Liber Incarnadine & the Grail 156
The Walcot St Mortuary Chapel in Bath was the hauntingly atmospheric venue for this talk which was delivered on June 24th 2017 as part of the ‘Rust, Blood and Bone’ event and exhibition, curated by Charlotte Rodgers. This transcript of the talk and lecture notes includes sections that were omitted due to lack of time.
The ‘Rust, Blood and Bone’ Exhibition is focused upon themes of alchemy and magical transmutation of organic/non-organic substances through the artistic process. These are subjects that I identify with strongly in my own work. Today, I’ll be sharing some background and will give a short performance of one of my artworks, entitled ‘Liber Incarnadine’. Liber Incarnadine is an online, multimedia, literary project that is also concerned with the transformative potency of alchemical forces. Specifically, the properties of ‘coagula’, maternity and Eros, as expressed through the embodied magic of Babalon and the poetic, erotic imagination. I would like to thank Charlotte Rodgers for a thought provoking conversation some years ago, which prompted the realization that very little has been spoken on the maternal aspects of 156. This challenged me to give some personal perspectives to supplement the more abstract treatment of this subject in my work in previous years and discuss my own experience of physical procreation and the esoteric aspects of female fertility.
For over thirty years, the core of my work has centered on the magical intelligence known as Babalon. She is a goddess of magical sexuality, most associated with Thelema, the magical system created by Aleister Crowley. Babalon has been a hugely motivational and inspirational influence in my life and works. She represents not only a means to explore aspects of the erotic, sacred feminine, but is also a force that I feel is stirring into manifestation within humanity, with huge implications for our collective future. Babalon is a Venusian intelligence, with myriad aspects. She has many universal qualities, but in my practice, she is specifically understood as an erotic, primal intelligence that was crystallized within the work of Edward Kelley and John Dee during the 16th century and later through the work of Aleister Crowley. All of these individuals were involved in pursuing various types of alchemical knowledge. I have found in practice, that her magic has many aspects that are alchemical in nature.
The word ‘Babalon’ as spelled within the ‘Angelical’ or so-called Enochian language channeled by Dee and Kelley, adds up to the number 156 using Hebrew gematria. Thus, this number is often used to describe her current and differentiates her from the biblical ‘Babylon’. Within my practice, I have found that the 156 version of the word BABALON is a magical, alchemical formula in itself. A word that represents a sex-magical knowledge system and aspects of an initiatic, feminine current of magic (introduced in the essay featured in The Three Hands Press Anthology- A ROSE VEILED IN BLACK). Her story is long and complex, but the many mysteries of Babalon can be resolved by penetrating the deeper mysteries of her cup. As shown and raised aloft in the famous ‘LUST’ card, beautifully rendered by Lady Frieda Harris. The transformative alchemy and unifying potency of Babalon’s erotic force is most beautifully condensed in this symbol, which echoes both the Cup that contains the ‘filth’ of prostitution brandished by the Biblical Babylon and the ‘Holy GRAAL’, the sacred vessel of Crowley’s Babalon, as described in the text of LIBER CHETH. However, the cup of Babalon contains much potential in terms of a cohesive epistemology of the erotic, divine, feminine that has yet to be fully acknowledged.
The GRAIL 156
Crowley makes it clear in his definitive text on the nature of Babalon-LIBER Cheth, that the cup of Babalon contains the ALL. It is the repository of a uniting force that melds every physical substance, impulse, and thought. A sacred vessel, in which ones personal essence is fused with the universal life. Crowley opens the document with the statement, ‘This is the secret of the Holy Graal’. Yet, his formulas did not reveal the whole of its mystery in terms of the role of women and their magical relationship to the cup. The erotic force in alchemy has not been thoroughly integrated within physical practices in the Western Magical Traditions and has lacked the inherent sophisticated magical technologies that are found in Tantric and Taoist esoteric traditions for example. However, this began to change during the 19th Century Occult Revival, when embodied sexual alchemy began to emerge through magical orders such as Paschal Beverley Randolph’s – Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor and the OTO. Although, these developments often resulted from hybrid forms of practice that borrowed from Occidental traditions and Western alchemical symbolism. Within the Western Magical Tradition, the cup, as a feminine symbol, typically possesses a wholly passive, lunar receptivity, an empty vessel waiting to be filled. However, The Cup of Babalon shifts many such semantic and metaphysical distortions and affirms the cup as an active vehicle of transformation. It contains a dynamic, energetically charged space that encompasses the whole gamut of destruction and creation as expressed in the alchemical formula of SOLVE and COAGULA.
The image above represents a personal, Post-Crowleyan approach to the magic of the cup, denoted by the term ‘Grail 156’. A concept which encompasses every nuance of the current and also carries the notion of specific alchemical substances that are generated within its form. Babalon is a force that is expressed through embodiment practices, and so the Grail is represented by the body of the priestess and centered in the womb as the source of her primary emanations. These emanations are both physical, etheric and spiritual and can be experienced directly via initiation from a priestess or through individual magical practices. The current is in a formative state and the magic of the 156 current is open to all. Although there are initiatic imperatives given to the priestess, it is vital that practices which complement the female path are developed. Creating a wholly inclusive and balanced framework for all devotees of the 156.
In previous talks, I’ve largely focused on the ‘solve’ aspects of Babalon’s magic and how the many societal forces have hindered the full expression of her current. Today, I want to invoke the ‘coagula’ aspect and share some thoughts on possibilities that could exist if the 156 current develops its potential to unite many previously suppressed aspects of sexuality and consciousness in humanity. In her ‘solve’ mode, Babalon is a liberating force that is harnessed to break down many forms of repression that have distorted the magical expression of EROS, and this aspect is vital to her current. However, I would argue that the coagula aspect is equally important. Perhaps this aspect is perceived as rather self-explanatory or unchallenging, and consequentially been given less attention? Whatever the reason, the concept of ‘unity’ within the 156 current should not be dismissed as any kind of anodyne, fluffy, non-specific cliché. Rather, the forces of coagula emerge within the 156 as a deeply radical, highly technical formulation of a ‘joined up’ female, sexual magic that arguably has not really had the possibility to exist upon the planet until now. As will be seen in the following section, the concept of unity is an exalted, magical formula, within Babalon’s magic, expressed by Crowley as the multiplication of 12 x 13. This formula expresses many mysteries of the alchemical great work. My understanding of the Magnum Opus of 156, is that it cannot move forward collectively until the forces of coagula are firstly applied to female sex-magic. This emphasis upon the necessity of exploring and expressing the magical and sexual specificity of female, lived body is not at all in conflict with utopian impulses towards wider esoteric shifts, which will produce new expressions of human sexuality overall. In essence, I don’t feel that an overall progression is really possible or the ‘Pure Unity’ can be achieved until the divine feminine is fully integrated and balanced within the magical deep mind of humanity.
‘For as the Mother she is 3 by 52, and as the harlot she is 6 by 26; but she is also 12 by 13, and that is the pure unity’. A. Crowley.
So with this in mind, I would like to focus on the role of the ‘Mother’ within the female, magical occult body of 156. During Crowley’s sojourn in the second Enochian aethyr – ‘Arn’, he received the formulas above, all of which generate the number 156. This section of his accounts also contains other formulations of 156, and in his wider body of work, he uses a septenary equation that is placed in the centre of the Thelemic, ‘Star of Babalon’ glyph. Suffice to say, all of his formulas shed light upon the nature of the 156 current, but the archetype and magic of the ‘Mother’ have not been fully clarified in contemporary sex-magical movements concerned with Babalon. The Mother often has a distorted relationship with the other formulations such as the ‘Harlot’. Surely, a truly cohesive magical system can only be fully achieved by clarifying the deeper magical significance of all of the formulas and how they work together. Thus, redefining the current with a magical epistemology that counters historical movements which have served to dismember and sabotage the divine feminine and the erotic impulse at source. It’s beyond the scope of this short talk to discuss all of the intricacies of these formulas, and so today I want to focus primarily on the Mother and the relationship of this archetype to the Harlot and their co-dependence within the ‘Great unity’.
The formula 3 x 52, is of great significance and mystery. The number three is associated with the Kabbalistic Sephiroth of Binah, the great womb of the cosmic mother. It is under Saturnian rulership and presides over the forces of time, birth, and death, womb and tomb, gestation, incubation, and manifestation. Binah is also the source of sex-magical arcana that correspond with these influences. The number 52 represents the passage of time as the weeks of the solar year. The formula is emblematic of the fertilizing solar force as incubated and manifest through the womb of the Goddess. I personally I find very Strange that although Babalon is acknowledged and revered as both the Harlot and Mother, the powers of fertility and maternity inherent within the latter are often ignored. Although physical reproduction is purely a matter of choice, the magical aspects of gestation and birthing are seldom explored in esoteric sex-magical systems. Even though many important aspects of these powers are harnessed in operations not involved with physical reproduction. There is also a rather pervasive myth within contemporary occultism which promotes the idea that the role of the Babalon priestess is antithetical to physical reproduction. There is a lot of general esoteric material in circulation which has contributed to this meme, creating an impression that childbirth is incompatible with the path of sex-magic and that dedicated priestesses should remain barren and thus be free to create ‘magical children’. So, although the fertile, great mother is revered within neo-paganism, Wicca and other variations of modern Goddess movements. In terms of the role of the Scarlet Woman, the impression is often given that pregnancy and childbirth can be a form of magical suicide that drains women of their power and sexual magnetism, transforming them into uninspiring creatures, relegated to a life of bovine passivity and domesticity. This gives the impression that women can only be one or the other, mother or whore.
These perceptions seem to arise from a rather limited understanding of female sex-magic which sets the Harlot and Mother in conflict as dueling archetypes. In previous eras, the Sacred Whore, a shadowy sublimation of female sexuality derived from Pagan Goddess cults was regarded with abhorrence and the archetype of Mother and Virgin was idealized within Western Patriarchal culture. However, in a rather ironic reversal, it’s often the case that the Whore is given superior status and the Mother ignored or devalued by followers of Babalon and Thelema in contemporary culture. Which has arguably resulted in a marginalization of many aspects of the powers of fertility, negating their inherent magical potency? There seems to be little awareness that these mysteries form an integral part of sex-magic of 156. In my practice, the 156 is defined as a system that for female practitioners, melds the blood mysteries of menstruation with the esoteric potencies of physical fertility, cycles of time, magical incubation and birthing. The realities of the sex-magical border spaces within the 156 current are complex, and prejudice against the fertile aspects of the reproductive cycle seems to be yet another device among many that is used to create conflict within women in terms of their relationship with their bodies. This creates blind spots in terms of formulating the sophisticated knowledge system that the 156 demands. Obviously, immense repositories of power could be unleashed if women were not so divided! It is in this concept of a ‘joined-up’ sex-magical paradigm, that I believe the truly transgressive and revolutionary force lies within the Babalon current.
I feel I should add some personal perspectives here. My attitude over the years concerning praxis of the 156, has always been to trust my intuition. In this case, there was something about the terrifying propaganda against procreation that that just didn’t ring true, so I simply ignored it. Since making a formal dedication of my life to Babalon at the age of twenty, I have offered every single menstruation as well as many other physical secretions as a locus of magical mana to her cup, and continue to do so decades later. This unbroken stream of offerings was punctuated with a singular phase of magical activity, during which I brought a twin pregnancy to full term, resulting in the birth of my daughters. The events surrounding the conception of my children was wholly integral with my magical practice at the time and was not in any conflict with my overall intentions and aspirations to attain to the priestesshood. The experience of pregnancy was unutterably magical and the process of gestation was equally enriching as giving birth, and it hugely enhanced my understanding of the Binah aspects of Babalon, subtle anatomy and energetic, non-verbal communication. The shifting boundaries of consciousness as experienced between the mother and child during pregnancy is a form of phenomenological gnosis that is extremely precious. I have personally learned a great deal on a magical level from physical procreation and it has deeply informed my ongoing practice.
Many of the sex-magical powers of women are not immediately visible and are embedded within the subtle twists and turns of a complex fluid system of multiplicious emanations. Although menstruation represents the ‘scarlet banner’, a highly visible manifestation of the uterine mana, its power is drawn from each aspect of an interrelated system. As the ‘Scarlet Woman’, she can symbolize the dedication of ones sexuality to the harlot aspect of 156 and magical rather than physical reproduction, but this doesn’t mean that the ‘maternal’ aspects’ of sexual energies should be devalued or ignored. These powers are at the core of Babalon as Binah, the Great Mother. I’ve found that the ‘Red’ aspect of Babalon is not simply a signifier of menstrual blood, but symbolizes an initiatic attainment, a fully activated occult body. The apocalyptic potency of Babalon as a force for change that inspires many, cannot be realized without embracing her role as creatrix as well as Harlot. By removing the conflict between the many powers of female magical sexuality, the broader relevance of the current can be more clearly articulated.
By reintegrating the magical aspects of the maternal current within 156, the role of Harlot can also then be re-evaluated, and from this, the wider unifying remit of the current may be realized. This will release both of these aspects from the many reductive attributions that presently limits the current. Through this process, the 156 can be clarified as a current that promotes the formulas of the female magus as an initiator of a Magnum Opus which generates and births new forms of sexuality, incorporating embodiment practices within a wider pansexual framework. This results in a sex-magical system that fosters fluidity, interrelationship and an ecstatic engagement with all aspects of sentience that is inherently alchemical in nature. If one extends the exploration of 156 beyond traditional polarity/heterosexual practices that have largely defined it thus far, one may relocate boundaries regarding sexual magic within a much wider, post-human arena. Within the practices of 156, the multiplicity of life forms is perceived as being in multidimensional copulation with each other, a tapestry of omnisexual engagement that has both physical and psychic dimensions. Contemporary Philosopher Timothy Morton affirms the symbiotic nature of all life forms both organic and non-organic, affirming that ‘At the DNA level, the biosphere is permeable and boundary-less:’ and further that ‘life-forms constitute a mesh, a nontotalizable, open-ended concatenation of interrelations that blur and confound boundaries at practically any level: between species, between the living and the nonliving,’ It is in the esoteric blurring of these borders between organic and non-organic, psychic and corporeal and the many streams of gnosis within magical sexuality that the ‘True Unity’ of an alchemical, magical Eros is embodied via the 156 current, grounded in the ‘lived body’ and a fluid psychic omnisexual space which can be accessed by all.
BABALON AS ‘CHORA’
“Seven are the Sorrows, Seven are the Joys, Seven are the Jewels, Seven are the Stars, Seven are the Swords, Seven are the Serpents, Seven are the Nectars. TO BIRTH! To BIRTH! To BIRTH! (Amodali-1990)
So in practice, as well as exploring the physical mysteries of Babalon, it has been important to explore the 156 as a psychic space, one that unites the maternal mysteries, with the Harlot and her many other aspects. A vital component of the alchemical process that weaves through all aspects of the 156 praxis, is a highly charged and dynamic expression of motion, which can be understood both as a bio-energetic force present in nature and the erotic undulations of the serpent – ‘Teth’, or the ‘Kundalini’ of the Tantra’s. Since the 1980’s, I have been developing a more specific Kinetic theory of the divine feminine, which relates directly to my practice with Babalon and a process concerned with mapping out what is a very specific model of occult, subtle anatomy of the body 156. This has many theoretical and practical aspects, but in relation to the cup, this magical, kinetic force provides the activating agent, the energetic factor that creates the dynamic, transformative principle in sex-magical formulas. Here the cup as the Graal or womb of the priestess takes on reality as the fount of manifestation, not only of physical children but as a source of magical manifestation that works on both a psychic and physical dimension. A key part of the kinetic theory is its grounding in the physical body and specifically in the female body. The uterus represents the source and vessel that generates and transforms the erotic-kinetic energy of 156. The maternal aspects of gestation, incubation, and birth represent inseparable parts of this integrated system, at the core of these female sex-magic 156.
Interesting parallels can also be drawn between the dynamic, uterine nexus of 156 and Plato’s concept of the ‘Chora’ ( or ‘Khora’), found in his cosmogonic thesis ‘Timeus’. In the text, Plato muses upon the nature of reality and describes elemental life as emanating from a mysterious maternal, void space. For Plato “it is the receptacle, and in a manner the nurse, of all generation”. He describes how the Chora holds the elements inside an inherently unstable primal space which “was never in any part in a state of equipoise, but swaying unevenly hither and thither, was shaken by them [fire and water and earth and air] and by its motion shook them, and the elements when moved were separated and carried continually some one way, some another. Plato stresses the importance of the kinetic aspect of the Chora, and vivid allusions can be drawn with the Babalon fire within the womb in his description of the intermingling of the elements within this creative receptacle. The concept of the ‘Chora’ space has also had a profound influence upon contemporary feminist philosopher Julia Kristeva who reinterpreted the concept of the Chora in a linguistic and psychoanalytical context. She has reinterpreted the Chora as a pre-linguistic space, which has potential to generate dynamic, rhythmic, poetic forms. This brings us to The Liber Incarnadine project, which also affirms the dynamic motion and poetic potency of the cup, womb or Chora and one of its roles as the receptacle and instrument of a linguistic stream of magical interaction that permeates the 156 current.
THE ‘LIBER INCARNADINE’ PROJECT
Silberer poignantly states “The word is more, and for the cabablists for example, it is nothing less, than the image of which the human soul is created”.
The online installation ‘Liber Incarnadine’ (Incarnadine is a shade of red defined as ‘flesh coloured’) was launched in 2010, it is a virtual representation of the GRAIL of BABALON as an interactive form of the Chora space, a matrix that nurtures erotic-linguistic copulation. It is a continuation of the symbolism of the Graal and is designed to be an alchemical vessel which creates a reflective, creative and cathartic space to encourage exploration of the spiritual aspects of sexuality. The project was inspired by the writings of Swedenborg, Paschal Beverley Randolph and the work of alchemists such as Ripley, Vaughan, and Flamel. It creates a virtual realm suffused with the erotic mystique of angelic sexuality, in which the erotic imagination is free to soar and mingle with other disembodied beings, widening the boundaries of sexual expression. Merging two sacred aspects of our magical intelligence, our ‘word’ and our creative life force.
The project had several functions in that it is intended to be an experimental form of interaction with the 156 current which is accessible to all. It is also a literary experiment which exemplifies many of the dynamic, poetic, linguistic qualities of the Chora space as defined by Kristeva. In addition, it is a creative device to be used in live ritual performances. The ‘Book of Flesh’ is designed to be an ongoing, infinite prayer to Babalon, created by anonymous online contributors. The ‘Prayer’ is held at the ‘Universus’ section of the site. As each contribution is added, it is punctuated by an asterisk to acknowledge the starry individuality of each person who submitted the text, but overall, it is constructed as a continuous document. The dynamic ‘Chora’ aspect of the project is represented by the Grail matrix /animation section of the site, which displays the most recent submissions inside a whirling, rotating circle, made from images of copulating bodies. The matrix was devised as a means to sample the text during performances. There are a variety of techniques that can be used, one may recite or intone the current entries displayed in the matrix, or a unique ‘prayer’ or liturgy may be created by sampling text at random from the body of the entire collection of entries and ‘re-feed’ it into the Graal for a further operation. Submissions may also be entered into the matrix during performances and incorporated into the liturgy. In this way, the cup, womb, or Chora is open to penetration to be fertilized with erotic textual forms by all, in a wholly inclusive manner. Creating a psychic space of utmost fluidity, a genderless space of erotic engagement.
Arguably, the erotic impulse and its manifestation through the word has been limited in its expression and there is much potential for deeper artistic and spiritual elevation of Eros through writing, as an exalted, creative endeavor. As Sadie Plant observed, “the body is not ‘the obstacle that separates thought from itself’ that which it has to overcome to reach thinking. It is on the contrary that which it plunges into or must plunge into, in order to reach the unthought, that is life’’. The process of melding ones most intimate perceptions of erotic experience and the word requires a fearless approach. As exemplified by the wonderful, lascivious, anonymous, virtual angels who are making Liber Incarnadine into an extraordinary document! The prayer is showing potential as a fascinating study of what human sexuality is and can become. Through these offerings, made by individuals prepared to cast off the limitations placed upon this holy prima materia, the L.I. project has become a moving dedication to Our Lady Babalon, by which her devotees are willingly dissolved in her linguistic ‘grail’ to become a collective medicine, a holy coagulation of spirit.
The first performance of Liber Incarnadine took place in 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. As part of a public, ritual performance, I sang, intoned, and chanted the text submissions, as the live animation was projected behind me. Unfortunately, due to a lengthy period of ill health, I had to suspend live performances after that. It’s not possible to give a full ritual performance today, but I’m very pleased to restart the process of channeling some of the discarnate angelic voices of the many anonymous contributors to the project since then, with a short reading. I have sampled random selections of the document (plus I have added a couple of my own contributions) and will recite them as a whole piece. A screen grab of the current stream of online submissions can be seen above. I have sampled extracts and re-fed them back into the Matrix for today’s recitation. (Permission to use the anonymous extracts as part of my ongoing performances was given by the individuals who submitted the text via the portal on the Liber Incarnadine Website).