The Hanged Man is generally perceived as a card of self-sacrifice. In the Aeon of Osiris, he represents the “supreme formula of adeptship”, the formula of INRI, “me slain, interred, arisen”; the formula of the Dying and Resurrecting Gods, such as Jesus Christ. As Lon Milo DuQuette said: “This was the age of the dying god, when a guy just couldn’t be a real savior unless he first came out of water (baptized, etc.) and then compromised his own body by allowing himself to be tortured, murdered, and hung or nailed to a tree to redeem the lives of his people” (Understanding Thoth Tarot p.129). We could actually say it was a card of sacrifice and redemption.
That was in the Old Aeon; in the New Aeon it is a card of sacrifice and duty or maybe sacrifice and annihilation or maybe they are the same thing. The Hanged Man is not dying and taking the journey to the great beyond, but instead is meditating and taking that great inward journey that all Mystics must take. Mem, the path of the Hanged Man on the Tree of Life is the path of the mystic, who searches inward for the Secret Door and devotes himself WHOLLY to his True Will. This is the sacrifice in the Aeon of Horus: we will give up that which may tempt us to swerve from our true purpose and enter willingly, nay joyfully, into that long, dark tea-time of the soul. No longer must we die in the physical to attain in the spiritual; there are now other roads of initiation, and they are clearly shown in the Hanged Man card of the Thoth deck.
What does Crowley tell us about the card? That it has evolved through the Aeons, that it is in part a memorial to that bygone time of slaying our gods (or ourselves). Though it is a card of Water, there is a lot of green on it: green disks sit at the end of each limb and under the head. Green is the color of Venus here signifying Grace, with a big ‘G”, like the grace of God: the ‘freely given, unmerited love of God’; the disks are indicative of the earth, Malkuth, the realm of coins, and the suit of the tarot which refers to the physical body, its wants and needs, as well as possessions and material wealth; but that is the outermost surface of the card—we must go within to understand the true mysteries of the Hanged Man, which are in short the devotion of the Magician to his Will, its single-minded pursuit, and the resulting spiritual connection, ultimately leading to the uplifting of both the magician to union with the Angel and of the Angel to that Perfect Oneness. Kether, the One, is indicated with the white rays of Light filtering through the green air. The Hanged Man is suspended from an Ankh, the Egyptian hieroglyphic for “eternal life” and the Serpent of creation and destruction coils about his left foot.
“The legs are crossed so that the right leg forms a right angle with the left leg, and the arms are stretched out at an angle of 60°, so as to form an equilateral triangle; this gives the symbol of the Triangle surmounted by the Cross which represents the descent of the light into the darkness in order to redeem it.” (BoT 96)
‘The Triangle surmounted by the Cross: the triangle representing both the “triad of godhead” and the Fire of Spirit, the cross representing the “quaternary of man” and the Phallus. It shows the alignment of the four souls of man with the True Creative Force, through the journey within. This is redemption in the new Aeon; to unite and transcend, accomplished by the means outlined in the pictograph of the Hanged Man. It is the annihilation of the self in the Beloved, not the sacrifice of life.
“Thou the true fire within the reed, brooding and breeding, source and seed, of life, love, liberty, and light, thou beyond speech and beyond sight; Thee I invoke my faint fresh fire, kindling as mine intents aspire. Thee I invoke abiding one, Thou center and secret of the Sun, and of the most holy mystery of which the vehicle am I; appear most awful and most mild, as it is lawful in thy child”
This is in contrast to images of the old Hanged Man which have the water triangle formed by their bound arms surmounted by a cross; an inverted alchemical symbol for sulfur, showing the overturning of the sulfur principle—the fiery principle—the King is Dead! Long Live the King! But our Hanged Man forms a fire triangle with his arms, aligning elementally with the Lord of the Aeon and proclaiming the new formula.
The formula of the old Aeon is LVX as found concealed within the keywords INRI-IAO…LVX, lux, the Light of the Cross: the dying and resurrecting god-trip, which formerly opened the Gates to the Temple of Initiation, as seen in the Adeptus Minor ritual of the Golden Dawn. It has been superseded by a new formula: NOX, the Dark Night of the Soul, the Night of Pan…
“The Night of Pan is the Annihilation of All.”
“This is the Night wherein I am lost, the Love through which I am no longer I”
“N.O.X. adds to 210 which symbolizes the reduction of duality to unity, and thence to negativity, and is thus a hieroglyph of the Great Work”, the formula of our Aeon, opening us to the True Initiation found within.
Note that I say that the formula LVX is superseded by NOX, not abrogated. While it no longer opens the Gates to the Temple of Initiation, it does open the Gates to the Daughter found in Malkuth. These gates may be opened by any man, individually throughout his life, but the Initiate may open them at once upon the Cross of Suffering, by sacrificing those material fetters and distractions from the work which I have mentioned previously. This must be accomplished before he can attempt the journey of the Hanged Man, which is why Lon Milo defines in his Magick of Aleister Crowley:
“NOX: The Night of Pan. Contrasted with L.V.X. (Light in Extension), N.O.X. could be characterized as Light Withdrawn. It is the negative pulse of the creation/dissolution cycle, much like the Vendantist concept of Pralaya, the universal sleep that precedes and follows creation. Perhaps the most significant characteristic of the magical formulae of the Aeon of Horus is the recognition of this fundamental fact of life, and the joint application of L.V.X. and N.O.X. in the initiatory career of the magician (p85).
The mystic must withdraw his Light, descending into darkness, into the morass of self. Pralaya, which Lon mentions as the “universal sleep that precedes and follows creation” is a state of non-existence, it is when the three gunas or principles of matter have been brought into balance; it is a dissolution not a destruction, because it leads to recreation. In Theosophy, pralaya refers to a period of repose, the opposite of manvantara, a period of manifestation. Pralaya is the Night to balance the Day or Light of Manvantara.
How does one accomplish this period of repose, this sleep of dissolution? The answer lies in the Hanged Man card. In the Book of Thoth, Crowley refers to the Hanged Man in the Aeon of Isis and says “the sound M [is] a return to Eternal Silence as in the word AUM” and says in MTP that AUM is equivalent to the formula of the Slain God. The “resurrection” and “ascension” are not implied in it;… it is based in a misapprehension of nature…it is [therefore] desirable to make clear that the letter M represents an operation which does not actually occur in nature except as a withdrawal of phenomena into the absolute; which process… is not a true destruction, but on the contrary, the emancipation of anything from [that which] it had mistaken for itself. Remember Water is illusion and the formulae of the old ages that are visible in this card are illusions or miscomprehensions.
One must pursue the sleep aforementioned, this dissolution, but that may only be accomplished once man has balanced his quaternary and built the foundation of his own Temple of Initiation. To balance his quaternary he must master the four elements and align the four souls. He must first perfect the animal soul/Nephesh using it to travel the aethyrs and then master the intellect/Ruach (no easy feat). Crowley alludes to this in the Book of Thoth when he said:
“Redemption is a bad word; it implies debt. For every star possesses boundless wealth; the only proper way to deal with the ignorant is to bring them to knowledge of their starry heritage. To do this it is necessary to behave as must be done in order to get on good terms with animals and children: to treat them with absolute respect, even, in a certain sense, to worship them.”
He was not merely suggesting the worship of small children and animals; he was detailing the relationship we must have with our Animal Soul. How can we tame the intellect if we have not first learned to separate ourselves from it? How will we quiet the thoughts in our heads and achieve that place beyond speech and silence, if we are trapped in our wrappings of flesh and brain?
Mem is the path of the inward journey, to unite with the Neshemah or Spirit, and that can be done through the Hanged Man in a couple of different ways, mentioned by Crowley as follows:
This card is therefore especially sacred to the Mystic, and the attitude of the figure is a ritual posture in the Practice called the Sleep of Shiloham.
What is this Sleep of Shiloham? Shiloham or Sialam or Siloam can be derived from either Shiloh the Hebrew for to go towards, to travel to, or Shalom which is “peace”. I think we can see the applicability of either. We must know peace to take this journey inside ourselves. But where did it come from?
The Sleep of Sialam first appeared in a British Colonel’s memoir, Twelve Years in India, where he refers to a city of impressive and adept seers and fabricators of magical tools, known for their scrying devices and uncanny divinatory prowess:
“We joyfully, gladly went, five of us, her Majesty's Officers, on a tour of military inspection, the toils of which were likely to be rewarded by an opportunity of witnessing the dance of Illumination, of the MUNTRA-WALLAHS, or Magic-working Brahmans, whose strange miracles, worked apparently by the triple agency of Battasahs (rice), Gookal (red-powder), and strangest of all, by means of oval glasses or crystals, but black as night, in which it is reported, some very strange things were to be seen. We were all prepared to witness skilful jugglery, for which the residents of Muttra are renowned, but fully resolved to ascertain, if possible, how it was all done, rejecting, of course, everything claimed to be either supra-mortal or hyper-natural, so far as the underlying principles were concerned. ...It was sheer skill, but such as no European could pretend to equal. Yet how the sleeping girl could tell our names, ages, place of birth, and fifty other true facts, she never having seen either of us before - because the dust of Jubalpore was still upon our clothes, we having been but one day in Muttra - was a problem not easily solved. They call it the Sleep of Sialam, and she passed into it by gazing into a dark glass.”
Somehow this term made its way to Pascal Beverly Randolph, a Victorian-era American Rosicrucian and sex magician and founder of the Grand Lodge of Eulis, precursor to the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor. Many of his ideas and teachings formulate after his travels in the East have been taken up by the OTO, a glimpse of which can be gathered reading his essay of induction into our Order of the Lion.
His first use of the Sleep of Sialam was in his Rosicrucian novel Ravalette, where it indicated the highest form of drug-induced vision state. This use was taken up by the Theosophists in “Isis Unveiled where it relates to a drug- induced, prophetic ‘sublime lethargy’ in which the unconscious subject is made the ‘temporary receptacle of the brightness of the immortal Augoeides’” or the Holy Guardian Angel.
Randolph did not see the soma as the way to this sleep however, as we can clearly see in his book “Eulis” when he wrote:
During the year 1874, I propose to give the world a test of the powers of Vision of the soul when under the sleep of Sialam,— that upper clairvoyance which comes never by mesmeric roads, nor drugs, fumes, ethers or spiritual circles, but ever by the three principles, through the aid of the Vast Ovoid
These three principles he mentions are Volantia (the calm exercise of will), Decretism (decreeing that something must be so, especial the “nuptive moment”), and Posism (sinking into a receptive mental and physical posture to receive that which has been willed and decreed). Sound familiar?
Randolph further states that “[t]hrough the sialam slumber have I been educated; and I honor and paenize the glorious bridge that enabled me to keep the human bloodhounds at bay and to span the unfathomable oceans of eternity”. Never using this Sleep as a mere divinatory tool as in his first book, he finally expressed it as “not the mere vision of a celestial thing, but the mental, crystallic, ascensive, penetrative, and comprehensive grasp of it..”
In the book, Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, this sleep is further described:
The pinnacle of clairvoyant experience in the HBofL system was the Sleep of Sialam, the exalted conscious trance state in which the initiate communed with the Powers, Potencies, and Intelligences of the celestial hierarchies.
Later, a follower of Randolph, FB Dowd was quoted in his book Regeneration, being Part II of the Temple of the Rosy Cross:
Regeneration expands the soul; the center enlarges and indraws the circumference,—the mind. The sympathies unfold and expand until the selfish cares, anxieties, and worries disappear, and effort and thought for the good of all take their place. The belief that all is good annihilates evil, eliminates poison from the blood, and, reconciling the mind to the "changes and chances of this mortal life," produces an indescribable calmness. in this quiet the still small voice is heard; man becomes conscious of the soul; he has found his center—the Divine Guest has descended, and God's will is done in the circumference as in the center of being. This hushing of the outer mind may extend to the material body, and the first stage of the Sleep of Sialam, which is physical insensibility may be entered... We know something of the influence of magnetic sleep on body and mind with its curative and enlightening influx, but of the Sacred Sleep of Sialam little is known, even by report and that little is subject to doubt and scoffing, as a Rosicrucian tradition, a myth, a dream of some excited enthusiast. It is affirmed that in this sleep all mysteries may be solved, the future of men and angels explored, and the determination of the will carried into effect to the rise and fall of nations; the changing of forms of government, the downfall of dynasties, and the production of wealth and prosperity for races, nations, and individuals. However incredible, this may appear, it finds its confirmation in all the religious traditions and bibles of the ages. Gautama slept the Sleep of Sialam under the Sacred Bo Tree; Mohammed in the cave, in the earlier and purer part of his life, entered somewhat into this state; Jesus slept this sleep on Calvary.