(Artwork by Aleister Crowley)
One very important issue in Thelemic religion is that of the Offices of Beast and Scarlet Woman, or Prophet and Oracle. It is a complex matter that is worthy of our careful scrutiny.
First, before we consider the esoteric side of this issue, it is necessary to take a brief look at the symbolism involved. The figures of “Beast” and “Scarlet Woman” first appear, of course, in the New Testament writing, The Revelation of St.John the Divine. The author of The Book of the Law borrows heavily from this document, which has been totally misunderstood since its inception two-thousand years ago; not only are symbols such as those just mentioned lifted from it, but verse 57 of chapter 2 is taken almost verbatim from Rev.22:11. Yet the good St.John mistook the meaning of his visions, taking “Beast” and “Babylon” to mean negative forces against the Divine, whereas they should have been interpreted as aspects of the Divine in the Age to come, with the Advent of the New Aeon, which took place on March 21st, 1904 e.v., when the world was destroyed by Fire (symbolically speaking) and the subtle forces of Thelema began working on the minds of the New Humanity, to liberate them from their outmoded patterns of thought and deliver to them the interior mechanism for hastening their mental and spiritual evolution.
The real logic behind the use of the symbols is, however, vastly different from that which has been contrived by confused and oft-times troubled minds for centuries. What they have come to represent, in Thelemic religion, is not the epitome of vileness and degradation, but rather the primary doctrinal elements of the New Aeon formula.
The Beast is simply the Divine Essence of Humanity; it is so represented, i.e. as an animal, to signify the all-important doctrine that God is to be found equally in every form of life. Humans, while more advanced than their fellow beasts, are beasts nonetheless, no better than any other animal. On the contrary, their ability to be extraordinarily cruel for absolutely no good reason often makes them a good deal worse.
The Scarlet Woman, or Babalon, is another symbol that has been grossly misinterpreted. The unique spelling carries considerable Gematric significance, as computed in Hebrew, coming as it does to 156. Crowley writes the following in An Essay Upon Number:
“BABALON. This most holy and precious name is fully dealt with in Liber 418. Notice 12 x 13 = 156. This is not one of the a priori helpful numbers. It is rather a case of Qabalah illuminating St. John’s intentional obscurity.”
By the English Gematric system of AngloQabalah, in which A=1 to Z=26, the value of the words “Six Six Six” is 156, which is telling, inasmuch as the formula of the Scarlet Woman is one of sexual sanctity, 666 being of course the value of “The Great Beast” in Greek (the language in which the concept of the Beast 666 was first introduced); i.e., 666 in 156 carries a sexual theme. But one should take care not to confuse the symbols. As Crowley writes in Magick in Theory & Practice:
“This ‘Devil’ is called Satan or Shaitan, and regarded with horror by people who are ignorant of his formula, and, imagining themselves to be evil, accuse Nature herself of their own phantasmal crime.
“Satan is Saturn, Set, Abrasax, Adad, Adonis, Attis, Adam, Adonai, etc.
“This serpent, SATAN, is not the enemy of Man, but He who made Gods of our race, knowing Good and Evil; He bade ‘Know Thyself!’
“Thus, in low grades of initiation, dogmatic quarrels are inflamed by astral experience; as when Saint John distinguishes between the Whore BABALON and the Woman clothed with the Sun, between the Lamb that was slain and the Beast 666 whose deadly wound was healed; nor understands that Satan, the Old Serpent, in the Abyss, the Lake of Fire and Sulphur, is the Sun-Father, the vibration of Life, Lord of Infinite Space that flames with His Consuming Energy, and is also that throned Light whose Spirit is suffused throughout the City of Jewels.”
Babalon was chosen as a symbol of the Divine Feminine in the New Aeon of Thelema for this very reason. The ancient city of Babylon was for the early Christians a symbol of all varieties of Pagan vice. In Revelation, she is depicted as a “Great Whore” seated upon the “Beast”, whom she dominates. The sexual element is necessary to offset millennia of restrictive abuse perpetrated by men against women, forcing them to adhere to false idealistic notions of feminine chastity or else face societal contempt or worse. But there is more to this important symbolism than the sexual liberation of women. Babalon, the Scarlet Woman, is proud to call herself “Whore”, as is only fair considering that men have from time immemorial taken enormous pride in extolling their own sexual conquests — the more the better. That her attitude is domineering is not at all insignificant; for it teaches that women in the New Era of Thelema are to be accorded respect, not treated as if they were inferior as they still are in so many places of the world today.
These symbols, or formulae, of “The Beast” and “The Scarlet Woman” are representative of the Masculine and Feminine aspects of the Divine Current of Thelema, respectively. On that Supernal level, they are best referred to by their Greek names, for they carry not only the extraordinary magical (not to mention the psychological) impact of these Essences of the underlying Supernal Mind, but remarkable Gematric symbolism as well. As aforesaid, To Mega Therion, Greek for “The Great Beast”, numerates as 666 by Greek Gematria; and the name of its counterpart, H Kokkine Gyne, Greek for “The Scarlet Woman”, adds to 667. (It should be noted, however, that “Masculine” and “Feminine” are used very loosely here, as they are terms applying just as well in gay or lesbian relationships as they do in heterosexual ones; it is one’s inner identity that matters.)
Of course, the formula of the New Aeon itself is double: God is now neither many (as with polytheism) nor one (as with monotheism), but two: feminine and masculine on the animal level, matter and motion — and passive and active (i.e. the Mystical Infinite and the Magical Absolute) — on the universal level. And these two, being essentially infinite and absolute, are the elemental factors of Eternal Consciousness that simultaneously make their play among the forces and fields of duality while being neither limited to, nor ever really bothered by, any part therein. God is all; and therefore God is none (in particular). Essentially, this means that God is not some objective being somewhere, for then it would be isolated and incomplete. Rather, God is the impersonal root of all consciousness across all dimensions of time and space. And this root is at the foundation of one’s own consciousness, well within reach of one who is dedicated and sincere, with ample courage and love in his or her heart.
In the New Aeon, this twofold nature of the Divine is well represented in our Sacred Iconography in the image of Baphomet. The Baphomet drawn by Eliphas Levi in the 19th century depicts a fusion of the feminine and masculine, with the head of a beast, the breasts of a woman, and the phallus of a man, to form a powerful Magical Icon of the Double Current of Thelema. The image of Baphomet works extraordinarily well to stir the primal psychological forces of the mind in ritual, and to attune that mind to the Double Current.
Babalon and the Beast, or Nuit and Hadit as they are called in The Book of the Law, conflate in Ra-Hoor-Khuit and Hoor-pa-kraat, or Shaitan-Aiwass, i.e. again, Baphomet, or the Double Current that is Thelema.
While it is true that Ra-Hoor-Khuit, symbolically speaking, is solar-phallic, or the mystical seed thereof, what gets so often missed is the fact that his other half, Hoor-pa-kraat, is essentially lunar-yonic, or the mystical egg thereof. The proper name for these two is Heru-ra-ha, a name that, in AngloQabalah, equates with Baphomet. Heru-ra-ha, put simply, is the projection of the Current of the Supernals, Babalon and the Beast, the Infinite and the Absolute, into the consciousness of humanity.
Such is the esoteric side of the mystery of Beast and Scarlet Woman; but there is an exoteric aspect to be discussed. In his New Comment to verses 15-17 of chapter 1 of The Book of the Law, Crowley makes clear his conviction that there are special terrestrial incarnations of the Divine Current. Because the formula of this Aeon is a double one, the Current manifested not just in the person of the Prophet of the Aeon, Crowley, but in certain Priestesses that surrounded him, worked with him, loved him and were dearly beloved of him. Whereas the Old Aeon of the Dying God was focused on suffering and death as the means of redemption, the New Aeon of the Lovers is centered instead on the healthy and happy indulgence of Sacred Love and the pursuit of the millionfold joys of the Holy Orgia of Sacramental Lust.
What is most important to bear in mind when learning of this, however, is that these “terrestrial manifestations” are not entitled to any special treatment, and certainly not archaic worship. In the aforementioned New Comment, Crowley writes:
“That which is beneath is like that which is above. The Beast and the Scarlet Woman are avatars of Tao and Teh, Shiva and Sakti. This Law is then an exact image of the Great Law of the Cosmos; this is an assurance of its Perfection.”
“That is, there is a special incarnation of Nuit and Hadit for the Beast and the Scarlet Woman, as opposed to the general truth that every man and woman are images of these ineffable Beings.”
And finally (and this part is really noteworthy):
“I feel a certain necessity to explain that an ‘avatar’ implies rather a release from the limits of personality than anything else. The Scarlet Woman and I are peculiarly representative of Nuit and Hadit by virtue of our attainments in making our consciousness omniform as They are. It must not be supposed that our original individualities can claim any special prerogatives as such.”
Clearly, then, all that these terrestrial incarnations really amount to is a particular manifestation of Hierophantic Genius, no better or worse than a manifestation of any other kind of Genius. They are filled with the Aeonic Current and they inspire others to great heights of ecstasy as they tap that Current through their Great Works. It is not unlike the relationship, in this Aeon at least, between a poet and his muse, except that the muse in this case generates and wields all spiritual and magical power and authority (vide L, 1:15: “in his woman called the Scarlet Woman is all power given”). Basically, the Scarlet Woman is the Holy Oracle and Divine Initiatrix who skries the Mystic Force and transmits the Magick Current; and he, the Beast, is her devoted Prophet, her Holy Beast, roaring forth her Holy Word, promulgating her glad Law.
A little over twenty years before he died, after having lost one magical child (Frater Achad) to what he regarded at the time as pure lunacy, and yet another (Frater Aud) to death, and after seeing many disciples fail him miserably, Crowley issued a statement making it clear that he was the only one who could lay claim to the Office of Beast, at least during his lifetime. What lay beyond that could hardly have been within his ability to see.
In any event, one can rest assured that ours is not a cult of personality worship; and Thelemites will never take an order from any Prophet beyond “Do what thou wilt”, not only because no Thelemite would ever stoop to such a slavish role, but also because no true Prophet would ever pass such an injunction without his tongue rooted in his cheek, or as a blind to weed out the weak-minded.
Thelema is free of the dangers of the tyranny of authoritarianism and spiritual extortion. Her Oracles and Prophets do not seek to convert you, they’re not after your money, and are indifferent as to whether or not the world accepts their liberational Law. While they may promulgate the Law, owing to the fact that the world would certainly be a better place to live in if the Law were popularly embraced — if only because harmful superstitions and restrictive societal legislation would be nightmares of the past — they make a point to work “unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result”. (L, 1:44)
Ours is not some cult of mindless followers; ours is a culture of kings. The time of Patriarchs and Popes is done. In the Sanctuary of Thelema, “Every man and every woman is a star.” (L, 1:3)
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