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on the worship of Priapus

To: alt.magick
From: (Phygelus)
Subject: Re: on the worship of Priapus
Date: 3 Sep 2002 18:25:52 -0700

My apologies for taking a long time to respond to [M]'s post; it
deserves a thoughtful response, and I've been busy lately.  I've also
been chewing on this because I'm wearing some of my influences on my
sleeve and have been trying to think through where I should give
credit where credit is due.  Also, it's just taken a while for me to
cough up this hairball.  It's been stewing since before this thread,
and if anything, [M], I should thank you for your brief antagonism
bringing it out.

I'd like to reiterate some of the ideas that began this thread, that
the best defenses of the mass I've seen usually center around the
observation, not always clearly expressed, that Something Else,
unanticipated in the mass script, happens when the mass is performed.
I've referred to this earlier in the thread as "Babalon busting loose
all over the place" although I'm dissatisfied with that description.
This phenomenon is at odds with the presentation of the mass in Liber
XV, and with the emphasis in the script on the priest's function in
consecrating the hosts.  It's a clear case of experiment disagreeing
with theory, and it's no wonder that it generates controversy among
people who are interested in Crowley.  I'm sympathetic with attempts
to wring every last drop of meaning and beauty from the gnostic mass
as a celebration of the reconciliation of opposites and the interplay
between the microcosm and the macrocosm, but these efforts don't
redeem the fundamental flaws of the ritual as written.

>The first action: the Priestess welcomes and blesses the Priest.  
>Then she takes his lance and sanctifies it.  
>She purifies the Priest with salt and water.
>She invokes/evokes the Lord by stroking the Priest's lance.

>Are all those meaningless acts?  Are those roles simply a celebration
>of the male sexual function, or do you think perhaps maybe they
>actually celebrate the female sexual function?

This part is not so much about the female generative functions as it
is about the priestess arousing the male priest.  The arousal of the
priestess here is only peripherally implied at best, and in the
context of the purification of the priest.  In a ritual that
symbolizes a form of heterosexual sex magic, sure, this section is
"feminine."  In general, though, these acts don't depict functions
that are unique to the female sex.  There's precious little mention of
the primary and uniquely female generative functions---ovulation,
menstruation, pregnancy, and childbirth---in the mass script.  Let's
look at where they are mentioned:

Babalon is referred to as "one earth, the mother of us all" in the
credo.[1] One can also read the bit about the "Baptism of Wisdom" as
referring to the literal birth of the individual, however, it becomes

Let's examine, though, the rest of the creed.  In the opening, Crowley
writes "I believe in one secret and ineffable LORD, and in one Star in
the Company of Stars of whose fire we are created, and to which we
shall return; and in one Father of Life..."

Crowley thought all the magic and individuality and life-force and
essence was in the sperm, that the egg was merely a container, and the
female's lesser life-force merely nourishes the homonculus conceived
at the male's orgasm---both literally and esoterically.  These ideas
run all through his writing on sex magic and sexual generation:
Cavalorn's listed a few citations elsewhere in this thread.  I'm not
sure where Aleister got these ideas since he was not only wrong, he
was significantly behind his contemporaries---there's no sign in any
of his writings that I know of that the man knew about Mendelian
genetics or about any of the advances in the understanding of human
generation that took place during his lifetime.  Even the chromosomes
depicted on card XV of the Thoth deck (which was produced very late in
his career) are shown as part of the testicles of the (cough)
world-ash, wonder-tree, amid dancing homonculi.  What *is* odd here is
that his writing on sexual generation reads more like
early-twentieth-century caricatures of the refuted preformationist,
"spermist" doctrine than like what the so-called "spermists" of the
17th and 18th century actually wrote and believed.[2] As a shorthand,
though, it's fair to describe his doctrine as "spermist".  This
spermism was a major source of confusion for me---and I suspect for
many others---in interpreting Crowley's symbolism.  I tended to think
that someone who was as intelligent, well-informed, and erudite as
Crowley would understand the basic facts of sexual generation as well
as the football coach who taught my high school "health" class.  It's
also been pointed out to me recently that I should clarify that these
spermist ideas about procreation were not intended by Crowley to be
*secrets* to be puzzled out; they are assumptions he considered it a
given that his audience would share.

Going further, the Lion and the Serpent are clearly phallic.  One
might interpret the verse about the "Church" as feminine, as in the
catholic Christian tradition of the Church as the bride of Christ,
though Crowley is not explicit on this point.  The communion of the
Saints may well be open to both men and women, but as we find out
later, in the collects, the saints of the tradition (and by extension,
the saints of the EGC) themselves are all male.  And finally, by
Crowley's spermist doctrine, the "Miracle of Incarnation" becomes then
an operation of the father that is merely assisted by the mother.  The
"baptism of wisdom" is the nourishing of the semen created by the
father by the waters of the womb.  Yes, this is counter-factual.  Yes,
there's more than one "statement about nature which would not be
endorsed by the most materialistic man of science" in the mass.

Things get a little more balanced towards the middle of the mass:

2. Menarche is mentioned in parallel with the onset of male
puberty in the calendar.

3. To be fair, the collects are pretty evenly distributed between male
and female functions, if you discount the fact that a quarter or so of
the text of the collects is the exclusively male saints list.

But then comes a puzzler:

4. The female "waiting womb" is mentioned in parallel with the male
(well, really androgyne, but it's given to the male chorus) "gilded
tomb" in the anthem of the mass.  This is quite curious in and of
itself!  Of course, these both pay homage to the semen that the anthem
celebrates.  Glory to thee!

Of course, after the collects, the preparations are over, and the mass
is nearly entirely the priest's.  The whole consecration of the cakes
in points VI through VIII---as Maroney points out in "Facts and
Phallacies", these contain the central formula of the mass---is
performed by the priest with the priestess serving as a sort of
cosmic-night-sky-goddess Vanna White, who keeps her mouth shut and
holds back her orgasm until the priest is damned good and ready at

Some people seem to think that's sexist.  I guess it's just because
they haven't tried reversing the roles in the mass.

>In which case, how can her role be 'subordinate' in the
>sexist sense?  It is only "subordinate" in the way that the light of
>the moon is "subordinate" to the light of the sun.

I think that's about as concise a statement of the weird ideas Crowley
had about sex and sex-roles as any.  How visible is the moon when the
light of the sun does not fall upon it?  Does either the "feminine" or
the female need the "masculine" or the male to "shine"?

To be more explicit, my understanding of Crowley's sex magical
formulae, as expressed in the gnostic mass and elsewhere, does not
agree with my experience and experiment.  For one, as far as the
material basis is concerned, female fluids have an intensity of effect
that goes far beyond merely stimulating, receiving, and nourishing the
male and his juices.  For another, I almost never expect a sex partner
to merely reflect my light, to serve as a moon to my sun, any more
than I expect to merely mirror the energy of an active partner.  I
mean, if you're doing it right, there's not just one "I" until there
is none, otherwise why have a partner at all?

>So? Move beyond Crowley's limited interpretation.  Even though his
>commentaries reveal sexist or misogynistic biases, his actual
>work - his inspired writings - are actually quite balanced.  It seems
>to me that you're getting stuck by your own blinds.

By his "inspired writings" do you mean the writing he put in his
"Class A"?  For the most part, these do not include explicit ritual,
and perhaps the only mention of uniquely female mysteries to be
ritually celebrated is in Liber Stellae Rubae (LXVI), verse 39: "Also
the Priestess shall seek another altar, and perform my ceremonies
thereon."  His presentation of sex in this and his other "Class A"
documents is perhaps more balanced than in the rest of his writing,
but it is still depicted from a markedly male perspective.  In other
documents, where he more explicitly presents sex magical ritual and
formulae (the Star Sapphire, the Gnostic Mass, the Grimorium
Sanctissimum, _Magick_, _Liber Aleph_ etc), his formulae are decidedly

If anything, my blinds have tended towards an overly heterosexual,
specifically, dyadically heterosexual, reading of Crowley.  Hell, for
the longest time I thought he meant vaginal fluids when he wrote about


[1] The creed is perhaps the most distasteful portion of the mass.
Who really wants to participate in a transgressive ritual, a black
mass, which opens with a statement of belief?

[2] A really good historical treatment of the ideas people have had
about human generation is _The Ovary of Eve_ by Clara Pinto-Correia. 
Highly recommended, and very germane to this discussion.  The chapter
on the homonculus is available on-line:

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