(Artwork above based on a piece by Aubrey Beardsley)
One of the practices carried over from Aleister Crowley’s system to our own Holy Thelemic Church is that of adopting Thelemic names to represent one’s aspiration and — as one progresses in the Current of Supernal Genius — one’s advancement. But before we enter into any discussion of such names, we must first address the issue of the Grades of the Attainment of such Supernal Genius.
Crowley acquired such practices from the Order in which he started his spiritual training, that Old Aeon institution known as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. But he developed the idea far beyond the mundane scope to which those practices were applied in that hoary relic, which was in actuality little more than a club for idle wealthy men.
There are, in Crowley’s main system, ten Grades of interior development, each one based in a Sephirah or Sphere upon the Qabalistic Tree of Life, the pathways of which — attributed to the twenty-two Atus of the Tarot (which is really a tool for hierophantic teaching more than some device for fortune-telling) — were also used in conjunction with the Sephiroth themselves to gauge the full nature of these levels of transmundane Attainment. The system employed by the Holy Thelemic Church is, however, based on the system of inverted pathways conceived by Crowley’s first “magical child”, Frater Achad, rather than on the archaic Qabalistic system of tradition. Crowley was overly hasty in dismissing Achad’s extraordinary insights; aside from which, his negative decisions with regard to Frater Achad — truly his greatest disciple — were unfairly clouded by the fact that he thought that the man had swindled him out of a storage of books…the books were later found after both men were dead, and Achad was in fact innocent of any wrongdoing.
Our Holy Book, Liber Legis, on the other hand, delineates an entirely new structure of advancement for the Thelemic Age — which Crowley, in his continuation of the archaic hierophantic system, totally ignored. Let’s take a close, hard look at exactly what the book says in some of the relevant versicles.
The most obvious one is v.40 of ch.1, which reads: “Who calls us Thelemites will do no wrong, if he look but close into the word. For there are therein Three Grades, the Hermit, and the Lover, and the man of Earth.”
A quick glance at this verse might lead one to suspect that the book sets the foundation for a new system composed not of ten but rather three Grades of Attainment. But then, one is advised to look “close into the word” — so let us be careful in our analysis of this. What it actually says is that “there are therein Three Grades” (italics mine). I.e., the Three Grades are contained within, and themselves constitute, a Fourth Grade that is expressed in the Word of the Holy Law itself, Thelema. In other words, upon attaining these lower Grades, one transcends them and achieves Thelema — or Supernal Will — itself.
These Grades or occult (i.e. “hidden”) realities of Mind are hinted at elsewhere in the book. The first and most obvious of these is to be found in v.50 of ch.1, which reads as follows:
“There is a word to say about the Hierophantic task. Behold! there are three ordeals in one, and it may be given in three ways. The gross must pass through fire; let the fine be tried in intellect, and the lofty chosen ones in the highest. Thus ye have star & star, system & system; let not one know well the other!”
These “three ordeals in one” are the veils, as it were, before each of the Four Grades. (I delve into all of this much more in my book, Liber Exegesis, The Law Unveiled, yet to be released — but once it is finished it will be released here for free.) “The gross must pass through fire”: i.e., Tiphareth, the Next Step for each and every aspirant to his or her Holy Supernal Will. The next step thereafter, “let the fine be tried in intellect”, very clearly refers to the Abyssal Crisis at the crown of the Inner Order of the Rosae Rubeae et Aurore Crucis, known in the old system as the Grade of Adeptus Exemptus. In the third, encompassing “the lofty chosen ones in the highest”, one enters the intermediate Grade that was, in the old system, referred to as “Babe of the Abyss”. But remember, there is a fourth, comprehending these three: and this is the Supernal Reality itself, which is, in the old system, also broken down into three: Magister Templi at Binah, Magus at Chokmah, and Ipsissimus at Kether; but in truth these are one Grade with three divisions, akin to the Three Veils of the Negative, Ain, Ain Soph, and Ain Soph Aur.
The very next verse after this, describing “four gates” to the palace of Supernal Genius, also hint at these Four Grades of the new system.
There is yet another series of verses — appearing much later in the book — i.e. vs.63-67 of ch.3, that clearly points to these Grades as well. Therein, the “first ordeal” of the First Grade (i.e. that of Tiphareth and the Attainment of the Holy Supernal Will of the Adept of the Inner Order of Mind) is described as something akin to silver. Now in Latin the word for silver is argent, the etymological base of which, arg-, means “to shine”. This is a perfect description of the experience of the Beatific Vision that takes place at the Attainment of the Holy Supernal Will; for it is thereupon that one’s perception is cast all aglow in New Light. It is the Advent of the Silver Star, or the “One Star in Sight” that communicates the Truth of one’s Supernal Self from beyond the Abyss of consciousness.
It is of interest, too, that the word silver, by Anglogematria, numerates as 85, the reverse of 58, the value of the word star. See my e-book, in the sidebar library of this blog, entitled The Angloqabalistic Key.
Anyway, it is clear that this first ordeal of silver, at the summit of the outer Order of Attainment, crowns the initiate with the Star of his or her Holy Supernal Will.
The next ordeal in the series, corresponding to the Abyssal Crisis at the summit of the Inner Order, is designated as symbolically equivalent to “gold” (c.f. L, 3:65). This word, in Latin, is aurum, a word from which we get Aurora, the goddess of dawn. The word is also linked with the idea, “to shine”. The word gold equates with 38, the value of the word death; for it is the formula of the Exempt Adept to disintegrate the base components of his or her ego and to reintegrate them to best serve his or her Holy Supernal Will.
So we see that this second ordeal of gold, at the summit of the inner Order of Attainment, bathes the Adept in the light of his or her Holy Will, purifying him or her of the dross of mundane existence, leaving only pure gold.
Next, we have “stones of precious water” (L, 3:66). In Latin, the word is lapis; and of course lapis lazuli is the gemstone that corresponds to the Magister Templi. However, “stones of precious water” would seem to imply the testicles, which produce the seeds of life.
Clearly, this ordeal of “stones of precious water”, corresponding to the Babe of the Abyss that is spawned from the interaction of the Holy Supernal Will and its host, begets the New Life that grows eventually into the Supernal Grade to follow (which is itself actually three Grades in one, as aforesaid).
Finally, the Babe in the Womb of the Abyss develops into a Supernal Being of pure Light, the “light higher than eyesight” (L, 2:51). Also see L, 2:61: “There is a light before thine eyes, o prophet, a light undesired, most desirable.” It is a Being that was overlying yet indwelling oneself all along — i.e., “overlying” because it transcends the limits of time and space, and “indwelling” because it is also at the root of one’s subconscious mind (c.f. L, 1:13, “I am above you and in you”). Another name for it is Lucifer.
The ordeal that leads to it, in the series of verses under examination here, equates with the difficult phrase, “ultimate sparks of the intimate fire” (L, 3:67). Not just sparks, but ultimate sparks; and not merely fire, but intimate fire. This implies, without any question, not just Lucifer but the heart of Lucifer; and not merely the Star but the core of the Star: also known as Satan. Not, of course, the Christian devil, but the impersonal deity within each and every mind. In other words, the Supernal Reality itself — or in the old system, Magister Templi, Magus, Ipsissimus.
And so it is that the fourth ordeal, leading to “ultimate sparks of the intimate fire”, at the summit of all Attainment, leads to the ultimate realization of Supernal Consciousness, apart from any material or temporal bond but at one with all materiality and temporality.
In short, there are Three Grades that culminate in a Fourth Grade that transcends yet encompasses the three, and which itself also consists of another three Supernal Grades. The four ordeals outlined above, which are also the “four gates” of Liber Legis, 1:51, as mentioned above, are veils that, once passed by the initiate, lead one into these loftier states of realization.
It makes sense, then, that we acquire new names to reflect these greater states of realization. The new system, which is far less complicated, assimilating as it does several lower steps and side ordeals into just a few main ones, makes for fewer such names. But, most importantly, each such name is a formula, not just doctrinally but Qabalistically (via Gematria) and — of course — is intimately expressive of one’s true nature at the level of being which it represents.
In the old system, there were ten Grades, each represented by two numerical values determined by the position of that Grade upon the Qabalistic Tree of Life, with the first number signifying the number of steps (i.e. Sephiroth) from the bottom, and the second value signifying the number of steps to the top. With fewer Grades in the new system, there is no need for such a complicated formula of designation. Rather than 8=3 (eight steps down from Malhuth and 3 steps away from Kether), we now have simply a Fourth Grade (albeit, in this hypothetical, the first stage thereof). It is much simpler yet just as satisfactory.
It should be well noted, though, that the tasks and obligations of those lower Grades from the old system that have been reorganized into a fewer Grades in the new, are not abolished, but merely incorporated into the smaller number of new Grades contemplated by the Supernal Mind that was responsible for Liber Legis. The exact rules may have changed slightly from Crowley’s time to the present, as is to be expected — for as humanity evolves so too must the system that guides the praeternatural progress of his consciousness; but the overall system is more or less similar to what it was, only restructured somewhat to compensate for changes in the mind of man and to adjust to adapt to his needs. In the words of a homeless prophet from a bygone time, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath”.
More such restructuring — Qabalistically speaking — will be found in my upcoming treatise, Anatomy of the Body of the Beast (intended for publication but as yet to be completed), as well as in my thesis on the mechanics of spirituality, The Reformation of Magick, inspired by comments made by Leah Hirsig regarding the need for redesigning the old system of magick and mysticism for the new times. Finally, my revolutionary work will be complete with the eventual publication of my unique treatment of religion, called The Reformation of Religion, which aims to reconstitute all religious approaches — one by one — to adapt each religion to accommodate both science and the evolutionary needs of mankind, to strip each one of its false and harmful superstition and primitive interpretation. All three of these books have yet to find a publisher; but their time shall come.
There may be fewer Grades — and so fewer names to come up with to reflect those Attainments — but there is no less work to be done to complete those extraordinary achievements. The key of it all is simply to do. There is nothing more difficult, nothing more grand, and nothing more rewarding than so doing. It is, after all, the process of the Summum Bonum, True Wisdom and Perfect Happiness: and so it is deserving of all one’s care, all one’s attention, and all one’s most profound capacity for Genius.
Do what thou wilt: only remember, thou hast no right but to do thy will. Thy will, not necessarily thy want — though the two are not at all times incompatible; and in the end, it is revealed that one’s True Will was what one really desired all along.