“The Tarot and the Holy Qabalah” – Crowley Speaks

For the better part of a year, now, Ankhie has been pulling a daily card from the Thoth deck and posting it on the Weiser Facebook page, along with illuminating excerpts from  Lon Milo DuQuette’s amazingly erudite Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot. However, at this point we’ve posted chapters on nearly all of the cards, and I, for one, still have a lot left to learn. So what better place to turn next than Uncle Al’s own Book of Thoth, especially for the more esoteric aspects of this rich and sometimes confounding deck?

So let us begin again with the basics (inasmuch as anything Crowley touched can be considered basic!) with “The Tarot and the Holy Qabalah”

The next issue is the Holy Qabalah. This is a very simple subject, and presents no difficulties to the ordinary intelligent mind. There are ten numbers in the decimal system; and there is a genuine reason there should be ten numbers, and only ten, in a numerical system that is not merely mathematical,but philosophical. It is necessary, at this point, to introduce the “Naples Arrangement”. But first of all, one must understand the pictorial representation of the Universe given by the Holy Qabalah.

This picture represents the Tree of Life, which is a map of the Universe. One must begin, as a mathematician would, with the idea of Zero. Absolute Zero, which turns out on examination to mean any quantity that one may choose, but not, as the layman may first suppose, Nothing, in the “absence-of-anything” vulgar sense of the word. (See “Berashith”, Paris 1902)

“THE NAPLES ARRANGEMENT”

The Qabalists expanded this idea of Nothing, and got a second kind of Nothing which they called “Ain Soph” – “Without Limit”. (This idea seems not unlike that of Space.) They then decided that in order to interpret this mere absence of any means of definition, it was necessary to populate the Ain Soph Aur – “Limitless Light”. By this they seem to have meant very much what the late Victorian men of science meant, or thought that they meant, by the Luminiferous Ether. (The Space-Time Continuum?)

All this is evidently without form and void; these are abstract conditions, not positive ideas.  The next step must be the idea of Position. One must formulate this thesis: If there is anything except Nothing, it must exist within this Boundless Light; within this Space; within this inconceivable Nothingness, which cannot exist as Nothingness, but has to be conceived of as a Nothingness composed of the annihilation of two imaginary opposites. Thus appears The Point, which has “neither parts nor magnitude, but only position.”

But position does not mean anything at all unless there is something else, some other position with which it can be compared. One has to describe it.  The only way to do this is to have another Point, and that means that one must invent the number Two, making possible The Line.

But this Line does not mean very much, because there is yet no measure of length. The limit of knowledge at this stage is that there are two things, in order to be able to talk about them at all. But one cannot say that they are near each other, or that they are far apart; one can only say that they are distant. In order to discriminate between them at all there must be a third thing. We must have another point. One must invent The Surface; one must invent The Triangle. In doing this, incidentally, appears the whole of Plane Geometry.  One can now say, “A is nearer to B than A is to C”.

But, so far, there is no substance in any of these ideas. In fact there are no ideas at all, except the idea of Distance and perhaps the idea of Between-ness, and of Angular measurement; so that Plane Geometry, which now exists in theory, is after all completely inchoate and incoherent. There has been no approach at all to the conception of a really existing thing. No more has been done than to make definitions, all in a purely ideal and imaginary world.

Now then comes The Abyss. One cannot go any further into the ideal. The next step must be the Actual – at least, an approach to the Actual. There are three points, but there is no idea of where any one of them is. A fourth point is essential, and this formulates the idea of matter.

The Point, the Line, the Plane. The fourth point, unless it should happen to lie in the plane, gives The Solid. If one wants to show the position of any point, one must define it by the use of three co-ordinate axes. It is so many feet from the North wall, and so many feet from the East wall, and so many feet from the floor.

Thus there had been developed from Nothingness a Something which can be said to exist. One has arrived at the idea of Matter. But this existence is exceedingly tenuous, for the only property of any given point is its position in relation to certain other points; no change is possible; nothing can happen. One is therefore compelled, in the analysis of known Reality, to postulate a fifth positive idea, which is that of Motion.

This implies the idea of Time, for only through Motion, and in Time, can any event happen. Without this change and sequence, nothing can be the object of sense. (It is to be notices that this No. 5 is the number of the letter He in the Hebrew alphabet. This is the letter traditionally consecrated to the Great Mother. It is the womb in which the Great Father, who is represented by the letter Yod, which is pictorially the representation of an ultimate Point, moves and begets active existence).

There is now possible a concrete idea of the Point; and, at last, it is  a point which can be self-conscious, because it can have a Past, Present and Future. It is able to define itself in terms of the previous ideas. Here is the number Six, the centre of the system; self-conscious, capable of experience.

At this stage it is convenient to turn away for a moment from the strictly Qabalistic symbolism. The doctrine of the next three numbers (to some minds at least) is not very clearly expressed. One must look to the Vendanta system for a more lucid interpretation of the numbers 7, 8 and 9, although they correspond very closely with the Qabalistic ideas. In the Hindu analysis of existence the Rishis (Sages) postulate three qualities: Sat, the Essence of Being itself; Chit, Thought, or Intellection; and Ananda (usually translated Bliss), the pleasure experienced by Being in the course of events. This ecstasy is evidently the exciting cause of the mobility of pure existence. It explains the assumption of imperfection on the part of Perfection. The Absolute would be Nothing, would remain in the condition of Nothingness; therefore, in order to be conscious of its possibilities and to enjoy them, it must explore these possibilities. One may here insert a parallel statement of this doctrine from the document called The Book of the Great Auk to enable the student to consider the position from the standpoint of two different minds.

“All elements must at one time have been separate. – That would be the case with great heat. – Now, when the atoms get to the Sun, we get that immense, extreme heat, and all the elements are themselves again. Imagine that each atom of each element possesses the memory of all his adventures in combination. By the way, that atom, fortified with memory, would not be the same atom; yet it is, because it has gained nothing from anywhere except this memory. Therefor, by the lapse of time and by virtue of memory, a thing could become something more than itself; thus, a real development is possible. One can see a reason for any element deciding to go through this series of incarnations, because so and only so, can he go; and he suffers the lapse of memory which he has during these incarnations, because he knows he will come back unchanged.

“Therefor you can have an infinite number of gods, individual and equal though diverse, each one supreme and utterly indestructible. This is also the only explanation of how a Being could create a world in which War, Evil, etc., exist. Evil is only an appearance, because (like “Good”) it cannot affect the substance itself, but only multiply its combinations. This is something the same as Mystic Monotheism; but the objection to that theory is that God has to create things which are all parts of Himself, so that their interplay is false. If we presuppose many elements, their interplay is natural.”

These ideas of Being, Thought, and Bliss constitute the  minimum possible qualities which a Point must possess if it is to have a real sensible experience of itself. These correspond to the numbers 9,8, and 7. The first idea of reality, as known by the mind, is therefore to conceive of the Point as built up of these previous nine successive developments from Zero. Here at last is the number Ten.

In other words, to describe Reality in the form of Knowledge, one must postulate these ten successive ideas. In the Qabalah, they are called ‘Sephiroth”, which means “Numbers”. As will be seen later,e ach number has a significance of its own; each corresponds with all phenomenon in such a way that their arrangement in the Tree of Life, as shown in the diagrams, is a map of the Universe. These ten numbers are represented in the Tarot by the forty small card.

Whew! Did y’all get that? On to the Formula of the Tetragram!

The Subtle Art of Divination – Crystal Scrying 101

Ankhie owns a lot of crystal balls. It’s a bit of a problem really. I collect them. Parts of  Chez Ankhie look like a metaphysical bowling alley.  But honestly, who here can resist the lure of  crystal balls? Aside from their divinatory uses, they are lovely objects  – smooth, cool, round – like huge, absolutely awesome marbles.  Ankhie, by the way, was that kid on the playground who would aim for your best, most beloved shooter, crack it out of the circle and pocket it home – merciless… but I digress.  So yes, crystal balls… their purpose is, of course, mystic – yet scrying is a practice that confounds many otherwise capable diviners.

Fear not! Magician-of-highest-repute, Raymond Buckland, has advice!

Most people have the ability to see into a crystal ball. As with so many things, it’s simply a question of practice. To start, you should work in a room where you will be undisturbed and that is perfectly quiet. You do not want to be distracted in any way, so make sure you are alone and that no one is going to come into the room unexpectedly. Sit in a good, straight-backed chair that is comfortable. Have the crystal ball on a table at a comfortable height in front of you.

Any good reflective surface will do for your gazing: a crystal, a magnifying lens, a highly polished dark-colored surface, a glass of water – yes, just a regular tumbler (clear glass, not decorated) filed almost to the brim with water. Whatever you use, stand it on a black background like a piece of black velvet so that, as you gaze at the object, you will not be distracted by anything around it.

Initially, you should have very little light in the room. later, you will be able to do this anywhere, but to start, try to have everything in your favor. I suggest just a single candle, which should be placed behind you so that you do not see it directly reflected in the crystal. I also suggest that you burn some incense. I find that this helps to induce the right feelings, the right atmosphere. It affects the vibrations of the area. Any good, pleasant-smelling incense will do (e.g. frankincense or sandalwood). Gypsies burn a lot of incense, because it seems to give a very special “atmosphere” to the room where the reading is taking place.

The only secret – if there is a secret – to crystal gazing is to learn to “gaze.” Don’t stare! Don’t try to look into the crystal without blinking your eyes. All you’ll get is eye strain! No – just relax. Look into the crystal. When you need to blink, just blink. Try not to think about whether or not you are blinking or you’ll end up concentrating more on blinking than anything else.

Breathe deeply; inhale fully and then exhale fully. Don’t try to picture/imagine anything in the crystal. Just look into it. For the first several times you do this, you will probably experience disappointment. You may try for a week or two, or three, with no results. But don’t give up. Suddenly, it will happen. Don’t keep up the gazing for too long ar any one session. I recommend you not try for longer than ten – absolute maximum, fifteen – minutes at any one time. If nothing has happened, just put away your crystal and try again the next night. Incidentally, some people do get results right away, their first time out.

Ultimately, you will see a picture in the crystal. You may even have a preliminary “display” just before this. Most people do. You may get the feeling that the crystal is somehow slowly filling with smoke or clouds (usually white in color). As you gaze into it, you will see the whole ball (or water-glass, or whatever) fill with swirling white clouds. Then, almost immediately, the clouds will start to fade away. As they disperse, you will be left with a picture that may be either in black-and-white or in full color. It may be a moving picture or it may be a still image, like a regular photograph. Again, most people see moving images.

What you actually see is frequently symbolic…

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Meditate on what you want to see – the question you want answered or the information you need to obtain. This meditation need only take a moment or two, just enough time to deliver the message to your unconscious mind. Then clear your conscious mind of all thoughts, breathe deeply, and gaze into the crystal, keeping your mind blank. Shortly the crystal will cloud (though not always), then clear and present the things you want to see. It’s as simple as that.

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If you opt to use an actual crystal, use one whose size is most comfortable for you. Over-large balls invariable have imperfections in them that tend to distract beginners. My favorite size is about three to four inches in diameter. I prefer to have the ball on a stand, but you may prefer to hold it in the palm of your hand; many people do.

A crystal ball does not have to be of pure lead crystal (as should be obvious from the fact that you can actually gaze into virtually any reflective surface). An amethyst ball can be wonderful, as can rose quartz, obsidian, glass,or even a plastic ball. When using a glass ball, avoid using one with bubbles in it, at least to start. Try to get a ball with as few imperfections as possible – it is best to have one with no imperfections whatsoever. Acrylic plastic balls may be best initially. The only real problem with these is that they scratch very easily, so take great care when handling them.

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…the tools of any craft should be treated with respect. So keep your crystal ball wrapped in a piece of black silk when not in use. When you first get it, and then again at every Full Moon, wash it carefully in clear water, dry it, and expose it to the direct light of the Moon for a half-hour or more. By direct light I mean actual rays of the Moon – not moonlight coming through a window pane. Open the window and let the actual rays fall on the crystal. Never expose the crystal to direct sunlight.

from Buckland’s Book of Gypsy Magic; Travelers’ Stories, Spells and Healing, by Raymond Buckland

The Subtle Art of Divination – Prophetic Dreams

It is a strange factor of sentience that we are aware of ourselves through time – something different from memory or instinct, something more profound than animal awareness. It is the source of much anxiety, but it is also what fuels ambition, hope, and the imaginative life.

It is presumed that when animals dream, they replay experiences in order to hone ability and instinct. It is an aid to their survival. But human dreaming is different. Although we often relive and revise events from our day, frequently our dreams bear little or no resemblance to actual experience. Flying is a common enough dream, but who among us has actually taken to the air of their own volition? I have recurring dreams of telekenesis – a very distinct sensation that has no equivalent in my waking life. It’s always a bit of a bummer to open my eyes and realize that I can’t shut off the alarm clock with my mind. Sigh.

Perhaps the most fascinating dream experience is one of the rarest – the prophetic dream. Few of us can claim to have seen the future, but those who have are often terrified by the experience. And because of the changeable, symbolic nature of dreams themselves, it’s easy to misinterpret what we encounter there, or doubt the validity of what we think it means. This explains the enduring popularity of the “dream dictionary” – a codex to imagery commonly encountered and its metaphorical meaning. Such books can be very helpful, and do a lot to alleviate the anxiety and confusion that stem from vivid dreaming. Yet they are only what they claim to be – dictionaries -and like any other dictionary they only help with part of the translation process. No one would believe that they could watch a film or read book in a foreign language with just the help of a dictionary. Syntax alone can alter the meaning of the individual words, and much depends on context and intonation. So it is with dreams. A dream dictionary helps only a little. The true nature of the dream is a much larger, organic vision that requires insight, not just definition. Part of that insight is acquired through self-knowledge (pilgrims to the Delphic Oracle were cautioned by an inscription above the door to the Temple of Apollo – “Know Thyself” – good advice, then and now) and part of that insight is acquired through serious study of mythology (our common cultural dreamscape) and history. To that end, I’d like to offer you an excerpt from Michelle Belanger’s excellent book Psychic Dreamwalking; Explorations at the Edge of Self. If you are seriously interested in the possibilities of dreamwalking, dream divination or dream spellwork, this book will guide you well.

A Brief History of Dreams

Oneiromancy was the ancient practice of telling the future through dreams. Related to the belief that the gods could communicate with mortals in their sleep, oneiromancy relied upon the notion that many different levels of reality intersected in the realm of dreams. Through dreaming, not only could mortals come into contact with spirits and gods, but they could also connect with the distant future and the distant past.

As times changed and empires fell, dreams became no less mysterious to our forbears. In medieval Europe, the spirit that was believed to inspire healing and  prophesy during dream incubation was transformed from helpful genius to malicious demon. We know it now as the incubus, and all traces of its formerly benevolent identity have been lost.

This small detail offers a significant insight into how the spread of Christianity impacted the attitude on dreams and dreaming. In early Christian Europe, dreams still occupied that hazy place between the mortal and spirit worlds. However, such gray areas did not fare well in a culture that had adopted a starkly black-and-white-world-view. The Bible taught that dreams could be prophetic visions granted by God, but only very special individuals were graced with such miracles. More often than not, the phantasmagoric images that haunted people at night were attributed to the Devil or his many minions sent to subvert the good people of the world. St. Jerome, writing in the fourth century C.E., deliberately mistranslated parts of the Bible to condemn the practice of observing dreams. In the face of such rigid thinking, there was little room for the interpretation of dreams.

The Renaissance saw a renewed interest in all aspects of the classical world. Wealthy families, like the Medici of Florence, financed the translation of a number of classical texts. Included in the more traditional Greek and Roman works on philosophy and history were several books on magic and spirits. The Church was not pleased by what it considered a scandalous Paganizing of European art and literature. But no matter how high  Savonarola and other outspoken priests piled on the bonfires of burned books, there was no denying that people’s interests had once more been turned to the gray areas of human experience. Notably, a new edition of Artemidorus’s Oneirocritica emerged from Venice in the early 1500s.

From that time forward, the Western opinion on the significance and mechanism of dreams has wavered back and forth between potent meaning and utter meaninglessness. Rene Descartes, a seventeenth century mathematician who is viewed as the father of modern philosophy, maintained that dreams were nothing more than fanciful images conjured by an irrational portion of the mind. Even so, on the evening of November 10th, 1619, Descartes had a series of dreams that inspired his life’s work. Despite his belief in the irrational nature of dreams, Descarte himself maintained that these particular nighttime visions were so potent that they could only have come “from above.”

In the Age of Reason and the Industrial Era, the official stance on the fanciful meaninglessness of dreams stood in stark contrast against the dream-inspired experiences of artists, composers, authors, and even military leaders. Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan,” Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, and portions of Wagner’s Ring Cycle were all conceived in dreams. Napoleon Bonaparte put such stock in his dreams that he based many of his military tactics upon them. At the Battle of Waterloo, he discounted a dream that foretold his defeat, dooming his empire.

In November of 1917, a young German corporal heeded a dream that foretold the shelling of his bunker. Wakened from his sleep by a nightmare of being buried alive, he wandered out to walk the night, only to have a heavy artillery shell completely destroy the bunker and everyone sleeping within it a short while later. Nightmares may have continued to inspire him throughout his later life: the young corporal became known to the world as Adolf Hitler.

An Austrian Jew driven from his homeland by that selfsame German corporal essentially wrote the book on the modern approach to dreams. Sigmund Freud is remembered by the world as one of the fathers of modern psychology. In 1899, he published a landmark work, The Interpretation of Dreams – a title conspicuously reminiscent of Artemidorus’s famous work. In many ways, Freud was styling himself as the Artemidorus of the twentieth century, attempting to redefine the modern approach to dreams. Freud was so intent that his work should pioneer dreams for a new era that he convinced his publishers to list the publication year not as 1899, but as 1900, so as to set the book firmly in the  twentieth century…

 

From Michelle Belanger’s Psychic Dreamwalking; Explorations at the Edge of Self.