff Manaugh, BLDGBLOG [HT Spiral Nature]; about Stefan Andriopoulos’ Ghostly Apparitions: German Idealism, the Gothic Novel, and Optical Media
The origin of the television set was heavily shrouded in both spiritualism and the occult, Stefan Andriopoulos writes in his new book Ghostly Apparitions. In fact, as its very name implies, the television was first conceived as a technical device for seeing at a distance: like the telephone (speaking at a distance) and telescope (viewing at a distance), the television was intended as an almost magical box through which we could watch distant events unfold, a kind of technological crystal ball.
Andriopoulos’s book puts the TV into a long line of other “optical media” that go back at least as far as popular Renaissance experiments involving technologically-induced illusions, such as concave mirrors, magic lanterns, disorienting walls of smoke, and other “ghostly apparitions” and “phantasmagoric projections” created by specialty devices. These were conjuring tricks, sure—mere public spectacles, so to speak—but successfully achieving them required sophisticated understandings of basic physical factors such as light, shadow, and acoustics, making an audience see—and, most importantly, believe in—the illusion.
- A Journey To Avebury: Stewart Lee Interviews Julian Cope — Stewart Lee, The Quietus
[Julian] Cope’s sentence structures collapse into rhythmic repetition and editorially suspect sub-clause clusters, three at one point all ending in the same three words, and all heroically deliberate. One section attempts to convey a character’s drugged confusion by repeating variations on the same three letters for five pages. The fool persists in his folly. He becomes wise. Likewise the eighty minute drones of cope’s Queen Elizabeth records were a conscious choice. “Yes,” he agrees, “I didn’t just stumble across a sound and then forget to turn it off. And I worked really hard on the cadences of the book, on the rhythms. That’s the musician part of me. People will get it who wish to get it but I don’t want to turn on tossers.”
“It’s like Christianity,” Cope says, brilliantly comparing his fiction debut with a major world religion of some 2000 years standing, “If you’re going to stand on street corners shouting you’re only going to pick up people who are utterly lost. I don’t want people attaching themselves to me who are lost. I want them to already be in some way on a trip. It’s demanding but great art is demanding. I really wanted to write something that people could complete themselves.”
- There Are No ‘Sheeple’ — Marcel Voltlucka [HT disinformation]
Just remember that you were likely a “sheep” once too.
Alas, this sort of insular arrogance is not only more prevalent than we’d like to admit, it’s our own worst enemy. The idea of stupid, hopeless “sheeple” evokes the contempt that a hardcore Statist has for human ability, reason, freedom, and – for lack of a better word – spirit.
- The occult conspiracy hidden in the new emoji — Jess Zimmerman, The Daily Dot
In short, the bell, book, and candle are used to damn people to hell. And sure, they’re all objects, but they’re not the same kind of objects! What are they doing together? What’s going on?
- Four Imperatives — Michael Gilleland, Laudator Temporis Acti
Drink, eat, have fun, make love.
- A Third Century A.D. Inscription from Eumeneia — Michael Gilleland, Laudator Temporis Acti
I did not have much wealth or much property for my livelihood, but I worked hard and gained a modicum of learning. This enabled me to assist my friends, as far as I was able, freely putting the ability I had at the disposal of all. Helping anyone who was in need was a joy to me, as, in the case of other people, prosperity brings joy to the heart. Let no one deluded in his wealth harbour proud thoughts, for there is one Hades and an equal end for all. Is someone great in possessions? He receives no more, (but) the same measure of earth for a tomb. Hasten, mortals, gladden your souls at all times as (allegedly) a pleasant way of life is also the measure of existence. So, friends. After this, no more of this—for what more is there?
- Let’s Agree to Disagree, Part II — Michael Gilleland, Laudator Temporis Acti
Many men tend to contradict on every point,
but contradicting rightly’s out of vogue.
Well, as for them there’s one old saw that’s all we need:
‘you can keep your opinion, I’ll keep mine.’
But the intelligent are soon persuadable
by reason, and they’re easiest to teach.
- Why I left the OTO — Psyche, Spiral Nature
It’s no secret that in the Gnostic Mass, this central rite, involves a (fully dressed) priest, a (usually naked) woman on the altar, a simulation of hetero sex initiated by the priest, and a simulation of fellatio performed by the priestess. There’s a lot more involved — more people, more symbolism, magick words, all that great stuff — but these two roles are fixed. A woman may never serve as the priest, and a man may never lay upon the altar. When I asked about that, the instructor burst out laughing, “What, with some dude’s dong on the altar?” He was amused and horrified in equal parts.
I should stress that I don’t hold this lodge at fault, nor, necessarily, its members. They’re passing along the tradition as it’s given to them. Ok, they weren’t challenging it — true — but they didn’t invent it. They made it clear that any deviations in the performance of the Gnostic Mass meant it was no longer an OTO rite. This was it. I could learn to accept it, or leave.
- Warburg Institute: library saved from Nazis awaits its fate: Collection could be broken up in legal action over 1944 deed of trust — Jack Grove, Times Higher Education
Four years after Warburg’s death, the collection of about 80,000 books, many rare Renaissance volumes, was moved to London as Nazism took hold in 1930s Germany. However, the University of London is now seeking to challenge the status of the deed of trust it signed in 1944 when accepting the collection.
That document promised to maintain and preserve the collection “in perpetuity” as “an independent unit” – a pledge that now appears onerous as the Warburg runs a reported £500,000 annual deficit.
Professor Grafton meanwhile raised concerns over the future of the “highly skilled librarians” at the Warburg, which also has a small number of academic staff who supervise arts and humanities graduate students each year.
Further, there is speculation that a court defeat would mean that the collection would return to Hamburg where much of the Warburg family is still based. The US-based branch of the Warburg family are also known to have taken a keen interest in the case.
If you’d like to participate in the next Omnium Gatherum, head on over to the Gatherum discussions at the Hrmtc Underground BBS.
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.
Priest/ess: In Advocacy of Queer Gnostic Mass by Michael Effertz, which was privately printed and circulated, has arrived at the library courtesy of the author. A trade paperback edition is in preparation and planned to be available in this Spring.
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.
There has been a bunch of activity around the notion of a Queer Gnostic Mass lately. The notion seems to be that the Gnostic Mass is not currently LGBT friendly because of particular policies, but that it should be. There is a book, Priest/ess: In Advocacy of Queer Gnostic Mass by Michael Effertz, that has been privately published and distributed. There was a review of the book by Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus. And, there was at least one widely mentioned post attempting a rebuttal to T Polyphilus’ review.
As an aside, I have to point out there’s always something. There seems to be some kind of law of conservation of energy at work around Ordo Templi Orientis. What I mean is that I’ve observed that there seems to be a constant background noise of complaint that remains constant no matter what actual rational issues may exist. There are for every issue that comes up, and every side of those issues, a mob of people who seem determined to get attention and validation from taking particular sides in any conflict they find, and seem to have little actual interest in the issues. Around any authentic issue there seems to be a busy buzz of annoying flies that actually ends up drowning out that issue with other agendas. So, as much as possible, I explicitly refuse to entertain or validate the meaningless constant background distraction from this issue with any more notice than this notice that I take no notice of the noise. (One diabolical beauty, of many, I’ve observed of the law of complaint conservation in action is that those buzzing will take refusal to entertain them as rejection of the core issue, because, of course, it’s all about them and their agenda, and not the actual issue; pro and con doesn’t matter for or to them either. The actual issue is just the delivery mechanism for the steamy, stinky payload of their pathological need for validation around which they can happily buzz angrily biting one and all.) And with that, hopefully, I’ve sent those people off on a spiraling tizzy so the rest of us can talk like adults.
Instead, I hope to focus on considering, in solidarity, what I do hear as actual and authentic dissent on this particular issue from LGBT members of the Order and body of the EGC, and try to be an ally to them. The thing about dissent is that it is difficult to hear, but that difficulty is often in direct proportion to the need to hear it. The thing about oppression is that it so often falls to the oppressed to educate the oppressors. The place of an ally and friend is to help create understanding and raise attention for those directly affected. I think I hear something authentic from my LGBT brothers and sisters, and have heard it enough that I think there must be something important there, though it may be hard and may require some more effort to hear. That the LGBT brothers and sisters are speaking out suggests that those of us who are not should redouble our effort to listen to their story.
What I hear is that LGBT brothers and sisters are feeling they are being treated unfairly and unequally within the Order generally because they specifically do not feel they have equal opportunity to take part in roles within the celebration of the Gnostic Mass that relate to their own lives. I hear that they want to take active part in the ritual, in a way that speaks to them, but feel that they cannot and moreover that they are not being heard.
With that said, I’m really only an ally here, or at least attempting to be one. I am particularly unqualified to make any definitive statements one way or the other, and am not a direct voice on this specific issue. On the one hand, I do not identify as queer or gay, and so I am not a member of the group who might legitimately claim to be affected by the issue, except that, in solidarity and community, to harm one is to harm us all. I am also not clergy in Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, though I have been active in other roles in celebration of the Gnostic Mass. Nor am I part of the government or any governing body (than my own self, of course) of Ordo Templi Orientis. I am also not privy to the Supreme Secret of the Sovereign Sanctuary (though, let’s be honest, like everyone on born on this planet, and their dog, I do have some suspicions about which I’ll hold my tongue).
But, hey, I’ve got a blog, and some thoughts … and my aunt has a barn, so maybe I’ll put on a show! But, seriously, that’s all this post is: just some thoughts, that people can take or leave, consider or not. I’m just another student of the Mysteries recording my own current thoughts at this place and time.
Basically, this is an ideal opportunity to make a misstep by which I can alienate absolutely everyone involved by sticking my foot in my mouth about the issue, or, you know, something even more entertainingly anatomically awkward. Well … yay, and tally ho, I say! Once more into the breach! YMMV. Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.
The issue is that, for public celebrations of the Gnostic Mass, the officers enacting the role of Priest and Priestess must be gender appropriate. The Priest must be of male gender and the Priestess must be of the female gender. For the purpose of this, a public celebration is any where non-initiates are present. For any celebration using the script of the Gnostic Mass which is gender-bent, or otherwise changed, it must not be public and moreover cannot be called a Gnostic Mass in public announcements.
The current policy prohibits certain kinds of participation. A person whose gender is male, whether queer or not, cannot enact the role of Priestess in a public celebration of the Gnostic Mass and a person whose gender is female, whether queer or not, cannot enact the role of Priest. Someone who is sexually male or female, but is gender identified as something else, however, can enact the role appropriate to their gender. The policy is about gender appropriate officers in the role of Priest and Priestess.
I think it is important to now introduce a distinction between what I’d call a “gender bent mass” and what I would understand to be an actual “Queer Gnostic Mass” but I think these two are getting as conflated as are gender and sexuality. To be clear, I will try to keep the term “gender bent mass” for a celebration of the rubric of the Gnostic Mass by officers in these roles which do not match their gender. I will also try to keep the term “Queer Gnostic Mass” for something which intends to be publicly celebrated with queer officers in roles and celebrates some, as yet unknown, mystery and symbolism of queer sexuality.
Thus, I suspect that there is already a serious confusion in the complaint as I’ve heard it because it conflates gender and sexuality, and conflates “gender bent mass” and “Queer Gnostic Mass”. But, I think there is something being talked about that reveals important things about the nature of the Gnostic Mass relevant to the discussion.
But, this specificity about gender for the roles of the Priest and Priestess means that for a public celebration of the Gnostic Mass, a queer male cannot act as Priestess and a queer Female cannot act as Priest. And, if one were not able to identify with one or the other in the gender binary, then one would not be able to be either.
The Gnostic Mass
The Gnostic Mass, which is the the central ceremony for public and private celebration of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, which E.G.C. is in turn the ecclesiastical aspect of Ordo Templi Orientis, is a eucharistic ritual written by Aleister Crowley in 1913 while in Moscow, Russia (interestingly this was on “The Ragged Ragtime Girls” music and dance theatrical tour). The ritual includes a great number of symbolic and structural influences, but it serves a bold and ambitious purpose:
“In composing Liber XV, Crowley attempted to uncover the hidden Gnostic tradition concealed within the ceremony of the Mass, to liberate it from bondage to the Scholastic theories and dogmas of Christian theology, and to demonstrate the fundamental continuity between this ancient tradition of Wisdom and the modern revelations and liberating philosophy of Thelema.” — T Apiryon [via]
Additionally, the ritual, while being esoteric in nature was also to be precisely specific to Nature:
“I resolved that my Ritual should celebrate the sublimity of the operation of universal forces without introducing disputable metaphysical theories. I would neither make nor imply any statement about nature which would not be endorsed by the most materialistic man of science. On the surface this may sound difficult; but in practice I found it perfectly simple to combine the most rigidly rational conceptions of phenomena with the most exalted and enthusiastic celebration of their sublimity.” — Aleister Crowley [via]
There is a great deal of writing about the Gnostic Mass and various aspects of the rite, which is understandable since it has such a central place for EGC and OTO, and one can research much of that at the Hermetic Library. But, what should be clear is that the Gnostic Mass has a purpose in existing in a particular way, and in presenting certain symbols intended to reveal particular ideas. One of these ideas is the IX° secret contained in the system of the OTO:
“Liber XV, the Gnostic Mass, is the central public and private ritual of the OTO and EGC, being itself a IX° operation. All of the secrets of the Order are contained within it, in symbol and ceremony.” — Fr V.I.T.R.O.L. [via]
While the secrets of the Order are contained in this ritual, they are at least veiled to some extent in the rite. The secret is enacted symbolically within the ritual, when it is celebrated properly. Theories about this IX° secret are like assholes, but that’s actually a different degree and, at any rate, the secret is above my pay grade. I’ve been privately assured by at least one person I believe to be in a position to know that, in fact, not all the material is out there in spite of how much is that has been revealed. However, I also noted the curiousity that, in his extensive biography about Aleister Crowley, Perdurabo, Richard Kaczynski points out that Crowley’s own understanding of the secret held by OTO continued to evolve as he experimented with it, even after the time when his scholarly and instructional libri about the secret were written, to the point that those libri “were obsolete even as they appeared” (Kaczynski, 275). So, anyway, who knows? Who knows and when did they know it? “And who with And how many times.”
Anyhow, the point is that there is something there which is being demonstrated by the celebration of the ritual which is of central importance to the EGC and OTO, and the secret that is revealed by the initiatory system.
The EGC Manual
The EGC Manual in use by OTO makes clear in many ways the attention to detail that is given to the proper presentation of the rites so they are “rightly performed with joy & beauty” [Liber AL II 35], especially the Gnostic Mass. Specifically related to this discussion, from the EGC Manual (rev jan 20 ’97):
Section III A 2 a: “A public celebration of the Gnostic Mass is one which is open to members of the pubic; or which is noticed in any official OTO publication under the name “Gnostic Mass”, “Gnostic Catholic Mass” or “Liber XV” or equivalent names. A private celebration of the Gnostic Mass is one at which the individual participants are all initiate members of OTO of at least 0º. Private celebrations of the Gnostic Mass may be held for initiates of higher degrees as well.”
Section III A 2 k: “For public celebrations of the Gnostic Mass, the role of Priest shall be filled by a man, and the role of Priestess shall be filled by a woman.”
So, from these two, if an event is called a Gnostic Mass, even if open to 0°+ only, it would still be public. So, simply calling it a “Mass” or “Gender Mass” or something similar even if publicly announced on a calendar or newsletter would be okay. Also, if not actually announced on an official OTO publication, calling a gender switched Gnostic Mass a “Gnostic Mass” appears to be fine as well. Also, that III A 2 k specifically details gender for public mass celebrations clearly does not prohibit gender bent private celebrations.
My recollection is that there is also a comment somewhere, perhaps in a newer revision, which further clarifies the definition of “man” and “woman” to be something like “living as …” but that may have been something from my Bishop, since I don’t see it in the copy of the manual I have at hand.
The manual specifically states (at III B 1) that modification to the rubric must be approved by the Patriarch, whether for private or public celebration. But, I think, on the topic of a gender bent mass, as a potential change, the permission is implicit without further being sought.
My current reading is that for serious changes to the rubric of Liber XV, one is better off simply writing one’s own eucharistic ritual, and not using more than the structural outline of Liber XV or the text as inspiration and not source material. However, my reading is still that a gender bent private celebration does not reach the level of a “modification” of the rubric, and so, as long as the other issues around performance and how one publicly talks in official publications are followed, gender bent is not just well-contemplated by the manual but completely kosher under the circumstance mentioned.
Also, I suppose, that the Bishop(s) supervising the various participants would have some say as well, in regard to the participation of each individual they supervise. So, that might be a thing.
The Note in the Rubric
There is a note that exists in the rubric, from even the very initial publication of the Gnostic Mass when it appeared in the International, about the officers other than the Priest not taking communion during the ritual:
“The PRIESTESS and other officers never partake of the Sacrament, they being as it were part of the PRIEST himself.” [via]
I find myself coming back to this note often in my thinking about the mass. For me this note makes it absolutely clear that the ritual is a symbolic representation of the work being done within the ceremonial magician, and seems to be a dramatic demonstration of an internal process. If all the roles are part of the Priest then the person enacting the ritual is doing so from the perspective of Priest, and that the role of Priest is in fact an internal aspect of the ritualist. Each role can be seen as an aspect of a single person.
Thus the Priest represents male gender of the ritualist. The Priestess represents the female gender of the ritualist. During the rite, there is an interaction between these two internal genders that takes place. It seems self-evident that these two genders are particular and specific, exist within each person, and are necessary for the ritual to have effect; and that this necessity seems to me to be the reason for the policy around gender bent public presentations of the ceremony. In order to not confuse those attending a public celebration of the Gnostic Mass about the drama being presented, E.G.C. requires the role symbolically representing the male within the Priest is enacted by someone whose gender is male, and the role symbolic of the female within the Priest is enacted by someone whose gender is female. This necessity may also suggest some particularly specific nature to the “sublimity of the operation of universal forces without introducing disputable metaphysical theories.” It seems to me that one element of the symbolism reflects certain natural and scientific facts about the requirements for human reproduction, facts which are necessarily true no matter whether those humans are of any particular gender or sexual orientation. Without the operation of these two gender roles within the ritual and the ritualist, the ritual is not the same, and may, in fact, no longer represent the operation of the secret.
Sexual Polarity from a Male Perspective
In a note about The Saints collect of Liber XV, Helena and Tau Apiryon offer a quote from Hymenaeus Beta, current OHO of OTO:
In his address to the Women’s Conference in 1996 (see The Magical Link, Fall 1997 e.v.), the Patriarch Hymenaeus Beta described the Gnostic Mass as a ‘celebration of the sexual polarities and their cosmic and natural interplay’ from a male perspective, having been written by a man. With regard to the list of Saints, he said, ‘It is a list of the small handful of men and man-gods who, in the opinion of the author of the Mass, understood the divinity of woman. […] Someday, perhaps not soon, but who knows, a woman adept of the Sovereign Sanctuary will manifest the genius to compose a Mass in which the female takes the more active role, and the male the more passive (as with siva and sakti in Hinduism) — in which the Deacon, speaking for the Priestess, can claim communion with the women in history that have perceived the divinity of man.'”
The point here is that the Gnostic Mass is a particular ritual demonstrating particular things from a particular perspective. Other rituals are not only possible but, perhaps, even anticipated, that might offer a different perspective on that ‘cosmic and natural’ sexual polarity.
I’m going to introduce a metaphor. It’s not perfect, but for my purpose it seems useful even so. If all the roles in the Gnostic Mass are “parts of the priest” then one might talk metaphorically about the roles as specific parts. One might talk about the Gnostic Mass as the Left Hand adoring the Right Hand. If one were left handed, one might want to use the Right Hand to adore the Left Hand, or the Right Hand to adore another Right Hand. But, the actual story of the Gnostic Mass is that the Left Hand is adoring the Right Hand. It is certainly possible to write and celebrate a ritual in which the Right Hand adores the Left, or the Right adores the Right, or even the Left adores the Left; but, that isn’t the same story. These changes change the narrative into something else, to varying degrees into a different story.
Now, it may be that in casting the roles in the story of Left Hand adores Right Hand, that the person cast does not for some reason have use of their Left Hand. For example, in the case of Christy Brown, dramatized in the movie My Left Foot, whose only controllable limb was his left foot, it might not be possible. (Gadzooks, but I can already hear the peanut gallery shouting “Are you saying gay people are disabled?!”) In less extreme cases, one might find it interesting to use one’s Right Hand in place of the Left Hand as an experiment in casting against character, or any number of other reasons one might make various modifications to the presentation of the story Left Hand adores Right Hand.
But, the important thing in telling the story Left Hand adores Right Hand is that the narrative not be modified so much that the message is lost. One might put on a performance where a Right Hand is used in the role of Left Hand, but the audience might get confused if the poster didn’t make clear that the performance was intended to be experimental, or they may assume that the story is actually Right Hand adores Right Hand instead, and misunderstand completely.
Moreover, one could write rituals where the Left Foot adores the Right Hand, and so forth, where one specifically means that the Left Foot adores Right Hand, but how does one tell the difference between the ritual Left Foot adores Right Hand from the ritual of Left Hand adores Right Hand where Left Foot is used in the place of Left Hand for some practical reason? The audience is likely to be confused, especially if they are not savvy to the original story, and, really, since the original story is a secret, that’s most people; but also for the person who wanders off the street, and has heard nothing about the ritual at all, there must be a lot of potential of confusion and then consternation at the obfuscation of the intended narrative.
Another Gnostic Mass
It seems like there should be a story about the ‘cosmic and natural’ sexual polarity from other perspectives, and I’m not sure why no one is writing it. Maybe there is, as yet, no one within the Sovereign Sanctuary able or inspired to do so. But that is, again, different than a Queer Gnostic Mass.
For a Female Gnostic Mass, one “in which the female takes the more active role, and the male the more passive […] in which the Deacon, speaking for the Priestess, can claim communion with the women in history that have perceived the divinity of man,” I have found myself idly wondering if such a thing might needs must be written by a queer female writing about the perceived divinity of man from a female perspective, just as Aleister Crowley wrote the ceremony about perceived divinity of woman from a male perspective. For a truly Queer Gnostic Mass, maybe such as thing could be written by a straight member of the Sovereign Sanctuary … or maybe I’m taking my perception of the creative formula a bit too far and strictly, but it amuses me to consider it natheless.
Perhaps there needs to be more LGBT membership in the Sovereign Sanctuary, because from my almost completely limited perspective that body, about which I know very little except for hearsay, seems to be sorely lacking in diversity beyond white hetero-normative committed couples. Does that body match the formula of the Gnostic Mass by chance or design? Is that demographic the chicken or the egg for the issue of LGBT feelings of being treated unfairly? I don’t know about this beyond idle speculation. “Shove me in the shallow waters Before I get too deep.”
I’m not sure what the magical and natural formulae are that would be represented in Queer rituals because there is a specific formula involved in the existing Gnostic Mass, which, while veiled, seems pretty clearly demonstrated. After all, perhaps quite specifically, “I confess one Baptism of Wisdom whereby we accomplish the Miracle of incarnation” in the Creed. If not told well or if the ritual were modified that formula might be obscured beyond recognition. If the Gnostic Mass is a ritual that has a particular narrative built around a central secret, then changing the narrative might start with a different central secret. It seems the narrative should be informed by the source, not the other way around. So, the first thing that might happen is the central secret needs to be interrogated by someone (that knows it, who is a cunning linguist, and is also a prodigious prestidigitator) to figure out if another narrative can be told. And, if there are other related but different Queer formulae, whether different narratives can be told about those different central secrets well enough within the structure of the Order. Or, maybe some of this has been worked by those in a particular degree outside the general plan of the order, but I could only speculate on that.
“… recent researches into the mysteries of the IX° have compelled me to add an XI°, to illustrate a scientific idea which has been evolved by the results of recent experiments.” — Aleister Crowley [via]
A matrix of ritual might be possible which would offer an array of rites to satisfy anyone’s curiousity or general proclivities. But, even a drama queen like Aleister Crowley only wrote the one ritual from the male perspective on the perception of female divinity, and kept it as the single core ritual of OTO. So, it may simply be that there is only that one narrative possible within the structure of OTO and from the secret at the core of the Sovereign Sanctuary; because to change these too much would change the story into something else, or would be to make up a story that is completely fictional and not based on a real secret held by the Order.
Honestly, after so much time no one’s come up with anything, I’m not holding out a lot of hope. If Aleister Crowley didn’t, and no one that’s raised the issue has since, come up with something … but, like so many things, raising an issue and hoping that someone else will solve it is the exact opposite of the fact that raising an issue is really an opportunity to self-volunteer to write original eucharistic Queer ritual rubrics and organize public celebrations of them, and eventually why not a Queer ritual-a-thon? Even if an official Queer Gnostic Mass isn’t available, there’s plenty that could be done. It may not be possible until there is enough LGBT presence in the Sovereign Sanctuary, assuming that there isn’t already, for there to be someone able to make an actual Queer Gnostic Mass, as opposed to just a Gnostic Mass told differently, possible, so perhaps that just means that those who identify as LGBT should redouble effort to advance in the Order so they can seduce the project to fruition by building a firm foundation first.
In other words, there may be ways to celebrate the ritual of Left Hand adores Right Hand using one’s right hand in the role of the left, for practical reasons, though it may appear awkward; but maybe it just ruins the narrative to use one’s left foot and that’s not even to mention using one’s right foot in the role. Further, when the My Left Hand poster advertising the event says the ritual is one thing, to tell an entirely different story of My Right Foot seems definitely not correct, and would be right out of order.
[Originally posted over on John Griogair Bell’s Blog at My Right Foot, or the Potentially Awkward Issue of Inappropriately Adoring Body Parts]
Exposing the old lies told by the priest,
She’s promulgating the Age of the Beast—
The great lion-serpent She’s riding upon!
I raise up the cup and adore Babalon!
— In Nomine Babalon: 156 Adorations to the Scarlet Goddess
The Hermetic Library arts and letters pool is a project to publish poetry, prose and art that is inspired by or manifests the Western Esoteric Tradition.
“The Laws of Moses were to a great extent derived from the Laws of Ancient Egypt, and whatever else may be said of them they certainly tend to sanitary conditions, and length of life, individual and racial.
Now we know that with the Jews Magic was practised in the Sanctuary, but denounced by the Priesthood; it was only when Saul found the Sacred Oracles of the Urim and Thummim deaf to his questions that he consulted a mistress of the AUB or Astral Light.—I Samuel xxviii. v. 7.” [via]
“Here, she is willing. Stands the Absolute
Reaching its arms toward me. I am mute,
I draw toward. Oh, suddenly I see
The treason-pledge, the royal prostitute.
One moment, and I should have passed beyond
Linked unto spirit by the fourfold bond.
Not dead to earth, but living as divine,
A priest, a king, an oracle, a shrine,
A saviour! Yet my misty spirit conned
The secret murmur: ‘Gereth, I am thine!'” [via]