An Elective Method of Astral Training for E.G.C. Clergy

T Polyphilus, Ep. Gn.

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

The official instruction that clergy should have memorized the entire relevant text of Liber XV for the execution of their offices in the Gnostic Mass has often passed among E.G.C. members without full appreciation. The Gnostic Mass is a dramatic magical ritual, and work from memory does provide a more polished presentation of the drama. But there are certainly ecclesiastical traditions in which presiding officers work extensively from printed missals, and so-called "theatrical" considerations are neither the only nor even the chief reasons for clergy to know the Mass by heart.

As Crowley wrote in Little Essays Toward Truth, "Memory is the stuff of consciousness itself." For over a millenium, Western culture followed Augustine of Hippo in espousing memory as one of the principal powers of the human soul. Magical visions, like the dreams of sleep, depend on memory as the property of consciousness which permits them to be integrated with quotidian experience. As Ioan Couliano wrote in Magic and Eros in the Renaissance, "The bond between eroticism, mnemonics, and magic is indissoluble to such at extent that it is impossible to understand the third without first having studied the principles and mechanisms of the first two." Memorization of a text permits its contents to be brought to mind as needed, and applied in the different symbolic contexts that increase its symbolic and magical power. For all these reasons, memorization of Liber XV is a vital task for all aspirants to ordination in E.G.C.

In his most concentrated and fundamental paper on ceremonial magic Liber O vel manus et sagittae, Crowley’s first practical instruction is that the basic correspondences from 777 be “committed to memory.” In fact, three of the six sections of that essential paper begin with instructions to exercise the memory. Crowley also remarked that a chief function of secrecy in Masonry was to heighten the faculty of memory: “A Freemason never forgets the secret words entrusted to him, though these words mean absolutely nothing to him in the vast majority of cases; the only reason for this is that he has been forbidden to mention them, although they have been published again and again, and are as accessible to the profane as to the initiate.” (Magick, p. 189)

In connection with these facts, it is worth examining Crowley’s prescriptions regarding memorization of the Holy Books of Thelema in the outer grades of A\A\. Functionally, these tasks took the place of the old Golden Dawn “knowledge lectures” in basic symbols and correspondences, upon the "secrecy" of which Crowley had heaped such scorn. In another way, Holy Book memorization became a substitute for the actual temple ceremonies in the elemental grades. I can attest from personal experience that to memorize a chapter of one of the principal Holy Books of Thelema is to undergo a kind of astral initiation. The act of memorization demands an internal experience and integration of the contents of the text that can be achieved in no other way, and that will be unique for each aspirant.

Certainly, any and all members of E.G.C., lay or clerical, will benefit from persistent study and memorization of Liber AL vel Legis, the Revelation of the New Aeon, upon which our mysteries are founded. In addition, however, I recommend particular courses of memorization for those working in or towards the clerical offices of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica. They consist of a chapter each from the two principal Holy Books Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente and Liber Liberi, as itemized in the following table:

Office Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente (LXV) Liber Liberi (VII)
Deacon Chapter II: Air, Ruach Chapter V: Mercury
PriestessChapter III: Water, Neschemah Chapter VI: Luna
PriestChapter IV: Fire, Chiah Chapter IV: Sol
Bishop Chapter V: Spirit, Yechidah Chapter III: Jupiter

The division of the Holy Books into verses is a device intended to assist in memorization. This feature serves both to "chunk" the text into smaller pieces for ease of memory, and to create an indexing system that will give the mind access to the text as though the words were on a disc rather than a tape. A basic technique for memorizing a chapter is to begin at the end, and memorize the final verse first. Then continue adding the next earlier verse, until the chapter is complete. This method keeps the newest material at the beginning, where short-term memory can assist in putting it into place, while each recitation proceeds from the less well-studied to the more familiar.

The Western society of the early 21st century is fundamentally anti-mnemonic. This feature is in part a function of individualism, since the power to forget is fundamental to the ego: it permits events and ideas to be abstracted from the continuous web of mind and experience. This ego, especially when inflamed by individualistic mass-culture, is the great nemesis of magical attainment (see Magick, p. 71, e.g.). In our society there is moreover a widespread revulsion towards so-called ‘rote’ learning, understood as the exercise of memory in education. Memory is externalized through ever-proliferating forms of technology; not only print but a constantly multiplying plethora of recording media purport to make human memory unnecessary. Digital data storage is even called ‘memory.’ People with capable memories are considered freakish. But I concur with Augustine that memory is a necessary ingredient of our humanity, and I go further in accepting it as a feature of our divine nature. In the grand chorus from Swinburne’s Atalanta in Calydon, “memory fallen from heaven” is the complementary opposite of “madness risen from hell.”

As clergy, we must strengthen our own memories through practice. The power ‘to know’ is not the power to grab a book off a shelf, but rather to correlate the contents of one’s own experience. We must cultivate the power of memory among aspirants to our mysteries (who will be our successors), through both instruction and demonstration. Considering the beseiged state of memory in the empire of the profane, it may be that the initiated training of memory will be key not only to the vitality and integrity of the Order, but to the survival and development of humanity itself.

“And they that sealed up the book in their blood were the chosen of Adonai, and the Thought of Adonai was a Word and a Deed; and they abode in the Land that the far-off travellers call Naught.” (LXV, V:59)
Love is the law, love under will.

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