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Crowley, Particular and Universal QBL

To: alt.magick,alt.magick.tyagi,alt.pagan.magick,alt.divination,talk.religion.misc,talk.religion.newage,alt.mythology
From: (hara)
Subject: Crowley, Particular and Universal QBL (was Crowley's QBL...)
Date: 5 Jan 1999 22:04:24 -0800

49990105 IIIom

hara ( about Crowley's text:
>> "Sepher Sephiroth" (a different book than "Liber 777") is 
>> what was given to him by Allan Bennett as described in 
>> Regardie's introduction:
>>         The third volume included here is "Sepher Sephiroth",
>>         ... Originally, the book
>>         was started by Allan Bennett, one of the Golden Dawn
>>         adepts who took Crowley under his wing to ground him
>>         in the fundamental processes of Magic, Qabalah, and
>>         meditation....

catherine yronwode (
> ...The kabbalah...  is a body of Judaic mystical writings. 

yes, I think that in general this has been agreed many times.  
the Kabbalah, i.e. Jewish kabbalah, includes a body of Jewish
mystical, magical, and other types of writings.  it also appears
to include more than this.  what more I am attempting to learn,
as well as how this is similar or differs from other QBLs (such
as Christian cabala, Hermetic qabalah, and Thelemic qaballa).

> It is not a method (technique), nor an action (process), 
> nor a way of speaking (language). 

actually, the way that Crowley and Regardie speak of qabalah,
it does have these significances, but more to the point, my
understanding from reading parts of Scholem's text _Kabbalah_
is that Jewish kabbalah includes these processes, and
'the Kabbalah' is a general way of referring to the Jewish
tradition that includes processes, techniques, and types of 

thank you for your correction to my read of Scholem.  I'll
archive both our texts and hope that the seriously interested
will pursue direct reference, offering additional input on
our analysis where it is warranted.

>> appears that Crowley drew not only from Golden Dawn
>> members but also from whatever translations he could obtain
>> of the Zohar ("[The Book of] Splendor")....
>> above:

> ...the Zohar is not the totality of kabbalah, by any means 
> -- it is just one book! 

to be sure, nor is "777" the totality of Hermetic qabalah.

>> it is this which I am attempting here for the benefit of those
>> who would like to take a deeper glimpse into Crowley's
>> gematric system (his 'qabalah', according to his editors and
>> fans -- I'm still analyzing to see what a qabalah is and
>> whether he has one or can be said to be a 'qabalist';
>> something I reserve for discussions in Usenet rather than for
>> the Occult Elist on account of its flamish heat and abstruse
>> detail :>).

> Crowley....  had read the English translation of Von 
> Rosenroth's fragmented 17th century Latin compilation 
> of texts (centered on the Zohar, which is only one of 
> hundreds of kabbalistic books of scriptural exegesis 
> and magical commentary written by Jews between the 
> fall of the Roman empire and the present day). 

> Having read Von Rosenroth, it seems that Crowley chose 
> to concentrate on merely one of several letter-number 
> codes that kabbalistic exegetes had applied to the Bible 
> (namely, gematria, to the exclusion of notarikon and 
> temurah, both of which he openly mocked in the book "777") 

my impression is that Crowley was focussing on a text (whose
translation he had available, perhaps the best he could find?)
known to be central to Jewish kabbalah (along with, what, 3
or 4 others?) in his attempt to construct his Hermetic 
qabalah. his decision not to consider as 'reliable' or 
revelatory the systems of temurah or notariqon are interesting 
and, I think, reasonable (something which we could discuss in 
a divination thread), though he doesn't do these systems justice 
in the text to which you refer and seems merely to mock them.

> and he ignored (or was unable to understand?) the totality of 
> the kabbalah's interpretive scriptural material that also 
> includes physiognam[?], [cheiromancy], astrology, spiritual 
> exegesis of the daily portions of scripture, contemplation of 
> the Merrkabah (chariot) vision of Ezikiel, instructions in 
> prayer, both devotionary and as a means to accomplish 
> beneficent and maleficent magical outcomes, wonder-tales 
> concerning the magical use of the names of God to perform 
> miracles, meditations on the Names of God, several schematic 
> systems for understanding the cosmos (e.g. numerous "tree of 
> life" diagrams), fictionalized and historical records of 
> Socratic-style dialogue between Rabbis (theological teachers) 
> and their students angelology demonology speculations 
> concerning the arrival of a Messaiah (including but by no 
> means limited to the cultish belief that a man named Shabettai 
> ben Zevi (who died in 1672 after a forced conversion to Islam 
> in 1666) was or had been the Anointed One, speculations on 
> the transmigration of souls, theories about the ability of 
> the souls of the dead to split into "sparks" that could 
> reincarnate in several places at once or could enter already 
> ensouled living people as "Ibburs" (similar to the new age
> concept of "walk-ins"), doctrinal disputes concerning the 
> nature of God or the Godhead, abstruse theological points 
> such as the manner in which God -- if he was "all" -- could 
> have made *physical* room for the universe when he created 
> it (he did so by compressing himself a bit, according to the
> >Lurianic tzim-tzum school of kabbalah, which was opposed 
> by other schools, of course, and did not represent a 
> monolithic "kabbalistic" viewpoint), and so forth and so on. 

a beautiful broadside of Jewish kabbalah. I don't think that
Crowley ignored all these things, but he did seem to separate 
them from what he was labelling "qabalah", and this does seem 
very strange.  one can find, for example, text such as you 
mention above in his _Book Four_.

> Furthermore, Crowley, in his attempt to "universalize" the 
> tiny snippet of letter-manipulation that he had selected 
> from one of the several letter-corresponce systems of 
> kabbalah, grabbed one (of DOZENS) of versions of "tree of 
> life" schematics and then applied to this composite fragment 
> of mystical Judiaism the same misguided "Egyptian" origin 
> that Blavatsky the Theosophist had, and manufactured a 
> spurious "table of correspondences" between Judaic 
> scriptural terms and Egyptian gods! 

I didn't get the sense that the book "777" was a successful
universalist approach, and I understand from Regardie (who
edited the text of _777 and Other Qabalistic Writings of
Aleister Crowley_), as well as from faint memories of 
Crowley's text, that Crowley was dissatisfied with it.  

where I think that Crowley succeeds more readily is in his 
"Sepher Sephiroth", which is why I have tried to focus on this 
text rather than "777" which I personally dislike.  one of the
appendices to "777" (A) also seems to provide a clearer glimpse
into his vision of what he was attempting to achieve.  Bill
Heidrick fairly recapitulated the main points as to Crowley's
definition of qabalah in his own posts on the subject here,
but I'll try to restate based on a direct reference to the
text from my library.  Crowley asserts that "Qabalah is: --"

	(a) A language (as described earlier)
	(b) A terminology
	(c) A system of symbolism
	(d) An instrument for interpreting symbols whose
	     meaning has become obscure, forgotten or
	(e) A system of classification of omniform ideas
	(f) An instrument for proceeding from the known
	     to the unknown
	(g) A system of criteria by which the truth of
	     correspondences may be tested with a view
	     to criticizing new discoveries in the light
	     of their coherence with the whole body of
	end of rough quote, 777, Appendix A.

"777" and "Sepher Sephiroth" were his attempt to generate 
the above, and I think he succeeded, though in the case of
the former, unconvincingly, and in the case of the latter,
solely with respect to a reference for numerolinguistics for
Hebrew language.  it remained for others to take this 
achievement and Crowley's other text further and possibly
into an universalist application (e.g. look at the EQ tradition, 
though I think that they specialize in Thelemic religious 
slant and have selected their preferred divinatory fundament
based on its results rather than on some conventional order, 
as jake stratton-kent has clearly explained).

> Not content with this, he took James Legge's flawed and 
> mis-translated version of the Chinese I Ching....

as I have asked about his selections for Hebrew sources,
what did he have available to him that you would suggest
he should instead have consulted?  I'd got the impression
that Legge, like Budge whom Crowley also consulted, was
considered authoritative at the time Crowley was writing
and researching.  am I misinformed?  if so, please offer
corrections and specify what Crowley blatantly ignored.

> and gave "tree of life" correspondences to it as well, 
> creating a Chinese-Hebrew (or Confucianist-Judaic) hybrid
> that could not sustain itself. 

I think you've missed the point of the universalist QBL
(to what Crowley aspired in his Hermetic qabalah): to
syncretically weave the symbols and concepts of the
mystical, mythological and magical cultures of the world 
into a single correspondence system from which magicians 
could draw to conduct their rituals and personal meditations.

if you feel that it could not sustain itself (I have
remarked on Crowley's weaving of this Lurianic Tree of
Life and the elements of the I Ching myself and proposed 
an alternative or two to it which may be found in the
Hollyfeld Archive), then I invite you to critique it
and offer up your own suggestion.  at least you could
point out the specifics of what "could not sustain
itself" is comprised so that we could ascertain the
substance of your criticism.

> He and his pals also added the Italian card game tarocchi, 
> under its Golden-Dawnesque guise as a "system of divination" 
> to the stew-pot, propagating the riduculous formula Tarot =
> Rota = Tora(h), and thus equating the principle Jewish holy 
> books with a cosmic "wheel" (of fortune or divination) and 
> with a form of idle play. 

this seems to confuse the history somewhat, since, if I'm
not mistaken, Crowley inherited the occult tarot-Hebrew
association which others in the Golden Dawn (or previous with
de Gebelin or someone like him?) had constructed (apparently 
publishing with some blinds that Crowley quite rationally 
corrected).  did Crowley derive the TARO/ROTA/TORA (what about
ORAT, dammit? :> it makes a lovely expressive signifier, 
doesn't it?), or wasn't that around before him too?

I think that such formulae are important to magical work and
writings and its sequencing provides important implications
that reflect the mysteries as the Hermetics and other mystics
expound upon them.

> This is neither THE kabbalah nor "a" kaballah. 

that is correct, it is, however, Hermetic qabalah.

>> I'm still analyzing to see what a qabalah is

> ..."a" kabbalah makes no sense to me.  What *is* "a" 
> kabbalah, pray tell? 

as I said, that is what I am trying to ascertain. however,
I can indeed explore my developing hypotheses as they
are arising in my mind in response to this and previous
discussions as well as the brief reading I have done in
the area of Hermetic qabalah and academic reflections of
Jewish kabbalah (although I think some authors like
Halevi were original to the English language, I could be

there are a number of very important suggestions above,
by Crowley and by you (which I also saw in _Kabbalah_), 
from which to choose in explicating the substance of
what I am calling a universal QBL. it would seem that
sectarian interests would fall by the wayside, such that
religious elements would have to be left behind to their
particular context or made permeably generic.  

it was Crowley's contention in Liber 31 that such a thing 
could be accomplished (thus 'Thelema') and yet he still 
appears to desire a retention of some religious language and 
theology which he has passed down to Thelemic culture through
an over-obsession on his particular VSL -- that which I tend 
to call the Evul Book (_Liber Al vel Legis_).

making these elements generic would merely mean describing
them in much the same way that you have done for Jewish
kabbalah but in a way that allows for plugging in any
religious knowledge/mythos set for the purposes that may be 
described as a foundation underlying all instances of QBLH 
(e.g. Jewish kabbalah, Christian cabala, Hermetic qabalah).

taxonomizing the TYPE of material of a religious nature
should be relatively easy. you have done the bulk of it
above as had Scholem in his analysis of Jewish kabbalah.
in a universal QBL these would be variables that would be
defined by the religious who put the universal into use.

the NONreligious elements (which I would call the more
fundamental and scientific elements) would of course
not depend upon any religious ideological substructure
in order to be employed by the magician. systems of
divination like gematria are obvious examples here, as
are any other occult sciences/arts which are the subject
of study by Hermetic and other magicians (i.e. astrology, 
alchemy, etc.).

> Do Thelemites such as hara presume that every culture 
> or religion or national group can have "a" kabbalah, 
> just like every culture has a "language"? 

not in the sense of having a 'Jewish culture', no.  but in
the sense that Crowley and others (even I above) have
described, weaving a global mystical and magical cloth of
immense value.

> If so, what is "the kabbalah of the Taoists"? 

we may be able to identify this if we look closely.  there
are probably numerolinguistic elements of Chinese mysticism, 
for example.  they use the 'Square of Saturn' as do other 
cultures, for magical purposes, and it would not be at all 
surprising if they associated certain ideographs (alas I 
gather that they do not have something which corresponds to 
an 'alphabet' from which to construct a simple gematric) 
with numbers. asking the question in this way allows me to 
suggest, however, that the Taoist variation on the universal 
QBL would likely draw on such texts as the _Tao Teh Ching_ 
(attributed to Lao Tzu), the _Inner Chapters_ (largely 
constructed by Chuang Tzu if my sources are reliable), and 
_I Ching_ (attributed variously to Fu Hsi or the Yellow 
Emperor and others).  

I'm sure it would also draw on or attempt to render greater 
insight into the _P'a Po Tzu_ (sp?) (attributed to Chang Tao 
Ling) and what is called 'the Taoist Canon', and integrate 
all manner of ideas and symbols from taoist alchemy.

but as you can see, this is merely an extrapolation of the
hypotheses about which you have asked -- ones which I am
only in the beginning stages of formulating (and building
on writers like Crowley, who attempted to apply 'the method
of science in achieving the aims of religion').

it is possible that 'a QBL' will only apply to a generic for
esoteric transmission of virtually any sort, the specific
culture in question fleshing out any portion the potential
areas which humans have demonstrated are a part of it.

> What is "the kabbalah of the Yorubans"? 
> What is "the kaballah of the Mayans"? 

someone better acquainted than I would have to answer this
based on considering the Yoruban or Mayan religious cultural 
selections for the universal QBL which I have suggested above.

> If every culture, nation, or religion, Jewish and 
> non-Jewish alike, can have "a" kabbalah, can every one 
> also have a "Book of the Dead"? 

this is already happening.  There is a "Tibetan Book of the
Dead", for example, as well as a Wiccan (Neopagan?) variation.
how successful they are should be based on the obvious
elements and objectives, the structural and motivational
facets of the original, from what I can see.  if the original
was the construction of a particular individual or group and
they have defined what they are setting about to achieve, so
much the better.  in each case the general type would best be
represented by the name of the original (the Kabbalah, _The 
Book of the Dead_, etc.) until and unless someone sets forth
the universal that could be said to encompass it in some way
(at which point the original would be honored as the first of
its important specific type, like the first piece of an art
movement or the first sect of a religious culture).

> How about a "Popul Vuh"? 
> ...What is "the Popul Vuh of the Jews"? 

I don't know enough about this, though it is in my library
and I would have to dig to find it.  I think that you can
get the gist of my response by my text above combined with
a thorough analysis of the work in question.

> How about a "Tales of Coyote"?

this would appear to be unique in type, though if another
culture developed a body of tales about a figure by that
name (probably would work best if it were similar to the 
Coyote from the text you are mentioning), then it might be 

> What is "the Book of the Dead of the Norwegians"? 

I got the impression that the variation was along religious
lines (Egyptian=> Egyptian religion of the time; Tibetan=>
Tibetan/Tantric Buddhism/Vajrayana; Wiccan=> whatever sect
of Neopagan set about trying to construct one).

> What is the "Tales of Coyote of the Cathars"?

probably non-extant unless some neoCatharic sect developed
which integrated Coyote somehow.  again, unlikely.

> I believe that Crowley's purported Thelemic universalism, 
> a British Empire universalism that picked and chose a 
> passage here and a diagram there, defamed the creators of 
> these sampled passages ("send him back to the ghetto" said 
> Crowley/Bennet/Regardie/whoever in "777"), and then tossed 
> the sample into a series of equivalency tables along with 
> sampled passages from other cultures and religions that it 
> equally disrespected is not "universal." 

I would be inclined to agree, and I think it can be much
improved as I have indicated throughout this discussion. his
"777" seems too difficult a task to achieve on the basis of
the small number of categories he admitted to his system (we
might compare it to the 'Enneagram system' of personality
analysis, or to numerological systems which admit only of
9/10 numbers for all definitive analysis.  what he tried to
achieve was simply too much for the system he used, and it
is quite possible that he realized this.

on the other hand, I think that "Sepher Sephiroth" is a very
good start and has become a seed to which others have added.

> It is merely an Orientalized species of the same old
> Christian spiritual hegemony we pagans see all around us, 
> a hegemony that creates nothing but merely acquries through 
> appropriation the cosmologies, creativity, and mysticism 
> of conquered peoples. 

and conquering peoples, if the appropriation of such cultural
elements as the Chinese (or the Christian) are of any indication.  
was Crowley following the tack you have assessed, or was he 
more indiscriminate as regards the sources from which he drew?  
inasmuch as he was selective and drew from numerous cultures,
it is difficult to ascribe more than syncretic and eclectic
taste to his Hermetic activities.

>> # Yes, we Magikans adore self-aggrandisement and ego-inflation,
>> # which is why Unkle Al joined so damn many occult organizations
>> # and boasted of so many grades and degrees.
>> I agree that mages seem to like and to explore self-aggrandizement
>> and ego-inflation, 

>Not all of us. 

very true.  there is a very strong current of asceticism within the
Hermetic culture, some of which can be seen in such extreme texts
as _Liber Jugorum_ or the attachment which Crowley had for yoga
asanas (postures) and their maintenance.  it is interesting to
contrast such figures as Crowley and Dee and Agrippa against one
another for their mystical and religious elements as well as their
power-grasping and obsession with controlling the cosmos.

unless the two are balanced off one another -- self-discipline being
balanced with self-aggregation -- then ultimately the individual is
doomed to dessication or explosion.  Jungian psychologists have alot 
to say of value here in their expressions about individuation and
the role of the ego in the development of the personality.  I have
also found value in transpersonal psychologists (due to their
integration of the mystical) such as Maslow.

-- (emailed replies may be posted); cc me replies;;

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