The Demon Baphomet, illustrated by Eliphas Levi
In ancient and modern esoteric literature and occultism, Baphomet possesses a great importance among occult practitioners. From its inception from Templar idol lore to the English Magi of Eliphas Levi and Aleister Crowley’s revision and integration into their religious philosophies (such as Crowley’s Thelema), Baphomet has become a virtual mascot for the occult arts. I will not go too deeply into the long and dry history of the archetype (only very briefly), but focus on the symbolism shared by both Baphomet and the Gnostic god-form of Abraxas, respectively as well as the many implications involved in their subsequent backgrounds. Abraxas too has a deep and powerful history in occultism that goes even farther back into the ancient secret halls of the initiation.
Let’s start with the ever so infamous figure of Baphomet. The origins of the name Baphomet vary considerably. One theory is that Baphomet is a variation of “Mahomet” (due to the Knights Templar campaign in the Middle East and inclusion of some Islamic religious ideas and rumors of even a fifth-column type of support for the Muslims), a medieval French corruption of the Prophet Muhammad, the warrior-king and founder of Islam. It does seem rather odd that a “whack-ass” attempt for a Western tongue to get around a Semitic language would become associated with a prime symbol of the occult. The Arabic abufihamet comes out as bufihimat, which is translated as “Father of Wisdom” or “understanding.” Therefore, we can’t expect Baphomet to mean exactly what it says. If only one could consult the “Father of Understanding” to really get it. There hardly is anymore reason to suppose that there is a more complex understanding of Baphomet. Yet, this doesn’t stop occultist-psuedo-historians from doing so.
The “true” origins of the first, fetid whispers in the dark regarding Baphomet’s name often begin with the Templars and their private rituals that included some kind of head bust (perhaps even a real severed head of a person) for purposes of divination which only fueled the rumors of devil worship. Indeed, it is suggested by few that the importance of Baphomet to the Templars was often over-stated as simply a “tabloid smear” by their accusers with about as much true metaphysical dimension as Jack Frost, May Pole, the Unicorn, the Bogey-man, Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. With its ambiguous origins aside, Baphomet has indeed been invoked out of the collective unconscious and into our awareness as a premier figure of the occult world.
A much more popular etymology, first established by Joseph Baron von Hammer-Purgstall can be ciphered as the “Baptism of Wisdom”, from the Greek words “Baph” and “Metis”, a likely key reference to Sophia, a common incarnation of the divine feminine replete in classical Gnosticism, the Kabbalah, the Bible (Proverbs especially) and the Apocrypha. According to the same author, another suggestion is given as the Hebrew “Maphtah Bet Yahweh”, meaning, “The Key to the House of God.” These two suggestions are brought up in the elaborate and out-of-date pseudo-history presented in The Discovery of the Mystery of Baphomet, by which the Knights Templars, like the Gnostics and Ophites, are convicted of Apostasy, of Idolatry and of moral Impurity, by their own Monuments. Can you say that two-times fast? In both instances, the meanings infer a reference to the figure of Baphomet as a hieroglyph world of magic or the divine powers.
The 19th century occultist, Eliphas Levi’s (his real name is Alphonse Constant) conception of Baphomet as the Egyptian “Goat of Mendes” or the “Sabbatic Goat” is probably the most well-known which was first published in the 1854 in the magical text called the Dogmas and Rituals of High Magic. Eliphas Levi’s Baphomet was portrayed as a Chimera hermaphrodite with bi-sexual features (the female breasts and the caduceus for an erect cock, phallic symbolism and all). There is also the kundalini (spiritual energy symbolized as a serpent located at the human spinal column to be unlocked by the opening of the seven chakra points), tantric images displayed by the stiff caduceus sleuthing upward for physical desire (to replace the image of a hard-on), the “Rod of Hermes”. The caduceus is also associated with eternal life and regeneration.
Baphomet’s hands also point upwards (with the words inscribed in the arm “Solve”) and downwards (“Coagula”) showing the shortened Hermetic axiom of “As Above, So Below”. “Solve et Coagula” is the great alchemical formula meaning “separate and join together” or “division and union”. The etymology of the word “alchemy” is derived from the Arabic el-kimya, Khem being the name for Egypt where magic and ritual was rightly pursued. The figure also bears a flaming torch on its head, symbolizing the fire of Prometheus similar to the Greek depictions of the Chimera as a fire-breathing elemental as well as wings of a fallen angel. The foremost common symbol of witchcraft and the occult, the pentagram is also most apparent placed strategically on his forehead. The pentagram in this sense is representative of the five elements (earth, fire, wind, water, spirit). Baphomet in this sense becomes the epitome of the “union of the opposites”, the upper and the lower, the balance of polarities and dualities inherent in the cosmos.
I will allow Eliphas Levi to explain the symbolism of his illustration even further, quoted from his book, Dogmas and Rituals of High Magic:
The goat on the frontispiece carries the sign of the pentagram on the forehead, with one point at the top, a symbol of light, his two hands forming the sign of occultism, the one pointing up to the white moon of Chesed, the other pointing down to the black one of Geburah. This sign expresses the perfect harmony of mercy with justice. His one arm is female, the other male like the ones of the androgyne of Khunrath, the attributes of which we had to unite with those of our goat because he is one and the same symbol. The flame of intelligence shining between his horns is the magic light of the universal balance, the image of the soul elevated above matter, as the flame, whilst being tied to matter, shines above it. The beast’s head expresses the horror of the sinner, whose materially acting, solely responsible part has to bear the punishment exclusively; because the soul is insensitive according to its nature and can only suffer when it materializes. The rod standing instead of genitals symbolizes eternal life, the body covered with scales the water, the semi-circle above it the atmosphere, the feathers following above the volatile. Humanity is represented by the two breasts and the androgyne arms of this sphinx of the occult sciences. (211-212)
Despite the inherent esoteric and alchemical symbolism in the figure of Baphomet, there exists a certain demonic feature to the figure. Eliphas Levi’s insistence that it was not the same as the Devil is notable although he repeatedly compares it to the Devil Tarot card of the Major Arcana. Baphomet also seems to be an amalgamation of many different goat-forms including the infernal goat of Sabbath adored by witches of the Middle Ages, the severed head of the Templars in which they allegedly used for divination, the phallic lusty god, Pan, and finally the Marseilles Tarot trump card, The Devil. The horny Horned God is one of the oldest fertility gods in human history—taking the various incarnations of Nimrod, Mithras, and Dionysus, respectively. Eliphas Levi recognized this repeating “Horny god” archetype that eventually would become the patron saint of occultism as mentioned in his book, Transcendental Magic:
We recur once more to that terrible number fifteen, symbolized in the Tarot by a monster throned upon an altar, mitered and horned, having a woman’s breasts and the generative organs of a man — a chimera, a malformed sphinx, a synthesis of deformities. Below this figure we read a frank and simple inscription — the Devil. Yes, we confront here that phantom of all terrors, the dragon of all theogonies, the Ahriman of the Persians, the Typhon of the Egyptians, the Python of the Greeks, the old serpent of the Hebrews, the fantastic monster, the nightmare, the Croquemitaine, the gargoyle, the great beast of the Middle Ages, and — worse than all of these — the Baphomet of the Templars, the bearded idol of the alchemist, the obscene deity of Mendes, the goat of the Sabbath. (288)
Notice how Eliphas Levi contradicts himself by making no bones of Baphomet being associated with the Devil or Satan, the “prince of the air” and “lord of the world”, you know the dude that wants to take your soul along with him to roast in an eternal BBQ in the infernal, ruinous fires of hell. Yes, Baphomet takes on a very symbolic archetype or “egregore” rather than an actual existing entity, yet it cannot be denied there exists a daemonic aura it, indifferent to conventional morality or man’s projections of good or evil. Rumor has it, the inspiration behind Levi’s illustration is up for speculation but it is often traced back to the grotesque sculptured illustrations of ravenous bearded demons with bat-wings mutilating, boiling and consuming people in an orgy of hellish blood-lust that were portrayed in Templar churches found in Saint-Merrie of Paris, France. Bingo. (Pssst: If you want to actually see these hard-to-find illustrations, check out Illuminati 4: Brotherhood of the Beast on Youtube.)
In The Secret Doctrine, Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky writes a footnote comparing Baphomet to the Azazel:
In Demonology, Satan is the leader of the opposition in Hell, the monarch of which was Beelzebub. He belongs to the fifth kind or class of Demons (of which there are nine according to the medieval Demonology), and he is at the head of witches and sorcerers. But see elsewhere the true meaning of Baphomet, the goat-headed Satan, one with Azazel, the scape-goat of Israel. Nature is the God Pan. (406)
Although the name Azazel bears no connection to the name of Baphomet, the goat-headed deity Pan bears striking resemblance to the symbol that would often be associated with Azazel. Azazel was also associated with the two-fold nature of the “scapegoat” of Jewish custom called the “Day of Atonement” where one goat is slain on an altar, while a second goat is sent away into the “wilderness”. The priest lays hands on the chosen goat’s head as a “sin-bearer”. The goat is sent away into the wilderness as a symbol of “removing” the guilt and sins of Israel.
But the goat, on which the lot fell for Azazel, shall be set alive before YHWH, to make atonement over him, to send him away for Azazel into the wilderness. (Lev. 16:10)
In fact, “Azazel” has nothing to do with being a name and everything to do with being a noun (ayn, alpeh), meaning “dismissal” or “removal”. This sets a precedent for the Jewish conception of the high-priest, Messiah-King whose blood is shed to atone for the sins of man for all time.
The other symbol associated with Azazel was of course the enemy of mankind’s souls, Satan himself. The scapegoat was not killed just as the spirit of the Devil was not killed. The goat represents the condemnation of Satan and his infinitely inspired sins of humanity which is sent away into the dark, spiritual wilderness. The “casting out” of the accursed goat by the returning high-priest after returning from the Tabernacle is a symbolic prelude to Revelations 20:3, 10, where the Messiah, Jesus Christ as the heavenly judge and redeemer casts the old serpent Satan into the pit or the abyss after the war of Armageddon and his return from the super-celestial Throne Room of YHWH, the Lord of Hosts.
In the apocryphal Book of Enoch, the noun is associated with the leader of the rebellious “watchers”, the “sons of God” or fallen angels who had a propensity for copulating with human women. These angels are also specifically called “stars”. They are called “Watchers” or the (Greek) “Grigori” because they look down on Earth from Heaven, and they travel around through the 12 “watchtowers”, which are obviously the houses of the zodiac. Another reason why these angelic beings were called “Watchers” was that their job was to observe primarily humanity, lending a helping hand when necessary but not interfering in the course of human development. Of course, they do not keep their rules, thus disobeying the “Lord of Spirits” and instead did everything in their power to contact them, and reveal to them the “useless secrets of Heaven” as hidden, occult knowledge and of course, have divinely inspired-swinger parties. Thus, the angels become the original “stewards” of the first arcane knowledge as well as orgies of libidinous excess. This in turn produces “abortions” known as the blood-thirsty giant demonic race being referred as being referred as the “Nephilim” or the fallen, castaways.
Azazel along with several other fallen angels “oppressed the righteous” through his instruction of making instruments of war, antimony, cosmetics, and jewelry. His actions signaled the corruption the earth and godlessness. In Gnosticism, the myths concerning the fornication of angels were used in a cluster of similar themes concerning the seduction of the archons, the demonic abortions and the lustful demiurge’s rape of Eve. The fallen angels were often held as synonymous with the archons. Azazel along with his counterpart Shemhazai (the inciter or seducer angel) and host were cast into a hellish-like prison beneath the mountains of the earth, enchained and punished because “they do as if they were the Lord.” Again, the Book of Enoch says of the fallen angels that “their spirits, assuming many different forms, are defiling mankind.” Azazel’s judgment consists of being bound and cast into a deep pit in the desert as mentioned by 1 Enoch, “Make an opening in the desert which is in Dudael and cast him therein.” This of course also falls in line with the Azazel as a “sin-bearer” only this time bearing the multitude of sins of his angelic brethren. A fallen-angel Messiah perhaps?
Eliphas Levi in Transcendental Magic recognizes Azazel as a vessel for black magic:
IN BLACK MAGIC, THE DEVIL is THE GREAT MAGICAL AGENT EMPLOYED FOR EVIL PURPOSES BY A PERVERSE WILL. The old serpent of the legend is nothing else than the BLACK MAGIC, universal agent, the eternal fire of terrestrial life, the soul of the earth, and the living fount of hell. We have said that the astral light is the receptacle of forms, and these when evoked by reason are produced harmoniously, but when evoked by madness they appear disorderly and monstrous ; so originated the nightmares of St Anthony and the phantoms of the Sabbath. Do, therefore, the evocations of goetia and demonomania possess a practical result? Yes, certainly one which cannot be contested, one more terrible than could be recounted by legends! When any one invokes the devil with intentional ceremonies, the devil comes, and is seen. To escape dying from horror at the sight, to escape catalepsy or idiocy, one must be already mad. (126-127)
Eliphas Levi also recognizes Baphomet as some sort of “Universal Agent” that:
having equilibrium for its supreme law, while its direction is concerned immediately with the Great Arcanum of Transcendental Magic. … This agent… is precisely that which the adepts of the Middle Ages denominated the First Matter of the Great Work. The Gnostics represented it as the fiery body of the Holy Spirit; it was the object of adoration in the Secret Rites of the Sabbath and the Temple, under the hieroglyphic figure of Baphomet or the Androgyne of Mendes. (12)
Yet, even more puzzling is his declaration that Baphomet is equated to Christ or the Logos:
The symbolic head of the goat of Mendes is occasionally given to this figure, and it is then the Baphomet of the Templars and the Word of the Gnostics. (156)
This is a very not only out-dated, but disjointed view of what the Gnostics actually “worshipped” in light of the discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library and even the words of the Gnostics’ enemies contained within the Church Fathers’ rants against their doctrines as iconoclast, Satanic heresies. Their theologies, however, were distinctly different with Orthodox Christianity due to their Platonic and esoteric influences from their Hermetic lodges of Alexandria, Egypt. The lack thereof of any goat-headed Aeons in any Gnostic system shows quite a bit of creativity on Eliphas Levi’s part since the classical Gnostic groups did not revere grotesque, chimera-like goats that would serve as a symbol for Wisdom or the Logos. It would be completely absurd to employ such monstrous, bestial forms to represent such higher divinities. As mentioned earlier, the “baptism of absorption of wisdom” is a common etymology for Baphomet created by Hammer-Purgstall, in which modern occultists to this day tend to use.
Eliphas Levi created the common image of Baphomet in the 19th century for the sake of his occult vogue, and it is not the actual historical meaning of the word. His era was a time when sensationalism and misinformation about history and etymology was rampant. When talking about historical movements we have to be careful that modern versions of terms like this isn’t foisted backwards in time, an anachronism. Without this modern reworking of the term, it loses all connection to historical Gnosticism.
Further onwards, Levi viewed Baphomet as the embodiment of an “astral light” that Levi defines as:
AZOTH, universal magnesia, the great magical agent, the astral light, the light of life, fertilized by animic force, by intellectual energy, which they compare to sulphur on account of its affinities with divine fire. (337)
In this sense, Baphomet serves as a symbol or primal force to express the magician’s will or intent in a magical ritual—a force virtually identical with Azoth, the “astral light”, the “universal solvent” or the “mercurial element” of alchemists—as the end result of the synthesis of opposites. Baphomet in light of substance of Azoth is largely representative of the “subtle” or “astral body of light” of the magician who at will projects this semi-spiritual body into a separate plane or order of existence which interpenetrates the world of earthly perceptions. It is this semi-spiritual substance that also makes up the ever so famous “astral realm”—a world only a step above the physical as an intermediate level.
The occult term, “astral light” is in Gnostic terms, the “psychic” or “soul” of the tripartite system of the pneuma (spirit), psychic (soul or in-between matter and spirit) and hylic (matter) substances that make up the substratum of the cosmos and the self. These substances originated from the passions of Sophia-Achamoth who originally belonged to a vast hierarchy of immortals or “aeons” in Gnostic cosmogonies and cosmologies that detail the spiritual universe before the rise and descent of the material. It is “prima material” or primal elements of matter, the stuff that makes up the affects of the stars” or to be more accurate the influences of the planets (e.g. astral determinism, the govern-ship of the seven celestial archons as a division of the Old Testament deity into the seven days of the week much like various pagan gods of the old world) which were considered to be synonymous with the fallen angels (the Enochian “Watchers”) and demons. They are subsequently listed in the Apocryphon of John as follows:
The names of the glory of those who rule over the seven heavens are these:
The first is Athoth, with the face of a lion;
The second Eloaios, with the face of an ass;
The third Astaphaios, with the face of a hyena;
The fourth Yao, with the face of a seven-headed snake,
The fifth Sabaoth, with the face of a dragon;
The sixth Adonin, with the face of an ape;
The seventh Sabbataios, with a face of shining flames of fire.
This is the Seven of the week; these are the ones who govern the world.
These wicked archons were also equated with the rulers of the seven visible planets that make up the “hebdomad,” a multi-layered network of prison walls with the Earth as the core “dungeon”. Under this fatalistic zodiacal system, the particles of the pneumatic seeds (spirits of light) ascend into the paradise of light after death. Before birth, the light-soul descends from the ladder of the cosmic spheres and in the process “coarsened” by each of the planet’s influences—impressing their negative properties on the soul thus diluting it into the dirty layers of shadowy matter. Accordingly, the spirit of man is heavenly, but his flesh, his hylic and psychic bodies, are both a creation of seven cosmic rulers. Their acolytes, equal in number to the days of the year, complete the anatomy and instill the passions of the flesh as indicated in the Book of Zoroaster as quoted by the Apocryphon of John:
This is the number of angels: together they are 365. They all worked on it until, limb for limb, the natural and material body was completed by them. Now there are other ones in charge over the remaining passions, whom I did not mention to you. But if you wish to know them, it is written in the book of Zoroaster.
To the Gnostics, the passage and ascent through the celestial spheres, present the greatest danger since every intermediate realm or “heaven” there is a ruling archon which threatens traveling souls to seize them and “throw” them back into the cycle of “metempsychosis” (the Platonic form of reincarnation) and eventually the unconscious “forgetfulness” of the world.
The astral gods of the zodiac who were the “dwellers of the threshold” challenged the adepts’ attempts to return to their paradisiacal origins. They take a leading part in Gnosis where in their cruel, sadistic and inimical ways draws the soul to sin only later to chastise it. The celestial lords of fate were driven away by the means of magic formulas, passwords and various holy names to help the departed particles of light on their spiritual sojourn to the original unity of light. One reason why Gnosticism was criticized by their Neoplatonic contemporaries back in the day was because their doctrines were too life denying and too transcendental. The Hermeticists and Neoplatonists thought that the archonic influences needed to be transformed (e.g. transmuting the black sun of Saturn into the Solar Logos); the ancient Gnostics on the other hand thought they had to be wholly considered to be corrupt and need to be transcended. While the Gnostics did not worship the Aeons as goat-headed demons, however, is it possible that there were actually goat-headed Archons? Could Baphomet symbolize an Archon as well?
This may be the case. Origen in Contra Celsus, paraphrases Celsus, a pagan philosopher who adamant in refuting Christian doctrines and tends to conflate them with that of the Gnostics and the Ophites, in which he classifies all of them as “sorcerers” as a misnomer. Celsus claims he saw an Ophite Diagram, that sounds very close to the later Kabbalistic system of the Tree of Life. In this diagram Origen lists the very first Archon, in the form of a goat, “shaped like a lion”!
To return to the Seven ruling Demons, their order is laid down in the diagram. The goat was shaped like a lion. Again, the second in order is a bull, the third an amphibious sort of animal, and one that hissed frightfully; moreover, the fourth had the form of an eagle; again, the fifth had the countenance of a bear. To continue the account, the sixth was described as having the face of a dog; the seventh had the countenance of an ass. Moreover, if any one would wish to become acquainted with the artifices of those sorcerers, through which they desire to lead men away by their teaching as if they possessed the knowledge of certain secret rites, but are not at all successful in so doing, let him listen to the instruction which they receive after passing through what is termed the “fence of wickedness,”—gates which are subjected to the world of ruling spirits.
Ultimately like Baphomet, this “astral light” can be assigned a whole host of meanings. Baphomet is by in large the occult’s adaptation of the mythological Chimera since it was made up of a variety of creatures formed into one monstrosity. Baphomet was by in large a collective reflection of the occultist’s various designation of meanings. Baphomet can be seen as an astral entity or guide in the “psychic”. Amazingly, however, later on in Transcendental Magic, Levi completely makes a 180 and changes his tune to suggest that the worship of Baphomet as a false idol was indeed just that!
…let us state boldly and precisely that all the inferior initiates of the occult sciences and profaners of the great arcanum, not only did in the past, but do now, and will ever, adore what is signified by this alarming symbol. (288)
Despite the smoking gun, Aleister Crowley (who so happened to consider himself a reincarnation of Eliphas Levi) had taken on the magical name of Baphomet as his initiatory title in the order (Supreme and Holy King) that would eventually become a driving force to spread the message of his religious mystical system known as Thelema (which is Greek for “Will”). This was and is done though the Order of Oriental Templars or more commonly known as the Ordo Templi Orientis which is a quasi-Masonic order. Crowley had ascended the ranks of the “solar-phallic” cult, the O.T.O. and eventually received control over the organization which claimed to hold the secrets of the Rosicrucian’s, Freemasonry, the Knights Templar and the Medieval Alchemists.
When Crowley would eventually become the head of the O.T.O., he would eventually add an 11th degree which is by in large dedicated to butt-sex and sperm guzzling, where the group’s members would have sex with Crowley, the self described “Mega Therion” which is Greek for the “Great Beast 666”. High level members of the O.T.O. are referred to as “Most Illuminated and Most Puissant Baphomet.” In The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, Crowley indeed confesses to his affinity with the goat-demon:
I had taken the name Baphomet as my motto in the O.T.O. For six years and more I had tried to discover the proper way to spell this name. I knew that it must have eight letters, and also that the numerical and literal correspondences must be such as to express the meaning of the name in such a ways as to confirm what scholarship had found out about it, and also to clear up those problems which archaeologists had so far failed to solve…. One theory of the name is that it represents the words ???? ??????, the baptism of wisdom; another, that it is a corruption of a title meaning “Father Mithras”. Needless to say, the suffix R supported the latter theory. I added up the word as spelt by the Wizard. It totalled 729. This number had never appeared in my Cabbalistic working and therefore meant nothing to me. It however justified itself as being the cube of nine. The word ?????, the mystic title given by Christ to Peter as the cornerstone of the Church, has this same value. So far, the Wizard had shown great qualities! He had cleared up the etymological problem and shown why the Templars should have given the name Baphomet to their so-called idol. Baphomet was Father Mithras, the cubical stone which was the corner of the Temple.
Baphomet is also invoked in Aleister Crowley’s Gnostic Mass, the central ritual for the same cult through the words, “I believe in the serpent and the lion. Mystery of Mystery, in his name BAPHOMET.” In Thelemic lore, the “Lion and the Serpent” was largely symbolic of the sperm as mentioned in Crowley’s Book of Lies:
The predominant influence is that of the lion-serpent, Teth, a glyph of the spermatozoon, which is shown in the sigil in the shape of four vesicas depending from a serpentine form attached to a beast’s head…
In Liber Aleph, Crowley writes that pre-eminent in all sex magick “is the Formula of the Serpent with the Head of the Lion,” the semen, “and all this Magick is wrought by the Radiance and Creative Force thereof.” To Crowley the magick is man’s junk. The woman is a necessary, respected and consecrated essential of the formula for sex magic and creation, but only in a reflective sense as a vessel for the manifestation of the God. The word “mete” from Bapho(MET) has also been connected by linguists to the name of the Zoroastrian solar deity, Mithras. In Crowley’s Book of Thoth, he writes about another possibility behind the etymology of Baphomet:
Von Hammer-Purgstall was certaintly right in supposing Baphomet to be a form of a Bull-god, or rather, the Bull-slaying god, Mithras; for Baphomet should be spelt with an “r” at the end; thus it is clearly a corruption meaning “Father Mithras”. There is also here a connection with the ass, for it was an ass-headed god that he became an object of veneration of the Templars. (67)
The “lust” card of Crowley’s Thoth deck depicts the conjoining of Babalon and the Beast (an obvious derivative from the Whore of Babylon who rides the many dragon-headed Beast of the New Testament’s Book of Revelation or The Apocalypse of St. John), which produces the elixir (sperm) from the phallus into the cup or chalice (vagina). The occult Baphomet is the “magical child”, the hermaphroditic union and result of male and female forces in combination in the senses of the occult ritual of sex magic and sacrament (the consumption of the “elixer” or the mingled sexual fluids after intercourse). Baphomet is also associated with the fabled golem-like homunculus, “little person”, in other words a fetus (!) is produced in the flask of an alchemist. The occult importance often given to the sexual act by magicians is that orgasm mystically reunites and brings the participants mystically closer to the absolute in a holy mystery rather seen as a “sinful” act of in some dark corner of depravity. The true joy of sex has little to do with physical pleasure and more with the temporary spiritual integration of separate individuals in the original condition of the complete human–the original androgyne. The German Occultist Theodor Ruess, creator of the Ordo Templi Orientis had also embraced his own versions of tantric sex magic, practices which echo the the political accusations of sexual impropriety of the Gnostics and Templars made by their orthodox enemies within the Roman Catholic Church. Yet, ironically such accusations would eventually resurface as the central teachings within the higher echelons of the O.T.O.
You can see this sexual “magical thinking” again in Crowley’s The Cephaloedium Working:
Ayin is moreover the Devil of Lust, the Goat of Mendes, Pan, Baphomet; and spelt fully Ayin is the Erection and Leaping and Extension of the Phallus; Yod is the Spermatoon, the Solitary Boy Hermes, the Virgin; while Nun is the Eagle of sexual Ecstasy, the Serpent of Life through Death, the Scorpion of Scarab of Kephra, the Womb which transmutes through corruption, the Semen or fluid vehicle of the Spirit, the Elixer of Magick, the Blood, Wine, and Poison in the Chalice.
According to the mystical doctrine of Thelema, Nuit, the “Lady of the Starry Heaven” who is the speaker of the first chapter of Liber AL vel Legis, interacts and copulates with her and copulates in superconscious intercourse with her masculine counterpart being Hadit, thus creating the manifest physical universe in a Gnostic-like syzygy. This concept distinctly echoes the theme of copulating hermaphroditic god-forms in classical Gnosticism, which were called “aeons” which emanated from the Supreme Father which come to act independently from the Monad’s will. Nuit is also arguably comparable to Sophia or Barbelo of ancient Gnosticism. Barbelo according to Sethian myth is the first reflex of the first divinity, called the Invisible Spirit. Between the Invisible Spirit and Barbelo, they give rise to a multitude of aeons. The concept of the androgyne is one that repeats in many alchemical and occult traditions. In Gnosticism, however, the androgyne was linked to the deficiency, imperfection and “lack of form” or spirit, in especially in the descriptions of the monstrous Demiurge in the Nag Hammadi texts.
In light of this “Thelemic” view on sexuality, Crowley’s more candid thoughts become more revealing as quoted by Israel Regardie in The Eye in the Triangle:
My instinct told me that Blake was right in saying ‘The lust of the goat is the glory of god.’ But I lacked the courage to admit it. The result of my training had been to obsess me with the hideously foul idea that inflicts such misery on Western minds and curses life with civil war. Europeans cannot face the facts frankly; they cannot escape from their animal appetite, yet suffer the tortures of fear and shame even while gratifying it. As Freud has now shown, this devastating complex is not merely responsible for most of the social and domestic misery of Europe and America, but exposes the individual to neurosis. It is hardly too much to say that our lives are blasted by conscience. We resort to suppression and the germs created an abscess. (63)
In Magick (Book 4) Crowley asserts that Baphomet was a (deficient) divine androgyne:
The Devil does not exist. It is a false name invented by the Black Brothers to imply a Unity in their ignorant muddle of dispersions. A devil who had unity would be a God… ‘The Devil’ is, historically, the God of any people that one personally dislikes… 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!’ and taught Initiation. He is ‘The Devil’ of the Book of Thoth, and His emblem is BAPHOMET, the Androgyne who is the hieroglyph of arcane perfection… He is therefore Life, and Love. But moreover this letter is ayin, the Eye, so that he is Light; and his Zodiacal image of Capricornus, the leaping goat whose attribute is Liberty. (277)
In essence, Crowley was tapping into a sort of diabolical “Dionysian” or “Night of Pan” savage, lustful, sexual and destructive energy to fuel his feats of ritual magic and the supposed destruction of his ego (that didn’t really pan out well, now did it?). This becomes rather evident in what he and his “chela” Victor Neurberg was attempting to invoke in the horrific yet strangely hilarious episode, deep in a North African desert. Discovering one’s “true will” is in Thelema, the “true salvation”, let traditional “slave” morality be damned:
“There are no “standards of Right”. Ethics is balderdash. Each Star must go on its own orbit. To hell with “moral principle”; there is no such thing” – Crowley, Aleister. The Old and New Commentaries to Liber AL, II,28.
According to Crowley’s own commentary on his Liber AL vel Legis or more commonly known as The Book of the Law, the cornerstone of his religious system, the image of the “Lion and the Serpent” are also used to represent the “dwarf soul” or “secret self” represented by the god of silence, Harpocrates while mirroring the line used in Liber AL:
Every man and every woman is a star.
“Hadit” is also called being the core of each star which is described as “the Ego or Atman in everything.” This is called Khabs and it is the house of being (Hadit), the innermost (solar) light of the sovereign nature of each individual. Hadit, being the true self achieves a kind of “gnosis” by realizing its “True Will” through the Great Work. This higher ego is the “seed of life” as a concentration of the “phallic consciousness,” in the expansion of one’s will. The “Lion and the Serpent” overcomes death with renewal by creating continuity through generation. However, invoking such an image to represent the “pneumatic” self to a classical Gnostic would have been a ghastly anathema to their religious and philosophical doctrines. This was due to the fact that the “Lion and the Serpent” was representative of the blind, malicious and authoritative Demiurge-like demon Ialdabaoth, which is essence a mutated caricature representative of the Gnostic contempt for the Jewish deity, Jehovah.
Part II forthcoming…