Golden Dawn origins of Aleister Crowley’s Fool

by Aug 23, 20140 comments

The Fool is unnumbered, therefore it can appear anywhere in the sequence. Some decks put the Fool last, after the Universe, but most place it before the Magus, 1.

The Golden Dawn Cipher Manuscript is unambiguous on the subject:

First cometh the Atu numbered 0, the O of the Heavens = Negative. Then 1 = the O opened out into a right line = the Positive. These two numbers have corrupted Egyptian Titles: 1 to the 0, Mat – to the 1 Pagad. These are Maut = Mother Goddess and Pekht = Extension. Maut of all extended through the Universe, “and above the shoulders of that great Goddess is nature in her vastness exalted.”

Note the last Atu is called the Universe.

The first thing to note about this statement is the implicit Egyptian origin of the Tarot. From the Zero first comes the negative, (which could be a point or dot), and then the line extended, which is the Positive. This is the origin of Crowley’s famous equation 0=2. Certainly we have echoes of the Chinese Taoist system of Yin and Yang. The Cipher Document is clear that God is female, and a vulture in this form. We are also told that ‘Maut of all extended through the Universe’, which clearly indicates that the Zero includes everything. The balancing of opposites, a symbol of Justice, figures largely in Crowley’s Thelemic system, where the Adjustment (Justice) symbolizes the Book of the Law, and is strongly associated with the Fool.

There is nothing kabbalistic in this Cipher statement, but that did not stop the GD associating the Fool and the Tarot with the Tree of Life.

Zero is Nothing, and the O is AYN, 70, equated with Capricorn in the Sepher Yetsirah, however AYN means ‘Nothing, Negative’, and the Devil has never been considered as the first Atu.

All Golden Dawn books show the Fool on Tree of Life between Kether and Chokmah, and this is where the focus is. In the Golden Dawn system, however, the real interest is in the mechanics of the manifestation from AYN to Kether, which brings us to another point: Malkuth is the origin of Kether! The energy from Malkuth flows down to be received in Kether via the AYN, or Nothing. This simple observation renders absurd all those Path working exercises where students start from Malkuth and work upwards, believing they will probably never reach the Heights of the Supernals. Aleister Crowley’s Fool in the Book of Thoth is a commentary on the Cipher MS quoted above:

Golden Dawn Cipher MSBook of Thoth
First cometh the Atu numbered 0, the O of the Heavens = Negative.The really important feature of this card is that its number should be 0. It represents therefore the Negative above the Tree of Life, the source of all things.
Then 1 = the O opened out into a right line = the Positive.the initial and final balance of the opposites
These two numbers have corrupted Egyptian Titles: 1 to the 0, Mat – to the 1 Pagad.Variant: LE PAGAD. Origin unknown. Suggestions:(I) PChD terror (esp. Panic fear) a title of Geburah. Also a thigh: i.e. membrum virile. By Arabic analogy, PAChD, causer of terror: Value 93!! This footnote appears in the commentary on the Magus card
These are Maut = Mother Goddess and Pekht = Extension. Maut of all extended through the Universe, “and above the shoulders of that great Goddess is nature in her vastness exalted.”…one may suppose that Mat (this card being the key card of the whole pack) really stands for Maut, the vulture goddess, who is an earlier and more sublime modification of the idea of Nuith than Isis.
Note the last Atu is called the Universe.It is the equation of the Universe,
Part 5 So unto the Fool is given air, moveable and never permanent.The other legend is that the vulture was supposed to reproduce her species by the intervention of the wind; in other words, the element of air is considered as the father of all manifested existence.

Mat and Pagad

The rather contrived Egyptian titles may have other interpretations. Mat could be Maat, the Goddess of Justice, while the Geburah title, Fear, relates to Mars, and Peh, so we have the full spelling of Aleph – Aleph, Lamed, Peh, whose total is 111, which is a reflection of the 000 beyond the Veil. The Zero and One have obvious Freudian connotations, picked up in Crowley’s Footnote. Maat as Justice is balance or scales, mathematically the equals sign, =.

Crowley sums up the general meanings of the Major Arcana in a later chapter, beginning with the Fool and Magus:

Golden Dawn Cipher MSBook of Thoth
First cometh the Atu numbered 0, the O of the Heavens = Negative.KNOW NAUGHT!
Then 1 = the O opened out into a right line = the Positive.ALL WAYS ARE LAWFUL TO INNOCENCE.
My Comments
(The concept of Malkuth creating Kether via the AYN)But the essential of this card is that it represents an original, subtle, sudden impulse or impact, coming from a completely strange quarter. All such impulses are right, if rightly received; and the good or ill interpretation of the card depends entirely on the right attitude of the Querent.
I (The Magus card) The True Self is the meaning of the True Will: know Thyself through Thy Way. Calculate well the Formula of Thy Way.
(A poetic way of saying ‘ multiply, subtract, divide and add’: this is not possible with Nought, or One, unlike AYN, or 70)Create freely; absorb joyously; divide intently; consolidate completely.
The three capital Os indicate AYN, AYN SVP and AYN SVP AVRWork thou, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omni present, in and for Eternity.

The Magus can also be seen as operating beyond the Veil, but is the operator, the manipulator, the Man acting in the AYN, or Nothingness. The Magus manipulates consciousness through the four elemental weapons shewn on it.

Without an understanding of the concepts described above, the Golden Dawn Rituals are meaningless. Z1 is vital, for it introduces Thoth as Tho-oth. Each line describes the order of the Ritual:

Z1 The Enterer of the Threshold

The Speech of the Silence:
The Words against the Son of Night:
The Voice of Thoth before the Universe in the presence of the Eternal Gods:
The Formulas of Knowledge:
The Wisdom of Breath:
The Radix of Vibration:
The Shaking of the Invisible:
The Rolling Asunder of the Darkness:
The Becoming Visible of Matter:
The Piercing of the Coils of the Stooping Dragon:
The Breaking forth of the Light:
All these are in the Knowledge of Tho-oth.

At the Ending of the Night:
At the Limits of the Light:
Tho-oth stood before the Unborn Ones of Time!
Then was formulated the Universe:
Then came forth the Gods Thereof:
The Aeons of the Bornless Beyond:
Then was the Voice vibrated:
Then was the Name declared.
At the Threshold of the Entrance,
Between the Universe and the Infinite,
In the Sign of the Enterer, stood Tho-oth,
As before him were the Aeons proclaimed.
In Breath did he vibrate them:
In Symbols did he record them:
For betwixt the Light and the Darkness did he stand.

Neophyte Ceremony

The Neophyte Ceremony, the basis of all the Golden Dawn Rituals, has the 0° = 0°, which is radically different from all the other Grades. The two Zeros indicate the second level of the Veil, AYN SVP. It might be stretching things, but the difference between Thoth and Tho-oth is of course O!

Light in Extension

Tzimtzum is the concept of the Extension of Light in the Ayn, and introduced in the Bahir. Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-1572) said:

Before all things were created… the Supernal Light was simple, and it filled all existence. There was no empty space…

When His simple Will decided to create all universes… He constricted the Light to the sides… leaving a vacated space… This space was perfectly round…

After this constriction took place… there was a place in which all things could be created… He then drew a single straight thread… It was through that line that the Infinite Light was brought down below…

Another reference in the Zohar is the “Lamp of Darkness”

Note that in both cases, the Light is found in the Supernals. The “Lamp of Darkness” referred to in the Hermit.

This concept is an important aspect to the Golden Dawn Rituals, where it becomes Khabs Am Phekt, Light in Extension. We came across Phekt in the quotation from the Cipher document, and Phekt is extension. Khabs Am Phekt recreates the creation and extension of the Universe.

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