Chapter 0

The Magickal Theory of the Universe

There are three main theories of the Universe: Dualism, Monism and Nihilism. It is impossible to enter into a discussion of their relative merits in a popular manual of this sort. They may be studied in Erdmann's "History of Philosophy" and similar treatises.

All are reconciled and unified in the theory which we shall now set forth. The basis of this Harmony is given in Crowley's Berashith — to which reference should be made.

Infinite space is called the goddess NUIT, while the infinitely small and atomic yet omnipresent point is called HADIT.[1] These are unmanifest. One conjunction of these infinites is called RA-HOOR-KHUIT,[2] a unity which includes and heads all things.[3] (There is also a particular Nature of Him, in certain conditions, such as have obtained since the Spring of 1904, e.v.) This profoundly mystical conception is based upon actual spiritual experience, but the trained reason[4] can reach a reflection of this idea by the method of logical contradiction which ends in reason transcending itself. The reader should consult "The Soldier and the Hunchback" in The Equinox I, I, and Konx Om Pax.

Unity transcends consciousness. It is above all division. The Father of thought — the Word — is called Chaos — the dyad. The number Three, the Mother, is called Babalon. In connection with this the reader should study "The Temple of Solomon the King" in The Equinox I, V, and Liber 418.

This first triad is essentially unity, in a manner transcending reason. The comprehension of this Trinity is a matter of spiritual experience. All true gods are attributed to this Trinity.[5]

An immeasurable abyss divides it from all manifestations of Reason or the lower qualities of man. In the ultimate analysis of Reason, we find all reason identified with this abyss. Yet this abyss is the crown of the mind. Purely intellectual faculties all obtain here. This abyss has no number, for in it all is confusion.

Below this abyss we find the moral qualities of Man, of which there are six. The highest is symbolised by the number Four. Its nature is fatherly[6]; Mercy and Authority are the attributes of its dignity.

The number Five is balanced against it. The attributes of Five are Energy and Justice. Four and Five are again combined and harmonized in the number Six, whose nature is beauty and harmony, mortality and immortality.

In the number Seven the feminine nature is again predominant, but it is the masculine type of female, the Amazon, who is balanced in the number Eight by the feminine type of male.

In the number Nine we reach the last of the purely mental qualities. It identifies change with stability.

Pendant to this sixfold system is the number Ten[7] which includes the whole of Matter as we know it by the senses.

It is impossible here to explain thoroughly the complete conception; for it cannot be too clearly understood that this is a "classification" of the Universe, that there is nothing which is not comprehended therein.

The Article on the Qabalah in Vol. I, No. V of The Equinox is the best which has been written on the subject. It should be deeply studied, in connection with the Qabalistic Diagrams in Nos. II and III: "The Temple of Solomon the King".

Such is a crude and elementary sketch of this system.

The formula of Tetragrammaton[8] is the most important for the practical magician. Here Yod = 2, He = 3, Vau = 4 to 9, He final = 10.

The Number Two represents Yod, the Divine or Archetypal World, and the Number One is only attained by the destruction of the God and the Magician in Samadhi. The world of Angels is under the numbers Four to Nine, and that of spirits under the number Ten.[9] All these numbers are of course parts of the magician himself considered as the microcosm. The microcosm is an exact image of the Macrocosm; the Great Work is the raising of the whole man in perfect balance to the power of Infinity.

The reader will remark that all criticism directed against the Magical Hierarchy is futile. One cannot call it incorrect — the only line to take might be that it was inconvenient. In the same way one cannot say that the Roman alphabet is better or worse than the Greek, since all required sounds can be more or less satisfactorily represented by either; yet both these alphabets were found so little satisfactory when it came to an attempt at phonetic printing of Oriental languages, that the alphabet had to be expanded by the use of italics and other diacritical marks. In the same way our magical alphabet of the Sephiroth and the Paths (thirty-two letters as it were) has been expanded into the four worlds corresponding to the four letters of the name Yod-Heh-Vau-Heh; and each Sephira is supposed to contain a Tree of Life of its own. Thus we obtain four hundred Sephiroth instead of the original ten, and the Paths being capable of similar multiplications, or rather of subdivision, the number is still further extended. Of course this process might be indefinitely continued without destroying the original system.

The Apologia for this System is that our purest conceptions are symbolized in Mathematics. "God is the Great Arithmetician." "God is the Grand Geometer." It is best therefore to prepare to apprehend Him by formulating our minds according to these measures.[10]

To return, each letter of this alphabet may have its special magical sigil. The student must not expect to be given a cut-and-dried definition of what exactly is meant by any of all this. On the contrary, he must work backwards, putting the whole of his mental and moral outfit into these pigeon-holes. You would not expect to be able to buy a filing cabinet with the names of all your past, present and future correspondents ready indexed: your cabinet has a system of letters and numbers meaningless in themselves, but ready to take on a meaning to you, as you fill up the files. As your business increased, each letter and number would receive fresh accessions of meaning for you; and by adopting this orderly arrangement you would be able to have a much more comprehensive grasp of your affairs than would otherwise be the case. By the use of this system the magician is able ultimately to unify the whole of his knowledge — to transmute, even on the Intellectual Plane, the Many into the One.

The Reader can now understand that the sketch given above of the magical Hierarchy is hardly even an outline of the real theory of the Universe. This theory may indeed be studied in the article already referred to in No. V of the Equinox, and, more deeply in The Book of the Law and the Commentaries thereon: but the true understanding depends entirely upon the work of the Magician himself. Without magical experience it will be meaningless.

In this there is nothing peculiar. It is so with all scientific knowledge. A blind man might cram up astronomy for the purpose of passing examinations, but his knowledge would be almost entirely unrelated to his experience, and it would certainly not give him sight. A similar phenomenon is observed when a gentleman who has taken an "honours degree" in modern languages at Cambridge arrives in Paris, and is unable to order his dinner. To exclaim against the Master Therion is to act like a person who, observing this, should attack both the professors of French and the inhabitants of Paris, and perhaps go on to deny the existence of France.

Let us say, once again, that the magical language is nothing but a convenient system of classification to enable the magician to docket his experiences as he obtains them.

Yet this is true also, that, once the language is mastered, one can divine the unknown by study of the known, just as one's knowledge of Latin and Greek enables one to understand some unfamiliar English word derived from those sources. Also, there is the similar case of the Periodic Law in Chemistry, which enables Science to prophesy, and so in the end to discover, the existence of certain previously unsuspected elements in nature. All discussions upon philosophy are necessarily sterile, since truth is beyond language. They are, however, useful if carried far enough — if carried to the point when it become apparent that all arguments are arguments in a circle.[12] But discussions of the details of purely imaginary qualities are frivolous and may be deadly. For the great danger of this magical theory is that the student may mistake the alphabet for the things which the words represent.

An excellent man of great intelligence, a learned Qabalist, once amazed the Master Therion by stating that the Tree of Life was the framework of the Universe. It was as if some one had seriously maintained that a cat was a creature constructed by placing the letters C. A. T. in that order. It is no wonder that Magick has excited the ridicule of the unintelligent, since even its educated students can be guilty of so gross a violation of the first principles of common sense.

Long since writing the above, an even grosser imbecility has been perpetrated. One who ought to have known better tried to improve the Tree of Life by turning the Serpent of Wisdom upside down![13] Yet he could not even make his scheme symmetrical: his little remaining good sense revolted at the supreme atrocities. Yet he succeeded in reducing the whole Magical Alphabet to nonsense, and shewing that he had never understood its real meaning.

The absurdity of any such disturbance of the arrangement of the Paths is evident to any sober student from such examples as the following. Binah, the Supernal Understanding, is connected with Tiphereth, the Human Consciousness, by Zain, Gemini, the Oracles of the Gods, or the Intuition. That is, the attribution represents a psychological fact: to replace it by The Devil is either humour or plain idiocy. Again, the card "Fortitude", Leo, balances Majesty and Mercy with Strength and Severity: what sense is there in putting "Death", the Scorpion, in its stead? There are twenty other mistakes in the new wonderful illuminated-from-on-high attribution; the student can therefore be sure of twenty more laughs if he cares to study it.

A synopsis of the grades of the A∴A∴ as illustrative of the Magical Hierarchy in Man is given in Appendix 2, "One Star in Sight." This should be read before proceeding with the chapter. The subject is very difficult. To deal with it in full is entirely beyond the limits of this small treatise.


All these letters of the magical alphabet — referred to above — are like so many names on a map. Man himself is a complete microcosm. Few other beings have this balanced perfection. Of course every sun, every planet, may have beings similarly constituted.[14] But when we speak of dealing with the planets in Magick, the reference is usually not to the actual planets, but to parts of the earth which are of the nature attributed to these planets. Thus, when we say that Nakhiel is the "Intelligence" of the Sun, we do not mean that he lives in the Sun, but only that he has a certain rank and character; and although we can invoke him, we do not necessarily mean that he exists in the same sense of the word in which our butcher exists.

When we "conjure Nakhiel to visible appearance," it may be that our process resembles creation — or, rather imagination — more nearly than it does calling-forth. The aura of a man is called the "magical mirror of the universe"; and, so far as any one can tell, nothing exists outside of this mirror. It is at least convenient to represent the whole as if it were subjective. It leads to less confusion. And, as a man is a perfect microcosm,[15] it is perfectly easy to re-model one's conception at any moment.

Now there is a traditional correspondence, which modern experiment has shown to be fairly reliable. There is a certain natural connexion between certain letters, words, numbers, gestures, shapes, perfumes and so on, so that any idea or (as we might call it) "spirit", may be composed or called forth by the use of those things which are harmonious with it, and express particular parts of its nature. These correspondences have been elaborately mapped in the Book 777 in a very convenient and compendious form. It will be necessary for the student to make a careful study of this book in connexion with some actual rituals of Magick, for example, that of the evocation of Taphtatharath printed in The Equinox I, III, pages 170-190, where he will see exactly why these things are to be used. Of course, as the student advances in knowledge by experience he will find a progressive subtlety in the magical universe corresponding to his own; for let it be said yet again! not only is his aura a magical mirror of the universe, but the universe is a magical mirror of his aura.

In this chapter we are only able to give a very thin outline of magical theory — faint pencilling by weak and wavering fingers — for this subject may almost be said to be co-extensive with one's whole knowledge.

The knowledge of exoteric science is comically limited by the fact that we have no access, except in the most indirect way, to any other celestial body than our own. In the last few years, the semi-educated have got an idea that they know a great deal about the universe, and the principal ground for their fine opinion of themselves is usually the telephone or the airship. It is pitiful to read the bombastic twaddle about progress, which journalists and others, who wish to prevent men from thinking, put out for consumption. We know infinitesimally little of the material universe. Our detailed knowledge is so contemptibly minute, that it is hardly worth reference, save that our shame may spur us to increased endeavour. Such knowledge[16] as we have got is of a very general and abstruse, of a philosophical and almost magical character. This consists principally of the conceptions of pure mathematics. It is, therefore, almost legitimate to say that pure mathematics is our link with the rest of the universe and with "God".

Now the conceptions of Magick are themselves profoundly mathematical. The whole basis of our theory is the Qabalah, which corresponds to mathematics and geometry. The method of operation in Magick is based on this, in very much the same way as the laws of mechanics are based on mathematics. So far, therefore as we can be said to possess a magical theory of the universe, it must be a matter solely of fundamental law, with a few simple and comprehensive propositions stated in very general terms.

I might expend a life-time in exploring the details of one plane, just as an explorer might give his life to one corner of Africa, or a chemist to one subgroup of compounds. Each such detailed piece of work may be very valuable, but it does not as a rule throw light on the main principles of the universe. Its truth is the truth of one angle. It might even lead to error, if some inferior person were to generalize from too few facts.

Imagine an inhabitant of Mars who wished to philosophise about the earth, and had nothing to go by but the diary of some man at the North Pole! But the work of every explorer, on whatever branch of the Tree of Life the caterpillar he is after may happen to be crawling, is immensely helped by a grasp of general principles. Every magician, therefore, should study the Holy Qabalah. Once he has mastered the main principles, he will find his work grow easy.

Solvitur ambulando: which does not mean: "Call the Ambulance!"

1I present this theory in a very simple form. I cannot even explain (for instance) that an idea may not refer to Being at all, but to Going. The Book of the Law demands special study and initiated apprehension.

2More correctly, HERU-RA-HA, to include HOOR-PAAR-KRAAT.

3The basis of this theology is given in Liber CCXX, AL vel Legis which forms Part IV of this Book 4. Hence I can only outline the matter in a very crude way; it would require a separate treatise to discuss even the true meaning of the terms employed, and to show how The Book of the Law anticipates the recent discoveries of Frege, Cantor, Poincare, Russell, Whitehead, Einstein and others.

4All advance in understanding demands the acquisition of a new point-of-view. Modern conceptions of Mathematics, Chemistry, and Physics are sheer paradox to the "plain man" who thinks of Matter as something that one can knock up against.

5Considerations of the Christian Trinity are of a nature suited only to Initiates of the IX° of O.T.O., as they enclose the final secret of all practical Magick.

6Each conception is, however, balanced in itself. Four is also Daleth, the letter of Venus; so that the mother-idea is included. Again, the Sephira of 4 is Chesed, referred to Water. 4 is ruled by Jupiter, Lord of the Lightning (Fire) yet ruler of Air. Each Sephira is complete in its way.

The balance of the Sephiroth:
Kether (1)"Kether is in Malkuth, and Malkuth is in Kether, but after another manner."
Chokmah (2)is Yod of Tetragrammaton, and therefore also Unity.
Binah (3)is He of Tetragrammaton, and therefore "The Emperor."
Chesed (4)is Daleth, Venus the female.
Geburah (5)is the Sephira of Mars, the Male.
Tiphereth (6)is the Hexagram, harmonizing, and mediating between Kether and Malkuth. Also it reflects Kether. "That which is above, is like that which is below, and that which is below, is like that which is above."
Netzach (7)and Hod (8) balanced as in text.
Jesod (9)see text.
Malkuth (10)contains all the numbers.

8The Unpronounceable Name, IHVH (Jehovah).

9It is not possible to give a full account of the twenty-two "paths" in this condensed sketch. They should be studied in view of all their attributes in 777, but more especially that in which they are attributed to the planets, elements and signs, as also to the Tarot Trumps, while their position on the Tree itself and their position as links between the particular Sephiroth which they join is the final key to their understanding. It will be noticed that each chapter of this book is attributed to one of them. This was not intentional. The book was originally but a collection of haphazard dialogues between Fra. P. [Frater Perdurabo (Crowley)] and Soror A. [Soror Achitha (Roddie Minor)]; but on arranging the MSS, they fell naturally and of necessity into this division. Conversely, my knowledge of the Schema pointed out to me numerous gaps in my original exposition; thanks to this, I have been able to make it a complete and systematic treatise. That is, when my laziness had been jogged by the criticisms and suggestions of various colleagues to whom I had submitted the early drafts.

10By "God" I here mean the Ideal Identity of a man's inmost nature. "Something ourselves (I erase Arnold's imbecile and guilty 'not') that makes for righteousness;" righteousness being rightly defined as internal coherence. (Internal Coherence implies that which is written Detegitur Yod.)

11Crowley wrote several commentaries on The Book of the Law, three of which have been published. The unpublished commentaries are far more detailed.

12See "The Soldier and the Hunchback," The Equinox I, I. The apparatus of human reason is simply one particular system of coordinating impressions; its structure is determined by the course of the evolution of the species. It is no more absolute than the evolution of the species. It is no more absolute than the mechanism of our muscles is a complete type wherewith all other systems of transmitting Force must conform.

13Frater Achad (Charles Stansfeld Jones) in his book on the Cabbala entitled Q.B.L. or The Bride's Reception, privately published, Chicago, 1922.

14Equally, of course, we have no means of knowing what we really are. We are limited to symbols. And it is certain that all our sense-perceptions give only partial aspects of their objects. Sight, for instance, tells us very little about solidity, weight, composition, electrical character, thermal conductivity, etc., etc. It says nothing at all about the very existence of such vitally important ideas as Heat, Hardness, and so on. The impression which the mind combines from the senses can never claim to be accurate or complete. We have indeed learnt that nothing is in itself what it seems to be to us.

15He is this only by definition. The universe may contain an infinite variety of worlds inaccessible to human apprehension. Yet, for this very reason, they do not exist for the purposes of the argument. Man has, however, some instruments of knowledge; we may, therefore, define the Macrocosm as the totality of things possible to his perception. As evolution develops those instruments, the Macrocosm and the Microcosm extend; but they always maintain their mutual relation. Neither can possess any meaning except in terms of the other. Our "discoveries" are exactly as much of ourselves as they are of Nature. America and Electricity did, in a sense, exist before we were aware of them; but they are even now no more than incomplete ideas, expressed in symbolic terms of a series of relations between two sets of inscrutable phenomena.

16Knowledge is, moreover, an impossible conception. All propositions come ultimately back to "A is A".

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