Glossary of Commonly Used Terms in the Western Mystery Tradition

A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z

These three dots, hereinafter written “∴” are a form of ellipsis from Freemasonry. Technically, they refer to someone or some organisation that has the secrets of a Master Mason. Hence, a 3rd Degree Mason might style himself “Bro∴ John Smith”, whilst the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite might be abbreviated “A∴ and A∴ S∴R∴.” A number of hermetic (see Hermeticism) organisations have, quite presumptuously in some cases, adopted the use of ∴ even though they cannot in any sense really be Masonic.


Occult order founded by Aleister Crowley, supposedly named after the fabled Rosicrucian Third Order (see Rosicrucianism). “A∴A∴” is commonly thought to stand for “Astrum Argentum” (“Silver Star”) but Lon Milo Duquette, the noted Thelemite, has denied this. Not to be confused with the OTO, which is also associated with Crowley.


“The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage” is a mediaeval grimoire that is now widely available in an edition translated and edited by S. L. Macgregor Mathers. It was made famous by Crowley, who borrowed its central concept of attaining “Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel” as the basis for the whole work of the Adept. The main challenge is to perform the “Abramelin Operation”, a six-month period of seclusion, meditation and asceticism, in order to contact the Holy Guardian Angel, and thereafter compel the obedience of all the demons of Hell.


An Adept may loosely be described as someone who is an expert in magic. In several magical orders such as the Golden Dawn and A∴A∴ it has the specific meaning of someone initiated into Tiphereth, which is at the centre of the Tree of Life. In the Golden Dawn, an Adept is expected to invoke his or her Higher Genius or Neshamah, to unite the Higher and Lower Wills to manifest the “True Will”, and to expel Qlippothic forces from the Nephesh into the Evil Persona (rather like the Shadow in Jungian theory) whilst maintaining control over the same. The same process is more prosaically called in the A∴A∴ “Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel”. See also Abramelin.

Aeon of Isis/ Osiris/ Horus/ Maat/ etc.

Crowley's view of the development of civilisation, religion, and magic. He referred to the ancient era of Matriarchal Society and Goddess worship as the “Aeon of Isis” (after the Mother Goddess of Egyptian Mythology); and the period dating from the rise of the Osiris cult to immediately before Crowley's reception of the Book of the Law as the “Aeon of Osiris”. He further claimed that the new Aeon, of which he was the Prophet, was that of Horus, whilst the next one would be of Maat.

Age of Aquarius / Pisces / etc.

The point at which the Sun crosses the celestial equator on March 23rd each year seems to be travelling backwards through the Zodiac. This is known as the “Precession of the Equinoxes”. Although it is called the “First point of Aries” it is currently in the western end of the constellation of Pisces. Astrologers refer to the period of time in which the “Spring Point” remains in a given constellation (which is at least several thousand years) as the “Age of …”, and engage in a lot of speculation as to what we can expect in the different ages. In terms of pure Astronomy, the Age of Aquarius will begin (and that of the present, Pisces, end) in around 800 years time. However some bright spark realised that by taking a more astrological viewpoint, the Age of Aquarius could actually be beginning about now. This has given rise to the concept of the New Age.


Eliphas Levi

Sanskrit: “Space” - used in Madame Blavatsky's Theosophy to translate the old-fashioned idea of the Ether of the Physicists, and in the Golden Dawn to refer to the mysterious Fifth element or Levi's “Astral Light”. Akasha is the substance of which minds or thoughts are composed, giving rise to the idea of the Akashic Records. It is also the Spirit that animates the grosser Matter of the other four Elements.

Akashic Records

The idea that the Akasha, being some kind of mind or thought substance, receives the imprint of every memory that has ever been experienced. Hence, it is possible to recover otherwise unobtainable details from the past, such as ones own (or someone else's) past lives. The idea of the “Akashic Records” seems to derive from Helena Blavatsky's Theosophy, though there is evidence that a similar concept does exist in Yoga.


Mediaeval precursor of Chemistry, Alchemy concentrated on turning base metals into gold. Nowadays it is generally considered that the vocabulary of Alchemy really consists of metaphors for Spiritual Initiation, an idea Carl Jung incorporated into Analytical Psychology. Some schools of thought hold that Alchemy is a metaphor for Sex Magic.

Astral Projection

Psychic phenomenon in which one deliberately attempts to experience ones consciousness as outside or separate from ones physical body. Has variously been described as “like lucid dreams” (Dion Fortune), “Travelling in the Spirit Vision” (the Golden Dawn), “OOBE” or “Out of the Body Experience” (miscellaneous). Many Occultists recommend that the practitioner develop the ability to project astrally in order to gain the faculty of Clairvoyance, and to perform magic generally.


From ancient until mediaeval times astrology was thought to be the study of the actual universe, which incorporated divinatory principles and ideas drawn from classical mythology. Nowadays it is mainly a method of Divination, though it is also a convenient framework in which to classify a host of other magical practices, and may therefore by usefully studied in order to shed light on a wide number of features of the WMT.

Aurum Solis

A non-Rosicrucian magical order, founded in 1897, which is nowadays most known through the writings of Osborne Phillips and the late Melitta Denning. Based on Neoplatonism, Theurgy, the Greek Mysteries, and Hermetic Qabalah, it covers much the same ground as the Golden Dawn (amongst other occult orders), though in a somewhat idiosyncratic style. Although most of its rituals have been published, the actual Order itself is a private affair, to which admittance is only gained through invitation.

Builders of the Adytum

Paul Foster Case

Or, “BOTA”. Magical order founded by Paul Foster Case (left), after he was forced to leave the AO (Alpha et Omega - an offshoot of the Golden Dawn). Similar to that organisation, with a strong emphasis on the Tarot, and a system of cosmology known as the “Cube of Space”, but pointedly steering clear of Enochian Magick. Case founded BOTA after allegedly meeting one of the Masters, a certain Rakocsi, in a New York hotel room.


“Clear Seeing” - the ability to psychically obtain visions and hence supposedly reliable information. The actual method used might be similar to Astral Projection, or the seer may experience an array of mental images without any sensation of being out of the body (e.g. Skrying). Clairvoyance is used by numerous magical orders in order to investigate, for example, magical symbols, or to supposedly contact the dead (see Mediumship), or to view real-life locations (“Remote Viewing”).


Or, “Daemons”. Though spelt similarly, and indeed the former is derived from the latter, these two words have vastly different meanings to the Occultist. A “Demon” is an evil spirit, but originally “Daemon” (Greek: δαίμων) simply meant “spirit” and could well include benevolent spirits and even angels. It may be the case that many so-called “Demons” listed in grimoires were originally either good or morally neutral “Daemons”, the memory of whom was corrupted perhaps by time, or perhaps by the prejudices of the grimoire writers.


The principle that an arbitrary set of circumstances (e.g. the positions of stars in the sky at ones birth, a random dealing of Tarot Cards, etc.) can suggest to the diviner the hidden background of a given event and its likely outcome. Occultists believe that Divination is not “Fortune Telling” - the latter is hopelessly fatalistic, but the former allows for the existence of free will. Divination is seen as a prediction of what will happen if the querent does nothing to avert the consequences. Common methods of Divination include (but are not limited to) Astrology, Geomancy, the Tarot, and the I Ching.


Before the Elements of modern chemistry became widely known, it was believed that all matter consisted of mixtures of Fire, Water, Air and Earth. This idea, which originated with Plato, permeates the whole WMT, though nowadays occultists do not claim that the Four Magical Elements are the same as their physical counterparts. Note that in occultism there are really five elements - the fifth element (literally “quintessence”) being Spirit (see Akasha).

Enochian Magick

John Dee

“Discovered” by Dr John Dee (right) and Sir Edward Kelley, this is an idiosyncratic form of magick that bears few similarities to any other kind of ceremonial magick in sixteenth century England. The name “enochian” derives from the fact that Dee and Kelley said that they were given this system by angels who had also been in contact with the antediluvian patriarch Enoch. There is very little information as to what Enochian Magick actually does. Dee himself believed it was for discovering the esoteric secrets of Nature. However, it has been reported to be unusually potent in that effects can be achieved without effort. Individuals and groups known to have made use of Enochian Magick include the Golden Dawn, the Aurum Solis, and Aleister Crowley.


Literally meaning “Calling out”, it is the practice of using some form of magick (e.g. Ceremonial) to cause a Spirit to appear either physically or clairvoyantly. (Compare with “invocation”, where the spirit is invited to possess the magician.) Evocation is appropriate where the spirit is malign, unpleasant, or simply of a nature wholly unsuited to being invoked (e.g. an elemental).


A fraternity, which in modern days is increasingly shaking off its reputation for secrecy, founded on the notion that the architecture of a church (typically Solomon's Temple) is a metaphor for the architecture of the Soul and man's relationship with God. The founders of many occult organisations (e.g. the Golden Dawn) were themselves Freemasons and seem to have modelled their modi operandi along Masonic lines. Freemasonry has been a consistent benefactor of charities as well as a social organisation for its members - but it has also attracted criticism (and jealousy) on the grounds that it encourages unethical preferential treatment in business and public life. There have also been a number of sinister allegations made about Masonic activity, some of which are more dubious than others (such as the much criticised “The Brotherhood” by the late Stephen Knight).


A form of Qabalistic numerology. Before Hindu-Arabic numbers became used in the West, numbers were represented in Hebrew by assigning numeric values to the letters of the alphabet, e.g. (Aleph) =1, (Beth) =2, etc. Hence, a word in Hebrew can theoretically have a numerical value - the sum of the value of the various letters. What the Qabalists did was to say that different words with the same numerical value are somehow related - exactly how was a matter for meditation. For example, both Nachash, , the Serpent of Moses, and Messiach (Messiah or “Christ”) have a numerical value of 358 (c.f. John 3:14-15). Further examples can be found in Sepher Sephiroth by Aleister Crowley.


Literally meaning “Earth Divination”, it is a method of divination that involves using a series of random marks on paper (or more appropriately, a tray of consecrated Earth) to generate sixteen Geomantic Characters (each of which will be one of sixteen different combinations). These characters, as well as having their own meanings, are also interpreted in a manner approximating Astrology. Geomancy is used in, e.g., the Golden Dawn.


From Greek gnosis (“knowledge”), this is a general term for a number of philosophies or religions that existed in the few centuries immediately before and after the birth of Christ. Their common features include a belief in two Gods: one who created the world of Spirit (“the Logos”), the other who created the world of Matter (“the Demiurge”). Also, Gnosticism emphasised a return to the world of Spirit by a process of mystical knowledge (i.e. Gnosis), and a belief in Reincarnation. Unfortunately, most Gnostics, unlike Neoplatonists (see Neoplatonism), believed that the Demiurge, and consequently the world of matter, was evil - a view which encouraged elitism and sexual repression, which seems to have carried over into nascent Christianity.


Greek “Howling”. As a general term, “goetia” refers to low magic (as opposed to Theurgy), involving the Evocation of evil spirits in an attempt to force them to fulfil ones material wishes. As a specific term, “The Goetia” is a part of “The Legemoton, or Lesser Key of Solomon” - a grimoire (which contains goetia) translated by Macgregor Mathers and edited by Aleister Crowley, which proved to be the catalyst for their falling out.

Golden Dawn

Probably the single-most influential magickal order in the WMT. The Golden Dawn was originally founded by S. L. Macgregor Mathers, Wynn Westcott, and William Woodman. It (publicly) started in 1887 in England, and broke up sixteen years later in 1903. However, many of the surviving Adepts attempted to carry on the tradition in their own orders with varying degrees of success, and with varying degrees of co-operation with each other. The Golden Dawn is best known today through the writings of Israel Regardie, Aleister Crowley, and Dion Fortune. Golden Dawn magic is based on Rosicrucianism, Hermeticism, the Qabalah, etc.


It is common for many orders to use a system of grades to denote the level of achievement of its members. Rosicrucian-based orders follow a system related to the ten Sephiroth of the Tree of Life. Grades have been used to restrict the occult information that an order makes available to an individual, supposedly only for didactic purposes. Grades have also been used to denote supposed spiritual attainment - a practice that has given rise to much controversy, both as to their meaning, and to whether any given person deserves a particular grade.


Named after Hermes Trismestigus, the supposed author of the Corpus Hermetica and the Emerald Tablet, and equated with the Egyptian God Thoth. Hermeticism is a kind of Alexandrian Gnosticism or Neoplatonism. The rediscovery of the Corpus Hermetica in the middle ages directly inspired Alchemy. “Hermetic” means “pertaining to Alchemy”: or, in modern terms, “using Ritual Magic in way that is based on Spiritual Alchemy.”

Holy Guardian Angel

Made famous by the Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, invoking ones Holy Guardian Angel is in many magical systems (e.g. Bardon, Crowley) the signature act of an Adept. The Holy Guardian Angel has been compared to the Neshamah or Higher Genius by the Golden Dawn, and the Higher Self of Theosophy by Dion Fortune. Ones Holy Guardian Angel is generally considered to be the definitive agent by which the individual achieves the highest spiritual attainment.


Hypnotism is used to induce an altered state of consciousness in the Subject, where suggestions can be made directly to that person's unconscious mind. It may involve a combination of relaxation, visualisation and repetition exercises, as well as a number of other techniques. There is an increasing acceptance by students of the WMT that the various magical states of consciousness (e.g. Astral Projection, Skrying etc) are in fact achieved by self-hypnosis. Indeed, Franz Bardon recommended that his students learn a form of hypnotism as part of their training. (See also Trances, and see Mediumship / Spiritualism)


This is a divine name which crops up throughout the WMT: it occurs in the Chaldean Oracles of Zoroaster, where it is a name of God, etymologically similar to “Jehovah”. However, in some branches of Gnosticism, Iao is a Serpent-like Archon, whose role it is to prevent people from attaining enlightenment. In complete contrast, in the Golden Dawn, Iao is a divine force associated with Tiphereth whose role it is to help people attain enlightenment. According to the G∴D∴, “Iao” is a notarikon of “YHVH Eloah Vedaath” (way or Yod(I) - Aleph(A) - Vau(O)) and an acronym of “Isis Apophis Osiris”. To add to the confusion, the Aurum Solis states that Iao is a lunar or Yesod deity, even though they still attribute “YHVH Eloah Vedaath” to Tiphereth (For “Yesod” and “Tiphereth” see also Tree of Life).


Many magical orders stress that an individual must undergo Initiation in order to fully partake of certain esoteric teachings - the idea being that the teachings should be kept secret from him or her until they are an initiate. In favour of this theory is the argument that the Initiation ceremony confers a certain subtle magical benefit not otherwise obtained by merely informing the candidate of the desired matters. Against it are claims that some so-called initiators are incompetent to initiate for one reason or another; or perhaps that some people have been able to use the teachings without having been initiated; or that the ability to bestow or withhold Initiation has been abused in the past by Order leaders to consolidate their power. (See also Grades).


This is the theory that only a properly Initiated teacher can himself Initiate others. It therefore follows that a genuine initiate should be able to show an unbroken Line of Initiation, back to the original author of his or her tradition, in much the same way that the Pope can trace the succession of his authority right back to Saint Peter and even Christ Himself. Some magical orders have deliberately faked their own origins to gain the “prestige” of a line of initiation. A few others claim that success in magic is the only real measure of worth.

Knights Templar

Formed at the time of the Second Crusade, this was an Order of Knights who took vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. However, like other mediaeval Monastic orders who took vows of poverty, the Templars became very wealthy, incurring the jealousy of various European monarchs. Allegations abounded that they worshipped a bearded figure called “Baphomet”; practised black magic; etc. Their leader, Jacques De Molay, was arrested after someone walked into their lodge and found it set up like a modern Third Degree Masonic Ceremony. He was then tortured by being Crucified and afterwards executed. The Templars seem to have inspired a number of modern orders, such as Freemasonry, De Molay, the OTO, etc.

Lucid Dreams

A Psychic phenomenon in which one has the sensation of being aware that one is asleep and dreaming, but without waking up. It is possible to train oneself to dream lucidly almost at will, and to be able to consciously control the content of ones dream. Various writers such as Dion Fortune, Ophiel, Oliver Fox, et al., claim that Lucid Dreaming is actually a form of Astral Projection.


There is a lot of discussion as to what this actually is. It has variously been described as “controlling the secret forces of nature” (Mathers), “the art and science of causing change in conformity with Will” (Crowley) “the Highest, Most Absolute and most Divine Knowledge of Natural Philosophy” (The Goetia). The debate also includes what is the proper role of Magic, what is the definition of White, Black and Grey Magick, etc. However, what is expressly excluded from serious discussion of Magic in the WMT is that it has anything to do with stage conjuring, à la David Copperfield or Paul Daniels, etc.


This is an old spelling of Magic revived in modern times by Aleister Crowley to distinguish his system from stage conjuring. Apparently the “k” at the end, in Crowley's view, stands for “Kteis” (Greek ) the female genitalia, hence indicating the sexual undertone (or even overtone) of his system.

Magic, Black

Commonly defined as Magic using the aid of Demons (though not Daemons). This is, however, an unsatisfactory definition, as a number of schools of thought hold that controlling such spirits by appeal to Divine forces is a necessary feature of ordinary Magic. A better definition would simply be “evil or immoral magic”. Crowley defined it as anything falling outside his conception of White Magick, which he defined so narrowly that Black Magic could theoretically include acts which are perfectly moral and beneficial. There is a large body of opinion that says that it is unhelpful to ascribe either colour or morality to magic, as magic itself is just a tool.

Magic, Grey

This is a belt-and-braces term used in some quarters to describe any magical act that is not exactly Black or White. For example, selfish spells which do not affect others, morally neutral acts, acts that are mixed good and bad, or even good acts which fall outside Crowley's strict definition of White Magic. There is a large body of opinion that says that it is unhelpful to ascribe either colour or morality to magic, as magic itself is just a tool.

Magic, White

Has variously been described as Magic using the aid of Angels and benevolent spirits, or just simply Good Magic. Crowley defined it as “the raising of the whole man in an upward direction” (i.e. upward on the Tree of Life) thus limiting it very strictly to pure Theurgy. Hence, a magic spell to heal a diseased person, whilst being unambiguously moral, could be considered Black Magic as it need not be connected with Theurgy per se. There is a large body of opinion that says that it is unhelpful to ascribe either colour or morality to magic, as magic itself is just a tool.


One of Blavatsky's ideas in Theosophy was that there are hidden “Masters”, superhuman or even god-like, who are guiding the evolution of humanity. Dion Fortune claimed to have had a vision of two such Masters: Rakocsi (who is apparently a reincarnation of both Christian Rosencreutz and Comte St.Germain); and Jesus, who seems to have had His status updated by Fortune to fit in with her beliefs. Aleister Crowley claimed that he himself was a Master. (See also Builders of the Adytum, and Secret Chiefs).

Mediumship / Spiritualism

Originating in the 19th Century and gaining massive popularity after the First World War, this is the idea that the spirits of the deceased contact the living through the aid of psychically gifted people, typically to comfort the bereaved. It is open to criticism on two accounts. First, it is argued that although the Soul survives death and is reincarnated, the Personality per se does not. Hence, any mediumistic contact is either bogus in some way, or indicative that something is wrong. Secondly, the “mediumistic trance” is condemned as being bad practice, as the passivity of the medium means there is no qualitative discernment of any contacts that occur, leaving the medium open to the influence of malign or dangerous spirits. (See also Trances and Hypnotism.)


Generally speaking, a mental practice in which the mind is stilled so that it experiences the highest and most abstract conception of Godhead or Ultimate Reality free from any distracting thoughts whatsoever. Orthodox forms of mysticism include the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, the Spiritual Guide of Miguel De Molinos (Christian), the classical Qabalah (Judaism), Sufism (Islam), Yoga, Buddhism, Zen, Taoism, etc. Heterodox forms include Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, Theurgy, the Hermetic Qabalah, etc.


Twentieth century phenomenon that has seen the revival of ancient Pagan religions, such as the Greek Mysteries, the Egyptian Mysteries, the Norse Religion of Asatru, Shamanism and Wicca. There is no doubt that this upsurge in interest has been caused by the combined effects of the occult revival at the end of the 19th Century, the relaxation of out-of-date laws against witchcraft in the 1950s, and the phenomenon of the so-called New Age. The term “neo-pagan”, in contrast to “pagan” is also used by some people to emphasise the fact that such beliefs are modern interpretations of pagan traditions, and not necessarily a direct continuation thereof.


School of Greek philosophy dating from the third to fifth century AD. It shares some ideas with Gnosticism in that it sees man's natural destiny as attempting to return to the source of creation through either Mysticism or Theurgy. Unlike Gnosticism, the Demiurge is not seen as evil, hence, neither is the material universe, though it is admittedly imperfect. The two main names in Neoplatonism (from an Occultist's point of view) are Plotinus, who favoured the Mystical approach, and Iamblichus, who favoured Theurgy.


Hebrew , also transliterated as “Nephesch”. In the Qabalah, the Nephesh consists of the “animal” part of a being, the physical and etheric bodies, and the automatic consciousness (i.e. Unconscious). This, in contrast to the Ruach and Neshamah, does not survive death. This often upsets people who attempt to practice Astral Projection, as the Hermetic Qabalah teaches that the Astral body is a projection of the Nephesh as well.


Hebrew , also sometimes transliterated as “Neschamah”. In the Qabalah, this is the Soul of a being. It corresponds to the Supernal Sephiroth generally, and to Binah specifically. In the Golden Dawn it is also known as the Higher Genius, through which it is possible to comprehend the Chiah (Divine Will, corresponding to Chokmah) and ultimately, in unison with the Chiah, to comprehend the Yechidah (Divine spark, corresponding to Kether).

New Age

The questionable idea that the Age of Aquarius is beginning now has prompted a large number of people to start considering at least one of every mysterious or psychic phenomenon which is not recognised as orthodox by Western Religions as a valid lifestyle-basis. Moreover, many such people take a syncretistic approach to such phenomena. Whilst this has caused a revival of interest in the WMT, it has also stimulated interest in a large number of theories and practices that have little to no merit from either the spiritual or scholarly viewpoint. Whilst the basic notion of the WMT is that Spiritual training should be free of charge, it seems that many proponents of the New Age seem to be running it as a commercial venture - or even an industry.


The Qabalistic analysis of acronyms appearing in the Old Testament. Qabalists believe that God has encoded secret messages into the Bible using Notarikon (as well as Gematria). For example, “Agla”, the name of a local god in the ancient Middle East, has been assimilated into the Qabalah by claiming it to be a Notarikon of “Ateh Gebur Le-olam Adonai” - “Thou art mighty forever Oh Lord.” Again, “Amen” ( nma) is said to stand for “Adonai Melekh Namen” - “the Lord and faithful King”.


“Secret” or “hidden”. It is doubtful whether anything rightly deserves that epithet, as a tremendous amount of what is commonly referred to as “occult” nowadays has been published. A number of writers in the first half of the 20th Century recommend that the first thing one should do when approaching the WMT is to forget the supposedly sinister overtones of the word “Occult”, and to treat it purely as a Science. There is no need to believe in or have faith in the Occult, as the real phenomena are all experiential.


“Ordo Templi Orientis” or the Order of the Eastern Temple. A Quasi-Masonic society founded in the late 19th Century by Karl Kellner, and modelled on the Knights Templar. Its most (in)famous member was Aleister Crowley, who at one point assumed (or purported to assume) the position of OHO (Outer Head of the Order). It is now widely known that the superior degrees of the OTO initiate the individual into a particularly phallocentric form of Sex Magic.


The wilful practice of psychic powers - for example, Clairvoyance, Clairaudience, Clairsentience, Telepathy, Precognition, Psychokinesis, etc. It has been suggested that all of these can be explained in one way or another as movements in the Akasha or Astral Light. Furthermore, at least one magician, Franz Bardon, has postulated that practically the whole of magic is based on the use of psychic powers, and has based an entire magickal training system on their acquisition.

Qabalah / Kabbalah / Cabala

Hebrew , “Revelation”, or more accurately, revelations of the esoteric meanings of Jewish scripture such as the Tanakh (Old Testament) and Talmud. The Qabalah first seems to have appeared amongst Sephardic Jews in Mediaeval Spain, although there is evidence of mystical practices in Judaism from ancient times. The Qabalah comprises a complex mystical cosmology, and its practices include various forms of meditation: on Bible verses; the spelling and numerology of Hebrew words, and permutations derived in various ways therefrom; and on a number of abstract ideas contained in such texts as the Sepher Yetzirah, the Zohar, etc. The original Jewish Qabalah has been assimilated into Hermeticism, thereby linking it with Alchemy, Astrology, the Tarot, etc. See also the Tree of Life.


Hebrew , “Shells” or even “Excrement.” In the Qabalah these are demons of unbalanced force, which are thought to live in an infernal region below Malkuth. There are said to be ten Qlippoth, each being an antithesis of one of the Sephira of the Tree of Life. Received wisdom is that one only runs into the Qlippoth if something has gone wrong - i.e. one has been practising magic badly.


Between 1614 and 1616, three curious documents appeared in Europe announcing the existence of a hitherto secret society, “The Rosicrucian Fraternity”. It was apparently founded by (and named after) a mysterious Frater Christian Rosencreutz (i.e. “Christian of the Rosy Cross”), supposedly born in 1378, and died in 1484, aged 106. During his life he was into certain practices in the Middle East and North Africa, such as the Qabalah, Hermeticism, and Alchemy - which are the main subjects dealt with by Rosicrucian groups today. Upon his death he was buried in a tomb that was as much an Esoteric Symbol as it was a resting place. The Tomb was then rediscovered 120 years later, in 1604. Either this caught the public imagination in a very big way, or the Rosicrucians had indeed been active in secrecy, for a lot of Rosicrucian symbology was adopted by secret societies, such as Freemasonry. The Golden Dawn is one order that claimed to be descended from the original Rosicrucian movement.


Hebrew , “Spirit”. In the Qabalah, one of the three parts of the Being, along with the Neshamah and Nephesh. The Ruach is seen as the mind and reasoning powers: it is thought to survive death (and reincarnate) along with the Neshamah. In a different context, the word is also commonly used in the phrase “Ruach Elohim”, , “Spirit of God” or The Holy Spirit.


Historically, the Catholic Church used to label every practice which smacked of magic as Satanism or Black Magic. Unfortunately, a number of bona fide “white” magicians such as Raymond Lull and Nicholas Flamel were caught by this hysteria. However it now seems that there might have been actual Satanic practices going on, centering around the infamous “Black Mass”, in which lapsed Catholics poured hatred on their former faith. One of the most influential literary descriptions of Satanism is the novel “Là Bas” by J K Huysmans. In modern times, the late Anton LaVey concocted a brand of toned down Satanism, based on self-worship and instant self-gratification.

Secret Chiefs

See also Masters. Wynn Westcott, in relation to the Golden Dawn, once described a superior order of Adepts (“The Third Order”) consisting of praeterhuman beings of the three highest Rosicrucian grades of initiation. These were the “Secret Chiefs” - who, having discovered the philosopher's stone, were considered immortal. Hence, vacancies for office seldom occurred in their Order! Westcott's conception was radically different from previous Rosicrucian societies who had the same grade system: they had assumed that at least two of the highest grades could in fact be achieved by mortals. Magical wars have been purportedly fought over claims to be in contact with the Secret Chiefs, as the kudos arising therefrom is used as a weapon in bitter arguments over an order's Line of Initiation, who has the right to be in charge of the Order, etc.

Sex Magic

There is a very important role for sexual intercourse in magic, as an actual magical technique similar to the Maithuna or Karmamudra practices of Tantra. One of the most popular theories of sex magic is that the moment of orgasm releases a tremendous amount of energy that adds substantial power to any magical or mystical working. In Wicca, Sex Magic is practised in the form of the Great Rite. As the hieros gamos (“Marriage of the Gods”) in the Greek mysteries it is both “intercourse” magic and “gender” magic. As well as a way of Spiritual working, some organisations such as the OTO claim it can also be used in rituals for mundane purposes as well. Needless to say, there is great controversy in this whole subject - over Crowley's more sensational teachings, such as the OTO's XI°; apparent connections with literary or actual Satanism; etc. See also Alchemy and Magick.


A form of Clairvoyance, “Skrying” usually indicates seeing images without first engaging in Astral Projection. Well-known instruments used for skrying include the legendary Crystal Ball, but may also include particular crystals, a bowl of water, a handful of ink, so-called “magic mirrors” (which are not as animate as the one in Snow White!) - or may be accomplished simply by closing ones eyes and concentrating. It is important to note that the visions do not occur in these objects, but the process of staring fixedly at them induces the correct state of psychic awareness in the Seer.


A form of Divination, using a deck of 78 Cards: 22 Trumps or Major Arcana, and 56 Minor Arcana. The first Tarot deck seems to have appeared in Mediaeval times, though there is one legend that it goes back to Ancient Egypt. Aside from its divinatory uses, the Tarot is used Occult orders such as the Golden Dawn where the cards are closely mapped onto the various concepts of the Qabalah, especially the Tree of Life, and even the Golden Dawn conceptions of Astrology and the Cosmos.


A form of Qabalistic Cryptology. The letters of Hebrew words are substituted for other letters in a variety of permutations. One use for Temurah may be that the encrypted word has associations in Gematria. More simply, Temurah is a convenient device used to keep the Mysteries secret. For example, if the word “Baphomet”, the idol of the Knights Templar, were to be written in Hebrew, this would be “” - “Beth, Pe, Vau, Mem, Tau”. Applying the Eth-bash Temurah, in which the nth letter of the alphabet is substituted for the nth in order from the end, one is left with “aypwc” - “Shin, Vau, Pe, Yod, Aleph” or “Sophia” (Gr. Wisdom), implying that the Templars were in fact Gnostics.


“Remote Thinking.” Dion Fortune has suggested that Telepathic communication is accomplished by visualising a given person and then addressing him. It would appear that the message is transmitted by the power of fixed thought operating on the astral light. Conscious reception is more tricky, though various sources from Theosophy and Yoga agree that the major prerequisite is that the receiver should first make his or her own mind completely still. See also Akasha and Psychism.


Greek , “Will”. This is the enduringly popular philosophy of Aleister Crowley (1875 - 1947, left), based around the central concept of “Do What Thou Wilt shall be the whole of The Law,” and the key text Liber AL vel Legis (The Book of the Law), which he apparently received from a non-human intelligence in 1904. Thelema is ostensibly a distillation of Golden Dawn magic, Rabelais, Sex Magic, the Egyptian Mysteries, Abramelin, Yoga, Buddhism, and Taoism. Thelema is predicated on the idea that Crowley did in fact attain advanced mystical states which no westerner had done before.


“Divine Knowledge”, originally a term coined by Jakob Boehme, who said that ultimately God can only be known through mystical insight. This was later used by Helena P. Blavatsky (see photograph) to denote her brand of Eastern Philosophy for Westerners still reeling from the implications of Origins of the Species. Blavatsky's ideas, particularly relating to Spiritual Evolution through mysticism, proved so popular that it is fair to say they influenced, either directly or indirectly, every occult movement in the late 19th Century. Yet despite the historical debt to Theosophy per se, “The Theosophical Society”, which she founded, declined in influence after her death, when it was run by C. W. Leadbetter (whose authority was eroded by allegations against his moral character), and Annie Besant. It was their patronage of the young Krishnamurti as “World Teacher” which led to a number of damaging protests against the Theosophical Society: first by Rudolf Steiner; and then by Krishnamurti himself.


Theurgy involves the invocation of divine and angelic forces for ones Spiritual needs. It is therefore considered “High Magic” as opposed to Goetia. It might alternately be described as the use of Magic ritual to obtain the results of mysticism, in which sense it is envisaged by Iamblichus (see Neoplatonism). A number of grimoires call for the magician to practice theurgic rites in order to then perform the various goetic operations, thus avoiding accusations of out and out black magic.


An altered state of consciousness of the kind induced by, for example, Hypnotism. In modern hypnosis, three types of trances are recognized: light; Somnambulistic (medium); and Coma (heavy). Trances, or at least the heavier kinds, have been condemned by Hermetic Magicians, who say that the ideal state of consciousness is where one is able to consciously react to any phenomena that might occur. These same magicians did allow for one to be led into a trance by ones Higher Genius or Holy Guardian Angel. See also Mediumship / Spiritualism.

Tree of Life

A diagram which is used to illustrate many of the major concepts of the Qabalah - primarily the ten successive emanations of Deity, and indeed of creation itself, represented by the ten spherical Sephiroth. The names of the Sephiroth in order, (by reference to the accompanying picture) are: Kether (Brilliant White), Chokmah (Grey), Binah (Black), Chesed (Blue), Geburah (Red), Tiphereth (Gold), Netzach (Green), Hod (Orange), Yesod (Indigo), and Malkuth (4 colours - Citrine, Russet, Olive and Black). These Sephiroth are connected by a network of twenty-two paths, and the whole corresponds to the Thirty-Two Intelligences of the Sepher Yetzirah, as well as a host of other concepts (including, ultimately, every single thing in the Universe).


From Old English “Wicce” (Wise), this is also known as Witchcraft. Wicca is an Earth-centred, Goddess religion, some of whose members claim that theirs was the religion actually practised by historical witches, but was misrepresented throughout history as Satanism. There is in fact little historical evidence as to Wicca's ancient origins. Nevertheless, it is relevant to the WMT as its modern form contains large elements of the Qabalah, ceremonial magic, and Sex Magic. This may stem from the influence of the founder of modern Wicca, Gerald Gardner, who was a member of the OTO and was influenced by Crowley.


Sanskrit “Divine Union”. Blanket term for a number of Vedantic practices that all have the same end-result - that of liberation from the illusory world of nature by mystical attainment. Remarkable in that it is one of the few forms of mysticism that gives specific details of the processes and practice of meditation. Crowley incorporated his own ideas about Yoga into the system of the A∴A∴, whilst Jung commented favourably on it but thought for some reason it was not suitable for Westerners. He speculated that there should by rights be a Yoga for the West, which Dion Fortune later claimed was none other than the Qabalah.

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This is an authorized mirror of J S Kupperman's Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition.