Chapter IV: The Qabalah: The Best Training for Memory

Magick Without Tears

by Aleister Crowley

Chapter IV: The Qabalah: The Best Training for Memory

Cara Soror,

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

Now you must learn Qabalah. Learn this Alphabet of Magick. You must take it on trust, as a child does his own alphabet. No one has ever found out why the order of the letters is what it is. Probably there isn't any answer.

If you only knew what I am grappling with in the Yi King! the order of the sixty-four hexagrams. I am convinced that it is extremely significant, that it implies a sublime system of philosophy. I've got far enough to be absolutely sure that there is a necessary rhythm; and it's killing me by millimetres, finding out why each pair succeeds the last. Forgive these tears!

But our Magical Alphabet is primarily not letters, but figures, not sounds but mathematical ideas. Sir Humphrey Davy, coming out of his famous illumination (with some help from Nitrous Oxide he got in) exclaimed: The Universe is composed solely of ideas. We, analyzing this a little, say: The Universe is a mathematical expression.

Sir James Jeans might have said this, only his banker advised him to cash in on God. The simplest form of this expression is 0 = 2, elsewhere expounded at great length. This 2 might itself be expressed in an indefinitely great number of ways. Every prime number, including some not in the series of “natural numbers”, is an individual. The other numbers with perhaps a few exceptions (e.g. 418) are composed of their primes.

Each of these ideas may be explained, investigated, understood, by means very various. Firstly, the Hebrew, Greek and Arabic numbers are also letters. Then, each of these letters is further described by one of the (arbitrarily composed) “elements of Nature; the Four (or Five) Elements, the Seven (or Ten) Planets, and the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac.

All these are arranged in a geometrical design composed of ten “Sephiroth” (numbers) and twenty-two “paths” joining them; this is called the Tree of Life.

Every idea soever can be, and should be, attributed to one or more of these primary symbols; thus green, in different shades, is a quality or function of Venus, the Earth, the Sea, Libra, and others. So also abstract ideas; dishonesty means “an afflicted Mercury,” generosity a good, though not always strong, Jupiter; and so on.

The Tree of Life has got to be learnt by heart; you must know it backwards, forwards, sideways, and upside down; it must become the automatic background of all your thinking. You must keep on hanging everything that comes your way upon its proper bough.

At first, of course, all this is dreadfully confusing; but persist, and a time will come when all the odd bits fit into the jig-saw, and you behold—with what adoring wonder!—the marvellous beauty and symmetry of the Qabalistic system.

And then—what a weapon you will have forged!

What power to analyze, to order, to manipulate your thinking!

And please remember when people compliment you on your memory or the clarity of your thought, to give credit to the Qabalah!

That's fine, I seem to hear you purr; that looks a lovely machine. The Design is just elegant; that scarf-pin of yours is perfectly sweet.

There's only one point: how to make the damn thing work?

Ah yes, like the one in the Apocalypse, the sting is in your tail.

Honest, you needn't worry; it works on ball-bearings, and there's always those “Thirteen Fountains of Magnificent Oil flowing down the Beard of Macroprosopus” in case it creaks a little at first. But seriously, all the mathematics you need is simple Addition and Multiplication.

“Yeah!” you rudely reply. “That's what you think; but you haven't got very far in the Qabalah!”

Too true, sister.

The Book of the Law itself insists upon the fact that it contains a Qabalah which was beyond me at the time of its dictation, is beyond me now, and always will be beyond me in this incarnation. Let me direct your spiritual attention to AL I, 54; I, 56; II, 54-55; II, 76; III, 47.

Now there was enough comprehensible at the time to assure me that the Author of the Book knew at least as much Qabalah as I did: I discovered subsequently more than enough to make it certain without error that he knew a very great deal more, and that of an altogether higher order, than I knew; finally, such glimmerings of light as time and desperate study have thrown on many other obscure passages, to leave no doubt whatever in my mind that he is indeed the supreme Qabalist of all time …

“I asked you how to work it.”

Don't be so peevish, querulous, and impatient; your zeal is laudable, but it's wasting your own time to hurry me.

Well, when you've got this Alphabet of Numbers (in its proper shape) absolutely by heart, with as many sets of attributions as you can commit to memory without getting confused, you may try a few easy exercises, beginning with the past.

(“How many sets of attributions?”—Well, certainly, the Hebrew and Greek Alphabets with the names and numbers of each letter, and its mean- ing: a couple of lists of God-names, with a clear idea of the character, qualities, functions, and importance of each; the “King-scale” of colour, all the Tarot attributions, of course; then animals, plants, drugs, per- fumes, a list or two of archangels, angels, intelligences and spirits—that ought to be enough for a start.)

Now you are armed! Ask yourself: why is the influence of Tiphareth transmitted to Yesod by the Path of Samekh, a fence, 60, Sagittarius, the Archer, Art, blue—and so on; but to Hod by the Path of Ayin, an eye, 70, Capricornus, the Goat, the Devil, Indigo, K.T.L.

Thirteen is the number of Achad {Hebrew option}, Unity, and Ahebah {Hebrew option}, Love; then what word should arise when you expand it by the Creative Dyad, and get 26; what when you multiply it by 4, and get 52? Then, suppose the Pentagram gets busy, 13 x 5 = 65, what then?

Now don't you dare to come round crawling to me for the answers; work it out yourself what sort of words they ought to be, and then check your result by looking up those numbers in the Sepher Sephiroth: Equinox Vol. I, No. 8, Supplement.

When you are a real adept at all these well-known calculations “prepare to enter the Immeasurable Region” and dig out the Unknown.

You must construct your own Qabalah!

Nobody can do it for you. What is your own true Number? You must find it and prove it to be correct. In the course of a few years, you should have built yourself a Palace of Ineffable Glory, a Garden of Indescribable Delight. Nor Time nor Fate can tame those tranquil towers, those Minarets of Music, or fade one blossom in those avenues of Perfume!

Humph! Nasty of me: but it has just stuck me that it might be just as well if you made a Sepher Sephiroth of your own! What a positively beastly thing to suggest! However, I do suggest it.

After all, it's simple enough. Every word you come across, add it up, stick it down against that number in a book kept for the purpose. That may seem tedious and silly; why should you do all over again the work that I have already done for you? Reason: simple. Doing it will teach you Qabalah as nothing else could. Besides, you won't be all cluttered up with words that mean nothing to you; and if it should happen that you want a word to explain some particular number, you can look it up in my Sepher Sephiroth.

By this method, too, you may strike a rich vein of words of your own that I have altogether missed.

No doubt, a Really Great Teacher would have said: “Beware! Use my Dictionary, and mine alone! All others are spurious!” But then I'm not a R.G.T. of that kind.

For a start, of course, you should put down the words that are bound to come in your way in any case: numbers like 11, 13, 31, 37, and their multiples; the names of God and the principal angels; the planetary and geomantic names; and your own private and particular name with its branches. After that, let your work on the Astral Plane guide you.  When investigating the name and other words communicated to you by such beings as you meet there, or invoke, many more will come up in their proper connections. Very soon you will have quite a nice little Sepher Sephiroth of your very own. Remember to aim, above all things, at coherence.

It is excellent practice, but the way, to do some mental arithmetic on your walks; acquire the habit of adding up any names that you have come across in your morning's reading. Nietzsche has well observed that the best thoughts come by walking; and it has happened to me, more than once or twice, that really important correspondences have come, as by a flashlight, when I was padding the old hoof.

You will have noticed that in this curt exposition I have confined myself to Gematria, the direct relation of number and word, omitting any reference to Notariqon, the accursed art of making words out of initials, like (in profane life) Wren and Gestapo and their horrid brood, or to Temurah, the art of altering the position of the letters in a word,1 a sort of cipher; for these are almost always frivolous. To base any serious calculations on them would be absurd.

Love is the law, love under will.



P.S. You should study the Equinox Vol. I, No. 5, ”The Temple of Solomon the King“ for a more elaborate exposition of the Qabalah.

1: Temurah is more normally understood as a form of letter substitution cipher rather than the formation of anagrams as Crowley seems to suggest here; historically it appears that its applications have been as much in the realm of mundane cryptography as in Qabalistic exegesis. For example, the Viginaire cipher, held unbreakable for a few centuries, used a Latin version of the Qabalistic (so called) “Right Table of Commutations” – T.S.

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