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Qaballistic Magick

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick,alt.pagan.magick,talk.religion.misc,alt.thelema,alt.occult
From: (jake stratton-kent)
Subject: Re: Qaballistic Magick (LONG Rvw)
Date: 21 Jan 1999 12:05:10 -0800

[from private email: jake stratton-kent ]

In message <>, hara
>49990118 IIIom Hail NuHwdRahwrkwt!
>shalom alechem, my kin.
>a review of "Qaballistic Magick", by an unknown author or authors
>(jake/penny?) -- an apparent neognostic body of QBL writings at:
> [from ]
>the text to which I am responding was contained within the 
>entirety posted at that URL:
>#    Qabalistic magick traditionally - by which we mean not the Golden
>#    Dawn variant but the original Hebrew practical Kabbalah - 
>best sources on the details of this?  examples?  I will provide a
>selection from a source which you consider reliable, but whose
>analysis of your prophet and whose expressions regarding this 
>portion of Jewish mysticism appears to contradict yours somewhat.
Scholem presumably, his attitude to AC (and even Levi) was certainly

OTOH Scholem doesn't even mention Agrippa or Mirandola in his index, a
shocking omission which marks him as a partizan author. Reliable on
Hebrew, indeed indispensible IMO, but decidedly grumpy about goys
getting in on the act. OTOH he does not conceal the Greek influence on
Kabbalah, some of my data on that comes from him.

However he and other authors like Aryeh Kaplan give good accounts of
Kabbalah as a means of attaining mystical states and visiting 'the fifty
gates' or 'seven palaces' and/or 'riding the chariot'. The fact that
various aspects of the Kabbalah may differ and provide contrarian quotes
is not specially germane. The Hebrew Kabbalah isn't a unified body of
doctrine - it has schools, factions, historical phases. Anyone can find
quotes to support one thesis or another. Even a single author, like
Scholem, supplies data useful to many points of view.

>#    was chiefly concerned with obtaining access to various planes of 
>#    being, of which the Sephiroth are by no means the chief example 
>#    historically. The Gnostic ascent through the heavens has much 
>#    in common with the original form of qabalistic magick and the 
>#    "rising on the planes" practised by Crowley, Florence Farr
>#    et al. Crowley's exploration of the Thirty Aethyrs of the
>#    Enochian system approximates more to this kind of magick than 
>#    do the various forms of "path-working" extant in modern occult 
>#    circles. 
>what are the distinguishing characteristics between them?  I am
>insufficiently aware of them, perhaps, to make this distinction.
>from the below at least the hazard or dangers involved in the
>former appear to be more than the possible 'orientation' or 
>'symbolic lecture' of which the latter may be comprised.

exactly. The difference between being guided gently through a landscape
whose features are 'suggested' by the guide, and taking heaven by storm
in a brain frying visionary experience where auto-suggestion plays no
part and terrifying beings constantly check or reject your credentials.

many occultists have done the former - comparitively few have any
experience of the latter.

Of course, you could criticise this via St. Ignatius' Spiritual
Exercises and the Temptations of St. Anthony.
>#    The visionary experiences undergone in these adventures 
>#    of the spirit were attended by the most frightful psychic or 
>#    (as we might say today with little if any amplification of 
>#    meaning) psychological pressures. The unworthy or unsuitable 
>#    experimenter with these methods was literally assaulted by 
>#    armed angelic agencies, and some of the descriptions in "The 
>#    Vision and the Voice" are remarkably similar to some of the 
>#    old literature of the Hebrew kabbalah. 
>#    When Crowley describes the efforts of the Angels to exclude 
>#    him by force from experiences to which his degree of initiation 
>#    did not entitle him, he could be quoting directly from the 
>#    books of the Merkavah tradition of early kabbalism. The use of 
>#    words of power and other keys to reduce or deflect these 
>#    assaults is a common feature of these works. 
>if this is the case, then why was it that Scholem contended that
>writers like Crowley had an "infinitesimal knowledge" of kabbalah?

because Scholem rejects christian and hermetic qabalah.
Big brain, small mind.

>was it that his activities merely were *comparable* but were not
>actually derived from reflection on them?


>  did he have inspiration
>from individuals or some other nontextual source that he may have
>approximated early kabbalistic activities?
possibly, in any case the systems as productive of various results and
the results themselves are comparable (Vision and the Voice with the
'Gates' and 'Palaces' for example) - theological differences aside. 

Of course 'qabalah' *isn't* Judaic, anymore than the features in the
hebrew system which most resemble the gentile system are uniquely
Jewish. The aspects of kabbalah involving theological niceties of a
specific culture are worthy of respect - but matter comparatively little
to occultists. 
>#    Similarly, in both the Gnostic and Kabbalistic world view, 
>#    the initiate had to ascend through the planetary heavens 
>#    before reaching more exalted levels of being, and finally 
>#    suffering the experience of face to face intercourse with 
>#    the King of Heaven.
>where does Gnosticism become Neoplatonism such as Plotinus and
>how does this realistically compare to kabbalah?  how much do 
>these varying cosmological systems actually have in common and 
>how easily could they be compared in terms of their magical 
>implications, techniques?

Look to Alexandria - the intellectual capital of the Hellenistic world.
More Jews lived there than in Jerusalem; Neoplatonism was founded there;
many Gnostic leaders and their followers hailed from there. They shared
the knowledge of the time, interpreted and discussed it from various
positions - influences or common reference points from one to another
plainly exist. Distinctions are blurred because of their great proximity
and the fact they are often interpreting a common store of symbolism
etc. This situation lasted for about four hundred years until the 2nd
century AD - 

IMO (and Scholems et al) the Kabbalah did not even exist at this time -
as opposed to Jewish Gnostic and Messianist sects. Kabbalah is medieval
and it's earliest authors (for instance Rabbi Azariel) are overtly
Jewish Neoplatonists. There is both an ancient *and* a medieval infusion
of Neoplatonist ideas in Jewish traditions.

These traditions also influenced magick - and the grey area between
Gnosticism and Gnosticisng sorcery is impossible to draw. Use of Gnostic
godnames does not make a magician a gnostic, but some gnostics were
magicians and vice versa. 
>#    ...dealings with various agencies on the thresholds of the 
>#    sanctuaries of "inner knowledge". These sanctuaries are 
>#    guarded, as we seen [have we? 333], by the most potent 
>#    forms of spiritual agency conceivable. Only a thorough
>#    mastery of the Qaballa will enable the initiate to pass 
>#    within, and this will take many years to acquire. 
>how easy would it be to fake it, to engage a ritual and merely
>imagine one's way through a series of fantastic adventures
>which required no more than a creative imagination, which was,
>in short, a fabrication designed to convince others of one's
>exalted power?

pass - I found a more stoic attitude more helpful when faced with a
particular deity the purpose of whose visit was to inform me of the
depth of my own ignorance. I found his presence hard to bear even

This is not about a trip, digging the lights and colours and bragging to
your buddies how you and Sekhmet are soul twins on the astral. ;-)

Telling the live snake from the dead snake is too subjective, at least
on paper.
>#    ...the proper performance of astrological magick ...will 
>#    be of enormous value in acquiring a sufficiently balanced 
>#    nature to satisfy the guardians of these sanctuaries,
>#    and indeed to pass through the initial levels. In other 
>#    words, astrological initiation is the equivalent of the
>#    passwords involved in the Gnostic ascent through the 
>#    planetary heavens before approaching the deeper levels
>#    of the psyche (or of the cosmological model).
>what is the evidence that the rituals engaged by Goldawnians
>and other rosicrucians and ceremonials actually have mystical
>or consciousness-changing effects?

you tell me, I don't do too many rites of that kind.

EQ group ceremonial is 'Astrologically Timed Tantric Worship in English'
Occasionally there is a more 'grimoirish' approach. Neither resembles
the 'highly coloured humbug' that Scholem denounces. Nor does it
resemble Jewish tradition overmuch - it is a thing in itself.

Does it change consciousness - yes, and 'attunement' to the current
involved changes your life. What else can I say?

>  so many ceremonialists
>take this for *granted*, and yet there are also a good number
>of occultists engaging this type of activity who evidence no
>actual refinement of 'spirit' or consciousness (maturation,
>or what psychologists have variously called individuation or
>self-actualization and which occultists sometimes want to
>use to justify and/or explain their craft). 

agreed, though I'm not convinced 'spirituality' is a goal. Some aspects
of it seem to be a by product or an aid. IMO meditation *doesn't* make
you calm and serene, you must be calm and serene to meditate.

Too much emphasis on 'Thelema as self improvement' turns me off - AC's
'do nothing that does not assist the central task of attaining K&C of
HGA' is used as an excuse to remain in ignorance of how to produce
*RESULTS* by magical means. If you can't produce trivial results, what
chance of major ones? Thus sorcery, so far from impeding magico-mystical
progress may enhance it - IMO YMMV.

'Results magick? how prosaic and earthbound!' an attitude endemic among
at least some Brit Thelemites, I can't speak for the US.

IMO sorcery is useful practice for functioning on a magical level - and
most of my faourite deities (real or imaginary) expect their devotees to
be experienced in 'sorcery'. See Liber Astarte, certain behaviour is
appropriate to certain deities - thus goetia could be part of bhakti
yoga directed towards, say - Hecate.

>have there EVER been comparisons amongst these ceremonialists
>to see if this claim has any basis?

we-ell... synchronised rituals and collated records do reveal certain
patterns in EQ ceremonial performed by individuals independantly.

>  one might also ask the
>same about the touted ideals of any mystical culture (indeed
>I would and have about sufis, zennists, yogis, etc.).  the
>type of response to the challenge displays the quality of 
>the culture and its mysticism.

'By their fruits shall ye know them' sort of thing. Tricky, what pleases
one god, or is appropriate to one system, need not apply to another.

I don't happen to believe that all paths lead to the same place.
>#    ...the world view of ancient Gnosticism and Kabbalah is 
>#    the best approximation to the techniques and experiences 
>#    involved with this system that I am able to find. 
>#    Furthermore, since an enormous literature exists on
>#    the subject, with an advanced critical apparatus, I am not 
>#    loath to make use of it.
>thus it would appear that THEISTS and/or THEURGISTS are those
>who will most likely benefit from the extravagances of 
>ceremonialism as put forward by Goldawnians and Crowleyans.
pass, I'm neither a GD magician or a Crowleyan. 

Crowley is important to me as an experimental researcher in magick, his
role in transmitting AL is another matter entirely. Magick, with AL as a
focus, is not concerned with the personality of AC. His contributions to
the technical literature are very good, but on this side of idolatory. 

>#    The fact that magick does not adapt itself easily to modern
>#    scientific language, or to rationalistic psychological 
>#    viewpoints, is not my concern. 
>this is a very peculiar claim, given what Crowley has written in
>such works as _Book Four_, which is a taxonomical and critical
>broadside on the science of magick.

allegedly. Scientism is good window dressing (Chaos magick is an
example) well suited to overcome modern prejudices. 

 Crowley often said what suited the moment, without being consistent
from one context to another.

See his derogatory statements about Kabbalah in Little Essays Towards
Truth, he refers to some practices as 'unintelligible nonsense', but in
his diaries and elsewhere makes frequent use of precisely such

I define my magical approach as 'empirical pragmatic idealism' not as
scientism. IMO/E science approximates, but does not reproduce certain
attitudes necessary and traditional in magick. Science and Religion have
elements found in Magick, but the three points of view are distinct.

 Appeals to science in AC's propaganda may simply allay modern
prejudices. In any case, don't forget the 'Aim of Religion' part of the
equation. Moreover, AC didn't use 'the method of science' he used the
methods of magick, mysticism and religion and analysed them in a quasi-
scientific manner. The slogan 'Aim of religion, method of science' was a
good slogan, but only a slogan.

Another AC slogan was 'Mystery is the enemy of truth', though on another
level, Mystery is the name written on the forehead of Babalon, who AC

>#    E.'.Q.'. is, in essence, a modern Gnostic system. It resumes the
>#    modus operandi and other elements of its ancient forebears, yet 
>#    differs from them in one essential respect. Whereas the systems 
>#    of the past are divided from us by a gulf of language, cultural 
>#    perspective and religious outlook, the E.'.Q.'. is connected to 
>#    us through the most significant text in modern magical history, 
>#    uses our own language, and seeks to communicate with us in terms 
>#    suited to our times.
>very nice, this gives me the connection to the other categories
>I have observed and ascertained in my study of world QBLs --
>namely, that this is not 'Thelemic qaballa' but '(neo?)Gnostic 

Neo-Gnostic does not exclude Thelema, and can be firmly Thelemic.

Old Gnosticism was a syncretic approach to the pagan 'Mystery' cults and
to various salvationist and messianist themes in middle eastern
religion. Modern Gnosticism may simply use similar approaches to more
contemporary themes. It may legitimately trace precedents and employ
methods from earlier times which were unsuspected by our 19th century
forebears. Doing so does not mean abandoning the principles we claim to
share with them. 

Note that Greek gematria and models reminiscent of the *later* ToL &c
are present in Gnosticism before kabbalah emerged in the Middle Ages.
Thus themes present in medieval 'kabbalah' are already a feature of
Western (ie Semitico-Indian to Graeco-Italian) occultism in the 2nd
century AD and before. 

Thelema is concerned with Magick - what we nowadays call 'qabalah' is in
fact only a redaction of themes not unique to the hebrews, but part and
parcel of occult traditions in general. Employing these does not justify
a 'non-Thelemic' label.

>#    ...Liber O:
>#    "In this book it is spoken of Sephiroth, and the Paths, of
>#    Spirits and Conjurations; of Gods, Spheres, Planes,
>#    and many other things which may or may not exist. It is
>#    immaterial whether they exist or not. By doing certain
>#    things certain results follow; students are most earnestly 
>#    warned against attributing objective reality or 
>#    philosophical validity to any of them."
>it was language such as this which inspired me to consider
>Crowley a scientific magus (on account of his agnosticism).

>#    Crowley had at his disposal a deep knowledge and experience 
>#    of transcendental psychology via his Buddhist studies, and 
>#    a wide range of magical and mystical techniques, culled from 
>#    a dozen cultural perspectives and reduced to a science by 
>#    his able hand. 
>this appears to be the most controversial of the claims about
>Aleister Crowley -- whether what he was was an able mystic and
>magician or simply a co-opting charlatan and writer who was 
>able to pass himself off to his followers as having attained
>to some majestic human development.  I leave this to historians,
>while noting that there is a great degree of controversy
>surrounding the man even amongst those who knew him well.
no comment
>#    ...The Eight High Trances of Buddhism are as capable of 
>#    scientific verification as any less dignified psychological 
>#    or psychic state. The psychological knowledge of the followers 
>#    of the Dhamma is known to be of a very high standard. 
>the question is whether or not it could be understood by an
>Englishman like Crowley at the time he was alive and writing.
>processes of 'verification' are over-rated and specious.

'you might very well think that, but I couldn't possibly comment'
>#    What is contentious is the implication that such 
>#    methodology, used in an unorthodox fashion - be it 
>#    legitimate to some school or strictly experimental or
>#    even accidental - is capable of throwing a consciousness 
>#    not too dissimilar to the average westerner's 
>here referring to Crowley's. the implication is that Crowley
>spent any time engaging the Buddhist or other mystical cultures
>and practices to a degree which would yield results. when I ask
>after some citation concerning this from the Thelemic community
>(i.e. names of masters of these traditions who validated his
>claims in any way) I find it common to receive silence or 
>fanatical responses.  further indications that it is beset by 
>charlatanry from which it cannot free itself -- cult-ure.  if
>I have simply not heard these citations, please repeat them.
Disregarding negative reactions attendant on AC's persona it is a fact
that Bennett remains highly regarded among Western Buddhists with good
connections to the East. Therefore, since Bennett was AC's tutor in
meditation etc. I think we may say AC was both well informed and well
practiced. Moreover - returning to Bharati's models and 'science' - even
if AC's 'Buddhism' is heterodox, *method* produces recognisable results
regardless of doctrine. Certain techniques produce certain results -
because human physiology and psyche are fairly uniform. 

I agree that there is a difference between the practices and schedules
in AC's diaries and those in the AA curriculum, which IMO AC never
performed in the manner prescribed to his students. I also agree that
many 'experts' protest when this difference is pointed out. I don't
believe this changes the fact that AC was far more familiar with Eastern
methods than his peers. Sufficient if not proficient.
>#    into a state where an intelligence - be it part of his own 
>#    or entirely distinct - called "Aiwass, the minister of Hoor-
>#    paar-kraat", could dictate a book 
>note the focus on receipt of dictation, so heavily emphasized by
>Western religion, the phenomenon of which has blossomed as the
>'channelers' of the New Age movement. yet who has begun to 
>fathom its actualities?

'Channelling' and receiving a Holy Book are not the same, save in

'Western' systems (Western as defined above, India to the Alps) do
indeed emphasise such dictation, take the Tantras and many Indian
scriptures for example, and Islam. Or the Sybilline Books, so as not to
exclude Europe entirely.

This is part of 'word magick' - and, if we dispose of the idea that God
speaks/prefers a particular language we are evidently talking about the
mind and consciousness and certain experiences involving language. The
explanation may be not so much a divine proto-language but our innate
*biological* capacity for language and it's relation to the deeper
levels of the psyche accessed by mystico-magical methods. Thus the
results and experiences of Abulafia may be compared with those of Austin
Spare without assuming that either of them has the better model.

>  why should we consider seriously someone
>who mixes and matches global mystical systems and derives his own
>cultic foundation that others in his wake may take up?

If you disregard AC on this basis the same must apply to every eclectic
system past and present. Kabbalah, Gnosticism, Christian theology and
mysticism, Sufism, Theosophy etc. etc. etc. all have eclectic elements
and reinterpret ideas from elsewhere, and are thus excluded if
eclecticism and innovation are not permitted.

Scholem (in his On the Kaballah and it's Symbolism) even describes the
function of the mystic/kabbalist as reinterpretation of tradition on
behalf of the community. Tradition evolves, through 'Revelation' of
unsuspected elements or by stressing elements formerly underplayed, etc.
etc. - and outside influences are by no means excluded from this

Ain Soph has no authority in the hebrew scriptures, but is central to
Kabbalah - and is plainly an import from NeoPlatonism. Ergo Hebrew
Kabbalah is eclectic.

>  when we
>can point out how his ideas differ from the traditions from which
>he stole, why shouldn't his ideas be disclaimed as fraudulent and
>abandoned as merely imperialistic shinanigans, even if kabbalists
>engaged this art?
because that is too superficial and easy. 

Assuming one wants to do magick, ignoring AC is impossible. His life
work may have fallen short of what is possible, but so far no-one has
improved on it, at least not as a whole. 

He was under no obligation to reproduce the original context of the
materials he used. Indeed, why have a new system at all if it has to be
exactly like an old one?

>#    as significant in human history as the Bible, 

possibly, though I don't think the author was talking about the
sociological impact of either book specifically.

the significance of some events takes a while to percolate through. Much
of the bible has been unknown to humanity at large for some of its
existence - without detracting from its importance as an expression of
'the Word' as a magico-mystical idea with profound implications in
psychology and human biologiy as they effect his inter ations with his
environment etc. etc. etc.

In 1942 the Atom seemed harmless compared with the bayonet - a few alone
knew of a greater significance than suspected by the many.

>#    ...To produce a book possessed of such startling mathematical 
>#    structures, armed only with a fountain pen, is quite another 
>#    matter.
>isn't there some sort of logical refutation of all these cultish

Logic was invented by an Irishman called Boole, 
hence the expression Boole-shit.

Logic may prove love to be a biological impulse favouring pair bonding
and reproduction. This does not help much when being human.
>#    ...we have to obtain a similar degree of familiarity with 
>#    ecstatic and mystical states and techniques as Crowley, 
>is there some way to ascertain what level of familiarity he may
>have actually possessed other than through this self-aggrandize-
>ments and the expansive claims of his cultists?

and anti-cultists 'I'm going one better than Crowley' or 'I'll make
Crowley look like a boy scout'. 

face it, AC was a great occultist - as Patton was a great exponent of
mechanised warfare. The fact that Patton slapped a shell shock victim
does not invalidate this assertion. The fact that AC could be a middle
class mysogynist has no bearing on his capacity for yoga.
>#    and a philosophical frame of reference such as he possessed. 
>isn't today's student better armed?

there is more information out there now, but whether many modern
students are quite as *driven* as AC is another matter. 

Forget AC for a minute. Our grandparents were a different species!

When did a thousand canadian unemployed last ask for a passage abroad to
fight against enemies their government was not at war with?

We may have the technology and information to improve on the performance
of the pre-war generations, but we lack the balls! 

Otherwise there'd be less hair-splitting and more occultists travelling
to Haiti to see a real magical cult in action - as opposed to worrying
whether cult was a nice word.

>#    ...we need to establish is the nature of the relationship 
>#    between qaballist and text. Let us examine the procedures 
>#    of the ancient kabbalists and learn from them what such 
>#    a relationship entails. This we cannot learn from Crowley 
>#    or his peers in the Golden Dawn, for their claim to possess 
>#    any significant portion of the kabbalah is extremely suspect.
>if this claim is suspect (as kabbalist scholars have borne out),
>then why shouldn't we consider OTHER claims by these individuals
>to also be suspect, thereby dismissing them from our attention?

simple - AL is a qabalistic text, the hebrew system is focussed on such
a text and therefore more useful than the GD system for understanding
what a qaballistic text and approach to it might involve. Hermetic
qabalah is greatly inferior in this respect as nearly all its exponents
have no experience of exegesis. AC's relative ignorance of the Hebrew
system does not make it inappropriate to understanding AL - quite the

 As said before EQ shares certain emphases and practical approaches with
the Hebrew system despite differences of theology. It is not another
variant of the Hermetic system but a thing in itself. For comparative
purposes, and for technique etc. the Hebrew system is more useful than
the Hermetic in understanding and applying EQ.

And vice versa, since EQ has greatly increased my regard for the Hebrew
system. Even though the GD etc. used hebrew characters and EQ does not,
EQists have more in common with Abulafia than with Westcott.

Nor is this a mere assertion - communications between students of
Kabbalah and 'experienced' EQists have invariably involved far less
terminological strain than between Hermetic qabalists and EQists.

;-) No conversions have occurred, but exchanging notes has been easier.
>#    At this point, it is amusing to dilate upon the subject of
>#    "authority" in kabbalistic matters a little: "From
>#    the brilliant misunderstandings and misrepresentations
>#    of.....Eliphas Levi, to the highly coloured humbug of
>#    Aleister Crowley and his followers, the most eccentric and
>#    fantastic statements have been produced purporting to be 
>#    legitimate interpretations of Kabbalism." Gershom G.Scholem
>#    in "Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism", to which he adds in 
>#    a footnote: "No words need to be wasted on the subject of 
>#    Crowley's `Kabbalistic' writings in his books on what he 
>#    was pleased to term `Magick', and in his journal, The 
>I'm surprised that you would include this, given its damning
>review of your prophet.
It at least demonstrates the distance between the two. Too many hermetic
qabalah primers include a history of Kabbalah as if the two had
something in common. Apart from the bits both consider disreputable!

>#    It is worthy of note that Scholem also avoids mentioning 
>#    the vast majority of Renaissance "Christian Kabbalists", 
>#    in whose tradition Crowley and the Golden Dawn possessed 
>#    more legitimacy.
>you can understand that, can't you, given the TITLE OF THE TEXT

in which he finds room to denounce Levi and Crowley, but not to mention
Agrippa? No, I can't.

>compare _Kabbalah_ by the same
>author, in which we find an entire section dedicated to analyzing
>the historical appearance of Christian Kabbalah (by this name,
>Scholem provides them with some degree of notice and respect,
>however reluctant or facetious as some reviewers have claimed).

and does he say 'in this context AC and Levi possess more legitimacy'?

no, he doesn't.

>what provides 'legitimacy' in a QBListic tradition? do you
>really think that Crowley was ever seen in a favorable light
>by Goldawnians or Christian cabalists?

Precisely my point, legitimacy is a misnomer. Being illegitimate in one
specialised school is not relevant to practical value in general. Ideas
from one Hebrew/Gentile school may be illegitimate in another
Hebrew/Gentile school. They are not necessarily uninstructive to someone
working with 'word magick' of one species or another.

I am interested in the area of language as magick - and will learn from
Spare, Dee, Abulafia or Crowley - and study academic source works on
Kabbalah, Cabala or Qabalah by scholars whose opinions are less
important than the material they provide.  

Theological or academic dogma are a barrier to extracting techniques and
data because they cloud the issue. In order to work in this field I
don't have to approve of such barriers, I have to break them.

Reading Scholem etc. is useful to me not in becoming a Kabbalist, but as
an EQist. *His* motivation doesn't matter.

>#    Crowley was not exactly complimentary about the Hebrew 
>#    system either: "The Qabalah, that is the Jewish Tradition 
>#    concerning the initiated interpretation of their Scriptures, 
>#    is mostly either unintelligible or nonsense." ("Little 
>#    Essays Towards Truth.") 
>thanks for doing my homework digging for me. it appears that
>Crowley was both disrespectful of Jewish mystical tradition
>and largely incomprehending of it.  this does not represent
>to me "a philosophical frame of reference".

except that, as you quote below, what AC says here is not what he does
elsewhere. 'Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds'.

>#    Crowley's argument is reasonable enough in context, but once we
>#    examine his other works on Qabalah we find inconsistencies, for 
>#    while here he is lauding the Tree of Life 
>apparently only the Lurianic Tree, btw.
allegedly - the question of Lurianic influence on the GD is possibly
less than settled.

>#    as an analytic tool in transcendental philosophy, elsewhere 
>#    he leaps into the "unintelligible nonsense" in a big way, 
>#    particularly via gematria, apparently operating a double 
>#    standard; on rare occasions he even uses "colel", surely 
>#    the most notorious fudge in the repertoire of Hebrew, and, 
>#    for that matter, Greek, kabbalists.  
>what is "colel" and why does this constitute a "notorious fudge"?
Colel is the practice of allowing a difference of one between gematrias,
as for example comparing words/phrases totalling 667 and 666 as if they
were equal. 

When looking for a meaningful '718' AC added up <'hail A.'.A.'.> in
Greek, which is basically adding 2 to the word 'hail' to get a fit.

Colel *might* be justified in geometry and astronomy based alpha-numeric
systems, religious architecture and planetary orbits are big enough to
permit a little 'fudging'. But modern hermetic qabalah isn't specially
astronomical, and colel has gotten a bad name. I still dislike colel
even though it may point to astronomical and geometrical applications of
gematria in an earlier era, which is right up my street.

>#    Our understanding of the relationship of kabbalist with text 
>#    is not going to be advanced much by Crowley, since that
>#    tradition was virtually a closed book to him.
>then the question should again be brought up: if this tradition
>was a "closed book" to him, why did he perpetuate the notion
>that "qabalah" was something he knew about in any way whatever?

the distinction between Kabbalah and Qabalah has been argued elsewhere,
and this post is too long already. 

Briefly, AL is 'qab-AL-istic' and if the hebrews can tell me more about
what that means than Crowley himself - so be it.

>if he was perpetuating a pre-existing Christian appropriation,
>what does this say about him as a reliable source and man of
>the kind of integrity which Thelemic philosophy indicates is
>indicative of the 'New Aeon'?

as I've said, many elements of the Hebrew system aren't necessarily the
product of the Hebrews. They transmitted *and transformed* various
themes - but have no final say in what follows thereafter.

>#    The modus operandi of traditional qaballism is ascertainable 
>#    from such works as Scholem's and also those of Kaplan 
>#    (see Reviews in Equinox/BJT 7 and 8). Although the former 
>#    authority is explicitly uncharitable to the work of 
>#    non-Jewish kabbalists, and the latter implicitly, this is 
>#    perhaps readily excused on the grounds of both the cultural 
>#    heritage and scholastic background of these two authors. 
>#    Disregarding their evident bias,
>that is, they are *JEWISH* and would know best who should be
>included as authorities on the subject which they are attempting
>to cover in their text.

not so, they can tell us more about Kabbalah, but have their own axes to

> why should this be considered anything
>but a bias justified by familiarity with the subject matter?
>why should this bias be "disregarded"?  if it is, doesn't this
>represent a slap in the face of Judaic mysticism and its history?
because we are learning from them, not how to be them.

Naturally ANY disagreement with a Jewish author can be portrayed in an
unfavourable light by officiously P/C authors. Is it anti-semitic to
criticise Marx?

I don't believe God built the universe with the Alef Bet, but despite
this find the Kabbalists have much to say that bears directly on word
magick and mystical exegesis. This information is not their  exclusivel
possession, and no misrepresentation or ulterior motive in relation to
the Jewish people and their traditions is implied by using it.

I heard a story once, a 'pagan' meeting discussed which was the largest
pagan faith in the UK. 'Odinism' vied with 'Dianism' for a while until
the only gentleman present who was from the real world said 'Hindus'. 

I don't call myself a pagan, let alone a Hindu, nor do I call myself a
Kabbalist. I learn where I can, and follow the tradition that is
meaningful to me, enlightened by insights drawn from other traditions
with links of one kind or another. Hairsplitting and political
correctness, and other species of tunnel vision, are impediments I
prefer to avoid.

>#    we should look closely into their works for a picture of
>#    traditional kabbalism of greater lucidity than was available 
>#    in Crowley's day. The main feature that emerges 
>emerges from a reference to which text(s)?  Rosenroth?  do you
>know of any others which he might have consulted?

I'm not talking about which sources he consulted, but those which were
unavailable to him. Historiography doesn't have the same interest for
>#    is extreme immersion in the written word of the Torah, coupled 
>#    with intense prayer and meditation. 
>doesn't it matter that this immersion was not in a vacuum, but
>also occurred within a SOCIAL system that provided a veritable
>crucible for the mystical process?  omitting this context, are
>the activities mentioned above at all comparable?

word magick and cultural engineering are complimentary disciplines. 

Saint Cyril (as in Cyrillic) was a classy cultural engineer.

I'm interested in building such a culture, and experience of various
types of community has been very useful to me. Avoiding the pitfalls
attendant on the structures usually associated with a 'magical Order'
for example.

Language and magick are the most potent tools for the job. Certainly
more effective than socio-political or comparative religion discussion
groups whose lifestyle is entirely mainstream. 

New Age Travellers and Teepee dwellers outperform any college occult
society or suburban coven when it comes to establishing a cultural
milieu in which magick is a feature. IMO YMMV

>#    The magical apparatus surrounding the method is one familiar 
>#    to all students of the Book of the Dead and the Books of
>#    the Gnosis. This consists of the use of Words of Power to 
>#    access the various divisions of the underworld or cosmos. 
>Scholem has some interesting things to say about magic with
>respect to kabbalah (when 'practical kabbalah' begins to be
>differentiated amongst the Jews themselves as magic into
>'black' and 'white' varieties -- the careful student will
>find the source listing here quite interesting):

Practical Kabbalah is many things to many people - and the Kabbalists
have rejected many such elements as 'illegitimate' even though the likes
of Abulafia were using processes dangerously similar. This is my point,
the Kabbalists themselves DENY these elements belong to them - but they
are exactly the portions most interesting to us. How is it wrong for me
to say it is legitimate to use them, and they aren't specifically
Jewish, but okay for Scholem to say exactly the same thing?
>I don't notice a preponderance of "divisions of the underworld 
>or cosmos" in the description provided by Scholem above in the
>prominent features of 'practical (magical) Kabbalah'.  it is
>true that there was some portion describing angelology and
>demonology, but this was not given emphasis at least in this
>source.  is there some reason for this, or are you over-
>emphasizing it in relation to the history of kabbalah?

no, the magical elements are also present in the Hekaloth texts, which
deal specifically with Gates and Palaces etc.

such hierachical structures for modelling the universe and creation were
also a feature of Gnosticism, Jewish and Gentile, and are a feature of
Indian and Babylonian traditions among others. Their place in magick,
with or without Kabbalah, is a given IMO.

Moreover a demonic hierachy, (ala Grimoireum Verum, or even ala Dante)
is only an inversion of this idea - and may be read in various ways.
Astrology also is a structure with divisions and subdivisions which may
be explored ritualistically and in other ways - such has been a feature
of Jewish and Gentile magico-mystical systems in various eras.

>#    In this, we can readily see how the E.'.Q.'. can be of 
>#    very direct assistance. The Tables of A.M.E.N. will be 
>#    very readily adapted for such purposes, extracting the 
>#    appropriate Names and using them to invoke the various 
>#    levels of the Thelemic Cosmo-conception....
>[description of Tables, a compilation of THelemic godnames, omitted]
>this makes a great deal of sense given the premises previous.
I'm sure Cornelius Agrippa would reconise the approach - even if many
moderns don't. It applies principle rather than borrowing form.

>#    The Qaballa reveals a good deal more besides, of an esoteric
>#    nature, and on a level so advanced that the training above 
>#    described is almost essential to even appreciate a portion 
>#    of it. It is true that processes such as invocation and 
>#    astrological timing are comparatively simple to put into 
>#    effect. What is not simple is dealing with the Book on its 
>#    own level, and following the chains of ideas and number 
>#    symbolism to their ultimate goal.
>#    This requires not only considerable intellectual gifts, but also
>#    - dare I say it - moral qualities rarely found in twentieth 
>#    century culture. 
>but if one is not going to follow the religious restrictions that
>are provided to the context of Jewish kabbalists, who at times
>abandoned the moral prerequisite ALSO, then why bother with the
>association of spiritual or character purity?  there seems to be
>some contradiction here. 
I believe your question is answered in the text. Justice and Mercy etc.
are archetypal qualities, not just nice words which sound exotic in
another language (Gevurah et Gedulah). 

Which archetypal qualities are attributed to which sphere of which new
fangled tree or model in the present era I currently have no idea.

I do know that possessing courage or loyalty gives you power in certain
areas, as do mercy and compassion, or any other 'archetypal quality'.
That is what the particular qualities from which the Sephiroth take
their names are. No particular list is exhaustive, but the ideas are of
a kind, 'moral powers', 'archetypes', 'virtues'. 

This is an observation. No particular religious law is implied here,
simply a reflection on how magick works. Religious dogma insisting on
particular behaviour (associated rightly or wrongly with 'virtues', ie
Powers) does not explain how particular qualities confers power or sets
limits. Magick - as defined here - does explain, without advocating any
particular course of behaviour. It's no good advocating it anyway - you
possess the qualities you possess, or can develop. No grace, no guilt.

There is no right or wrong here, it is just ideas in action. In order to
evolve you have to be alive, and language evolves and exists
independantly of any single consciousness. Therefore it is alive, and
underlies magick to a phenomenal degree. 

'Courage' is not good or bad, it simply is, and when present has
specific effects on its possessors abilities and limits. There is no
point ordering a man to be brave because God says so. He won't have the
power, or the achilles heel, of the 'hero' who is a living expression of
that archetype.

 A situation best explained by the kind of model advocated here -
psycho-linguistic archetypes, or 'word magick' as the underlying reality
- not fixed, not determined, but deeply influential on all levels and at
all times.

>can we treat this like a scientific enterprise which dismisses
>the religious components as a replaceable psychomythic variable and 
>yet retain assessments of personal character that may also be
>recommended or aspired to within that same culture?

yes, that is the general idea - but cult-like procedures are valuable
despite that. It is the POV that is different. 

>  why should
>these not also be abandoned?  why don't the Thelemic gods let
>the unscrupulous ritualist achieve the same level of success in
>magic as one of a saintly character?  what is the mechanism
>scientific which obviates this as an inconsistency here?

if the unscrupulous ritualist is a liar, a coward and a cheat he will
lack the power inherent in honesty, courage and self reliance. Sounds
scientific to me: don't expect it to produce light, if it's a sewage
works. Don't expect it to produce fertiliser, if it's a power plant.

>#    The very simplest of rules in traditional magick assume 
>#    phenomenal importance in this area.
>why do the rules work HERE but not elsewhere?  why shouldn't we
>dismiss this as so much more religious bullshit that could and
>should be dismissed as unworthy of the metropolitan syncretist?

feel free. I'm a rural conjuror and will do as I please whatever.

>that is, once you've excavated the Jewish (or other) qualities
>of the mysticism which supports your magical system, then what
>is it that allows allow you to settle into an alternative? 

I'm not interested in their moral law, but in techniques and methods,
and experiential data that can benefit my practice. In the process one
discovers that moral powers (as opposed to morality) are not a question
of religion, but of archetypal forces.

> are
>you willing to posit the equivalence of the two in some way, as
>some sort of psychosocial paradigm-program, or do you think that
>your religious paradigm is somehow more exalted and true in some

see above
>I'm trying to ascertain the level of cultural bias and bigotry 
>afoot.  why don't we, as good Thelemic scientists, simply omit
>the religious elements completely?  you mention something like
>this in your consideration of 'atheistic magicians', and yet you
>dismiss this by claiming that 
>#    ...the world view of ancient Gnosticism and Kabbalah is 
>#    the best approximation to the techniques and experiences 
>#    involved with this system that I am able to find.

there is no contradiction here. Practice, not Theology, demands terms of

>#    The fact that magick does not adapt itself easily to modern
>#    scientific language, or to rationalistic psychological 
>#    viewpoints, is not my concern. My efforts are directed 
>#    towards making available a sophisticated modern magical
>#    methodology.
>so what makes a magical methodology "sophisticated"? 

first off it's usually a good idea for it to actually work.

adaptability, the capacity to generate tools for what you need at a
given time, rather than having to botch something up from the limited
means provided by museum collections.

> and what
>elements of that reflected from Jewish kabbalists strikes you
>as somehow more of utility, geared toward modern scientific
>and/or psychological (atheistic?) world views? 

they have a methodology appropriate to the task - involving exegesis of
a central text as its base (ie a 'perfect' expression of the word from
which a 'culture' or at least a 'ritual language' may emerge.) Tantric
mantra theory also offers comparisons and lines of research.

> why not choose
>something more shamanistic,

what makes you so sure shamans weren't word magicians? Or that climbing
the Tree of Life is so very different from climbing the pole in a
shamans hut? Or that the shamans weren't astrologers and mathematicians? 

I'd say the paleolithic peoples who built observatories in stone
practiced shamanic religion which involved the very ideas expressed

> less rational,

an unusual charge! ;-)

> less prone to
>philosophic deconstruction?

the philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point is to change
it. As a Marxist of the Groucho faction I don't mind what the
philosophers think.

>  why not deconstruct even the
>edifice of magic, as the Kaos Mayjuz are prone to do?

>then again, why do you think that any or all of it can be
>'extracted' from Jewish culture and 'filled up' with a new
>religious paradigm?  what gives you the idea that this is at
>all possible?

experience - I didn't set out to derive anything from Kabbalah, just
became aware how much work in *my* area they had already done. I found
precedents after I'd had experiences to which they were relevant - not
the other way round.
>#    The Book of the Law simply does not envisage, and 
>#    consequently cannot accomodate, any individual who is not 
>#    possessed of the traditional qualities of a magician
>#    becoming involved with it. Of primary importance,
>#    considering the very nature of a book, is the ability to 
>#    keep one's word, for one's word to mean what it says....
>this is hardly unique. what qualities of magery would you
>include in this list of incompatability such that a person
>would be able to 'qualify' to learn the Art?
not my decision, but you can't make a silk purse out of sows ear.
>#    Many students of the kabbalah fail to see clearly that
>#    the Sephiroth are moral powers; they see the exotic titles 
>#    rather than the meaning, nor is this entirely their own
>#    fault. If nothing else, E.'.Q.'. brings home to its 
>#    devotees the interior world of the qaballa. To the Hebrews 
>#    these old titles were not exotic, the words struck home to 
>#    them just as the word freedom sounds in the ear of an
>#    oppressed person in the land of a tyrant, or love in the ear 
>#    of a young girl. In the same way, the English Qaballa brings 
>#    us the power and potency of the ancient magick in a form
>#    comprehensible to the aspirants and adepts of today....
>does it matter to those who read such words that authorities
>like Scholem describe practical Kabbalah's extents with respect
>to these over-emphasized sephiroth in such terms as these?:
>       Historically speaking, a large part of the contents
>       of practical Kabbalah considerably predate those of
>       speculative Kabbalah and are not dependent on them.
>       In effect, what came to be considered practical
>       Kabbalah constituted an agglomeration of all the
>       magical practices that developed in Judaism from
>       the talmudic period down through the Middle Ages.
>       The doctrine of the *Sefirot* hardly ever played
>       a decisive role in these practices, despite
>       occasional attempts from the late 13th century
>       on to integrate the two.

no, it does not matter - and note that the essay you are reviewing says
essentially the same thing - right down to saying the Sephiroth are not
a feature of all variants in all times.

OTOH other authors, with some justice, say that the Practical Kabbalah
is the Literal Kabbalah. I say Literal Kabbalah and Practical Kabbalah
impinge on the same sphere, and a hoot to historians and theologians who
beg to differ.

>       __________________________________________________
>       Ibid., p. 183.
>       ---------------
>doesn't the predominant focus on what is called in Hermetic
>texts "low" magic within kabbalistic texts indicate that
>quasi-Christian theists like Crowley and the EQs have taken
>a wrong turn somewhere? 

only if they were trying to become Jewish Kabbalists, which they weren't

> that perhaps the justification that
>they wish to provide is based on religious zealotry and
>appropriation rather than a respectful syncretism which both
>properly acknowledges its source while continuing to 
>honestly deal in the multivaried objectives to which these 
>sources contributed?

Kabbalah is not the source of EQ, it is a parallel.

AL is the source of EQ, as the Torah and Talmud is the source of

I respect the Kabbalah, I do not respect barriers.

thank you for a most interesting (and time consuming!) discussion. 

all the best

93 93/93



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