The Brazen Serpent

By Soror Nihil Obstat (Helen Kirkby)

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In The Brazen Serpent, Helen Kirkby offers a far-reaching and thoughtful exploration of the philosophical, psychological and practical aspects of the Qabalah. Keep an eye on this promising new author!”

David Shoemaker, author of Living Thelema, The Winds of Wisdom and other writings

. . . a whirlwind tour through the Sephiroth and Paths of the Tree of Life through the lens of a Thelemic practitioner’s experience and understanding. It is clear that the author has spent a great deal of time with Aleister Crowley’s magical system of Thelema as well as with traditional Qabalah, as they are blended together seamlessly throughout the text . . . .”

Frater IAO131, author of Naturalistic Occultism: An Introduction to Scientific Illuminism, Fresh Fever From the Skies, and more

a brilliant and masterful treatise on the Thelemic Qabalah. Helen Kirkby sets the bar high and I expect her to keep raising it, because she has the ingenuity and talent to do it.”

Soror Syrinx, author of Vault of Babalon

Helen Kirkby, otherwise known as Soror N.O., is an artist, occultist and initiate of the A.’.A.’. She currently attends the University of Philosophical Research in Los Angeles. The Brazen Serpent is an advanced treatise on the Hermetic Qabalah from a unique Thelemic perspective aiming to fulfill the needs of serious readers who wish to deepen their understanding. This book not only goes beyond the basics of Qabalah but adds to the evolving compendium, backed by the collected works of Aleister Crowley.

The Brazen Serpent is an advanced treatise on the Hermetic Qabalah from a unique Thelemic perspective. It is NOT a beginner’s guide. The Brazen Serpent expects the reader to be familiar with the Thelemic paradigm and have working knowledge of the Tree of Life.

The Brazen Serpent aims to fulfill the needs of serious readers who have dozens of books regurgitating the same basic information.

The Brazen Serpent not only goes beyond the basics of Qabalah but adds to the evolving compendium, backed by the collected works of Aleister Crowley.

Format

The Brazen Serpent is organized into four parts:

I. Introduction –

  • Explores the theory of man’s Prime Deviation and notions of The Fall in the context of the Hermetic Qabalah
  • Presents an analysis of consciousness using Qabalistic and Thelemic terms
  • Provides an outline of the Tree of Life using the Caduceus
  • Describes how involution and evolution occurs on the Tree of Life
  • Delves into the psychology of True Will

II. The Spheres –

  • Gives a thorough analysis of the spheres, Kether to Malkuth, in all four worlds
  • Explains how and why attributes are given instead of listing a table of correspondences
  • Provides a context into the Hermetic Qabalah from sources prior to Athanasius Kircher in order to highlight the evolution into Thelemic Qabalah
  • Elucidates the system presented in the A.’.A.’. and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn from an initiated perspective

III. The Paths –

  • Gives a thorough analysis of the paths, Tav to Aleph, with specific characteristics of each for the practitioner to utilize in his work
  • Provides extensive Gematria analysis for each letter using AIQ BKR, AThBASh cypher, and more
  • Explains the function of each path in relation to its attributes and connecting spheres
  • Describes the history of tarot images associated with each path

IV. The Negative Veils & Daath –

  • Sorry, but this one’s a secret.
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Book Review: ADEPTUS EXEMPTUS THESIS (2015)

So this is my first book review and I’d like to get started on the book in question: ADEPTUS EXEMPTUS THESIS (first printed Spring Equinox 2015) by Amun Atum, found here [https://www.amazon.com/adeptus-exemptus-thesis-amun-atum/dp/1329020219].

It is comprised of three large sections: the first, titled “Crowley’s Magick,” is the author’s journal entries spanning his grades of Student to Adeptus Exemptus as a self-taught and solitary practitioner of the A.’.A.’. system of Thelema and magick. It contains vivid imagery and a well-established symbol set inspired by major themes proposed in Thelema and Egyptian mysticism. It ends with a neat section on personalized rituals that include the Egyptian Lesser Rituals of the Pentagram and Hexagram. Here is my favorite one to give you an idea of what it entails, even though it is very different from the one I regularly perform:

Egyptian Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram

Touching the forehead say “Au N’natik”

Touching the waistline say “Tauy”

Touching the right shoulder say “Wazer”

Touching the left shoulder say “Nefrau”

Clasping the hands upon the breast say “Jet r Nah-ah Amun”

With the magical weapon trace the Hexagram of Air in the East, vibrating, “Abrahadabra,” All hexagrams consist of two equilateral triangles. Begin the Air hexagram at the top of the upper triangle and trace it in a dextro-rotary direction. The bases of the triangles coincide, forming a diamond.

Trace the Hexagram of Fire in the South, vibrating “Abrahadabra.” The triangles of this hexagram both point upwards. The top of the lower triangle should coincide with the central point of the upper triangle.

Trace the Hexagram of Water in the West, vibrating “Abrahadabra.” This hexagram has the lower triangle placed above the upper, so that their apices coincide.

Trace the Hexagram of Earth in the North, vibrating “Abrahadabra.” This hexagram has the apex of the lower triangle pointing downward, and it should be capable of inscription in a circle.

Stand upright, feet together, left arm at side, right across body, holding the wand or other weapon upright in the median line. Then face East and say:

I.N.R.I. Yod, Nun, Resh, Yod.

Virgo, Aset, Mighty Mother

Scorpio, Apep, Destroyer

Sol, Asar, Slain and Risen

Aset, Apep, Asar, I-A-O

Extend the arms in the form of a cross and say: “The Sign of Asar Slain,”

Raise the right arm to point upwards, keeping the elbow square, and lower the left arm to point downwards, keeping the elbow square while turning the head over the left shoulder looking down so that the eyes follow the left forearm and say, “The Sign of the Mourning of Aset,”

Raise the arms at an angle of sixty degrees to each other above the head, which is thrown back and say, “The Sign of Apep,”

Cross the arms on the breast, bow the head and say, “The Sign of Asar Risen,”

Extend the arms again and cross them again saying, “L.V.X., LUX, the Light of the Cross.”

Touching the forehead say “Au N’natik”

Touching the waistline say “Tauy”

Touching the right shoulder say “Wazer”

Touching the left shoulder say “Nefrau”

Clasping the hands upon the breast say “Jet r Nah-ah Amun”

(Copyright 2014 Amun Atum. All rights reserved).

This section, “Crowley’s Magick,” is a good enough reason to read the book if you have considered or are working the A.’.A.’. system as a solitary practitioner. The journal entries are regular (between 1 to 5 days between entries) and they provide an account of detailed chakra work, tattwa meditations, and a helpful study of the astral plane. What I especially enjoyed was the author’s display of a highly dedicated work ethic, organization skills in planning (and sticking to) practices, and adjusting them accordingly as he progressed in the system. There is no doubt that the author did the work, and anyone who reads it will find a likeness of themselves in the common struggles, dry spells, and complaints one has (but tells no one about) when practicing daily. By using light humor and candid commentaries on the libri of Aleister Crowley that all Thelemites can empathize with, he provides both an entertaining read and a distinct idea of what it’s like to have Knowledge and Conversation with the HGA throughout the gradual progression up the Tree of Life.

The only criticisms of this section I can give are based off of my own personal way of writing in a magical journal. I would like to have read more detailed descriptions of the physical sensations or time elapsed during practices, what foods were consumed that day, what astrological conditions were relevant and such. The author does, however, note well the gematria of personally significant messages and the Thelemic notation of time in between each oath. Another possible concern is that the time elapsed during each grade is relatively short, and it is impossible (as I don’t have the right) for me to judge whether it was honest progression or not. For example, the author’s Student grade spanned an approximate 4 months, Probationer = 3 months, Neophyte = 1 month, Zelator = 3 months, Practicus = 3 months, Philosophus = 3 months, Dominus Liminis = 2 months, Adeptus Minor = 1 month, Adeptus Major = 13 months, Adeptus Exemptus = 9 months. Although there is no minimum or maximum attainment requirements for the grades after Neophyte, these beginning grades are, in my opinion, the most important. (The consensus for minimum time spent in the grade of Probation is 1 year, and for the Neophyte, 8 months).

At the end of his Practicus grade (pg 116-117), he makes a rather fascinating observation that I’d like to comment on here:

July 21 – [. . .] here are the approximate contents for a book on the Qabalah that I wish someone would write: [list of the individual sephiroth in all four worlds], Parts of the Individual: [list of the five parts of the soul], [. . .] Additional QBL Terms: Adam Kadmon, Archetypal Man; Arik Anpin, vast countenance in Kether; Malkah, the Bride, a young girl, the unredeemed soul; bride of the Microprosophus (in Malkuth); Serpent Nechushtan, Serpent of Wisdom; Zeir Anpin, lesser countenance in Tiphareth, etc. (I’m sure there’s plenty more terms and concepts)

As a studious practitioner of the system, one does run into these issues. Fortunately, most, if not all of these questions are answered in Regardie’s Complete System of the Golden Dawn, which condenses Qabalah taken from sources like The Zohar, The Sepher Yetzirah, and so on. It is easy to overlook the fact that reading authors like Dion Fortune and Gareth Knight, we are getting only a secondary source from individuals who have been, in one form or another, students of the Golden Dawn system. It is my personal (but informed) hypothesis that in order to do the A.’.A.’. system to the best of one’s ability, you do need some kind of Golden Dawn background. Whether this is independent study or following an initiatory track, it is inevitable to run into gaps in one’s learning due to overlooking Crowley’s own training in the Golden Dawn system. This is one of the main reasons why I wrote a book on Thelemic Qabalah: to synthesize the information of the past with that of the A.’.A.’. system.

Now, returning back to the review. As you can see, for his grades of Adeptus Major and Adeptus Exemptus, the author took considerably longer in his work. Unsurprising, the journal entries in the book for these grades are the most enriching to read as well. Here is another excerpt (pg 182-183):

January 17 – I have returned to ritual work in a light way. “Liber Samekh” was well done. My Angel was present. She still answers my call. I am not getting a set series of instructions from her, but she is answering my call, and she is being very encouraging.

My thoughts keep returning to “Equilibration of Himself.” I really want to fulfill this requirement. I don’t want to give it short shrift. It’s about balance.

I agree with what I wrote above, but somehow it should go deeper; it should be more fully recognized.

Sometimes Depression can give you “no preference for any one course of conduct over another.”

Yeah . . . whatever!

Maybe this is just a falsity. Maybe it’s something you can’t claim to the degree Crowley says you can; not if you live in the real world! [. . .]

Crowley wrote about the True Will and the Holy Guardian Angel being synonymous, about having identical goals. At first I disagreed, but now I see them as being a sort of reflection of each other.

Your True Will is in you, buried deep in your subconscious. It is “higher” than all your wants and desires; you really have to aspire to it.

We get deceived along the way, thinking some of our desires are our True Will, but they’re not. We have to aspire to more, we have to reach further.

It is up there, but still within us; we must accept no substitute.

While the True Will is in us, and is our highest self; the Holy Guardian Angel is like a reflection of that Will! Crowley’s final worlds on the HGA was that it is outside of us. That is why I say the two are a reflection of each other: the True Will within, the HGA without. They speak with a different voice. The True Will is logical, imperious, formless, emotionless. The HGA is the opposite: she is passionate, loving; emotional to the extreme. The HGA encourages us. The HGA has faith in us; the HGA believes in us. They are opposites, but complimentary opposites. They have one goal: our success, our attainment! [. . .]

When you lose everything; when everything you have has been stripped away, when layer after layer has been removed . . . all you have left is your Honor. So live by a Personal Code of Honor; for in the final tally, that is all you have.

The next major section of the book, titled “Crowley’s Law,” is pretty straightforward. This section consists of insightful commentaries on major Thelemic concepts as well as explanations for a lot of jargon often taken for granted (I am certainly guilty of this). Even if you are well-versed in Crowley’s work, this part of the book is still useful in comparing and contrasting one’s own interpretations. To the beginner, it is full of helpful tidbits that elucidate some of the inner mysteries of Crowley’s work and provide practical advice on doing the work itself.

The last section of the book contains the Adeptus Exemptus Thesis itself. As is known, the requirements to proceed to the passage called Babe of the Abyss is to “prepare and publish a thesis setting forth His knowledge of the Universe, and his proposals for its welfare and progress. He will thus be known as the leader of a school of thought. He will have attained all but the supreme summits of meditation, and should be already prepared to perceive that the only possible course for him is to devote himself utterly to helping his fellow creatures.” It seems that the only other publicly available (and seriously attempted, in my humble opinion) examples of this that have been set forth by other Thelemites are J. Daniel Gunther’s Initiation in the Aeon of the Child, J. Edward Cornelius’s The Magikal Essence of Aleister Crowley, and Ray Eales’s Magick Revised. This is the author’s own response to the requirements: “I see a lot of injustice. I see a lot of pig-headedness. I see a lot of selfishness that is just hurting people. Certainly there is a better way that things can be done: procedures and methodologies (so to speak) that wouldn’t destroy our world and murder the people living in it. I really see things as being dire, but I also see that we have a choice of what to do, of how to treat people. It can be a better world.”

What follows in this last section is a theory of politics and re-shaping of the world that should be read in the Light of the Great Work, regardless of one’s own personal political affiliation. As a proposed Thesis, it is to be respected. I am not qualified in political theory to provide an in-depth analysis of the Thesis itself, but I can honestly say that it is a genuine effort that rings true to the spirit of the task of Adeptus Exemptus. In conclusion, this book was a wonderfully candid study of a magical journal with many insights and commonalities I think all practitioners of the system of A.’.A.’. will find true, no matter if you work alone, in one lineage, order, or another. The author’s Thesis was unique, practical, and refreshing in the sense that it involves recognizing and attempting to rectify the mundane world for the betterment of all human beings.