It's all right now,
in fact it's a gas,
It's all right,
Jumping Jack Flash is a gas gas gas
- Keith Richards favorite Stones song
Last summer a series of posts launched attempting to present what I know of Aleister Crowley's School in a down to earth fashion. Now we'll look at sex magick, a subject Crowley considered of paramount importance, one found in many of his writings. It seems most of his rituals from about 1910 on had a sex magick component to them. He considered it the most powerful method for practicing magick.
The story goes that Crowley became enlightened to the efficacy of sex magick when Theodore Reuss, head of the O.T.O. at the time visited Crowley around 1912 or 13 and told him that he'd exposed the Supreme Secret of the O.T.O. in the recently published Book of Lies. Crowley supposedly said that this wasn't possible, he didn't know this Supreme Secret whereupon Reuss showed him the chapter that revealed it. Crowley then writes in his autohagiography, "The entire symbolism, not only of freemasonry but of many other traditions, blazed upon my spiritual vision. I understood that I held in my hands the key to the future progress of humanity." He doesn't say which chapter Reuss showed him.
In Cosmic Trigger, Robert Anton Wilson states that Book of Lies chapter 69, The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs! contains the O.T.O. Supreme Secret because it suggests mutual oral sex as a form of meditation. Lon Milo Duquette nominated chapter 36 The Star Sapphire as the one with the Supreme Secret in The Magick of Aleister Crowley. He writes, "The Star Sapphire is written as if it could be a complex act of ceremonial lovemaking." Both chapters appear closely related. The commentary for ch.36 says: "This chapter gives the real and perfect Ritual of the Hexagram." Ch. 69 starts: "This is the Holy Hexagram." Both chapter numbers have a strong relation with the number 6 which figures as they both describe the Hexagram. 36 = 6 x 6 while 69 comprises a 6 and an inverted 6. 6 indicates a solar number and also the key number for Tiphareth, the central Sephiroth on the Tree of Life.
One can infer that the OTO's Supreme Secret has something to do with sex. I'll hazard a guess at this secret despite never having joined the OTO. It has to do with focusing the energies raised during lovemaking and directing them, through imagination and visualization, to a specific intention particularly at the moment of release and right after. However, this seems one of those "secrets" that can be communicated in a few minutes but take a lifetime to master. Crowley writes in The Confessions:
" I personally believe that if this secret, which is a scientific secret, were perfectly understood, as it is not even by me after more than twelve years' constant study and experiment, there would be nothing which the human imagination can conceive that could not be realized in practice.
... for at present, we are compelled to admit that the superstitious reverence which has encompassed it in past ages, and the complexity of conditions which modify its use, place us in much the same position as the electricians of a generation ago in respect of their science. We are assured of the immensity of the force at our disposal; we perceive the extent of the empire it offers us, but we do not thoroughly understand even our successes and are uncertain how to proceed in order to generate the energy most efficiently or to apply it most accurately to out purposes."
In actual fact the Book of Lies has a great deal of information on sex magick also known as sexual alchemy. Much of it appears veiled in qabala, symbolism and metaphor though it begins to get more obvious when knowing in what direction to look. Chapter 35, Venus of Milo starts a cycle of chapters related to working with sex magick, the other chapters of the cycle are given in the commentary.
Crowley calls this a scientific secret. That may seem an extravagant claim until we remember that one scientist, Wilhelm Reich, spent a great deal of time and experimentation investigating the uses of sexual energy which he called orgone, and which he considered a universal life force. His beliefs about the changes orgone energy could bring about seem as expansive as Crowley's beliefs regarding the power of sex magick. Former Crowley secretary and student Israel Regardie eventually became a Reichian therapist. He connects Reich's ideas about orgone with Crowley's sex magick researches in The Eye in the Triangle.
Reich designed a special box to concentrate and collect this force calling it an orgone accumulator, basically a faraday cage big enough to sit in. Faraday cages are enclosures designed to block external electromagnetic radiation. William Burroughs consistently used and advocated orgone accumulators managing to get one built for himself nearly every time he moved. A friend of mine told me he regularly used one but stopped. At the time my friend was a cigarette smoker, but whenever he came out of a session in the accumulator it felt like he had never smoked before. He enjoyed smoking, but accumulating orgone took that pleasure away. I have not as yet had the opportunity to try one. I have wondered what it would be like to build one around a floatation tank?
Crowley claims, a little theatrically in my opinion, to being unaware of the sexual mysticism in The Book of Lies and the importance of sexual energies in magick until Reuss pointed it out to him. He probably didn't know what Reuss meant by the Supreme Secret of the OTO, and maybe he did have a further realization at that moment, but significant instruction on sex magick can also be found in The Book of the Law which he received in 1904.
The Book of Wisdom or Folly, Crowley's epistle to his magickal son contains much further instruction and elaborations in these matters. A technique for focusing the energies on the intent of the operation by creating what he calls a 'Bud-Will' lives in the chapter On the Complete Formula. He ends this short sexual ritual/meditation saying: Now then do this continuously, for by Repetition cometh forth both Strength and Skill, and the Effect is cumulative, if thou allows no Time for it to dissipate itself. Crowley really likes using capital letters in this book!
Austin Osman Spare offers a similar, but different approach with his sigil magick and Alphabet of Desire. Very simply, you write a sentence or phrase describing your desire. Then take the first letter of each word and construct a sigil, an artistic collage/coherence of the letters any which way you want to put them, without repeating any letters. You can rotate it to see in what direction looks the best, looks the most alive. You are supposed to forget the original sentence, consciously forget the desire, and let it sink into the subconscious mind. You then want to charge the sigil by whatever arts and skills you possess. Many people use sex magick for this purpose. The sigil creates a material focal point.
Four sex magick rituals appeared in various issues of Crowley's Equinox Volume I which Regardie collected into section V of the compendium Gems from the Equinox. Nowhere in any of his writings is Crowley straight forward and direct with sex magick instruction. It's all versed in complex, sometimes obscure symbolism and what one could call code. Why, one might ask? Medieval and renaissance alchemists had good reason to code their sex magick workings - to avoid persecution and death from The Church. Early Roman Catholic image makers of some ilk created a fictional boogeyman they called the Devil which appeared to personify and externalize their fear of sexuality.
Crowley may have covered his tracks because the subject and practice can get very dangerous, fraught with possible peril and pitfall, walking a razor's edge of sensitivity and balance. In one tradition it goes by "tickling the dragon's tail." If you tickle the dragon too much and wake him up too fast it can feel extremely uncomfortable and overwhelming. It's also known as the awakening and rising of the kundalini. The unpleasant side effects of forced accelerated kundalini get recounted by Gopi Krishna in his book Kundalini, - sensations of fire, unbearable heat, bleak depression, extreme sensitivity to everything.
Crowley apparently had direct experience with followers misunderstanding his tantric teachings particularly in reference to the Agape Lodge that operated in Los Angeles around the end of his life. As recounted in The Unknown God by Martin Starr, Crowley basically fired the head of the Lodge, Wilfred Smith. Though I don't recall the specific reason he gave, he must have obviously thought that Smith wasn't doing a good job. It seems the Lodge may have turned into a bit of a love cult with Smith placing emphasis more on sexual conquest and endurance than on the postbiological activities, voyages, or magick it's meant to fuel.
Further evidence for this supposition might be found in the science fiction classic, Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. Heinlein had visited the Lodge, attending at least one party there, and was friends with Jack Parsons who took over the leadership of the Agape Lodge when Smith departed. Plausible rumor has it that Heinlein got the assignment to write a popular account of Crowley's teachings. I call it plausible because Stranger does read as an excellent presentation of Crowley's basic gist with the added benefit of only indirectly referring to him once with the mention of The Book of the Law thus avoiding the association of these liberating ideas with his sinister reputation. In Stranger, Heinlein seems to satirize, ridicule and skewer the whole love cult aspect of the new religion presented by the central protagonist Valentine Michael Smith. I suggest that this may have been a commentary on the Agape Lodge.
Robert Anton Wilson, Crowley interpreter extraordinaire, puts a significant amount of sex magick instruction (and Crowley) in his fiction. He appears to have given away one of the basic secrets for getting off the ground when he quotes Jesus from the gonstic Gospel of St. Thomas at the beginning of the 1988 edition of The Universe Next Door
Not until the male become female and the female becomes male shall ye enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
This seems an allegorical not literal instruction. Contemporary psychologists tell us that every male has a feminine side and vice versa so it may be a matter of changing the balance.
E.J. Gold shares a similar view in his book Alchemical Sex (p.35-36):
Most human beings in the sense of those falling under the category of organic male gender together with the corresponding automatic gender identification and vanities necessary for the maintenance of their gender identification, are notably lacking a sufficient poetic sense of wonder.
Their tribal preoccupations are primarily with hunting and killing - if not with a spear or bow and arrow or a chipped-flint knife - with a briefcase, pick and shovel, typewriter, or blunt instrument
.Only a very small, utterly unmeasurable in the statistical sense, percentage of men stay behind with the women to become a shaman, while the other men go off joyfully to pursue the hunt, or to raid a nearby village.
To become a real shaman one must strive to understand, and even to sense, from the women's view, the process of inner evocation.
The instruction of changing or relinquishing, even temporarily, gender identification seems symbolically all over The Book of Lies appearing immediately in chapter 1 with the formula of N.O.X.
Very simply, these letters can mean:
N = nun = Death (tarot)
O = ayin = Devil (tarot) = male sexual energy
X = the Cross which Crowley equates with the phallus in this chapter, but it can also mean The Star.
Of course the formula always goes death/rebirth, also mentioned in this chapter. Therein lies the magick. Not mentioned in this chapter - the space in between death and rebirth where the actual reprogramming or magick occurs which Tibetan Buddhists call the Bardo.
I found a different formulation of the same quote from the Gospel of St. Thomas that may prove helpful:
Jesus said to them, "When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, then you will enter [the kingdom]
The Book of the Law has excellent general guidlines for sex magick. Among my favorites:
II:70: There is help & hope in other spells. Wisdom says: be strong! Then canst thou bear more joy. Be not animal; refine thy rapture! If thou drink, drink by the eight and ninety rules of art: if thou love, exceed by delicacy; and if thou do aught joyous, let there be subtlety therein!
Aleister Crowley's Thoth tarot deck contains quite a bit of sexual alchemical imagery. See Lon Milo Duquette's excellent Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot for insight along those lines along with Crowley's own explanation of the tarot in his Book of Thoth. Reading those two books back to back sheds much light on the alchemical, astrological and the rest of the symbolism in the cards.
Many of the trump cards seem to describe processes as well as techniques. One card in particular, The Sun, seems almost a photographic snapshot of an energetic process. The two genderless cherubs joined as one in joyous dance and posture could easily represent what John Lilly calls the Dyadic Cyclone - a working couple in motion - in full bloom, with the rays of the sun symbolizing the energy they release. This energy appears palpable and sensible to the participants. A visual display of the line: Every man and every woman is a star.
An audio equivalent of this picture can be found in the album Day of Radiance produced by Brian Eno featuring Laraaji on a heavily treated and multiply overlaid hammer dulcimer. An experiment I tried in the early 80's when Walkmans first came on the scene was to walk around my hometown, Calgary, Alberta, playing Day of Radiance while sensing/feeling/visualizing this card and seeing what effect, if any, it had on other people. It sure made me feel high.
The name Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of qabalist James Joyce's Ulysses, could indicate a literary allusion to this card, Leo being the lion and all.
Christopher Hyatt (his magickal name), another progeny of Crowley's, wrote an excellently practical, straight-forward, easy to understand introduction to sex magick called Secrets of Western Tantra that seems a safe and gentle approach to a practice that will eventually blow your mind. Hyatt combines very simple breathing techniques with Reichian muscular relaxation techniques to prepare the bodies for the stronger and more intense energies they will experience later on. This can be a good place to start. Strengthening attention also seems a requirement. The space changes will speed up as the body gets left behind requiring a greater than normal level of attention to maintain focus.
It should be said that the spiritual energy we talk about raising - the orgone, baraka, shakti, the force etc. whatever you wish to call it can get raised through many other, non-sexual methods. Reich made a lot of experiments using orgone without sex including affecting weather patterns. We all know that reading a good poem or listening to a special piece of music can suddenly open tracks into an expansive mood or set the soul on fire.