LAM: The Gateway
© Michael Staley
|Crowley's portrait of Lam, entitled 'The Way', was first published in 1919 as a frontispiece to his Commentary on Blavatsky's The Voice of the Silence. However, nowhere else in Crowley's work is there a mention of it until 1945, when a diary entry records Kenneth Grant's interest. It is clear, however, that the portrait arose in connection with the "Amalantrah Working" of 1918-19, when Crowley lived in New York. Unfortunately, the Record of that Working which survives consists of the first six months only. Nevertheless, it is clear from a study of this surviving material that the portrait of Lam embodies the quintessence of the Working.
The absence of Crowley's exegesis on Lam gives us a great deal of
freedom and creativity to discover the implications for ourselves, and
to use them as magical and mystical tools in our initiation. The
portrait was republished in Grant's book The Magical Revival in
1972, and several times since - see, for instance, the Statement on
Lam by the O.T.O. published in Starfire Volume I number 3
There is much material on Lam in the more recent books by Grant; however, a definitive interpretation has yet to emerge. This is because we are dealing with something that is living and growing, rather than a matter simply of academic study.
Nevertheless, a broad outline is emerging, enough to make clear the primary function of Lam as the Gateway to wider and deeper ranges of consciousness - our extra-terrestrial, pan-dimensional Reality. In fact, anything whatsoever can function as the Gateway to those dimensions. The supreme glyph of Enlightenment is the lightning-flash, the swift awakening to Reality, which illuminates the landscape previously shrouded in darkness. The lightning flash can be triggered at any time, and by anything, when the conditions are propitious. The accumulation of glamour around the Cult of Lam makes it a Gateway which is pre-eminently accessible, however. The association with The Voice of the Silence makes it clear that Lam is a glyph of that Voice - the Babe in the Egg, Harpocrates, the God of Silence. This is Hoor-paar-kraat, the dwarf-self or Hidden God which is the Holy Guardian Angel. Here is a deep and powerful link; Hoor-paar-kraat is the copula with the unbroken, ever-coming substratum of consciousness which is Maat or the Tao, and of which we are terrestrial refractions. It is because of the intimate, intrinsic nature of this connection that every Initiate needs to forge his or her own link with Lam, and thus to develop an idiosyncratic Cult of Lam. The evocation reproduced at the outset of this essay is an example, being part of the present author's Lam sadhana, encapsulating the awareness of Lam outlined above.
Crowley gave the portrait to Kenneth Grant in 1945. Since then the significance of Lam has become more apparent. This significance can be glimpsed in the "Amalantrah Working", but its applications reach well beyond; were this not the case, then Lam would be nothing more than an exotic curio in the museum of Crowleyanity. The emerging Cult of Lam is of central importance to Starfire; for now, though, this article looks at some of the seeds in the Amalantrah Working and related areas. Appended are two accounts of contemporary Lam Workings which have been submitted to us [on-line is only ONE appendix]. The first of these draws on Enochian approaches; the second makes use of the magical technique outlined in the Statement on Lam published in the third issue of Starfire.
Crowley went to the United States in 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, and stayed there until 1919. This period covers the core of his initiation into the A.·. A.·. grade of Magus. These years were marked by an ever-deepening insight into and affinity with Taoism, as is made plain in the course of the Preface to his Tao Teh Ching - actually a revision of James Legge's earlier translation. This insight saturates Liber Aleph, The Book of Wisdom or Folly, the manuscript of which was almost complete by the opening of the Amalantrah Working. Liber Aleph is a central work of Crowley's, where he makes clear the deep affinity between Taoism and Thelema; without an appreciation of this affinity, Liber Aleph appears as little more than a scattering of aphorisms. The Amalantrah Working needs to be seen in the context of this initiation.
According to Crowley's account, the Working arose spontaneously. He was living with a mistress at the time, Roddie Minor. One of her indulgences was opium, the opulent visions of which she related aloud. On one particular occasion, her apparent ramblings struck Crowley as bearing on the "Abuldiz Working" of some years previously, and after some astral investigation he decided that there were indeed threads of the earlier Working which were being picked up; thus opened the Amalantrah Working. Crowley inaugurated regular sessions, which usually took place at the weekends. He seemed interested primarily in its use as an oracle for his affairs over the forthcoming week. Although there were many such short-term oracular pronouncements, there was also a wealth of more substantial material.
Amalantrah is the name of the entity with whom Crowley trafficked over the course of the Working. Communication was never direct, but via a medium or Seer who was sensitised by sex, drugs and alcohol in various combinations. Because of the effects of these preliminaries, the earthing of the communications was sometimes poor, their expression rambling and diffuse; the wheat needs to be separated from the chaff, therefore, when considering the Record. The Seer was usually Roddie Minor, although on a few occasions other women did assume the Office. The visions often opened in a woodland Temple which was perceived astrally by the Seer; this Temple was sometimes peopled by apparent doubles of those participating, and included on occasions absent colleagues.
Several of the early visions are very suggestive of the portrait of Lam. Consider, for example, the following:
I began by asking for a vision containing a message. I first heard gurgling water and saw a dark farmhouse in among trees and green fields. The house and other things disappeared and a dark yoni appeared just where the house had stood. I then asked where will a message come from? Immediately soldiers with guns appeared lounging about the place, and a king on a throne where the house had stood. I then asked again for a message and saw an egg in which were many tiny convolutions of some flesh-like substance which would form something. The egg was placed in an oblong as in a picture. Around it were clouds, trees, mountains and water, called the 'four elements'. A camel appeared in front of the whole picture. I next tried to find out who the king was. He looked more like Prof. Shotwell than any one else. That is, he was 'simple, democratic' and very learned and fine. He was certainly not a king belonging to any kingdom limited by a country's borders, but he was a king of men, or a king of the world. I asked his name and the word 'Ham' appeared between the egg in the oblong and the soldiers around the king.The Egg is a commonly-occurring glyph throughout the visions of the Amalantrah Working. It is of course a glyph of birth - the egg which contains the potential of all that is to come. There is a reference in one of the visions to Geburah 'applied to' the egg. Geburah is in this context the sword which cleaves the egg, or the lightning flash which sunders it, giving birth to the potential secreted within. Since elements of this particular vision are the foundation for much of the subsequent analysis, an extract from the Record follows. In this extract, 'T' is Therion, and 'A' is Achitha, the motto of the Seer, Roddie Minor. 'The Wizard' is Amalantrah. 'Arcteon' is the motto which was given to Charles Stansfeld Jones by Amalantrah. The bracketed material in the Record indicates both lacunae and asides by Crowley or others.
[Saturday] 27th April 1918 10.08 p.m. Wizard very serious and looks at Achitha in a very contemplative mood. Seems to approve. Turtle is most prominent thing in Temple. Child is there, lion and Barzedon. Arcteon has a very prominent place; he is a tall man that always appears in the Temple.The references to the lotus flower in association with the egg, and later the child, are significant. They suggest the Babe in the Egg, Harpocrates, often depicted as seated upon a lotus flower. The mountain is a symbol of initiation, of communing with the gods; examples are Mount Arunachala and Mount Kailas, and the story of Moses ascending the mountain to receive the Word of God. The Hebrew letters Gimel and Lamed give GL, which means 'spring, fountain'. The portrait of Lam shows clearly a mottled emanation or umbra from the top of the egg, like the dappled effect of a fountain in sunlight, or the 'fountain of dew' which showers from the Sahasrara chakra when the Fire Snake streaks up the Sushumna. The original publication of the portrait in 1919 did not show this, presumably because it was too subtle for the reproduction techniques then prevalent; subsequent publications in The Magical Revival (1972), Outside the Circles of Time (1980), and Starfire Volume I number 3 (1989) show it clearly, however. The Record of the last surviving session of the Working makes further reference to Gimel and Lamed, as the following extract shows:
[Sunday] 16th June 1918 9.00 P.M. Wizard very natural - usual folk there.Here Gimel and Lamed are again mentioned, this time as the two sides of Perfection which are integrated in Adam Qadmon, the Perfect Man. This reference to Perfection suggests the Tao; it also suggests Maat as the Perfect Aeon. Gimel and Lamed when enumerated in full are 83 and 74 respectively, and combine as 157, the number which Crowley assigned to his reworking of Legge's Tao Teh Ching translation. He completed the reworking during his Magical Retirement at Oesipus Island in the summer of 1918; and he relates in the published Preface how he evoked Amalantrah to elucidate certain obscure passages. The attribution of 157 to his Tao Teh Ching, then, gives us further confirmation of the Taoist substratum of the Amalantrah Working, and reinforces the identification of Perfection with the Tao.
The portrait of Lam shows a well-developed Ajna chakra, which can also be seen as a stylised ankh. Together with the pattern of the umbra mentioned earlier, the shape of a cup or chalice is clearly delineated. GL also means a 'bowl' or 'chalice'. This suggests that if Gimel and Lamed are the two sides of Perfection, then Perfection is the Supreme Chalice or Graal, the Cup of Babalon, the Womb of the Mother. This interpretation is underlined by a passage in Crowley's Commentary to Liber LXV (The Book of the Heart Girt with the Serpent):
Pe is the letter of Atu XVI the 'House of God' or 'Blasted Tower'. The hieroglyph represents a Tower - symbolic of the ego in its phallic aspect, yet shut up, i.e. separate. This Tower is smitten by the Lightning Flash of illumination, the impact of the H.G.A. and the Flaming Sword of the Energy that proceeds from Kether to Malkuth. Thence are cast forth two figures representing by their attitude the letter Ayin: these are the twins (Horus and Harpocrates) born at the breaking open of the Womb of the m other (the second aspect of The Tower as 'a spring shut up, a fountain sealed').This passage underlines the mention earlier of Geburah 'applied to' the egg, the lightning flash being in this context a type of Geburah. We have, then, an identity between the Tao and the Cup of Babalon, both being Perfection; and, of course, 'The Perfect and the Perfect are one Perfect and not two; nay, are none!" (AL I.45). The reference to 'a spring shut up, a fountain sealed' is from the Song of Solomon:
A garden barred is my sister, my bride, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.This indicates a pregnant womb, rather than a celebration of virginity: to shut up or seal is to obstruct something which has formerly flowed. It is, then, an apt phrase to be used by Crowley in the context of the quote above from his Commentary to Liber LXV. Moreover, it recalls a passage from Kenneth Grant's The Magical Revival:
Crowley used the sevenfold star as a basis for the Seal which he designed for the Great White Brotherhood. The major emblem of the Silver Star is thus the sevenfold seal upon the Yoni of the Star Goddess. In the yonis or triangles appear the seven letters of the name B.A.B.A.L.O.N. Centrally, a vesica is shown, blocked or barred, indicating the presence of the secret seed; the point has become the line, the diameter has become the circumference. This seed is the 'hermit', the hidden, masked, anonymous male essence in the process of begetting its image as the Sun-son upon the mother goddess. This is therefore the Seal of Set who opens his mother's womb, as Sothis the Star opens the Circle of the Year.
Set is Hoor-paar-kraat, the 'secret seed', the Hidden God, released from the egg by the shattering force of the lightning flash of illumination. In Olla, Crowley defines Silence as the Path of the Lightning Flash. Silence in this context is not simply the absence of noise or movement: it is the 'still, small voice' from which manifestation unfolds, the potential which gives rise to the actual, the noumena which underlies phenomenon. The Egg of Silence is typified by Lam; to embark on the Cult of Lam is therefore to evoke the Hidden God, the Holy Guardian Angel. This is Initiation, the journey inwards which is simultaneously the journey outwards, for the microcosm and the macrocosm are not two but one. Lam is the Gateway to Outside - those tranches of consciousness which lie beyond the bounds of what we consider to be ourselves.
This Gateway, and these tranches, are nothing new. The goal of all magical and mystical traditions is Gnosis - the awakening to Reality. The nominalisations of this goal are legion, but all paths lead to Rome. Similarly, each Initiate will have his or her own Gateway, but each Gateway will open out onto the same Reality.
Let us now analyze briefly the evocation which was reproduced at the outset of this essay.
Lam!Crowley's association of the portrait of Lam with The Voice of the Silence identifies it as a glyph of that Voice. The association is underlined by the assignation of 71 to both the portrait and the Commentary, as is made clear by the inscription which accompanied the portrait as originally published:
LAM is the Tibetan word for Way or Path, and LAMA is He who Goeth, the specific title of the Gods of Egypt, the Treader of the Path, in Buddhistic phraseology. Its numerical value is 71, the number of this book.A metathesis of LAM is ALM, also 71, a Hebrew word meaning silence, silent'. The Silence is the noumenon which underlies and infuses phenomena, the continuum of which all things soever are simultaneously facets and the whole. The Silence is the quietness at the heart of noise, the stillness at the heart of activity, the being at the heart of going, and the emptiness at the heart of matter. These juxtapositions may seem merely revelling in paradox; the fact is, though, that reason is a tool of limited application, and paradox is a means of pointing beyond apparent contraries. The 'Way' or 'Path' is a reference to the Tao. The 'Treader of the Path' is the Initiate, treading the path of initiation. This brings to mind the concluding lines from "Pilgrim-Talk", in Crowley's The Book of Lies:
O thou that drawest toward the End of The Path, effort is no more. Faster and faster dost thou fall; thy weariness is changed into Ineffable Rest.Initiation is the realisation that we are all jivanmukta, liberated whilst yet living; further - that the only thing to be liberated from is the idea that we are not already liberated.
Glyph of Hoor-paar-kraat:Hoor-paar-kraat is the unmanifest twin of Ra-Hoor-Khuit, manifestation. The distinction between these twins is figurative only; they are aspects of each other, neither separate from the other. The term 'Dwarf' Self' is often used: 'dwarf' in the sense of yet to manifest, adolescent, prepubescent, yet to flower. This is the Hidden God, a term used throughout the Egyptian Book of the Dead to glyph the sun in the Underworld or Amenta, the potential which is at the heart of florescence. Yoga is Union; not the union of opposites, but the unveiling of the union which has always existed, veiled by the illusion of limitation. Hoor-paar-kraat is a term often used synonymously with the Holy Guardian Angel.
Hoor-paar-kraat may be seen in terms of the Tetragrammaton, the Hé final, Horus or Ra-Hoor-Khuit being the Vau. This identifies Hoor-paar-kraat with the Aeon of Maat, the continuum or extra-terrestrial reality, a Communion in which we are at once Celebrants and that which is celebrated. As Treaders of the Way, we are not something separate which merely traverses from one point to another: we are the Way.
Gatesway to the Aeon of Maat!Taking the above ideas together, we can see, therefore, in what sense Lam is the Gateway. The portrait of Lam arose from the Amalantrah Working, and is a glyph of that Working. Lam is the Voice of the Silence, the Silence which is the extra-terrestrial continuum of consciousness of which manifestation is a facet. The Aeon of Maat is not a span of time, nor an initiation to which we might attain by virtue of intense and protracted contortions of the mind and body, but is here and now - the Ever-Coming One.
The mantra 'Talam-Malat' celebrates the Gateway, and is uttered several times before it lapses into silent vibration. 'Talam' is the semenhoney offered in the Mass of Maat; the word is a fusion of Lam and Maat. Its number is 81, KSA, the full moon which is both the flowering of the lunar cycle and the point of return to the New Moon; similarly, Maat is both the flowering of the Aeonic cycle and the point of return to the Pralaya or dissolution. The second half of the mantra, 'Malat', a mirror image of the first half, emphasises this sense of backward-turning.
The use of this mantra stems from the culminating moon of a Working, based on Crowley's Liber Samekh, which I undertook several years ago after sensing a summons to the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. The number 81 emerged into awareness, and it seemed to be a perichoresis of several elements - my growing interest in Lam, the mysteries of Maat into which I was then gaining an insight, and my Angel. The mantra 'Talam-Malat', then, concentrates and celebrates the common nature and indeed identity of the Angel, the Aeon of Maat, the Tao, and extra-terrestrialism. This insight was, and is, a matter of experience; once tasted, the nectar is not only never forgotten, but is ever-present.
This brings us to the prime consideration of the Cult of Lam, which is that though Lam is the Gateway to our extra-terrestrial reality, that Gateway is intrinsic to the individual Initiate. Similarly, the key that unlocks the Gateway is necessarily of a unique pattern, and must be discovered by the Initiate in the course of direct magical and mystical experience, The Cult of Lam focuses upon the techniques for discovering the pattern. However, these techniques can never be a universal template; rather, they are but a basis upon which the Initiate rears his or her own Temple of Illumination, the inner shrine of which is Silence.
The Cult of Lam, then, is a quintessence of the Typhonian tradition, which is concerned with trafficking with that which lies Outside of the terrestrial vehicle, and hence uniting the terrestrial and the extra-terrestrial. The practical Keys which facilitate this alchemy will be explored in future articles.
STARFIRE I,5, 1994
London WC1N 3XX