A Discourse on the Sixth Article

T Polyphilus

In every celebration of the Gnostic Mass
Before the priestess and priest have even appeared,
The members of the congregation join together, saying

And forasmuch as meat and drink
> are transmuted in us daily
> into spiritual substance
> I believe in the Miracle of the Mass

Certainly this statement will bear close inspection.
This declaration seems to outline a context
for the celebration of the Mass itself.

As with other articles of the Creed,
this one alludes to long history and earlier traditions.
Certainly, we are aware of the Christian Mass
and its prevalence in the West.
But it was not created ex nihilo;
it has roots in earlier religious practice.

Pagan antiquity enjoyed diverse practices
Of group meals with a religious significance.
In many cases, these were connected with a ceremony of sacrifice,
Such as the Greek thyein addressed to the Olympian gods.
There were guild meals that were sacramental in nature:
Under the original sense of sacrament as an oath.
Roman funerary societies would hold banquets in honor of the dead,
Where the spirits of the deceased were understood to attend,
Receiving offerings from the living who sought to partake
In their virtues and legacies.

In the old Graeco-Roman cult meals,
Gods were viewed alternately as guests and hosts.
The historical and archeological records demonstrate
That such gods as Serapis, Hercules, and Anubis
Would spread a table for their invited worshippers.
Meanwhile, there is evidence for ceremonies at which
The human celebrants and attendees would request the presence
Of Pluto, Aesculapius, Attis, Jupiter, Juno, or Minerva,
To honor and grace the banquet as the chief guest.

The great Mystery cults of Hellenic antiquity all had, as a rule,
A sacramental meal called an agape
Celebrated just prior to their ceremonies of initiation.
This custom was common to the Mysteries of Eleusis
the Attic Mysteries, the Samothracian Mysteries,
And the Dionysiac Mysteries of Thrace and Phrygia.

Other precedents for the Christian Mass can be found
In early Jewish ceremonies,
Such as the prayer services held in synagogues;
And the domestic ceremony of Kiddush,
In which an evening meal would be blessed.
Some scholars have concluded that the earliest Christians
met in the form of a Chaburah, a Jewish convivial society
gathering weekly with a religious intent.

The seemingly earliest records of the Christian custom
That would later be characterized as the Mass or Eucharist
Are in Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians,
Where he instructs his correspondents regarding “the Lord’s supper.”
He is at some pains to identify this supper
With the sacrificial cult of ancient Israel,
And to distinguish it from the pagan Mystery cults.
But the more he emphasizes that distinction,
The more he illustrates the parallels: Paul writes–

The cup of blessing which we bless,

is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?

The bread which we break,

is it not the communion of the body of Christ? …

But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice,

they sacrifice to devils, and not to God:

and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.

Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils:

ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and the table of devils.

And Paul offers a description of a narrative
That he “received of the Lord” and “delivered unto” the Corinthians:
How Jesus “in same night in which he was betrayed”
Spoke certain words over the bread and the wine
That he shared with those who were with him.
Of the bread: “This is my body,” and of the wine:
“This is the new testament in my blood.”
And to this day, many Christians use those words
To perform their “Lord’s supper,” their “Eucharist” or their “Mass.”

Many textual critics of the Bible have concluded
That this “institution narrative” setting forth a ritual
Is a late interpolation into the First Letter to the Corinthians.
There are four other similar narratives in the Christian Bible,
And the earliest and most basic version
seems to be that of the Gospel of Mark,
where, as in all them, Jesus speaks of the bread:
“This is my body,” and of the cup: “This is my blood.”

Biblical scholar Robert Price sums up the situation:

[T]he whole thing must have begun as,

or been directly derived from, a liturgical text.

For Jesus, clearly the celebrant, to offer the elements of bread and wine,

And to present each with an interpretive word,

“This is… This is…” clearly bespeaks liturgy.

We must suppose Mark derived the Words of Institution

from his own church’s liturgy

(descended, originally … from a Mystery rite like that of Osiris)

Thus, the depiction of the Last Supper began as an etiological legend,

an ideal prototype for all the Lord’s Suppers to come,

though as in all such cases, the order is just the reverse:

the practice begat the story.

The earliest description of this Christian practice outside of the Bible texts
is in several documents ranging from the beginning
through the middle of the second century of the Christian era.
Since the dating of these and of the Biblical source texts are alike unreliable,
We cannot be sure which came first.
But in the anonymous Didache, there is a ritual order
For a ceremony of the Eucharist which is lacking the formulae
“This is my body” and “This is my blood.”
In the Apology of Justin Martyr, there is a ritual
that is explained as having been based on gospel texts, to wit:

that Jesus took bread, gave thanks, and said,

‘This do ye in remembrance of me; this is my body.’

And he took the cup likewise and said,

‘This is my blood,’ and gave it to them alone.

This very thing the evil demons imitated in the mysteries of Mithras,

And commanded to be done.

For, as you know, or can discover,

Bread and a cup of water are set out in the rites of initiation

With the repetition of certain words.

When Ignatius wrote his Epistle to the Smyrnians in about one hundred twelve,
He used the terms “Eucharist” and “Agape” interchangeably.
Eventually, however, these became distinct in Christian custom.
The Agape or “love feast” was an evening banquet,
And the Eucharist or “thank-offering” was a morning ceremony.
We cannot be sure about other distinctions between the two,
Since the Council of Carthage in the early fifth century
officially suppressed the Agape, leaving only the Eucharist.

The use of the word “Mass” to refer to the Eucharist
Is a product of the Roman Rite and its liturgy.
Conservative scholars tend to agree on the origin of the word:
It comes from the Latin missa, with the meaning “dismissal,”
Originally used to describe ceremonies held just before the Eucharist,
At the end of which (that is, just prior to the Eucharist),
Those not permitted to partake of the sacrament
would be dismissed with the words Ite missa est,
or “Go away, this is the dismissal.”
Eventually, the term came to be applied to the entire service,
But it was not in general use as a synonym for the Eucharist
Until the sixth century of the Christian era.

An alternative explanation of the word missa or “Mass” is presented
In the writings of our Gnostic Saint Forlong Dux, who remarks

The missa might be the “cake” (from massein, “to knead”);

or more probably the word is the Hebrew massah,

for the “unleavened cake” of the Passover.

In Egypt the mest cakes offered to Osiris were similar emblems

Of the god of corn and bread.

They were also offered to Mithra, with the sacred Haoma drink.

The mass in fact is a “mass” of paste.

Another Christian eucharistic ceremony that deserves our attention
Is the Fraction du Pain, or “Breaking of Bread,”
Celebrated in the French Gnostic Church of Jules Doinel.
This service was a late nineteenth-century attempt
to revive the practices of Medieval Cathar heretics.
It was conducted in a mixture of Latin, Greek and French,
And although the Fraction du Pain bears little more similarity
to our own Gnostic Mass than most Christian services do,
it is to Doinel’s church that we must look
for the modern roots of our own ecclesiastical body.

The purpose of the Christian Eucharist or the Mass
Has been subject to various credal and theological perspectives.
In the earliest writings, the emphasis is on giving thanks
For the creation of the world and the salvation of humanity.
There is also the explicit idea of commemorating the death of Jesus,
And a further notion that the ceremony’s repetition throughout the Church
Actualizes a sacred group-identity or egregore.

The idea that the elements of bread and wine are materially transmuted
Into the body and blood of the savior in a Miracle of the Mass
–this idea was a late addition to the other Eucharistic concepts.
It emerged more readily at first in the East than in the West.
In the middle of the eighth century, John of Damascus
Produced a definitive statement of the thesis of such transformation
In his work De Fide Orthodoxa, or “On the Orthodox Faith.”
Gradually, the notion gathered acceptance in the Western Church,
Finally being affirmed by the Pope after the fourth Lateran Council in 1215.
The doctrine assumed its fully realized form in the Summa Theologica
Written by Thomas Aquinas as the thirteenth-century acme of scholasticism.
This formulation was based on the philosophy of Aristotle,
Distinguishing between essential substances on the one hand,
And their superficial accidents on the other.
So, according to Aquinas, the imperceptible substance of the bread and wine
Are transformed in the Eucharist to the body and blood of Jesus Christ;
While the sensible accidents of the bread and wine remain.
The Council of Trent later adopted this concept as standard Church doctrine.

It should go without saying that not all Christians were persuaded.
In various instances of late medieval heresy,
And especially in the intellectual conflicts of the Reformation,
The Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation
was contested and often rejected.
Modern Christians take at least six different positions
With respect to the mechanism (if any) underlying their Eucharist.
In his Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce defined Eucharist thus:

A sacred feast of the religious sect of Theophagi.

A dispute once unhappily arose among the members of this sect

as to what it was that they ate.

In this controversy some five hundred thousand have been slain,

and the question is still unsettled.

The doctrinal position of Pious Silence simply maintains
That the elements of bread and wine become the body and blood
In a manner that is beyond any rational explanation.
This perspective is essentially the pre-Scholastic transubstantial idea,
And it is mostly espoused by the Eastern Orthodox churches.

The doctrine of Consubstantiation is found among Lutherans,
Who hold that there is a substantial transformation of the elements,
But that substance is only changed for the duration of the ceremony:
Unconsumed hosts and wine revert to their original substance.

The teaching of Spiritual Presence maintains that communicants
Receive the actual body and blood in a spiritual manner by faith.
The presence of the savior is neither substantial nor merely symbolic.
This doctrine is common to Methodists and Presbyterians, among others.

The theory of Symbolism proposes that the material elements
Are only symbols of the body and blood of Jesus.
Most Baptists subscribe to this interpretation of their Lord’s Supper.

Finally, there are many Christian groups and traditions
Who have suspended the Eucharist altogether,
For whom it is not a “perpetual ordinance,”
Nor a rite required by Christian faith, and so they offer
No further teaching on the correct method of understanding
A ceremony which they neither offer nor practice.
Such groups include the Quakers and the Salvation Army.

The Thelemic and Magical theory of the Eucharist, on the other hand,
Has its authoritative formulation in Chapter Twenty
Of Magick in Theory and Practice, where Crowley writes:

One of the simplest and most complete

of Magick ceremonies is the Eucharist.

It consists in taking common things,

transmuting them into things divine,

and consuming them.

So far, it is a type of every magick ceremony,

for the reabsorption of the force is a kind of consumption;

but it has a more restricted application, as follows.

Take a substance symbolic of the whole course of nature,

make it God, and consume it. …

A Eucharist of some sort should most assuredly

be consummated daily by every Magician,

and he should regard it as the main sustenance of his magical life.

It is of more importance than any other magical ceremony,

because it is a complete circle.

The whole of the force expended is completely reabsorbed;

yet the virtue is that vast gain represented by the abyss between Man and God.

The Magician becomes filled with God,

fed upon God, intoxicated with God.

Little by little his body will become purified by the internal lustration of God;

day by day his mortal frame, shedding its earthly elements,

will become in very truth the Temple of the Holy Ghost.

Day by day matter is replaced by spirit, the human by the divine;

ultimately the change will be complete;

God manifest in flesh will be his name.

So Crowley emphasizes a factor not present in the Christian theories:
The gradual and cumulative transmutation of the communicant
Through the repetitive act of Eucharistic communion.
And this idea relates to that Mystery of Metabolism
Referenced in the language of our Creed, that
forasmuch as meat and drink are transmuted in us daily
The Miracle of the Mass is comprehensible.
As the Freudian classicist Norman O. Brown has observed,

The transubstantiation is in the eating:

“Just as, in His days on earth,

bread and wine taken by him as food

were metabolized into His flesh and blood at digestion.”

By eating we become his body; eating makes it so.

Manducando Christi corpus fiunt Christi corpus.

Similarly, whoever eats the body of any god becomes that god.

A related occult doctrine of the Eucharist,
Which is consistent with the expression of our Creed,
Can be found in the letters of our Saint Alphonse Louis Constant,
Where he writes to his disciple Baron Spedalieri,

All living beings are contained in moulds of light.

This mould determines the appearance of the substance which fills it.

It is thus that, by a veritable transubstantiation,

bread becomes flesh, and wine blood.

Then when the mould rejects an exhausted substance

(which is called dying) the wonder ceases

and the corpse again becomes bread or fruit.

Thus the spiritualization of matter in metabolism
always realizes the particular god or genius
whose will is expressed in the individual’s existence.
And this concept of Eucharistic magick is the blurry line
Between the Miracle of the Mass,
And saying “Will” before the main meal of each day.

Moving from theory to practice, we find the standard for Thelemites
Concisely expressed in the chapter “On Discipline”
from The Book of Wisdom or Folly, where Crowley commands:

Neglect not the daily Miracle of the Mass,

either by the Rite of the Gnostic Catholic Church,

or that of the Phoenix.

The second sort of Mass mentioned here
Was the first that Crowley composed for use by Thelemites.
It originally appeared in The Book of Lies as chapter forty-four.
The Mass of the Phoenix is a solo ritual to take place at sunset,
A version of what Crowley would later call
“The Eucharist of five elements.”
In chapter sixty-two, he explains these elements
As representatives of the five senses,
And he describes how the ceremony aims to make the magician
“free—unconditioned—the Absolute.”

The Mass of the Phoenix became the centerpiece
Of Crowley’s first Thelemic Eucharist for groups,
A ceremony known only as the “Ritual Ordained for Public Service.”
In this ritual, the priest performed the Mass of the Phoenix
Assisted by an acolyte and a violin-playing priestess.
The priest was also bound to a cross,
From which he preached to the attendees.
This ritual was performed at least a couple of times.
But it was soon rendered obsolete by the Gnostic Mass,
Which Crowley authored and OHO Theodor Reuss authorized
“For the use of O.T.O.,
“The central ceremony of its public and private celebration.”
And it is this later “Eucharist of two elements”
(Elements of meat and drink)
That has become the paragon of the Miracle of the Mass for Thelemites.

I want to suggest to you that the Gnostic Mass
Has three very different purposes which it simultaneously fulfills,
so that its Miracle is likewise threefold, balancing a triad.
The purposes have individual, local, and universal domains,
And I characterize them as Magical, Communal, and Doctrinal,
And each is in some sense secret.

The Magical effect for the individual
Is the one that Crowley explains in Magick in Theory and Practice:
The communicant is gradually made divine,
Being brought swallow by swallow
Towards Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel
And to the ultimate attainment that lies beyond.
And this effect is secret in the sense that it is utterly ineffable.

The Communal effect for a local group
Has to do with the shared knowledge, and the recognition among us,
That we each aspire to the ineffable with a shared means,
Supporting each other in the way of our going to the East
For nourishment and ecstasy of the spirit.
As Northrop Frye points out in his study of William Blake,
The bread and wine signify the key social tasks of harvest and vintage,
Where “the wine-press and the mill may represent
“Not only the disintegration of form, but the reuniting of nature,”
And the reuniting of divided individuals in community.
And this effect is secret in the sense
That only those who participate can perceive
“The great communion feast in which
“human life is reintegrated into its real form.”

The Doctrinal effect that applies universally
Involves the role of the Gnostic Mass, like the O.T.O. initiations,
In adumbrating the Supreme Secret of the Sovereign Sanctuary.
That Secret is traditionally held to concern sexual magick.
To quote Norman O. Brown once more:

Eating is the form of the fall.

The woman gave me and I did eat.

Eating is the form of sex.

Copulation is oral copulation;

When the Aranda ask each other “Have you eaten?”

they mean, “Have you had intercourse?” …

Eating is the form of war.

Human blood is the life and delightful food of the warrior.

Eating is the form of redemption.

Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man,

and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.

We must eat again of the tree of knowledge,

in order to fall into innocence.

And all of these secret transmutations,
Each of these mysterious alchemies,
Happens in us.
The candlelight and incense, the invocations and music,
The officers and congregation, the cakes and wine,
Are all within the indivisible life-experience
Of the communicant at the Mass.
And so too their effects, threefold or more,
Transpire in each of us as we participate.

Transmutation is inevitable.
Our cells constantly exchange the matter that they organize.
They themselves die and are replaced.
Generation succeeds generation in the life of humanity.
The Eucharist addresses the character of that transmutation:
That the innermost secret substance might be refined,
Dross becoming pure, lead becoming gold.
May we each labor for that nourishment
and rest in that ecstasy

In the name of CHAOS, Amen.

Sermons, Expatiations and Discourses
Vigorous Food & Divine Madness

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