A Tripartite Thelema:
“For he is ever a sun, and she a moon.”-I: 16. That passage, as is the case with much of “Liber AL vel Legis”, is often cited, but rarely contemplated. Anyone familiar with The Chemycal Wedding of Christian Rosencrantz should easily see the alchemy of that statement, as Crowley did as a Golden Dawn Adept, but this layer of The Book of the Law has been either concealed or neglected by most Thelemic groups. One could say it is because they ignore several important passages, and attempt to treat the Trinity in Liber AL, much like the Church, rather than allowing for “every man to discover this book for himself”.
Recently, the shift in the occult community from local bookstores and lodges to the Internet has actually created a great diversity in thought, even on Thelema. Many continue Crowley’s interpretation of the three as Yin-Yang-Tao, or Sat-Chit-Ananda, but some more radical schools of Thelema are beginning to break away and draw new influences into this religious philosophy. The Temple of Set today is using Baphomet as Hadit, and Set-Lucifer as Ra-Hoor-Khuit, with very interesting results. Some use Heru and Nuit as neo-pagan deities and perform Sabbats and Esbats for them as God and Goddess.
These transitions are very significant: they show that Thelema, when removed from many of Crowley’s formal theological and religious forms, can endure. It has lately undergone the transformation from Faith to Religious Philosophy. The truths of Thelema do become evident if it is followed as a guide for living, and as a spiritual path it has much to offer, and wholly to the individual. This is why it continues to survive, because ultimately each true thelemite discovers it for themselves: like Buddhists, Taoists and Jungians- similar religious philosophies.
The transformation is difficult for many who have assumed the standardized forms of Babalon and Hadit were the only ones. Now that this debate is occurring more often in our communities and online, it is time to unveil a textual secret that has always been visible but seldom discussed. This will allow another layer of the text to be known, rather than just the prophetic and the religious. This in some ways is three-fold in the nature of the book: it is both prophecy to Crowley, a manual for religious worship, and an allegory of Inner Alchemy.
The prophetic nature of “Liber AL” Crowley discusses in great length, in Equinox of the Gods, his Confessions and frequently in Magick. Much of what those Spirits communicated to him in The Great Pyramid was intensely personal, and shaped his entire life. One does wonder if it were not for those three nights, would Crowley have lived the life and have written so much to inspire so many minds: from John Lennon and David Bowie, to Frank Herbert and Neil Gaiman.
The Cultic Instruction is the other most common current reading of The Book of the Law. Several sections work well in this way: the description of the Priestess in Part I, the list of holidays at the end of the book, and the details about blood and sacrifice, as well as Nuit’s incense. This still is merely an exoteric layer, and one that has been used to the exclusion of many other layers since its inception, but now one more may be revealed.
Viewing Thelema as a formula for Inner Alchemy not only opens a new form of analysis of the text, and Crowley’s life, but also allows for the development of Alchemy that is not just a Christian Mystery. Most Alchemists in The Middle Ages were highly devout Christians and saw Jesus as The Philosophers’ Stone, with similar nuances to King and Queen. The vocabulary of Alchemy could be radically updated if it used Thelema as its Mutus Liber, and these Philosophic and Alchemic aspects were to begin to be reshaped along these lines.
Thelema would also benefit from the reinterpretation of its Holy Trinity, as more fluid and subjective forces within the psyche rather than objective Spirits. Hopefully this also will create a better direction for Thelema in coming years, as other students put Crowley’s text and more contemporary Thelemic ideologies into a fresh context. Much within the other Holy Books of Thelema shows similar uses of the characters, as does Liber 418: The Vision and The Voice, and is occasionally raised by Golden Dawn Adepts after initial encounters with either text.
This division into gendered portions is reflected in the Chemical Wedding that occurs at the next stage as well, when both White Sulphur and Red Sulphur, have been purified and coagulated into Silver-Luna and Gold-Sol. These crystallized portions of the Soul: the masculine and feminine are then united to create the Stone. That stone is then reunited with Mercury, or the Shadow, to complete the Inner Alchemy.
This division of the personality survived from Hellenistic times into the Renaissance as the Alchemists’ Trinity: Luna as The Son, Sol as The Father, and Mercury as The Holy Spirit, but later shaped both Golden Dawn Magick and Jung’s Personality Theory. Something within the Tripartite Spirit has kept it relevant to mystical and psychological experience for nearly all of history, even if different Alchemists frequently had differing understandings of the divisions.
“By burning anything to ashes you may gain its salt…If you do not possess the ashes, you will be unable to obtain our salt; and without our salt you will not be able to impart to our substance a bodily form; for coagulation of all things is produced by salt alone...As salt is the great preserving principle that protects all things from decay, so the Salt of our Magistrey preserves metal from decomposition and utter annihilation.” -12 Keys of Basil Valentine. This passage not only illustrates the function of Salt within The Work, but also details its synthesis from the First Matter. It is important both mystically and psychologically that Salt or the Feminine is released not through just the rinsing, but through the complete incineration of the First Matter. This alludes to the complete collapse of the personality that comes in the early stages of the work, and that without it all Greater Work is in vain.
Salt is also the maternal and material part of human nature, thus the “without our salt you will not be able to impart to our substance a bodily form”. Salt in Alchemy reminds us to stay attentive of our physical forms, and our material needs. Other systems such as Hinduism often neglect this area of personal development, rather than give it the level of attention that alchemy does.
As principle of preservation, Salt is the stabilizing or fixing component of the three, thus the first to be synthesized from the First Matter. Then it is recombined with both Sulphur in Conjunction, and Mercury during Separation. Its final form as Silver is the Pure Feminine Part of the Tripartite Soul, which must be fully and equally developed as The Gold.
Sulphur or Sol
“ This deep-red tincture, extracted out of our Philosophical Earth, is called our Sulphur, our undigested, essential Gold, our internal elementary Fire, and our Red-Lion: for without its Help and Concurrence our Philosophical World cannot be nourished, digested, or accomplished, being the right Ground, and true Essence of the whole work…”-Aphorisms of Urbigerus; LXV.” Sulphur is thus as important in The Great Work as Salt, but as the passage makes very clear, for the opposite reasons. Whereas Salt is preservative, feminine and crystallizing Sulphur is “elementary Fire...nourished, digested” or the destructive and loosening part of the Tripartite Soul. It is the Heavenly Fire, the Spiritual Need for purification and spiritualizing within everyone.
It is the requisite Fire needed to reduce the First Matter to its Salt, because without the proper spiritual devotion, Alchemy is impossible. Sulphur serves as the combustive and destructive, that needs to struggle with Salt to produce both Gold and Silver, but is unnecessary once both have been produced. Its function is then elevated into Gold, as Salt is transformed into Silver.
As the Masculine Part of the Trinity, it is symbolized by the power and desire of the Red Lion. This shows both the inherent potency of Sulphur and the risks of being overpowered by it, if not correctly and proportionately balanced with Salt. It must also be remembered that Gold is not The Work’s end, but merely a precursor to The Chemycal Wedding of Silver and Gold. But that requires stable development and purification of both, and success in both preliminary stages of The Work.
“Indeed there is a certain mercury hidden in every Body,
being fitted without other preparation; but the Art of Extracting it is very difficult. Mercury cannot be converted into Sol or Luna, and fixed, but by a Compendium of the Abbreviation of The Great Work. To congeal, to fix, is One Work; of one thing only, in the vessel. That which congealeth and fixeth Mercury, that also tinges the same, in one and the same Praxis.”-157 Cannons, 21-24”, Mercury is then seen as the fluid medium of the Great Work, that which is both tinged with Sulphur and crystallized by Salt. The passage also illuminates how all three portions of the Tripartite Soul, are “One Work, of one thing...” which is important when understanding the interrelationships of the three parts of alchemy. Separating Mercury from Salt and Sulphur is one of the bases of The Great Work. It is the Source and Seed, according to many texts of both other substances needed to produce The Wedding. This means that Mercury both contains and may consume the others, and often does so. Thus initially, they are separated from Mercury, but later recombined as Salt and Sulphur.
The passage also makes clear that it is Mercury which
changes, “converted into Sol or Luna”, as the Great Work develops, and that there is no other source. It is Mercury fixed into Gold or Silver, or the Primordial Essence distilled into its Masculine and Feminine Components, that is the “one and the same Praxis”. Mercury thus is the First Matter, and Source of the others, in The Great Work, so contains them all: Salt, Sulphur, King, Queen, and Dross because ultimately It is the subject of the work.
Babalon as Luna
“With the God & Adorer I am nothing: they do not see me. They are upon the earth; I am in Heaven...O Nuit continuous one of Heaven, let it be ever thus; that men speak not of thee at all since thou art continuous! None, breathed the light, faint & faery, of the stars, and two.”I:21-28, thus The Book of The Law describes Nuit, in terms fairly resonant with the Alchemic Cosmos, as a depiction of Luna. “They do not see me”, alludes to this conception, that when abased to a mere cultic Divinity, Nuit is lost. Rather She as Luna is continuous because the Coagulation that Salt must perform, is endless. Luna must crystallize both Gold and Silver, and then Mercury, before fixing it and The Stone. None is used in “Liber AL”, as One was in the ancient texts, as the Source and sum of The Great Work. “Nothing is the secret of this book”, and “None...and two” both allude to Nuit’s role as half of another Chemycal Wedding, with Sol as the other, or Ra-Hoor-Khuit.
“The Five Pointed Star, with a Circle in the Middle, & the circle is Red. My colour is black to the blind, but blue & gold are seen of the seeing...I am the blue-lidded daughter of Sunset; I am naked brilliance of the voluptuous night-sky.”-I: 60-64. Babalon is here detailing the Lesser Work. Most Alchemy texts, urge the Separation of The Elements, here the Black Pentagram. Black, here as in “The Song of Solomon” is an allusion to Salt, and its binding ability. “Blue & gold are seen of the seeing”, is a reference to the Union with Sol, and the watery feminine nature of Luna. The red circle in her center is Sulphur Separated in the Lesser Working: none of which any earlier commentator has noticed, or the peculiar statements of alchemic ideas throughout the text.
Nuit makes a statement that is irrefutably alchemic with “Circle in the Middle” and these references to the orbits of Alchemy are not limited to Nuit. Hadit says, “the cube in the circle” while Ra-Hoor-Khuit refers to “Then the line drawn is a key: then this circle squared in its failure is a key also.” These geometric symbols have been part of traditional alchemy since Atlanta Fugens and are another form of restating the stages in the Great Work. The Circle is making Silver, “squaring the circle” is Gold, and placing both within The Triangle is another metaphor for the Wedding of Sol and Luna. These are very basic alchemic references that only make sense if Babalon-Nuit is Queen Luna, Ra-Hoor-Khuit King Sol, and Hadit another Snake of Mercury.
Hadit as Mercury
“I have found that which could not be found; I have found a vessel of quicksilver” -Liber LXV: I: 29. This, which to Crowley was a great revelation, is a mere restatement of Mercury as the Source of Salt and Sulphur. It is a reminder that all the Great Work, is done in a single vessel of the soul, with little expense. No other reading of “Liber LXV”, adequately explains this passage, but the dual mercury connotation is obvious, and well attuned to centuries of alchemy.
“In the sphere I am everywhere the centre...I am the flame that burns in every heart of man, and in the core of every star. I am Life, and the giver of Life, yet therefore is the knowledge of me the knowledge of death. I am the Magician and the Exorcist. I am the axle of the wheel, and the cube in the circle...my number is nine by the fools; but with the just I am eight, and one in eight: Which is vital, for I am none indeed. The Empress and the King are not of me; for there is a further secret.”-II: 3-15. Hadit defines himself as in “Liber AL” a passage that seems disturbingly similar to this from Basil Valentine’s Azoth:“ I am the poisonous Dragon, present everywhere...the ‘thing’ on which I rest, and that rests on me, will be found in me by those who know how to look through me as is necessary...on you I will lavish male and female powers, celestial and earthly. These mysteries of my Art must be dealt with magnanimity and courage, if you desire that I remain in the strength of the fire...I am the egg of Nature, that only the devout and modest wise men know, and they made the microcosm to be born from me...the Philosophers call me Mercury...I am the ancient Dragon present in every part of the earth; I am father and mother...strong and delicate...hard and soft, descending in the earth and ascending to the heavens....” Hadit does say he is “none indeed”, or the First Matter, or Mercury of this new alchemy, clarifying Nuit’s earlier statement from the first section. Hadit also makes the very Alchemically Mercurial statements about being ”the center”, “axle”, and ”core of every star”, all that expand upon Hadit, as Mercury or Source of the Work.
The rest of both passages are very similar in both form and content, in both texts Hadit or Mercury compare themselves with Death and Magick. “Magician and Exorcist” and “powers, celestial and earthly” do seem to resonate with both the same tone, and ideal being expressed. The same may be said about both identifying, in nearly identical ways with “the knowledge of me is the knowledge of death” and “I am the poisonous Dragon”. Unless both where the same portion of the Triple Soul, it would be hard to explain why both Magick and Death were associated with the same figure, in the center.
Both passages also reconcile gender, “I am father and mother” to Hadit’s “I am none indeed. The Empress and The King are not of me; for there is a further secret.” Hadit does denote both Luna and Sol as independent from him, and his similarity to Alchemic Mercury is that “further secret”. Again this is hard to explain outside the context of the Tripartite Soul, because this androgynous spirit, related to male and female, yet neither is unusual to anyone unfamiliar with Alchemic Symbols.
“I shall not rest until I have dissolved it all. So also the light that is absorbed. One absorbs little, and it is called white and glistening; one absorbs all and is called black.” Liber LXV: I: 17-18 and in “Liber AL” Hadit defines himself as: “Blue am I and gold in the light of my bride: but the red gleam is in my eyes; & my spangles are purple & green. Purple beyond purple: it is the light higher than eyesight. ...There is a light before thine eyes, o prophet, a light undesired, most desirable.”II: 50-61. These passages have endured dozens of bizarre and unlikely interpretations by “fools...make a great miss”, because the Key of It All is merely Traditional Alchemy. The first passage, seemingly referring to colors of magick, actually refers to Hadit or Mercury’s forms in the Lesser and the Greater Alchemic Works. “White and glistening”, is the lesser work, of distillation, or purifying Luna. “One absorbs all and is called black” refers to Mercury as The Black Sun during the “Eclipse” or Union of Luna and Sol. The “until I have dissolved it all”, is an allusion to Elevation, or the Final Stage, when Mercury is united with the Child of Sol and Luna.
The Alchemic Stages have often been described with color codes, and that is the only sensible interpretation of that section of “Liber AL”. Red and Purple both refer to the final products, the Gold or Red Stone is the product of the distillation of Sulphur, while Purple is a color associated with the Union of Sol and Luna. “Blue and Gold in the light of my bride (Luna)” refers to Hadit as the dissolver, as mercury in the Lesser Work and that in the early stages, Salt’s influence on Hadit as fixative in the Birth of Silver. The “spangles of purple & green”, both restate that Hadit is Mercury because they are the shades of Conjunction or Verdigris, and Elevation, both stages of The Greater Work when Mercury is added to Sol and Luna, or united with their child. The focus on Purple, or Elevation, or “Purple beyond purple” again is just nonsense if removed from its proper Alchemic context. Elevation has been described as: “there is nothing comparable with the subtlety thereof. He shall possess all in all, performing all things whatsoever which are possible under the Sun.”, Twelfth Key of Basil Valentine.
The image of Light, as the motivation beyond color and even purple in the passages is a new addition to the symbolism of the Great Work. It is mentioned by Hadit, because he is the Mercury of the New Aion, and as nothing in “Liber AL” has replaced the Undivided One, of Renaissance Alchemy, that “Light beyond Purple” is the new symbol to transcend god. The period and inherent dangers of alchemy forced most written texts to be at least superficially Christian, when Christ was not directly perceived as either Mercury or The Stone. The Light, as Divine Source, is what both passages seem to allude to, thus it is both “most desired” and “absorbed” by the Thelemite. As a basis for modern Mutus Libers, Light would be intoned and defined as the Unknown Divine, to be served with faith and devotion, as the medieval people spoke of the Christian God. This echoes back to Ancient Egyptian Magick, and Tibetan Yoga, which use Light as the symbol of the Primal Source of the Cosmos.
Understanding that Hadit, is but another code for the Spirit of Mercury, not only is visible by comparing the second part of The Book of The Law with older alchemic texts, but also by seeing how this reading explains otherwise incomprehensible passages. Not only do Mercury and Hadit share similar functions and attributes, but also are associated with the same colors and stages of the Work, if we read with Alchemy as our lens. The Symbolism of Purple, and Elevation, though clear in this reading, eluded both Crowley and Achad. The Light, as renewed conception of the Divine, if Hadit, Nuit and Ra-Hoor-Khuit are just new masks for the old Tripartite Soul, gives a purer spiritual focus to Thelema than it has in its present cultic state and explains all the “godless” comments made throughout “Liber AL”.
Ra-Hoor-Khuit as Sol
“Know thee that my father Sol hath given me power over all power hath put me on a garment of glory...I am the greatest now they have known my virtue and altitude, for I am only and alone...Yea, rather I am above it and above my servants, until I humble them and exact from the nature and power of them, and endure them with my brightness and fair light which my father hath given unto me in all their works, for I am excelling, which exalt and surpass all things.” Rosarium Philosophorum, and once again the third spirit in The Book of The Law nearly paraphrases the traditional alchemic text:” Fear not at all; fear neither men nor Fates, nor gods, nor anything. Money fear not, nor laughter of the folk folly, nor any other power in heaven or upon the earth or under the earth. Nu is your refuge as Hadit your light; and I am the strength, force, and vigour of your arms. My altar is of open brass work: burn thereon in silver and gold!” -III: 17, 30. “I will bring you to victory & joy: I will be at your arms in battle & ye shall delight to slay. Success is your proof; courage your armor; go on, go on in my strength; & ye shall turn not back for any...Who shall discover the Key of it all. Then the line drawn is a key: then this circle squared in its failure is a key also. And Abrahadabra...I am in a fourfold secret word, the blasphemy against all gods of men.”-III: 46-49. Most of both passages dwell on the “brightness” and “strength, force and vigour” that both Ra-Hoor-Khuit and Sol share, again being almost the same understandings of this part of the Soul. Both stress excelling, at any cost, martial and power and their shared tendency to humble those that serve them. The similarities go past even that, they share a meter, and tone as the Valentine did with Hadit, but also the same demands of those that would seek to serve either. It is very hard to see this as a mere literary device, and not be struck by its resonance.
“ I ask you to sacrifice nothing at mine altar; I am the God who giveth all. Light, Life, Love, Force, Fantasy, Fire; these do I bring you: mine hands are full of these. There is a joy in setting-out; there is a joy in the journey; there is a joy in the goal...My disciples are strong and swift; they rule their way like mighty conquerors. ...Also I give you power earthly and joy earthly: wealth, and health, and length of days. Adoration and love shall cling to your feet, and twine around your heart. ” -Liber XC: I: 20-24, 31. And these passages develop how both to treat those that serve them, “I illuminate the air with my light and make the earth hot with my heat. I engender and nourish natural things…I take away the darkness and night with my power, and I cause the days to remain and I illuminate all things with my light that are to be illuminated, and those things in which there is neither greatness nor brightness, all which surely are of my work when I am endured with garments…we shall have everlasting glory and fortitude and then all shall rejoice in great prosperity which know our proceedings.” Rosarium Philosophorum. The final line of each even promise the same reward for The Work! “Light, Life, Love, Force, Fantasy, Fire” does not seem so far from “I engender and nourish natural things”. The goal both speak of even appears to be the same, “there is a joy in the goal” to “then all shall rejoice...which know our proceedings”, unless that goal was the Great Work, and Union of Sol and Luna.
Sol and Ra-Hoor-Khuit also seem to share powers in the Tripartite Soul. If these were the only connections between traditional Alchemy and Thelema it could be read as coincidental, but the overlaps do seem ever-present if one evaluates these texts together, with complete awareness of both Thelema and Traditional Alchemy. The Trinity model is not enough, there are several other Magickal triples- the Druids had hundreds, but the fact remains that each seems to paraphrase earlier texts almost without a single change in symbol or thoughts expressed. Were Ra-Hoor-Khuit alone in this, it would lead to a revaluation of his divided nature, but Nuit and Hadit also share these similarities with the principles of alchemy.
Many of the Ra-Hoor-Khuit passages in the third section of “Liber AL” have been misconstrued and abused by those not fortunate enough to read them with this lens. The Fortress and Warfare imagery alludes to the difficulties inherent in Separation, and the need for constant refinement. “As brothers fight ye”, likely refers to the re-assimilations of both Sulphur, in the Lesser Work, and the duel and absorption of Mercury at Elevation. ABRAHADABRA divided into three; four and eleven refer to the levels of separation and eleven perhaps being the number of “Gates” or Stages in Thelemic Alchemy. All of which are contextualized by the rest of the book in this interpretation, and decoded with the older cipher of alchemy.
An Alchemic Thelema
“For I am divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union...that the pain of division is as nothing, and the joy of dissolution all.”-I: 28-29. Nuit says early on in “Liber AL” and that passage also has been often twisted into a formula for sex magick, rather than Inner Alchemic Union. It shares much with the older texts that mention that all three “are of one seed”, etc. and begins the long section on the beauty of the Union. It also illustrates how deeply this reinterpretation departs for the common Cultic reading.
Love and Will are typically viewed as the basis of Thelema, and the “93” greeting demonstrates that very well. Nuit would continue to symbolize Love, but as a more internalized archetype. Ra-Hoor-Khuit would replace Hadit as Will because of his more passionate and solar nature. Hadit would then be the Source and united form of both, after transcending each other, thus his “concealment”. Beyond Hadit, is Light, then Nothing- making Thelema more akin to Hinduism in some Shivite Schools, Dzogchen Tibetan Buddhism, and the faith of Ancient Egypt, which it idolizes so greatly. The changes in tone and dialogue would be sudden and dramatic from the Cultic and Prophetic forms of Thelema.
The image of the palace Babalon describes as “the floor of the palace is of silver and gold; lapis lazuli & jasper are there...jasmine & rose, and the emblems of death.”-I: 51, that Cultic Thelema has used as it’s Trinity’s Heaven, seems actually to describe The Vessel of Thelema, and Thelemites. Silver and Gold for the Wedding, the stones and incenses also echo that Sol and Luna conjunction. Being a “palace” with “emblems of death” may just speak of the solid cubic stone, with the skulls and ravens remaining from the Calcinations. Without an understanding of Alchemy and its symbols of Wedding Gold and Silver this passage is also impossible to find a context to place it in. The use of the broader interpretation of Thelema should not only allow it to break free of the common Cultic interpretation, but also make much of the thereby misread sections as both more meaningful and universal so the Law may become “for All”.
Four-fold Stone: The New Alchemy
“There are four gates to one palace...Let him come through the first ordeal, & it will be to him as silver. Through the second, gold. Through the third, stones of precious water. Through the fourth, ultimate sparks of infinite fire.”-III: 64-67, which is very similar to Crowley’s vision in the 28th Enochian Aire, “ this Mystery hath been hidden by The Alchemists. Compose sevenfold into a fourfold regimen; and when thou hast understood thou mayest make symbols; but by playing child’s games with the symbols thou shall never understand.” What was concealed from Crowley about the Alchemy of The Book of The Law is clearly stated in The Vision & The Voice. The pair of Gates described is obviously the Birth of Silver and Gold. The third, “precious water” or The Holy Elixir is the Union of both. None of this is concealed from any alchemist reading “Liber AL”.
The Palace symbolizes the psyche of the Thelemic Alchemist, as the Four-Square Tower or Font of Isis once did. Inside now dwells the Thelemic Alchemic Trinity: Hadit-Mercury, Ra-Hoor-Khuit-Sol, and Babalon-Luna as the aspects of the personality. Instead of Mercury-Jesus, as The Christian alchemists, and Jung used, it instead truly becomes our Inner Center: Hadit the Snake of Mercury and Kundalini. Beyond that, and the “infinite fire” is no longer God but The Light Itself since it is no longer necessary to mystify Christianity to practice Inner Alchemy.
Rather then destroy Alchemy; these 28 Gates of Thelemic Alchemy with the synthesis of Babalon, Ra-Hoor-Khuit and Hadit in the Palace of The Light may come to be more contemporary symbols of the Great Work. Then every man shall be a King, and every woman “girt with a sword” since our new First Matter will be our Star, and the Stone of Philosophers now transforms into True Will, with the final merging with The Serpent Hadit as Elevation and the Final Operation of our new Thelemic philosophy.
Crowley, Aleister, The Holy Books of Thelema, Samuel Weiser.
- The Vision and The Voice with Commentary and other papers: Equinox IV, number II, 1998
All selections from Alchemy texts from Adam Mclean’s Website: //www.levity.com/alchemy, also available on CD-ROM.