Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

End as thou didst begin: The Star Ruby

Crowley’s Liber XXV, a ritual known as “The Star Ruby” and designed as a “new and more elaborate” ritual of the pentagram, concludes with the instruction to repeat the Qabalistic Cross and “end as thou didst begin.”

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.
We will explore the meaning of this enigmatic-sounding sentence in this post, which provides a full examination of The Star Ruby and the ways in which it complements and extends the LBRP, bringing the pentagram ritual further into alignment with Thelema.

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, Teletarchai, Sunoches, Daimonos.

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.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thank you very much for this thorough and insightful explanation. It is much appreciated.

  3. Lots of wonderful points here but for now, my initial response is to note the coincidence or possible significance to the phrase, "the endless night" in Blake's, "To see a world" as follows

    Every Night and every Morn
    Some to Misery are Born.
    Every Morn and every Night
    Some are Born to sweet delight.
    Some are Born to sweet delight,
    Some are Born to Endless Night.

    Maybe this is a stretch?

  4. Excellent commentary, and very informative. I use the Star Ruby rather than the LBRP, but have always met with confusion regarding the elemental attributions, and those of the gurdians. this has helped me to contextualize these things a bit better. 93 93/93 Freddy