Aleister Crowley

The Great Declaration: A Commentary (Part 1)

Notice Simon Magus is depicted in the likeness or as a figure similar to Jesus.

The Great Declaration i.e. Apophasis Megale is ascribed by Hippolytus of Rome to Simon Magus. This is, however, doubtful because  its allusions to the New Testament indicate a 2nd-century authorship at the earliest. Many scholars date the text to the 3rd century. It also reads like esoteric Pauline exegesis of the Pentateuch. Simon Magus or Simon the Magician is the founder of the religion known as Simonianism (and possibly Gnosticism) with most of its devotees from Rome and from Samaria who saw him as a Savior and the Son of God, much like Jesus. He was also said to be a key disciple of both John the Baptist and Dositheos, both figures which were highly revered by many Gnostic and Christian sects throughout the ancient world, again, also much like how Jesus was said to belong to a sect of Baptizers.

Simon Magus is said to be born in the village of Gitta of Samaria and of the Samaritan sect of unknown birth date (once again, much like how the Pharisees accuse Jesus of being a Samaritan in John 4). The earliest I can say he died was 41CE with terminus being 68CE. These dates I have conjectured from the fact that accounts of the death of Simon Magus place his demise in the reigns of both Claudius and Nero (though under Claudius seems more in evidence which  would mean the terminus would be 54CE as opposed to 68CE). Simon’s self promotion in Rome took place during the reign of Claudius was thus between 41CE and 54CE. Rome held its Imperial Cult, its Emperor worship, and all activities of man-worship other than the cult of the Emperor had to be legalized by the government, that Justin Martyr claimed this to have happened is made explicitly clear in 1 Apol. 56 in speaking of Simon Magus as having:

so greatly astonished the Sacred Senate and your people and the Roman people, that he was thought to be a god and was honoured, like the others whom you honour as gods, with a statue.

It is also noteworthy that Justin appeals in the First Apology to “destroy the statue” (cf. 1 Apol. 56) evidently believing that the statue was still standing, thus having stood for about 100 years. This statue is described by Justin Martyr in again, 1 Apol. 26:

…in the reign of Claudius Caesar, through the art of the demons who worked in him, did mighty works of magic in your imperial city of Rome and was thought to be a god; he has been honoured among you as a god with a statue, which statue was erected on the River Tiber, between the two bridges, having this inscription in Roman language: SIMONI DEO SANCTO.

However,  some scholars debate this point, claiming that Justin confused a statue dedicated to the Sabine divinity Semo Sancus with that of the historical Simon the Magician. Semo Sancus is an ancient Sabine deity for oaths, contracts, law, matrimony, and legal fidelity. In 1574, an altar dedicated to Semo Sancus was discovered on the island of the Tiber River with the following inscription Semoni Sanco Deo, which translates as “to Semon the Holy God.” This discovery led to the belief that Justin had made an observational mistake concerning what he thought was the idol of “Simon the Holy God” on the Tiber River.

There is a problem with this theory in that it assumes that the deity’s name is Semo. In Latin, semo or the plural semones derives from semi-homines or semi-humans. These are the dii medioxumi who were lower-level deities. The semones are the demigods of the Roman pagan pantheon. According to Marcus Porcius Cato, a Sanco is a spirit (daimon) and not a god (theos).

From the point of view of Roman paganism, it does not make sense to use a generic noun of semo for a demigod and then also the noun deos for a god. It would be like saying, “to the demigod holy god.” What is far more likely is that the Simon Magus, as a magician and adapter of local paganism, co-opted the Roman tradition of a semi-human god of law and covenant and identified himself as the semi-human god. This would conform to the description of Simon Magus in Acts 8:10 as being “this man who is the power of God.” So then, it was probably not Justin Martyr who was confused, but rather Simon Magus who confused his identity with the semi-human god of Rome. Hippolytus in Refutation of All Heresies 6.20 writes that the Simonians:

“have a statue of Simon in the form of Zeus, and one of Helen in the form of Athena, which they worship, calling the former Lord and the latter Lady.

The Catholic Church Fathers of the second, third and fourth centuries were almost totally united in calling him (and the philosophy that he established) as the first and primary heresy and set out to combat his error that plagued Christianity for the first four centuries. The second century Catholic Bishop, Irenaeus, said that the Samaritan Simon was the very person “from whom all the heresies took their origin” (Against Heresies, 1.23.2). From then on to the time of the Roman historian and Orthodox polemicist Eusebius (and including the testimony of Eusebius himself), Simon is singled out as the originator of all the principal heresies that polluted the living tree of the early church in its first four centuries of existence. That is why he is given a prominent position in the Book of Acts (8:14-25).

This Simon claimed to be the Great Power (cf. Acts 8:10). According to Hippolytus, Simon bought a temple prostitute in a Phoenican city of Tyre, by the name of Helen, recognizing her as a reincarnation of Helen of Troy (cf. Justin Martyr 1, Apol 26), and he made her part of his teachings as he taught that she and him are in fact one dyad or syzygy. Simon would call her the “lost sheep”, much like how John 10 describes the sheep not as Samaritians or Jews but but rather the soul itself in each man; a soul in need of liberation of bondage to material creation and ignorance of it’s origins. Jesus was depicted as the Good Sheppard, as was Simon. Jesus in Luke 16:9 and Mark 16:9 also saves a prostitute from “seven demons”, by the name of Mary Magdalene. And in the Gospel of Philip, Mary Magdalene is depicted as the disciple of Jesus in which he “loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth.”

The 3rd century NHC text, The Concept of Our Great Power also uses this same nomenclature of Simon and features Paul’s eschatology verbatim. It is also one of the more radically dualist texts in the NHC. Considering this is a Simonian work, this is no surprise. The text has a number of features that the church fathers attribute to Simonian Gnosticism, like the divine title of “great power,” and the involvement of fire in creation as used in the Great Announcement. Also, the text doesn’t actually specify the savior by name (the [Jesus?] in the translation is just the translator’s conjecture), which is why I say that if it’s Simonian, Simon Magus may be implied. And if that’s the case, then Power may have originally been composed, at least in its earliest form, when the characters of Jesus, Simon Magus, and Paul were blurred together into one personage.

Simon also taught that Jesus took on disguises to evade the attention of the powers, archangels and principalities (since they were viewed as the rulers of the world) as he descended into matter and flesh as discussed in the Second Treatise of the Great Seth and the Ascension of Isaiah. This touches on doceticism, which is the idea that while he entered matter he never became matter, with his original nature being purely divine. Yet, it is still an incarnation doctrine, but not in the same manner in the (Catholic) Orthodox doctrine on the nature of Jesus, which is basically a conflated fusion between two diametrically opposed traditions, one being the docetic Christology of Paul and Simon Magus and the the Jewish Messianic cult leader Rabbi by the name of Yeshua. More on this will be discussed in Part 2 of this commentary.

Origen in Contra Celsus i.57, notably conflates the title of “Son of God” with “the Power of God”. R.M. Grant suggests that the “Great Power” was a deity invoked by Simon in his magical spells and rituals, and that in the style of many incantations found in the Greco-Egyptian magical papyri, Simon identified himself as a manifestation of this spiritual power using the “I am” formula.

Taken from: http://krzysztof20d.deviantart.com/art/diane-as-helen-of-troy-118076228

Helen of Troy. Taken from: http://krzysztof20d.deviantart.com/art/diane-as-helen-of-troy-118076228

The following is part of the text of the Great Declaration as preserved by Hippolytus in Refutation of All Heresies 6.18 after which the exposition will be given. This is specifically taken from Robert Price’s translation of the Simonian work.

This is the writing down of the declaration of voice and name from thought, which is the Great Power, the Boundless. Thus it shall be sealed up, hidden, concealed, placed in the dwelling which rests upon the Universal Root. To you, then, I say what I have to say, and I write what I to write. And this is the writing thereof.

From the universal aeons spring two shoots, which are without beginning or ending, stemming forth from a single root, which is the invisible Power, unknowable silence. Of the two shoots, one appears from above. This is the Great Power, the Universal Mind that sets all thing in order, being males. The other appears from below. It is the Great Thought, which is female and brings forth all things.

From this state they pair off with each other, uniting and appearing in the middle distance, the incomprehensible air, without beginning or end. Here is to be found the Father by whom all things sustained, and by whom are nourished those things which do partake of beginning and ending.

Such as He Who Has Stood, Stands and Will Stand, a male/female power like unto the Boundless Power which is a stranger equally to beginning and ending, existing in oneness. For it was from this that the thought within the oneness proceeded and became two.

Thus was the One, for as he had her in himself, he was yet alone. He had not been so at first because, though pre-existent, by revealing himself to himself he became a second. Nor could he be called Father till Thought named him so.

Thus, producing himself by himself, he revealed to himself his own thought. In the same way, the thought was revealed did not make the Father known but rather concealed him by contemplating him, that is, the power, in herself, the result being male-female, power and thought.

Thus do they pair of with each other, yet being one, there being no difference, between power an thought. Power is revealed from the things above, while thought is revealed by the things below.

The universal Aeons, refer to in fact as the first principles basic to reality (the first God), which is called Arche in Greek. The term “Aeon” can be understood as “eternity” and this commonly denotes a spirit of great power, in the case of Valentinian theology for example a god in the universal chain of being. In this case the universal Aeons produced by emanation are also intended to be understood as divine. The two shoots refer to the male and female aspects of Simon “which although being one are yet found as two”. Whether the terms “Power invisible” and “inapprehensible Silence” refer to Simon as one or separately with one name to the male and another to the female aspects I do not know, in any case if the terms are separately assigned then “Power invisible” must apply to the male and “inapprehensible Silence” must apply to the female (Helen the prostitute).

Babalon

This also sounds very close to many descriptions assigned to the Mother figure of Barbelo.  Barbelo was also known as a spiritual realm, whose etymology (originally in Aramaic) can be translated as the “realm of the Son of God”, where Jesus in the Gospel of Judas is said to have originated from. So great was her popularity and worship that  that one of the names given to the Gnostics was the Barbeloites. She is the first reflex of divinity, called the Great Invisible Spirit. As the Invisible Spirit is pure potentiality, so Barbelo is pure activity, the two forming the first and most fundamental of all dualities. One can see the similarities between Barbelo and the Egyptian Nut or Nuit and the Enochian goddess described by Aleister Crowley (Simon Magus 2.0), Babalon i.e. the Scarlet Woman (Helena 2.0) in many of his writings.

Hippolytus gives a report of what Simon taught about the one Root which was said to be the Universal Principle and the Boundless Power:

“Simon in his paraphrasing of the Law of Moses speaks with artful misunderstanding. For when Moses says “God is a fire burning and destroying,” taking in an incorrect sense what Moses said, he declares that Fire is the Universal Principle, not understanding what was said, viz., not that “God is fire,” but “a fire burning and destroying.” And thus he tears to pieces the Law of Moses, but also plunders from Heracleitus the obscure. And Simon states that the Universal Principle is Boundless Power”

Of these shoots one is manifested from above, which is the Great Power, the Universal Mind ordering all things, male, and the other, (is manifested) from below, the Great Thought, female, producing all things.

“The Great Power” is indeed the epithet applied to Simon Magus by the people of Samaria as recorded in the book of Acts. This title as well as “Universal Mind” are used exclusively of the male aspect of Simon, the Power is also the more transcendent aspect of Simon, indeed the Mind is said to be “above”. “The Great Thought, female” is Helen who is the First Thought of the Universal Mind or Nous, which must be understood in reference to the Simonian mythos as is laid out in works of the Church Fathers. It is said that this “First thought” descended into the lower regions and generated the angels and powers, which created the world, these angels then detained her, and she was reincarnated (Simon also taught a doctrine akin to metempsychosis or the transmigration of the souls i.e. reincarnation, according to both Irenaeus and Hippolytus) in bodies of flesh over and over again (see: Exegesis of the Soul for details on this) until the Great Power found her, his First Thought. These are of course the same “authorities of the universe and the spirits of wickedness” of St. Paul’s Ephesians 6:12, which directly corresponded with the Archons of Gnosticism. Paul’s Christ was said to be above these powers, authorities and all might. Paul calls us to be, “strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” (Ephesians 6:10)

Zeus/Jupiter

Athena

According to both Irenaues and Hippolytus, Simon’s followers were said to worship the Gnostic couple of Simon Magus and Helena in the images of Zeus and Athena (who, according to Greek myth, sprang from the head of Zeus). Stephen Haar in his work, Simon Magus: The First Gnostic? notes that the Phoenician (notice the that connection again as associated with the city of Tyre where Simon found Helen in a brothel) sun-god Herakles (Hercules), like Simon was also conferred with the title of the “Standing One”. Even the name Simon could be traced to the oriental stem of Sem-Herakles, a deity also worshiped in Samaria. Thus the connection between Greek paganism and Simonianism is closely intertwined.

“Born from Fire”. Taken from here: http://4moonglade4.deviantart.com/art/Born-from-Fire-258094309

In any case, Hippolytus in refuting Simonian teachings also explicates of these shoots that the Mind is heaven and the Thought is earth. Whether this is because Simon read Genesis in an allegorical way or stated that Mind is in fact synonymous with heaven and Thought synonymous with earth, one can only guess. To understand the two shoots the Root must not be forgotten, the Root is fire, and just as Heraclitus taught that all is fire, so to does this male witch. And Fire, says Simon, has a twofold nature one concealed the other manifested, the concealed produces the manifested and is hidden in the manifested. This corresponds to Plato’s belief in the sensible which is physical and visible (Eidon/Kosmos) being based on the intelligible and the forms (Eidos) where true knowledge lay and which was incorporeal. Thus for Simon the concealed is the intelligible while the manifested is the sensible. Power is concealed, thought is manifested.

While Plato would understand fire as being an element and with hardly -if any- more divine than air, water, or earth Simon claims it as the central player of existence. And of course, the Stoics used Heraclitus’ Fire (Logos) and considered it to be a primordial kind of being (God), with all things are composed of fire. The human soul is likewise born from this Godly fire, which permeates and penetrates the entire body, much like how the Stoics viewed the material universe being permeated by this same fiery essence. This is all reflected in Simon’s teaching of the divine fire involved in creation. That Simon Magus consciously corresponded the heavens to the incorporeal and earth to the corporeal is not a unique innovation but was also done by the contemporaneous Philo of Alexandria (cf. On the Creation).

Hence pairing with each other, they unite and manifest the Middle Distance, incomprehensible Air, without beginning or end. In this is the Father who sustains all things, and nourishes those things which have a beginning and end.

The Middle Distance may describe the apparent point of discontinuity between the the earth and the -less physical- heavens or perhaps the Middle Distance is the heavens itself as being “incomprehensible” and “without beginning or end” suits the intelligible realm which as has been pointed out could be applied to the heavens. Perhaps this Middle Distance is to be understood as being a great fire, as it is in Valentinian theology (as well as Sethian) which bares some striking similarities to Simonianism, and as some say may indeed have its root in Simonianism as claimed by Irenaeus. The reason that the uniting of Mind and Thought in the Middle Distance has the Father is because the Father was not called Father until Thought called him Father and with the Thought proceeding from the Mind the name “Father” became applicable and is only made known in the presence of both of them “which although being one are yet found as two”.

Simon in this case referred to as “the Father” has been said to be “without beginning or end” and sustains things which do have a beginning and end. This fits very well with the report of Hippolytus that Simon studied the philosopher Heraclitus. Heraclitus claimed that everything was in flux, everything that is except the Logos which was the eternal and unchangeable principle of reason that sustained the temporal world. Simon placing the temporal in dependence on the eternal reason is in line with Heraclitean theory.

In the Gospel of Philip, the “Middle” has a much more negative connotation, and the author even says that “God forbid that I be found in there!” Perhaps this is the “Gnostic” version of the much dreaded astral realm or purgatory.

This is He who has stood, stands and will stand, a male-female power like the preëxisting Boundless Power, which has neither beginning nor end, existing in oneness. For it is from this that the Thought in the oneness proceeded and became two.

The Standing One is an appellation given to Simon as is clearly indicated by Hippolytus, by Clement of Alexandria and the writer of the pseudographical Clementine Recognitions. This having stood, standing, and will be standing of Simon is representative of the idea that there are three that stand and without these Aeons, there would be no order. These three are also two and also one, for the three are the Boundless Power and the Mind and Thought that emanate from it, the Mind and Thought are the manifesting and actualizing of the potential and concealed Boundless Power, and remember that Mind and Thought are merely the male and female aspects of each other. For Hippolytus elucidates that Simon preached that the Standing One who has stood, stands and will stand:

is the one Power, separated into the above and below, generating itself, increasing itself, seeking itself, finding itself, its own mother, its own father, its sister, its spouse; the daughter, son, mother and father of itself; One, the Universal Root.

This explanation of the Standing One should make the whole of this passage obvious on a basic level. Even the epithet of Standing One sounds very similar to the title of “living, unshakable race” that the Sethian Gnostics would use to describe themselves as seen in the Three Steles of Seth.

So he was one; for having her in himself, he was alone, not however first, although preëxisting, but being manifested from himself to himself, he became second. Nor was he called Father before (Thought) called him Father.

 Thus was the One, for as he had her in himself, he was yet alone. He had not been so at first because, though pre-existent, by revealing himself to himself he became a second. Nor could he be called Father till Thought named him so.

Thus, producing himself by himself, he revealed to himself his own thought. In the same way, the thought was revealed did not make the Father known but rather concealed him by contemplating him, that is, the power, in herself, the result being male-female, power and thought.

Having emanated the female aspect namely Thought. Thought as being that of below, earth, of the sensible is the manifested aspect of fire which is the Boundless Power, remember that Hippolytus wrote that Simon taught that the manifest is produced by the concealed and the concealed is hidden by the manifest. Thus the manifested Thought hid the Concealed Father, the Power, the Mind, the male aspect and they are both of the Boundless Power.

Thus do they pair of with each other, yet being one, there being no difference, between power an thought. Power is revealed from the things above, while thought is revealed by the things below.

The Power and Thought are simply the natures of the twofold nature of Fire which is the Boundless Power, with Power one understands the incorporeal intelligible and with Thought the corporeal sensible.

In the same manner also that which was manifested from them although being one is yet found as two, the male-female having the female in itself. Thus Mind is in Thought—things inseparable from one another—which although being one are yet found as two.

That which was manifested from them is the universe with the intelligible having the sensible within itself, for this to be so one would expect Thought/female to be in Mind/male and not to be given the conclusion “Thus Mind is in Thought” as logically inexplicable as it seems perhaps it is simply said in the opposite way to give extra weight that they are “things inseparable from one another”.

In the same way, too, that which was revealed from them, thigh, it was one, is however as two, the male-female having the female in itself. Thus is mind contained within thought, things inseparable one from the other, which though in reality one are seen as two.

Man, here below, born from blood, is the dwelling, and the Boundless Power dwells in him, and it is the Universal Root. Nor is the Boundless Power that is, fire, one. The fire in being two fold, one said being manifest, the other concealed. And the concealed things of fire are with the Manifest Ones, while those revealed are produced by Those Hidden. The manifest side the fire contains all things within itself that are visible and that one may perceive, as well as those which one neither suspects nor perceives. But in the concealed side of fire may be found all that is conceived and that is intelligible, even if it surpasses the senses, or that which one is unable to conceive.

Man, according to the Simonian teaching, contains a certain divinity, a spark of life, and above all, a boundless power, indicating that within himself exists an eternal and powerful substance that is even superior to the gods and the archangels! Within mankind resides an indefinite power, which Simon affirms to be the root of the universe, being divine fire. Here, Heraclitus’ influence really shines, since he views the soul as fiery in nature. But it also has a limitless dimension.

If you went in search of it, you would not find the boundaries of the soul, though you traveled every road-so deep is its measure [logos]. (DK22B45)

The Greek adage, “entheos” meaning “within is a god” was also used as a term to describe someone that is divinely possessed. This is state of ecstasy (ekstasis) when the boundaries between the egoic self, others and the god is dissolved into an experience of rapture and unity. The word enthusiasm can also be traced to this word, “entheos”.

From the Orphic mysteries and the cult of Dionysus as I note in my upcoming essay on the god Eros, the Bacchic possession of “divine madness” very much influences the ideas of not only Simon Magus, but also Paul and his Christology in Corinthians. The ecstasy of god’s presence was said to be induced by music (Orpheus), dance and wine (Dionysus), and the eating of raw flesh (omophagia, or a sacrifice to the god of raw flesh), which also happens to influence the Eucharistic Discourse of Jesus when he claims in John 6:53-56:

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.”

The statement of Man being “born from blood” seems to echo this statement. The The Stoic-Cynic philosopher Dio Chyrstostom (circa 100 CE) would attribute the human descent from the blood of the defeated Titans and the hatred of the gods in Orations. 30, 10-11. 

All mankind, we are all from the blood of the Titans. Thus, because they were the enemies of the gods and fought against them, we are not beloved by the gods either, but we are punished by them and we are born into retribution, being in custody in this life fora certain time as long as we each live … This harsh and foul-aired prison, which we call the cosmos, has been prepared by the gods.

This is similar to Gnostic descriptions of the physical universe with the multiple archons depicted as the rulers of fate and destiny over the worlds. There are many other striking similarities between the Fourth Gospel of John and the Dionysian, Bacchic and the Eleusinian mysteries, which I note in the essay on Eros. The concept of “entheos” is also similar to Simon’s argument that there are many Gods in the Clementine Homilies, just as Jesus argued, “ye are gods” (John 10:34) in imitation of King David in the Psalms 82: 6.

This idea of mankind being born from blood is also comparable to how the author of On the Origin of the World claims Eros as being the originator of all life on earth including the two sexes of humanity, being born:

Out of that first blood Eros appeared, being androgynous. His masculinity is Himireris, being fire from the light. His femininity that is with him – a soul of blood – is from the stuff of Pronoia. He is very lovely in his beauty, having a charm beyond all the creatures of chaos. Then all the gods and their angels, when they beheld Eros, became enamored of him.

Dionysus

Mosaic floor in the ‘House of Dionysos’ at Pella, late 4th century BC, Pella, Archaeological Museum.

To many ancient people, the power of God was shared amongst a pantheon of many gods and deities (and even angels). Furthermore, Gods were men who could come to earth in mortal form. Conversely, people could attain special powers and become divinized. The acquisition of divine power demonstrated the divinity of the individual – who was either born divine or was granted a level of divine status by the gods. In other words, men could become gods. And so Heraclitus was right when he said, “Men are gods, and gods are men.” The Gospel of Philip would flip this dichotomy on its head:

That is the way it is in the world – men make gods and worship their creation. It would be fitting for the gods to worship men!

In other words, if a mortal man could do something “extraordinary”, it was because he had been blessed by a god with that special power. In essence, he was partly divine, and if divine, then worthy of worship. In fact, many ancient emperors of Egypt, Greece and Rome as well as prophets and shamans were deified and worshiped, a practice that continues even today through canonized sainthood of the Roman Catholic Church.

The ancients understood that miraculous things were done by magic, and magic came from God. If one was deified, one had to prove this fact through magical feats (See: Exodus 7:8-11 as a Biblical example) and this is also used for the the requirements for canonized sainthood require the performance and documentation of at least 3 miracles – proof that you are divine precisely because you can perform magic. So in essence, magic was evidence of divinity! However, through the course of history, magic and the title of magician (which was originally conceived as a misnomer for the enemies of the Church fathers, including Simon)  become associated with working against society and mainstream religion and thus to be strictly utilized as a hidden craft i.e. the occult.

In Part 2, I will continue my analysis and commentary of the Great Declaration and get into more striking parallels between our favorite bad boy magician with Jesus Christ and Paul among other topics. In future posts there will also be further inquiries into Apollonius of Tyana, the Greek god Apollo, Orpheus, Hercules and the great Greek revealer of healing, Asclepius. The magical and alchemical roots of Christianity will be further explored.

It’s going to be a Hermetic Super-friend reunion of Magick!

The Chimera Androgyne: The Esoteric Mystique of Baphomet and Abraxas (Part 2)

Part II. Abraxas

The ancient image of the Mithraic lion-headed serpent is first found at the start of the Christian-era who is sometimes depicted as crowned or surrounded by a halo or streaming rays indicating its inherent solar and magical nature. This image is called a Khnoubis or Chnoubis, carved on old gems and amulets. Hebraic names such as “IAO”, “Adonai”, “Sabaoth” and the Gnostic corruption of “Ialdaboath” are also found on these gems for superstitious purposes. Chnoubis was also synonymous with Abraxas, Ophis and Knuphis. Such names are ascribed to the public, builder-god, the “Demiurge” which is the Greek, Platonic term for “half-architect”, the “lord” and author of the structure of the material world.

In ancient magical texts such as the Greek Magical Papyri often invoke images of Chnoubis which were used for the purpose of warding off malevolent demonic influence as well as stomach aches by knowing and memorizing many different names of spirits in life and after death in efforts to banish them and overcome the cosmic rulers that guard each succeeding realm of the “astral realm”. The Greek Magical Papyri also provides the means to summoning of demons for various anti-social purposes of the magician (such as making thievery invisible, sending dreams, winning favors in both men and women, inflaming lust in the person of desire, killing, etc.)

In the Middle Ages, Abraxas was also known as the king of demons, a title similar to gods of other cultures such as Shiva of Hinduism. In the Dictionnaire Infernal (Demonographia), Abraxas was spelled “Abracas” as one of the many demons for the purpose of invocation similar to the usage ascribed in the Greek Magical Papyri. In many Gnostic texts, the Demiurge was also associated with the element of fire, besides bearing many Chimeric qualities as the Apocryphon of John indicates:

And when she saw (the consequences of) her desire, it changed into a form of a lion-faced serpent. And its eyes were like lightning fires which flash. She cast it away from her, outside that place, that no one of the immortal ones might see it, for she had created it in ignorance.

In the Pistis Sophia, the Demiurge isn’t at all by any means a handsome fellow as he’s depicted as a fiery yet dark lion-faced demon, residing within the Dante’s Inferno-like chaotic underworld of Hades where he and his forty-nine demons tortures the wicked souls who end up in such a horrible place in boiling rivers of pitch-black darkness. In the Gospel of Judas, “Nebro” (meaning rebel angel) Yaldaboath’s henchman and himself also dwell in Hades or hell as one of the twelve angels to come “into being [to] rule over chaos and the [underworld]”. He comes from heaven, his “face flashed with fire and whose appearance was defiled with blood”. The mythological Chimera found in the Homer’s Illiad was also described with similar features:

…a thing of immortal make, not human, lion-fronted and snake behind, a goat in the middle, and snorting out the breath of the terrible flame of bright fire.

The Gnostics had taken biblical theology into new, previously unknown territory by merging it with Platonic thought. Yet after this infusion, neither biblical theology or Platonic thought looked the same after. Plato had his benevolent Demiurge, a creator god from Timaeus. This Demiurge worked hard to create the best possible world as a reflection of the the Ideal realm. For Plato, matter is neither inherently good nor evil. It remains neutral. Matter in Timaeus is originally featureless and passive like the darkened, still waters of an isolated pond. It’s primeval and existent even before the four basic elements. Receptive matter is considered to be the “mother” while the “father” Demiurge becomes the active agent to mold it after the image of eternity as an imitation. The world he created was the best that could be given the fact that it was a reflection of the higher world in the realm of matter. The soul can work to be freed from matter by pious living, and upon death, ascend back to the Good.

The Sethian Gnostics on the other hand conceived the world as wholly disastrous and shitty by a retarded and spiritually blind creator, called Ialdaboath. The Gnostics’ obsession with theodicy or the problem of evil and its source became reflected on their myths. Like many Jewish thinkers of their time, the Gnostics posited a hierarchical duality between the Supreme God and the demuirgical angel. Yet their identification of the Demiurge with Satan become a much more radical and even “misotheistic” (hatred of the gods or the belief that god or the gods aren’t good but are in fact malevolent, bent on making the lives of their creation as miserable as possible) interpretation of the creator god. This malevolent demon-king was the warring, belligerent opponent to the Pleroma, the higher collective realm of the spiritual “aeons”. Because he was the one who created the world, it is a world of suffering and imprisonment. The Sethians had linked the story of Satan’s fall from Paradise with the Demiurge. Ialdabaoth in Gnostic literature was the aborted and accidental birth of Sophia, creator of the sensible cosmos and was eventually relegated as the blasted lion-faced fuck writhing within the bowels of Tartarus.

The only hope for freedom of the soul is for a redeemer to come and instruct it how to get out of the cycle of imprisonment that contains it through Ialdabaoth’s rule and destroy Ialdabaoth’s army of angels and demons by the means of spying, even shape-shifting into their bestial forms and destroying their yoke over the slave race of mankind. The Savior was essentially a betraying double-agent to the archons. No amount of righteous living is going to free the soul from the clutches of the Demiurge. Only a savior angel or “Illuminator” more powerful than the malicious Ialdabaoth could liberate the soul from the iron shackles of the cosmos. This is completely different to Plato’s myth. The archons are of course, the fallen or jealous angels who are battling the forces of the Stranger God and its emanated revealer who seek to reveal the fruit of gnosis to mankind which is held in captivity by the “god of the aion”. The daimons or demons are another inferior and subordinate class (to the gods) of malicious creatures created from a different substance than the angels. According to Irenaeus, the Gnostics taught that angels and demons (including the Devil) were crystallized from the tears of the fallen Sophia:

They further teach that the spirits of wickedness derived their origin from grief. Hence the devil, whom they also call Cosmocrator (the ruler of the world), and the demons, and the angels, and every wicked spiritual being that exists, found the source of their existence. They represent the Demiurge as being the son of that mother of theirs (Achamoth), and Cosmocrator as the creature of the Demiurge. Cosmocrator has knowledge of what is above himself, because he is a spirit of wickedness; but the Demiurge is ignorant of such things, inasmuch as he is merely animal. Their mother dwells in that place which is above the heavens, that is, in the intermediate abode; the Demiurge in the heavenly place, that is, in the hebdomad; but the Cosmocrator in this our world. The corporeal elements of the world, again, sprang, as we before remarked, from bewilderment and perplexity, as from a more ignoble source. Thus the earth arose from her state of stupor; water from the agitation caused by her fear; air from the consolidation of her grief; while fire, producing death and corruption, was inherent in all these elements, even as they teach that ignorance also lay concealed in these three passions.

Similarly, in the the little known text called The Paraphrase of Shem, reveals a mythology featuring a “cosmic” Womb which gives births to the cosmos, including both angels and demons. The text is very erotic, with sexual images everywhere, used to explain how this cosmos came into being:

And in order that the demons also might become free from the power which they possessed through the impure intercourse, a womb was with the winds resembling water. And an unclean penis was with the demons in accordance with the example of the Darkness, and in the way he rubbed with the womb from the beginning. And after the forms of Nature had been together, they separated from each other. They cast off the power, being astonished about the deceit which had happened to them. They grieved with an eternal grief. They covered themselves with their power.

A good example of this is the Paraphrase of Shem, which is one of the few extant Gnostic treatises which contains a three-principled system of origins as opposed to one. The author likens the cosmic catastrophe to sex. Perhaps the author didn’t like sex very much. The author of this text is probably the same of the same cult of “Sethians” or “Sithians” Hippolytus talks about in Refutation of All Heresies. These Sethians held to three originating cosmic principles, rather than one or two. Shem is a text from one such group. The author of Shem hypothesizes three different principles: light, darkness, and spirit.

There was Light and Darkness and there was Spirit between them. Since your root fell into forgetfulness – he who was the unbegotten Spirit – I reveal to you the truth about the powers. The Light was thought full of hearing and word. They were united into one form. And the Darkness was wind in waters. He possessed the mind wrapped in a chaotic fire. And the Spirit between them was a gentle, humble light. These are the three roots. They reigned each in them­selves, alone. And they covered each other, each one with its power.

Most other groups such as the Manicheans and Marcionites held a two-principled system: light and darkness, good and evil. The rooster-headed Anguepede (chimera) under his name Abraxas was also considered to be a combination of the seven planetary powers that consists of the archons discussed earlier. Abraxas and Chnoubis were also considered to be roughly equivalent to the Agathodaimon, the “good spirit” of fortune and health by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. They were often represented as serpents. Abraxas, according to Gnostic myth, was a redeemed archon who rose above the Hebdomad to rule over it as an intercessory figure between the Pleroma and the world of matter.

Abraxas became a figure of veneration for many Gnostics such as those who followed Basilides. This astral god was feared by the ancient people because he controlled the universe. He ruled it and our fates. He usually has a leonine head or a cock-head, solar rays, and also serpentine form as both forms are interchangeable for Abraxas. Abraxas was however, often depicted as a bizarre mixture of man and beast, with the rooster’s head representing the dawn of understanding (roosters of course being the animal that traditionally greets the dawn) and a sense of vigilant wakefulness; the body of a man represents the embodied logos, the human capacity for understanding and growth; the snakes represent prudence and energy; while the whip and shield symbolize the dynamism of the life force and wisdom (the great protector) respectively. This fierce and terrifying astral lord goes by many other names as well.

Some Gnostics equated Abraxas with Ialdabaoth, Saklas, Samael, Nebruel, Michael, Elieli, and Judas. He was also equated with IAO, Chnoubis, Abrasax, etc. Abraxas appears in only a few instances throughout the Nag Hammadi codices in such Sethian texts such as The Great Book of the Invisible Spirit, The Apocalypse of Adam, and Zostrianos as basically a minor Aeon or angel that works in tandem with Sophia and the “four spiritual lights” to rectify the error brought on the rise of the “deficiency” in the fetters of the material.

Abraxas was also interchangeable with the deity-archon Sabaoth (meaning host), which according to the Gnostic mythology presented in On the Origin of the World was the son and offspring of Yaldaboath who would eventually rebel against his father in a great war, repent of his “sins”, and side with his grandmother, Sophia-Achamoth. The archon would be elevated “above the seventh heaven” or the “Ogdoad” and enthroned, surrounded by ministering angels and Cherubim within a mansion that is “huge, magnificent, seven times as great as all those that exist in the seven heavens.” According to Ireneaus in his work detailing his indictment against varies heretical schools of thought, Against Heresies, he lays out Basilides’ (possibly the inventor of Abraxas) system of thought pertaining to Abraxas’ domain:

They hold that their chief is Abraxas; and, on this account, that word contains in itself the numbers amounting to three hundred and sixty-five.” Abraxas or Abrasax becomes a de facto ruler of the “364 kingdoms of spirits (plus himself)” due to the fact that his name has a high numerical value that equals to 365, the number of days in the year.

G.R.S. Mead in Thrice-Great Hermes discusses the possible connection of Abrasax or Abraxas to the celestial spheres of the cosmic rulers of fate:

The name Abraxas, which consisted of seven elements or letters, was a mystery-designation of the God who combined in himself the whole power of the Seven Planets, and also of the Year of 365 days, the sum of the number-values of the letters of Abraxas working out to 365. This mysterious Being was the “Year”; but the Year as the Eternity, also conceived of in a spatial aspect, as the Spirit or Name that extends from Heaven to Earth, the God who pervades and full-fills the Seven Spheres, and the Three Hundred and Sixty-five Zones, the Inner God, “He who has His seat within the Seven Poles—ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ,” as the Papyri have it, and also without them, as we shall see. (402)

Tertullian in Against All Heresies also discusses Abraxas in the account of Basilides’ system as his chief deity:

Basilides affirms that there is a supreme Deity, by name Abraxas, by whom was created Mind, which in Greek he calls Nous; that thence sprang the Word; that of Him issued Providence, Virtue, and Wisdom; that out of these subsequently were made Principalities, powers, and Angels; that there ensued infinite issues and processions of angels; that by these angels 365 heavens were formed, and the world, in honour of Abraxas, whose name, if computed, has in itself this number. Now, among the last of the angels, those who made this world, he places the God of the Jews latest, that is, the God of the Law and of the Prophets, whom he denies to be a God, but affirms to be an angel. To him, he says, was allotted the seed of Abraham, and accordingly he it was who transferred the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt into the land of Canaan; affirming him to be turbulent above the other angels, and accordingly given to the frequent arousing of seditions and wars, yes, and the shedding of human blood. Christ, moreover, he affirms to have been sent, not by this maker of the world, but by the above-named Abraxas; and to have come in a phantasm, and been destitute of the substance of flesh: that it was not He who suffered among the Jews, but that Simon was crucified in His stead: whence, again, there must be no believing on him who was crucified, lest one confess to having believed on Simon. Martyrdoms, he says, are not to be endured. The resurrection of the flesh he strenuously impugns, affirming that salvation has not been promised to bodies.

It’s almost as if Basilides becomes a worshiper of a Demiurgical figure—that being Abraxas. There is much speculation about the etymology concerning Abraxas which vary from meaning “holy word” or “blessed name”, although it still remains cloudy at best. It is also suggested that Abraxas is derivative of the Arimaic magical word “Abracadabra” meaning “I create as I speak”. Like Baphomet, Abraxas seems to be a concoction of different mythological symbols such as the two Indian cobras for his legs as represented in the above depiction. Irenaeus, in describing the followers of Basilides, claimed in Against Heresies:

These men, moreover, practice magic; and use images, incantations, invocations, and every other kind of curious art. Coining also certain names as if they were those of the angels, they proclaim some of these as belonging to the first, and others to the second heaven; and then they strive to set forth the names, principles, angels, and powers of the three hundred and sixty-five imagined heavens. They also affirm that the barbarous name in which the Saviour ascended and descended, is Caulacau.

Plotinus, the father of Neo-Platonism also maintained similar descriptions of the Gnostics as “magicians” and “sorcerers” by using the barbarous names of the Ineffable in his polemic in the Ennead 2.9, Against the Gnostics: Against Those That Affirm the Creator of the Cosmos and the Cosmos Itself to Be Evil:

In the sacred formulas they inscribe, purporting to address the Supernal Beings — not merely the Soul but even the Transcendents — they are simply uttering spells and appeasements and evocations in the idea that these Powers will obey a call and be led about by a word from any of us who is in some degree trained to use the appropriate forms in the appropriate way — certain melodies, certain sounds, specially directed breathings, sibilant cries, and all else to which is ascribed magic potency upon the Supreme. Perhaps they would repudiate any such intention: still they must explain how these things act upon the unembodied: they do not see that the power they attribute to their own words is so much taken away from the majesty of the divine.

Plotinus resented the Gnostics’ demonization of Plato’s Demiurge, the creator of the material cosmos. Plotinus believed the Gnostics had corrupted the original teachings of Plato to suit their world-views. In fact, Plotinus goes as far as to mock the Gnostic creation story of the fall of Sophia and the aborted Demiurge as surpassing “sheer folly.” Plotinus also took issue with the Gnostic’s neglect on their pursuit of virtue, maintaining themselves as beyond reproach of the laws of the world which were extrapolated and fueled by hypothetical rumors of their supposed hedonistic and libertine tendencies.

For they manufacture these doctrines as though they were not in contact with the ancient thought of the Greeks; for the Greeks knew, and spoke clearly without pomposity, of ascents from the cave, coming closer and closer by gradual stages to a truer vision.

This was a problem for Plotinus, who thought these Platonizing Sethians or Gnostics were mucking-up his philosophical circles with their static dualism, world-hatred, and defamation of the creator. Plotinus pretty much caricatures the Sethians as rubes for practicing magic. Needless to say, Neoplatonists didn’t like Gnostics very much. The Sethian Gnostics themselves weren’t a unified movement, but rather a diverse set of small cult communities—like the Borborites, Archontics, Ophites, etc. According to the Apocryphon of John, it says that everyone will have the opportunity to be saved, so that could mean that one essentially becomes part of the seed of Seth by undergoing Sethian conversion rituals. Yet, perhaps still in these instances neither Plotinus nor Irenaeus were lying about the Gnostics’ ritual magic tendencies since even their choice texts indicates this as a reality.

This all becomes rather apparent when one reads Ancient Christian Magic  as a catalog for superstition. It is replete with magical spells including love, money, healing and spells for revenge. These Gnostic practitioners more than likely invoked the name of Abraxas among other barbarous, secret names of God for their rituals and prayers. Yet, interestingly enough, most people practicing magic in the middle ages and the Renaissance were Catholic priests and brothers, so magic is surprisingly close to Catholicism. The NHC text On the Origin of the World mentions a compendium of demons attributed to King Solomon, so it’s possible that some Gnostics practiced early Solomonic magic:

Then Death, being androgynous, mingled with his (own) nature and begot seven androgynous offspring. These are the names of the male ones: Jealousy, Wrath, Tears, Sighing, Suffering, Lamentation, Bitter Weeping. And these are the names of the female ones: Wrath, Pain, Lust, Sighing, Curse, Bitterness, Quarrelsomeness. They had intercourse with one another, and each one begot seven, so that they amount to forty-nine androgynous demons. Their names and their effects you will find in the Book of Solomon.

“Their effects” probably meant the abilities they could be compelled to use if summoned, something like the Goetia. Another example of spells and incantations that were employed by the Gnostics is provided and supported by Karen King in What is Gnosticism? who has argued that the demonic correspondences to human body parts (highlighting the inherent corruption of the human body) listed so thoroughly is the long recension of the Apocryphon of John which was intended for use in rituals to heal the sick or injured. Some other of the Church Father’s (especially Epiphanius’ account in the Panarion, literally meaning “medicine chest” for poisonous heresies) accusations of the Gnostics was much more scandalous—much of it dealt with their alleged antinominan, lurid and pornographic-like accounts of secret Bacchic and Dionysian-like “swinging orgies” of their “agape feasts”. These orgiastic rites supposedly included the sacramental consumption of sexual fluids and even more unsavory practices that include the Eucharistic infanticide of an aborted embryo—not so dissimilar to the ones practiced in the higher degrees contained in the Ordo Templi Orientis. Epiphanius accusingly writes:

Their very liturgy they defile with the shame of promiscuity, consuming and con-taminating themselves with human and unclean flesh…. … [At their feasts:] They set out an abundance of meat and wine, even if they are poor. Having made their banquet from this and so to speak filled their veins to satiety, they proceed to arouse themselves. The man, moving away from the woman, says to his woman, “Arise, hold the love feast with your brother.” And the pitiful pair, having made love… then proceed to hold up their blas-phemy to heaven, the woman and the man taking the secretion from the male into their own hands and standing looking up to heaven. They hold in their hands the impurity and pray, … And then they consume it, partaking of their shamefulness, and they say, “This is the body of Christ and this is the Pasch for which our bodies suffer and are forced to confess the passion of Christ.”

They do the same with what is of the woman, when she has the flow of blood: collecting the monthly blood of impurity from her, they take it and consume it together in the same way. Although they have sex with each other, they forbid the begetting of children. They are eager for the act of corruption not in order to engender children, but for the pleasure … But if … the woman becomes pregnant, then listen to something even more dreadful which they dare to do. Extracting the fetus at whatever time they choose to do the operation, they take the aborted infant and pound it up in a mortar with a pestle, and, mixing in honey and pepper and some other spices and sweet oils so as not to become nauseous, all the members of that herd of swine and dogs gather together and each partakes with his finger of the crushed up child … They dare to do other dreadful things as well. When they fall into a frenzy among themselves, they soil their hands with the shame of their secretion, and rising, with defiled hands pray stark naked. (86)

That’s a spicy meatball! Epiphanius’ lurid accusations against the Gnostics as practitioners of baby consumption and sacrifice is somewhat unique but not unlike those made against the Jews throughout the Middle-Ages as “blood libel”. Similarly, accusations of child sacrifice were made against Aleister Crowley because to his “Bloody Sacrifice” chapter in Magick in Theory and Practice due to the fact he plainly without symbolic gesture tells us that blood sacrifice of a young boy is the most important and effective magickal technique available to the magician:

[a] male child of perfect innocence and high intelligence is the most satisfactory and suitable victim.

It is often said that Crowley’s references to “child sacrifice” were ghastly euphemisms to masturbation in a magical ritual. If this is the case then, this is indeed a “symbolic” failure on Crowley’s part. Later on Epiphanius describes and recounts the myth of the lewd Sophia or “Prounikos” (it seems like Epiphanius got it mad-confused with Sophia and Barbelo’s roles here) where she sets out to “reabsorb” and collect her living sparks of power that was stolen from her retarded son, Ialdabaoth and his legion of archons. She appeared to the archons in a beautiful and lustful form, seduced and quite literally, fucked the “living daylights” out of them, and when they had an emission she took their sperm, which contained the power originally belonging to her. Epiphanius repeats this in further detail:

For these angels went to war over the power from on high—they call her Prunicus, but she is called Barbero or Barbelo by other sects—because she displayed her beauty < and > drove them wild, and was sent for this purpose, to despoil the archons who had made this world. She has suffered no harm, but she brought them to the point of slaughtering each other from the lust for her that she aroused in them. And detaining her so that she should not go back up, they all had relations with her in each of her womanly and female bodies—for she kept migrating from female bodies into various bodies of human beings, cattle and the rest—so that, by the deeds they were doing in killing and being killed, they would cause their own diminution through the shedding of blood. Then, by gathering the power again, she would be able to ascend to heaven once more. …

But others honor one “Prunicus” and like these, when they consummate their own passions with this kind of disgusting behavior, they say in mythological language of this interpretation of their disgusting behavior, “We are gathering the power of Prunicus from our bodies, and through their emissions.” That is, < they suppose they are gathering > the power of semen and menses. … For if they say, “Prunicus,” this is just a belch of lustfulness and incontinence. Anything called “prunicus” suggests a thing named for copulation, and the enterprise of seduction. (2) For there is a Greek expression which is used of men who deflower slave women, “He seduced so-and-so.” And the Greek swindlers who compose erotica also record the word in myths by saying that beauty is “seductive.”

Despite the strong erotic and sexual symbolism used in Gnostic myth, for the most part, the accusations were often made without merit since many texts such as the Pistis Sophia (of the Bruce Codex) explicitly condemns the literal practices described above in the strongest terms. The caricature the Apostolic Fathers would draw up as slander against the Gnostics isn’t exactly an original phenomena that started with them as certain antinomian libertine currents have always existed alongside mainstream religion so it is probable that a few of these cults embraced these practices through sexual ritual and initiation, yet were lumped in the Gnostic milieu by their enemies.

These rituals of sexual magic were embraced by the Barbelite practitioners (identified by Epiphanius) while condemned by outsiders, both Gnostic and orthodox. Since some libertine Gnostic groups such as the Barbelites would consider the desirable “light-seed” inherent in the sperm and menstrual blood to be ingested in obscene rites, in a similar manner like Crowley did, then it would make perfect sense to engage in sexual ritual because it corresponded to their mythologies. Their “light” contained in their sexual emissions would be released back to the Supreme God in order to bypass the reproductive systems that perpetuated the materia by adding more bodies and souls under the wrath and authority of Jehovah, the blind and insane fallen angel and slave-master of the world. Many religious sects have been accused of perversity by their opponents yet it is more than likely sexual rites similar to the one described above probably happened more or less.

The biggest difference however between the ancient Gnostic’s and the Neo-gnostic, occultists of today, is their rejection of the material world as a product of corruption and evil which cannot be saved. This point of view also distinguished them from Christians, Jews and pagans alike. Yet, many neo-gnostics who have undertaken the label also attempt to psychologize the Demiurge, because a central tenet of New Age is that material existence is inherently good, so the idea that creation is the product of a lesser, flawed being is repugnant to them. Carl Jung in his seminal, The Seven Sermons of the Dead refers the figure as an “emergence” of form from the hidden depth of the Godhead as opposing and ultimately complimentary powers that become one in a sort of ying/yang tandem emobdied in Abraxas:

Abraxas is the god whom it is difficult to know. His power is the very greatest, because man does not perceive it at all. Man sees the supreme good of the sun, and also the endless evil of the devil, but Abraxas, he does not see, for he is undefinable life itself, which is the mother of good and evil alike…Abraxas is the sun and also the eternally gaping abyss of emptiness, of the diminisher and dissembler, the devil. The power of Abraxas is twofold. You can not see it, because in your eyes the opposition of this power seems to cancel it out. That which is spoken by God-the-Sun is life; that which is spoken by the Devil is death. Abraxas, however, speaks the venerable and also accursed word, which is life and death at once. Abraxas generates truth and falsehood, good and evil, light and darkness with the same word and in the same deed. Therefore Abraxas is truly the terrible one. He is magnificent even as the lion at the very moment when he strikes his prey down. His beauty is like the beauty of a spring morn.

Abraxas in this sense was seen as one of the many symbols Jung would use as the ancient doctrine of of “Coincidentia oppositorum” or the “unity of opposites”. Jung’s gnostic vision of 1916 with his bipolar Abraxas, which is written in the persona of Basilides, has virtually nothing to the actual teachings of the historical Basilides. Jung erroneously claimed that Abraxas was the embodiment of the Monad, where as the ancient heretics viewed Abraxas as a lower aeon or even an archon. Abraxas, like Baphomet, becomes a “syzygy” of an alchemical pair conjoined of good and evil, darkness and light, Christ and Anti-Christ, God and the Devil to the point where the figure transcended such dualities. Aleister Crowley also invokes the immensely complex and contradictory deity in the Gnostic Mass, evoking a certain ancient aura in the barbarous names of the god-forms he lists:

IO IO IO IAO SABAO KURIE ABRASAX KURIE MEITHRAS KURIE PHALLE. IO PAN, IO PAN PAN IO ISCHUROS, IO ATHANATOS IO ABROTOS IO IAO. KAIRE PHALLE KAIRE PAMPHAGE KAIRE PANGENETOR. HAGIOS, HAGIOS, HAGIOS IAO.

Here, Crowley perpetuates the magical tradition of chanting the “voces magicae” and “nomina barbara” in a similar fashion that the ancient Gnostics would conceive in their secret rites. Abraxas in ancient, classical Gnosticism was more or less a positive aeonic figure (minus Basilides’ version of the astral lord) while Abraxas in the romantic occult world was a synthesis of dualities—of good and evil. This is symbolic of the considerable discrepancy between the western esotericism and occultism that seek a union of opposites versus “Gnostic” systems that seek to separate light from darkness. This issue is muddied even further by the likes of Carl Jung, who erroneously creates an association between Gnosticism through his doctrine of “Coniunctio Oppositorum”. Although to be fair, there weren’t very many available “Gnostic” texts during his time in order to properly develop his views.

This union of opposites when viewed from a classical dualist mystical lens becomes in actuality a tragedy that gives rise to human suffering and all the world’s horrors. The Classical Gnostics by several estimates (by judging choice texts) were “mitigated” or less severe in their view of duality with spirit being the original unity while matter being a shallow imitation of the higher forms. In this estimation, the light is seen as the only eternal principle while the world of matter is simply a passing shadow, a temporary set-back or foul-up in the scheme of infinity that will eventually be rectified. A more radical interpretation of dualism would be that light and darkness existing as co-eternal yet independent principles with their own domain in a constant dueling of powers  found in the Manichean religion.

The light-dark opposite is for the most part rejected by western occultists due to its association with mainstream Judeo-Christian traditions which they consider deficient (e.g. the designation of ancient dualist religions and all previous religions in past civilizations, since they follow the supposed “LVX formula” as belonging to the troglodytes or cave-dwellers of “Old Aeon” in Thelema, for example). But the fact remains that the ancient Gnostics and many other groups (the Medieval Cathars, Manicheans, etc), considered themselves to be foremost as Christians and concerned with contrasts of sin and righteousness. To embrace the classical Gnostic tradition means to embrace their dualistic perspectives. It’s simply impossible separate such perspectives from Gnosticism with disdain as many occult and new age practitioners do. Aleister Crowley in Liber XC expresses the same sentiment as Jung’s “Coniunctio Oppositorum”, stating:

Many have arisen, being wise. They have said ‘Seek out the glittering Image in the place ever golden, and unite yourselves with it.’ Many have arisen, being foolish. They have said, ‘Stoop down into the darkly splendid world and be wedded to that Blind Creature of the Slime.’ I who am beyond Wisdom and Folly, arise and say unto you: achieve both weddings! Unite yourselves with both! Beware, beware, I say lest you seek after the one and lose the other! My adepts stand upright; their head above the heavens, their feet below the hells. But since one is naturally attracted to the Angel, another to the Demon, let the first strengthen the lower link, the last attach more firmly to the higher. Thus shall equilibrium become perfect. I will aid my disciples; as fast as they acquire this balanced power and joy so faster will I push them.

Baphomet carries a great deal of occult significance—from its original inception in the romantic era and even into this day, yet the origins of the enigmatic figure stem from deficient and sensationalist misunderstandings and demonic imagery which hardly deserves any adoration or praise. Abraxas likewise too sinks back into this occult sensationalist mire despite its nuanced inception. Occultism is a “hidden practice” or “craft” that only those who are initiated deserve to study in all its glory, intently. Neither occultism nor its views on the “unity of the opposites” are necessarily “bad”, as it is simply another way of experiencing an altered state of consciousness. The Chimeric figures of Baphomet and Abraxas both represent these “altered states” of occult consciousness to varying degrees. Everything from the astral body, the working of aeonic angels and archonic demons, to the “balance of genders” as symbolized through the “Androgyne”, these two symbols carry a great degree of esoteric importance. Occultism does however contain a very dark, elitist undercurrent that cannot be ignored, fostered in the bourgeoisie halls of the privileged elite.

 Master everything, but give generously to your servants, once they have unconditionally submitted. (Crowley, Magic: Book 4, 278)

Ritual magic has long since been associated with learned elites, especially with its origins in Europe. This is especially true during the medieval era where the occult became synonymous with unsavory and often repulsive practices involved with “black magic”, which goes without saying with its verbose flowery language that makes up many of their ego-fueled rituals. Modern, “watered-down” occult magic also seems to give people a sense of empowerment in a world in which they are powerless. That is not to say that all forms of magic are in itself useless and authored by the Devil as many ancient theurgists and Gnostics would profess otherwise since what is termed “high magic” is aimed at recovering a perfect knowledge of the transcendent signature left within the deepest layer of being—the Spiritual Seed.

The Chimera Androgyne: The Esoteric Mystique of Baphomet and Abraxas

Part I. 

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…