2.1 The Concept of Aeon
A magical formula is a statement of perceived itself and the universe increase. A change in the consciousness of the race necessitates a change in the magical formula. It’s not that the old formula doesn’t work anymore, it just that the new one works so much better. Obsolete formulae of the past aren’t necessary discarded completely but are often amended of fine-tuned to better harmonize with a new, expanded understanding of natural of spiritual laws. To use an apparently unmagical example, an ancient carpenter or craftsman seeking to determine the area of a small circle might venerate the great Magician who revealed to him that the area could be determined by measuring the radius of the circle, then multiplying that figure by itself, then multiplying that figure by the sacred number 3. For the rough calculations required by our primitive ancestors, this crude formula served quite adequately. But for larger, more complex world had to wait for the ‘Magick’ of π. Once this new bit of information became general knowledge the world was never the same.
2.3. The Formulae of the New Age
Great spiritual periods (ages or aeons) are characterized by their magical formula. This is very important and fundamental to the understanding of Magick in general and Thelemic Magik in particular, for the planet has just recently (relatively speaking) entered a new period; a new age; a new aeon. Yes it is coincidental to what astrologers and song writers call the Age of Aquarius and what million of others refers simply as the New Age. But it would be a mistake to view this new aeon as simply another tick on the great cosmic clock. The Age of Aquarius, profoundly significant as it is, is only one aspect of a far greater new spiritual age. (Such magical aeons do not necessarily coincide with the astrological periods and, according to Crowley, may be of any length). A more intimate, more magical perspective may be gad if, rather than considering the ages as merely astrological epoch, we instead view them as gods. Crowley recognized in the three principal gods of Egypt Isis, Osiris and Horus the characteristic formulae of the last three magical aeons. The present aeon is that of Horus, which has followed the Aeon of Osiris, whish followed the Aeon of Isis. Each aeon is characterized by the level of understanding of nature and self contemporarily prevalent, and dictates the variety of magical and religious expression that dominates these periods.
2.4. The Myth of Osiris
The creator, Temu, first appeared (from out of a watery chaos) on a sacred mound. Upon this solid foundation of matter he masturbated, creating two children, brother and sister, Shu and Tefnet. These two in turn created Geb (the Eath God) and Nut (the sky goddess) who united to give birth to Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys. These nine deities make up the ennead of Heliopolis, which appear continually throughout the sacred texts. Osiris became king of Egypt, supported by his sister-wife Isis. Theirs was a golden reign that raised the Egyptian people from the sub-human depth of anarchy and cannibalism. They initiated the systematic cultivation of the land in harmony with the flooding cycle of the river Nile, and their administration brought prosperity and happiness. Seth, the brother of Osiris, became increasingly envious of the success of his sibling and conspired to have him assassinated.
Secretly he had an ornate box constructed to the exact measurements of the body of Osiris. He then hosted a lavish party for his brother and announced that he would award the box to anyone who could fit perfectly inside. In what can only be describe as an act of divine folly, Osiris volunteered to give it a try. As soon as he was comfortably snuggled inside the perfectly fitting box, the lid was immediately nailed shut by seventy-two of Seth’s co-conspirators and the coffin was set adrift on the Nile. Isis, hearing of the murder, immediately set out to find the body. She discovered it at Byblos where it had become imbedded in a tree which has been cut down and use, because of its wondrous aroma, as a column in the palace of the king. She pleaded with the local king for the return of his husband’s body and she was allowed to take it. As she was returning with it by boat, she laid down upon the body and kissed it until its phallus became miraculously erect. She mounted her dead husband and conceived the child Horus. (Horus or Hoor also a brother, Hoor-Paar-Kraat, whom the Greek called Harpocrates).
Seth, discovering where Isis has hidden the body and stole it, dismembered it, and scattered the fourteen pieces throughout the entire country. Isis set out again and successfully recovered all the pieces of Osiris, save one, and magically reassemble them, thereby bestowing upon Osiris immortality and rulership of the afterlife. Henceforth pious individuals who faithfully adhered to the complex magical formulae of the cult of Osiris, as outlined in The Book of the Dead,, would be assured of the same continuity of existence after death. Their son Horus, to avenge the murder of his father, initiated a mighty struggle against Seth, which according to some stories was successful after three days and according to others is perpetuated to this day. The images of this simple passion play are imbedded deeply in the collective consciousness of the human race. We see it being told almost verbatim by the Greek as the story of Demeter and Persephone, and Orpheus and Eurydice. IAO, the great God of the Gnostics, even announces the magical formula of life, death, and resurrection in the letters of his name: Isis (Nature) is ruined by Apophis (the forces of destruction and decay), but is critically resurrected by Osiris. Most striking to the Western mind are the similarities between the story of Osiris and the central myth of Christianity: Through treachery a wise young savior is murdered… nailed to His death; the whereon the body is affixed; the mourning devotee who begs the return of His body in order to give it proper burial; the resurrection of the God which also provide the formula for the eternal salvation of the world, etc.
2.5. The Aeon of Isis
The formula of the Great Goddess: It is difficult to speculate precisely when the aeon of the formula of Isis began for its foundations were laid in the nebulousness of prehistory. However, we can with relative confidence venture to pinpoint its zenith as being approximately 2400 B.C. This was the Age of the Great Goddess, and nowhere at this time was Her worship more conspicuous than the Sumerian city of Uruk where the magnificient temple of Innana (Ishtar) dominated civilisation’s first great city. For us, focus exclusively on Sumeria, however, would be a grave error for, indeed, the cult of the Great Goddess was truly universal. She was worshipped by countless cultures under myriad names and forms. It would also be a mistake for us to conclude that the magical formula of this period manifested exclusively through the worship of any particular anthropomorphic female deity.
For, like every aeon, the magical formula of the Aeon of Isis was founded upon mankind’s interpretation of the ‘perceived facts’ of nature, and our Isian-age progenitors perceived nature as a continuous process of spontaneous growth. In the dim beginning of the aeon, humans were ignorant of the cause and effect mysteries of sex and birth. Life appeared to come from woman alone. Blood flowed inexplicably from her body with the same cycle as that of the moon. And when the cycle of bleeding was interrupted, her belly swelled for nine moons until she burst with new life. She then continue to nourish this life with her milk, the white blood of her breasts, and without this nourishment, drawn directly from her body, the new life would die. Nothing could match the power of woman. From her all life proceeded and without her nourishment no life could survive. Like the moon itself, she lived a tree-fold life cycle of maid, mother, and crone; fertility, sustenance, and wisdom. Once the child was weaned, the Earth itself became surrogate mother, directly providing the flesh and blood of animal and plant sustenance. Mother was life. Earth was Mother. God was Woman. Death was a mystery that could not be solved nor overcome. This fundamental perception of nature persisted long after the mystery of where babies came from had been solved. Matriarchies and cannibalism dominated much of this period, but even after the ascent of the male warrior gods, the essential formula of the Goddess lived on. There exist to this day tribes of hunter-gatherers whose social and religious lives exemplify the formula of Isis, but the Aeon of Isis survived as long as the spirit of humanity was dominated by the perception that life and its requisite nourishment came directly from the Earth and from the woman. A clearer perception of the universe would evolve that would usurp the formula of Isis and initiate a new cultural and religious age. We are painfully familiar with this period for it lasted until the turn of the twentieth century. Its formula is still the consensus of the so-called ‘Great Religions’ and continues to dominate the spiritual lives of the majority of the inhabitants of our planet. In this age the focus was shifted from the Earth to the Sun as the source of all life, and from the mysteries of birth to the mysteries of death. We figured out where babies came from; now we were to ponder where we go when we die.
2.6. The Aeon of Osiris
The formula of the dying God. It could be said that the Aeon of Osiris began when men and women first became cognizant of the Sun, and recognized that the fertility of the Earth (and consequently their lives) depend directly upon the vitalizing power of sunlight. The secret of life as now perceived as a partnership between the Sun and Earth, and our ancestors saw this partnership reflected in themselves: man and woman, phallus and kteis, father and mother. When it became universally acknowledged that without the Sun, the Earth would perish, and without the semen of man, woman would remain barren, the great pendulum of racial consciousness and attitude took a radical swing. The formula of Isis was altered: woman brings forth life, but life comes from the Sun. God was now the father.
This new ‘illumination’ resulted in unprecedented advances in civilisation. Armed with the solar knowledge of the cycles of seasons, Osirician-age farmers began the organized cultivation of crops. Cities arose, and with them the economies and armies of great-nation-states. Patriarchies supplanted matriarchies as the goddess of cultures became ‘wive’ to the new male deities. But inherent in this new formula was a terrible mystery; a factor that was not a part of the formula of the innocent Aeon of Isis; a dark reality that would become an all-consuming (and some day, unhealthy) preoccupation of the Aeon of Osiris: death. It was perceived as an undeniable fact that the Sun, the source of all life, was born each day on the eastern horizon and traveled across the sky, bestowing His warm blessings of light and life upon all the Earth. It was also observed this great pangenetor ‘died’ each day in the West, plunging the entire world into a cold darkness- a darkness that evoked introspection and fear. Where did the Sun go? Would a new one would ever reappear?
Each night after the death of the Sun, our early Osirian-age ancestor fell into an uneasy slumber, and in that sleep lived another life- a strange life, peopled with other men and women, and filled with impossible wonders and horrors. Animal killed in the hunt, dead relatives, enemies, and comrades, all came alive again in this other world of dream. Was this where the Sun went at night? Was this the land of the Dead? Of course the fearful night did not last forever and a ‘new’ sun appeared with comforting regularity each morning to conquer the darkness and assure the continuity of life. But later, more sophisticated Sun watchers would experience an even greater insecurity crisis when they observed the dwelling periods of sunlight (as summer moved toward winter) resulted in the decrease of actual cessation of the fecundity of the Earth. No sunlight. No crops. This was serious. The daily solar cycle showed them that the Sun is capable of totally disappearing from the sky. But unlike the relatively short period of darkness of the daily cycle, there was no telling how long a great night would last if the sun ever experienced a yearly earth. Surely all life would end in the frozen darkness of an eternal (or even lengthy) night. Unfounded as these fears were, they were based solidly upon a perceived reality, and the trauma became indelibly imprinted upon the psyche of the human race. This ‘reality’ in turn, formed the foundation of the magical formula of the Aeon of Osiris, the formula of the Dying God. The Sun, the Father of all Life, goes through a three-fold cycle of birth (life), death, and resurrection. Humankind, knowing themselves also subject to death, believed that by following the magical formula of the Sun, they too could be made eligible for resurrection. What was this formula? Everywhere our Osirian-age ancestors looked, saw the drama of the Dying God enacted.The farmer observed the fertilizing effects that blood and decaying flesh had upon the soil; and that seeds (which came from living plants in the summer and autumn) could lie dead and buried throughout the winter months, and miraculously resurrect as new plants in the spring. It was obvious and inescapable truth; without death there is no life. Did not the Sun suffer death each night and each winter so it might be reborn? Did not the seed offer itself to the Earth so that it might resurrect as a new plant? After ejaculation did not the penis sacrifice its potency to fertilize the ovum and perpetuate the race?
Lie from death was a fact, and to assure that the blessings of life would continue to come out of death, our Osirian-age ancestors believed they must make active part in the great life/death ritual. To this end they took themselves to altars and offer up sacrifice to the gods. Obviously the great cultural/religious myth of the Egyptian was literally Osirian in nature, but by the dawn of the strological Age of Pisces (approximatively 260 B.C.), the formula of the Dying God had crystallized itself as the central myth of countless cultures and civilisations. The gods of the great mystery cults-Orpheus, Hercules, Dionysus, Attis, Adonis, and later Christ-all were slain and resurrected. The story of Persephone, the central figure of the Eleusinian mysteries which flourished for over two thousand years, is a perfect example of the evolution of the formula of the Great Goddess to that of the Dying God. These cults were wildly popular. To assure one’s own resurrection it was necessary to be an initiate and follow the god’s magical formula of catastrophe, love, death and resurrection. Partially patterned after these mystery schools, orthodox Christianity arose to become the dominant spiritual and political influence of the world for the last two thousand years. The formula of sacrifice was born of the mistaken belief that the Sun came up in the morning and went down in the evening. A more accurate perception of the universe is now enjoyed by humanity. We know the Sun does not come up nor does it go down. I does not travel north in the summer nor does it move toward extinction in the south in the winter. The Sun stays ‘on’ all the time. The light is continuous. The death of the Sun is merely an optical illusion, a shifting of shadows. So universally accepted is this fact of nature that today we seldom give it a second thought. Yet the archetypes that influence the great cultural and religious forces of today were formulated during those eras of profound ignorance and superstition. The stories of the dying Sun and the Dying God were myths created, in parts, to help our ancestors overcome their fear of the dark and their fear of death. The perception of the universe that initiated the Aeon of Osiris has been forever changed. The formula has been amended. There is no need to fear the dark. There is no need to fear death.
2.7. The Aeon of Horus
The formula of the Crowned and Conquering Child: As the child is the physical and genetic product of both its parent, so too the Aeon of Horus reconciles and transcends the formulae of the two previous Ages. Since the turn of the century we have seen the fall of colonialism and the destruction of the last vestiges of the overtly patriarchal rule of kings in Europe. The temporal power of the Pope is gone, and the illusion of the omnipotent spiritual power of the church has become diluted beyond hope of revival. The earth-mother worshiping formula of the Aeon of Isi (violently repressed during the Aeon of Osiris) has been transformed by the evolution of our consciousness, and resurrected as the earth-respecting environmental movement, the Woman’s movement, and the resurgence of the cult of the Goddess.
These developments are seen by the established institutions as blasphemous examples of spiritual and the unholy degeneration of humanity. They grossly misinterpret their own scriptures to warn of an inevitable cleansing conflagration that will reestablish an even greater Osirian rule. While a certain amount of conflicts probably is inevitable (as it at the beginning of every age), the result most certainly will not be a return to the formulae of the past. Standing, as we are, upon the threshold of the Aeon of Horus, what we observe happening in the world is rather unsettling. But it is the natural; result of the vested interests of the old aeon resisting the establishment of the new. It is very much like the strife families experience when a child grows up and finally leaves home. Eventually the parents accept the inevitable and, in most cases, form a new and supportive relationship with their child. We are the child who has just become self-aware. We still love our mother and father but we know we will never be happy as long as we exist only as an extension of their lives. Now that we are conscious of the continuity of existence, now that we perceive the universe as a process of continual growth, now that we recognize the individual as the basic unit of society, we will never return to the flawed and incomplete perception of the past.
The Aeon of Horus would have dawned without Aleister Crowley as its prophet. It’s bigger than all of us. He, like the prophets of old, just gave voice to the winds of change. Not everyone listens the voice of the prophets, but no one can miss what they are talking about. Just look around. The whole world’s changing and it is all revolving around a universal change in human consciousness. Individuals are now really seeing themselves as the center of their universe not families, not communities, not nations, or churches. The Law is for all, and this revolutionary leap of consciousness is happening even if people have never heard the words “Aleister Crowley” or “Thelema” or “Magick” or “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”
I believe Crowley’s greatest contribution is to the tiny segment of humanity who are able to take full advantage of the magical essence of this new formula and seize control of and accelerate the pace of their own spiritual evolution. Liber AL vel Legis is the jewel in the crown of Thelemic Holy Books that serve to guide and inspire all who would take the path of the Thelemic magician. But there are other Crowley works, including The Vision and the Voice, Liber Aleph, and the Thoth Tarot, that will, in my opinion, stand in the centuries to come as tools of lasting influence.