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  Theories of Aeons
General Thelema Posted by Xnoubis on January 12, 2001 @ 10:46 PM
from the Descartes-before-the-Horus dept.

I'd like to explore the subject of Aeons, not in the Gnostic sense of archetypal beings, but in the Thelemic sense of time-periods characterized by changes in humanity's direction.


In Chapter 5 of Magick in Theory and Practice, Crowley describes the Aeonic progression as:

  • Isis: the primal, matriarchal age
  • Osiris: the age of sacrifice and patriarchy
  • Horus: the era of the ascendancy of the self, both sexes-in-one

In other places, he appears to associate the Aeons with the astrological ages, i.e., the age of Pisces is the Aeon of Osiris, the age of Aquarius is the Aeon of Horus, etc. These astrological ages are defined by which of the zodiacal constellations the sun rises in at the time of the Vernal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere.

Either way, the Aeon of Horus is asserted to have begun in 1904, with the reception of The Book of the Law, and to endure for about 2000 years. (I have heard that there is some mode of astrological calculation that can result in a 1904 date for the beginning of the Age of Aquarius, but it has never been demonstrated to me. Whenever I try to work it out, it seems to me that the Age of Pisces has at least a couple of centuries to go.)

Crowley's onetime disciple, Charles Stansfield Jones (a.k.a., Frater Achad), claimed to have ushered in the Aeon of Maat in 1948, diminishing the Aeon of Horus to a paltry (but numerologically significant) 44 years. The later Maatian work of Nema upholds Crowley's view that the Aeon of Horus will endure for two millennia, but that the influence of the future Aeon of Maat can be intentionally brought into play within our own time, as a complement and stabilizing force for the volatile Horus energy.

Of course, there have been many other attempts to formulate a similar historical pattern. Many Christian thinkers, for instance, including Joachim of Flore and Petrus Iohannis Olivi, held that history is divided into the Age of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. This is still a tenet of many Pentecostalist groups today.

Industrial psychologist Clare W. Graves constructed a theory around a progression of human values that, although much more complicated, bears some resemblance to the doctrine of Aeons. One interesting chart of the theory applied to history can be found here, with some explanatory text here.

Oscar Ichazo, founder of the Arica school, defines historical eras in terms of the predominant mode of reason. In his view, one age began with the development of logic, as seen in the works of Aristotle. This was followed by the era of dialectics, typified by Hegel, and coming to fruition in modern America. He foresees the emerging age as embodying a new form of reason that he calls "Trialectics," and which will be described in detail at some future time.

Terence McKenna put forth the "Timewave" idea, which postulates some sort of historical climax occurring in 2012. This apparently also coincides with the end of the Mayan calendar.

And the Hindus have their system of Kalpas and Yugas. We are currently living in the Age of Kali according to this system, although opinions seem to vary widely as to when we are supposed to leave it.

What do I think? It depends on what I'm looking at. Crowley's Aeonic system maps neatly onto the developmental stages of the individual. We are dependent on mother's womb and on our caregivers in our Isis phase. Beyond that, we gain autonomous, egoic existence, our personal Age of Osiris. Typically, this is as far as we go. But we are approaching a stage, individually and collectively, in which we can transcend our former limitations into an age of attainment (Horus). In this sense, 1904 might be a reasonable date for the beginnings of this transition. But it will no doubt be easier to evaluate in the future, once the corner is completely turned.

Of course, there is always the possibility that there is no "corner" at all, and that the idea of a progression of ages is more of a rhetorical device than anything else. It certainly is an unfashionable idea, in all but spiritual circles.



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    Nietzsche's Aeons
    by Dionysos Thriambos on Monday January 15, @12:48PM
    Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

    The following passage is section 32 of Saint Nietzsche's Jenseits von Gut und Boese:

    During the longest part of human history - so-called prehistorical times - the value or disvalue of an action was derived from its consequences. The action itself was considered as little as its origin. It was rather the way a distinction or disgrace still reaches back today from a child to its parents, in China: it was the retroactive force of success or failure that led men to think well or ill of an action. Let us call this period the pre-moral period of mankind: the imperative "know thyself!" was as yet unknown. In the last ten thousand years, however, one has reached the point, step by step, in a few large regions on the earth, where it is no longer the consequences but the origin of an action that one allows to decide its value. On the whole this is a great event which involves a considerable refinement of vision and standards; it is the unconscious aftereffect of the rule of aristocratic values and the faith in "descent" - the sign of a period that one may call moral in the narrower sense. It involves the first attempt at self-knowledge. Instead of the consequences, the origin: indeed a reversal of perspective! Surely, a reversal achieved only after long struggles and vacillations. To be sure, a calamitous new superstition, an odd narrowness of interpretation, thus become dominant: the origin of an action was interpreted in the most definite sense as origin in an intention; one came to agree that the value of an action lay in the value of the intention. The intention as the whole origin and prehistory of an action - almost to the present day this prejudice dominated moral praise, blame, judgment, and philosophy on earth. But today - shouldn't we have reached the necessity of once more resolving on a reversal and fundamental shift in values, owing to another self-examination of man, another growth in profundity? Don't we stand at the threshold of a period which should be designated negatively, to begin with, as extra-moral? After all, today at least we immoralists have the suspicion that the decisive value of an action lies precisely in what is unintentional in it, while everything about it that is intentional, everything about it that can be seen, known, "conscious," still belongs to its surface and skin - which, like every skin, betrays something but conceals even more. In short, we believe that the intention is merely a sign and symptom that still requires interpretation - moreover, a sign that means too much and therefore, taken by itself alone, almost nothing. We believe that morality in the traditional sense, the morality of intentions, was a prejudice, precipitate and perhaps provisional - something on the order of astrology and alchemy - but in any case something that must be overcome. The overcoming of morality, in a certain sense even the self-overcoming of morality - let this be the name for that long secret work which has been saved up for the finest and most honest, also the most malicious, consciences of today, as living touchstones of the soul.

    The pre-moral, moral, and extra-moral phases of Nietzsche's meta-narrative appear to correspond very neatly to the Aeons of Isis, Osiris, and Horus respectively. Like Crowley's schema, this one can be applied as a dialectic of individual development, as well as a story of cultural evolution. Although not as blatantly counter-factual as some of the elements of Crowley's Aeonic theory (which was ultimately based more on the Golden Dawn Equinox ceremony than it was on validated historical knowledge), Nietzsche's postulated progression is also highly debatable, and worth the effort, for all that.

    Love is the law, love under will.

    • Golden Dawn Officers
      by Atensutmose on Thursday January 18, @11:46AM
      93

      Crowley's Aeonic theory (which was ultimately based more on the Golden Dawn Equinox ceremony than it was on validated historical knowledge)

      Well put! Various contemporary Thelemites, particularly those influenced by Kenneth Grant, have hypothesized other Aeons besides the four indicated by Crowley (i.e. Isis, Osiris, Horus, Maat). Such attempts tend to consistently ignore what seems to have been the germ of Crowley's entire Aeonic scheme, which was the "pecking order" of Golden Dawn temple officers, who were advanced one office up the line at each Equinox. Each G.D. officer was assigned a god-form, hence "the Equinox of the Gods" was the macrocosmic operation corresponding to the temple ceremony of officer rotation.

      By that design, the Aeons prior to Isis would be those of Thoth and Nephthys (in uncertain sequence), and Maat would be followed by Anubis. For those who like the idea of correlating the Aeonic advance to the astronomical precession of the Equinoxes, they line up something like this:

      Thoth - V.E. Gemini, A.E. Sagittarius
      Nephthys - V.E. Taurus, A.E. Scorpio
      Isis - V.E. Aries, A.E. Libra
      Osiris - V.E. Pisces, A.E. Virgo
      Horus - V.E. Aquarius, A.E. Leo
      Maat - V.E. Capricorn, A.E. Cancer
      Anubis - V.E. Sagittarius, V.E. Gemini

      V.E. = Vernal Equniox, A.E. = Autumnal Equinox

      I haven't quite fully discounted the historical relevance of the Isis-Osiris-Horus progression, but I currently limit it to the Hebrew-Christian-Thelemic doctrinal dialectic, as an historical progression of Divine Law--probably not unrelated to the Nietzsche passage cited by Dionysos.

      93 93/93


    • Nietzsche's Aeons
      by Dionysos Thriambos on Tuesday May 07, @03:12AM
      Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

      The following passage is section 32 of Saint Nietzsche's Jenseits von Gut und Boese:

      During the longest part of human history - so-called prehistorical times - the value or disvalue of an action was derived from its consequences. The action itself was considered as little as its origin. It was rather the way a distinction or disgrace still reaches back today from a child to its parents, in China: it was the retroactive force of success or failure that led men to think well or ill of an action. Let us call this period the pre-moral period of mankind: the imperative "know thyself!" was as yet unknown. In the last ten thousand years, however, one has reached the point, step by step, in a few large regions on the earth, where it is no longer the consequences but the origin of an action that one allows to decide its value. On the whole this is a great event which involves a considerable refinement of vision and standards; it is the unconscious aftereffect of the rule of aristocratic values and the faith in "descent" - the sign of a period that one may call moral in the narrower sense. It involves the first attempt at self-knowledge. Instead of the consequences, the origin: indeed a reversal of perspective! Surely, a reversal achieved only after long struggles and vacillations. To be sure, a calamitous new superstition, an odd narrowness of interpretation, thus become dominant: the origin of an action was interpreted in the most definite sense as origin in an intention; one came to agree that the value of an action lay in the value of the intention. The intention as the whole origin and prehistory of an action - almost to the present day this prejudice dominated moral praise, blame, judgment, and philosophy on earth. But today - shouldn't we have reached the necessity of once more resolving on a reversal and fundamental shift in values, owing to another self-examination of man, another growth in profundity? Don't we stand at the threshold of a period which should be designated negatively, to begin with, as extra-moral? After all, today at least we immoralists have the suspicion that the decisive value of an action lies precisely in what is unintentional in it, while everything about it that is intentional, everything about it that can be seen, known, "conscious," still belongs to its surface and skin - which, like every skin, betrays something but conceals even more. In short, we believe that the intention is merely a sign and symptom that still requires interpretation - moreover, a sign that means too much and therefore, taken by itself alone, almost nothing. We believe that morality in the traditional sense, the morality of intentions, was a prejudice, precipitate and perhaps provisional - something on the order of astrology and alchemy - but in any case something that must be overcome. The overcoming of morality, in a certain sense even the self-overcoming of morality - let this be the name for that long secret work which has been saved up for the finest and most honest, also the most malicious, consciences of today, as living touchstones of the soul.

      The pre-moral, moral, and extra-moral phases of Nietzsche's meta-narrative appear to correspond very neatly to the Aeons of Isis, Osiris, and Horus respectively. Like Crowley's schema, this one can be applied as a dialectic of individual development, as well as a story of cultural evolution. Although not as blatantly counter-factual as some of the elements of Crowley's Aeonic theory (which was ultimately based more on the Golden Dawn Equinox ceremony than it was on validated historical knowledge), Nietzsche's postulated progression is also highly debatable, and worth the effort, for all that.

      Love is the law, love under will.


    Re: Theories of Aeons
    by El Nigma on Monday January 15, @06:16PM
    "The Real Aeon of El Nigma"

    I don't see the theories of aeons any more valid then the other lumps commonly made. "Aeon of Osirus","Aeon of Horus", etc. usually do not have any more backup evidence of validity then like "Generation X" "Age of Aquarius" that kind of thing. A few years back I didn't know any of the supposed stereotype "slackers" that were supposed to be running around of that "Generation X", and so I'm cynical of occultik and media lumping. This is 2001 Christian Calendar, and if this is anything, yet another year of the Computer Age - for that I've seen evidence.

    93 23,
    El Nigma

    Re: Theories of Aeons
    by Orryelle on Wednesday January 17, @02:18AM
    Interesting little summary, Xnoubis.
    I explored various theories of aeonic progression a few years ago, trying to come up with some kind of integrative overall picture by correlating the different aeonic maps made by Crowley, McKenna, Peter Carrol, Nema, the Hopi and Mayan indians, etc.
    The resultant essay on Aeonics is up at http://www.crossroads.wild.net.au/zuv.htm
    although I've been meaning to update and expand it to inc. the Hindu yugas, etc. for a while now...

    • Re: Theories of Aeons
      by Xnoubis on Thursday January 18, @10:30AM
      Loved the essay! A much more ambitious piece than the one here.

      One small quibble:

      "Crowley's Magickal Child, Frater Achad (‘Unity’-numbering 13 in Qabbala!) or Charles Stanfield Jones, inaugurated the 'Aeon of Maat' in 1948 but was largely ignored and rebuked by Crowley for this action."

      That Crowley ignored that action, I have no doubt. But I'd be surprised if he rebuked it. Crowley died in 1947.


      • Re: Theories of Aeons
        by El Nigma on Thursday January 18, @11:00AM
        93!

        Possible other addition to the article for timelines.

        "Aeon of Set" essay-http://www.xeper.org/pub/tos/xeper2.html

        Aeon of Set began 1975 with Michael Aquino's
        "Xepera Xeper Xeperu"

        (I'm not in agreement, and prefering the Beetle with Xep-type names) But I thought it might be of interest, if it was overlooked.

        93 23,
        El Nigma
        ----------------------------------------
        Simple things for simple minds


    Re: Theories of Aeons
    by Tim Maroney on Wednesday January 17, @05:47PM
    You can put me in the camp of those who find the idea of aeons useless and misleading.

    It might be interesting to ask what purpose aeonic models of history serve -- but since they don't serve any purpose for me, I'm sure I'm the wrong person to ask!

    Tim

    • Re: Theories of Aeons
      by Xnoubis on Thursday January 18, @12:27PM
      > what purpose aeonic models of history serve

      In terms of how we wish to make the world, aeonic models offer inspiration -- if it is held that we are at a cusp. "The things you don't like about the world are part of a dying paradigm. Work with us to build the next world!" As a counter-example, one of the things that makes the Kali Yuga relatively uninteresting is that, by most accounts, we are nowhere near the end of it. So the story there is, "Yep, things sure are messed up. Have been for a while; still gonna be for some time to come." And yet, one local Thelemite has often said that the best thing about Crowley's aeonic model is that the transition (1904) is behind us, so now we can get back to ignoring it!

      As far as how the world actually is, I think we'd have to make the aeonic model a lot more flexible in order for it to be useful. Graves' Theory, referenced in the article, is one way that it might be done. What we'd be talking about would be a spectrum of value-systems, such that once one system is sufficiently fulfilled, there's a tendency to move on to the next. So the Aeon changes for everyone at different times, if at all. People might move back and forth between different Aeons, experience them out of order, or live different aspects of their lives in different Aeons, like having "Piscean" work lives and "Aquarian" home lives.

      Is there anything left of Crowley's aeonic model here? Perhaps, in that we might be able to speak of the predominant aeonic orientation of collectives. Maybe the essence of this stripped-down aeonic concept is that, for any given collective, one value-system will tend to dominate. Of course, even this could be disputed. Many people speak of diversity, or the multi-cultural society, and feel that the direction of the future is the proliferation of divergent worldviews. Certainly, we want to work toward a society that is as supportive of diversity as possible. But I can't help but wonder whether this accelerating divergence might just be a temporary phenomenon, as the previously dominant worldview wanes and the next has yet to completely take hold.

      How would this be useful, if it were true? It could be helpful in organizational management, or maybe even public policy. What are the value-systems at play in our society? How do they interact? How can we arrange things so that those who hold a particular value-system can get what they want while not interfering unduly with those who hold other value-systems?

      This takes us a pretty far distance from Crowley. But I suspect that he sensed something of this "spectrum," and encoded the transition between one value-system and the next as the myth of the Equinox of the Gods.



     
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