Note: This is an excerpt from the book HRILIU: Symbolic Explorations of the Gnostic Mass, a nearly 400-page exposition of the symbolism of Liber XV: The Gnostic Mass.
There are many ways to understand what exactly is happening in the Gnostic Mass. There are many justifiable interpretations where the Mass is ultimately about the invocation of Horus, the Two-in-One Eternal Sun, who manifests within the Eucharist and therefore within the congregant who consumes it. There are other interpretations where the Mass is about the Priest’s, and then the congregant’s, communion with Nuit through the Priestess on the altar. These are certainly both true on their own levels, and they are not mutually exclusive. I am putting forth yet another interpretation of the Gnostic Mass that it is primarily an invocation of & communion with Baphomet.
The evidence that the Gnostic Mass is essentially a ritual of Baphomet is scattered throughout the rubric of the Mass. The first clue comes from the number assigned to the Gnostic Mass, Liber XV, i.e. the number 15. The number 15 is also assigned to Atu XV: The Devil, which depicts a form Baphomet. Baphomet was attributed to this Tarot Trump by Eliphas Levi, a Saint of our Gnostic Catholic Church and a (claimed) past life of Aleister Crowley. This attribution of Liber XV to Atu XV: The Devil alone should give one pause, for all of Crowley’s Libri have very specific designations. Crowley writes that Atu XV “represents creative energy in its most material form,” which is particularly appropriate for a rite that celebrates the union of male and female in creative ecstasy. He continues, “The card represents Pan Pangenetor, the All-Begetter,” and it is this “Pan”, All-Begetter and All-Destroyer, that is specifically invoked by the Priest in the rending of the Veil.
Elsewhere, Crowley writes of Atu XV that “He is ‘the Devil’ of the Book of Thoth, and His emblem is BAPHOMET, the Androgyne who is the hieroglyph of arcane perfection.” Baphomet is therefore a symbol of perfection to which we all strive as Magicians, an image of complete balance and harmony of all parts in a single unity. In other words, Baphomet represents the complete or perfected Microcosm in this sense. Crowley continues, “The number of His Atu is XV, which is Yod He [יה], the Monogram of the Eternal, the Father one with the Mother.” This shows that Baphomet is an image of “Yod He” (sometimes spelled “Yod-Heh”), or the Father (Yod / י) one with the Mother (Heh / ה). It is called a “Monogram” because “Yod He” forms “Jah,” the single-syllable Name of God. Of course, enumerates to 15, identifying the Gnostic Mass (as Liber XV), Baphomet (as Atu XV), and Father-Mother (as יה).
Insofar as Baphomet is Yod-Heh, it is a symbol of Father and Mother combined. In the case of the Gnostic Mass, this means Baphomet is a symbol of the Priest and Priestess combined, or the Lance and Cup combined. Baphomet is therefore, once again, seen as a symbol of the arcane perfection of the union of opposites: an image of the Two-in-One Godhead.
Getting into the rubric of Liber XV itself, we find that “BAPHOMET” is named in our Creed. Many authors have noted how the first portion of the Creed follows the formula of Tetragrammaton. The first paragraph, which mentions the ineffable Lord, the Sun, CHAOS, and the Air all belong to Yod (י) of Tetragrammaton. The second paragraph, which mentions the Earth, the Womb, and BABALON all belong to Heh (ה) of Tetragrammaton. CHAOS and BABALON are essentially the Macrocosmic equivalents of the Priest and Priestess, as they are manifested within the Microcosm of the Temple. The third paragraph of the Creed mentions the Lion, the Serpent, and BAPHOMET, placing it as Vav (ו) in the formula of Tetragrammaton.
This, in one sense, highlights that BAPHOMET is the product of the union of CHAOS (Father / Yod) and BABALON (Mother /Heh). In another sense, we know from the formula of Tetragrammaton that Vav must unite with Heh Final. From the Creed, we know that the Gnostic Catholic Church of Light, Life, Love, and Liberty holds the place of Heh Final in the formula of Tetragrammaton. This symbolism comes from Christianity, where a common image of the Church is that of Christ’s bride. In other words, the Church is “married” to the bridegroom of Christ, from whence it derives its authority, power, and holiness.
Keeping this in mind, it becomes clear through the structure of the Creed that Baphomet is understood as the bridegroom of our Gnostic Catholic Church. Baphomet has taken the place of Christ as an image of the omphalos or power-source of our Church. Interestingly, Christ designates Peter as the “rock” of the Church (petros meaning rock or stone), and Baphomet is traditionally depicted seated upon a cubical stone. This cubical stone is the foundational stone, the rock upon which the Church is built. Crowley writes, “Baphomet was Father Mithras, the cubical stone which was the corner of the Temple.”
To reinforce this, Crowley received a strange spelling of the 8-lettered named BAPHOMET in a working (באפומיתר) which enumerates to 729 (and bears a resemblance to the name “Mithras,” hence Crowley’s interpretation of the name as “Father Mithras”. Mithras is, of course, yet another one of the names invoked by the Priest in his rending of the Veil). Sabazius X° notes, “BAFOMIThR [is] 729 = Kephas, stone, the name Jesus gave Peter as the founder of the Church, the Cubic Stone which was the Corner of the Temple.” These are further indications that Baphomet is truly the symbol of our central, sacred Rite.
A further indication comes from the very fact that Baphomet is understood by Crowley to specifically be an 8-lettered name (the Octogrammaton, if you will). See, for example, where Crowley writes, “I had taken the name Baphomet as my motto in the O.T.O. For six years and more I had tried to discover the proper way to spell this name. I knew that it must have eight letters…” This notion was reinforced by a line from The Vision & the Voice, “thou knowest not how the Seven was united with the Four; much less then canst thou understand the marriage of the Eight and the Three. Yet there is a word wherein these are made one.” Crowley comments, “BAPHOMET, in which three vowels are equilibrated with five consonants.”
Baphomet is therefore an 8-fold word that combines 5 and 3, an idea we will return to shortly. For the present, if one is Qabalistically inclined, one meaning of Baphomet being “8” is that it connects BAPHOMET to Mercury. Mercury corresponds to the 8th Sephirah on the Tree of Life, Hod. 8 is a symbol of Mercury and therefore a number of Christ, insofar as Mercury is the messenger of Jupiter just as Christ the Son is the messenger of the Father (and Aiwass the messenger of Hoor-paar-kraat, I might add). There are, in fact, several paintings of Christ where he is in the exact pose of Baphomet, with one hand pointed up to Heaven and the other pointed down to Earth. Further, one spelling of Jesus (Ιησουϛ) enumerates to 888, a numerical symbol of the Christ/Redeemer.
Therefore, Baphomet is seen as the Redeemer, Christ, Logos, or Word of the New Aeon. Of course, we do not believe that Baphomet died for our sins but, rather, Baphomet is an image of our own Perfected Self, the glyph of arcane perfection, the complete Magician who has united male and female, Earth and Heaven, into a single, flawless Pyramid. It might be added that, in addition, the rubric of Liber XV has exactly 8 sections as does the Creed of the Mass.
It has already been mentioned how Baphomet is, in one sense, the product of the union of Priest and Priestess. This is foreshadowed long before the climactic “HRILIU” in a subtle way. In the first portions of the Mass, the Priest is purified and consecrated by the Priestess in the West. This is always done in a 3-fold manner, as it says in the rubric, “over his forehead, breast, and body.”
The Priest then purifies and consecrates the Priestess in the East. This is always done in a 5-gold manner, in the shape of a pentagram, as indicated by the rubric. The combination of these 3-fold crosses and 5-fold crosses is a total of 8, Baphomet: once again a symbol of the union of Father and Mother, Yod and Heh, Priest and Priestess. It will be noted that Crowley specifically mentions BAPHOMET as an 8-fold name that combines the 5 and the 3.
One of the biggest clues comes from the climactic moment of the Gnostic Mass and the moments following it. The one word spoken by both Priest and Priestess simultaneously during the entire Mass is “HRILIU,” a clear symbol of both physical orgasm (the perpetuation of life) and the “mental orgasm” of samadhi, the union of subject and object in awareness.
This is essentially the quintessential moment (pun intended) of the entire Gnostic Mass, where the Priest and Priestess are finally consummated in union as the particle enters the Cup. Right after this union of Priest and Priestess, who is invoked? None other than Baphomet. Although not named specifically at this point, Baphomet is clearly designated as “the Serpent and the Lion” earlier in the Creed, a phrase which is basically repeated by the Priest at this later moment in the Mass. Therefore, the thing invoked at the climax of the ritual is not Horus, nor is it Babalon, nor Nuit, nor Chaos, but BAPHOMET.
Interestingly, it is right after this moment of Baphomet being invoked that the Priest finally addresses the People. This can be seen as the Priest (or the Priest combined with the Priestess, who is with the Priest at the High Altar at this point) functioning in the role of Baphomet, insofar as Baphomet is the Christ-Logos of the Church. The Priest proclaims the Law of the New Aeon as Baphomet-Christ-Bridegroom, and the People respond as the bride of Baphomet, the Church who is wedded to the Hermetic Androgyne in a holy covenant. Again, this is Baphomet acting as Vav (ו) of Tetragrammaton, uniting with the Heh Final (ה) of the Church/the People.
Finally, we have Communion. The notion that it is truly Baphomet that is invoked may give weight to the interpretation of the rubric where the Priest simply stays at the High Altar during Communion. If the Priest simply remains where he is, perhaps sitting on a stool in front of the Priestess, they essentially meld together into a Priest-Priestess, a very apt image of Baphomet as Two-in-One. In fact, if the Priest holds their Lance erect, both the erect phallus and breasts of Baphomet would be represented in this Priest-Priestess arrangement. Then, each Congregant would be communing with Baphomet, rather than Nuit or Babalon.
An even more nuanced view may find that even the Priestess being alone on the altar is actually representing Baphomet rather than Nuit or Babalon. There is, of course, the symbolic “fact” that the Priest and Priestess dissolved their separateness in the moment of “HRILIU,” and therefore are not simply back to their normal divided selves during Communion. If the entire Mass is building up to that point, it would seem likely that they are – at least symbolically – still in union during Communion. One way to accommodate this is to see the Priestess as actually transforming into an image of Baphomet, rather than Babalon or Nuit.
In fact, Crowley’s previously mentioned comment about the name “BAPHOMET” continues with some interesting notions. He writes, “[…] BAPHOMET, in which three vowels are equilibrated with five consonants. He is also BABALON after a certain mystery, and Zeus Arrhenoteleus. Hence the allusion at the end of this sentence.” These are very curious comments for multiple reasons. First of all, he is equating Baphomet with Babalon. This is likely Babalon in a particular aspect or form, as Babalon is usually designated to Binah as the complement to Chaos/Therion in Chokmah. The key to understanding this comes later in The Vision & the Voice when it is revealed that, “BABALON (who is speaking through one of Her ministers) is the Feminine (or Androgyne) equivalent and not merely complement — of Pan. This is shewn in many of Her images.”
Therefore, Babalon can become a “feminine” or androgynous equivalent of the All, of “Pan.” The identity between Baphomet and Pan has already been discussed, primarily through their connection in Atu XV: The Devil, and now we may add Babalon, at least in this particular form. Crowley notes that Baphomet is equivalent to Babalon and then he also mentions “Zeus Arrhenotheleus,” which is simply another image Crowley uses of the divine Hermaphrodite/Androgyne. Finally, he mentions an “allusion at the end of this sentence.” The “sentence” referred to is from the 5th Aethyr where it is written:
“And there is a voice: thou knowest not how the Seven was united with the Four; much less then canst thou understand the marriage of the Eight and the Three. Yet there is a word wherein these are made one, and therein is contained the Mystery that thou seekest, concerning the rending asunder of the veil of my Mother.”
We already know that the word “wherein these are made one” is BAPHOMET, and now, interestingly, it is related to “the rending asunder of the veil of my Mother.” The similarity to the Gnostic Mass should probably be quite clear to anyone. As yet another additional reinforcement of this idea, the eightfold star of the Redeemer/Mercury that appears in Atu XVII: The Star, is BAPHOMET (being the 8-lettered name, corresponding to the 8-pointed star) which shines through the naked female figure in the foreground, representing the Priestess in the context of the Gnostic Mass. It is therefore possible to consider Atu XVII: The Star as a symbol of the Priestess becoming an earthly avatar of Baphomet’s Light.
As one further reinforcement of this general symbolism, Crowley explains the ritual sign of “Mulier” – literally meaning “Mother” – to be given as such: “The feet are widely separated, and the arms raised so as to suggest a crescent. The head is thrown back (attitude of Baphomet, Isis in Welcome, the Microcosm of Vitruvius).” The shape suggesting a crescent is most obviously reminiscent of the Cup that the Priestess has, and the Priestess herself as Luna to the Priest’s Sol. Crowley clearly writes that this is “the attitude of Baphomet,” and he may be alluding to this aspect of Babalon wherein She is simply another image of Baphomet and vice versa.
Note: This is an excerpt from the book HRILIU: Symbolic Explorations of the Gnostic Mass.
The book is a nearly 400-page exposition of the symbolism of Liber XV: The Gnostic Mass, the central ritual of Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO).
 The Book of Thoth.
 The Book of Thoth.
 Magick in Theory & Practice, chapter 21.
 Magick in Theory & Practice, chapter 21.
 In gematria, y = 10, h = 5.
 Confessions, chapter 85.
 Mystery of Mystery: A Primer of Thelemic Ecclesiastical Gnosticism.
 Confessions, chapter 85.
 The Vision & the Voice, 5th Aethyr.
 The Vision & the Voice, 5th Aethyr.
 The Vision & the Voice, 2nd Aethyr.
 See the discussion of Zeus Arrhenothelus in Teh Book of Thoth in the section on Atu 0: The Fool.
 This does not appear on the Thoth Tarot version but it is described in The Vision & the Voice, 6th Aethyr,“…Above me appears the starry heaven of night, and one star greater than all the other stars. It is a star of eight rays. I recognize it as the star in the seventeenth key of the Tarot, as the Star of Mercury.”
 Liber V vel Reguli.
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