“Upon Burning the Book” by Frater Belshazzar

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Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law

The following is a speech that I gave back in 2006 on the third day of the writing of The Book of the Law.  Though much has changed since that time, I have chosen to present the piece with little revision. The edition of The Book of the Law discussed is the Red Wheel/Weiser paperback (ISBN: 0877283346). I hope the practice describe herein will prove worthwhile and thought-provoking for my fellow Thelemites.
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In the ordinary Hexagram, the Hexagram of nature, the red triangle is upwards, like fire, and the blue triangle downwards, like water.  In the magical hexagram this is reversed; the descending red triangle is that of Horus, a sign specially revealed by him personally, at the Equinox of the Gods.  (It is the flame descending upon the altar, and licking up the burnt offering.)  The blue triangle represents the aspiration, since blue is the colour of devotion, and the triangle, kinetically considered, is the symbol of directed force.

— From the Commentary to Chapter 69 of The Book of Lies

When the Three Days of the Writing of The Book of the Law comes along each year I follow my normal tradition: I gather together new and old friends to feast, celebrate, and reflect on the Law of Thelema. I read the appropriate chapters on the appropriate days.  On the third day, when the reading is done, I promptly burn my book.  It is at this moment, after the reading but before the burning, that I would like to take a few moments to share my thoughts on the book, the burning, and the ashes that result.
The book that I burn is not simply a copy of Liber AL vel Legis taken from my bookshelf, dusted off, and prepared for the offering.  It is a book that I have carried with me every day for 365 days.  Stored in my back pocket and conformed to my body, this very book has been consulted on buses, in bathrooms, at bars, and on airplanes. Every day, whether it rains or snows; whether I am going to hiking or going to a movie, a poetry readings, weddings or funerals; everywhere I go I take my book.
It has gone to work with me; once left in the bathroom to be found by a baffled employee later in that day.   It was with me through all the friendships made at my company and all of the friendships left there.  It lived in my pocket through slow business, long meetings, and pointless rewards ceremonies. I read it while running out the clock on my last day on the job and it was with me for the embarrassing drunken celebration afterwards.
It has traveled with me to the Greek Island of Rhodes.  It has been touched by the waters of both the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas.  It has visited temples built for Apollo and Aphrodite.  It inspected funeral steles of the Knights of St. John with me.  It was probably somewhat bemused as I tried to communicate to a Greek bartender that I had somehow lost my wife in the crowd.  I reread it on the long flight home (I did eventually find her).
It was in my back pocket for my first wedding anniversary on Halloween when my wife and I played music, drank wine, and read poetry until late night.  It smashed some pumpkins with me that night, too.  I took it out of my pocket and consulted it on the first anniversary of my cousin’s death.  It was with me when a dear friend flew in from LA and we watched him play guitar at a dive bar in Ellwood city until last call.  This year it has met Salman Rushdie, Gerald Stein, and George Romero.
At NOTOCON V it was there as I was re-united with old friends and formed lasting bonds with new faces as well. I had it with me when I underwent an initiation that led me to choose the life that I now lead.  It influenced my decision to go back to school and study molecular physics to better the life of my future family.
I have carried it with me through all of the joys and hardships of this passing year.  It is all of these memories and histories that I give over to the fire with these pages.  I cannot say that I always follow or even understand all of the words and symbols written within. But I am sure that I would not be the person that I am for myself, my wife, my friends, my brethren, and the world if it was not for this philosophy- a philosophy that I carry not only in my pocket but in my actions and thoughts.
Just as these pages will produce fire when we set the flame upon them, so have they given fire to our choices and beliefs.  It is the very same fire that burns in the core of every star and in the hearts and minds of every man and woman.  It is a perpetual engine of change.  It is the fire that fuels our hunger for knowledge and desire for love.  It devours our past and consumes our passions to nourish our future.
I know that there are influences in my life that I cannot see: forces that bring about cause and effect in my interior and exterior being.  I do not presume here to dissect them, but as they change me, they change this book as well.  Symbiotically, the symbols within it progress as I progress.  Over this year I have rarely read this book twice.  Though I have read it over a hundred times, each reading tells me a different story.  I like to think that these invisible energies I am theorizing about are stored in these pages, just as they are stored in my mind.  When the book is burned it is not only a form of self-sacrifice, but also an exercise in self-accountability: a tidying of the memory store-house.  Here are the things that I have done, that I have loved, that I have hated.  Here is what I believe in and what I am willing to do about it.
The ash that results is more pure than the previous form.  It is truly holographic: every part containing the whole.  Indiscriminate, beautiful, colorless ash: the most unfettered form a book can exist in. With all of these memories and experiences fully incorporated, this profound ash reminds us of the fate of our flesh.  It is a trimming of the past, a fixing of force, it is alchemy.  Memory can be transmuted into inertia.
As I have done every year, I will gather the ash and carefully store it in a few small glass containers.  These I will keep locked in a wood cabinet in my temple to be used in ritual for the following year.  It will be there to remind me that every moment that has occurred is still here: present and dynamically alive in the ash.  Just as now every moment that we have lived has led us here, to this time, to reflect upon these very things.  And to consider the fire that drives us and the products thereof, to ponder the forces that liberate and inhibit us, to learn which of these to control and which ones to let go of, to try to understand the scope and magnitude of the simple idea of doing one’s will.
With that final thought in mind, I would like us now to join with our brothers and sisters in contemplation, not just those of us in this room, but all of our brethren across this world who choose to celebrate the birth of Thelema.  Let us join them on this day, and at this time to witness what occurs when words written on paper give rise to flame.

Love is the law, love under will.

“Yoga and Magick: Book Four, part 1 (Oriflamme VI/1)” by Aleister Crowley, edited with commentary by Marcelo Motta

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This of course is one of Marcelo Motta’s pirate editions of Crowley’s works, published to support Motta’s “SOTO” organization and featuring his own commentary. Crowley’s text is one of the very best works on the subject of Yoga and mysticism in general and you should all read it. That said, we will now proceed to Motta’s commentary, which deserves some comments of its own.

Motta had the custom of inserting his remarks into Crowley’s text in italics, which makes them hard to distinguish on occasion. He doesn’t say as much as he did in, say, his edition of The Commentaries of Liber AL, but there is still much food for thought here, it’s just not the properly reverential thought Motta intended. It is true that he occasionally says something useful, but more often his remarks are monuments to the obvious and in one case he actually repeats the content of one of Crowley’s own footnotes on the same page! Many of his remarks are highly amusing in light of later developments: he warns repeatedly about the dangers of egomania and fanaticism and, of course he was a classic example of these very traits himself.

Motta’s scholarship is shoddy. He claims that Crowley accepted the Theosophical doctrine that Buddha refused Nirvana in order to help Mankind. Apparently he either forgot or never read Crowley’s commentary to Blavatsky’s Voice of the Silence where he specifically attacks that very idea. In any case it’s obvious from the context that Crowley was refering to Siddhartha’s decision to teach his system of attainment, not to any “renunciation.”

Now, since this is packaged as a one number of the O.T.O. journal, Motta includes some news and book reviews which are either revealing or hilarious. He makes a point here (and elsewhere in his commentary) of noting if someone is Jewish, usually in terms that are at least insulting if not outright anti-Semitic. He then takes time out to belittle Frank Herbert for writing The Jesus Incident by implying that Herbert needed to kowtow to Christianity after writing Dune! But after all this the real laugh is from his grand announcement that he is suing Samuel Weiser for publishing Crowley books without his permission. Hilarious considering that this is what led to his downfall.

One really has to wonder about old Marcelo. In the mean time those interested in Crowley’s book should purchase the new Weiser Book Four, whose editor is much better with the material and keeps his notes in the back of the book.

Two Simple Rituals

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[These are general rituals that I have been using for some time now with considerable success. They have the advantage of being direct and to the point, not to mention specifically Thelemic. I find they work well with a variety of other rituals, especially those employing excerpts from the Thelemic Holy Books (Class A texts.)]

 

Opening the Temple

 
Knock once and say: Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Give signs of your degree if appropriate, or use the Sign of the Enterer followed by the Rending of the Veil.

Say: I, [Motto], declare it is my Will to perform this [name or type of operation] to the end that [goal of operation] that I may thereby carry on the Great Work.

Perform the Star Ruby, omitting the final APO PANTOS KAKODAIMONOS.

Perform a preliminary invocation such as:
Liber B vel Magi
“The Prologue of the Unborn” from Liber VII
The Hymn to Pan
“The Gnostic Anthem” from The Ship
or others as you may know or compose.

Say: There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.
Knock 3-5-3.

Proceed to your operation.

Closing the Temple

Say: As my Will, so mote it be. For pure will unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result is in every way perfect. Love is the law, love under will.

Knock once.

Perform the Star Ruby complete.

Give the Sign of Silence.

 

“The Box of Delights: or, When the Wolves were Running” by John Masefield

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The British Poet Laureate John Masefield (1878-1967) published The Box of Delights in 1935 and it was quickly recognized as a classic of children’s literature on a par with Alice in Wonderland or Peter Pan, yet it remains almost unknown in the US. This is unfortunate because it really is a brilliant adventure story with a full complement of fairies, criminals, wizards, a flying car, and more than a few Pagan Gods. That’s right, this is essentially a Pagan Christmas story, and if you think that can’t possibly work then you need to read this book.

“Beauty and Strength: Proceedings of the Sixth Biennial National Ordo Templi Orients Conference (Salem, Massachusetts; August 10-12, 2007 EV)” Edited by Richard Kaczynski

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There have been six NOTOCONs thus far, each featuring a great program of presentations, workshops and rituals. Now Grand Lodge has begun to collect text versions of these presentations (at least the un-tyled ones) in a fine commemorative book—the perfect gift for those brothers and sisters who couldn’t make the actual event! Like the original presentations, the articles herein range from personal reminiscence to scholarly analysis to practical advice to full ritual script. Also included are the formal addresses to the Conference by the Grand Master Sabazius and others.

Now, in the interests of full disclosure I have to mention that I had some small hand in this one, having done one of the articles and the cover, but there’s plenty more to this book worth reading. Some particular highlights are Lon DuQuette’s tale of his first encounter with The Book of the Law and O.T.O., Frater STILIFO’s article on using mass media, and jazz pianist Eric Muhler remarks on attending NOTOCON as the Prophet’s grandson. As the volume arrived just before press time I have not had a chance to digest everything in detail, but let me say that Richard Kaczynski’s heavily-illustrated historical study of Karl Kellner’s esoteric roots is easily worth the price of the book all by itself.

So get yourself a copy, buy some extras for the Lodge library, and hope we see more of these volumes after future NOTOCONs.

“The Pillars of Tubal-Cain” By Nigel Jackson and Michael Howard

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This book deals with the Western tradition of angel Magick, specifically the legend of the “fallen angels” as related in the Book of Enoch and other Apocrypha. Messers. Jackson and Howard insist the “Fall of the Rebel Angels” was more of a deliberate sacrifice to aid the evolution of humanity and that magical work with these beings underpins the “Secret Western Tradition.” Specifically, the authors assert it lies at the heart of “Traditional” British witchcraft, which is naturally far older and more authentic than the superficial innovations of Brother Gardner, let alone those silly neo-Pagans.
The contents are largely influenced by such occultists as Robert Cochrane, Madeline Montalban and Andrew Chumbley, but the style is very much derived from Kenneth Grant, who has more books listed in the bibliography than any other author. In fact sometimes one wonders if The Pillars of Tubal-Cain wasn’t published in some alternate reality where Grant hooked up with Gerald Gardner instead of Aleister Crowley! Like Grant, the authors ramble over all occultism to cherry-pick whatever fruity bits happen to be in tune with their thesis, or at least whatever can be made to fit with a little creativity. Michael Howard published a history of secret societies back in the 1980s, so maybe that’s why he cannot resist dragging in several conspiratological digressions of the Holy Blood, Holy Grail variety even though they have precious little to do with the subject here, unless, that is, he wishes to imply that European royalty are descended from an avatar of Satan! Then again, perhaps he does; certainly he has mastered the old game of reducing any deity whatsoever to an aspect or alias of his personal favorite. While the authors can’t quite match Grant’s legendary vocabulary the authors do make a valiant effort at pseudo-academic jargon and neologisms as the phrase “therionthropic guizing” evidences.

One more thing I should mention is that this book has a truly excessive number of typographic errors, to the point where it seems there was no attempt to proofread the text at all. Almost every page distracts the reader with errors of spelling and grammar and there are some outright mistakes in the bibliography. Even more annoying, many quotation marks have been replaced with accented vowels—probably due to a glitch when the manuscript was imported into the publishing software—but again, nobody bothered to fix it. Based on remarks by other reviewers, Capall Bann seems to have a consistent problem with proofreading but I have never in my life seen such a poor job in any book from a (supposedly) professional publisher.
There are some interesting points made in here about how ancient Persian angelology untied with ancient Semitic star-worship to produce the Judeo-Christian scheme of planetary angels. Unfortunately the good points are so buried under irrelevancies and unwarranted speculation that the reader is better off tracking down the original material than purchasing this rather over-priced book.

“The Roebuck in the Thicket: An Anthology of the Robert Cochrane Witchcraft Tradition” By Evan John Jones and Robert Cochrane

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The late Robert Cochrane (real name Roy Bowers) had a brief but noteworthy career in British Witchcraft in the mid 1960s. Like many others since, he claimed a hereditary tradition older and more authentic than Gerald Gardner’s Wicca. There is naturally considerable debate on that point, but Cochrane had a remarkable flair for ritual and taught a sophisticated theology that attracted no less a personage than Doreen Valiente to his “cuveen” for a time. If not for his early death in 1966 (which may have been a ritual suicide) and the fact that he published so little, “Cochranian Witchcraft” might have become a major strain of modern occultism.

That may happen yet, seeing as there are working covens descended from Cochrane’s “Clan of Tubal-Cain” that have continued to develop the tradition and some have begun to publish. This book is a collection of articles by Cochrane’s successor as head of the Clan, but it also includes the handful Cochrane himself wrote for various occult periodicals back in the day (a volume of Cochrane’s letters is also available from the same publisher.) Pretty much everything in here is interesting and there are some very good ritual ideas even for non-witches. The Roebuck in the Thicket makes a valuable addition to anyone’s witchcraft library.

“Grimoire of the Necronomicon” By Donald Tyson

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Nothing in the world of occult publishing could make you doubt your sanity quite like a whole series of Lovecraftian books from Llewellyn, and yet such a series does indeed exist, authored by none other than Don Tyson. He’s already given us yet another in a long line of fake Necronomicons as well as a Lovecraftian Tarot, now we have a grimoire that claims to turn the Cthulhu Mythos into a workable system of ceremonial Magick.

The problem of course is that no major publisher would dare print something that did real justice to H.P.L.’s vision, and so we get nice, comfortable, life-affirming, New-Agey, sort-of-Gnostic system that explains away the horrific elements as errors of interpretation! Tyson gives the rituals and rules for a proposed “Order of the Old Ones” whose goal is to “clear off the Earth”—but only in a symbolic spiritual sense of course! Members are even advised not to schedule their rituals so as to conflict with their mundane responsibilities!

There has been some attempt to write the book in an ominous pseudo-Antique style, but the author cannot help slipping back into his friendly modern voice that ruins whatever mood may remain after the reader is advised to build an Altar out of painted dowels. “Simon’s” version of the Necronomicon did a better job, both in maintaining an atmosphere and in presenting a developed Magick system even if it had nothing much to do with Lovecraft. There may well be real Magick to be derived from the Cthulhu Mythos, but this certainly isn’t it.

“Heaven’s Mirror: Quest for the Lost Civilization” by Graham Hancock and Santha Faiia

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This is a rarity in publishing: a glossy coffee-table summation of previous work that also makes significant extensions of that work. Hancock takes up the threads of archaeo-astronomy and iconoclastic archaeology from his Fingerprints of the Gods and marshals new evidence that many ancient civilizations drew upon the same body of esoteric knowledge in creating their most spectacular monuments. He now posits a world-girdling network incorporating the Giza pyramids, Ankor Wat in Cambodia, Nan Madol and Easter Island in the Pacific, Tihuanaco in South America, and other ancient sites. He also presents certain evidence that at least some of these sites may well be thousands of years older that current academic thought would allow. The astronomical material, incidentally, has some very interesting implications for us Thelemites. Hancock’s own theory involves diffusion from a primordial culture which flourished some 12,000 years ago whose descendents founded the ancient cultures  we know throughout the world. This is hardly a new idea of course, but Hancock handles it much, much better than anyone else and that alone makes the book worth a look.