By Frater Serpentis Satori 9=2
Stairway to Heaven: 7 fold Stone
The Vision and The Voice has remained one of Crowley’s most important, but equally inaccessible works. Like The Book of The Law, it has many layers of narration and symbolizes, many which have been developed and expounded by other commentaries. Again I would like to step back and reevaluate this text in light of alchemy, and psychology.
Much of the difficulty comes from so many layers of meaning running together. It has Thelemetic Imagery, Biblical, Enochian Symbols inherent within The Aeyres, all which have been delt with previously. After reinterpreting The Book of The Law, I turned the lens of Alchemy on to this equally difficult work.
One of the Angles of the 28th Aeyre actually says to Crowley toward the beginning of his journey” 7 & 4 & children’s plaything”, showing either The Enochians were aware of this reading, or some part of Crowley was. This context illuminates both the psyche of Crowley, and The Vision and The Voice.
Making it a series of allegoric visions akin to those of the Medieval Alchemists, and a treasure trove of insight into Crowley’s own psychology. No one has ever disputed the impact on Crowley of either The Abyss or The Second Aeyre, but few have sought to discover how remarkably akin to alchemy most of the Spirits and Symbols are. This is most odd, considering the sheer volume of references to it within the text itself.
The form of Alchemic Allegory, being highly personal, often varied in results, symbols, and even number of phases. Thus the importance of being told, “Look not deeply into words and letters; for this Mystery hath been hidden by the Alchemists. Compose the sevenfold into the fourfold regimen; and when thou hast understood thou may make symbols; but playing child’s games with symbols thou shall never understand, ” by the Angle, so we could understand the process that Crowley went through. In this system each phase, or stage is symbolized by a planet and color. It begins with the Saturnine Nigrido that disintegrates the subject enough to be washed in the Lunar Dissulutio, before being put through the Jupiterian Separtio and completing the lesser stages. The Venusian Vertigris, or Conjunctio then binds back together that which had been divided, but continues to devour, multiply and purify through Mercurial Fermentio, Solar Citerino, and Martial Rubeo when the Stone of that process is produced.
And that simple model, four times is the hidden key to Crowley’s Visions, not English Gemetria, Qabalistic overlays on the Enochian Universe, or Initiatory Cultic Mysteries. Crowley must have studied at least Waite’s Hermetic Museum, and his Golden Dawn training did instruct him in at least some of the methods and symbols to allow these ideas into his mind. The Alchemic Symbolism is very heavy in Golden Dawn Tarot Decks, and figures prominently in at least the Vault of The Adept Golden Dawn Initiation. The Mysteries come from seeking the parts of The Stone, and it processes within The Visions.
Alchemy as the Four and Seven
Since before even The Hermetic Order of The Golden Dawn, adepts have sought the secret key of Dr. John Dee’s Enochian System. Some of this research led to the most useful ideas of The Golden Dawn, Aurum Solis, and other Rosicrucian Mystery Schools including The Tablet of Union, Flashing Colors, Enochian Chess, and Hebrew Letter or Tetragrammaton Overlays on the Elemental Tablets. Each of these ideas separately stresses the Four Elements, from the Four Tablets or Four Chessboards, to Four Letters of The Tetragrammaton and Four Names upon The Tablet of Union.
Seven is as important; counting the Tablet Kings that is the number of Seniors on each Enochian Tablet. Seven in Squares- Seven on Sigilum vel Aemeth, and planets in Traditional Astrology, as well as Sepheroph below Daath. This is codified as early as the short Sepher Yetzirah, with its sections on seven that indirectly influenced Hermetic Tradition through Agrippa and Barrett’s The Magnus. Either of which might have influenced Dee and Kelley in the Enochian sessions.
But of course, Dee and Kelly were Alchemists. Dr. Wescott and Dr. Feldkin were as well, with their part in creating the Golden Dawn System, and this assumes no actual Alchemic Secrets from either British Freemasonry, or Rosicrucian group
Aeyre Work as Dream work
The Vision and The Voice serves a similar purpose for Crowley. As he moves through scrying the 30 Aeyres, he experiences the 7 phases of Planetary Alchemy four times, as he processes through visions of Alchemy in nearly every Aeyre. It is obvious, but not in each case, for example: the very first Coniunctio occurs in the 23rd Aeyre, and there Crowley says, “...two women, and grasp each other by both hands, and kiss, and melt into one another; and melt away...the gold parts, and the purple parts, and the silver parts...All my strength and stability are turned to the use of flight. For though my wings are of fine gold, yet my heart is the heart of a scorpion”. The union of women is typical of the Lesser Working, as is the consumption/seduction imagery. The fact that gold and silver are both incorporated into The Eagle, a classic symbol of The Mercury, furthers the ease to which it fits Alchemic interpretation.
This is further illustrated by the frequency of Serpents within Crowley’s Visions. They and several other spirits speak in tones familiar to those who have read the Alchemic Literature. Here I will merely point out the obviousness of these motifs within the text. Any more is far beyond the scope of this work.
Hauk defines Nigredo as, “this is known as the Death of the Profane…results in the death of the ego…In all these instances, Calcination is working with Fire to burn away mental constructs and reveal a person’s true essence” pgs. 157-158. These Death and Fire Workings are abundantly clear in Crowley’s Aeyre Work, in the 30th
Aeyre he is told:“Tremble ye, O Pillars of the Universe, for Eternity is in travail of a Terrible Child...The Obelisks are broken; the stars have rushed together...the Heavens are mixed with Hell...For thou wilt find a life which is as Death: or a Death which should be infinite...For I am lost in the night of infinite pain: no hope: no God: no resurrection: no end: I fall: I fear.” That is Death and Purgation Imagery very succinctly.
In the12th Aeyre, the Ego becomes associated with The Dying King, as in The Book of Lambspring and The Gates of Basil Valentine: “For my Father is weary with the stress of eld, and cometh not to her bed. Yet shall this perfect wine be the quintessence, and the elixir,[ both metaphors for The Philosopher’s Stone, the goal of Alchemy] and by the draught thereof renew his youth; and so shall it be eternally, as age by age the worlds do dissolve and change...”, the end is a warning that these cycles of Alchemy are Impersonal and Objective, as well as being Inner States.19th Aeyre again focuses upon the relationship of Truth, when delusions are cast away, “Then cometh a black cross reaching across the whole stone; then a golden cross, not so large...” here the Gold of the final Work is revealed within the balanced Black Cross of The Elements. “And the writing is: Worship in the body the things of the body; worship in the mind the things of the mind; worship in the spirit the things of the spirit” [this is the Ego-shattering sermon for Crowley who in his own words tended toward mental and physical] ‘Impure’ means those whose every thought is followed by another thought, or who confuse the higher with the lower, the substance with the shadow. Every Aethyr is truth, though it be but a shadow...”Another humbling reminder that these are Inner Visions, and highly personal, a danger to be to over worked or over read by others.
The Final Calcination in the 5th “He is all in black, burnished black scales, just edged with gold. He has vast wings, with terrible claws on the ends, and he has a fierce face, like a dragon’s, and dreadful eyes that pierce through and through. ...For all that thou thinkest is but thy thought; and there is no god in the ultimate shrine, so there is no I in thine own Cosmos...I cannot catch it properly, but it seems to be to the effect that the true God is equally in all shrines, and the true I in all parts of the body and soul.” The result is the Ego-shattering for Crowley, who believed by serving Ra-Hoor-Khuit and Nuit, he was a curse “upon all the gods of man”. I will also note the similarity to Valentine’s Dragon of Prima Materia in Azoth. But the Alchemic Symbols in each are clear, to one literate of the tradition.
Hauk defines this stage as; “Dissolution is working with our Water element by opening our personal floodgates…that which is within us is now close to the surface and freely expressed”. Most importantly this stage is symbolized by Water and The Moon, such as in 27th Aeyre:“And thou hast blasphemed me shalt suffer knowing me. For I am cold as thou art cold, and burn with thy fire...She is weeping, weeping. And the tears fill the whole stone with moons. I can see and hear nothing for the tears, though she keeps on praying...And now the dragon rises out of the cauldron, very long and slim, and he blots out the whole sphere of the stone.” As well as in the 11th ,“Immediately the Kamea of the Moon. But in the outermost Abyss is sickness of the aspiration, and sickness of will, and sickness of the essence of all, and there is neither word nor thought wherein the image of its image is reflected. “ Even more obviously in 4th Aeyre “Yea, as in a looking –glass, so in thy mind, that is backed with the false metal of lying, is every symbol read averse. Lo! Everything wherein thou hast trusted must confound thee...” All are clearly Dissulutio both water, and reflection tinged with Luna.
In the 18th Aeyre the source of Dissolution and all these Inner Conflicts, and their forms are forced into Crowley’s Conscious awareness when he is told: ”Accursed are they who enter herein if they have nails, for they shall be pierced therewith; or if they have thorns, for they shall be crowned withal; or if they have whips they shall be scourged: or if they bear wine, for their wine shall be turned to bitterness; or if they have a spear, for with a spear shall they be pierced in the heart...[a good understanding of subconscious motives in various forms, and that they all reflect Inner Realities]. ”a fair youth in shining garments, who makes me partake of the sacraments; bread, that is labour; and fire that is wit; and a rose, that is sin; and wine that is death...All this while the Angel hath been pushing me backwards, and now he is turned into a golden cross with a rose at its heart, and that is a red cross wherein is set a golden shrewstone.” And thus begins the Suffering of Separation.
Separation is just that weeding and dividing the Psyche often with Fire and Sulphur as in the 26th Aeyre :“Lo! The pools of fire and torment mingled with sulphur! Many are their colors, and their colour is as molten gold...He shall be brayed in a mortar and the powder cast to the winds...he shall be dissolved in strong acid and the elixir poured into the sea...he shall be mingled with dung and spread upon the earth...and he shall be burnt utterly with fire...””The blood is thicker and darker now, and it is becoming clotted and black...because it coagulates, coagulates. ...But below is the supine figure of Seb, into whom is concentrated all that clotted blood.” Thus the dividing of The Self, contrasted with the 10th Aeyre’s ,“Images, images, images, all without control, all without reason...For there is no center, nay, nothing but Dispersion.”
The other two dwell more on the sword-like and Airy nature of this stage, in the 17th Aeyre: “...there first cometh the head of a dragon, and then the Angel Madimi...I enquire why her form is different. Another voice cometh...a mighty angel all in silver; the scales of his armour and the plumes of his wings are like mother-of-pearl in a framework of silver. [Some texts symbolize this Stage as a Sword or White Knight] And he sayeth: Your truth is your troth with Adonia the Beloved one. And the Chymical Marriage of the Alchemists...he that is not found wanting hath within him one spark of fire...Thus am I crowned with the triangle that is about the eye, and therefore is my number three. And in me is no imperfection...[another allusion to Sulphur]”In the 3rd Aeyre, the focus is more on blades: “It is the figure of ‘The Magnus’ of the Taro; in his right arm the torch blazing upwards; in his left the cup of poison...On his feet hath he the scythes and swords and sickles; daggers; knives; every sharp thing,-a millionfold all in one”, that image is actually the most traditional of all, for Separation.
Conjunctio is the next stage; occasionally called The Chymical Wedding, or Union of Sol and Luna such as in the 23rd:“Thou art an egg of blackness, and a worm of poison. But thou has formulated thy father [the Sun stone] and made fertile thy mother [Luna, the Lesser Stone]. ...[Mercury] And the unspeakable variety thereof is but my diverse hairs, plumes, and gems in my tall crown. The change which ye lament is the life of my rejoicing, and the sorrow that blackeneth your hearts is the myriad deaths by which I am renewed.” This then leads to the Stone-children of The Union, the primary symbol in the other Aeyres.
In the 16th Aeyre, Luna -“With that she bends down, kisses me on the mouth, and says’ Yet a little, and on thy left arm shalt thou carry a man-child, and give him to drink of the milk of thy breasts.’” Then again in the 9th “She is naked; her whole body is covered with fine gold hairs, that are the electric flames...And all day and all night, awake or asleep, shall thy heart be turned as a lotus flower unto the light...Thus thy mind shall be open unto the higher; and then shalt thou be able to conquer exhaustion.”, But in the 3rd Aeyre again this is the most classically Alchemic of All, by contrasting the Two Daughters as different results of The Work: “The pure pale gold of a fair maiden’s hair, and the green of her girdle, and the deep soft blue of her eyes. ...Thus she appeared in the Aeyre, adorned with flowers and gems...There is another girl behind her...Only her head is visible, and now it is veiled by a black sun, casting forth dull rays of black and gold.” These too are very clear symbols both in meaning and color codes, with all the Green and Gold typical of Vertigris.
This stage is also called Fermentation, and is about taking the Alchemic Lessons back into The World, displayed for Crowley so vividly in the 22nd:“All this while the dewdrops have turned into cascades of gold finer than the eyelashes of a little child. And though the extent of the Aethyr is so enormous, one perceives each hair separately, as well as the whole thing at once...Behold! Where are now darkness and terror and the lamentation? Bind up your girdles of gold! Wreathe yourselves with garlands of unfading flowers.”
“Yet know this for thy reproof, and for the stirring up of discontent in them whose swords are lath, that in every word of this vision is concealed the key of many mysteries, even of being, and of knowledge and of bliss; of will, of courage, of wisdom, and of silence, and of that which, being all these, is greater than all these.” Which is nearly restated in the 15th Aeyre,“But thou shall gather of the sweat of thy brow a pool of clear water wherein this shall be revealed. And the oil that burnest in the midnight shall be gathered together thirteen rivers of blessing; and of the oil and water I will prepare a wine to intoxicate the young men and the maidens.” Both show how this work will spread through the world, and how that is to be his greatest success, not on any other way. In fact the sweat-lamp oil, makes clear his Vision is to be in teaching.
The other two Visions of Fermentation, merely structure and advise Crowley on how to Instruct and aid the World, in the 2nd :“Therefore is motherhood the symbol of the Masters. For first must they give up their virginity or be destroyed, and the seed must lie hidden in them while the nine moons wax and wane, and they must surround it with the Universal Fluid. And then they must feed it with blood for fire. Then is the child a living thing.” In the 8th Aeyre he is warned from deviating from the path laid before him, “And thou shalt not seek to better this my instruction; but thou shalt interpret it, and make it easy, for them that seek understanding. And thout shall give all that thou hast unto them that have need unto this end.” That is Fermentation.
The next stage of the Work is passing the newly Fermented stone on to all Humanity, as Crowley is told in the 21st “Who shall avail? But the dagger of penance thou shall temper seven times, afflicting the seven courses of thy soul. And thou shalt sharpen its edge seven times by seven ordeals.” Again a reference to Traditional Seven-fold Alchemy, with each phase producing a Greater Phase.
“From me pour down the fires of life and increase continually upon the earth. From me pour down the rivers of water and oil and wine. From me cometh forth the wind that beareth the seed of trees and flowers and fruits and all herbs upon its bosom. From me cometh forth the earth in her unspeakable variety. Yea! All cometh from me, naught cometh to me. Therefore am I lonely and horrible upon this unprofitable throne. Only those who can accept nothing from me can bring anything to me.” Similar imagery in the 14th Aeyre alludes to the Second Stone.” And there is a voice: He hath drawn the black bean. Another voice answers it: Not otherwise could he plant the Rose.” In the 2nd Crowley foresees the completion of the entire Work, and the Unity of its layers:“O Purity! O Truth! What shall I say? My tongue cleaveth to my jaws, O thou Medusa [Babalon/Luna] hast turned me into stone! Yet that that is the stone of the philosophers. Yet it is the tongue of Hadit [Mercury]...hath the tomb been opened, so that this wisdom might be revealed.” As he moves toward Rubeo of the Last Stone, and Elevation.
This is the Birth of each Alchemic Child, or Stone of Each Planet (Luna/Sol/ Union/ Mercury). A Traditional title used for this stage is The Peacock’s Tail, because it is Gold and Red and Purple all intertwined. This is prevalent in Crowley’s Visions, such as in the 20th Aeyre:“it has become like a pool of clear golden water...And there cometh a peacock into the stone, filling the whole Aire. It is like a vision called the Universal Peacock...It hath many colours, but all thrilled with white light, so that they are transparent and luminous. ...All one gets is a liquid flame of pure gold. But its radiating force keeps hurling me back.” That reappears in the 7th “But now the whole Aethyr is the most brilliant peacock blue. It is the Universal Peacock that I behold...And now the peacock’s head is again changing into a woman’s head sparkling and coruscating with it own light of gems.” Both are so Alchemic that they easily could have been taken from any text from the Tradition, and even Crowley refers to this Rubeo energy as the Universal Peacock, in both Aeyres, to note the similarity.
In the 13th Aeyre, as he is in Solar Rubeo, which is always more golden in imagery and character, he is shown: “Into the stone there cometh an image of shining waters, glistening in the sun...and the floor is of gold. Yet the sense thereof is of fruitfulness. And an Angel cometh forth, of pure pale gold...Above his head is a rainbow...All the Aire behind him is gold...” For in the Second Working’s completion, Crowley has seen The Gold of Philosophers, in more detail and substance than many ever will. This is a solid proof again of Traditional Alchemy acting upon Crowley in the Visions, in an even clearer symbol than his Universal Peacock.
But in Rubeo, of each Work nothing is a clearer definition of both The Alchemic Work and its product than the Forms of The Philosopher’s Stone that each produces. The Ultimate Stone of Crowley’s Work summarizes himself in the 1st The Child says: ”Stainless are my lips, for they are redder than the purple of the vine, and of the blood wherein I am intoxicated. Stainless is my forehead, for it is whiter than the wind and dew that cooleth it.” That unites each color, of every Stone, from each Work- red and purple for Sol and Luna, white for their union, and the dew of Purified Mercury. He is The Circle Squared, and the Hermaphrodite Childe of The Sun and Moon, born of their Chymical Wedding, and then twice purified or baptized.
Each of The Philosopher’s Stones that are united in The Summum Bonnum is distillation of personality aspects. The Tripartite Trinity once referred to as Salt-Sulphur-Mercury, each produces their own Stones in a four-fold process. Luna, the First Stone produced by the initial Seven Processes, Crowley encounters in the 19th: “...who is like the Angle of the fourteenth key of Rota [Temperance], with beautiful blue wings, blue robes, and the sun girdle like a brooch, and the two crescents of the moon sharpen into sandals for her feet. Her hair is flowing gold, each sparkle as a star. [Interesting to note how although she identifies herself as The Moon, she is partially of Solar Nature, with her Golden Hair and girdle. Perhaps to clarify that she truly is The Stone of The Lesser Working] in her hands the torch of Penelope and the cup of Circe. ...And she says: ...Thine imagination eateth up the universe as the dragon eateth up the moon...I am the Angle of the moon. I am the veiled one that sitteth between the pillars veiled with a shining veil...I am the aspiration unto the higher [a typical statement of Alchemic Salt, seeking to Unite with Sulphur/Sol]; I am the love of the unknown.”
The Second Stone Sol, who begins as the Traditional Old Sun King in the 16th Aeyre:“He is a mighty King, with crown and orb and scepter, and his robes are of purple and gold. [Clear indications of Rubeo, as noted above]. And he tears out his hair, that is of ruddy gold tinged with silver. [The opposite of Luna, who was girdled with the sun and had golden hair]...And now he has fallen quite to the ground, in a heap, and dust is upon his head; and the throne upon which he sat is shattered into many pieces...far, far above, is the face of a man...[He is purified completely into The Solar Childe/Stone] and upon the brow is a circle, and upon the breast is a circle, and in the palm of the right hand is a circle. [Here is the Circle again and again, not yet squared]. Gigantic is his stature, and he hath the Uraenus crown, and the leopard’s skin, and flaming orange apron of a god.” Not only Royal, Egyptian and Solar but important as many of these traits reappear, in a different form in The Summum Bonnum, or The Elevated Stone.
“But this is fixed Mercury, and the he and vav are perfected Sulphur and salt. ...Behold, the volatile is become fixed...So the far seeing, the far darting hawk is poised passionless in the blue; so also the ibis that is long of limb meditateth solitary in the sign of Sulphur[ the previous stages of The Work, and one Crowley was at when receiving these Visions]...Yet I stand at the center of the spider’s web, wherein golden filaments reach out to infinity[ Again nearly a Classical definition of Projection, or The Chymical Wedding.]” Crowley is told in the 6th Aeyre, as the Alchemic Process continues, the Heh and Vav references being to the two Lesser Stones. “But the Urn is the wonderful thing in all this; it is made of fixed Mercury...Now it seems the center of infinite space is that Urn, and Hadit is the fire[more restatement of purifying Mercury, as both Hadit and the Urn]...And a voice proceedeth from the Urn: From the ashes of the Tarot shall thou make the phoenix wand? Not even he who by his understanding hath made the lotus wand to grow in the Great Sea [ clearer evidence that Crowley had not yet achieved this level]...Get thee back from the Urn; thy ashes are not hidden here.” All three last comments speak of the traumatic transformation of the personality that occurs when the Sol-Luna Wedding is completed in Projection. The Lotus from the Waters is the purified Salt-Luna, while The Phoenix Wand is a similar statement of The Sulphur-Sol; as well as being Golden Dawn Adept tools. By seeing both other components as Wands, or Tools it forces The Inner Mercury to become dominant, and again change each into the dances in the Child’s hands.
Elevation as the Summum Bonnum, as the Stone Itself and Ultimate Product of this Alchemy: “It is a little child covered with lilies and roses[symbols of Luna and Sol, in yet another form]...This child danceth not, but it is because he is the soul of two dances,- the right hand and the left hand, and in him they are one dance, the dance without motion[ the circle squared in the triangel]. And this is the song: I am the child of all [Mercury, Luna and Sol] who am the father of all, for from me come forth all things, that I might be[created as The Philosopher’s Stone]...I have wound all things about my waist as a girdle.[Rather than merely The Sun, as Luna had] I have hidden all things in the cave of my heart. I have lain with all things because I am Untouched Virginity. I have given birth to all things because I am Death.” I will merely point out that this too, sounds akin to Basil Valentine’s Dragon of Prima Materia, or Alchemic Mercury.
The Song of Elevation continouse:“I am light, and I am night, and I am that which is beyond them [Nothing, the Unity of All]. I am speech, and I am silence, and I am that which is beyond them. I am life, and I am death, and I am that which is beyond them. I am war and I am peace, and I am that which is beyond them [for the dualities are Luna-Sol splits, he is both with purified Mercury]. Yet by none of these can men reach me. Yet by each of them must man reach up to me. ...thrice and four times blessed is he that hath attained to look upon thy face.” As Mercury Purified into the Final Stone of the philosophers, the child is all things, and beyond them. The different scales of blessing, go with different readings of the text, in Cultic Thelema those who see the Child merely as The Crowned and Conquering Child Horus of the Aeon are merely thrice blessed, having gone through Three Veils of Initiation to enter Kether. Four times blessed again refers to the Alchemic Process, and he as its result. And The Union of All earlier Philosopher’s Stones.
Then The Child refers to his relationships with the other Stones, as garments he and all who take this path and do this Great Work shall receive. “And they shall rise up...and gird themselves with a girdle of snake-skin for wisdom [Elevation], and they shall wear a white tunic of purity[Luna], and the apron of flaming orange for will [Sol], and over their shoulders shall they cast the panther’s skin of courage [Projection].”Here the Child, describes those who seek his Mysteries, as Alchemists:“ And they shall wear the nemyss of secrecy [Alchemy has always been a secret Art] and the Atef crown of truth [or Thoth, the Aion in Which this Revelation is conceivable]. And upon their breasts shall be the Rose and Cross of light and life[Sol and Mercury, as seen in Jung and Crowley’s dreams when working with The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola], and in their hands the hermit’s staff and lamp. [ As they must carry those on the journey of Inner Alchemy; lighting the way to bring others in secret, as The Hermit ].Thus shall they set out on a never-ending journey, each step of which is an unutterable reward.”
This is The Path of Thelemic Alchemy, for those who read The Vision and The Voice, not merely as members of a Horus-Babalon Cult, or as Enochian Path working. This reading requires not only greater understanding of the text, but a solid background in Magick as Esoteric Psychology. By studying it in this way, it is Crowley’s Chymical Wedding or Mutus Liber, a map of the Aquarian Aion’s Psychology within the context of Alchemy. Something The Voice makes clear to those who may hear it.
The Vision & The Voice with Commentary, and other papers: The Equinox Volume IV number 2 by Crowley, et al; Samuel Weiser; York Beach ME; 1998. ISBN 0-87728-906-9.
The Emerald Tablet: Alchemy for Personal Transformation by Hauck, Dennis William; Penguin Arcana; NY NY; 1999. ISBN 0140I.957I 8.