The Visible Object
The Greek word eidwlon (eidolon, “image”) indicates an idol, or object of veneration. Its isopsephic value 969 is shared with plhroforia (plerophoria, “abundance”), as well as two numinous titles: MegaV IereuV (Megas Hiereus, “High Priest”) and Arcipoimhn (Archipoimen, “Chief Shepherd” – from II Peter 5:4). It is this more particular type of Image that seems to be indicated by most references to the “image” in the Thelemic holy books, not least CCXX III:21-22, of which Crowley writes:
Our religion therefore, for the People, is the Cult of the Sun, who is our particular star of the Body of Nuit, from whom, in the strictest scientific sense, come this Earth, a chilled spark of Him, and all our Light and Life. His vice-regent and representative in the animal kingdom is His cognate symbol the Phallus, representing Love and Liberty.
The Law is for All, p. 163
Ra-Hoor-Khuit as the Sun (and Phallus) is thus set as a henotheistic chief deity, after the manner of the “New Solar Theology” of ancient Egypt. Unlike the Atenist error, the Thelemic priesthood is not to ban the worship of other gods and goddesses, for they all “cluster to exalt” the one glittering Image (“Augoeides”) whose white and golden light streams forth to give them their own potency as images.
All of which speaks to one of the fundamental dichotomies in the history of religion: idolatry and iconoclasm. Iconoclasm is a value at the root of the Abrahamic tradition, embracing Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Jan Assman in his remarkable study //Moses the Egyptian// calls the iconoclastic impulse the basis of “the Mosaic distinction.” But the purest iconoclasm is ultimately untenable in those religions where man is created “in the image” of God, and thus any respect paid to man verges on idolatry. And the ancient Hebrew scriptures sanction a number of sacred images, from the brazen serpent to the cherubim to the mysterious theraphim. As Peter Lamborn Wilson observes, “Even Islam has its popular icons – moon, minaret, rose, Kaaba and Buraq – which gain in intensity by their endless and musical repetition.” (Scandal, p. 158)
In the Hermetic text Aesclepius, we find a hoary and powerful advocacy of the magical power of iconism:
Trism. Mankind is ever mindful of its own parentage and the source whence it has sprung, and steadfastly persists in following God's example: and consequently, just as the Father and Master made the gods of heaven eternal, that they might resemble him who made them, even so do men fashion their gods in the likeness of their own aspect.
Ascl. Do you mean statues, Trismegistus?
Trism. Yes, Asclepius. See how even you give way to doubt! I mean statues, but statues living and conscious, filled with the breath of life, and doing many mighty works; statues which have foreknowledge, and predict future events by the drawing of lots, and by prophetic inspiration, and by dreams, and in many other ways; statues which inflict diseases and heal them, dispensing sorrow and joy according to men's deserts. (III, 23b-24a)
The plainest position on iconism in the writings of Aleister Crowley is probably Chapter 21 of The Book of Lies, “The Blind Webster,” which is a very subtle restatement of the Hermetic advocacy of idols, phrased in such a way that it turns to address the creative power of and in humanity. The Pauline episode of the Unknown God of the Athenians (Acts 17) is precisely the text to which “The Blind Webster” is a rebuttal. Here I weave together the iconoclastic sermon of Paul with Perdurabo's iconicist reply.
PAUL: That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:
PERDURABO: It is not necessary to understand; it is enough to adore.
PAUL: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
PERDURABO: We ignore what created us; we adore what we create. That which causes us to create is our true father and mother; we create in our own image, which is theirs.
PAUL: Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.
PERDURABO: The god may be of clay: adore him; he becomes GOD. Let us create nothing but GOD!
PAUL: And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
PERDURABO: Let us create therefore without fear; for we can create nothing that is not GOD.
A “webster” is a weaver. Weaving was a trade favored by the Cathars, and weavers were thereafter associated with heresy and insurrection. The Magick of Ra-hoor-khuit involves a vengeful revolt against iconoclasm.
PAUL: That idol is revolting!
PERDURABO: I'll say!
What is proposed here is nothing less than Hermetic idolatry. Although “There is no god but man,” every image of man is thus the image of god, worthy of adoration, and animated into active deity by by that adoration. The personal genius too, is an idol made of spirit, a formless and ubiquitous being drawn into self-luminous and beneficent form by the aspiration of the magician, just as Adonai the angel of V.V.V.V.V. calls himself “the Image of an Image.” (Liber LXV, I:8)
As Poliphilo in his Hypnerotomachia declares of his beloved Polia:
Ne altra imagine, ne simulachro, ne delubro nel itimo del mio core affixibile ne dipincto, ne exculpto io tengo.
(“I have no other image, no statue or shrine installed, painted or carved in the chambers of my heart.”)
“Man has the right to to draw, paint, carve, etch, mould, build as he will.”
“That which causes us to create is our true father and mother; we create in our own image, which is theirs.” Spiritual parentage is the source of creative inspiration. Thus, “The Brothers of the A∴A∴ are one with the Mother of the Child. They cause all men to worship it.” (Chapter 3 of Breaks, and author's commentary) Compare Mark III:31-35 (parallel in Matthew XII:46-50):
There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.
In Crowley's commentary to “The Blind Webster,” he equates the title to “the Phallus in manifestation.” The phallus weaves new humans from threads of DNA, blindly and “without fear.” In Liber Samekh, Crowley instructs that “The Holy Guardian Angel is the Unconscious Creature Self - the Spiritual Phallus.” The Crater Hermetis, a text of the Italian rennaisance, gives additional details to this picture of spiritual procreative power. The author Ludovico Lazarelli uses a song to adumbrate the arcanum arcanorum of his Hermetic and kabbalistic gnosis:
This is certainly the newest novelty of novelties
and a greater miracle than all others
that man has discovered the nature of God
and knows how to make it.
For just as the Lord or God the begetter (genitor)
generates the celestials and procreates the angels
who are the forms of things, the heads
and first examples of all,
just so the true man creates divine souls (divas animas)
which the ancient host used to call gods of the earth,
who are glad to live close to human beings
and rejoice at the welfare of man.
Let us create without fear!
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