APOCALYPTIC SYMBOLISM in the Gnostic Mass
APOCALYPTIC SYMBOLISM in the Gnostic Mass
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
It is not the aim of this paper to represent the Gnostic Mass as a dramatization of the Christian Apocalypse, attributed to John. On the contrary, as an adherent of the Law of Thelema and a bishop of the Gnostic Catholic Church, I view the Johannine Apocalypse as a murky presentiment of the Gnostic Mass and of the arcana which our Mass adumbrates. Consider these reflections from Past Patriarch Aleister Crowley:
The seers in the early days of the Aeon of Osiris foresaw the Manifestation of this coming Aeon in which we now live, and they regarded it with intense horror and fear, not understanding the precession of the Aeons, and regarding every change as catastrophe. This is the real interpretation of, and the reason for, the diatribes against the Beast and the Scarlet Woman in the XIII, XVII and XVIIIth chapters of the Apocalypse.
Further study of this card may be made by close examination of Liber XV.
–Atu XI. Lust, The Book of Thoth
All I get is that the Apocalypse was the recension of a dozen or so totally disconnected allegories, that were pieced together, and ruthlessly planed down to make them into a connected account; and that recension was re-written and edited in the interests of Christianity, because people were complaining that Christianity could show no true spiritual knowledge, or any food for the best minds: nothing but miracles, which only deceived the most ignorant, and Theology, which only suited pedants.
So a man got hold of this recension, and turned it Christian, and imitated the style of John. (Note: There is no question in my mind that this explanation is correct from the viewpoint of profane scholarship. “Angels” who offer absurd theories about material affairs are false elementals who amuse themselves at the expense of the naivete of the would-be-Magician.) And this explains why the end of the world does not happen every few years, as advertised.
–ARN: 2nd Aethyr, The Vision and the Voice
Here then, are some notes on correspondences that may be rooted in the presentiment of Osirian seers, or in the archaic Christian hijacking of true spiritual knowledge.
The 22 candles of the shrine may be taken to correspond to the 22 chapters of the Apocalypse, both of which suggest the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet and the 22 Trumps Major of the Tarot. The myriad septenaries of the Apocalypse have no obvious counterpart in the Gnostic Mass, but magically educated clergy will be aware of the sevenfold powers conventionally represented by the planets, and other patterns of seven as well.
The saints are described as wearing white robes in Apocalypse VII, just as all of the Mass officers have white robes as the basis of their regalia.
The Book of the Law corresponds to the “little book” of Apocalypse X. Upon placing the Book in the east, the Deacon assumes the visionary form described in the Apocalypse X:1, i.e. a “mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow upon his head, and his face as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire.” This form pertains to the Deacon while addressing the congregation. He speaks while standing on the black and white squares of the dais, suggesting “his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth.” (X:2)
The Virgin at her entrance is as described in the Apocalypse XII:1, i.e. “a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” Her three-and-a-half circumambulations of the temple correspond to the 1260 days (i.e. forty-two months, or three-and-a-half years) for which the woman retreats into the wilderness. (XII:6)
The Priest's outer robe is scarlet, as though it were “dipped in blood.” (XIX:13) It should have gold trim, and it might also bear insignia or inscription in gold, e.g.
BASILEOS BASILEON KAI KURIOS KURION (XIX:16)
But see also XVII:3.
On the Priest's recitation at the opening of the veil: “And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder.” (XIV:2)
AGIOS AGIOS AGIOS
KURIOS O QEOS O PANTOKRATWR
O HN KAI O WN KAI O ERCOMENOS
Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
which was, and is, and is to come. (IV:8)
The Priest's brow bears the word BLASPHEMY or BLASFEMIAS (XIII:1, XVII:3). The Priestess' brow bears the word MYSTERY or MUSTERION (XVII:5). She is seated on the scarlet cloth of the altar, which is “arrayed” about her (XVII:4).
The Cup contains the blood of the Saints (XVII:6): “thou hast given them blood to drink, for they are worthy” (XVI:6) says the third angel of judgment.
The hosts are “the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great,” (XIX:18) since there is no god but man.
The summary of the Law issues from the mouth of the Priest like “a sharp sword,” and the Lance in his hand is as “a rod of iron.” (XIX:15)
He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. (XXII:11-12)
Love is the law, love under will.
Recommended Reading for E.G.C. Clergy regarding Christian Apocalypticism
- The Apocalypse Unsealed, by James M. Pryse
- Apocalypse, by D.H. Lawrence
- The Mysteries of the Qabalah, or Occult Agreement of the Two Testaments, by Eliphas Levi
- Apocalyptic Spirituality, edited by Bernard McGinn
- Answer to Job, by C.G. Jung