The Vision and the Voice
The Vision and the Voice is one of the diadems of Crowley's work. Although the bulk of the Working was in 1909, very little work on it has been done since then. Although at first sight it is an exploration of the Thirty Aethyrs of the Enochian system of magic which was channelled through Dee and Kelley in the sixteenth century, it does in fact go way beyond those earlier Workings. A glance at Casaubon's selection of the Dee diaries (A True and Faithful Relation, first published in 1659, subsequently reprinted in several facsimile editions in the 1970's) shows some similarities of rhetorical style, and one or two intriguing instances of foreshadowing in the Dee-Kelley Workings, but little else in common.
These visions are sublime, and teem with avenues that are not only fertile to travel down, but positively fascinate all but the more moribund amongst us. The principle of parampara or magical succession is one of continuing development, whereby we build upon the work of our predecessors. In the course of this development, some aspects will come to seem redundant and not be continued; others will prove fertile, perhaps opening up avenues not previously envisaged. The earlier body of work is not, therefore, something static or finished - a museum piece to be set in aspic, and spoken of in hushed, reverential whispers but a living, growing body of tradition, alive and exciting, transformed and enriched by the experience and insight of successive generations.
The present article is a contribution to this work of reassessment and development, and falls into three parts. First, there is a consideration of some of the basic themes of The Vision and the Voice, in particular the Abyss and the Cup of Babalon. Next, there is a brief summary of those aspects of the earlier Dee-Kelley Working where there is a bearing. Finally, as an example of the riches which can be mined, there is a piece inspired by the account of the Vision of the Fifth Aethyr. In order to place it in context, reference has been made to various other works by Crowley, where it would cast light.
The Vision and the Voice was originally published in 1911 as a supplement to Equinox V. Over the next few years Crowley added notes and comments; these were typed up in the late 1920's, and issued in mimeographed form by Karl Germer in 1952. This latter was republished by Israel Regardie in the 1970's, but he felt the urge to revamp Crowley's notes in some cases. For those of us who prefer our Crowley, like our turnips, as God intended, the 1952 edition is the best. Regrettably, the edition is now scarce and - of course - expensive; however, perhaps there will be a republication in the not-too-distant future.
Future issues of Starfire will continue this process of growth and development, and thus this article is a foundation for future work. These Visions set the present author aflame, and he bids a fond welcome to the burning-ground.
The Vision and the Voice is the Record of Aleister Crowley's exploration of the more subtle planes of mystical and magical experience. He gained access to these planes by using the Enochian Call of the Thirty Aethyrs, as transmitted to John Dee and Edward Kelley towards the end of the sixteenth century. He did the bulk of this work in the Algerian desert in November and December 1909, with the assistance of his friend, disciple and fellow-poet Victor Neuburg. Here he skryed in a shew-stone, after vibrating the Call as modified for the particular Aethyr to which he wished to gain access. Neuburg acted as the Scribe, recording Crowley's accounts of his experiences. The result was a series of intense, beautiful, sublime visions. This was a major initiation for Crowley, and one which shaped much of his future work. It formed the foundation for his Thoth deck of Tarot cards, which Lady Frieda Harris painted under his direction. Naturally the correspondence is not exact, since Crowley's initiation, insight and understanding continued to grow and develop in the years after The Vision and the Voice. Nevertheless, the kernel of the new pack is there. In The Book of Thoth there is an appendix of material relevant to various of the Atus, and extracts from The Vision and the Voice predominate.
These visions were the culmination of Crowley's initiation into the grade of Magister Templi, and the Crossing of the Abyss. The grade of Magister Templi - Master of the Temple - is one of the higher grades of the Great White Brotherhood. This is a universal mystical Order - the essential, inner Order, the current of which all genuine outer or manifested Orders transmit. It was concretised and rendered more formal in Crowley's time as the Argenteum Astrum, or A.·. A.·. There is a long-standing tradition about Hidden Masters or Secret Chiefs, exalted intelligences beyond the human, who influence our affairs, pull strings, and the like. This is not quite as simplistic as conceiving of some wizened old men in the Himalayas calling the shots for human destiny. Let's just say that they are Beyond - that is, Intelligences beyond the limits of human concept. Whether they are thought of as wider and deeper ranges of consciousness, higher aspects of "ourselves", or completely different beings, is neither here nor there. We are dealing with something beyond dualism, and therefore beyond the limitations of language. Consciousness is all that there is, and it is a continuum; individual consciousness is an illusion - albeit deeply rooted, born of conditioning. This illusion can be dissolved by initiation or direct insight. True identity is then recovered, in which we are identical with the universe, and it with us. There is a further sense in which this All is equal to Nothing, expre ssed in the equation 0 = 2. In the language of yoga, this is Shivadarshana.
This perhaps sounds gibberish to human intelligence, with its rationalist, dualist limitations. The Abyss is that gulf between human consciousness and what we may loosely term the divine or fuller, less limited consciousness. Reason is a delicate instrument, but it can only take us so far. These limitations are well expressed by Crowley in the following diary extract of November, 1905;
I realise in myself the perfect impossibility of reason; suffering great misery. I am as one who should have plumed himself for years upon the speed and strength of a favourite horse, only to find not only that its speed and strength were illusory, but that it was not a real horse at all, but a clothes-horse. There being no way - no conceivable way - out of this awful trouble gives that hideous despair which is only tolerable because in the past it has ever been the Darkness of the Threshhold. But this is far worse than ever before; I wish to go from A to B; and I am not only a cripple, but there is no such thing as space. I have to keep an appointment at midnight; and not only is my watch stopped, but there is no such thing as time ... But surely I am not a dead man at 30:This sense of arrival at a brick wall, and no path beyond, is a necessary state, a prerequisite to its transcendence. The so-called false sephirah Daäth, Knowledge, should link human consciousness to the divine, but it is missing. This Knowledge is not reason as commonly understood, but a foreshadowing of divine awareness. In the absence of Daäth we have the Abyss - the gulf between human consciousness and that which lies beyond. Arriving at the highest point of human attainment, we are on the brink of the Abyss; and to cross this Abyss separating the human from the beyond, we must abandon utterly and forever all that we have and are. What we are doing is relinquishing the illusory limitation of human identity, of separateness. This may be characterised in some traditions as the surrender of the self to God. In the terms here adopted - in the language of the A.·. A.·. and The Vision and the Voice - it is characterised as the aspirant pouring every drop of his blood into the Cup of Babalon. "One" crosses the Abyss and is reborn as a Babe of the Abyss, assimilated to the sphere of Binah, Understanding.
Crowley put it another way in a letter of June 1947:
As to your question about God, it is very difficult to answer ... Everything depends upon the definition of the word God, but I stand by my statement that there are beings of an intelligence and power of a far higher quality than anything we can conceive of as human. That is the syllogism which makes Magick imperative - either we must get in contact with such intelligences, or we must just develop qualities in our owm minds whici are of that character. The existence of the universe is itself a definite proof that this must be so. To put it in a nutshell, Magick is the job of getting in contact with those Beings, and Mysticism the job of developing the mind to a state equivalent.For several months after the diary entry quoted earlier, Crowley in retrospect considered himself to have been in a state akin to insanity, brought on by the acute awareness of the impasse of reason. Then gradually the voice of reason stilled, and the faculty of Neschamah - approximating to intuition, Binah, Understanding - began to stir. Walking across China in 1906 he made daily use of an elaboration of the Preliminary Invocation drawn from the Goetia. The Work climaxed later that year, in October, and Crowley considered that he had now attained success in the Operation of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, commenced several years before. He adds:
In the month of December the Secret Chiefs formally invited me through D.D.S.[George Cecil Jones] to take my place officially in the Third Order. I still felt that I was not worthy. Not till three years later did I accept the grade, and then only after having passed ceremonially through the Abyss in the fullest possible measure. The reference is to The Vision and the Voice, in the course of which Crowley passed through the Abyss several times. The main passage, though, occurred in the 14th Aethyr, which Crowley invoked on December 3rd. The Crossing was not a single, overnight event; Crowley considered his experience in this Aethyr to be the culmination of several years spent traversing the Abyss. Furthermore, the Abyss should not be considered as something which is far removed from us. Kenneth Grant describes it thus in Cults of the Shadow:
This gulf is the cosmic analogy, in terms of infinity, endurance, and remoteness, of the infinitesimally near and the infinitely fleering the finest, and normally imperceptible gap between thoughts that yields to hypersensitive awareness, a sudden insight into the real substratum of Being. This only is Reality, the sole Reality, and it is Non-Being - the noumenal source from which arises the world of appearances.Elsewhere in the same book, Grant quotes a variation on a well-known occult maxim: "That which is beyond is within, just as that which is within is beyond".
At first Crowley could make no headway in the 14th Aethyr. He seemed to be tearing off a succession of thin black veils. He was told to break off the Vision at that point, and continue later that night. Whilst preparing to leave the mountain on which he had invoked the Aethyr, he suddenly felt impelled to "sacrifice" himself ritually. In a circle of stones, and upon a stone altar, he and Neuburg celebrated a ritual of sex-magick. The account which he published in The Vision and the Voice alludes to it almost in passing, and then in a footnote written years after the event. A more detailed but still circumspect account is given in The Confessions:
I must explain that we had climbed Da'leh Addin, a mountain in the desert, as enjoined by the Angel the previous night. I now withdrew from the Aethyr and prepared to return to the city. Suddenly came the command to perform a magical ceremony on the summit. We accordingly took loose rocks and built a great circle, inscribed with the words of power; and in the midst we erected an altar and there I sacrificed myself. The fire of the all-seeing sun smote down upon the altar, consuming utterly every particle of my personality. I am obliged to write in hieroglyph of this matter, because it concerns things of which it is unlawful to speak openly under penalty of the most dreadful punishment; but I may say that the essence of the matter was that I had hitherto clung to certain conceptions of conduct which, whilst perfectly proper from the standpoint of my human nature, were impertinent to initiation. I could not cross the Abyss until I had torn them out of my heart.Crowley returned to the Aethyr that night, and was now able to make headway. The remainder of the Vision concerned his reception into the City of the Pyramids as Nemo, No-One, a Master of the Temple. The other parts of him that he had left forever below the Abyss - the mundane identity of Aleister Crowley - would serve as a vehicle for the energies created by his aspiration and attainment. To cross the Abyss is to transcend human identity, to be reborn into that which lies beyond such confines. In this process the humanity of the adept is extinguished, in the sense that there is no longer an identity with the mundane vehicle. The blood of the adept is pressed into the Cup of Babalon, a process which also glyphs forth this annihilation of individuality, its dissolution into the universal or cosmic. This entails not the death of the mundane vehicle, but the death of identity with it.
Here we approach the heart of initiation. To transcend human identity is to awaken to an awareness that we are much more than this. Human consciousness is only a distorted, limited aspect of a much vaster entity. Initiation is a progressive unveiling of consciousness, the dissolution of its apparent confines. It is the dissolution of separation from the rest of the universe - a separation that is illusory, born of preconception. The earthly, terrestrial vehicle remains; but we become aware of reaches of consciousness that are wider and deeper. These ranges are extra-terrestrial - beyond the bounds of the terrestrial vehicle. Figuratively, the vehicle remains as a little pile of dust in the City of the Pyramids. Its former "owner" or "inhabitant" has escaped from the dungeon of individuality, however, and is now Nemo or No-One. It is impossible to express this linguistically in a way that is not riddled with contradictions.
This brings us to a further point. When we talk of Crowley's initiation into the grade of Magister Templi, we do not mean Crowley as a person, of course. The reference is to V.V.V.V.V. (Vi Veri Universum Vivus Vivi - "in my lifetime I have conquered the universe by the power of Truth"), his motto of that grade. Although we continue to use the name Crowley, this is convenient shorthand only. We are referring not to the little pile of dust left behind after crossing the Abyss, but to a much vaster Being or awareness. In reality V.V.V.V.V. is a consciousness much wider, deeper and more profound than Crowley's, clear though that of the latter was. Crowley was a restricted aspect of this V.V.V.V.V., filtered through veils of comparative grossness and heaviness.
Such considerations make it abundantly plain that The Vision and the Voice is not primarily an exploration of the Enochian system. Instead, the Call of the Aethyrs was the springboard for the leap into these initiatory realms. The subtitle of Liber 418 confirms this. 418 is the numeration of ABRAHADABRA, which Crowley considered the supreme word of the New Aeon. It expresses, amongst other things, the uniting of the microcosm with the macrocosm, the five with the six, the pentagram with the hexagram, the human with the divine. 418 therefore symbolises the Great Work, and its use here indicates the significance of The Vision and the Voice. In the following extract from The Confessions, Crowley enlarges in the eclecticism of these Visions:
By the time that I reached Bou Saâda and came to the twentieth Aethyr, I began to understand that these visions were, so to speak, cosmopolitan. They brought all systems of magical doctrine into harmonious relation. The symbolism of Asiatic cults; the ideas of the Cabbalists, Jewish and Greek; the arcana of the Gnostics; the pagan pantheon, from Mithras to Mars; the mysteries of ancient Egypt; the initiations of Eleusis; Scandinavian saga; Celtic and Druidical ritual; Mexican and Polynesian traditions; the mysticism of Molinos no less than that of Islam, fell into their proper places without the slightest tendency to quarrel. The whole of the past Aeon appeared in perspective and each new element thereof surrendered its sovereignty to Horus, the Crowned and Conquering Child, the Lord of the Aeon announced in The Book of the Law. These visions thus crystallised in dramatic form the theoretical conclusions which my studies of comparative religion had led me to adumbrate ... Besides this, I became aware that this work was more than the impersonal exploration which I had meant to make. I felt that a hand was holding my heart, that a breath was whispering words in a strange tongue whose accents were both awful in themselves and like enchantments encompassing my essence with an energy mighty to work on my will in some inscrutable way.Crowley did a lot of work with the Enochian system during his Golden Dawn period. His first recorded attempt at exploring the Thirty Aethyrs was in Mexico in 1900. Then he skryed in the 30th and 29th Aethyrs, but says that he was unable to proceed beyond that. He put this inability down to his level of initiation at the time. Whatever the reason, the visions resulting from the skrying of these first two Aethyrs lack the clarity, passion and coherence of the later work. They do, though, seem on a par with the sort of visions that Kelley often got during his sessions with Dee.
In November 1909 Crowley was in the Algerian desert with Neuburg, and decided to resume work on exploring the Thirty Aethyrs. In his account of this work in The Confessions, Crowley asserts that this decision came out of the blue. However, since he had with him his magical notebooks containing the Calls, a suitable and rather elaborate instrument with which to skry, and some account of the earlier work in Mexico, it all seems very fortuitous. At the time they were near Bou Saâda. Over a period of four weeks or so they walked through the desert, working at an average rate of about one Aethyr per day. On some occasions two Aethyrs were skryed in one day; other Aethyrs needed several attempts to pierce fully. Crowley used a fairly elaborate skrying stone for the purpose, describing the method as follows:
... I had with me a great golden Topaz (set in a Calvary Cross of six squares, made of wood, painted vermilion), engraved with a Greek cross of five squares charged with the Rose of 49 petals. I held this as a rule in my hand. After choosing a spot where I was not likely to be disturbed, I would take this stone and recite the Enochian Key; and, after satisfying myself that the invoked forces were actually present, made the topaz play a part not unlike that of the looking-glass in the case of Alice.It is clear from this that the shew-stone did not relay visions like some sort of extra-dimensional television set. Neither was it a case of a discarnate entity of the spirit world beaming messages into Crowley's brain. There was a shift of perception, a sensitivity to comparatively subtle impressions and sensations coming from beyond individual consciousness.
The shew-stone which Crowley used was engraved with a Rose of 49 petals. This is significant, since 49 is the number particularly associated with Babalon. The square root, 7, is associated with Venus; also with Typhon, the archetypal genetrix glyphed by Ursa major, the Great Bear. The Crossing of the Abyss is the yielding of all that one has and is into the Cup of Babalon, which is borne by the Charioteer depicted in Atu VII. The Atu is assigned to the Hebrew letter Cheth which spelt in full enumerates as 418. The Vision and the Voice is saturated with the presence of Babalon, a feminine form of Pan. There are of course affinities with Babylon, the Whore or Scarlet Woman mentioned in Revelation. Until reaching the Twelfth Aethyr, which is a vision of the Charioteer, Crowley had retained the Biblical spelling. Towards the end of the vision, a new, more appropriate spelling flashed forth into Crowley's awareness - BABALON, the City of the Fifty Gates, the Gate of the Sun-God ON. By gematria this revised form gives 156, a more significant number. The Fifty Gates is a reference to the Hebrew letter Nun, which Crowley considered glyphed both Death and the female principle. In a commentary note to this Aethyr, Crowley wrote: "Note that the death or love of the saints is really increased life. The formula of 156 is constant copulation or samadhi on everything". This parallels Spare's insight of "all things fornicating all the time". The associations of sex with death are myriad.
The revised spelling of BABALON appears in two of the Enochian Calls. In the Sixth Call, the word is translated as "wicked". In the Nineteenth Call, which is used to evoke the Thirty Aethyrs, and thus would have been used by Crowley each time he skryed, the word appears again - this time in a slightly modified form - for "harlot". Curiously enough, towards the end of the Workings by Dee and Kelley, an act of sex-magick was performed by them and their wives. This was followed by a very intense and voluptuous vision, which gave distinct foreshadowings of Babalon. It seems useful at this point to give an outline of the Workings of Dee and Kelley. Since The Vision and the Voice is not primarily an exploration of the Enochian system which their Workings earthed, I will keep the outline brief. There will be mention of the passage just referred to, since it throws interesting light on some of the content of The Vision and the Voice.
The Dee-Kelly Working
The Enochian system of Calls was transmitted to Dr. John Dee and Sir Edward Kelley in the latter part of the sixteenth century. What we know of their Workings comes to us largely from those manuscript diaries of Dee which have survived; they are now preserved in the British Museum. A portion of this material was published by Meric Casaubon in 1659, under the title "A True and Faithful Relation of what passed for many years between Dr. John Dee and some spirits". The manuscripts include material prior to Casaubon's account which he did not use.
Casaubon's motive in publishing this material was to demonstrate how one could be led into wickedness and damnation by sorcery and magic, and how a man as pious even as Dee could be led astray. Casaubon was confident that any intelligent person would be repelled by the foolishness which the publication revealed. Instead, it served to preserve and widen interest. Without Casaubon, the Dee-Kelley Workings would probably have lapsed into obscurity - an indication, verily, that God moves in mysterious ways. I have not seen the manuscripts, and thus my assessment of the unpublished element is drawn from Laycock's Enochian Dictionary (Askin Publishers Ltd., London, 1978). The Casaubon account has been widely available since the appearance of several facsimile editions in the 1970's.
John Dee was a very erudite scholar of the Elizabethan age, versed in a variety of subjects - mathematics, philosophy, medicine, hermeticism, to name but a few. Around March 1581 he was troubled by strange dreams and odd nocturnal sounds. Though intrigued by this, he had little in the way of mediumistic powers himself, and needed the services of a skryer or medium to further these contacts. Dee did have such powers to some degree, however - there are several incidents in the Casaubon account of his hearing some of the sounds, and occasionally seeing something of the visions.
The first skryer was Barnabas Saul, who used a crystal provided by Dee. These sessions were unsatisfactory to Dee, and he dismissed Saul after only a few months. In March 1582 Edward Kelley called at Dee's home in Mortlake, offering his services as a skryer. Dee was suspicious at first, perhaps regarding Kelley as a spy. However, he resolved those doubts and found Kelley's abilities useful, since they subsequently worked closely together for seven years. Most of Dee's biographers portray him as a gullible, saintly figure who was taken in by the rogue Kelley. The received wisdom here is that Kelley was a charlatan travelling around the country, living off his wits through nefarious deeds; he was said to have had his ears cropped for forgery, and to have been involved in necromancy. The evidence for this is slender, to say the least, depending on hearsay quoted by Casaubon in the introduction to his book.
The early sessions resulted in instructions being received: they were to construct a talisman and various other effects, for use in subsequent sessions. The method of the sessions was fairly regular. Proceedings would open with prayers being said by Dee, and the crystal or shew-stone would then be uncovered. Kelley would recount what he heard and saw, and Dee would record these accounts in his diary. A variety of crystals was used, including a globe of rock crystal and a mirror of black obsidian - a dark, glassy volcanic rock formed by the rapid solidification of lava. These early sessions seem to have consisted largely of the reception of squares of letters and numbers, some as large as 49 squares by 49. About a hundred of these squares were transmitted in the space of a year. These larger squares were used to transmit the Enochian Calls, although the method is not clear from the diaries. It appears that Kelley observed whilst a spirit or angel in the shew-stone pointed to a letter. Kelley called out the table position indicated; and Dee, presumably with a copy of the same table, recorded the corresponding letter. At least that is my reading of the diaries published by Casaubon. It must have been a very laborious and tedious process. Most of the Calls were dictated backwards for subsequent rewriting forwards. The reason given for this was that the Calls were so potent that forward dictation - even a letter at a time - would have unwanted effects. This huge undertaking was announced to them during the session of 12th April 1584. when they were living in Cracow. A spirit told them:
I am therefore to instruct and inform you, according to your Doctrine delivered, which is contained in 49 tables. In 49 voyces or callings: which are the Natural Keyes to open those not 49 but 48 (for One is not to be opened) Gates of understanding, whereby you shall have knowledge to move every Gate, and to call out as many as you please, or shall be thought necessary, which can very well, righteously, and wisely, open unto you the secrets of their Cities, and make you understand perfectly the knowledge contained in the Tables. Through which you will easily be able to judge, not as the world doth, but perfectly of the world, and of all things contained within the Compasse of Nature, and of all things which are subject to an end.After the lengthy dictation of the Call in Enochian, letter by letter, the English translation was communicated by a much simpler and quicker method. The following short passage comes from the delivery of the English version of the First Call:
And now Nalvage[the spirit dictating in the shew-stone] is on top of the Globe, and his feet remaineth in the former manner of fire. Now Nalvage holdeth up his right hand, and the same seemeth to be many hands. There is on one of his fingers an I. It vanisheth away; and so on diverse fingers are words as follows ... In this way the English version was given - but forwards instead of backwards, being less powerful than the Enochian. Over the course of the next few months the remaining Calls were given. The last of these was the Call of the Thirty Aethyrs - by dint of a slight variation, this could be used to access any one of the Thirty Aethyrs. Dee and Kelley seem to have been somewhat bemused by this material, and there is nothing in the Casaubon account to indicate that they ever used any of the Calls. Interspersed with the dictation of the Calls, there are rather disconnected visions which Kelley saw in the shew-stone, as well as accounts of apparitions which left the stone and moved around the room. Often the spirits seen delivered speeches, some of which were intense and apocalyptic.
The next three years were spent in having visions, and some further instruction in the use of Enochian, but again there are no indications of the Calls having been used. However, things took an altogether more interesting turn in April 1587. A young girl-spirit called Madimi appeared. Madimi had been a regular visitor for several years. Now, however, she was in the company of what Kelley described as "lewd spirits". These other spirits disappeared, and then Madimi took off her clothes. Kelley was shocked by this; and he chided Madimi, on the grounds that such behaviour broke God's commandments. Over the course of the next few weeks, Dee and Kelley were told that they would have to obey a new set of commandments from God, which included having their wives in common. Neither Dee nor Kelley were in favour of this, and their wives were horrified. Nevertheless, after a great deal of heart-searching they decided to comply with the new edict. and consummated the arrangement on the night of Friday 22nd May.
The following day, there was a vision of a very powerful woman. In Kelley's words:
All her attire is like beaten gold; she hath on her forehead a cross crystal, her neck and breast are bare unto under her dugs: she hath a girdle of beaten gold slackly buckled unto her with a pendant of gold down to the ground ...This apparition delivered a passage of startling, beautiful intensity. In view of its foreshadowing of elements of Crowley's visions, it is worth quoting at length:
I am the Daughter of Fortitude, and ravished every hour, from my youth. For behold, I am Understanding, and Science dwelleth in me; and the heavens oppress me, they covet and desire me with infinite appetite: few or none that are earthly have imbraced me, for I am shadowed with the Circle of the Stone, and covered with the morning Clouds. My feet are swifter than the winds, and my hands are sweeter than the morning dew. My garments are from the beginning, and my dwelling place is in my self. The Lion knoweth not where I walk, neither do the beasts of the field understand me. I am defloured, and yet a virgin: I sanctify, and am not sanctified. Happy is he that imbraceth me: for in the night season I am sweet, and in the day full of pleasure. My company is a harmony of many Cymbals, and my lips sweeter than health itself. I am a harlot for such as ravish me, and a virgin with such as know me not: For lo, I am loved of many, and I am a lover to many; and as many as come unto me as they should do, have entertainment. Purge your streets, O ye sons of men, and wash your houses clean; make your selves holy, and put on righteousness. Cast out your old strumpets, and burn their clothes; abstain from the company of other women that are defiled, that are sluttish, and not so handsome and beautiful as I, and then will I come and dwell amongst you: and behold, I will bring forth children unto you, and they shall be the Sons of Comfort. I will open my garments, and stand naked before you, that your love may be mo re enflamed toward me.Dee records that he and Kelley found this passage of great comfort. After another brief speech, Kelley reported that "... she turneth herself into a thousand shapes of all Creatures: and now she is come to her own form again ...". This is suggestive of Babalon.
She appeared again later the same day. From her words recorded by Dee, it is obvious that Dee and Kelley had still not used the Calls. She promised to instruct them in various things over the course of a hundred days, every seventh of which they should present themselves for instruction. This instruction would, it was said, give them great power and riches; and at the conclusion (if it she would materialise out of the shew-stone.
We do not, alas, know what happened next. The diaries from here until 1607 have not survived. It is known that Kelley left Dee's service at some point, and travelled on the continent, making his living much as before. Legend has it that in 1595 he was imprisoned on charges of fraud, and died whilst trying to escape. There is a story to the effect that he ran off with Dee's wife and money, after being horrified by the passage quoted above, itself a result of skrying using the Call of the Seventh Aire. That particular version of events is a nice piece of melodrama, taken from a letter of Jack Parsons to Marjorie Cameron; however, there is nothing to substantiate it that I have come across.
Dee tried at least one other skryer after Kelley, but he turned out to be a fraud. Dee died in poverty in 1608, aged 81. Many years after his death, some of his papers came into the possession of Elias Ashmole, a prominent Freemason. He was fascinated by the accounts of the Workings, and reputedly did some practical work, details of which I have not seen. There are known to be some records of practical work done by people other than Ashmole, inspired by the Dee-Kelley records. However, the system did not emerge again until late in the nineteenth century, when it was elaborated and woven into the Golden Dawn instruction. It would have been the Golden Dawn recession which Crowley first came across. He was interested enough to turn his attention not only to the Casaubon account but also to the unpublished manuscripts in the British Museum. A brief account of Enochian was published in numbers 7 and 8 of The Equinox. This followed the work in the Algerian desert by Neuburg and himself which constitutes The Vision and the Voice.
The Arrow of Thelema
As a start to this work of echoing and amplifying some of the themes touched upon in The Vision and the Voice, we shall look at the vision of the Fifth Aethyr, and its reverberations in that of the Seventeenth. The account of the Fifth Aethyr is dominated by the vision of an arrow. This arrow is the Arrow of Will, the Arrow of Truth. The vision is beautiful and inspirational, elucidating the essence of Thelema. Reference has already been made to the eclectic nature of The Vision and the Voice, in particular the intimate connections with the Atus. The relevant Atus in this example are VI (The Lovers) and XIV (Art) respectively. These connections will lead us inevitably into areas which may not seem at first sight to be closely involved. The further afield we go, however, the more resonant the echoes become. Where references to other works seem suggestive, therefore, they are made.
The Arrow is a glyph of Will, being a symbol of direction - the swift-darting Will, of formless fire, in which wandering thoughts are consumed. The central vision is preceded by the appearance of Cupid or Eros. He also figures in Atu VI, where Crowley describes him as
... the source of all action, the libido to express Zero as Two.He bears a quiver of arrows, upon which is inscribed the word Thelema in Greek characters. The quiver thus appears to hold a quantity of wills. In the Atu, Eros is shown blindfolded as he wields the bow and arrow; this demonstrates the lack of conscious direction - an absence which characterises True Will. Archer, target and arrow are one, a spontaneity, beyond both chaos and control. The True Will not so much has its own volition, but is its own volition.
The Seer is called upon to slay Eros, the wielder of the Arrow. When he does so, the Vision intensifies gloriously and ecstatically, only the Arrow remaining. In slaying Eros, the Seer has killed the illusion of an individual archer or director of the Arrow. The Seer realises that
... this Arrow is the source of all motion; it is infinite motion, yet it moveth not, so that there is no motion. And therefore there is no matter. This Arrow is the glance of the Eye of Shiva. But because it moveth not, the universe is not destroyed. The universe is put forth and swallowed up in the quivering of the plumes of Maat, that are the plumes of the Arrow; but those plumes quiver not.Magick is going, yet there is no motion; Magick is change, yet there is no change. Throughout the shifting kaleidoscope of the Vision
... the Arrow persists for it is the direction of energy, the will that createth all becoming.At the heart of this Vision of the Arrow there is that flavour of paradox which ever mocks intellectual analysis. The Arrow soars deliciously on its flight, invisible from the shores of reason. The True Will is not something which the individual possesses. It is this Will which creates the lila, the play of illusion or manifestation, and through which it expresses itself. Everything is an aspect of this diversity, not something separate, apart or individual. As said later in the vision:
What is above, and what is below? For there is the division which divideth not, and the multiplication that multiplieth not. And the One is the Many.At the core of all this is the expression of Zero as Two, which articulates the essential identity of existence and non-existence. The literature of Thelema, as of other traditions, abounds with pointers to this central insight. Intellectual analysis is here dead; it is a matter of initiation, of living insight, itself the fruit of direct magical and mystical experience. Works such as Liber 418 are rhapsodic, and need to be sealed up into the blood. Then the heart will beat to a more profound rhythm, an d direct perception will arise.
As fine gold that is beaten into a diadem for the fair queen of Pharoah, as great stones that are cemented together into the Pyramid of the ceremony of the Death of Asar, so do thou bind together the words and the deeds,. so that in all is one Thought of Me thy delight Adonai.[Liber LXV, Cap.5, vv.58-60] True Will is inextricably bound up with its personification, the Holy Guardian Angel. The Angel is seen sometimes as a quintessence, of which the individual is a restricted, distorted expression; at others as a wholly separate and discrete entity, bonded to its human charge. Individuality of consciousness being an illusion, there is no question of something being inside or outside. The dichotomy is false, a terrestrial limitation, a chimera which dissolves at the approach of the Angel. It is this communion with discarnate or extra-terrestrial Intelligences which is the central concern of Magick. This stands in sharp contrast to the prevalent trends of the last thirty or forty years, when Magick has been reduced in some quarters to little more than a form of psychotherapy. It was Crowley's contention that Magick was the means of establishing such contact, and Yoga the method of preparing for its impact. Whatever the end, it is in terms of the Next Step that we should focus our endeavours. In Thelemic terms, this is undoubtedly the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. The metaphysical implications of this term are irrelevant; it is the experience which warrants our attention, not the label.
This "Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel" masks an experience which is universal, running like a thread through many different traditions. Although the approaches are myriad, there is more common ground than might appear at first sight. The central concern is invariably enlightenment, of awakening to an underlying reality, from which manifestation wells forth as a dream. This awakening involves transcendence of the limitations of reason, duality, and human identity; and it is of little consequence whether it is described as Crossing the Abyss, Satori, or Union with God. Adepts have attained for thousands of years without having had the faintest idea of such terms as Magister Templi, shivadarshana, samadhi, or whatever. Asceticism and sexual magick are equally paths to Rome.
If the paths vary, what is Rome? Invariably it is the realisation of gnosis or knowledge. Not the knowledge of reason or duality, which is glyphed by Choronzon - but the awareness that consciousness reaches beyond the restrictions of the apparently human. We reach beyond the veil of incarnation - that which blinkers us, creating the illusion of being earthbound, terrestrial, limited. As Kenneth Grant expresses it:
Thus the full formula of magick - as of dream control - is resumed in the eleven-worded precept: Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. This may be interpreted as meaning that the basic law, the tendency of each individual, is toward that total transformation of himself from the limited entity that he believes himself to be, to that which he really is in essence, i.e. a transcosmic, extra-terrestrial and - ultimately - an extradimensional absence.[Outside the Circles of Time, p.18] Intimacy with our Holy Guardian Angel is not the sole pylon to be passed. It is, though, the Next Step; as such, it is a major initiation - our first, faltering step towards reaching beyond our earth-bound identity. The link, once made, is permanently forged, as the following passage from the Vision of the Seventeenth Aethyr indicates:
And even as the shew-stone burneth thy forehead with its intolerable flame, so he who bath known me, though but from afar, is marked out and chosen from among men, and he shall never turn back or turn aside, for he bath made the link that is not to be broken, nay, not by the malice of the Four Great Princes of the evil of the world, nor by Choronzon, that mighty Devil, nor by the wrath of God, nor by the affliction and feebleness of the soul.The Arrow as a glyph of Will has another interesting connotation. As already noted, Eros figures in the Vision of the Fifth Aethyr. He bids that the Seer slay him with the bow and arrow. There are two arrows in the quiver - one of them black, with a vicious barb dipped in deadly poison; and the other white. The Seer selects and fires the white arrow; it glances off Eros harmlessly, whilst in the same instant the Seer is stricken through the heart by the black arrow. However, it is Eros that is slain, not the Seer:
And the child [Eros] smiles, and says: Although thy shaft bath pierced me not, although the envenomed barb bath struck thee through; yet I am slain, and thou livest and triumphest, for I am thou and thou art I.The Greek word 'toxon' gives rise to the English toxin or poison, and hence intoxication. The Greek word does duty for both bow and arrow, which was traditionally dipped in poison. There is a link here between the arrow, poison, destruction, and intoxication. An interesting passage in Part Two of Book Four mentions the Cup of Babalon in this context:
For to each individual thing attainment means first and foremost the destruction of the individuality.An arrow is also shown in Atu XIV, Art. This card is the complementary of Atu VI; it is attributed to the Hebrew letter Samekh, and the zodiacal sign Sagittarius. Whereas Atu VI shows an arrow being shot downwards, in Atu XIV it is soaring upwards. The representation is of the successive stages of the formula "solve et coagula". The rôle of the arrow fired by Eros in Atu VI, and used to slay him in the Vision, is now clear: disintegration, the solve half of the formula. Atu XIV represents a step further, indicated by the arrow shooting up: coagula, the synthesis and reintegration. This is not the reformulation of the original from its disparate elements, but something else beyond. The destruction of individual consciousness makes way for the realisation of pan-dimensional awareness. This is not so much a destruction as the dissolution of the prison walls - dissolution, because they were illusory anyway.
The arrow as a glyph of "swift-darting Will" is again linked to the letter Samekh through Crowley's Liber Samekh, his model of a ritual for the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. Liber Samekh sets out an extremely demanding and intensive magical Working, carried forth over the course of eleven moons. It is not the only piece of work for facilitating the Knowledge and Conversation. Two others are well-known - the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage; and the instructions given in the Vision of the Eighth Aethyr. The precise method of attaining the Knowledge and Conversation is not so important as the engine that drives it - bhakti towards the Angel.
There is a relation between the "swift-darting Will" and the flash of enlightenment, which is often likened to the swift strike of an arrow or thunderbolt. Passages from Liber LXV also illustrate this theme; the aspirant is shot through by a bolt, spear, or other weapon:
Across the waveless sea of eternity Thou didst ride with Thy captains and Thy hosts; with Thy chariots and horsemen and spearmen didst Thou travel through the blue.[Cap. IV, vv.38-40]
Thou dost faint, thou dost fail, thou scribe, cried the Desolate Voice; but I have filled Thee with a wine whose savour thou knowest not.
It shall avail to make drunken the people of the old gray sphere that rolls in the infinite Far-off; they shall lap the wine as dogs that lap the blood of a beautiful courtesan pierced through by the Spear of a swift rider through the City. [Cap. IV, vv.59-60] This theme is echoed in the Vision of the Seventeenth Aethyr, when the Angel speaks of the Knowledge and Conversation, warning that '... the word is deadlier than lightning". This resonates with the previous remarks about poison and intoxication. The word is deadly not only in its speed and accuracy - piercing straight to the heart - but more importantly in its dissolution (or disillusion) of individuality. The life-blood is spilt; bursting from its vehicle, it mingles with the Wine in the Cup of Babalon. The onset of samadhi is death to the ego. Enlightenment is not gradual, coming in comfortable stages - it is a swift, deadly and consuming flash of lightning.
There are affinities here with the Ch'an doctrine of Sudden Enlightenment. Years may have been spent in patient meditation, awaiting this consummation: a work of nurture, of tilling the field, of preparing the soil. Then, when the lightning flash cleaves suddenly through the cloud, it strikes a fertile bed, so having the best chance of taking root and flowering. Similarly, through the ritual work of Liber Samekh the adept is prepared for the approach of his Angel:
The Holy Guardian Angel has always the necessary basis. His manifestation depends solely on the readiness of the aspirant. and all magical ceremonies used in that invocation are merely intended to prepare that aspirant; not in any way to attract or influence Him. It is His constant and eternal Will to become One with the aspirant; and the moment the conditions of the latter make it possible, that Bridal is consummated.
Horus and Maat constitute a Double Current, closely shadowed by the close relationship between Atus VI (The Twins) and XIV (Art). Horus represents disintegration, analysis, the breakdown of constituents under the action of vitriol; this is glyphed in Atu VI, where an arrow is being fired down towards the twins. Maat then represents the reintegration, the synthesis from the fragments; Atu XIV shows the arrow streaking upwards from the cauldron, and piercing the rainbow. The Arrow streaks from individual consciousness towards the universal. It has no goal, only a velocity; but in the wake of its flight comes the dawning of pan-dimensional awareness:
Thou canst not believe how marvellous is this vision of the Arrow. And it could never be shut out, except the Lords of Vision troubled - the waters of the pool, the mind of the Seer. But they send forth a wind that is a cloud of Angels, and they beat the water with their feet, and little waves splash up - they are memories. For the Seer bath no head; it is expanded into the universe, a vast and silent sea, crowned with the stars of night. Yet in the very midst thereof is the Arrow. Little images of thi ngs that were, are the foam upon the waves.[Liber 418, Fifth Aethyr]
© Michael Staley
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