Star Ruby Ritual Analysis Essay

When I originally sat down to write this article, I figured that it would be kind of long, or at least longer than the articles I usually post here. Generally I try to shy away from TL;DR territory here on Augoeides, and I try to make my posts as compact as I can. Sometimes, as with news stories, that's easy. On the other hand, sometimes I wind up with an article like this one that is way longer than I expected when I started writing it. Magicians sometimes talk about how the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram, while simple, combines so many different elements of magical work that a detailed analysis can be quite lengthy. As I discovered, the Star Sapphire has similar depth, so I wound up going further down the rabbit hole than I intended when I started working on explaining all the symbolism. Still, I'm proud of the result and I hope it will help those looking for more detailed instructions on how to perform this ritual.

I would like to thank Ixel Balamke for explaining a variation on this ritual that is different than what I present here, but which also involves using wine as the Sacrament. I hadn't previously considered adding a physical eucharistic component to the ceremonial performance of the Star Sapphire, but it does fit the text better than any other step I've seen suggested over the years. That suggestion is what first got me thinking in this direction. I would also like to thank Squid and the other attendees of Leaping Laughter Lodge's ritual workshop nights, who helped me to iron out some of the bits and pieces and justify my interpretation of each step. I would also like to stress that this is by no means an "initiated interpretation" of this ritual based on the system of any particular order or organization. It is simply a very thorough analysis derived from publicly available texts and my own personal experimentats and opinions.

Aleister Crowley's Star Sapphire ritual is one of the most difficult rituals to work out in the entire Thelemic canon. It's not that the ritual instructions are difficult so much as they are so frustratingly vague. Recently I've been experimenting with variations on it at our local Leaping Laughter Lodge ritual workshops, and I think I have finally hit on a detailed set of instructions that correspond to Crowley's description of the rite and are suitable for individual ceremonial work.

The Star Sapphire is Crowley's version of the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram, just as the Star Ruby is his version of the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram. He described the latter as an "improved" version of the pentagram ritual, so I think it's safe to say that he probably considered the Star Sapphire an improved hexagram ritual as well. It is certainly true that both rituals incorporate more Thelemic symbolism than the Golden Dawn rituals that Crowley sought to improve.

The dynamic of the Star Ruby and Star Sapphire is one of the pieces of evidence I like to cite for Crowley's use of the operant field. He didn't call it that, of course, but I am of the opinion that from the design of the two rituals, the Star Ruby is essentially a banishing ritual and the Star Sapphire is essentially an invoking ritual. Banishing is implied by the widdershins motion of the Star Ruby, while invoking is implied by the deosil motion of the Star Sapphire. Also, the description of the Holy Hexagram in The Book of Lies strongly alludes to the invoking character of the latter rite.

I expect that Crowley worked out what I have found over the years - once you start seriously performing magick, it is rare that you use an invoking lesser pentagram or a banishing lesser hexagram. Some of the Golden Dawn schools disagree with this statement, but when you think about it, the rationale behind it makes sense. If your goal is to influence the macrocosmic or external world, why would you banish the very macrocosmic forces you hope to influence by means of a banishing hexagram?

With the operant field method, you banish at the microcosmic level, represented by the pentagram, and invoke at the macrocosmic level, represented by the hexagram. The microcosmic banishing "clears space" within your field of awareness, and the macrocosmic invocation fills that space with symbolic representations of the forces of nature that operate in the external material world. And the structures of the Star Ruby and Star Sapphire line up nicely with this method as Crowley originally wrote them.

Two weeks ago I posted on Operant Fields and Goetic Circles, noting that the design of the traditional circle from the Lemegeton mirrors the idea of the operant field by placing pentagrams at the exterior of the circle and hexagrams within it. Again, the image of inverting microcosmic and macrocosmic elements appears as a metaphor for magical consciousness. Under normal circumstances, we our thoughts remain internal and personal. But when performing magick, we seek to impress those thoughts upon the external world around us.

It is true that Crowley never explicitly equated the Star Ruby and Star Sapphire to the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram and Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram, describing them instead as "improved" versions of the pentagram and hexagram rituals. But as they are general in character, I'm comfortable making that association. I also have experimented with both of them, and as far as I can tell they form an operant field in the same manner as the Lesser Pentagram and Lesser Hexagram do.

As I see it, in the Golden Dawn tradition "Lesser" means "General" and "Greater" means "Specific" - that is, the Greater rituals are used for invoking and banishing specific planets, elements, and signs of the zodiac. I occasionally see people talking as if "Lesser" means "Lame" and "Greater" means "Awesome," but this is simply not the case. And both the Star Ruby and Star Sapphire are general rituals, of the pentagram and hexagram respectively.

The Star Sapphire corresponds to the Star Ruby, and as such should always follow it, just as the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram always follows the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram. As this piece is about the Star Sapphire, I will assume that the reader is already familiar with that ritual and has performed it before implementing these instructions. The text of the Star Sapphire as given by Crowley, with my commentary and instructions, follows.

Let the Adept be armed with his Magick Rood [and provided with his mystic rose].

In the Golden Dawn tradition, the hexagram rituals were only taught to initiates who had attained the grade of Adeptus Minor (5=6) and higher. I believe that "Adept" refers to this tradition, as only an Adept would be performing a hexagram ritual of any sort. Today, though, non-Adepts perform rites like the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram all the time, so I think it is completely reasonable to perform the Star Sapphire without being a member of this grade.

As I discuss in more detail below, Adept consciousness is closely related to transpersonal realization. Some of the old texts make it sound like "becoming an Adept" is a singular event, after which this sort of awareness is somehow completely stabilized. But modern practitioners such as Ken Wilber point out that long before that, it can still be accessed from time to time.

Peak experiences involving otherwise non-spiritual people are good examples of this. Also, the Buddhist tradition has many stories of such experiences involving beginning meditators. Enlightenment - that is, expanded realization - can strike at any time. The difference between an Adept and a non-Adept practitioner is the degree to which this realization is integrated into regular life on an ongoing basis.

So it seems to me that if you're a magical practitioner and want to be an Adept, performing magical rituals designed to cultivate that realization is a good way to go about it. In effect, you "fake it 'til you make it." Failed magical operations are hardly ever dangerous. Usually the worst that will happen is absolutely nothing - that is, the ritual simply fails to produce the desired effect.

To summarize all that, my feeling is that if you are not an Adept but feel drawn to perform the Star Sapphire, go for it. You're not going to hurt yourself, and you might be surprised by how well it works.

To move on, the rest of this instruction is the first of many allusions to the ritual as a sex magick operation. "Magick Rood" and "Mystic Rose" could certainly refer to the sex organs of the two participants if this ritual is being performed by a couple as a sexual rite. One interpretation of this ritual went so far as to assert that the proper way to perform is for the couple to have sex at each of the four quarters and once more at the center to conclude the ritual!

Now that does sound fun, but I suspect it's rather impractical for most people. For individual temple practice, especially on a daily basis, it makes more sense to me to enact the operation symbolically. Since Crowley's Gnostic Mass is a symbolic sex magick ritual, some clues can be taken from that rite that I think can be applied here.

In the Gnostic Mass, the "Magick Rood" would almost certainly represent the lance wielded by the Priest. Likewise, the "Mystic Rose" would refer to the chalice held by the Priestess. In the context of symbolic ceremonial work, then, the "Magick Rood" would refer to the wand and the "Mystic Rose" would refer to the cup. So when I perform this ritual, I place a cup filled with wine or juice on the altar along with the wand.

In the center, let him give the L.V.X. signs, or if he knows them, if he will and dare do them, and can keep silent about them, the signs of N.O.X. being the signs of Puer, Vir, Puella, Mulier. Omit the sign I.R.

My operant model of magick divides the Tree of Life into three sections. This is now alluding to my own work, not Crowley's, though he has probably influenced the development of it more than any other person. The first section, below the Veil of Paroketh, includes Netzach, Hod, Yesod, and Malkuth. I refer to this section as the personal field. This region corresponds to the microcosm as the term is generally used - the internal, individual field of consciousness or awareness.

The second section extends from the Veil of the Abyss to the Veil of Paroketh, and includes Chesed, Geburah, and Tiphareth. I refer to this region as the transpersonal field. This region corresponds to the macrocosm as the term is generally used, though the entire Tree above the Veil of Paroketh is macrocosmic in nature.

A person operating from the perspective of transpersonal realization has internalized the understanding that his or her field of consciousness or awareness includes all that is perceived, and therefore does not end at the boundary of his or her mind or body. This sort of realization corresponds to the grade of Adept, and is employed to produce practical magical effects.

Finally, the third region lies above the Veil of the Abyss and includes Kether, Chockmah, and Binah - the three supernals. I refer to this region as the cosmic field, since it represents the field of consciousness spanning the entire universe as a whole. Stabilization of cosmic realization corresponds to the grade of Magister Templi.

In the Golden Dawn the Signs of L.V.X. represented entry in the sphere of Tiphareth and therefore realization of the transpersonal realm. When Crowley added the N.O.X. signs, he attributed them to the spheres from Geburah upwards to Binah. That is, they represent a symbolic crossing of the Veil of the Abyss.

Therefore, according to my model you would begin the Star Sapphire with the signs of L.V.X. for transcending the Veil of Paroketh, and with the signs of N.O.X. for transcending the Veil of the Abyss. In practice, this generally means L.V.X. for practical magical work and N.O.X. for mystical work, which would include regular daily practice.

Note that the N.O.X. signs are given here in a specific order that does not correspond to their "letter order" that most people us in the Star Ruby. The order that most people seem to give them in the Star Ruby is as shown here, with the elemental attributions found in Liber Reguli:

N - Puella - Air
   - Puer - Fire
O - Vir - Earth
X - Mulier - Water
   - Mater Triumphans (Isis Rejoicing)- Spirit

It is not clear whether Puella or Puer goes first in the "letter order." One of the things I realized when I was working this out, though, is that if you switch the order so that Puer is first, you get a counter-clockwise circle starting in the south that follows the microcosmic "winds" model of the elements, where Fire is in the south, Air is in the east, Earth is in the north, and Water is in the west.

So from an operant field standpoint, that might be a better way to go with the Star Ruby, as the ritual itself makes a widdershins circle around the temple and is a pentagram - that, microcosmic - banishing rite. This becomes even more interesting when you compare it with the order given for the Star Sapphire.

   - Puer - Fire
O - Vir - Earth
N - Puella - Air
X - Mulier - Water

The zodiac or macrocosmic model of the elements, as used in the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram, places Fire in the East, Earth in the South, Air in the West, and Water in the north. So as you can see, the order here starts in the east and represents a deosil walk of the quarters - just as you do when making the hexagrams! So clearly, this order was not accidental.

Furthermore, the spheres to which these signs allude map out the path taken by one who aspires to become a Magister Templi. The L.V.X. signs correspond to Tiphareth. Puer corresponds to Geburah, Vir to Chesed, and both Puella and Mulier to the Babe of the Abyss. Finally, at the culmination of the rite, Set Triumphant corresponds to Binah above the Abyss.

For a number of years I did the Star Ruby using this order, but recently I have switched to the more "standard" one I gave above. In light of how switching Puer and Puella yield a widdershins circle, though, changing the N.O.X. signs that I give in the Star Ruby to that order is next on my list.

The sign of Mater Triumphans (I.R.) is not performed here, but rather at the center following the hexagrams, in the form of the sign of Set Triumphant. From an elemental standpoint, it still represents Spirit, which equilibrates the other four elements, and thus corresponds to the charging of the cup. This sign is given whether you opened the ritual with the signs of L.V.X. or the signs of N.O.X.

Then let him advance to the East and make the Holy Hexagram, saying: Pater et Mater unus deus Ararita.

The Holy Hexagram is explained in The Book of Lies, which is where the Star Sapphire was also first published. The Star Sapphire is Chapter 36, and the Holy Hexagram is explained in Chapter 69. This is another sex magick allusion, but in addition it explains how the figure should look along with the interpretation thereof.

This is the Holy Hexagram.

Plunge from the height, O God, and interlock with Man!

Plunge from the height, O Man, and interlock with Beast!

The Red Triangle is the descending tongue of grace; the Blue Triangle is the ascending tongue of prayer

This Interchange, the Double Gift of Tongues, the Word of Double Power - ABRAHADABRA! - is the sign of the GREAT WORK, for the GREAT WORK is accomplished in silence. And behold is not that word equal to Cheth, that is Cancer, whose sigil is

This Work also eats up itself, accomplishes its end, nourishes the worker, leaves no seed, is perfect in itself.

Little children, love one another!

Crowley further explains in the commentary in the chapter:

This chapter alludes to Levi's drawing of the Hexagram, and is a criticism of, or improvement upon, it. In the ordinary Hexagram, the Hexagram of nature, the red triangle is upwards, like fire, and the blue triangle downwards, like water. In the magical hexagram this is reversed; the descending red triangle is that of Horus, a sign specially revealed by him personally, at the Equinox of the Gods. (it is the flame descending upon the altar, licking up the offering.) The blue triangle represents the aspiration, since blue is the color of devotion, and the triangle, kinetically considered, is the symbol of directed force.

In the first three paragraphs this formation of the hexagram is explained; it is a symbol of the mutual separation of the Holy Guardian Angel and his client. In the interlocking is indicated the completion of the work.

I believe that the first few lines correspond to the two possible forms of the Star Sapphire. "Plunge from the height, O God, and interlock with Man" refers to cosmic realization. "O God" refers to the Qabalistic parts of the soul that reside above the Abyss, which descend to interlock with the Ruach of the Master of the Temple.

Likewise, "Plunge from the height, O Man, and interlock with Beast" refers to transpersonal realization, in which the full Ruach of the Adept, spanning the Veil of Paroketh from Chesed to Yesod, interlocks with the Nephesh or animal soul that corresponds to Malkuth. This may be one reason that "The Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel or of Adonai" is the mystical vision associated with that particular sphere.

The image of the Holy Hexagram given here is straightforward. It consists of a downwards-pointing red triangle and an upwards-pointing blue triangle, and the two are interlocked. Thus, the figure is that of the Hexagram of Earth or Star of David, just like the Golden Dawn Hexagram of Nature. The only difference is the inversion of red and blue on the two triangles. Both the Hexagram of Nature and the Holy Hexagram are shown and labeled as such in the image at the top of this article.

A number of commenters have suggested that the Star Sapphire should use the same hexagrams as the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram, but this does not make sense. While all of the "lesser hexagrams" are made up of two triangles, only in the case of the Hexagram of Earth do they interlock. And the Lesser Hexagram of Fire does not even include a downward-pointing triangle.

Likewise, others have suggested the unicursal hexagram rather than the Hexagram of Earth, but while the unicursal hexagram interlocks, it is not made up of two triangles so the commentary does not apply. The Hexagram of Earth is the only figure that fits both qualifications, and therefore I am convinced that it is the figure that should be traced to all four directions. (But see my update at the bottom - according to OTO archives, Crowley did teach the Holy Hexagram as unicursal to Charles Stansfield Jones. So this assertion appears to be incorrect on my part.)

Let him go round to the South, make the Holy Hexagram and say: Mater et Filius unus deus Ararita.

Let him go round to the West, make the Holy Hexagram and say: Filius et Filia unus deus Ararita.

Let him go round to the North, make the Holy Hexagram and say: Filia et Pater unus deus Ararita.

Opinions vary on the meaning of this phrase – whether it indicates that one should perform again the “exorcism” that begins the ritual or whether it is a redundant description of repeating the QC. Such details as these are rather irrelevant. But the importance of this phrase, “end as thou didst begin,” however, cuts to the very core of Thelemic philosophy and one of its central paradoxes: initiation fundamentally changes the individual, but it ultimately changes nothing at all.

Read on for more.

There are several versions of the Star Ruby extant, each with major and minor differences from each other and from the LBRP. The two main versions are Chapter XXV of Liber 333 (The Book of Lies) and the ritual published as an appendix to Magick in Theory and Practice. For the most part, my Star Ruby of choice is the latter version, which is the one to which I will primarily refer below.

Crowley describes the ritual in Liber 333 as “a new and more elaborate version of the Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.”

Note that it is more elaborate – further elaborated to express the formula of Thelema and the New Aeon – but not necessarily “better.” Just further elaborated. [Actually, Crowley does describe it as “improved” in the AA syllabus, but we might take this to mean “improved in expressing the formula of initiation in the New Aeon”; read on for more]

As is often pointed out, there is no evidence that Crowley ever performed the Star Ruby, and even to the end of his life, it was the LBRP that he practiced and taught to new students (it was instructions for the LBRP that he sent to American OTO students, for example). It could be that writing the Star Ruby was merely a sort of thought-experiment for Crowley.

Of course, there’s also no evidence that he *didn’t* perform the ritual, and it certainly wouldn’t have been unexpected for Crowley to have tried it out at least a few times after writing it. He says in MiTP, Chapter XIII that the “Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (as now rewritten, Liber 333, Cap. XXV) is the best to use” to banish before a ritual, and he notes in Liber Aleph that the Star Ruby is one kind of pentagram ritual that the student may practice to “neglect not” this important ritual.

The text of the Star Ruby can be consulted here.

The remainder of this post will look at each section of the ritual, observing and commenting on the differences between this rite and the LBRP. Readers may want to consult my analysis of the LBRP first and then continue reading this article.


The Exorcism

The Star Ruby differs from the LBRP right out of the gate by having the magician perform an “exorcism”: that is, the magician makes the sign of silence, draws a deep breath, then dashes the hand “back and out” with a sweeping motion, crying “Apo Pantos Kakodaimonos!” Basically, one sweeps the hand down in an arc until it is away from the magician’s body and pointing behind.

This Greek phrase means roughly “Away, all evil spirits!” Actually, the literal meaning is closer to “behind, all evil spirits.” [Consult the Bible when Christ, upon being tempted by Satan, cries, “Get behind me, Satan!” This exact phrase is supposedly used by the Greek Orthodox Church (though I haven’t investigated if this is actually the case), and if that’s true, it’s an example of Crowley appropriating Christian religious ideas for very different ends]

This exorcism is directed to the “demons” – internal forces such as the unconscious complexes, the uninitiated parts of the self that get in the way of the True Will, and any and all thoughts/emotions whatsoever (all aspects of “mind” defined broadly enough to include conscious and unconscious tendencies that obstruct the True Will). In a sense, this gesture and phrase are nothing more than an elaboration of the sign of silence: just as the sign of silence tells the mind to “shut up” and be quiet, this mini-banishing explains that the effect of silencing the mind is to drive away distortions of the True Will. We might even go so far as to say that the entire ritual that follows is nothing more than a further elaboration on the sign of silence. This silencing of the mind symbolically places the conscious thoughts/emotions under the control of the True Will. Hence, “Get behind me, Satan!” is actually a command for the obstructive aspects of the self to fall under the control of the True Self. A close parallel exists in goetic evocation, where the magician invokes the divine force and then demands that the demons obey the divine will in the magician.

[Incidentally, as an aside, there was once an hysterical post on the Temple of Thelema forums in which a poster claims to be disappointed to learn that “Apo Pantos Kakodaimonos” means “away, evil spirits.” Like many doofuses drawn to Thelema, he probably thought it was a “cool” and “badass” phrase that called up “demons,” cause he’s so dark and diabolical and all that jazz.]

One might compare “Apo Pantos Kakodaimons” to the traditional “Hekas Hekas Este Bebeloi.” It announces the beginning of the ritual and serves to put the practitioner in the proper state of mind.

The Qabalistic Cross

The new Qabalistic cross is performed the same way: readers are encouraged to read the description of this part of the ritual in my LBRP article and in Erwin Hessle’s excellent article on the QC.

The main difference here is that the magician touches his “member” when intoning “O Phalle.”

The text of this part of the ritual roughly translates to, “Unto you, O Phallus, the strong and yielding. IAO.”

Like the traditional Qabalistic Cross, this prayer might be seen as directed toward the True Self of the magician, aligning his consciousness with Tipareth by balancing the elements of his being. Apropos of Thelema, Crowley sexualizes the prayer, but it’s important to note that this QC is not merely referring to physical sexuality (or even primarily to a penis), but to the generative principle itself, the procreative force, which can be seen as an active part of the universe (the “All-begetter” part of Pan…see below). The “O” that precedes “Phalle” is not just an honorific, but an emblematic representation of the female counterpart to the phallus: the entire phrase “O Phalle” might be regarded as “the male and female generative powers that run through life and the entire universe.”

As a result, one does not need to be male to perform this ritual: the magician is not addressing a penis, per se, but the source of his or her personal power (biological/procreative, artistic, magical, and vital). Arguably, instructing the magician to touch “thy member” gives away Crowley’s misogynistic bias, but we can easily appropriate this ritual for magicians of any gender.

Unto these procreative powers be ever the opposites – strong/yielding, male/female, [Fire, Air]/[Water, Earth] – whose dynamic balance is found throughout the manifest universe: the name IAO, in fact, can be seen as representing the twin forces of I and O mediated by A (the pentagram, by its shape). I and O represent the male and female principles (by their shape), Isis and Osiris (as abbreviations), and the self (“I”) and the dissolution of self into Nothing (O as zero and also the exclamation “O!” the orgasmic cry of union with all, which is Not).

Crowley’s footnote reminds us that the “secret sense” of these words is to be sought in the “enumeration thereof,” and it’s worth remarking that “O Phalle” adds up to 1366: that’s the number of union (13) placed next to Tipareth expressed through the power of magical force (6x11). It’s also the value of “Phallos” and “Kteis” (male and female genitalia) added together, again affirming the union of these male and female energies.

[Incidentally, the otherwise excellent analysis of the Star Ruby here gives the value of “O Phalle” as 1369…I’m a little puzzled  as to how they got that number. Perhaps I’m missing something obvious, and I’d be glad to be informed on the matter]
IAO, it should be noted, sums to 811, the number of Hadit (8) and Nuit (11).

More on “IAO” and its connection to Pan at the end of this essay.

Formulating/Charging the Pentagrams

Several more obvious departures from the LBRP occur during this section:

-The magician moves widdershins, rather than the usual deosil direction

-The pentagrams are not drawn but imagined in the forehead and flung forward

-The elemental attributions are changed.

I will cover each difference separately

Moving Widdershins: The direction in which the magician moves emphasizes that this is a ritual of banishing – repudiating also the Old Aeon, in which rituals like the LBRP moved exclusively deosil as a “positive” direction. While the Old Aeon LBRP has the magician move “with the sun,” the Star Ruby reminds us that widdershins is the direction in which the earth turns from the perspective of the sun. By moving in this direction, the magician is affirming the truth that underlies the illusion of the sun’s motion, just as banishing symbolizes the stripping away of illusion and impediment of the magician’s own internal sun, the True Will.

Flinging Forth Pentagrams: The “flinging forth” of pentagrams gives an extra energy to the banishment, The process is simple: the magician imagines a red pentagram in his forehead and, as he makes the sign of the enterer, flings the pentagram forward, imagining it grow until it is the size of a normal pentagram used in a banishing ritual. After flinging and charging it simultaneously, he retires in the sign of silence and then draws the circle widdershins. [Note: I like picturing the circle blue to contrast with the red of the pentagrams. Feel free to picture any colors you like]

Elemental Attributions: The two main versions of the Star Ruby appear to use different elemental schemes, and there are at least three different ways to work out elemental attributions in this ritual. The version found in the Book of Lies uses the macrocosmic attribution used in second order Golden Dawn rituals (i.e. the attributions of the letters of YHVH going counterclockwise from the East, the same scheme used in the Banishing Ritual of the Hexagram). The version found in Magick in Theory and Practice uses the letters of YHVH backwards counterclockwise from the East (this is the scheme used by Crowley’s Liber Reguli). A third option is simply to use the traditional correspondences from the LBRP.

Personally, I prefer the MiTP version because it tells the story of the elements ascending back up the Tree to Spirit.

The practitioner begins in the East, the direction of the rising sun, new life, light, and energy. It is there that he banishes earth, chasing away anything that could prevent him from seeing the material world, in all of its physicality, as a never-ending bounty of light.

Recall that in the LBRP, the practitioner ends in the North, the direction of darkness where the sun never travels, the direction to which earth is attributed because it is a “low,” base element. I said in my LBRP essay that the practitioner affirms the union of Sol and Terra (see the Ace of Disks in the Book of Thoth) and ends that part of the ritual by realizing that by directing fire (will) to water (its objects, love) through air (mind) he creates a path of glory through the universe (earth).

Here, in the Star Ruby, the magician begins from that perspective, affirming right from the start that there is no materiality apart from the spiritual and that there is no spirituality apart from the material. Just as “O Phalle” is both the procreative force of the universe *and* the physical organs of reproduction, so too is the east the most material aspect of earth (the final emanation of Spirit) and the most spiritual aspect of earth (the throne upon which Spirit experiences its glory).

Here the magician vibrates “Therion,” the name of the Beast upon which the Scarlet Woman rides, the earthy, sexual seven-headed creature who is her Lord and consort.

Imagine the figure from the Lust tarot card blazing before you: inhale his essence down into your body and fling it forth to the end of the universe. Let its vibration cleanse the material world and transform it into a never-ending sacrament of wonder, the grapes waiting to be harvested by experience.

Having affirmed the earth – that everything that happens is an execution of the magician’s own True Will – he turns to the North. By banishing the earth, the magician has already implicitly purged his perception of flaws, but the focus in the East is on seeing the physical world as a source of light and joy. In the North, the focus is on fully cleansing the perception, and the magician banishes air to chase away all further obstacles to that perception in order to see the universe clearly.

North is not the direction of darkness in the New Aeon: it is the direction of Nuit, the vault of Stars that comprise the entirety of the universe, all of reality and possibility. That the sun never reaches the North simply means that it is the dwelling place of the star-studded sky in all of its naked splendor. To banish air is to clearly perceive the universe as it is, to behold Nuit.

Imagine the figure of The Star in the Tarot, and picture the vibration providing clear perception of the entire universe. Air is attributed to the “son” of the tetragrammaton (the HGA): to perceive clearly is already to behold the HGA, whose full nature will be unveiled in the South (directly across from air).

That clear perception allows the magician to perceive those objects towards which he is naturally driven by his will, and that is what the West (water) represents, signified by Babalon, the ultimate manifestation of Love (see the Lust card for the image). The objects of love are, naturally, contained in the material world, such that the West is a further elaboration of the East.

Love is the flipside of Will: perceiving the objects towards which one is driven *is* to perceive the Will, which in the South flashes with the force of Hadit (the figure who appears in The Aeon tarot card).

Thus far, the Star Ruby has simply provided a slightly different narrative of the discovery of the True Will, focused through “god names” more relevant to Thelema: the significant difference with the LBRP comes next as the magician returns to the center of the circle to invoke Pan.

The NOX Signs

Much confusion and debate surround these signs. The reason for this confusion? Crowley just plain made them up, and he never clearly explained the order to give them in or their exact signification. In truth, there are several different valid methods of giving these signs, each with different significations.

There are five signs: girl, boy, man, woman, “Isis Rejoicing.” [puella, puer, vir, mulier, and Mater Triumphans]

One could attribute them to the four letters of the Tetragrammaton (and quintessence). They are also attributed to the grades that come after 5=6, so they also signify the process of “crossing the abyss” and becoming a Master of the Temple.

As the signs of NOX, they signify the “Night” of Pan – Pan being “all,” the “night” of Pan is the extinguishment of all by absorption into Nothing. The theory here is that “light” doesn’t appear on the Tree of Life until below the Abyss: above the Abyss, complete unity, which absorbs all (even the concept of unity itself) would appear to us as black, as the Night of infinite space.

“Now let there be a veiling of this shrine: now let the light devour men and eat them up with blindness!” – AL II:14

“One absorbs little and is called white and glistening; one absorbs all and is called black. Therefore, O my darling, art thou black.” – Liber LXV I:18

To put it another way, humans often worship the “divine light,” but this light is nothing more than a veil over the experience of unity with all, a unity so deep that it is non-entity, the realization that “self” doesn’t exist except as a thought in the mind.

The experience of crossing the abyss entails realizing (on a moment-by-moment basis) that the “self” – even the “True Self” – is an impermanent collection of various drives and preferences with no unifying element. To put it another way, there is no “self” from a certain point of view : Erwin Hessle’s classic essay "On the Annihilation of the Ego" is very helpful in fully assimilating this idea intellectually. [Note: Of course, from another point of view, there is a self. Neither point of view is absolute truth: just different perspectives.]
The NOX signs affirm and celebrate this attainment.

The O in the center of NOX signifies zero, and it also signifies the rapturous cry of “O!” that accompanies the dissolution of the self in the body of Nuit/Pan. In fact, we might say that this O is identical to the final letter of IAO: now we see that contained in the attainment to Tipareth are the seeds of the next step of the journey: the crossing of the abyss and dissolution of the self.
PAN is, too, an emblem of this dissolution, with P representing (by the shape of its Greek letter) duality (recalling the I and O in IAO), A representing the pentagram and the energy of the universe that sustains this duality, and N representing Death (through the tarot attribution of Nun). [N also stands for NOX, for contained in the ALL is implicit the idea of its dissolution]

The word “Pan,” then is a development of IAO [as NOX is a development of PAN] but where IAO equilibrates between the opposites, PAN emphasizes that this equilibration [opposites (P) properly balanced (A)] leads to the dissolution of the individual, a symbolic death (N). [Obviously, this idea of symbolic death is also contained in IAO, where the “I” of the individual becomes “O,” but PAN underlines this point: PAN makes clear an idea implicit in IAO and NOX makes explicit and idea in PAN]

The X of NOX is the cross or phallus, which reminds us of the close connection between this lofty spiritual state and the physical ecstasy of sexuality and orgasm. It’s worth mentioning also that NOX sums to 210, the reduction of 2 to 1 and thus to 0. It also recalls 3 (2+1+0), both the supernal triad and the three veils of negativity above the Tree.

The above paragraphs comprise a stumbling attempt to put into words the import of the meaning of this word, which is represented by the NOX signs. Students are encouraged to thoroughly study Liber VII (especially the prologue and Chapter I), along with the opening chapters in the Book of Lies.

The signs of NOX map to the letters of NOX and the grades as follows:

Puer (N, 6=5)

Vir (O, 7=4)

Puella (Babe of the Abyss)

Mulier (X, Babe of the Abyss)

IR (8=3)

Here are three ways of giving the signs:

-In the order of the grades

-In the order given in Liber Reguli (puella, puer, vir, mulier, IR)

-Attributed to the Tetragrammaton, descending from fire to earth (vir, mulier, puer, puella) [supposedly derived from an oral tradition dating back to the days of the California OTO]

One should try the signs each way and decide which one is best. I used the order given in Reguli for a long time, but I’ve recently switched over to the order of the grades.

Either method depicts the seduction of a young girl and her subsequent transformation into the Woman who accepts all impressions and births a child from them. This is the seduction of the magician by PAN and the working of the magician’s Will upon the earth. In carrying out the True Will, the magician accepts all impressions as they are and fully embraces Pan.

The magician intones “Io Pan” while giving each sign (the I and O of "Io" representing the male and female principles, of course…this stuff should be getting obvious now. Just read the ritual with your mind half in the bedroom, and the symbolism will become clear).

Here’s one way to think about the signs: having discovered his Will, the magician works that will upon the earth and, in so doing, loses himself in the Willing and dissolves into Pan. The boy brings down the will from heaven (one arm up and one arm out – drawing it down and acting upon it) and thereby transforms into a Man enacting that will. The earth, demure at first, yields to the power of this will and becomes Woman, birthing from this embrace the child (the magician’s own will manifested in his experience), nourished by the milk of her own breast, the milk of the stars, the lifeblood that flows from the paps of Nuit, from the Phallus of Pan.

As we can see, the Star Ruby extends beyond the LBRP by depicting the process of discovering the True Will and then the working of that True Will upon the earth, emphasizing the way that the working of this Will can cause the Self to dissolve into experience, to embrace PAN and realize the illusory nature of individuality.

[Note: that individuality is "illusory" in no way implies that a state of "dissolution" or "one with all" is somehow "not illusory." As noted earlier, both are different ways of perceiving. Just as the classic optical illusion of The Rubin's Vase is both a vase and two faces (depending upon how one looks at it), so too is the universe duality (2) and non-duality (0), depending upon how one looks at it. Each is illusion: see this post for another way of phrasing this reminder]

The giving of these signs should cause the magician to lose himself in the wild ecstasy of the symbolism: if properly performed there should be no trace of him left. PAN should utterly fill the circle, and the invocation of the guardians should be done as PAN.

Invocation of the Guardians

As Pan, the magician spreads his arms in the shape of a Tau (the letter attributed to Binah: he has now transcended ALL: the universe does through him) and invokes the guardians.

There’s (unsurprisingly) a lot of controversy as to what these guardians are and what they represent. Crowley got the names from the Chaldean Oracles, and they represent some kind of Intelligences from that system. In all likelihood, he just took the names and didn’t think very hard about the symbolism.

It’s interesting to note that the guardians keep the same position in both main versions of the Star Ruby, even when the elemental attributions clearly change. It’s safe to say that these particular guardians aren’t elemental in nature.

One way to think about them symbolically is to attribute them – as Jim Eshelman has suggested – to the alchemical properties of Sulpher, Mercury, and Salt, respectively. The Daimonos, left over, are earthy nature spirits attributed to the HGA: we might say that the other three are aspects of that HGA/True Self.

This essay on the Star Ruby goes into some more detail about the nature of these beings from the Chaldean Oracle, if you’re really interested. Jim Eshelman has had drawings done of his impressions of these entities, based on the spelling of their name (following in the tradition given by Crowley in his notes on the LBRP, suggesting that magicians use the letters that comprise the names of angels to form an outline of how they might be visualized). You can see these drawings here: Iugges

Qabalistic Cross

The magician repeats the QC, now as PAN, reaffirming himself in Tipareth.

We are now in a position to see what has happened in this ritual: the magician begins by balancing the elements and placing himself in Tipareth. He then banishes the elements below Tipareth (discovers the Will) and then extends himself above Tipareth (fully executes that Will on earth). He concludes by re-centering himself in Tipareth, returning, as it were, full circle.

He ends as he begins, which is exactly what Crowley says: “end as thou didst begin.”

We have said earlier that the fundamental paradox of Thelemic initiation is that it changes everything but ultimately changes nothing. As the Book of the Law tells us:

“Yea! deem not of change: ye shall be as ye are, & not other. […] There is none that shall be cast down or lifted up: all is ever as it was.” AL II: 58

We are now in a position to fully grasp what this means in terms of the ritual. The discovery of the True Will is a life-changing event, but it is nothing more than the realization of what is, a discovery of one’s actual nature, acquiescence into what has always been the case. "Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel" simply means that the aspirant stops fighting that nature. And the “crossing of the abyss,” equally life-changing, is nothing more than a realization of what is, a discovery that even the “true self” isn’t any kind of stable permanent self: the crossing is also acquiescence into what has always been the case.

The individual is what he is, and the universe is what it is: nothing can change that. But an initiate has learned to shed the illusion that it can be different or that it should be different. An initiate has learned to embrace PAN, and the embrace is so intense that there is no individual, there is no PAN, there is no embrace.

And this is the secret meaning hidden in the word IAO, as reformulated by Crowley and explained thoroughly in the corresponding chapter of Magick in Theory and Practice.

There, Crowley reformulates the word as VIAOV: the V is silent, but the word now sums to 93 (the number of Thelema and Agape), and – more important – the word now summarizes the process of initiation more fully.

V is attributed to the Hierophant in the Tarot, the (earthy) HGA, the True Self from which the individual springs.

I is attributed to the Hermit in the Tarot, the sperm cell fertilizing the egg, the individual in a pure state of Innocence (and thus lost, unaware of his nature)

A is attributed to the Fool in the Tarot, the wanderer who sets off on an adventure to discover himself but who has been in possession of the secret the entire time.

O is attributed to the Devil in the Tarot, the Fool who has matured into the Great Sexual Beast, who has transformed the 0 of the Fool into the ALL of PAN (and yet is still O). He has moved from Innocence to Experience, but a higher experience free of cynicism. He has embraced what he is.

V is once again attributed to the Hierophant in the tarot the (earthy) HGA. Having sprung from this True Self, the aspirant realizes that he still is this True Self: the difference is that his experience has revealed that Self to himself. He has always been this True Self, the ALL has always been the ALL: PAN has ever been PAN and the NIGHT of PAN.

All is ever as it was. The only difference is that the aspirant is now aware.

Thus, Crowley writes in MiTP:

Thus, he [the Devil, the O at the end of IAO] is Man made God, exalted, eager; he has come consciously to his full stature, and so is ready to set out on his journey to redeem the world. But he may not appear in this true form; the Vision of Pan would drive men mad with fear. He must conceal Himself in his original guise.

He therefore becomes apparently the man that he was at the beginning; he lives the life of a man; indeed, he is wholly man. But his initiation has made him master of the Event by giving him the understanding that whatever happens to him is the execution of this true will.

In short, he ends as he didst begin.   

Pan and the Night of Pan are concealed in IAO, which, spelled properly, is a summary of the entire process of initiation, in which all is ever as it was and shall be.

We said in the essay on the LBRP that it is no mere ritual to summon up or banish “spirits,” and anyone foolish enough to actually think that that’s what the ritual does is, in Crowley’s own words, unworthy to possess it. We might expand on that comment and say that anyone who thinks the Star Ruby is just some “other version” of the LBRP is equally unworthy to possess it.

Properly understood, this ritual is a master course in Thelemic initiation. While simply performing a ritual isn’t going to “initiate” anybody, continued study and application of this ritual will impress these ideas on the mind of the aspirant, making him or her more conscious in day-to-day life of its lessons, of the extent to which *every* act is a manifestation of the True Will, a play of Nuit/Pan, a dealing of God with the individual’s soul [and expansion of and destruction of that “soul”], the beginning and end of all practical magick and the Great Work.

Is not IAO an affirmation that “I” am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end?

All things begin and end, writes Blake, in Albion’s rocky Druid shore. The Starry Hosts of Heaven have fled, and it is the task of the magician – the task of the character Los in Blake’s final poems – to gather them together, to unify them in One Man.

Is not PAN that One Man, the ALL? And is not the N of PAN the NOX in which the individual dissolves into the endless joy?

Is it not written that the aspirant shall “take [his] pleasure on the earth among the legions of the living”?

Is this not the summum bonum, the Great Work whose final task is to abandon the Great Work?

Is there any end to these rhetorical questions?

If one endures to the end, is there not Naught to endure?

I urge you, readers: endure the Love of the Great Pan, who is Naught.

Love is the law, love under will.


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