A Discourse on the Fifth Article
In the fifth article of our creed
We approach another mystery
A spiritual enigma
That is wrapped up tightly
In conventions and suppositions,
And it is my hope
That as you listen to me here
You will join me
In attempting to unwrap
And to learn from
The time-worn idea
Of the Communion of Saints.
Because in our church's ceremonies
we have each declared
I believe in the Communion of Saints.
What is a saint?
The word comes from the Latin sanctus, meaning “holy.”
“Saint” is also used in translations of
the Greek word hagion, which means “holy one.”
And it is sometimes used to translate
the Hebrew qadosh, which also means “holy.”
These words for holiness have a sense of “set apart”
and dedicated to a divine purpose.
Now since every man and every woman is a star
each has a unique and divine purpose
and each is set apart from the others
by its own point-of-view.
But in the Gnostic Mass we also invoke “Saints”
in another sense.
The priest calls upon the “saints
“of the true church of old time,”
And the deacon petitions a long list of individual saints
to be “present, potent, puissant and paternal”
in the magic of the Mass.
That list names men throughout history
to whom we signal reverence in this ceremony.
They divide into several categories
of reasonably clear definition.
First are the the great Magi of the ages
or as they are called in The Book of Lies,
the Word of whose Magick was TAO;
whose Word was ANNATA;
who gave us the Word AUM;
whose Word was AMOUN;
with the mighty Tetragrammaton;
with the mysterious I.N.R.I.;
whose Word was ALLAH;
and To Mega Therion
with the Word THELEMA.
These “messengers of the Infinite” are called Dinosaurs
because their enormous designs are fossilized
in great religious legacies.
Crowley insists that no matter how deified by later followers,
Each of these Dinosaurs was originally a historical man
Incarnate and fallible.
The second category in the list of saints
consists of ancient heroes
of a phallic and/or solar character.
These are “Hermes, Pan, Priapus, Osiris,
“and Mechizedek, Khem and Amoun and Mentu.”
The third category is that of poets or “holy bards.”
In the fourth place we have antique sages
“who transmitted the Gnosis to us.”
Then we have the heroes of medieval legend,
heretics and magicians,
solar and phallic theorists of religion,
and early leaders of O.T.O.
Another special category recurring through the list
is the earlier incarnations of Saint Sir Aleister Crowley.
A category that includes Roderic Borgia Pope Alexander the Sixth,
Sir Edward Kelly,
and Alphonse Louis Constant.
How were these names selected?
What criteria led the author of the Gnostic Mass
to focus on these categories?
In the Roman Catholic Church of Christianity
there are detailed standards and procedures
for recognizing such saints.
The Roman Catholic “beatification”
permits the veneration of a Christian hero,
while the more consequential “canonization”
requires such veneration by adherents.
Only the dead can be thus recognized
and they must possess so-called “heroic virtue”
demonstrated through historical arguments,
a reputation for sanctity,
and attested miracles.
By contrast, scholar Martin Starr quotes a letter
from Crowley to the occult ecclesiastic W.B. Crow
in which Crowley described the saints of the Gnostic Mass
as “a rhetorical flourish – little more.”
What is to be made of this remark?
Without more context, is hard to know.
At the simplest, it disavows
any equivalence between the E.G.C. saints
and saints in the traditions of Christian orthodoxy.
For one thing,
when Crowley put himself and Reuss on the list
he indicated that our saints don't need to be dead.
The saints in our list seem to be
bearers of a particular sort of knowledge
and not necessarily “virtuous”
in the moral sense of Christian sentiment.
The disparate cultures of our saints–
Chinese, Indian, Egyptian, Hebrew and Greek, to start–
suggest that there are many lines
bearing the sacred knowledge,
rather than a single source and chain of wisdom.
But what about another rhetorical dimension?
Why are all of our saints men?
Crowley was clear that women could attain
to the highest grades of initiation,
and he pointed to Madame Blavatsky and others
as sisters of the highest grades.
The omission of women from the list
may stem from the nineteen-twelve O.T.O. Manifesto
where there is a list of great men of remote times
representative of the Order's “originating assemblies”–
a list strikingly similar to our “saints”–
after which it is written that
“The names of women members are never divulged.”
Yet at the end of that same manifesto
appears the name “L. Bathurst Ninth Degree”
the name of Crowley's consort Leila
in her capacity as Grand Secretary General.
Perhaps that period of the writing
of the manifesto and the Gnostic Mass alike
was one in which Crowley's willingness to recognize women
was still subordinated to then-Patriarch Reuss' concern
to protect them from public misunderstanding.
It had only been fourteen years
since the great hoax of “Palladian Freemasonry”
had convinced multitudes–
even the Gnostic Patriarch Jules Doinel–
that women were involved in unsavory sex cults
in the higher reaches of initiatory orders.
Some have suggested that the masculine saints
relate to the priest's function as consecrating agent,
so that the priest follows the saints
as “a man among men”
to say of the sacramental elements
“This is my body” and “This is my blood.”
That is one explanation of the rhetoric.
Another possible explanation
is that the list of saints
provides a sense of history
in accordance with the previous aeon.
So the Christian saints provide an opportunity
for the veneration of Isis as women,
and the Thelemic saints focus
on the perpetuation of Osiris in men.
Yet another significance of the list's masculinity
may be seen in the structure of the Collects,
which counterpose masculine Sun to feminine Moon,
masculine Lord to feminine Lady,
and masculine Saints to feminine Earth.
The male saints take the symbolic role
of multitudinous spermatazoa
drawn to the single egg of Earth.
The fact that there are seventy saints
suggests a reflection of the sandhedrin:
the “council of ancients” in old Hebrew custom,
a body of seventy priests and scribes
that formed the supreme court of Mosaic law.
The essential qualifications
for the list of saints in the Mass
are likely to remain obscure
unless and until they are clarified or altered
by a Matriarch or Patriarch of the Church.
Yet we now recognize women of the past
as our champions and predecessors
through the Order of the Eagle,
and we should all be mindful
that whatever we may believe a “saint” to be,
the “great women of history” are not limited to
Sappho, Semiramis, Messalina,
Cleopatra, Ta Chhi, Pasiphae,
Clytemnestra, Helen of Troy,
and in more recent times Joan of Arc,
Catherine the Second of Russia,
Queen Elizabeth the First of England,
George Sand … Emily Bronte ….
and the regular religious mystics,
Saint Catherine, Saint Theresa, and so on,
all of whom Crowley instances
as possessing great natures intensely expressed.
Now the fifth article of our creed
does not speak of belief in the saints simply,
but rather belief in the Communion of Saints.
And even that word “in” carries some ambivalence.
Do we believe in that Communion as an object?
Or is it in the Communion that we partake of our belief?
Well, what is the Communion of the Saints?
The phrase appears in a Gallican Christian creed
of fifteen hundred years ago,
and it was later included in the “Apostles Creed”
which is popular among ordinary Christians to this very day.
The original Latin for the phrase
is communio sanctorum.
Communio can be translated as “fellowship,”
and in the doctrines of Roman Catholicism,
communio sanctorum came to be understood
as a spiritual bond in three worlds
among the living faithful on earth,
the souls abiding in purgatory,
and the angels and saints in heaven.
The idea of communion with angels
expressed in the Catholic doctrine
is one of great magical interest.
Such inspired individuals as Enoch, Mosheh,
Maryam, John of Patmos, Abramelin the Mage,
John Dee, Anna Kingsford, and Aleister Crowley
are reported to have been instructed by angels.
Likewise, the necromantic notion
of communion with the souls of the deceased
has been a principal mystery
from the ancient hierophant Orpheus
to the latter-day Spiritualists
and the notorious experiment
of Alphonse Louis Constant
in raising the shade of Apollonius.
Now Martin Luther and his Protestant posterity
dismissed the “mystical” elements of the communio:
no angel magic,
no necromancy for them.
For them the Communion of the Saints
was the nothing but the global church.
They dismissed the cosmic hierarchy of Catholicism
for an egalitarian “priesthood of all believers”
defending their fortress deity.
But a later German Catholic
revisited the theme of the mystical communion,
or as he termed it, the “interior church,”
in a document which was to influence us.
In Bavaria in seventeen ninety-five
Karl von Eckartshausen wrote The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary.
In the second of its six sections
he described the Communion of the Saints
as “the interior community of light…
“the reunion of all those capable of receiving light…
“The primitive receptacle for all strength and truth,
“confided to it from all time…
“the true school of God's spirit.”
This text of Eckartshausen's was the sole recommendation
made in reply to the young aspirant Aleister Crowley
when he wrote to Arthur Edward Waite
inquiring for guidance in the mysteries of the occult.
Crowley's own “revised and rewritten” version of the text
was the first document printed in the first number
of Crowley's celebrated Equinox journal,
where it was called “An Account of A.'.A.'.”
In Catholic doctrine, the communio sanctorum
was sometimes the “mystical body of the Church”
with Christ as its head,
and Eckartshausen declares
that “The Elect are united in truth,
“and their Chief is the Light of the World himself,
“Jesus Christ, the One Anointed in Light.”
But in Crowley's version,
the Anointed Chief is V.V.V.V.V.
the “five hoofprints of a camel”
that are the mark of his own adept identity.
And indeed, Eckartshausen also writes
that the chief of the interior church
is “the best man of his times”
who “does not always know all the members.”
And despite Crowley's attempt
to fashion outer and inner orders for A.'.A.'.
that would call few and choose many
to lead to the ultimate mystical brotherhood,
both the original and the edited text admonish,
that the true communion of the saints
“knows none of the formalities
“which belong to the outer rings,
“the work of man.”
For the mystical body of our communio sanctorum
we may consider the image of Nuit
with her lovely hands upon the black earth
and her lithe body arched for love
and her soft feet not hurting the little flowers:
hers is the universal body
in which all living stars commune
whether we are holy or filthy,
righteous or unjust:
an expression of that Mystery of Universal Brotherhood
which O.T.O. calls “a fact in nature,”
the continuity of existence
of which our consciousness
is her ecstasy.
In the name of CHAOS, Amen.
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