Thelema Lodge Calendar for September 1998 e.v.

Thelema Lodge Calendar

for September 1998 e.v.

The viewpoints and opinions expressed herein are the responsibility of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of OTO or its officers.

Copyright © O.T.O. and the Individual Authors, 1998 e.v.

Thelema Lodge
Ordo Templi Orientis
P.O.Box 2303
Berkeley, CA 94702 USA

September 1998 e.v. at Thelema Lodge

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Announcements from
Lodge Members and Officers


Equinoctial Greetings of Autumn

The equinoxes mark points of equilibrium in the Thelemic calendar, and as the seasons balance we gather by tradition to reconfirm our social bonds and relations together. As a ritual community, and as a lodge of Ordo Templi Orientis, we gather at these corners of the year to celebrate and redefine our collective identity. We will be coming together in this way as we enter the autumn of the year 94 of the aeon of Horus -- anno IV6 or 1998 by the calendar of common consent -- on Tuesday evening 22nd September. Sol goes into Libra at 10:38 PM, and our ritual will be held in Horus Temple beginning promptly at 9:00 so that we can incorporate the exact moment as a culmination to the event; to attend, please arrive by 8:30. Since this all occurs on the evening before "The Rite of Mercury," we hope to make the ritual an efficient, easy, and compact symbolic experience.

Members, friends, and guests gather at the lodge for rituals and other events on a regular basis, with most of the activities on our calendar open to interested guests (except initiations or meetings specific to one of the O.T.O. degrees). To visit the lodge if you have not been here recently, call the lodgemaster for directions and information at (510) 652-3171. It's best to call in the evenings, and to leave a message if necessary, but to keep calling back until someone is available to answer you. Sunday evenings are the best times to visit Thelema Lodge, when the gnostic mass of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica is celebrated here in Horus Temple, with communion for all who attend. Lodge members -- along with occasional guests -- take turns serving the community as clerical officers in the mass, and all are encouraged to learn the ritual in order to participate. When a mass team is ready to schedule their performance, the lodgemaster can be consulted for a Sunday evening date on the temple calendar.

Initiations in Ordo Templi Orientis are scheduled here to accommodate the candidates who request them in advance. This month we will be initiating several new members on Saturday evening 19th September, with all who are interested in attending requested to make specific arrangements in advance with the lodge officers. Spectators are welcome to contribute drinks and dessert dishes to the feast at the close of the ritual. To schedule an initiation at Thelema Lodge, fill out the requisite application for your degree, return it to one of the lodge officers, and then keep in touch as your initiation approaches. All dues and fees are collected on the day of the ritual.


StiBeTTChePhMeFShiSS

Eleusis in medias res: Our ongoing nineteenth Rites of Eleusis cycle is turning out one of the best ever, with an elegance of stagecraft, a musical assurance, a complexity of delivery, and a surety and forcefulness of magical intent to rival some of the best we have seen in years. Saturn at Grace's Temple of Astrology late last July was a somber and sensuous backyard discipline ritual, complete with a kid -- a stewed goat -- in the pot. Jupiter at Sirius Oasis (where most of the rest of the Rites will be held) on 6th August was a celebration of party and plenty, anxious to get to the point of the fun, and with a giant salmon in the main dish. Mars on 18th August was a sinister high council of divine war, serving chili con carne so richly peppered that one's ears steamed and wilted simultaneously. As this issue goes to press, Sol is putting the finishing touches on a barbecue luncheon crucifixion rite on the final Sunday in August, to be followed by lustration for all in the Sirius tub. (Lamb ought to be the perfect meat for Sol, I should think, but there may be a great variety of flesh on the grill.)
This month we continue the spiral downward, with Venus at Sirius Oasis on Friday evening 11th September. You can trust this Venus to keep it sweet, we're sure, and it probably ought to be oysters and shellfish on the platter. The rite of Mercury is organizing as an indoor ceremony, most likely at an alternate location which has not determined at press-time. The date is Wednesday 23rd September, one day into autumn, so call the god Mercury for venue information during the preceding week at (510) 601-9393. (What is the meat of Mercury? Fish will do fine with the yellow wine!) Luna's rite, the last of the classical cycle, will be held in the full light of the moon on Monday evening 5th October at Sirius. (What if the virgin is a vegetarian? -- eat your fungus and tofu, and hush up!) After that we will be grounding our whole cycle of Rites onto the firm foundation of Oz, with a newly written "Rite of Earth" in the back yard at Oz House on Saturday afternoon 17th October. Call (510) 654-3580 for the time, and directions to Earth. "Konx Om Pax! Purple light off, white light on . . . The will of the Gods be accomplished! All depart."


K.M.A.D.N.O.X.?

Last month's debate at the College of Hard N.O.X. over the questions, "Is a hierarchical structure imperative for Thelemic orders? Is there anything in the various Holy Books which might bear upon the issue? What would a nonhierarchical order of Thelemites look like?", is continuing informally even as I write. As if by coincidence a website has recently appeared which is devoted almost entirely to the last of these questions. It's title is "K.M.A.D.N.O.T. / Thelema for Congregationalists" (though the name of this organization is apparently provisional), and the URL is http://home.earthlink.net/pandaimon/. The site facilitators are inviting comments and participation from the Thelemic community in general.
This month's meetings of the College will take place in the lodge library on Wednesday evenings 2nd and 30th September at 8 o'clock. The topic for the 2nd is a very special and unique one, quite unlike anything we have ever discussed before. Therefore nothing can or should be said about it in advance. The topic for the 30th is another matter entirely, practically calling for a book on the subject, to be written in the form of long, almost endlessly ramifying, questions. This tantalizingly tendentious topic is "Will the real Baphomet please stand up?, or, Who's that lion snake?"
The identity of the supposed "idol" of the Knights Templar has been persistently investigated and argued about since the latter half of the last century. The image of Baphomet that has captured the modern imagination is taken from an illustration in one of the works of the 19th century French writer on magic, and later saint of the E.G.C., Eliphas Levi (1810-1875). But this is far from the only image that may be identified with Baphomet; the impressive sculptures of horned figures from Templar edifices in the Balkans attest to this, as does Crowley's own identification of Baphomet with certain Gnostic representations. Others have seen in Baphomet a prototypical portrait of the human being who has awakened to consciousness of the Kundalini energy, and now lives out of that consciousness spontaneously. In this he relates to Mithraic Aion, the lion-headed serpent-wrapped god of Eternity, and ultimately to Zurvan, the four-faced lion-headed god worshipped by a subset of the early Zoroastrians, and described as "Boundless Time", who holds before him a lightning bolt which may well symbolize the vital force (i.e., Kundalini energy). And be prepared to hear about Chnoumis as well!

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Fish Liver Smoke in the Marriage Bed

"And the devil shall smell it, and flee away, and never come again any more: but when thou shalt come to her, rise up both of you, and pray . . ." Popular erotic, angelic, and demonic magic of the eastern diaspora of Israel (circa 180 BCE) is depicted in the inter-testamental Book of Tobit, a favorite text among medieval angelogists and magicians for the wealth of lore it offers regarding practical interactions with spiritual beings. Found among the texts designated as the biblical Apocrypha, Tobit's story will be the subject of our Section Two reading group this month, meeting at Oz House with Caitlin on Monday evening 14th September at 8:00. This brief biblical folktale begins as a pious little romance of ordinary Jewish life in the exiled communities after the subjugation of Jerusalem. Tobit, a successful businessman and a good Jew, sends his son Tobias off to discharge a financial obligation in the land of Media, and hires a guide for him called Azarias, who is a disguise for "Raphael, one of the seven holy angels." Accompanied on the journey by his trusty pet dog, Tobias is conducted by the angel to the wondrous utopian city of Ecbatana, where he falls in love and marries a nice Jewish girl, and returns home loaded down with wealth. To claim what he wants, he has to defeat the demon Asmodeus, his rival for the affections of the maiden Sarah. "This maid hath been given to seven men, who all died in the marriage chamber. . . . for a wicked spirit loveth her, which hurteth . . . those which come unto her." All this is to be accomplished with fish-liver smoke (among other byproducts). The Book of Tobit is an ironic answer to the heroic tales of the Torah, to the archaic wisdom of Job, and to the strident rhetoric of the old prophets (with a special wink toward the comic prophet Jonah). Besides containing the earliest "biblical" mention of the archangels Raphael and Gabriel and of the demon Asmodeus, Tobit's story also features the only "nice dog" anywhere in the whole biblical canon. (All other "bible dogs" are nasty, viscous, and disgusting, just as in Moslem tradition -- or, for that matter, in the Book of the Law!) The Book of Tobit is available in many editions of the inter-testamental Apocrypha, and participants will find it well worth reading ahead, in order to facilitate discussion. Give a glance as well to other biblical accounts of angels, and we will widen our discussion to the whole realm of preternatural creatures in the Hebrew tradition. "And now, O Lord, I take not this my sister for lust, but uprightly . . ."

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Banishing Ritual Seminar in Marin

Bill Heidrick will offer a seminar on the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, with attention to the structure, meaning, and history of this basic personal exercise in ceremonial magick, meeting in San Anselmo this month. Some remarks upon Crowley's Thelemic variations on this banishing ritual -- in particular his ritual of the Star Ruby -- will also be included. Join the group on Wednesday evening 16th September at 7:30, in the parlor of the Treasurer General of O.T.O. International, who was also one of the founding officers of Thelema Lodge. For directions, contact Bill well ahead of time by e-mail to heidrick@well.com, or telephone (415) 454-5176. Suggestions will be welcome also for future class topics in Bill's monthly series of seminary studies.
One of the basic practices in the personal ritual training of many Thelemites, whether in beginning or advanced operations, is the little Hebrew prayer which we know as the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. Taught in its current form to members of the Golden Dawn, it is based upon formulae for personal protection which can be found in medieval qabalistic rituals, very likely representing established traditions of even greater antiquity. Most of us are familiar with the "doxology" (prayer of praise) in the opening "qabalistic cross," a version in Hebrew of the liturgical phrase interpolated into Protestant translations of the "Lord's Prayer." This phrase (which is not present in the oldest Greek gospel texts and has been excluded from Catholic translations), is a list of three of the sephirot on the Tree of Life: "for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, amen." The four archangels summoned in the corners of the circle were also associated with the magic of personal protection in Renaissance qaballah, again very likely giving us a record of practices established much earlier. A popular allegorical figure of the "Palace of Health" representing the human body as a castle, defended by four personal guardian angels at four gates from the outside onslaught of harm and disease, can be found in various medieval versions, often with the same angelic names which are "vibrated" in the LBR. The phrase establishing a pillar of force between two stars is adapted from a medieval Hebrew "night prayer," a blessing summoning the angelic guardians upon retirement. Associations such as these can be made meaningful on several levels, and Crowley once wrote of the LBR (in a footnote to one of his early poetic volumes), "Those who regard this ritual as a mere device to invoke or banish spirits, are unworthy to possess it. Properly understood, it is the Medicine of Metals and the Stone of the Wise."


Crowley Classics

The Beast Takes a Ticket
Part One: Aleister Crowley at the Cinema

This month we collect two items from the New York magazine Vanity Fair during the First World War, concerning the early silent cinema. The first article, a light analysis of the film industry and its challenges in the era before the heyday of Hollywood, was published in the issue for July 1917 e.v. (pages 55 & 88). The other was published the previous year, and is a humorous experiment in scenario composition for a rip-roaring (silent) three-reeler film. It appeared in the June issue for 1916 e.v., on page 89, with the editorial billing of "the Worst Short Film Story" which Vanity Fair could find. Accompanying the scenario were five crude illustrations of the principal characters, with fanciful captions, most probably sketched by the author himself.

I.

What's Wrong with the Movies?

The Industry Seems to Be in a Critical Condition
--- and Perhaps It Deserves to Be

by Aleister Crowley

It is bad taste -- and not the World War -- which is killing the movies. Bad taste in every direction. In the first place, the wretches in power, when they get a perfectly competent author -- will not trust him at all. The great writer's story has always been a "movie" -- on the screen of the author's mind. It was complete in every picture, before he ever put pen to paper. But the producing wretches do not know that. They do not realize that he has done the thing right. They do not even realize this in the case of a famous novel -- or play -- where a long success has proved it. There preposterous people do not understand that they insult the public and make themselves ridiculous into the bargain when they offer to "improve" Victor Hugo; to bring Dumas "up-to-date"; to put "punch" into Ibsen; or to "alter" history a bit in order to give Joan of Arc an earthly lover.

Some months back two wealthy gentlemen were lunching at the Knickerbocker Hotel, in New York, where all movie magnates seem to make a habit of foregathering. They were trying to think of a book to "film." A pause. One suggested Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame. "A grand sweet story! Some story! Some punch! Some pep!" A longer pause. "Say, why, in our film, shouldn't that hunchback marry the beautiful gipsy chicken?" "But, say, we can't have that little pippin tied up to a hunchback." "I got it, bo, we'll get a Johns Hopkins guy to straighten him out on the operating table." "Say, you're some artist, Al."
And so, alas, it all came about.
These two master minds could not foresee that everyone who had read Hugo's great story would leave the theatre foaming at the mouth, raving for blood.
Similarly with Hedda Gabler. They had to improve on Ibsen's great curtain, and bring in George Tesman to confront Brack, who faints on hearing the pistol shot, and asks "Why should you faint at my wife's death?" with all the air of one who proposes an amusing riddle!
One could go on for hours describing the fatuity of the movie men. It is not that their ideas are necessarily wrong in themselves, but that they are inappropriate -- and in bad taste. They forget that the author has thought out all his contrasts and values, and even a better author could not alter them without destroying them utterly.

Suppose that I make up my mind that one of Charles Condor's painted women on a fan lacks distinctness? Do I call in Zuloaga to put a new head on her? Zuloaga will paint me in a fine head, no doubt; but he is certain to throw out the rest of Condor's picture. In the realm of painting I much prefer Gaugain to John Lavery, but I should not ask the former to paint a Samoan head on the shoulders of the portrait of "Lady Plantagenet-Tudor" by the latter. Consider the diffident reverence with which a great artist like Sir A. Quiller-Couch finished a novel by Stevenson -- and always from the master's notes.
It has often been said that the worst author knows his business better than the best critic, just as the feeblest father will beget more children than the biggest naval gun. But in the movies we have men who are such atrociously bad critics that they permit the most shocking solecisms in almost every scene.
See the wealthy New York man of fashion, dressing for a dinner at Mrs De Peyster Stuyvesant's! See how deftly he shoots on his detachable cuffs and snaps on his elastic tie. See how charmingly he wears his derby hat with his evening coat. He even retains it, possibly fearing that it may be stolen in Mrs Stuyvesant's drawing-room, which is, of course, furnished in the manner of the gentleman's lounge on a Fall River boat.

In this connection let us observe how the Russian Ballet gets its splendid effect of art. There is a true and tried artist for the scenery, another for the arrangement of the dances, another for the music, another for the costumes, and so on. All conspire, all contribute, the one careful never to impede the work of the others. The result is an artistic unity. Tinker with the whole, bring in one inharmonious element, and the entire conception goes by the board. A Zulu chief is a magnificent object -- but you must not exchange his gum-ring for Charlie Chaplin's derby hat.

Modern opera is suffering in the same way. The only pains taken at the Metropolitan, let us say, is with the hiring of the singers. The same old scenic conventions must do, the same old wardrobe traditions, the same old lighting arrangements, and the same antiquated ballets. The result is that an "art impression" is never made. People go away, praising the orchestra and the singers; but they are not stunned, carried out of themselves by the glory of witnessing a really artistic operatic creation. There is everywhere evident this same blind fatuity in the movies.

To return to the question of the author. Who invented modern musical comedy? Gilbert and Sullivan. Gilbert insisted -- made it a point in every contract or license -- that his libretto was to have no cuts, no modifications, no gags; even his minutest stage directions were to be followed implicitly -- Take it or leave it. Most of his stuff is therefore as strong and sound and playable today as it ever was.
But his successors have not his willpower. Today every inartistic man in a movie production must needs have a finger in the artistic pie. Some of their suggestions may possibly be good, some bad; but the unity and coherence of the author's conceptions are lost, and the outcome is a muddle. Ne sutor ultra crepidam. Too many cooks spoil the broth.
In the movies this confusion is accentuated to the point of dementia. What costumes! What furniture! What ladies! What ballrooms! What clubs! What love scenes! What butlers and footmen! What dinner tables! What débutantes! What boots and slippers! What coiffures! What jewelry! What manners!
Several times, of late, I have seen films where the tinkers had improved a good novel out of existence. The beginning, end, and middle of the story had been dexterously amputated or "arranged." We were not informed of the relationship existing between the various characters; the motives for their acts were utterly obscure. A "situation" would ultimately arise -- and then, instead of a dénouement, the film stopped suddenly!
One felt as if one had somehow got into a lunatic asylum.

Another point is the question of "new stuff." One enterprising movie manager did actually go so far as to engage a set of competent artists -- at $150 per diem, all told -- to get out new ideas for him: original costumes, lights, scenery, and all the rest of it. They produced the new ideas. "Fine! Fine!" cried he. Then a horrid doubt seized him. "But this isn't a bit like what we've been used to!" he stammered. "No," said they, "it's new. You said 'new,' you know!" "That's right, I did," he cried, "but, say, the public wouldn't stand for this, it's too new."
O, purblind crew of miserable men, cannot you see that the only way to succeed in the movies, or in any art, is to get the men who really know how, to create new effects of art, and then to trust them implicitly? The worst author is better, as an author, than the best "producer" or "director," however highly paid, unless he sticks to his business of visualizing, with sympathy and fidelity, the author's conceptions and ideals.
The only good films, the only popular films, are those by living authors of repute, who have somehow been able to insist upon having their conceptions literally carried out, and not meddled with by a band of misguided and inartistic managers.

Millions of dollars have already been lost in the movies by the many errors indicated above; and it may be well to point out that the public recognizes that the business is everywhere approaching a grave crisis. You, gentlemen, who are still making money, take heed: you are going to lose it in another few months unless you learn a little something about good taste in matters of art.
If only a man could found a "Famous Authors Film Producing Company" and give the authors a fair chance and a free hand, and then employ real artists for the costumes -- a real tailor for the men's clothes -- real decorators for the indoor sets; real ladies to look after the manners of the actors, and real architects to design the houses, he would be able to take up the whole of the Liberty Loan out of his first year's profits.


II. Vanity Fair's Prize Movie Scenario

Winner of the Thousand-Dollar Reward
for the Worst Short Film Story

by Aleister Crowley

It is time to take the public into our confidence. From what wonder- working, from what throbbing convolutions of what palpitating gray matter came those filmy, shimmering reels that thrill us so? At enormous expense we have prevailed upon those household-word-named impressarioni -- or shall we say impressariacci? -- Mr Griffith, Mr Sennett and Mr Ince -- to allow us to publish the first draft of their forthcoming hyperpyrexia, with their matchless scenario and sketches and explanatory notes.

The Pearl Girl
or, The Whale, the Siren and the Shoestring

Scenario (probably) by Roy McCardell

REEL I: - The home of Senor Mañana, the Silver King of Mexico, his daughter, Peseta, a willowy-brunett with saucer-like eyes. (Peseta Mañana -- Miss Mary Pickford.) (NOTE: Miss Pickford is a blonde. We will have to overcome this difficulty somehow.) Their wealth, elegance, and noble, patriarchal manners. Arrival of Diego, the pearl-fisher, with the only pearl in the world the size of an emu's egg. Sale of the pearl to the Senor. The pearl taken to Tiffany's to be set in a necklace. Peseta is observed at the necklace counter by a Sinister Stranger. (NOTE: Arnold Daly might play this part very well.) Peseta comes of age. Magnificent tango party, at which she wears the pearl. Entry of Sinister Stranger, who demands an interview with the Wicked Baron -- we mean the Silver King, or Senor Mañana.

(NOTE BY PRODUCER: During all these scenes, past, present, and future, whether on the burning sands of Coney Island or the frozen steppes of the Bronx, people should constantly snatch up telephones and talk into them excitedly, without waiting to get any particular number. It all helps. Silhouettes of mysterious people may also pass behind a window. They have nothing to do with the story, but they excite curiosity and are soon forgotten in the general turmoil.)

Ultimately, the Sinister Stranger and Mañana meet. "I demand your daughter and her pearl." "You are mad." "If not ---" "I defy you." The Sinister Stranger produces a transfer on the Tenth Avenue Line, which the audience will understand to be that used long ago by Mañana as a boy, illegally, for he had started life on a shoestring. Mañana, in despair, and realizing that he can never live down the dishonest episode of the transfer, pulls the shoestring from his pocket and strangles himself with it. The Sinister Stranger snatched up Peseta and bolts, but they stumble over the hacienda and fall from the patio into the caramba, which is full of water. Peseta (pearl and all) is swallowed by a whale. (The Whale -- Tom Wise or Miss Marie Dressler.)

REEL II: Limousine Lollipop, an exquisite blonde, is fishing on the Yukon. Her mother has banished her from their Tenth Avenue mansion to the frozen Alaskan wilds, as she is getting much too fond of the Great White Way, and thinks it wise to let her daughter cool off a bit. Besides, Mamma has a little affair of her own, and Limousine is in the way. By and by, after an encounter with a polar bear, she meets a lovely Esquimau. They chat. The Esquimau embraces Limousine. She kills the Esquimau for trying to flirt with her, and then suddenly she feels a pull on her line. It slackens, but there is still something there. She reels it in. She has false-hooked the whale by the pearl necklace which his throat was too small to swallow. (See any Natural History.) The great pearl is hers! She plots to return to Broadway with her prize. But it is spring; the ice is breaking up; she finds herself adrift upon the trackless ocean!

The spring advances rapidly. Limosine's iceberg drifts ever in a southerly direction, melting as it goes. At last it is only just large enough to support her. Still it grows smaller! What can she do? Standing on one toe she pirouettes on the ever dissolving ice cake. An inspiration! She produces a play she has written and reads it aloud. Like magic the ice cake expands. The play is a frost! Suddenly a liner appears. No; it is a British man-of- war. Gracious heavens! and Limousine's sole literary solace in these trying months has been a copy of The Fatherland! Limousine is taken to London as an exceedingly suspicious character, and enters the Tower of London by the gloomy portals of the Traitor's Gate!

REEL III: Limousine is to be shot in the Tower as a spy. But, as the command "Fire!" is given, a Zeppelin drops a bomb of high explosive, which deflects the bullets. She herself is blown gently into the river, where she is rescued by a waiting U-boat, which has popped up to see the Zeppelin raid.
It will doubtless have occurred to everyone that so far we have had no motor-cars; and a film without a motor-car is like Macbeth without the Thane of Cawdor. So we will have the submarine pursued by the whole British army -- in twelve-cylinder automobiles. Limousine, however, escapes on the submarine. (This is rather tame, but it would be a bore to have her arrested a second time. We must thrash out something new. Perhaps after lunch!) On arrival at New York Limousine is met at the docks by . . .

Now we switch right back to the Mañana family. It's irritating, of course, but all the movie concerns are doing it. Peseta, inconsolable at the loss of her father and her pearl, though glad that she has escaped the Whale -- which she did in the usual manner by diving down his throat (large enough for her, if not for the pearl) and boring her way out with a hatpin -- finds herself upon a desert island. Now, do you remember the play which Limousine produced on the ice cake? You don't. All right, let's have a switchback then, showing the play. Now you remember, don't you? Good. There isn't any reason why you should recall the incident, but that switchback will add a few feet to the film. Penniless and starving, Peseta decides to become a newspaper reporter on the Coral Evening Headache. She gets a position as Society Editor and is rapidly promoted, after various adventures (which I shall leave to my subordinates to work out). She is finally transferred to Vanity Fair in New York and is made Lingerie Editor. In this capacity she goes down to the docks and --
Recognizes in Limousine Lollipop the Sinister Stranger who has thus disguised himself in order to win back the pearl and the girl. They embrace, of course! (Darkness.)
"Pass out on this side, please, and let those take their seats who have not seen the film."

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from the Grady Project:

Three Poems

All-Father

Gonad
Monad

Atu XV, The Devil (Pan)

-- Grady L. McMurtry
(undated)       


(untitled)

Roan
Drone

-- Grady L. McMurtry
(undated)       


The Black Skies of Athanor

Orgasm
Spasm

Atu XVII, The Star

-- Grady L. McMurtry
(Nov. 6, 1962)

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Guest Article

Similarities in Difference:
A Key to Yeats's System

By Nick Serra

It is natural for any student of Aleister Crowley's writings to become interested in their antecedents, particularly the curriculum of the Golden Dawn and its many bend-sinister offspring. Most often this means studying the later Golden Dawn papers of the Stella Matutina as rearranged by Dr. Felkin, Moina Mathers's A O documents, and perhaps the Christianized versions of A. E. Waite and Reverend Ayton's Fellowship of the Holy Cross (a.k.a. the Holy Order of the Golden Dawn and the Reconstructed Rosicrucian Order). However, one adaptation of the basic Golden Dawn system that has gotten virtually no notice is that of W. B. Yeats, the most canonized member of the pre-schismatic Order, who represented the English temples during the original 'Revolt of the Adepti' of 1900-1901.
One reason for Yeats's esoteric obscurity is that his commentators have persisted in treating every product of his pen as a literary achievement -- despite explicit statements to the contrary in his letters, essays, and autobiography. His most openly esoteric document is the 1937 edition of A Vision, which is the distillation of three decades of magical experiments performed after he was elevated to the Golden Dawn's Inner Order. The bulk of these, published for scholars in three volumes as Yeats's Vision Papers, are startlingly reminiscent of Crowley's Cairo Workings (if they had extended over two decades rather than 25 days).
I began reconstructing Yeats's magical system early in 1990, after I had read (and reread and reread) the majority of Crowley's works. It did not surprise me that many of Yeats's poems and stories, sprinkled as they are with veiled references to the Golden Dawn curriculum, hid complicated didactic messages. It is evident from extant correspondence that other members of the Order recognized the hidden magical significance of his poems and plays, even though they often fail to go into detail. However, I was astounded to discover that Crowley and Yeats spoke about the tasks and problems associated with grades beyond those of the original cipher manuscript in almost identical terms. That both men had been proteges of Macgreggor Mathers was one obvious explanation, but not one that was easily extended to cover independent experiments with differing agendas performed long after both men had broken with Mathers.
The genesis of A Vision can be traced to a series of magical ceremonies Yeats devised in 1897, shortly after he published a series of three stories centered around an adept named Michael Robartes (whose mystical order, the Alchemical Rose, is blatantly similar to the Golden Dawn). In his autobiography, Yeats relates how he decided to invoke the moon by repeating, night after night, "the names associated with the moon in the cabbalistic tree of life. The divine name, the name of the angelic order, the name of the planetary sphere, and so on, and . . . to draw certain geometrical forms." This series of rituals resulted in the vision of "a naked woman of incredible beauty, standing upon a pedestal and shooting an arrow at a star" (248). Yeats later used this image to connect three separate works: the essay "Anima Mundi," with its discussion of the straight and winding paths on the Tree of Life, the 1925 edition of A Vision, whose system connects the way of the soul between the sun and moon with the 28 lunar phases, and "The Phases of the Moon," the poem that serves as the introduction to both editions of A Vision, in which Michael Robartes uses the image of "The burning bow that once could shoot an arrow / Out of the up and down . . ." as a metaphor for "escape" from the very system of phases that he expounds.
I followed any number of blind alleys while I attempted to discover the pragmatic methodology behind the final version of A Vision. Before discussing what it is, it might be helpful if I mention a few things that it is not. First and foremost, it is not a literary document at all, though it is true that Yeats retroactively inserted metaphors gleaned from his research into many earlier poems. As a purely poetic system it is, as Yeats judged it, seemingly arbitrary, harsh, and difficult. Its symbolism owes very little to the hexagram rituals, although Yeats's descriptions of the two interconnected gyres are superficially similar. Likewise, it is not a tangent from Mathers's essay "The Tree of Life as Projected in a Solid Sphere," but various astrological concerns do recur throughout the Vision Papers. At its most fundamental level, A Vision is Yeats's extended treatise on the Magical Memory. In it, between the lines, he stresses the need for the structured introspection that Crowley developed into the concept of the magical diary.
The 28 phases, or incarnations, that Yeats describes in A Vision represent a closed system. A soul is required to learn the spiritual lessons of a given phase during one lifetime or several, as the case may be. Once these lessons are internalized, the soul progresses on to the next phase. However, according to Yeats, when the soul learns the lessons set forth for all 28 phases, it does not proceed on to some other state of being. On the contrary, those mundane souls whom "the last servile crescent has set free" are doomed to repeat the cycle: "The first thin crescent is wheeled round once more."
True to his Neophyte oath, Yeats obscured every overt reference to his studies as a member of the Golden Dawn when he included esoteric symbolism in his works. In his essay "Magic," for example, he openly admits that when he edited his poetry he frequently deleted any reference to "hidden things" -- no matter how opaque it might have been for the average reader. Thus, A Vision augments, but it does not explain. Specifically, Yeats does not explain the pragmatic method by which he believed that an individual might escape from the closed wheel of incarnations.
There is no doubt that Yeats codified the material from the Vision Papers into A Vision for the edification of practicing magicians (for want of a better term). His "schoolmates," to whom he consigns the text in Essays and Introductions, were not literary critics, but rather those Golden Dawn initiates whom he invokes by name in A Vision's epilogue, "All Souls' Night" -- and, it might be argued, adepts of equivalent grade from parallel magical traditions. As practicing adepts, they might be expected to grasp the theoretical method of escape that Yeats mentions in Wheels and Butterflies: "There is perhaps no final happy state except in so far as men may gradually grow better; escape may be for individuals alone who know how to exhaust their possible lives, to set, as it were, the hands of the clock racing." What is the practical means of escape? This is precisely what he cannot reveal.
We cannot know specifically what Yeats thought about the uses to which A Vision might be put, but we can make a few informed guesses. In his pamphlet "Is the Order of R. R. & A. C. to remain a Magical Order" he condenses the tasks of adeptship into one concrete aim: to be united with God (like Plotinus) while still in the body. All the rest of the details about which there was endless argument among the adepti -- grades, examinations, individual elitist groups -- were mere external trappings. The duty of the adept was to attempt divine union. Further, Yeats seems to have stumbled upon the concept of gilgul at some time during his early qabalistic studies. Developed fully (I believe) in the school of Isaac the Blind, the theory of gilgul maintains that since individual souls are created in the image of God, they are preëxistent in the archetypal world of Atziluth. According to some authorities, no mundane individual may rise above the Sephirotic world to achieve union with the Absolute until every preëxistent soul has realized its divine potential, thus necessitating the need for spiritual purification through repeated incarnations. This seems to be the condition that Yeats describes as the winding path of nature in Per Amica Silentia Lunae, and elaborates in A Vision.
Still, if the recurrent and fixed pattern of phases was the single reality of the universe, there would be little or no chance for divine union. Yeats's careful delineation of the characteristics of the various phases would then be reduced to a mere academic exercise, and there would be no point to his lifelong attempt to master the Golden Dawn's qabalistic system. However, Yeats learned about the path of the Middle Pillar early in his studies. It appears in his poetry from the very beginning, and recurs in his vision of "a naked woman of incredible beauty, standing upon a pedestal and shooting an arrow at a star." If the winding path of gradual purification was the course of nature, then the straight path of the Middle Pillar was the path of Will, the course of an adept who wished to circumvent nature, and it is precisely for this reason that Yeats labored over the text of A Vision for twenty years.
During my first several readings of A Vision I was taken in by the apparent complexity of Yeats's subject matter: interlocking gyres that chart the progress of individual souls and whole historical epoches, the relationships between the Mask and Will, Creative Mind and Body of Fate, as well as the cone of the Faculties and the cone of the Principles. The next few readings involved tracing his references to the Golden Dawn curriculum, "the six wings of Daniel's angels, the Pythagorean numbers, a venerated book of the Cabala where the beard of God winds in and out among the stars, . . . those complicated mathematical tables Kelly saw in Dr. Dee's black scrying stone." For a long time I considered abandoning any attempt to fix his meaning regarding the thirteenth sphere, "which is in every man and called by every man his freedom," simply because the author himself leaves readers with an enigmatic "I have already said all that can be said," which I interpreted as equivalent to Crowley's quote, "'Only an adept can understand the Qabalah,' just as (in Buddhism) Sakyamuni said, 'Only an Arahat can understand the Dhamma'" (Eq 1(5) 91).
Of course, as is usually the case, a complex equation tends to mask a simple answer. I would hesitate to call all the details of A Vision "window dressing," but the fact of the matter is that the complexities of Mask and Will and all the rest tend to obscure the one obvious sine qua non for anyone working in Yeats's system of gyres and phases. Before anything else can be accomplished, a reader has to ask: "What phase am I in?" or, as Crowley puts it in the very first letter in Magic Without Tears, "How did I come to be in this place at this time, engaged in this particular work?"
The answer to this question, according to Crowley, can best be found through the construction of a magical diary describing not only the main events of this life, but on into family ancestry as well. It is a pragmatic expansion of the Delphic Maxim, and it leads not only to the discovery of who one really is (and thus one's True Will), but also to the memory of previous incarnations. It seems logical to assume that the memory of past incarnations would restore also the memory of past lessons learned, and thus set the hands of the clock racing. Only by using this method to escape from the system of phases can an adept attain union with the Absolute or, in Yeats's own words from "A Dialogue of Self and Soul," be delivered "from the crime of death and birth."
From the above we can see how two adepts of the Golden Dawn, with seemingly antithetical agendas, have come to a startlingly similar conclusion. As Crowley said in the Bagh-i-muattar and repeated in Magic Without Tears -- "Who hath the How is careless of the Why." However, this discussion also allows us to judge the merits of two very different teachers. For all of Crowley's emphasis on the 'why' over the 'how,' the how is almost always there, needing only to be pieced together from a multitude of cross references.
If one reads Yeats's poetry as a means of accessing the primary philosophy of the Golden Dawn, it soon becomes apparent that the 'how' is almost entirely absent, as is the 'why.' The reason for these omissions is fairly straightforward. Crowley teaches magick as a fairly concrete subject, capturing the aim of religion with the method of science. Theory aside, he concerns himself with investigating the fact that by doing certain things, certain other things follow. Yeats, on the other hand, seems to have believed that merely by placing seemingly disconnected symbols into his works with sufficient forethought and intent, he could propel his readers into an altered state of understanding, as Mathers had once provoked him into a vision of the salamanders by simply showing him a symbol painted on a card.
Whether Yeats was correct in his evaluation of the blind power of symbols to transport readers to new realms of understanding is something that I would rather not judge. Certainly three generations of literary scholars have missed the inner implications of much of his work completely. However, it is clear that it helps to have a thorough background in the 'unwritten' methodology of the pre-1900 Golden Dawn before one attempts to read Yeats poetry and drama -- for whatever reason. Moreover, as many of my present audience will recognize, only the didactic and technical discussions of Aleister Crowley, the renegade adept of popular imagination, can fulfill this need.

Our regular columns will resume next issue.


Events Calendar for September 1998 e.v.

9/1/98College of Hard NOX 8 PM
with Mordecai in the library
Thelema Ldg.
9/6/98Gnostic Mass 8:00PM Horus TempleThelema Ldg.
9/10/98Ritual Study Workshop with Cynthia
8:00 PM
Thelema Ldg.
9/11/98The Rite of Venus 8PM
Call to attend
Thelema Ldg.
9/13/98Lodge luncheon meeting 12:30Thelema Ldg.
9/13/98Gnostic Mass 8:00PM Horus TempleThelema Ldg.
9/14/98Section II reading group with
Caitlin: The Book of Tobit and
Biblical angel lore, 8PM OZ House
Thelema Ldg.
9/16/98Seminar on Banishing Rituals with
Bill Heidrick at 5 Suffield Ave.
in San Anselmo, 7:30PM
Thelema Ldg.
9/17/98Ritual Study Workshop with Cynthia
8:00 PM
Thelema Ldg.
9/19/98Inititions into OTO, call to attendThelema Ldg.
9/20/98Finnegans Wake reading 4:19 PMThelema Ldg.
9/20/98Gnostic Mass 8:00PM Horus TempleThelema Ldg.
9/22/98Autumnal Equinox Ritual 8PM
at Horus Temple
Thelema Ldg.
9/23/98The Rite of Mercury
8PMCall to for location
Thelema Ldg.
9/27/98Gnostic Mass 8:00PM Horus TempleThelema Ldg.
9/28/98Sirius Oasis meeting 8:00 PM
in Berkeley
Sirius Oasis
9/30/98College of Hard NOX 8 PM
with Mordecai in the library
Thelema Ldg.

The viewpoints and opinions expressed herein are the responsibility of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of OTO or its officers.

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