Sunday, December 21, 2014

Thelema is not the G∴D∴

I recently found this article which states the authors' view of Thelema as being "Golden Dawn version 2.0". While this makes sense from certain perspectives, there are a few reasons that I do not see this as being so.

The main reason has to do with the two systems' fundamentally different ways of relating to exoteric spiritual systems. There is a phrase which I am sure originated with the Golden Dawn, but the only place I have re-discovered it so far is in Liber 30:
In the true religion there is no sect, therefore take heed that thou blaspheme not the name by which another knoweth his God; for if thou do this thing in Jupiter thou wilt blaspheme יהוה, and in Osiris יהשוה.
That seems like a pretty tolerant, inclusive statement, doesn't it? Which is why I doubt it was original to Aleister Crowley; one of his suggestions for ringing in the new Aeon was to shout "ΑΠΟ ΠΑΝΤΟΣ ΚΑΚΟΔΑΙΜΟΝΟΣ" (Greek for "away, all evil spirits") at any servants of the "Osiran religion" that one happens to pass on the street - i.e., Christians. Even less pleasant is what Ra-Hoor-Khuit states in the third chapter of The Book of the Law:
(49) I am in a secret fourfold word, the blasphemy against all gods of men.
(50) Curse them! Curse them! Curse them!
(51) With my Hawk’s head I peck at the eyes of Jesus as he hangs upon the cross.
(52) I flap my wings in the face of Mohammed & blind him.
(53) With my claws I tear out the flesh of the Indian and the Buddhist, Mongol and Din.
(54) Bahlasti! Ompehda! I spit on your crapulous creeds.
(55) Let Mary inviolate be torn upon wheels: for her sake let all chaste women be utterly despised among you! [emphases mine]
This may come as a shock, but I don't have some kind of innate hatred of religions that aren't Thelema. Christianity in particular gets attacked quite a bit by "occultists", sometimes for good reasons (the Churches' aversion to Magic, for one), but usually due to what comes across as bitterness towards the more extreme, hateful forms of Protestantism common in the United States. I get it: plenty of Baptists, Methodists, etc. (but not all of them, by any means!) think all Occultists are Witches, who are therefore Satanists, and spread this kind of misinformation to further their political agendas.

It's well documented that Crowley had his own reasons for disparaging Christianity any chance he got, and this undoubtedly colors his writing. I still maintain that the Prefatory Note to Book 4 is one of the finest essays on comparative religion I've ever read, and to his credit Crowley manages to confine his negative remarks about Christianity to valid criticisms of Church practices as they were in the early twentieth century. Unfortunately, his dislike is much more vehement in many of his other writings, and these - coupled with the fact that his pathological hatred of Christians seems to bleed over to an inordinate number of those calling themselves Thelemites - are part of why I cannot earnestly call myself a Thelemite.

(I have other problems with The Book of the Law; while I think the first chapter is full of beautiful imagery and a positive spiritual/moral message, the second is less so, and the third least of all. I have a great deal of respect for Christianity - Catholicism in particular - and so I can't call myself a Thelemite in good conscience.)

Going with the linked authors' computer metaphor, Thelema is only kind of Golden Dawn 2.0. Imagine the Golden Dawn (Outer and Inner Order) system as a set of incredibly useful, versatile programs. Then, someone comes along and sees that the framework and a few of the programs are good, but their own vision for "computing" is different; consequently, they re-write much of it so that it's more customizable and free-form, while also building in some of their own ideas.

[EDIT 2015-05-04: Fixed the OSOGD link.]

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

GD: On the Kerux's Staff

The Kerux (also spelled Keryx, or written Kerukaina if the feminine form of the title is used) has a very important role in the Neophyte Ceremony, as well as a number of different ritual implements. The Kerux is responsible for presenting the two clear fluids that mix to form one resembling blood; they also carry a lamp or lantern in their left hand for most of the Ceremony, symbolizing the hidden Light of which the Candidate is initially unaware. The main implement associated with the Kerux, however, is the "Magic Staff of Power" - often identified as the Caduceus.

The symbolism of the Staff is fairly simple and consistent, tying in with that of the Kerux's lamen. The Caduceus touches all ten Sephiroth on the Tree of Life, and its shape also suggests the three "Mother Letters" of the Hebrew alphabet. The head and wings form the letter Shin, the upper parts of the serpents represent Aleph, and the tails represent Mem; these three letters are referred to the elements of Fire, Air, and Water, respectively. As these elements are usually colored red, yellow, and blue, many modern practitioners color the three sections of the Staff in this way. If the serpents are placed on the shaft, they are usually colored black and white, reflecting the symbolism of the Neophyte Hall (the "Hall of Dual Manifestation").

The accuracy and utility of this reasoning, however, comes into question upon looking closely at early G∴ D∴ documents. When one reads the Z. 1 document "The Enterer on the Threshold", it becomes clear that the actual visual representation of the Mother Letters is indicated on the Kerux's lamen, not necessarily the actual Staff as used in the Neophyte Ceremony.

(The Staff was also originally colored red, white, and black - not in the colors of the elements according to the Mother Letters. This is more of an indication of the original Order's extremely guarded use of color in the Outer Order ceremonies; with few exceptions, the only colors present in the Neophyte Hall were red, white, and black, with occasional glimpses of gold or yellow. In the modern day, using red, blue, and yellow for the Staff would mainly come down to the personal preference of a particular Temple.)

The largest distinction is the actual construction of the Staff. While many modern groups build the implement as a literal Caduceus Wand, many of the original documents (or copies thereof) show the Kerux's implement as a straight stick, longer and thicker than the other officers' tools; it is truly a staff, rather than a wand or scepter. To this end, the bottom part may be tapered to a point, and the top may be rounded (or have a ball on the end).

The main reason not to have the serpents on the staff is a purely practical one: the way in which it is used during the actual Ceremony. As Nick Farrell pointed out, the Staff is used to physically bar the Candidate before each of the times they are purified and consecrated by the Dadouchos and Stolistes, respectively. If this is done with a Staff that has serpents wrapped around the shaft, the serpents could either break off or injure the Candidate. Needless to say, either of these would ruin the psychological (and possibly, the Magical) effect of the Ceremony.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Hekas, hekas, este bebeloi!

I've never been very good at these sort of introductory posts for things, so I'll just put it into bullet points:
  • This blog is primarily about the Occult. My definition of occultism includes Magic as one of the biggest parts. If you have some kind of innate aversion to Magic (or Magick, or Sorcery, or Witchcraft - three different things, by the way), don't bother leaving a comment telling me about the Devil stabbing me in the ass with a fork for all of eternity.
  • When I write something here, and it's not in quotation marks (or doesn't have a citation), it's me saying it. Not anyone else. The opinions expressed by me on this blog are mine and mine alone; you may agree with some of them, you may not. Anyone that I add to my "blogroll" is simply a blogger whose work I enjoy reading, not necessarily someone who I'm formally allied (or friends) with.
  • This blog will be updated on my schedule, which varies widely depending on current events in my life and others, school/work schedules, and whether I have anything interesting to say. I wish I could make an interesting blog post every couple of days like Ananael Qaa does, but that's probably not going to happen.
If anyone ever does read this blog, here's some information about me to hopefully defuse any "This guy doesn't know what he's talking about!" claims.
  • I have studied Hermetics in general for about three years, and Golden Dawn / Thelemic Magic for about one and a half of those.
  • I spent about two years doing basic ritual practices (mainly the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram) on a fairly regular basis. I don't any more, at least not until my living situation changes.
  • I have never been a member of an established Order of any kind. That probably won't change for some time.
That about covers it. Hopefully, I should have a post up within the next few days.