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Home > Article Library > Magick > Crowley and Tantra Search

Crowley and Tantric Magick:
The Beast Demystified

by unknown


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There's a great deal of curiosity about the sex magick taught by Aleister Crowley and his tradition. Of course, everyone is interested in sex, but the veil of secrecy further tends to tillitate and intrigue. The reasons for secrecy are becoming increasingly archaic in this era of increased openness: when even right-wing Christians peddle sex manuals for the born-again, and Leather Faeries speak freely of their unspeakable acts. Even in his day, Crowley often regretted the need for secrecy, and did everything in his power to leave a bright thread through the labyrinth. But he was bound by his vows of silence to speak only obliquely.

It is the hope of this writer, unfettered by oaths, that he can provide a few keys which might otherwise elude the curious student. This paper attempts to set forth the critical facts about the Thelemic sex practices in a clear and concise fashion. No true secret can be revealed in words, so no great harm can come of this revelation.

In Magick in Theory and Practice, Crowley explains the magical formula of Tetragrammaton, the ancient Hebrew name of God, spelled YHVH or Yod-He-Vau-He, once Anglicized to Jehovah.

The formation of the Yod is the formulation of the first creative force, of that father who is called "self-begotten", and unto whom it is said: "Thou hast formulated thy Father, and made fertile thy Mother". The adding of the He to the Yod is the marriage of that Father to the great co-equal Mother, who is a reflection of Nuit as He is of Hadit. Their union brings forth the son Vau who is the heir. Finally the daughter He is produced. She is both the twin sister and the daughter of Vau.

His mission is to redeem her by making her his bride; the result of this is to set her upon the throne of her mother, and it is only she whose youthful embrace can reawaken the eld of the All-Father. In this complex family relationship is symbolized the whole course of the Universe. It will be seen that (after all) the Climax is at the end. It is the second half of the formula which symbolizes the Great Work we are pledged to accomplish. The first step of this is the attainment of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, which constitutes the Adept of the Inner Order.

The re-entry of these twin spouses into the womb of the mother is that initiation described in Liber 418, which gives admission to the Inmost Order of the A.'. A.'. Of the last step we cannot speak.

This passage is likely to be almost entirely unintelligible to the beginning student. It may convince him or her that Crowley is being obscure for the sake of obscurity, or even that he is a charlatan baffling the believers with bullshit. In fact, it is a precise and complete description of the IX* practice. It is presented here as an example of the strange prose with which the questor will do battle on the way to the center of the maze. The process of extracting the keys from MTP is a methodical one: start with one key and use it to find more keys, then review the whole, and iterate until done. The code was made to be broken, and given a few keys, the passage becomes coherent and illuminating. The reader should refer back to it throughout this essay.

There are two basic forms of the secret practices, IX* and XI*, though in practice these are sometimes combined and/or carried out in multi-partner forms. Neither of them are safe sex1, centering as they do around the mingled bodily fluids as their material expression. The IX* requires a man and a woman, while the XI* requires the same or else two men. In other words, the IX* is vaginal, while the XI* is anal. This is all widely known these days, thanks to people like Francis King and Stephen Skinner, but the inner formulae are better kept.

What is the nature of the elixir? First, it is a twin child, the male-female Holy Spirit of the Gnostic Mass, the living fruit of the two sexual partners. The Book of Lies teaches that seed and child and parent are mystically one, and that the seed represents the innermost and highest expression of the parent. In the Star Sapphire, a ritual form of the IX, the invocation brings father, mother, son, and daughter (YHVH, above) into one point of mystic union, referred to as Ararita.

This daughter-son, the living elixir, is made a sacrifice to the magical goal of the working. Note that it is not metaphorically alive, but literally alive, containing a great quantity of living cells. The sacrifice of the elixir is the sacrifice of a living child on the magical plane; but the child is one and the same as the magicians' own highest selves or pure will, and even part of their bodies. Thus, for the male magician, it is the sacrifice of "all that he is and all that he has" into the "Cup of Babalon", a Satanic symbol from the book of Revelation in the Bible, which is held by the Scarlet Woman of Babylon and in which the blood of the saints is said to be mingled.

While discussing sacrifice in the aforementioned Magick in Theory and Practice, Crowley says:

For the highest spiritual working one must accordingly choose that victim which contains the greatest and purest force. A male child of perfect innocence and high intelligence is the most satisfactory and suitable victim.

He further quotes Soror I. W. E.:

It is the sacrifice of oneself spiritually. And the intelligence and innocence of that male child are the perfect understanding of the magician, his one aim, without lust of result. And male he must be, because what he sacrifices is not the material blood, but his creative power.

At first glance Crowley seems to be advocating an atrocity, the sacrifice of a child, the bugaboo of witchhunters and anti-Semites everywhere. But in fact he is claiming that the historical legend of child sacrifice, used to persecute so many "witches" and Jews, veils a sexual formula of self-sacrifice. In a secret document of the IX*, the "blood libel" against the Jews -- the story that they celebrate covert rituals employing the blood of sacrificed children -- is taken as a statement that certain sects of the Hassidim possess this secret. The early Christians were accused of such practices by the Roman establishment, and the Gnostic Catholic Church considers this to be evidence of a continuity of the sexual secret from the Gnostics.

The legend is extraordinarily damaging to those people to whom it is ascribed. Even today witchhunters spread lurid libels against any and all occultists and witches using this tale of child sacrifice. This is one case in which secrecy has clearly proved damaging. In fact, it seems little short of insane to keep secret an inner legend of such beauty and power, while presenting a public face of horror and crime. One could surely pick a veil that was not more damaging than the reality. It is this writer's opinion that the legend of child sacrifice is not the trail of the secret, but is simply an historical accusation of monstrous evil which happens to have a remarkable symbolic correspondence with the IX* and which has been reclaimed by Crowley as such. In short, it's a retrofit, because it would be stupid for it to be anything else.

To return. These twin "children" have been consecrated by other ritual methods to a magical goal. Simple concentration on the intent is one way. One can also arrange various partners in an appropriate mythic symbolism, light the room with the proper color of candle, and all the rest of the ritual tools that serve to keep one's mind focused. Also, one is supposed to practice magical chastity, which is the keeping apart of the genitals like any other magic tool, using them only toward spiritual ends.2 The male-female elixir is the expression of the Will of the working.

The most common disposition of the elixir is consumption as a Eucharist. This sacrifices the living fluid, and uses its energy to empower the consumers spiritually. Such a Eucharist is described in Chapter XX of MTP, and in Chapter 69 of The Book of Lies3, a chapter entitled "The Way to Succeed -- and the Way to Suck Eggs!", which should be cross-checked with the passage on YHVH above:

This is the Holy Hexagram.
Plunge from the height, O God, and interlock with Man!
Plunge from the height, O Man, and interlock with Beast!
The Red Triangle is the descending tongue of grace; the Blue Triangle is the ascending tongue of prayer.
This interchange, the Double Gift of Tongues, the Word of Double Power -- ABRAHADABRA! -- is the sign of the GREAT WORK, for the GREAT WORK is accomplished in Silence. And behold is not that Word equal to Cheth, that is Cancer, whose sigil is [the two fishes interlocked, or a sideways 69]? This Work also eats up itself, accomplishes its own end, nourishes the worker, leaves no seed, is perfect in itself.
Little children, love one another!

It should be apparent at this point that Crowley took the most outrageous liberties with his vows of secrecy, frequently speaking with only the slightest pretext toward concealment. Again, this writer wishes to emphasize that he is revealing what he is able to reveal not to make trouble or to show off his erudition, but because he feels it is a part of his Will to help complete Crowley's apparent Will to reveal the secret.

Another form of sacrifice of the elixir is mixture with toxic ink, for making talismans. If consumed, it may be eaten fresh from the Lance and Graal by the partners as above, or captured into some vessel and cooked to prepare the Cakes of Light.

And then there is the Moonchild formula, also known as the formula of the Homunculus. The child is not sacrificed, but drawn into incarnation. This is largely similar to the regular IX*, but as it terminates in real conception, it is repeated several times during the woman's fertile period. After conception, all other spirits are excluded from inhabiting the unborn child, while the desired spirit is drawn into it. This may be a planetary or other nonhuman spirit, or it may be a spirit of the recently deceased, returned to existence through the magical efforts of his or her former partners in sorcery. This child is intended to live, not to be sacrificed, at least until such time as Nuit may reabsorb him or her into Her bosom through the natural process of change.

The reader may remark that in some ways, the above seems to have little to do with sex. This is because this presentation is a bass-ackwards adolescent, hasty to reveal the climax and rushing hastily past the preliminaries. As a result, it has probably created a false impression of a stately, Apollonian rite rather than a Dionysiac frenzy. Under no circumstances should this ritual foofaraw be taken as an abandonment of the ordinary heat and passion of sex, or of the game of attraction and seduction which forms its opening movements. Sex magick should be the redemption of these ordinary elements, the removal of all tinge of shame or degradation hung on sex by the agricultural age's zeal to place a set of taboos over reproduction.

Sacred sex under any form should be electric and intoxicating, with stabbing tongues, flaming ears, bursts of unimaginable power and sensation beneath the fingertips, and whatever other purple metaphor you may prefer. It has often been said that the secret of magic is "Enflame thyself in prayer". This may well be done through the conventional ritual gestures and incantations and the symbolic arrangement of the chamber, which steers and enlivens the mind in the direction of the working, and may at last produce a psychological epiphany. Sex is a powerful and direct tool for creating the same kind of inner conflagration which is magical reality, burning away all illusions (or perhaps replacing them with the illusions of a higher world).

That being said, it should be noted that the entire preceding part of this essay is not necessary. The liquid fruits of sex ought not to be casually flushed away -- that would be inappropriate with respect to any product of holy ritual -- but the particular means of dealing with the elixir, or even of producing a joint elixir, is optional. Many cultures have practiced sex magicks and sex mysticism without using these particular formulae. Taoism and Tantricism would be fine examples.4

Still, there is usually a difference between sacred and mundane sex, even when the mundane form does not participate in those Victorian vices of shame and self-loathing. Sacred sex has, once again, a quality of electricity, of otherworldliness, as if the partner or partners have been stripped down to their essential selves. The place becomes automatically a temple, and all perceptions are likewise transformed. "Mundane" sex of this character, which all readers of this essay have probably experienced at least once in their lives, provides a guideline for the aspirant. But then there is the question of how to create this state.

The practice of magical chastity is one way. Just as there is a difference between holding a charged dagger dedicated to ritual purposes or a kitchen knife, if the body is kept sacred to this purpose, then the electricity will flow more easily. The O.T.O. secret instructions take this to what are (in this writer's opinion) ridiculous extremes, requiring for instance that all hair cut by a barber be collected and burnt.5 But it can hardly be doubted that they are effective.

Fetishistic methods are gaining in popularity, particularly given the influence of the aforementioned Leather Faeries and the general SM subculture. Many SM practices are directly analogous to more conventional mystical practices, and of course the scourgings involved in, for instance, the Neophyte initiation ritual of the A.'. A.'. , Gardnerian witchcraft, or the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii are cognate. Submission of one's will to another is a profound mystical exercise, and pain properly applied (in an atmosphere of excitation and mystery) becomes a kind of pleasure which fuses with normal pleasure to create a higher power beyond the banal duality of pleasure and pain. All these techniques may be employed to create energy and urgency.

Dance and other ritual exercises of a non-explicitly-sexual nature may also be used to create the necessary environment, provided they are "rightly performed with joy & beauty".

As with most magical exercises, though, the secret is practice. In the lower orders of the O.T.O.'s upper triad, there are instructions to worship an artifical phallus as a god, creating through long practice a reservoir of power which may readily be tapped for further working. The same is true for any other sexual practice, including autoerotic invocations. In the end, long practice may create a "willed will-lessness" by which a psychological state may be induced when needed, but not exactly "at will". The action is taking place at a deeper level than the consciousness, but it may cooperate with the consciousness to fulfill their mutual will. It is a Taoist process in which one is active precisely by not being active, by not attempting to force a particular state, but instead letting the Teh silently guide one's ship toward that island in the ocean of Tao.6

It is impossible to completely treat such a subject in print. Experience must be the teacher, and there may be a thousand volumes of meaning in the kiss of an initiate. All of this ties into the Thelemic cosmology of Nuit, Hadit, and Ra-Hoor-Khuit, itself an enormously rich field of study, but it is not this writer's intent to spew forth reams of poetry or physics on the congruence of the finite yet boundless with the Planck scale of length through the word which is Chaos. The XI* has been almost completely neglected, though the student who wishes to "suck down fire in a hollow tube from heaven as none had dared to do before" should be able to piece it together from MTP given these keys. There are many other symbolic elements as well. All of them should be studied and internalized by each student in their own way.

To conclude, a few pedestrian issues of history, groups, and politics.

A semi-secret is that these techniques appear in the central body of the A.'. A.'., known as the Order of the Rosy Cross, even though they are commonly thought of as O.T.O. secrets. The Rose is the yoni and the Cross or Rood the lingam. The grade of Dominus Liminis is the link between the R.C. and the lower body, the Order of the Golden Dawn. The D.L. is admitted into the secret meaning of Liber Cheth, which (like the degrees leading up to IX* in O.T.O.) is a practice of invocatory masturbation. See "One Star in Sight" (MTP, Appendix 1, pg. 232) concerning what is taught to the various Adepti.

Scattered through various works, but mostly in MTP, various parts of the formulae are expressed in obscure language. The Grimorium Sanctissimum is an instruction for the IX*, under a slightly different ritual form from the Star Sapphire. The essay "Energized Enthusiasm" is a fine guide to many parts of the formulae, and its title describes the necessary mental attitude. The Gnostic Mass of the EGC (Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, or Gnostic Catholic Church) is a symbolic form.

The Wiccan cakes and wine ceremony is another form of the Gnostic Mass, but in the Wiccan tradition, the IX* is the "Great Rite."7 The symbolism of the weapon and the cup is fairly straightforward, as is the consumption of the cakes and wine blessed by the central symbolic sex act. The Gardnerian third degree initiation ritual has been published by Janet and Stewart Farrar in The Witches' Way, and it is rife with quotes from the Gnostic Mass and the Book of the Law. It also makes clear that the Wiccan Goddess is the Thelemic Nuit, and that the Wiccan God is her complement, Hadit.8

There is a tendency among the more zealous of initiates to see the secret everywhere. For example, in the pages of the excellent occult journal Gnosis, Robert Anton Wilson claimed all sorts of alchemical correspondences. Bernadette Bosky responded a few months later with an expert dissection of the assumptions, preconceptions, and forced readings that led to Wilson's conclusions. There may be alchemical precursors, perhaps even the entire secret, but it was not where he claimed. Similarly, the secret is ascribed to the ancient Gnostics from whom arose the Christian Church, and some hold that the symbolism remains in the Catholic Eucharist unbeknownst to the black-robed Vatican-crawlers. But there is really very little evidence of this descent.

It's quite possible that the practice is barely a century old. It's also possible that it was practiced in Babylonian holy brothels millenia ago. Occam's Razor would tend to spare the former explanation and slash the latter.

All this matters little to the practice itself, but it would be wise to take historical claims relating to the secret with a grain of salt.

Finally, a word on vows of secrecy. This writer has made it clear that he disapproves of them in this age. Many who are bound by them feel the same way, but a promise is a promise. However, this is not so plainly true as it first appears. A century ago, the reason for refusing women admission to Freemasonry was the same as it is today. As Mackey writes in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry:

Woman is not permitted to participate in our rites and ceremonies, not because we deem her unworthy or unfaithful, or incapable, as has been foolishly supposed, of keeping a secret, but because, on our entrance into the Order, we found certain regulations which prescribed that only men capable of enduring the labor, or of fulfilling the duties of operative Masons, could be admitted. These regulations we have solemnly promised never to alter; nor could they be changed, without an entire disorganization of the whole system of Speculative Masonry.

A Mason today will give the same answer that Mackey did last century. Yet the O.T.O., the chief repository of these sexual secrets, was founded as a Masonic order which admits women, and it confers high Masonic degrees to its female initiates to this very day, though it has ceased to claim that it is part of regular Masonry. The O.T.O. was founded on the breaking of the solemn oath to admit only men. For all its problems, there can be little doubt that the O.T.O. is more vibrant, more growthful, and more forward-looking than gender-segregated Masonry, which has become ossified, has ceased to attract new members, and is full of "belly Masons" to whom a Masonic secret is only a prelude to supper.9 And from the O.T.O. came modern witchcraft, clearly the hardiest Western occult movement in centuries.

All this growth, all this world-changing, from the breaking of an oath which was a mere holdover from an earlier age, a shackle of slavery. The lesson seems clear; its implementation requires only the power to dare.

May all readers of this little essay find themselves consecrated and blessed by the secret and the known servants of the Star and of the Snake!


1 Well, nothing is safe sex (except maybe phone sex, and even that is dangerous to one's credit rating), but these practices aren't even safer sex. This writer recommends the use of modern synthetic rubber products as a means of prolonging incarnation in this viral age.

2 It is not necessary to wrap them in silk and keep them in the altar, as this might interfere excessively with mundane life.

3 This is perhaps the most accessible of Crowley's numerological puns.

4 It is a matter of some debate -- actually, some very boring and vague debate -- whether these traditions use the IX* at all. I do not propose to settle that here, or anywhere. The historicity of a secret may be an unanswerable question.

5 Similar requirements in the same document are bad for water rationing.

6 It is cognate with the practice of forgetting the meaning of a sigil. Sorry, there is no joke in this footnote.

7 The creator of modern witchcraft, Gerald Gardner, was an initiate of the O.T.O., and he incorporated its secrets into his creation. Many of the modern witchcraft groups were created from published works without direct contact with the Gardnerian third degree, and so they do not have the full secret of the Great Rite. On the other hand, Jack Parsons was trying to create a new witchcraft in Southern California at the same time that Gardner was working in England (1950, as documented in the essays on witchcraft in the recent collection Freedom is a Two-Edged Sword, from Falcon Press) and Parsons was privy to the O.T.O. secrets, so there is an alternate channel for transmission even in groups without a close link to Gardnerian initiation.

8 An underworld deity, one of whose names is Satan. But remember, witchcraft has nothing to do with Satanism. Nothing at all, no way, no how, uh-uh, not a chance, and stop confusing me with the facts.

9 My apologies to anyone I offend with these comments; I am not saying anything that Masons have not said to me. (Whether they will speak to me again is a different question.)

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