Addenda to Advice for Deacons

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


In the decade and more that has passed since I first wrote Advice for Deacons, I have often been encouraged to revise and update it. My resistance on this score is rooted in the basic nature of the original document: it is non-authoritative advice offered by a deacon to his peers. Since I have subsequently been ordained a priest and consecrated a bishop, I can no longer write from that perspective.

However, I cannot help but recognize that not only have I changed, but so has the larger Church. While many people still tell me that they find my old Advice helpful, it was in fact written before many significant developments in the Gnostic Catholic Church of O.T.O. It was prior to the first issuance of the E.G.C. Manual in the U.S. (since twice revised). It was before the existence of the office of the national E.G.C. Secretary. It was before significant meetings of the bishops of E.G.C. in 2004 and 2005 regarding Gnostic Mass standards.

The purpose of these addenda is to correct and clarify various matters raised in the original Advice for Deacons document. It is broken out into sections corresponding to those of the Advice. I hope it will help to preserve the usefulness of my earlier writing in the face of subsequent developments and changes, and I anticipate no trepidation about revising these addenda as needed.

Love is the law, love under will.

As a demonstration of the fallibility of the original Advice, consider the word daikonos, given inaccurately for the Greek diakonos. A daikon is a sort of large Japanese radish, unknown to the ancient Greeks.

Another semantic issue is that of “supervision.” I would substitute the word “guidance” (and “guide” for “supervise”), since supervision is in fact the eytmologically denoted nature of episcopal authority.

A necessary addition to the “Suggestions for Study” in this section is the E.G.C. Manual issued through U.S. Grand Lodge O.T.O., by the authority of the Patriarch Hymenaeus Beta and his Primate Sabazius.

The Shrine

The most crucial of the High Altar dimensions from the perspective of a priest or priestess is height; however width is the one which is most integrated into the other measurements of the temple. For a regulation-height altar (most strongly recommended), it will be helpful to have a footstool to assist the priestess in her ascent. Having a pillow on hand for the priest's long kneeling during the eleven collects is a kindness as well.

It is somewhat misleading to say that the two great candles “flank…the Graal,” since the candles should be set at the outermost ends of the High Altar, beyond the roses. The advice about positioning robe, crown, and peoples' goblets on the High Altar is just that, simple advice, albeit with a tone more commanding than I would choose today.

The Altar of Incense

The single candle on the altar of incense is “not recommended” according to the 2004 episcopal meeting. One or more candles may be there if needed for lighting purposes, but they are extrinsic to Liber XV, and should not be considered to have any symbolic significance.

The Book of the Law should be in the hand of the deacon prior to Mass, during the preamble and admission of the people.

Holy Oil may be used to anoint officers and weapons before Mass, but this task will not fall to a deacon as such. The Oil may be placed on the altar of incense for use in confirmations or ordinations; but at most Masses, it will not need to be there.

Seating for the People

For my more recent thoughts on this topic, see the first section of my Annotated Liber XV.

The Deacon's Preamble

As a point of clarification, deacons should not ordinarily name the various gestures demonstrated during the preamble, since that will typically overburden newcomers (for whom such instructions are intended) with information which they do not need. While the various details mentioned in Advice are all helpful ingredients of a preamble, the overriding consideration should be to keep the process of introducing newcomers simple, and to permit them to appreciate the ceremony without unnecessary difficulty or distraction.

Any variations from the instructions in Liber XV, outside of those specifically indicated in the E.G.C. Manual, must not only be announced to the people, but approved in advance by the Patriarch.

I have recently witnessed (at Subtlety or Force Encampment) a custom of placing several minutes for silent contemplation between the deacon's preamble and the admission of the people. I found that change pleasant and blameless.

Marshalling for Communion

If the people are expected to approach and return from communion in a deosil circulation of the temple, it should be announced beforehand. A great deal of pointless anxiety and fumbling can be caused by tacit demands for a custom which is not, after all, specified in Liber XV.

Very large numbers of communicants may be efficiently accommodated by setting up the two children each with a supply of both elements (cakes and wine) on their respective sides of the temple below the steps of the dais. The deacon then has the congregation stand in files on both sides, and the lead communicants on each file alternate in taking the elements, moving to the center east, consuming them, declaring communion, and returning to sit. (This procedure is the one that has been used successfully at Gnostic Masses held for National O.T.O. Conferences.)

Leading the Creed

As a further “Suggestion for Study” on this topic, I now refer the reader to my own Discourses on the Creed.

The remark that “the Church only baptizes those past the age of puberty” is inaccurate. The current minimum age for E.G.C. baptism in the United States is eleven.

Mass without Children

The E.G.C. Manual dictates that at Gnostic Masses where the office of the children is vacant, the deacon offers the eucharistic elements for popular communion.

I have no corrections or clarifications to make regarding this section, except to note that I am no longer conveniently contactable via Scarlet Woman Lodge. But anyone reading these addenda on the World Wide Web has my email.

I concur with the sentiments which Br. Paul Hume expressed as follows:

We are fortunate enough to have a recording of Crowley reciting the first few Collects. While he uses a musical phrase for “So mote it be,” he does not chant the text of the Collects. He does recite them, in a sonorous, well-supported speaking voice, and this, I would note again, is also a meaning of the verb “to intone.” … If the Deacon prefers to chant or sing the Collects, let’s avoid the all-the-words-on-a-monotone-until-thelast- sylla-buuuulllll, with that drop at the end. This style not only obscures the text of the Collects, it disconnects the meaning and beauty of that text in what should be an intimate moment shared by the Deacon and the People. It does not exalt the participants, it numbs them.

For those deacons interested in more sophisticated approaches to musical chant in the Collects, Br. Oliver Althoen of Golden Lotus Oasis has developed some notes on applying Anglican chant techniques to this ceremony in the Gnostic Mass.

“Unless the People are all Deacons themselves, some sort of gesture will be needed to provoke each Collect’s conclusion.” I no longer consider this statement true. Any congregation with a majority of experienced attendees will know when each Collect ends, based on a combination of prior familiarity, the deacon's vocal inflection, the consistent syntactical structure of the Collects, and the reactions of their neighbors. If some sort of further signal is desired, a visual one should suffice, and I recommend either making the “attitude of resurrection” (arms crossed over breast), or if the deacon has been standing in that sign already, releasing it to stand in a spread-armed tau posture.

“During The Saints, the Deacon is supposed to be drawing crosses and projecting them at the base of the Priest’s spine.” There is no sentence in Advice for Deacons that I rue more that this one. A noted proponent of this practice justifies it with the remark that the priest's “Kundalini [may be] stimulated by the invocation of our spiritual ancestors.” The business about the Priest's subtle anatomy is entirely external to both the text of the Mass and to the Agape Lodge tradition informed by Jane Wolfe's exposure to Crowley's ritual technique in Cefalu, and I find it out of accord with my own practice as a priest.

The recommendation of the 2004 episcopal meeting was “Crosses on Cup or on Priest.” And yet, there is in fact nothing in the text to indicate that the crosses need to be made on, at, or toward anything in particular. The most parsimonious reading, and the one I now prefer, is for the crosses to be made over the small altar, in the smoke of the incense. As Crowley wrote in Magick:

Into this Fire he casts the Incense, symbolical of prayer, the gross vehicle or image of his aspiration. Owing to the imperfection of this image, we obtain mere smoke instead of perfect combustion. But we cannot use explosives instead of incense, because it would not be true. Our prayer is the expression of the lower aspiring to the higher; it is without the clear vision of the higher, it does not understand what the higher wants. And, however sweet may be its smell, it is always cloudy.

In this smoke illusions arise. We sought the light, and behold the Temple is darkened! In the darkness this smoke seems to take strange shapes, and we may hear the crying of beasts. The thicker the smoke, the darker grows the Universe. We gasp and tremble, beholding what foul and unsubstantial things we have evoked!

Yet we cannot do without the Incense! Unless our aspiration took form it could not influence form. This also is the mystery of incarnation.

I used to do crosses-at-the-cup after realizing the shortcomings of crosses-at-the-priest. My rationale was that the cup held the blood of the saints. Yet there is a certain commonality with the incense idea just quoted, in that the cup of dark wine is a traditional scrying tool, and illusions may be evoked into it just as into the smoke of the incense.

A reconsideration of the approved texts of Liber XV invalidates my earlier ideas about the relevance of the number 78 to the full list of saints. It is more accurate to say that the long list contains seventy-plus names, and the symbolism of the number 70 should guide consideration of the matter. (See, for example, my Discourse on the Fifth Article.)

Since the publication of the 2nd revised edition of Magick (which contains the most recent official text of Liber XV), two saints have been formally canonized by our Patriarch Hymenaeus Beta. William Blake was added in the Fall of 1997 e.v., based on Crowley's essay “William Blake,” subsequently published in Oriflamme 2 (The Revial of Magick). In the full version of the Saints Collect, Blake may be inserted among the poets, between Rabelais and Swinburne. (Notice of the addition was originally published in The Magical Link, new series no. 1, Fall 1997 e.v.) On February 17, 2000 e.v., without formal announcement, the Patriarch added Giordano Bruno, in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Bruno's martyrdom. In the full version of the Saints Collect, Bruno is placed among the Renaissance magi, between Robertus de Fluctibus and Johannes Dee. (Notice of the addition was published in the current number 9.1 of Agape, May 2007 e.v.) In addition, the EGC Manual specifies that the names Karl Johannes Germer and Grady Louis McMurtry may optionally be added to the list of Saints in any celebration of the Gnostic Mass, and they would naturally fall at the very conclusion of the list.

Deacons making a thorough study of EGC saints may also wish to consider the four “retired” saints that were inserted into the list by Reuss, but subsequently omitted by Crowley. Details are available at The Invisible Basilica of Sabazius. Although I personally would love to have Dante in the Saints Collect, none of these Reuss saints are currently included in official EGC ritual.

Whether things have changed a lot, or I've just been exposed to a wider variety of practice over the last thirteen years, I no longer think it's accurate to say, “There is a strong tradition of banishing during the Mass.” But there are still some persistent local customs that support the practice. I continue to be of the opinion that banishing after the admission of the people for Mass is inappropriate.

Deacons and novices looking for less academic texts to develop a grounding in the culture of New Aeon Gnosticism may enjoy the “Suggestions for Study” in my "Section 2" Reading List for that purpose.

The copy of Liber XV appended to Advice for Deacons is not an approved edition of the ritual.

Cardinal Sacraments: The Eucharist of the Gnostic Mass
Vigorous Food & Divine Madness