First published in Liber ABA (Part II), Aleister Crowley’s Magick is essential reading for students of Thelema and the occult. This guide to the principle tenets of black magic is a concise version of the more dense four-book magnum opus Liber ABA or ‘Book 4’ and is recommended to initiates.
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Published by Logos, 2017.
Magick by Aleister Crowley. First published in Liber ABA (Part II), 1911.
Cover, interior design and editing © Copyright 2017 Logos Publishing.
First e-book edition 2017.
CHAPTER I | THE TEMPLE
CHAPTER II | THE CIRCLE
CHAPTER III | THE ALTAR
CHAPTER IV | THE SCOURGE, THE DAGGER, AND THE CHAIN
CHAPTER V | THE HOLY OIL
CHAPTER VI | THE WAND
CHAPTER VII | THE CUP
CHAPTER VIII | THE SWORD
CHAPTER IX | THE PANTACLE
CHAPTER X | THE LAMP
CHAPTER XI | THE CROWN
CHAPTER XII | THE ROBE
CHAPTER XIII | THE BOOK
CHAPTER XIV | THE BELL
CHAPTER XV | THE LAMEN
CHAPTER XVI | THE MAGICK FIRE; WITH CONSIDERATIONS OF THE THURIBLE, THE CHARCOAL, AND THE INCENSE
Further Reading: The Book of the Law and The Book of Lies
HITHERTO we have spoken only of the mystic path; and we have kept particularly to the practical exoteric side of it. Such difficulties as we have mentioned have been purely natural obstacles. For example, the great question of the surrender of the self, which bulks so largely in most mystical treatises, has not been referred to at all. We have said only what a man must do; we have not considered at all what that doing may involve. The rebellion of the will against the terrible discipline of meditation has not been discussed; one may now devote a few words to it.
There is no limit to what theologians call ‘wickedness.’ Only by experience can the student discover the ingenuity of the mind in trying to escape from control. He is perfectly safe so long as he sticks to meditation, doing no more and no less than that which we have prescribed; but the mind will probably not let him remain in that simplicity. This fact is the root of all the legends about the ‘Saint’ being tempted by the ‘Devil.’ Consider the parable of Christ in the Wilderness, where he is tempted to use his magical power, to do anything but the thing that should be done. These attacks on the will are as bad as the thoughts which intrude upon Dharana. It would almost seem as if one could not successfully practice meditation until the will had become so strong that no force in the Universe could either bend or break it. Before concentrating the lower principle, the mind, one must concentrate the higher principle, the Will. Failure to understand this has destroyed the value of all attempts to teach Yoga, Menticulture, New Thought and the like.
There are methods of training the will, by which it is easy to check one's progress.
Everyone knows the force of habit. Everyone knows that if you keep on acting in a particular way, that action becomes easier, and at last absolutely natural.
All religions have devised practices for this purpose. If you keep on praying with your lips long enough, you will one day find yourself praying in your heart.
The whole question has been threshed out and organized by wise men of old; they have made a Science of Life complete and perfect; and they have given to it the name of MAGICK. It is the chief secret of the Ancients, and if the keys have never been actually lost, they have certainly been little used.
Again, the confusion of thought caused by the ignorance of the people who did not understand it has discredited the whole subject. It is now our task to re-establish this science in its perfection.
To do this we must criticize the Authorities; some of them have made it too complex, others have completely failed in such simple matters as coherence. Many of the writers are empirics, still more mere scribes, while by far the largest class of all is composed of stupid charlatans.
We shall consider a simple form of magick, harmonized from many systems old and new, describing the various weapons of the Magician and the furniture of his temple. We shall explain to what each really corresponds, and discuss the construction and the use of everything.
The Magician works in a Temple; the Universe, which is (be it remembered!) conterminous with himself.
In this temple a Circle is drawn upon the floor for the limitation of his working. This circle is protected by divine names, the influences on which he relies to keep out hostile thoughts. Within the circle stands an Altar, the solid basis on which he works, the foundation of all. Upon the Altar are his Wand, Cup, Sword, and Pantacle, to represent his Will, his Understanding, his Reason, and the lower parts of his being, respectively. On the Altar, too, is a phial of Oil, surrounded by a Scourge, a Dagger, and a Chain, while above the Altar hangs a Lamp. The Magician wears a Crown, a single Robe, and a Lamen, and he bears a Book of Conjurations and a Bell.
The oil consecrates everything that is touched with it; it is his aspiration; all acts performed in accordance with that are holy. The scourge tortures him; the dagger wounds him; the chain binds him. It is by virtue of these three that his aspiration remains pure, and is able to consecrate all other things. He wears a crown to affirm his lordship, his divinity; a robe to symbolize silence, and a lamen to declare his work. The book of spells or conjurations is his magical record, his Karma. In the East is the Magick Fire, in which all burns up at last.
We will now consider each of these matters in detail.
THE TEMPLE REPRESENTS the external Universe.
The Magician must take it as he finds it, so that it is of no particular shape; yet we find written, Liber VII, vi, 2:
"We made us a Temple of stones in the shape of the Universe, even as thou didst wear openly and I concealed."
THIS SHAPE IS THE Vesica Piscis but it is only the greatest of the Magicians who can thus fashion the Temple. There may, however, be some choice of rooms; this refers to the power of the Magician to reincarnate in a suitable body.
THE CIRCLE ANNOUNCES the Nature of the Great Work.
Though the Magician has been limited in his choice of room, he is more or less able to choose what part of the room he will work in. He will consider convenience and possibility. His circle should not be too small and cramp his movements; it should not be so large that he has long distances to traverse. Once the circle is made and consecrated, the Magician must not leave it, or even lean outside, lest he be destroyed by the hostile forces that are without.
He chooses a circle rather than any other lineal figure for many reasons; e.g.,
1. He affirms thereby his identity with the infinite.
2. He affirms the equal balance of his working; since all points on the circumference are equidistant from the center.
3. He affirms the limitation implied by his devotion to the Great Work. He no longer wanders about aimlessly in the world.
THE CENTER OF THIS circle is the center of the Tau of ten squares which is in the midst, as shown in the illustration. The Tau and the circle together make one form of the Rosy Cross, the uniting of subject and object which is the Great Work, and which is symbolized sometimes as this cross and circle, sometimes as the Lingam-Yoni, sometimes as the Ankh or Crux Ansata, sometimes by the Spire and Nave of a church or temple, and sometimes as a marriage feast, mystic marriage, spiritual marriage, chymical nuptials, and in a hundred other ways. Whatever the form chosen, it is the symbol of the Great Work.
This place of his working therefore declares the nature and object of the Work. Those persons who have supposed that the use of these symbols implied worship of the generative organs, merely attributed to the sages of every time and country minds of a caliber equal to their own.
The Tau is composed of ten squares for the ten Sephiroth.
About this Tau is escribed a triangle, which is inscribed in the great Circle; but of the triangle nothing is actually marked but the three corners, the areas defined by the cutting of the lines bounding this triangle. This triangle is only visible in the parts which are common to two of the sides; they have therefore the shape of the diamond, one form of the Yoni. The significance of this is too complex for our simple treatise; it may be studied in Crowley's Berashith.
The size of the whole figure is determined by the size of one square of the Tau. And the size of this square is that of the base of the Altar, which is placed upon Maukuth. It will follow then that, in spite of the apparent freedom of the Magician to do anything he likes, he is really determined absolutely; for as the Altar must have a base proportionate to its height, and as that height must be convenient for the Magician, the size of the whole will depend upon his own stature. It is easy to draw a moral lesson from these considerations. We will merely indicate this one, that the scope of any man's work depends upon his own original genius. Even the size of the weapons must be determined by necessary proportion. The exceptions to this rule are the Lamp, which hangs from the roof, above the center of the Circle, above the square of Tiphereth; and the Oil, whose phial is so small that it will suit any altar.
On the Circle are inscribed the Names of God; the Circle is of green, and the names are in flaming vermilion, of the same color as the Tau. Without the Circle are nine pentagrams equidistant, in the center of each of which burns a small Lamp; these are the Fortresses upon the Frontiers of the Abyss. See the eleventh Aethyr, Liber 418 (Equinox V). They keep off those forces of darkness which might otherwise break in.
The names of God form a further protection. The Magician may consider what names he will use; but each name should in some way symbolize this Work in its method and accomplishment. It is impossible here to enter into this subject fully; the discovery or construction of suitable names might occupy the most learned Qabalist for many years.
These nine lamps were originally candles made of human fat, the fat of enemies slain by the Magician; they thus served as warnings to any hostile force of what might be expected if it caused trouble. Today such candles are difficult to procure; and it is perhaps simpler to use beeswax. The honey has been taken by the Magician; nothing is left of the toil of all those hosts of bees but the mere shell, the fuel of light. This beeswax is also used in the construction of the Pantacle, and this forms a link between the two symbols. The Pantacle is the food of the Magus; and some of it he gives up in order to give light to that which is without. For these lights are only apparently hostile to intrusion; they serve to illuminate the Circle and the Names of God, and so to bring the first and outmost symbols of initiation within the view of the profane.
These candles stand upon pentagrams, which symbolize Geburah, severity, and give protection; but also represent the microcosm, the four elements crowned by Spirit, the Will of man perfected in its aspiration to the Higher. They are placed outside the Circle to attract the hostile forces, to give them the first inkling of the Great Work, which they too must someday perform.
THE ALTAR REPRESENTS the solid basis of the work, the fixed Will of the Magician; and the law under which he works. Within this altar everything is kept, since everything is subject to law. Except the lamp.
According to some authorities the Altar should be made of oak to represent the stubbornness and rigidity of law; others would make it of Acacia, for Acacia is the symbol of resurrection.
The Altar is a double cube, which is a rough way of symbolizing the Great Work; for the doubling of the cube, like the squaring of the circle, was one of the great problems of antiquity. The surface of this Altar is composed of ten squares. The top is Kether, and the bottom Malkuth. The height of the Altar is equal to the height above the ground of the navel of the Magician. The Altar is connected with the Ark of the Covenant, Noah's Ark, the nave ("navis," a ship) of the Church, and many other symbols of antiquity, whose symbolism has been well worked out in an anonymous book called The Cannon, which should be studied carefully before constructing the Altar.
For this Altar must embody the Magician's knowledge of the laws of Nature, which are the laws through which he works.
He should endeavor to make geometrical constructions to symbolize cosmic measurements. For example, he may take the two diagonals as (say) the diameter of the sun. Then the side of the altar will be found to have a length equal to some other cosmic measure, a vesica drawn on the side some other, a "rood cross" within the vesica yet another. Each Magician should work out his own system of symbolism—and he need not confine himself to cosmic measurements. He might, for example, find some relation to express the law of inverse squares.
The top of the Altar shall be covered with gold, and on this gold should be engraved some such figure as the Holy Oblation, or the New Jerusalem, or, if he have the skill, the Microcosm of Vitruvius, of which we give illustrations.
On the sides of the Altar are also sometimes drawn the great tablets of the elements, and the sigils of the holy elemental kings, as shown in The Equinox, No. VII; for these are syntheses of the forces of Nature. Yet these are rather special than general symbols, and this book purports to treat only of the grand principles of working.
THE SCOURGE, THE DAGGER, and the Chain, represent the three alchemical principles of Sulphur, Mercury, and Salt. These are not the substances which we now call by these names; they represent principles, whose operations chemists have found it more convenient to explain in other ways. But Sulphur represents the energy of things, Mercury their fluidity, Salt their fixity. They are analogous to Fire, Air and Water; but they mean rather more, for they represent something deeper and subtler, and yet more truly active. An almost exact analogy is given by the three Gunas of the Hindus; Sattvas, Rajas, and Tamas. Sattvas is Mercury, equable, calm, clear; Rajas is Sulphur, active, excitable, even fierce; Tamas is Salt, thick, sluggish, heavy, dark.
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