by Hasan i-Sabah
Aleister Crowley’s Sex Magick: Looking at “Atlantis”
Part of Aleister Crowley’s infamous reputation comes from his involvement in sex magick, including his knowledge of the Ninth Degree or Supreme Secret of Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO).
Now the O.T.O. is in possession of one supreme secret. The whole of its system at the time when I became an initiate of the Sanctuary of the Gnosis (IX°) was directed towards communicating to its members, by progressively plain hints, this all-important instruction. I personally believe that if this secret, which is a scientific secret, were perfectly understood, as it is not even my me after more than twelve years’ almost constant study and experiment, there would be nothing which the human imagination can conceive that could not be realized in practice.
Aleister Crowley, Confessions, chapter 72
It has been said that “Liber LI: The Lost Continent” parallels or gives some kind of information relevant to the Gnostic Mass, which is itself said to conceal the IX° secret. We will see that there are three “levels” or “planes” that are all interrelated: (1) the ceremonial drama of the Gnostic Mass as a Eucharistic ritual, (2) the practical magick of the IX° and (3) the process of the union of subject & object/Adept & Angel in Samadhi, the non-dual consciousness. To focus on only one or two of these meanings is to miss the entire picture.
To see the Gnostic Mass’ connection with “The Lost Continent,” we start with the first line of the fifth chapter of Liber LXV, “Ah! My Lord Adonai, that dalliest with the Magister in the Treasure-House of Pearls, let me listen to the echo of your kisses.” Crowley comments on this:
“The Pearl is zro (see the Bagh-i-Muattar; The Lost Continent, etc.), a cloudy Nebula containing the Rashith-ha-Gilgalim of the new Universe created of the Quintessence of the Substance of the Unity of the Angel and the Adept, expressed therefrom by virtue of ‘love under will’ at the moment of Rapture.”Commentary to Liber LXV, first line of 5th Chapter
First, it should be mentioned that “Rashith-ha-Gilgalim” means “first swirlings” and refers to Kether on the Tree of Life. Second, the Priest and Priestess of the Gnostic Mass are Hadit and Nuit as well as, “on a lower plane” so to speak, the Adept and the Angel (this is affirmed by the fact that Crowley attributed the Holy Guardian Angel to the Path of Gimel). In the quotation above, we learn that the symbol of the Pearl is called “zro” and “The Lost Continent” is mentioned.
Crowley wrote of this text, “At times it is a fantastic rhapsody describing my ideals of Utopian society; but some passages are a satire on the conditions of our existing civilization, while others convey hints of certain profound magical secrets, or anticipations of discoveries in science” (emphasis added). We can find this particularly in “The Lost Continent”’s references to “zro,” this Pearl which is “a cloudy Nebula containing the Rashith-ha-Gilgalim [Kether, the first swirlings] of the new Universe created of the Quintessence of the Substance of the Unity of the Angel and the Adept…”
ZRO: The Power of Sex Magick
Looking in “The Lost Continent,” the first mention of Zro equates “ZRO” with “power.” We learn that In the third chapter, called “Of the Aim of the Magicians of Atlas: Of ZRO; and its Properties and Uses,” we find more information.
“In the temple of the ‘house’ are two globes similar to those upon the plains, and the mysterious force generated below is transferred to those above, collecting within them. Now the name of this substance is always Zro, but in its first state the gesture is a twiddling of the thumbs.”Liber LII: The Lost Continent
Zro is called a “mysterious force” and a “substance.” We see that “in its first state the gesture is a twiddling of the thumbs.” Thumbs are symbols of phallic/generative power. The twiddling of the thumbs represent the encounter and interaction of the Priest and Priestess. Physically, it represents sexual intercourse.
This corresponds to the state Dharana (traditionally, the stages of concentration, or ‘samyama,’ in Raja Yoga are dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. To very greatly oversimply, dharana is total concentration of the subject upon an object, dhyana is absorption of the subject in the object so that only the object remains, and samadhi is the union of subject and object and the dissolution of both).
“In its second, it is a rapid twittering of the fingers,”Liber LII: The Lost Continent
In the second state, “it is a rapid twittering of the fingers,” meaning an increase in energy between the Priest and Priestess. This also represents more intense sexual intercourse, the building-up of sexual energy. It corresponds with the state of Dhyana.
“and in its third state of distillation it is a screwing of the hands together.”Liber LII: The Lost Continent
The third state “it is a screwing of the hands together.” In the Gnostic Mass, this is the union of the Lance and the Cup where the Lance gives the particle of the Host to the Cup while both Priest and Priestess exclaim “Hriliu.” Physically, this represents orgasm (“Hriliu” actually means “orgasm” and comes from the 2nd Aethyr). It corresponds to the state of Samadhi.
“Within the spheres it sublimes suddenly in the air as a snaky powder of silver, which immediately turns to an iridescent fluid”Liber LII: The Lost Continent
This is a reference to the ejaculation of semen. To add weight to this interpretation, ZRO can be transliterated into Zayin-Resh-Ayin, which adds up to 277, and if you look in “Sepher Sephiroth,” you will see an entry for Zayin-Resh-Ayin: “To sow, propagate; seed, semen.”
Further, Crowley’s commentary to chapter 8 of The Book of Lies informs us, “the snake is the hieroglyphic representation of semen, particularly in Gnostic and Egyptian emblems… the whole race-consciousness, that which is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, is hidden therein. Therefore, except in the case of an Adept, man only rises to a glimmer of the universal consciousness, while, in the orgasm, the mind is blotted out.”
The snake is related to the semen in this quotation. Also, importantly, we learn that the orgasm is simply a glimmer of the “universal consciousness” which is accessible to the Adept.
Elsewhere in the same book he writes:
“Father and Son are not really two, but one; their unity being the Holy Ghost, the semen; the human form is a non-essential accretion of this quintessence.”Gnostic Mass
We see here that this is the “quintessence” and represents Spirit or the soul, the human form being a “non-essential accretion,” i.e. the particular means of manifestation of the soul/God in a particular incarnation. This also equates the semen to the Holy Ghost which is depicted on OTO’s lamen. Consider these quotations in light of the Collect of the Gnostic Mass, “Lord of Life and Joy, that art the might of man, that art the essence of every true god that is upon the surface of the Earth, continuing knowledge from generation unto generation…”
Also, going back to the semen/Holy Ghost connection, consider how, in the Anthem, the chorus sings:
“For of the Father and the Son / The Holy Spirit is the norm; / Male-female, quintessential, one, / Man-being veiled in woman-form. / Glory and worship in the highest, / Thou Dove, mankind that deifiest, / Being that race, most royally run / To spring sunshine through winter storm. / Glory and worship be to Thee, Sap of the world-ash, wonder-tree!”Gnostic Mass
The “dove” or “Holy Spirit” is the “sap of the world-ash, wonder-tree,” sap being semen and the “world-ash, wonder-tree” being the phallus. We can see the idea of the Holy Spirit being the “norm” between Father and the Son, which refers to the (old) idea that the Father unites with the Mother to help gestate and birth his Son, thus continuing the Father in the Son.
The Child is born by this Mother, reminiscent of the ancient images of Horus/Jesus in the arms of Isis/Mary which are also reflected in the image of the Sun/Son in the Night Sky. This is the idea that the Mother/Priestess is the Throne (or Temple) of God/Son/Sun.
“that is forced up, by its own need of expansion, through a fountain into the temple”Liber LII: The Lost Continent
The semen enters through ejaculation (“a fountain”) into the womb (“the temple”), or more technically the vaginal canal.
“on whose floor it lies in a semi-solid condition. Expert Priests gather this in their hands…”Liber LII: The Lost Continent
The semen of the Male, having mixed with the sexual fluids of the Female, is then gathered.
“…they are then thrown into the ninth stage by being taken into a room where is a cauldron of great size. They are thrown into this and sprinkled with black phosphorus.”Liber LII: The Lost Continent
The ninth stage is a reference to IX°. The “cauldron of great size” is the womb/Yoni, and the Cup of the Priestess. The “black phosphorus” is the female sexual fluid. There is a footnote on this phosphorus, “Only the smallest quantity is required, and it is unchanged, its function being purely catalytic. This form of phosphorus is one of the most stable elements. It combines (so far as is known) only with Zro. But if thrown out of such a combination, it becomes ordinary yellow phosphorus.”
This is using alchemical imagery. A catalyst is defined as “(1) A substance, usually used in small amounts relative to the reactants, that modifies and increases the rate of a reaction without being consumed in the process. (2) One that precipitates a process or event, especially without being involved in or changed by the consequences.”
“The Zro then divides into two parts, one liquid, one solid. Neither of these has any ascertainable properties, for it is absolutely passive to the will of the user, who may taste therein his utmost desire, whether for food or drink.”Liber LII: The Lost Continent
The mixture or “elixir” doesn’t have “any ascertainable properties,” for it is pure, it represents 0 in the sense of being That which is unmanifest but contains all things. It is neti, neti – not this, and not that. It is the “cloudy Nebula containing the Rashith-ha-Gilgalim of the new Universe created of the Quintessence of the Substance of the Unity of the Angel and the Adept, expressed therefrom by virtue of ‘love under will’ at the moment of Rapture.”
It is (1) it is the union of the particle and Cup in the Gnostic Mass, (2) the union of the male and female sexual fluids into a single substance i.e. “the Stone of the Wise, of the Elixir of Immortality, and of the Universal Medicine” (Liber 52) of the IX°, and (3) the union of subject and object in Samadhi, or in the language of the ontology of the New Aeon, the Two becoming None (the “Solve” of “Solve et Coagula”). Consider Crowley’s comments on a line from The Voice of Silence:
“’44. Heaven’s dew-drop glittering in the morn’s first sun beam within the bosom of the lotus, when dropped on earth becomes a piece of clay; behold, the pearl is now a speck of mire.’ [Crowley’s commentary:] This is not a mere poetic image. This dew-drop in the lotus is connected with the mantra “Aum Mani Padme Hum,” and to what this verse really refers is known only to members of the ninth degree of O.T.O.”The Voice of Silence
“Aum Mani Padme Hum” is a mantra that means “Hail/Praise to the Jewel in the Lotus.” (Crowley writes on this phrase “O the Jewel in the Lotus! Amen! — Refers to Buddha and Harpocrates; but also the symbolism of the Rosy Cross.” The Rosy Cross is the union of Lingam/Cross/soul and Yoni/Rose/God.)
The “dew-drop” or “pearl” is the semen/particle/Mani of the Host/soul of the Adept, “the bosom of the lotus” is the womb/Cup or Holy Graal of the Priestess/the embrace of the Angel, and the rising sun is the Son/ Sun/Child/Aum. Crowley explicitly says this can only really be known to “memers of the ninth degree of OTO.,” which makes the connection pretty explicit.
One can also see the traditional depiction of the Unicursal Hexagram as a sort of stylized depiction of the “Jewel in the Lotus”, the Rose in the Cross:
Consider all this also in light of a chapter from Liber Aleph called “On the Mass of the Holy Ghost”:
“Now at last, o my son, may I being thee to understand the Truth of this Formula that is hidden in the Mass of the Holy Ghost. For Horus that is Lord of the Aeon is the Child crowned and conquering. The formula of Osiris was, as thou knowest, a Word of Death, that is, the Force lay long in Darkness, and by Putrifaction came to Resurrection. But we take living Things, and pour in Life [particle/male/soul] and Nature [Cup/female/Angel] of our own Will, so that instantly and without Corruption the Child (as it were the Word of that Will) is generated [the Child/samadhi]; and again immediately taketh up his Habitation among us to manifest in Force and Fire. This Mass of the Holy Ghost is then the true Formula of the Magick of the Aeon of Horus, blessed by He in His Name Ra-Hoor-Khuit! And thou shalt bless also the Name of our Father Merlin, Frater Superior of the O.T.O., [a reference to Theodore Reuss who initiated Crowley into the O.T.O.] for that by seven Years of Apprenticeship in His School did I discover this most excellent Way of Magick [the IX° secret]. Be thou diligent, o my son, for in this wondrous Art is no more Toil, Sorrow, and Disappointment, as it was in the dead Aeon of the Slain Gods.”Liber Aleph
Crowley writes in Magick Without Tears:
“The O.T.O. is a training of the Masonic type… the really vital matter is the gradual progress towards disclosure of the Secret of the Ninth Degree. To use that secret to advantage involves mastery both of Yoga and of Magick…”
Elsewhere, Crowley likened Yoga to 2 becoming 0 (Solve) and Magick to 0 becoming 2 (Coagula). This describes (1) Samadhi, where subject & object unite into that state called Naught/0 because it is non-dual and beyond all description and then the division of this Naught back into duality; (2) the union of sexual fluids under will (Yoga/None/0) which are then infused with and used to manifest “the will of the user… his utmost desire” (Magick/Two/2).
In his chapter on the Eucharist, Crowley writes, “The highest form of the Eucharist is that in which the Element consecrated is One. It is one substance and not two, not living and not dead, neither liquid nor solid, neither hot nor cold, neither male nor female.” This is the combined male and female sexual fluids and also symbolic of the state of mind of Samadhi which is beyond division and duality. He continues:
“This sacrament is secret in every respect. For those who may be worthy, although not officially recognized as such, this Eucharist has been described in detail and without concealment, ‘somewhere’ in the published writings of the MASTER THERION. But He has told no one where. It is reserved for the highest initiates, and is synonymous with the Accomplished Work on the material plane. It is the Medicine of Metals, the Stone of the Wise, the Potable Gold, the Elixir of Life that is consumed therein. The altar is the bosom of Isis, the eternal mother; the chalice is in effect the Cup of our Lady Babalon Herself; the Wand is that which Was and Is and Is To Come.” The end of this quotation reveals symbolism of the Gnostic Mass: the High Altar is “the bosom of Isis, the eternal mother,” the Holy Graal or chalice is “the Cup of our Lady Babalon Herself,” and the Lance of the Priest is “that which Was and Is and Is to Come.”
In contrast to the IX° Eucharist of One Element/substance, the Gnostic Mass uses two elements. Crowley writes:
“The Eucharist of two elements has its matter of the passives. The wafer (pantacle) is of corn, typical of earth; the wine (cup) represents water. (There are certain other attributions. The Wafer is the Sun, for instance: and the wine is appropriate to Bacchus). The wafer may, however, be more complex, the ‘Cake of Light’ described in Liber Legis. This is used in the exoteric Mass of the Phoenix (Liber 333, Cap: 44) mixed with the blood of the Magus. This mass should be performed daily at sunset by every magician. Corn and wine are equivalent to flesh and blood; but it is easier to convert live substances [i.e. those used in the IX°] into the body and blood of God, than to perform this miracle upon dead matter.”
Preparing the Medicine of Two Ingredients
Gnostic Mass performs, in effect, the same function as the IX° insofar they are both Eucharistic rituals of making something God, consuming it, and becoming that God, but the Gnostic Mass uses a Eucharist of two elements while the IX° uses a Eucharist of One element.
The Devil is in the details, of course. It may be more accurate to say it is a Eucharist of “Two-in-One” element, the co-mixing of male & female sexual fluids. There are more explicit practical instructions relevant on the physical plane, as Crowley instructed McMurtry in a letter:
Now about the IX: the theory is simple, and I think I told you enough at 93 for you to work on. Just in case: — You prepare the Medicine by mixing the two ingredients, with your mind concentrated and exalted on the purpose of the Opus at the moment of mixing. You absorb this; preferably by the mucous membrane (so as to avoid the gross elemental changes which would occur if it were swallowed); and, when a third person or thing is involved, you apply a small portion of it, either directly or by means of a talisman or some such device. In material Opus it may be well to complete the circuit by making contact with earth, e.g. the grass, or a plant, not a floor or any artificial “ground.” The Art of preparing the Elixir is not easy: (a) you must get a copious Eagle, and (b) the eggs ought to be fertilized: (c) the Link must be made secure. Remember that the thing works in every case; so, if you miss your target, stray bullets will be flying around, and may do endless mischief. They may even hit you! Experience: the first and only Teacher. I trust that the above will have confirmed rather than instructed. If any point is in doubt, let me know… The one thing that never alters is the basic formula of יהוה.”AC to McMurtry, 11/21/1944
Continuing on with ‘The Lost Continent’:
“Among adults there is no other food or drink than this. The children are not allowed to taste it.”Liber LII: The Lost Continent
This means Adepts are sustained on this, not the profane. As mentioned earlier, this reflects what Crowley said, “except in the case of an Adept, man only rises to a glimmer of the universal consciousness, while, in the orgasm, the mind is blotted out.” These Adepts are, in one sense, “Initiate[s] of the Sanctuary of the Gnosis” of the IX° and, in another sense, are those who attain Samadhi.
…in its ninth stage it is not only food and drink, but Universal Medicine, if properly understood. For Zro is also a vision and a voice!Liber LII: The Lost Continent
The elixir of the IX° is called “the Stone of the Wise, of the Elixir of Immortality, and of the Universal Medicine.”
Now the muscles of the people of Atlas are the muscles of giants, and yet they do one thing only. And this thing is combined by the wisdom of the Magicians, so that it is at the same time work, exercise, sport, game, pleasure, and all else that may fulfill life.
This work never ceases. It has these parts:
1. Working “at” Zro, “i.e.”, bringing it from the first stage to the ninth.Liber LII: The Lost Continent
This refers to going from I° to IX° in the O.T.O. as well as to the work of Yoga.
2. Working “with” Zro, “i.e.”, for one’s own particular purpose.Liber LII: The Lost Continent
This refers to the use of the IX° for Magick. As Crowley says in his Confessions, “in the bosom of the Sanctuary of the Gnosis of the OTO is cherished a magical formula, extremely simple and practical, for attaining any desired object.”
3. Working “for” Zro. This is the common and most honourable task, the Zro eaten and drunken being worked into a Quintessence of higher power, though identical in property with the common Zro…Liber LII: The Lost Continent
This refers to the use of the Eucharist to identify with Godhead and be a vehicle of its Will, Zro being a symbol of the Two-in-One (Atu 0: The Fool, Baphomet, etc.).
In the fourth chapter of “The Lost Continent” we read:
“Magic in Atlas was a ‘Science of Sciences.’ It was the final integration of all knowledge. In method its theory was differentiation, and in theory its method was integration. For example, the fifth of the great philosophers indicated ‘Everything is Zro’ to the Keeper of the Speech at the annual sacrifice. This in spite of the fact that in that very year two new forms of Zro had been discovered by that same philosopher. It was the third of the galaxy who announced “the ultimate analysis of sensation is pain; that of thought, madness; that of super-consciousness (a state of trance induced by Zro and valued above all things) annihilation.”Liber LII: The Lost Continent
“Everything is Zro” refers to the fact that Zro, the Pearl, refers in a sense to Kether (as containing the Rashith-Ha-Gilgalim or “first swirlings” of a Universe) or 0/Naught (as the Two-in-One that contains all as seen in Atu 0 of the Tarot). “the ultimate analysis of …super-consciousness (a state of trance induced by Zro and valued above all things) [is] annihilation.”
This relates Zro to the “trance” of Samadhi/Nirvana/Non-duality that is attained in the annihilation of the ego (symbolically, the draining out of one’s blood into the Cup of Babalon to arise as Nemo in the City of the Pyramids which is above the Abyss). The chapter continues:
“To return to the main magical theory, the Quintessence, said they, or Universal Substance (which some strove to identify with Hyle, others with the Luminiferous AEther) is the two-in-one, liquid and solid, the former part being also twofold, fluid and gaseous, and the latter earthy and fiery. The combination of these four phases of Zro accounted for the universe.”Liber LII: The Lost Continent
This seems to re-affirm the understanding mentioned throughout this essay that the Zro is the “two-in-one,” the One Substance of the Eucharist which is both “liquid and solid.” The “Quintessence” is a reference to the “fifth element” of Spirit which envelops, permeates, and combines the four elements “liquid [water] and solid [earth]… earthy [earth] and fiery [fire].” Zro is here likened to Spirit of which the four elements are its four phases which constitute the universe. Continuing, we read:
“A more mystic school saw life everywhere. It knew all that we know, and more, about ions and electrons; it saw every phenomenon as a manifestation of will. The crowning glory of this school was the discovery that Zro in its ninth stage, eaten and drunken with concentrated intention, produced the desired result, whatever (within wide limits) that result might be. This went far to supersede the use of all specialized forms of Zro, and so to unify the magical practice.”Liber LII: The Lost Continent
This “school” supposedly “saw every phenomenon as a manifestation of will.” This parallels Crowley’s commentary to Liber AL II:9, “The Universe is a Puppet-Play for the amusement of Nuit and Hadit in their Nuptials; a very Midsummer Night’s Dream. So then we laugh at the mock woes of Pyramus and Thisbe, the clumsy gambols of Bottom; for we understand the Truth of Things, how all is a Dance of Ecstasy. “Were the world understood, Ye would know it was good, a Dance to a lyrical measure!” The nature of events must be ‘pure joy’; for obviously, whatever occurs is the fulfilment of the Will of its master.”
Zro “in its ninth stage” refers to the IX°. It is “eaten and drunken with concentrated intention,” which indicates the state of mind required for the proper performance of the IX° work. This is most likely more than simply what a layperson would call “concentrated intention” but rather the state of Dhyana or Samadhi itself on the intended goal. It is through this “concentration intention” that the Will is transmitted into the Elixir, which is then consumed to produce “the desired result, whatever (within wide limits) that result might be.”
We therefore can see that the Gnostic Mass is (1) a Eucharistic ritual in its own right, though being of two substances; the Mass veils (2) the IX° secret of sexual magick, and both the Gnostic Mass and the IX° operation are symbolic of (3) the union of subject and object in Samadhi, “universal consciousness” or “super-consciousness.”
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