Chapter X

Of the Gestures

This chapter may be divided into the following parts:

  1. Attitudes.
  2. Circumambulations (and similar movements).
  3. Changes of position (This depends upon the theory of the construction of the circle).
  4. The Knocks or Knells.


Attitudes are of two Kinds: natural and artificial. Of the first kind, prostration is the obvious example. It comes natural to man (poor creature!) to throw himself to the ground in the presence of the object of his adoration.[1]

Intermediate between this and the purely artificial form of gesture comes a class which depends on acquired habit. Thus it is natural to an European officer to offer his sword in token of surrender. A Tibetan would, however, squat, put out his tongue, and place his hand behind his right ear.

Purely artificial gestures comprehend in their class the majority of definitely magick signs, though some of these simulate a natural action — e.g. the sign of the Rending of the Veil. But the sign of Auramoth (see The Equinox I, II, Illustration "The Signs of the Grades") merely imitates a hieroglyph which has only a remote connection with any fact in nature. All signs must of course be studied with infinite patience, and practised until the connection between them and the mental attitude which they represent appears necessary.


The principal movement in the circle is circumambulation.[2] This has a very definite result, but one which is very difficult to describe. An analogy is the dynamo. Circumambulation properly performed in combination with the Sign of Horus (or "The Enterer") on passing the East is one of the best methods of arousing the macrocosmic force in the Circle. It should never be omitted unless there be some special reason against it.

A particular tread seems appropriate to it. This tread should be light and stealthy, almost furtive, and yet very purposeful. It is the pace of the tiger who stalks the deer.

The number of circumambulations should of course correspond to the nature of the ceremony.

Another important movement is the spiral, of which there are two principal forms, one inward, one outward. They can be performed in either direction; and, like the circumambulation, if performed deosil[3] they invoke — if widdershins[4] they banish.[5] In the spiral the tread is light and tripping, almost approximating to a dance: while performing it the magician will usually turn on his own axis, either in the same direction as the spiral, or in the opposite direction. Each combination involves a different symbolism.

There is also the dance proper; it has many different forms, each God having his special dance. One of the easiest and most effective dances is the ordinary waltz-step combined with the three signs of L.V.X. It is much easier to attain ecstasy in this way than is generally supposed. The essence of the process consists in the struggle of the Will against giddiness; but this struggle must be prolonged and severe, and upon the degree of this the quality and intensity of ecstasy attained may depend.

With practice, giddiness is altogether conquered; exhaustion then takes its place and the enemy of Will. It is through the mutual destruction of these antagonisms in the mental and moral being of the magician that Samadhi is begotten.


Good examples of the use of change of position are given in the manuscripts Z.1 and Z.3;[6] explanatory of the Neophyte Ritual of the G∴ D∴, where the candidate is taken to various stations in the Temple, each station having a symbolic meaning of its own; but in pure invocation a better example is given in Liber 831.[7]

In the construction of a ceremony an important thing to decide is whether you will or will not make such movements. For every Circle has its natural symbolism, and even if no use is to be made of these facts, one must be careful not to let anything be inharmonious with the natural attributions.[8] For the sensitive aura of the magician might be disturbed, and the value of the ceremony completely destroyed, by the embarrassment caused by the discovery of some such error, just as if a pre-occupied T-totaller found that he had strayed into a Temple of the Demon Rum! It is therefore impossible to neglect the theory of the Circle.

To take a simple example, suppose that, in an Evocation of Bartzabel, the planet Mars, whose sphere is Geburah (Severity) were situated (actually, in the heavens) opposite to the Square of Chesed (Mercy) of the Tau in the Circle, and the triangle placed accordingly. It would be improper for the Magus to stand on that Square unless using this formula, "I, from Chesed, rule Geburah through the Path of the Lion"; while — taking an extreme case — to stand on the square of Hod (which is naturally dominated by Geburah) would be a madness which only a formula of the very highest Magick could counteract.

Certain positions, however, such as Tiphareth,[9] are so sympathetic to the Magus himself that he may use them without reference to the nature of the spirit, or of the operation; unless he requires an exceptionally precise spirit free of all extraneous elements, or one whose nature is difficulty compatible with Tiphareth.

To show how these positions may be used in conjunction with the spirals, suppose that you are invoking Hathor, Goddess of Love, to descend upon the Altar. Standing on the square of Netzach you will make your invocation to Her, and then dance an inward spiral deosil ending at the foot of the altar, where you sink on your knees with your arms raised above the altar as if inviting Her embrace.[10]

To conclude, one may add that natural artistic ability, if you possess it, forms an excellent guide. All Art is Magick.

Isadora Duncan has this gift of gesture in a very high degree. Let the reader study her dancing; if possible rather in private than in public, and learn the superb "unconsciousness" — which is magical consciousness — with which she suits the action to the melody.[11]

There is no more potent means than Art of calling forth true Gods to visible appearance.


The knocks or knells are all of the same character. They may be described collectively — the difference between them consists only in this, that the instrument with which they are made seals them with its own special properties. It is of no great importance (even so) whether they are made by clapping the hands or stamping the feet, by strokes of one of the weapons, or by the theoretically appropriate instrument, the bell. It may nevertheless be admitted that they become more important in the ceremony if the Magician considers it worth while to take up[12] an instrument whose single purpose is to produce them.

Let it first be laid down that a knock asserts a connection between the Magician and the object which he strikes. Thus the use of the bell, or of the hands, means that the Magician wishes to impress the atmosphere of the whole circle with what has been or is about to be done. He wishes to formulate his will in sound, and radiate it in every direction; moreover, to influence that which lives by breath in the sense of his purpose, and to summon it to bear witness to his Word. The hands are used as symbols of his executive power, the bell to represent his consciousness exalted into music. To strike with the wand is to utter the fiat of creation; the cup vibrates with his delight in receiving spiritual wine. A blow with the dagger is like the signal for battle. The disk is used to express the throwing down of the price of one's purchase. To stamp with the foot is to declare one's mastery of the matter in hand. Similarly, any other form of giving knocks has its own virtue. From the above examples the intelligent student will have perceived the method of interpreting each individual case that may come in question.

As above said, the object struck is the object impressed. Thus, a blow upon the altar affirms that he has complied with the laws of his operation. To strike the lamp is to summon the Light divine. Thus for the rest.

It must also be observed that many combinations of ideas are made possible by this convention. To strike the wand within the cup is to apply the creative will to its proper complement, and so perform the Great Work by the formula of Regeneration. To strike with the hand on the dagger declares that one demands the use of the dagger as a tool to extend one's executive power. The reader will recall how Siegfried smote Nothung, the sword of Need, upon the lance of Wotan. By the action Wagner, who was instructed how to apply magical formulae by one of the heads of our Order, intended his hearers to understand that the reign of authority and paternal power had come to an end; that the new master of the world was intellect.

The general object of a knock or a knell is to mark a stage in the ceremony. Sasaki Shigetz tells us in his essay on Shinto that the Japanese are accustomed to clap their hands four times "to drive away evil spirits". He explains that what really happens is that the sudden and sharp impact of the sound throws the mind into an alert activity which enables it to break loose from the obsession of its previous mood. It is aroused to apply itself aggressively to the ideals which had oppressed it. There is therefore a perfectly rational interpretation of the psychological power of the knock.

In a Magical ceremony the knock is employed for much the same purpose. The Magician uses it like the chorus in a Greek play. It helps him to make a clean cut, to turn his attention from one part of his work to the next.

So much for the general character of the knock or knell. Even this limited point of view offers great opportunities to the resourceful Magician. But further possibilities lie to our hand. It is not usually desirable to attempt to convey anything except emphasis, and possibly mood, by varying the force of the blow. It is obvious, moreover, that there is a natural correspondence between the hard loud knock of imperious command on the one hand, and the soft slurred knock of sympathetic comprehension on the other. It is easy to distinguish between the bang of the outraged creditor at the front, and the hushed tap of the lover at the bedroom, door. Magical theory cannot here add instruction to instinct.

But a knock need not be single; the possible combinations are evidently infinite. We need only discuss the general principles of determining what number of strokes will be proper in any case, and how we may interrupt any series so as to express our idea by means of structure.

The general rule is that a single knock has no special significance as such, because unity is omniform. It represents Kether, which is the source of all things equally without partaking of any quality by which we discriminate one thing from another. Continuing on these lines, the number of knocks will refer to the Sephira or other idea Qabalistically cognate with that number. Thus, 7 knocks will intimate Venus, 11 the Great Work, 17 the Trinity of Fathers, and 19 the Feminine Principle in its most general sense.

Analyzing the matter a little further, we remark firstly that a battery of too many knocks is confusing, as well as liable to overweight the other parts of the ritual. In practice, 11 is about the limit. It is usually not difficult to arrange to cover all necessary ground with that number.

Secondly, each is so extensive in scope, and includes aspects so diverse from a practical standpoint that our danger lies in vagueness. A knock should be well defined; its meaning should be precise. The very nature of knocks suggests smartness and accuracy. We must therefore devise some means of making the sequence significant of the special sense which may be appropriate. Our only resource is in the use of intervals.

It is evidently impossible to attain great variety in the smaller numbers. But this fact illustrates the excellence of our system. There is only one way of striking 2 knocks, and this fact agrees with the nature of Chokmah; there is only one way of creating. We can express only ourselves, although we do so in duplex form. But there are three ways of striking 3 knocks, and these 3 ways correspond to the threefold manner in which Binah can receive the creative idea. There are three possible types of triangle. We may understand an idea either as an unity tripartite, as an unity dividing itself into a duality, or as a duality harmonized into an unity. Any of these methods may be indicated by 3 equal knocks; 1 followed, after a pause, by 2; and 2 followed, after a pause, by 1.

As the nature of the number becomes more complex, the possible varieties increase rapidly. There are numerous ways of striking 6, each of which is suited to the nature of the several aspects of Tiphareth. We may leave the determination of these points to the ingenuity of the student.

The most generally useful and adaptable battery is composed of 11 strokes. The principal reasons for this are as follows: Firstly, 11 is the number of Magick in itself. It is therefore suitable to all types of operation. Secondly, it is the sacred number par excellence of the new Aeon. As it is written in The Book of the Law: "...11, as all their numbers who are of us." Thirdly, it is the number of the letters of the word ABRAHADABRA, which is the word of the Aeon. The structure of this word is such that it expresses the great Work, in every one of its aspects. Lastly, it is possible thereby to express all possible spheres of operation, whatever their nature. This is effected by making an equation between the number of the Sephira and the difference between that number and 11. For example, 2°=9[] is the formula of the grade of initiation corresponding to Yesod. Yesod represents the instability of air, the sterility of the moon; but these qualities are balanced in it by the stability implied in its position as the Foundation, and by its function of generation. This complex is further equilibrated by identifying it with the number 2 of Chokmah, which possesses the airy quality, being the Word, and the lunar quality, being the reflection of the sun of Kether as Yesod is the sun of Tiphareth. It is the wisdom which is the foundation by being creation. This entire cycle of ideas is expressed in the double formula 2° = 9[], 9° = 2[]; and any of these ideas may be selected and articulated by a suitable battery.

We may conclude with a single illustration of how the above principles may be put into practice. Let us suppose that the Magician contemplates an operation for the purpose of helping his mind to resist the tendency to wander. This will be a work of Yesod. But he must emphasize the stability of that Sephira as against the Airy quality which it possesses. His first action will be to put the 9 under the protection of the 2; the battery at this point will be 1-9-1. But this 9 as it stands is suggestive of the changefulness of the moon. It may occur to him to divide this into 4 and 5, 4 being the number of fixity, law, and authoritative power; and 5 that of courage, energy, and triumph of the spirit over the elements. He will reflect, moreover, that 4 is symbolic of the stability of matter, while 5 expresses the same idea with regard to motion. At this stage the battery will appear as 1-2-5-2-1. After due consideration he will probably conclude that to split up the central 5 would tend to destroy the simplicity of his formula, and decide to use it as it stands. The possible alternative would be to make a single knock the centre of his battery as if he appealed to the ultimate immutability of Kether, invoking that unity by placing a fourfold knock on either side of it. In this case, his battery would be 1-4-1-4-1. He will naturally have been careful to preserve the balance of each part of the battery against the corresponding part. This would be particularly necessary in an operation such as we have chosen for our example.

1The Magician must eschew prostration, or even the "bending of the knee in supplication", as infamous and ignominious, an abdication of his sovereignty.

2In Part II of this Book 4 it was assumed that the Magician went barefoot. This would imply his intention to make intimate contact with his Circle. But he may wear sandals, for the Ankh is a sandal-strap; it is borne by the Egyptian Gods to signify their power of Going, that is their eternal energy. By shape the Ankh (or Crux Ansata) suggests the formula by which this going is effected in actual practice.

3I.e. In the same direction as the hands of a watch move.

4I.e. In the opposite direction.

5Such, at least, is the traditional interpretation. But there is a deeper design which may be expressed through the direction of rotation. Certain forces of the most formidable character may be invoked by circumambulation Widdershins when it is executed with intent toward them, and the initiated technique. Of such forces Typhon is the type, and the war of the Titans against the Olympians the legend. (Teitan, Titan, has in Greek the numerical value of 666.)

6The Equinox I, II, pp. 244-260.

7The Equinox I, VII, pp. 93 sqq.

8The practical necessities of the work are likely to require certain movements. One should either exclude this symbolism altogether, or else think out everything beforehand, and make it significant. Do not let some actions be symbolic and others haphazard.

9Tiphareth is hardly "dominated" even by Kether. It is the son rather than the servant.

10But not "in supplication".

11This passage was written in 1911 e.v. "Wake Duncan with thy Knocking? I would thou couldst!"

12Any action not purely rhythmical is a disturbance.

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