And the Book of the Law will be to him as silver
The Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel
The Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel and the Crossing of the Abyss are usually considered as the most important achievements on every magickal career. As a consequence, there’s a lot of speculative writing around these events. Confusion emerges since too many magicians wish they had already climbed whatever separates them from the loftiest grades, and too many self-proclaimed gurus need chelas to feel their own worth.
Grades of attainment function like a map, but they become worthless if the map doesn’t actually map the territory. What use is a map if we can’t locate where we are? If distances are wrong, if we’re conferred grades that tell us “you’re here” but we aren’t, the map becomes useless. It will only pander to our ego, maybe getting even more lost.
In “The Mystical Qabalah”, Dion Fortune assigns a spiritual experience named “Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel” to the Malkuth sephira. This is a good way to summarize this entrance into High Magick and our first meeting with the Angel, an event so intense and deep (in a magical way) that it is often mistaken either as the Abyss (since the jungian Shadow or Lesser Guardian of the Threshold looks close to what we’re told about Choronzon), either as the Knowledge and Conversation (since we actually meet the HGA). Since this is a common mistake and initiates who make such mistakes sometimes write magical texts, it is something we should really take into account when reading books and articles on the initiatory path.
Aleister Crowley himself barely wrote about this first initiation. But he did. In the Book of the Law it is said, “Let him come through the first ordeal, & it [The Book of the Law] will be to him as silver.” [AL III, 64]. Three verses complete the description of the four great initiations: (“65. Through the second, gold. 66. Through the third, stones of precious water. 67. Through the fourth, ultimate sparks of the intimate fire.”). The very Book of the Law is a text that reflects the initiation of the reader, and therefore mostly useless for the uninitiated. These four initiations, are also the four gates to one palace we are told about in AL I, 51.
As we focus on the first door, that which will turn the Book of the Law into silver and in which “The gross must pass through fire” (AL I,50), we find a clarification in Crowley’s New Commentary on these enigmatic verses:
“This Book is now to him “as silver.” He sees it pure, white and shining, the mirror of his own being that this ordeal has purged of its complexes. To reach this sphere he has had to pass through a path of darkness where the Four Elements seem to him to be the Universe entire. For how should he know that they are no more that the last of the 22 segments of the Snake that is twined on the Tree?”
Those who aren’t High Magick initiates, even if they’ve successfully used magickal techniques, be it spells, divination or any other device, internally conceive the universe as if it was solely composed by the old Four Elements. That is to say, matter is taken at face value, even by those who hold religious beliefs or maybe some sort of spirituality. What we’re dealing with here is a practical personal experience on magick and the collapse of standard reality. Non-initiates basically live in the world of Assiah, and there’s no order neither human being who can “provide” Initiation.
The path of darkness Crowley wrote about teaches the magician that his perceptions about the universe are wrong. That the world isn’t as solid as he believes, so that a strong enough air current could make it crumble. That matter is kind of “alive”, that there’s a world inside the world he was unconscious of until he finally crossed this Threshold. This is the world of Yetzirah, the “astral”. The astral plane is not just some part of our imagination, but a layer of reality that overlaps those we usually perceive. It seems to magically bring life to matter, creating coincidences, ordering events. The magician tunes in with a series of threads of meaning that look like a huge intelligence who knows his innermost secrets. In Yetzirah, we learn to perceive the silver reflections that will ultimately guide us to the distant Sun of Tiphareth.
In this initiation to Yetzirah, the Lesser Guardian of the Threshold turns into the Greater Guardian. Thus, we enjoy the Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel. This encounter might make us fall in love for the rest of our lives, treading towards Tiphareth and the Knowledge and Conversation, as we open ourselves to the plane of Briah.
An ordeal of terror and darkness
The opening of the world of Yetzirah isn’t a bed of roses. Quite on the opposite, it is a terrifying experience in which insanity becomes a real threat. It could make you so afraid you never ever practice magick again. You might end up in a nuthouse. The mind becomes terrified, because it realizes reality is way different than it expected. And this is coupled with the fact that the astral is actually reflecting the unconscious contents of the magician’s mind.
Everything that’s buried deep within will try to devour the magician from the outside, as the world looks like it has become alive and reality directly speaks to us, in such a surreal experience that we could speculate as to whether we’ve become insane, or whether we’re dead and reality is melting around us, and an endless spring of ideas on reality that could carry us to a dead end if they were to solidify inside our minds.
The most spectacular case in our times, might be the famous science-fiction author Philip K.Dick, who probably could never reach the other side safe and sound. However, he left us a fantastic account of his experiences in his Exegesis, and in his pseudo-autobiographic novel VALIS as well.
May it then become a warning to the dilettante: Those who aren’t ready to lose everything for a kiss of Nuit shouldn’t take a single step on this path.
Crowley wrote on the same verses [AL III,64] in the New Comment to the Book of the Law:
”Assailed by gross phantoms of matter, unreal and unintelligible, his ordeal is of terror and darkness. He may pass only by favour of his own silent God, extended and exalted within him by virtue of his conscious act in affronting the ordeal.
This is the path we need to walk if the Book of the Law is to be as silver to us. This is a very specific path, numbered 32. It connects Malkuth and Yesod and thus corresponds in its deepest sense to the evolution from Neophyte (1°=10□) to Zelator (2°=9□). The true Zelator has overcome the terrifying ordeal of volatilizing that which was fixed, and he’s also brought down to earth the energies that were released through Initiation, and thus “a certain Zeal will be inflamed within him, why he knoweth not.”, as it is written regarding the Zelator grade.
The 32nd path is related to Saturn, which makes illusions appear solid. This planet is also related to the Binah sephira. If we consider the legendary tenth verse from Crowley’s Oath of the Abyss (“that I will interpret every phenomenon as a particular dealing of God with my soul”) and the similarities between the Lesser Guardian of the Threshold and Choronzon, it all becomes confusing enough so that many who’ve gone through the 32nd path (and thus rendered the Veil of Qeseth) think they’ve won the ordeal of the Abyss, mistakenly proclaiming themselves Masters of the Temple and picturing themselves at the Atziluth heights, whereas they’ve just opened the moonlit door to Yetzirah.
The magician will conclude this cycle when he manages to control the energies that were released in his experience of the Duat, in which he defeated his own demons. Then he will be definitely and irrevocably walking the initiatory path. And this shall not be taken lightly. Since, as Crowley writes on the Zelator Task (Liber Collegii Sancti, CLXXXV),
“He may at any moment withdraw from his association with the A.'.A.'. simply notifying the Practicus who introduced him. Yet let him remember that being entered thus far upon the Path, he cannot escape it, and return to the world, but must ultimate either in the City of the Pyramids or the lonely towers of the Abyss.”
Do not underestimate this warning. Because even if the Initiate wouldn’t continue, the path will continue without him and throw him unprepared into what’s ahead. One day such distant future will inevitably become the present, so facing it well-prepared must become a top priority for the magician.