Ordo Templi Orientis
Berkeley, CA 94702 USA
December 1999 e.v. at Thelema Lodge
Lodge Members and Officers
|-- Michael Sanborn|
by Charles Baudelaire
translated with a preface
by Aleister Crowley
Translator's Preface to
"Little Poems in Prose"
|dedicated to Franz Liszt|
What is the Thyrsus? In the moral and poetic sense it is a sacredotal emblem borne in the hands of priests or priestesses when they celebrate the Divinity whose interpreters and servants they are. But physically it is nothing but a stick, a mere stick, hop-pole or vine-prop; dry, hard and straight. Around this stick, in capricious meanderings, sport and frolic tendrils and blossoms, those sinuous and evasive, these hanging like bells or inverted cups, and an astounding glory shoots forth from this complexity of line and tender or brilliant color. Might not one say that the curved line and the spiral are paying court to the straight line, and dance round it in dumb worship? Might not one say that all these delicate corollae, all these calyxes, these eruptions of odour and colour, execute a mysterious fandango around the hieratic staff; and nevertheless, who is the imprudent mortal who will dare to decide if the flowers and the leaves have been made for the stick, or if the stick is but a pretext to display the beauty of the leaves and of the flowers? The thyrsus is a symbol of your astonishing duality, Franz Liszt, powerful and revered master, dear Bacchante of mysterious and passionate beauty. Never did nymph, frenzied by unconquerable Bacchus, shake her thyrsus over the heads of her maddened companions with so much energy and caprice as you when you wield your genius upon the hearts of your brothers!--
The staff is your will; straight, stiff, unshakable. The flowers are the dance of your fancy around your will; it is the female element executing its spell-weaving around the male; straight line and arabesque line; intention and expression; rigidity of the will, sinuosity of the word; unity of end, variety of emotions. Omnipotent and indivisible amalgam of genius, what analyst will find the hateful courage to dissect and separate you?
Dear Liszt, across the fogs, beyond the rivers, above the towns whose musical instruments acclaim your glory, where the printer's press interprets your wisdom, in whatever place you may be, in the splendours of the eternal city or among the folks of the dreamy countries which Gambrinus consoles, improvising songs of delight or of sorrow ineffable, or confiding to paper your abstruse meditations, bard of eternal pleasure and eternal anguish, philosopher, poet and artist, I hail thee, Immortal!
1. Martin Starr in his Teitan Press edition of these pieces (1995) quotes Crowley's marginal
comment from the Warburg Institute copy of the Paris edition, regarding the
missionaries in China: "Thank the Gods! They've killed the swine at last. 1927 E.V."
It has been my suggestion throughout that Marxism as a way of thinking is totally alien to our modern Western forms of empiricism because it is a reversion to the primitive way of thought that is found in the animistic magic of prescientific totemic tribalism. I have also suggested, however, that magical thinking per se is not alien to the human mind, but, rather, is man's oldest, earliest, and most natural way of thinking. Or as Malinowski says:
Magic is . . . akin to science in that it always has a definite aim intimately associated with human instincts, needs, and pursuits. The magic art is directed towards the attainment of practical ends; like any other art or craft it is also governed by theory, and by a system of principles which dictate the manner in which the act has to be performed in order to be effective.1
Thus we say that magic as a way of thinking does make sense, and very good sense, to the people who find a coherent explanation of the world in the terms of its universe of discourse. As a practical way of thinking it is definitely not nonsense, as we too often assume, or it could not have been, as Cassirer says, "the first school through which primitive man had to pass."2 Taking the long view of historical perspective it is rather we, with our emphasis on the impersonal relationship of man and nature, who appear as exceptions to the rule and the question very readily presents itself as to whether or not we shall continue, in any measure large or small, to wield rational control of our destinies. Cassirer puts it this way:
The belief that man by the skillful use of magic formulae and rites can change the course of nature has prevailed for hundred and thousands of years in human history. In spite of all the inevitable frustrations and disappointments mankind still clung stubbornly, forcibly, and desperately to this belief. It is, therefore, not to be wondered at that in our political actions and our political thoughts magic still holds its ground.3
1 Bronislaw Malinowski, Myth in Primitive Psychology (New York: Norton, 1926), p. 82.
2 Ernst Cassirer, An Essay on Man (New Haven: Yale Univeristy Press, 1944), p. 92.
3 Ernest Cassirer, The Myth of the State (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1946), p. 295.
by Nathan W. Bjorge
The Grand Rite of Hawk and Jackal
We're now going to cover the work involved in progressing an individual through the three true grades described in the last two articles. The engine driving these attainments is a particularly exciting kind of planetary Magick which Ebony developed.
For the Hawk and Jackal system, planetary Magick is used in the form of a spiritual progression or pathworking. Each of the planetary energies is summoned in a specific sequence, which projects the initiate from the Earth (Man of Earth), to the Sun, then through the Solar System (Lovers), out to the fixed stars and galactic space (Hermits). This sequence is sometimes called the "Grand Rite" of Hawk and Jackal. Pathworkings of this kind are very old in style, recalling the ancient Gnostic cults. These groups attempted to ascend their souls, either during or after their physical lives, upwards through the planetary spheres of the Ptolemaic cosmology to effect a return to the seat of the godhead or pleroma beyond the sphere of the fixed stars. Ebony's system is similar, but its cosmology has been updated to a Copernican model.
As previously discussed, the Man of Earth works on the terrestrial plane. As the Goddess is manifest in both the Earth and the Moon, H & J sees Man of Earth work as involving aspects of the Moon, specifically the Full Moon. The new initiate is therefore expected to complete a year of Full Moon coven work.
Following this comes the New Moon work. The New Moon is conjunct the Sun, and so this is considered a bridge of sorts toward it. Also since "he is ever a sun, and she a moon" (AL I:16), their conjunction is a symbol of the Lovers. Therefore a Lovers initiation is given to individuals about to begin new moon ritual work.
There is a crucial distinction to make here. This initiation to the Lovers is outer, not inner. The initiation is taken by those who desire to formalize their work towards Knowledge and Conversation, but individuals who hold the formal (as opposed to actual) grade of Lover in the Hawk and Jackal are not yet necessarily adepts in an A A sense. Hence the Lovers ritual initiation is an initiation, or beginning, not a recognition of actual attainment. While there are plenty of means for achieving the actual grade of Lover in H & J, there is no current mechanism for a formal recognition of such within the system. Remember, H & J is essentially an anarchist system, worked by individuals or small autonomous groups. There is no fixed organizational hierarchy to confer legitimacy on people by telling them that they are now adepts (even if they are). This is the tradeoff for having a free system: people work on their own.
With regard to the ritual initiations just mentioned, there were two scripts written by Ebony for this purpose. One for Man of Earth, to introduce Full Moon coven work, and one for the formal advancement to Lovers, prior to New Moon work. These rituals are completely open to use. One does not have to have previously received them to confer them. The third Hermit initiation ritual is incomplete and prefaced with a warning that reads:
The newly initiated Lover now completes a year of New Moon coven work. Then comes the celebration of the interaction of the Earth and the Sun -- the Sabbats. These are the Equinoxes, Solstices, and cross-quarters. I think that the Sabbats might also be celebrated for a year before moving on. I'm not sure. In any case, the next phase after the Sabbats is planetary Magick.
Ebony never succeeded in working any of his own covens past new moon work, and group planetary Magick has not yet been directly attempted in Hawk and Jackal, to my knowledge. Much of the work is therefore still in an outline stage, though the basic sequence of the working and the principles driving the progression are all in place. A group trying to perform this Magick may therefore encounter any number of situations and issues which have not been addressed by the system's original conception. It will be necessary for individual covens, fortified and disciplined by their two years of full and new moon coven work to encounter and resolve in practice any problem areas that arise.
Needless to say, planetary Magick is entirely adaptable to individual activity as well. Ebony intended it to be done together as a group. However, many moon covens do not have the kind of stability or regularity of membership to make this easy. As a purely personal opinion, I think that a great idea might be continuing group work up to the Sabbats as a foundation, with individuals, couples, or smaller groups ready for planetary Magick working it themselves, but coming together with the larger group for Moon and Sabbat rituals.
Covens should not be afraid to modify the system. There is a good passage in the 7th Dialog where Ebony converses with Nuit:
Nuit: "OK. Listen. All you have to do is get a system together, don't worry
if it is not of universal use to those about you."
Ebony: "That's what I'm trying to do! I do know that I want it to be as good as I can make it, so I'm trying to get you to help lay down a skeleton for it."
Nuit: "OK, but that is (beyond a certain point) the human side of the equation, so it is subject to change."
Derived from a lecture series in 1977 e.v. by Bill Heidrick
Copyright © Bill Heidrick
Beyond association as spirit of the Sabbath, the Shekinah links mortal and divine marriage intimately. There is an injunction to the orthodox that sex is proper on the Sabbath. Marriage on earth is also marriage in heaven. It is one with the Sabbath, and the Shekinah comes to the marriage bed.
Broadly, the Shekinah is considered to be that aspect of Deity that comes down especially to a religious gathering or lodge, be it the Holy Spirit, Nuit or aught else. In formalized religion, not every manifestation like this is endorsed. If a like spirit comes to a man who is obviously not fulfilling an accepted role of working with his religion or his society, a Kabbalist might say that instead of the Shekinah one of the old goddesses has come. It might be said that he is being obsessed by Lilith or one of the Ashtaroth. Thus, manifestations of this kind that are not from the sect or particular religion are still recognized, but may be repudiated by the group. This is a way of trying to make sure that everybody stays with the same social pattern. Such a rejection is not based on truth in the sense that something really different has intruded. It's a measure to maintain control of the community, sometimes necessary for survival of the community, but often a conservative abuse of power. Often one of the older religious patterns will spontaneously manifest as a goddess from other times. Why does this happen? People are different. Some would find it much easier to accept Ishtar or Magna Mater than the Shekinah. All these are variations of the same essence.
Such an occurrence may include a physical manifestation. It may be possible to see a woman or a man present, even to photograph something of that sort; but this is very rare. It's more common to have a vision, a daydream or simply to feel a presence. The gender of the spirits does not depend entirely on the gender of the person having the experience. In traditions derived from the Order of the Golden Dawn, the suggestion is common that your inner spirit, your Shekinah principle, is always the opposite from your outer sex. This is not absolutely true. Such a view is another example of the conditioning of the experience, in this case for the sake of balancing sexual qualities. The form that is endorsed by the group is intended to promote the cohesion and theory of the group. If something else comes that is a little different, it is often labeled a demon. The beauty of the experience is such that limiting acceptable forms can enforce adherence to an outer religion.
If you have a good relationship with this spirit, you are brought toward a state of consciousness corresponding to Chesed on the Tree of Life, through a feeling of complete joy, of peace and sheltering providence. The Order of the Golden Dawn replaced the Shekinah of Jewish tradition with a personal Holy Guardian Angel. That was a substantial shift in culture. In Jewish approaches, it would not usually be said that this is the guardian of one person, but rather the guardian of the whole people of Israel. In some Christian traditions, Mary has a similar role. In Thelema, as Crowley developed it, several spirits of this sort are recognized, some individual and some universal. These succeed one another in the attainment of the aspirant, even as individuality is first cleansed and perfected, only to be transcended above the Abyss.
Belief is an outer clothing, one of the superficial garments of Truth. Truth is absolute inside. Belief is the part of Truth that you allow yourself to see, a veil before the face of the Goddess. Conventions, religious and otherwise, allow sight of the spirit only in certain ways. That the Shekinah is the spirit of all of Israel joining itself to a devout person or gathering, is of course a veil of belief, concealing some of the Truth. It's just as much a concealment to refuse to believe such a thing, if some opposite or different notion is taken in its place. If you see your Holy Guardian Angel as different from all others and having certain qualities -- e.g. tall, slender, likes this, doesn't like that, refuses to talk to other people, has a particular name -- that's another veil. You've designed it yourself, perhaps, rather than having it designed by someone else.
Why are such veils present? To look upon naked Truth is to become blind to the rest of the world. The light of Truth is too strong to endure all the time. Imagine talking to a stranger in such a fashion that you said the first thing that came into your mind about that person. After a very short while things could get out of hand. Only with unusual friendship or other bonds of acceptance, can two people become comfortable with such random candor. Usually, saying too much of what you feel to be the truth to people will make them dislike or even fear you. People can't even look at the truth for themselves all the time, let alone have someone else constantly signal it to them. The usual reaction is to either assume the worse or indulge hubris to the point of being near blind and deaf. We put the veil of other words or silences between what we feel and what we say to people. It's not an opaque barrier, but a sort of filter that lets some through and keeps some out. This is a thing of social necessity. We do this also between ourselves and the highest things, by the very nature of incarnation.
|April 13|| Bell Hotel|
Here is a brief follow up sent a few days later, with another enclosure:
The Essay needs some editing. Part was written by G. Aumont. A.C.
The text accompanying this last letter was: "The Three Schools of Magick".
Disclaimer: The text below uses GD or AA style Grade names for various attainments. This is for convenience of description. There is no direct relation between any of the OTO Degrees and the Grades in those orders. Also, it is important to remember that attainment and membership are not identical.
It has long been customary to refer to this sentence as "The Oath of the Abyss":
Strictly speaking, that is not correct. Crowley mentions "The Oath of the
Abyss" in several places, but he does not enlarge upon the content. The
statement given above in italics is actually the obligation of a Magister
Templi, already beyond the Abyss. Crowley does advise that "even the beginner may attempt this practice with advantage." -- Book 4, CHAPTER VII, THE CUP.
However, there is a bit of a rub... In the same place, Crowley says: "The Master of the Temple asks, on seeing a slug: 'What is the purpose of this message from the Unseen? How shall I interpret this Word of God Most High?' The Magus thinks: 'How shall I use this slug?' And in this course he must persist." Either approach can lead to obsession through excess, in the mind
of the unprepared. This practice is discussed in several places in Equinox
Vol. I, No. 1.
The actual Oath of the Abyss is a total and irrevocable commitment to assay the passage -- useless to attempt before the time is right, unavoidable at the moment the Exempt Adept is ready. Even so, the obligation of a Magister Templi is recommended as an experiment for the beginner and must necessarily entail some relevance to the Abyss or it would be inappropriate for the MT on the one hand and "black magic" for the beginner on the other. This technique, as done below the Abyss, amounts to the taking of omens. It is a simple exercise which can inspire, focus will and enhance the swiftness of the mind. Another useful technique is the practice of thinking in antinomial pairs, a way of breaking obsessions and quickening thought. To some extent these two supplement one another. Omen taking naturally leads to superstitious fascination, and antinomy naturally disrupts such a state. The confusion of too much antinomy may be broken by fixation on one thing, taking an omen. Both are dangerous when practiced to excess, and both require a gradual learning process.
Although these practices for the student are described for the Ruach soul, being mental associations and divisions, each of the lower Qabalistic souls has a different sort of involvement. The body or Guf simply reacts to sensory impression or lunges for a distant object of desire. The Nephesh identifies idea and perception without distinction, actively creating illusions. The Neshamah is quite another matter, reflecting a point of view and function that crosses the Abyss. For Neshamah, there is no antinomy for there are not opposites that can be divided. Neither is there association of meaning to perception, since each perceived thing exhibits its own meaning directly. Like all Magical Oaths, the Obligation of the Magister Templi is a truism. The MT need not strive for this, for this is the nature of the MT. Mouthing the words of this obligation will not make anyone a MT.
In trying to take this obligation as an exercise below the Abyss, there are particular signs of obsession that arise from excess. At first, there is an increase in simple tension, as events crowd the mind with an obligation to understand. Errors of judgment begin, hazarding physical safety. Soon the notion of property ownership becomes absurd and living arrangements become compromised by failure of duty. If the student continues trying to interpret every falling leaf as divine revelation, the problem only worsens with maddening confusion, and self-induced hallucination is almost inevitable. It is only a minor symptom of folly when such a person suddenly announces attainment of MT. Even when the practice is sharply limited to one type of observation, these problems can occur. "Ingrown gematria" is an example of that, whereby car license plates and phone numbers start obsessing.
The solution is simple. Limit this practice to particular times and moments. It is too rich a mental food for constant consumption!
If that's how it is for a student below the Abyss, how is it for the Magister Templi or, more to the point, how does it apply to the actual Oath of the Abyss? The Magister Templi looks and sees, listens and hears, touches and feels etc. Yet, he does not. Those material senses are not the vehicles. Above the Abyss, there is communication of the Divine with the Soul, but that Soul is the Neshamah. The dealing is direct, without the forms of nature as an obscuration. To pass the Abyss, one thing is needed beyond the massed readiness of the Exempt Adept, accumulated and perfected by the Work. That thing is the direct opposite of the literal interpretation of this misnamed "Oath of the Abyss". Look carefully into the words:
I will interpret every phenomenon as a particular dealing of God with my soul.
The key is "interpret". Below the Abyss, that is reaction and reason -- mechanisms whereby perceived phenomena are related or explained by the instincts of the body and the associations of the mind. That must be abandoned in the passage of the Abyss; but, if this exact wording is still the "Obligation of the Magister Templi", it must have truth there too.
There is no being in the outermost Abyss, but constant forms come forth from the nothingness of it.
Then the Devil of the Aethyr, that mighty devil Choronzon, crieth aloud, Zazaz, Zazas, Nasatanada Zasas.-- Vision and Voice: the Tenth Aethyr, ZAX.
This is the point of failure or success. The true Oath of the Abyss has been taken. If the illusionary oath continues, the visions, sounds and sensations that appear to manifest in the passage will be grabbed desperately by the mind, interpreted in ways mundane, and "He will Fall". In passing the Abyss, nothing is interpreted in terms of any other thing. All is a direct dealing of God with the Soul, without veil or weighing by reason. The Nephesh fails because it cries out in reaction. The Ruach fails for the very seeking of "because". Only the Neshemah can return upward, for there there is no "this and that", not even a real sense of being elsewhere but beyond the Abyss that is the domain of Choronzon, demon of clinging associations, the drops of blood, not given unto Babylon.
"Search, therefore, if there be yet one drop of blood that is not gathered into the cup of Babylon the Beautiful, for in that little pile of dust, if there could be one drop of blood, it should be utterly corrupt; it should breed scorpions and vipers, and the cat of slime."- Vision and Voice: the Eleventh Aethyr, IKH:
|12/1/99||College of Hard NOX 8 PM|
with Mordecai in the library
|12/2/99||Scales of the Serpent series on|
Liber Arcanorum. 7:30PM
At Cheth House
|12/5/99||Gnostic Mass 7:30PM Horus Temple||Thelema Ldg.|
|12/9/99||Scales of the Serpent series on|
Liber Arcanorum. 7:30PM
At Cheth House
|12/12/99||Gnostic Mass 7:30PM Horus Temple||Thelema Ldg.|
|12/13/99||Section II reading group with|
Caitlin: "The Golden Bough" by
James Frazer, Lodge library 8PM
|12/16/99||Scales of the Serpent series on|
Liber Arcanorum. 7:30PM
In North Berkeley
|12/19/99||Gnostic Mass 7:30PM Horus Temple||Thelema Ldg.|
|12/21/99||Winter Solstice ritual & feast 7PM||Thelema Ldg.|
|12/26/99||Gnostic Mass 7:30PM Horus Temple||Thelema Ldg.|
|12/27/99||Sirius Oasis meets in Berkeley 8PM||Sirius Oasis|
|12/29/99||College of Hard NOX 8 PM|
with Mordecai in the library
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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