Beyond the Astral: the Sleep of Siloam
by yemeth

Aleister Crowley - "The Book of the Law"
(Special Annotated Edition)
Understand the depths of 'The Book of the Law'
in this carefully annotated edition.

A.·.A.·. Initiation Thelema

Transparenting the veils for the communication
with the Holy Guardian Angel

Historical background

In a highly symbolic passage from the Gospel of St. John, Jesus spits on the ground, forms mud with his saliva and smears it on the eyes of a blind man. He then sends him to wash in the pool of Siloam (or Shiloam), after which he recovers his sight.

This pool had been built by Hezekiah several centuries earlier, and was used as a bathing place (the mikveh) for carrying out the purifications of Judaism.

The modern use of the term "Sleep of Shiloam" can be traced back to H.P. Blavatsky, who mentions it in her "Studies in Occultism".

“The word shiach, is in Hebrew the same word as a verbal, signifying to go down into the pit. As a noun, place of thorns, pit. The hifil participle of this word is Messiach, or the Greek Messias, Christ, and means "he who causes to go down into the pit" (or hell, in dogmatism). In esoteric philosophy, this going down into the pit has the most mysterious significance.

The Spirit "Christos" or rather the "Logos" (read Logoi), is said to "go down into the pit," when it incarnates in flesh, is born as a man. After having robbed the Elohim (or gods) of their secret, the pro-creating "fire of life," the Angels of Light are shown cast down into the pit or abyss of matter, called Hell, or the bottomless pit, by the kind theologians. This, in Cosmogony and Anthropology.

During the Mysteries, however, it is the Chrestos, neophyte, (as man), etc., who had to descend into the crypts of Initiation and trials; and finally, during the "Sleep of Siloam" or the final trance condition, during the hours of which the new Initiate has the last and final mysteries of being divulged to him. Hades, Scheol, or Patala, are all one. The same takes place in the East now, as took place 2,000 years ago in the West, during the MYSTERIES.”

Blavatsky gives further explanation in "The Secret Doctrine", relating this trance to the mystery of crucifixion. This is peculiar to Tiphereth, and we shall see later why this is relevant. It consists of a deep sleep lasting three days and three nights, during which:

“his Spiritual Ego was said to confabulate with the "gods," descend into Hades, Amenti, or Patala, (according to the country), and do works of charity to the invisible beings, whether souls of men or Elemental Spirits; his body remaining all the time in a temple crypt or subterranean cave. In Egypt it was placed in the Sarcophagus in the King's Chamber of the Pyramid of Cheops, and carried during the night of the approaching third day to the entrance of a gallery, where at a certain hour the beams of the rising Sun struck full on the face of the entranced candidate, who awoke to be initiated by Osiris, and Thoth the God of Wisdom.”

Twentieth Century Magic

The idea of the Dream of Siloam is closely related to the path linking the sephiroth of Hod and Gevurah on the Tree of Life, to which is assigned the Hebrew letter Mem (מ) and the Tarot card known as "The Hanged Man".

James Eshelman, divulger of the mystical and magical system of the A.·.A.·., points out that the Greek word Siloam adds up to 1081, the same as the Hebrew word Tiphereth, from where he confirms that the place where we submerge ourselves in this pool of Siloam is indeed in the Sephira of Beauty -and of the Sun-.

That is to say, by dying temporarily by immersing ourselves and entering into the "Sleep of Siloam", as St. John's Gospel notes about the blind man whom Christ sends there to be healed, after this trance in which we immerse ourselves in Tiphareth, we regain the sight - which we had never had in a normal life.

We open our eyes to the reality that is revealed when we perceive the Khu, the embodied temple of our Holy Guardian Angel. In doing so we access the intuitive mind that is able to join with beings and "see" at a deeper level by noticing which Archetypes are determining the way in which each of the many aspects of reality are manifesting.

James Eshelman will conclude in this regard, that "the adept must dive deeply and repeatedly" into this mystical pool.

In modern magic, the workings of this operation are explicitly unveiled, although each master has his own book. Some, like Crowley, will push for a complete paradigm shift in which this Sleep of Siloam would no longer be seen as an ascetic's sacrifice, renouncing everything in order to rise to the divine in complete celibacy.

Dion Fortune explains in "The Mystical Qabalah" that "Tiphareth is not only the centre of the God who was Sacrificed, but also the centre of the Inebriating God, the Giver of Illumination. To this centre are assigned both Dionysus and Osiris".

In the face of the encounter with the Holy Guardian Angel, Osiris represents the old formula of the Sacrificial God; for Crowley he would rather be characterised by Horus. But in addition to Osiris there is another formula, this time involving Dionysus.

Although Dion Fortune doesn't explicitly mention Siloam, there is an obvious parallel in the way she describes in "The Mystic Qabalah" what this method of opening oneself to the Angel in the sphere of Tiphareth consists of:

“There is a certain emotional concentration and exaltation which makes the higher phases of consciousness available, and without which it is impossible to attain them. The images of the astral plane pass over into an intensity of emotion that is like a burning fire, and when all the dross of the nature has gone up in flame the smoke clears, and we are left with the white heat of pure consciousness”.

What are these "emotional exaltations" which are certainly more typical of Dionysus than of Osiris? One of the possibilities is the way in which this trance and its consequences are addressed with less subtlety in some 20th-century magic texts. Thus, the "Sleep of Siloam" is to be intertwined with sexual magic.

The Sleep of Siloam in Thelema

This trance plays an important role in Aleister Crowley's initiatory writings. In Liber Aleph:

“Now know this also that at the End of that secret Way lieth a Garden wherein is a Rest House prepared for thee.

For to him whose physical Needs of whatever Kind are not truly satisfied cometh a Lunar or physical Sleep appointed to refresh and recreate by Cleansing and Repose; but on him that is bodily pure the Lord bestoweth a Solar or Lucid Sleep, wherein move Images of pure Light fashioned by the True Will. And this is called by the Qabalists the Sleep of Shiloam, and of this doeth also Porphyry make mention, and Cicero, with many other Wise Men of Old Time.”

To arrive here, he also indicates in “Of the Invocation” in “Magick in Theory and Practice”,

"The mind must be exalted until it loses consciousness of self. [...] At the moment when the excitement becomes ungovernable, when then the whole conscious being of the Magician undergoes a spiritual spasm, at that moment must he utter the supreme adjuration."

This spiritual spasm, the orgasm in which the sorcerer throws himself into his Angel (yes, believe it or not, even a libertine like Crowley lightly veiled his sexual references), is not to be sought voluntarily but rather he is to be exhausted, approaching that orgasm again and again only to stop just before it:

“One very effective method is to stop short, by a supreme effort of will, again and again, on the very brink of that spasm, until a time arrives when the idea of exercising that will fails to occur. This forgetfulness must be complete; it is fatal to try to "let oneself go" consciously. Inhibition is no longer possible or even thinkable, and the whole being of the Magician, no minutest atom saying nay, is irresistibly flung forth. In blinding light, amid the roar of ten thousand thunders, the Union of God and man is consummated”.

Also in Liber LXV (chapter 4),

“9. In the garden of immortal kisses, O thou brilliant One, shine forth! Make Thy mouth an opium-poppy, that one kiss is the key to the infinite sleep and lucid, the sleep of Shi-loh-am.
10. In my sleep I beheld the Universe like a clear crystal without one speck.”

In Crowley's own commentary, he will indicate that this is "Union with the Divine", where these "immortal kisses" are symbolic of the eternal operation of "love under will", which we already know from Crowley's Commentary to his Book of the Law to be the Kundalini serpent raised by the magician and through which to achieve that "emotional intensity" to which Dion Fortune also referred. The opium poppy is that which bestows sleep and silences all distractions allowing for Knowledge and Conversation. It is called "lucid dreaming" because it is pure vision.

For the adept, he who has already gained the Knowledge and Conversation of his Holy Guardian Angel, the technique of the Sleep of Siloam will remain useful in returning to communion with his innermost self.

The path of the Hanged Man is one of the two (along with Adjustment) that link the Adeptus Minor with Geburah, and which open the way to the grade of Adeptus Major. By repeated Knowledge and Conversation he will learn to surrender his will to that of his Angel in the lucidity of that trance and to ripen his "briatic body", the Khu, the incarnate temple of the Angel.

The key here is an exaltation that eventually exhausts the mind, straining the magician again and again until he can no longer bear it. Driven to paroxysm, he lets himself fall into this Sleep, into the trance in which he disappears so that his Angel can appear.

Crowley also provides in his Liber CDLI ("Of Eroto-comatose Lucidity") a technique to reach this state. Here the author speaks of how the magician is to be sexually exhausted, also suggesting the use of stimulants in the process. The sleep that would be produced in his absolute exhaustion is never to be respected by the person who stimulates the magician, such that:

“This alteration is to continue indefinitely until the Candidate is in a state which is neither sleep nor waking, and in which his Spirit, set free by perfect exhaustion of the body, and yet prevented from entering the City of Sleep, communes with the Most High and the Most Holy Lord God of its being, maker of heaven and earth”.

It is also indicated that this process is to continue until death, that of the orgasm which finally allows the magician to immerse himself in his encounter with the divine within.

In The Book of the Law it is said,

“II.73. Ah! Ah! Death! Death! thou shalt long for death. Death is forbidden, o man, unto thee.
II.74. The length of thy longing shall be the strength of its glory. He that lives long & desires death much is ever the King among the Kings”.

In this context death in addition to the petite mort of the orgasm is the annihilation of the self in the Beloved, and in the Thoth Tarot card of "The Hanged Man" we find a symbolism not only of sacrifice but of baptism. Sacrifice is unnecessary, since it is a "redemption" of the submerged element which is the adept himself in the position of the hanged man. The very posture represented by the tarot card, "is a ritual posture of the Practice called 'The Dream of Siloam'".

It is striking that the one who awaits the adept in the water in which he is to be immersed, "hanging" in this ritual posture, is in the Thoth Tarot a serpent. This is an obvious reference to that serpent which leads us to Knowledge and Conversation when it raises its head to our chest, Kundalini or Hadit.

Let us also not overlook the figure of Harpocrates in Thelema, the unmanifested Holy Guardian Angel, of whom it is said in the Old Commentary to Liber AL (II,8) that:

“8. He is symbolised by Harpocrates, crowned child upon the lotus, whose shadow is called Silence.

Yet His Silence is the Act of Adoration; not the dumb callousness of heaven toward man, but the supreme ritual, the Silence of the supreme Orgasm, the stilling of all Voices in the perfect rapture”.

Sigil and orgasm

All this lends a certain theoretical solidity to the favourite technique of every beginner in Chaos Magic. Why does masturbating with a sigil work so well?

For Frater U.D. in "Secrets of Western Sex-Magick""Eroto-Comatose Lucidity" of which Crowley speaks is a formula that can be easily understood through its three components, which are perceived in order in this term. First sexual arousal, after which coma is induced, after which comes lucidity.

The orgasm is "the moment when the barrier between the conscious and the unconscious is torn apart", which allows that subsequent access to a deeper level of the psyche.

Therefore, he also relates all this to the use of masturbation to launch sigils, such that orgasm becomes a temporary opening of the barrier that separates us from the unconscious, thus facilitating the introduction of symbols that will then manifest themselves back in the real.

Practical Considerations: Clearing the Veils

Magickal tradition has often seen the human being as composed of several "bodies". The taxonomy of bodies depends on the tradition consulted, and often the number of bodies is excessive and would seem more suited to the theoretical occultist than to practical work.

For the purpose of this article, it is enough for us to consider three "bodies" contemplated by the Thelemic tradition:

.- The physical body.
.- The astral body (ka).
.- The “briatic” body (khu).

Silencing the physical body allows us to perceive the astral. This is an essential goal of physical practices such as asana (the postures of hatha yoga) and pranayama (breathing exercises). When we accustom the body to forced postures and breathing, they will bother us less when we are relaxed. Thus, it will be easier to forget our physical body, and we will have an easier time experiencing the subtle perceptions of the astral.

Perceiving that which in the Book of the Law is called "Khu", the House of the Angel, involves the enormous effort of making the astral body "transparent", in an analogous sense to the way we make the physical body transparent in order to perceive the astral. The perception of the Khu is the opening of the second great Initiation, that much mythologised and bombastic thing we call the "Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel".

But transcending the astral is not easy. First of all, it is going to require a very deep equilibrium in the magician. This is symbolised by the union of the pentagram with the hexagram, where 5=6. The pentagram is the balanced magician, and is a precondition for what the hexagram, composed of the ascending triangle of aspiration and the descending triangle of divine Grace, seeks to achieve.

For balancing the pentagram, in addition to years of deep inner work, there is an old formula that has been working for many centuries, and that is detachment from the world. This is why the Book of Abramelin instructs the magician to withdraw for 18 months from the mundane.

In order to make transparent this astral body, which is of a profoundly sexual and emotional nature, there is a technique which consists in combining detachment from the world with absolute asceticism. But what we mean by this Sleep of Siloam is its very opposite; to bring the astral body to such an intensification that after reaching its climax it is all extinguished, leaving a calm lake through which we can see and unveil that which lies just one step beyond the astral.

Thus, the "Sleep of Siloam", intensification-visionary trance-opening, has increasingly been related to a sexual-dionysian technique. This also addresses the deeply sexual nature of the astral.

However, sexuality is not the only method of exhausting oneself in such a way as to open the doors, as well as imagination is a great ally of the magician. The method explained above from Crowley's Liber CDLI incorporates the exhausting play between sleep and wakefulness. The combination of various techniques can achieve a greater effect. Thus, anything that exhausts body and mind, particularly by intensifying the imagination, is worth mentioning. One such technique is the use of entheogens to reach the comatose state that is followed by the lucidity of Knowledge and Conversation, through the exhausting intensification of the astral that these substances facilitate.

What is valid is determined by your results!