Throughout the latter half of March and the early part of April, the Holy Thelemic Church (and many Thelemites) commemorate the remarkable event that unfolded in the lives of Aleister Crowley and Rose Kelly at Cairo, Egypt in 1904 Era Vulgari (Common Era) — a momentous spiritual event that culminated in the Advent of the New Thelemic Age. The Vernal Equinox is, therefore, the time at which Thelemites celebrate the Thelemic New Year. Through photographs and postcards from the period, we might evoke something of the Spirit of that critical era in human history. It is a time distant posterity may well view with no small amount of awe and wonderment; for this extraordinary Manifestation of transmundane Genius ultimately produced a literary monument both profound and sublime: Liber L vel Legis, The Book of the Law.
Above: View of Cairo, Egypt, photographed from a balloon at about 500 metres above ground. Left of the Nile are the Botanical Gardens and the race track, right are the British barracks and the Egyptian Museum. July 21, 1904; first published in Spelterini, E.: Über den Wolken/Par dessus les nuages, Brunner & Co, Zürich 1928, p. 81. By Eduard Spelterini, (1852–1931), Swiss pioneer of ballooning and of aerial photography. Below: More views of the enviorns of Cairo captured by the camera of Spelterini.
Crowley leaves us a fairly decent account of the circumstances in Cairo that led up to the Thelemic Advent, in his book, The Equinox of the Gods. The young couple headed into Cairo on February 9th, 1904. He then proceeded to Helwan in the guise of Mid-Eastern nobility on the 19th, with the intent of learning Islam from within as he had done with Hinduism when in India. He enjoyed a little golf on the 20th. For fun during the previous year, he had performed the Preliminary Invocation of the Goetia — a majestic spiritual ceremony also known as the Invocation of the Bornless One — to entertain his newlywed bride. Rose, however, now became oddly inspired, claiming that a superior intelligence wished to communicate with him. She was having the first Holy Epiphany of the New Thelemic Age. He was having none of it; he had become disillusioned with serious magical pursuits and was interested in further exploring the esoteric systems of Buddhism, Taoism and Sufism.
Crowley (in The Equinox of the Gods) recounts:
“Began INV. (invocation) IAO (Given in Liber Samekh: see Magick.)”
“March 16. Tried to shew the Sylphs to Rose. She was in a dazed state, stupid, possibly drunk; possibly hysterical from pregnancy. She could see nothing, but could hear. She was fiercely excited at the messages, and passionately insistent that I should take them seriously.
“I was annoyed at her irrelevance, and her infliction of nonsense upon me.
“She had never been in any state even remotely resembling this, though I had made the same invocation (in full) in the King’s chamber of the Great Pyramid during the night which we spent there in the previous autumn.
“March 17. More apparently nonsensical messages, this time spontaneous. I invoke Thoth, probably as in Liber LXIV, and presumably to clear up the muddle.
“March 18. Thoth evidently got clear through to her; for she discovers that Horus is addressing me through her, and identifies Him by a method utterly excluding chance or coincidence, and involving knowledge which only I possessed, some of it arbitrary, so that she or her informant must have been able to read my mind as well as if I had spoken it.
“Then she, challenged to point out His image, passed by many such to fix on the one in the Stele.”
The Stele to which he refers is, of course, Cairo Stela A9422 — then exhibited as Stele 666. The same exhibition card — that must have struck him like lightning to behold — appears below along with a photo of the Stela itself.
Crowley was impressed with the appearance of this number. There is of course no such thing as the Christian devil; but in the Qabalistic system this value signifies the spiritual force of Tiphareth (6) that transmits its Holy Current — the Supernal Triunity of Wisdom, Understanding and Transcendence-without-Withdrawal (x111=666) — to the Adeptus in the Attainment of the Knowledge & Conversation of the Holy Supernal Will (Thelema) and in the Samadhis beyond that. The formula of Horus (or Heru-Ra-Ha) is analogous to Tiphareth (Ra-Hoor-Khuit) and Kether (Hoor-pa-kraat); and both are a conjunction of the twofold Consciousness of Matter and Energy, i.e. Nuit and Hadit, the Supernals called Binah and Chokmah in the Qabalistic system — Tiphareth being the outer form (i.e. below the Abyss of Duality and Thought) and Kether being the inner form thereof.
Crowley’s account continues:
“March 20. Success in my invocation of Horus, by ‘breaking all the rules’ at her command. This success convinced me magically, and encouraged me to test her… I should certainly have referred to the Stele in my ritual had I seen it before this date. I should fix Monday, March 21, for the Visit to [the museum].
“Between March 23 and April 8 the Hieroglyphs on the Stele were evidently translated by the assistant-curator at [the museum], into either French or English–I am almost sure it was French–and versified (as now printed) by me.
“Between these dates, too, my wife must have told me that her informant was not Horus, or Ra Hoor Khuit, but a messenger from Him, named Aiwass.
“I thought that she might have faked this name from constantly hearing ‘Aiwa,’ the word for ‘Yes’ in Arabic. She could not have invented a name of this kind, though; her next best was to find a phrase like ‘balmy puppy’ for a friend, or corrupt a name like Neuberg into an obscene insult.
“The silence of my diaries seems to prove that she gave me nothing more of importance. I was working out the Magical problem presented to me by the events of March 16-21. Any questions that I asked her were either unanswered, or answered by a Being whose mind was so different from mine that we failed to converse. All my wife obtained from Him was to command me to do things magically absurd. He would not play my game: I must play His.
“April 7. Not later than this date was I ordered to enter the ‘temple’ exactly at noon on the three days following, and write down what I heard during one hour, nor more nor less.”
The photographs shown below depict the hotel at which they most likely stayed during this event. It is now known as the Baehler Building and is no longer a hotel, though one can eat at a restaurant on its ground floor there today.
“The three days [April 8th, 9th and 10th] were precisely similar, save that on the last day I became nervous lest I should fail to hear the Voice of Aiwass. They may then be described together.
“I went into the ‘temple’ a minute early, so as to shut the door and sit down on the stroke of Noon.
“On my table were my pen — a Swan Fountain — and supplies of Quarto typewriting paper, 8″ x 10”.
“I never looked round in the room at any time.
“The Voice of Aiwass came apparently from over my left shoulder, from the furthest corner of the room. It seemed to echo itself in my physical heart in a very strange manner, hard to describe. I have noticed a similar phenomenon when I have been waiting for a message fraught with great hope or dread. The voice was passionately poured, as if Aiwass were alert about the time-limit. I wrote 65 pages of this present essay (at about my usual rate of composition) in about 10 1/2 hours as against the 3 hours of the 65 pages of the Book of the Law. I was pushed hard to keep the pace; the MS. shows it clearly enough.
“The voice was of deep timbre, musical and expressive, its tones solemn, voluptuous, tender, fierce or aught else as suited the moods of the message. Not bass –perhaps a rich tenor or baritone.
“The English was free of either native or foreign accent, perfectly pure of local or caste mannerisms, thus startling and even uncanny at first hearing.
“I had a strong impression that the speaker was actually in the corner where he seemed to be, in a body of ‘fine matter,’ transparent as a veil of gauze, or a cloud of incense-smoke. He seemed to be a tall, dark man in his thirties, well-knit, active and strong, with the face of a savage king, and eyes veiled lest their gaze should destroy what they saw. The dress was not Arab; it suggested Assyria or Persia, but very vaguely. I took little note of it, for to me at that time Aiwass and an ‘angel’ such as I had often seen in visions, a being purely astral.”
A few paragraphs along in the account, he writes:
“There was…no actual voice audible save that of Aiwaz. Even my own remarks made silently were incorporated by him audibly, wherever such occur.”
The result was this message — of vastly superior intelligence to that with which we are normally familiar — to all humanity, announcing the transition to a new spiritual formula for an Aeon of Light, Life, Love and Liberty. This spiritual formula is Gnostic, not propitiatory; i.e., its process involves the realization of the infinite potential of human Genius, in knowledge, talent and ability — as opposed to propitiation, which holds that one has to sacrifice, whether literally or by proxy (e.g. via acts of asceticism — abstinence, fasting, scourging, martyrdom and the rest ad nauseum), to an external god in exchange for grace. It is ignoble and insults the Divinity inherent in Humanity. Although our Thelemic doctrine affirms the existence of a superior eternal Mind, it is actually an atheistic one: for this Mind is ultimately that of man himself, on a level of pan-dimensional awareness well beyond ordinary apprehension. Deus est Homo: “God is Man”. It is only temporarily praeterhuman: with the Gnosis of Samadhi the divide is bridged.
The Book of the Law is a work of total Genius, with depths of subtle meaning and hidden wisdom — esoteric and Qabalistic — that can revive and unite the many sects of the various primitive religions currently at one another’s throats in various locales of our troubled world. For it contains, in its veils of wisdom, the naked beauty of an overarching spiritual Law in harmony with science and healthy for the human condition, being as it is worshipful of the happiness of the natural state and of the Divine Perfection of genuine Talent, not of some unnatural god at odds with scientific fact.
The following images are from postcards that were circulated before, during and after the time of the Advent of the Aeon (March 21st, 1904) and the Epiphany of the Holy Law (April 8th, 9th and 10th, 1904).
We of the Holy Thelemic Church wish all of our brothers and sisters across the globe a very happy Thelemic New Year. May your celebrations be bountiful and joyous; may you come to the realization of the Holy Supernal Will and to the accomplishment of the Great Work, Summum Bonum, True Wisdom and Perfect Happiness; may 93 be with ye.