by J. Edward Cornelius
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law – AL I:40
According to Aleister Crowley each initiatory ritual in O.T.O. activates a specific Qabalistic sphere on the Tree of Life. The Minerval ritual works out of Chokmah (חכמה). Since this is where we prepare for our new incarnation as Fixed Stars it is only natural to make the analogy between this belief and what is occurring during initiation. In this light we must examine one of the first things which Saladin asks the candidate or why are they “travelling in the land of Egypt to Heliopolis, the City of the Sun.” In a sense, failure to understand this simple statement and then to ignore heading toward this destination upon assuming Minerval degree is admitting one’s failure to achieve the Laws of “Do what thou wilt” which have been set into motion. It is important to know that Heliopolis is not mentioned in any future initiations but rather it is left in the hands of the captive Minerval who, once untied and set free, has been given ‘Free Will’ to decide whether or not to continue on their quest toward this city, or succumb to earthly Wants. This decision should not be taken lightly for Chokmah, ruled by Uranus, is also the realm of King Amfortas and Klingsor in the Grail mythos; both of whom desire to wield the Holy Lance. The questions which all Minervals should be pondering are – “What is Heliopolis, why was I heading there, how do I reach it and if I don’t reach it, what does this imply?”
Let us examine a few historical facts about this city. It was during the Greek occupation around 334 BC that Alexander the Great changed the name of two ancient cities to Heliopolis (Ήλιούπολις) which, in both cases, means the City of the Sun (helios, Greek for sun, and polis, Greek for city). The first Heliopolis to consider is an Egyptian city known as Annu. It was the center for the worship of the Sun God. According to The Holy Bible the Hebrews called this city ON (Genesis xli, 45, 50 and xlvi, 20) which is also the Minerval Word. This city was founded on the right bank of the Nile around 2443 BC by Pharaoh Usertsen the Ist. The original Egyptian name of this ancient city was Iunu, which means the Place of Pillars. This city was said to be the location of the “Primeval Mound” which emerged from the waters of Nu and from which Atum, the first god, having created himself, then created the World. It was believed that this mound acts as a doorway in which all Souls are birthed onto Earth, and by which they leave upon death. In the central Solar Temple at Heliopolis stood the actual Benben stone (Primeval Mound), which was located so that the first rays of the sun fell upon it. In the Pyramid text it speaks of Atum as having risen as a bird, “as the benben, in the Mansion of the Benu in Heliopolis.” The name Atum is believed to have been derived from the Egyptian word ‘tem’ which means to complete or finish; hence his connection to the setting sun. He is like the third Greek fate Atropos who is also linked to mortality because everything that is inevitably born must follow the course of the Sun through birth, life and inevitably death which will then allow our Soul to return its watery source. In fact, although some claim that Heliopolis was the principle seat for the sun worship of Ra, its primary god was Re-Tum, Atum-Re, or Toum (Tum) – “the evening sun.”
The Benu bird has also been identified as the phoenix (Φοίνιξ) or Firebird; a symbol of rebirth, immortality, and renewal. In regard to the phoenix one of the Early Church Fathers, Pope Clement I (First Century AD), relates the following in chapter 25 of the First Epistle of Clement – “Let us consider that wonderful sign [of the resurrection] which takes place in Eastern lands, that is, in Arabia and the countries round about. There is a certain bird which is called a phoenix. This is the only one of its kind, and lives five hundred years. And when the time of its dissolution draws near that it must die, it builds itself a nest of frankincense, and myrrh, and other spices, into which, when the time is fulfilled, it enters and dies. But as the flesh decays a certain kind of worm is produced, which, being nourished by the juices of the dead bird, brings forth feathers. Then, when it has acquired strength, it takes up that nest in which are the bones of its parent, and bearing these it passes from the land of Arabia into Egypt, to the city called Heliopolis. And, in open day, flying in the sight of all men, it places them on the altar of the sun, and having done this, hastens back to its former abode. The priests then inspect the registers of the dates, and find that it has returned exactly as the five hundredth year was completed.” Legend has it that every morning at dawn the Greek sun-god Helios stops his chariot (the sun) by the Sacred Well where the phoenix bathes, in order to listen to its song.
Also of importance to consider is that the Phoenix requires a twig to kindle the fire in order for it to be burned up into ashes. Consider chapter 62 from The Book of Lies:
The Phoenix hath a Bell for Sound; Fire for Sight; a
Knife for Touch; two cakes, one for taste, the other
He standeth before the Altar of the Universe at
Sunset, when Earth-life fades.
He summons the Universe, and crowns it with
MAGICK Light to replace the sun of natural light.
He prays unto, and give homage to, Ra-Hoor-Khuit;
to Him he then sacrifices.
The first cake, burnt, illustrates the profit drawn
from the scheme of incarnation.
The second, mixt with his life’s blood and eaten,
illustrates the use of the lower life to feed the
He then takes the Oath and becomes free –
unconditioned – the Absolute.
Burning up in the Flame of his Prayer, and born
again – the Phoenix!
Crowley gives virtually no Commentary to the Twig except noting that it, in itself, is “a commentary on Chapter 44.” This Chapter is titled ‘The Mass of the Phoenix.” Crowley further adds – “The word ‘Phoenix’ may be taken as including the idea of ‘Pelican’, the bird, which is fabled to feed its young from the blood of its own breast. Yet the two ideas, though cognate, are not identical, and ‘Phoenix’ is the more accurate symbol.” The Pelican is connected symbolically with the Fifth Degree of O.T.O. which occurs in Tiphereth (Sun) on the Tree of Life.
The second Heliopolis was in Lebanon. It was originally known as Baalbek (بعلبك). As to which Crowley refers in the Minerval ritual has always been up for debate but more likely than not his logic combined a little of both qualities into the ritual, although in truth the actual Minerval ritual is based loosely upon what might have occurred in the Lebanese city rather than the Egyptian. Especially considering that the Greek philosopher Strabo (64/63BC-24AD) wrote that by the 1st century BC he had found the temples of Heliopolis in Egypt all but deserted, and the town itself almost uninhabited, except for a small handful of priests. Shortly afterwards, during the Roman occupation, many of the more infamous stones and obelisks were taken back to Rome and when Cairo, which was only six miles to the southwest, started to gain in prominence the ruins were utterly ransacked for building materials. Almost a century later or by the time of the earliest Crusades, there was hardly a reason for the Knights to venture to this city although in all fairness Crusaders did invade the area between the second and third Crusade but Heliopolis itself was considered of little importance as a specific destination. However, Saladin was sent to Egypt in 1163 by Muslim rulers in Syria to defend this northern territory against further threats of invasion. Inevitably, with the death of Muslim rulers in Egypt, Saladin took over total control of the entire area. Logically there could have been Knights that were captured by Saladin near Cairo but in the following years, Saladin also led many forays against the Crusaders outside of Egypt which brings us to the second Heliopolis in Lebanon.
We know that Alexander the Great not only changed the name of Baalbek to Heliopolis but he also constructed in this city a major Temple to Jupiter along with the worship of three lesser Gods known as Bacchus, Venus and Bal (Sun). On that note, in 1912 Crowley wrote Energized Enthusiasm, A Note on Theurgy (Liber DCCCXI-811) which is one of his earliest O.T.O. magickal papers. In this paper he adheres to the importance of worshipping Bacchus (Jupiter-Dionysus), Aphrodite (Venus) and Apollo (Sun); these being what he termed the principles of wine, women and song required in IX practices. It states in Energized Enthusiasm – “The Greeks say that there are three methods of discharging the Lyden Jar of Genius. These three methods they assign to three Gods” and “These three Gods are Dionysus, Apollo, Aphrodite. In English: wine, woman and song.”
R Wine Sun Apollo Substance ABRA
D Woman Venus Aphrodite Ecstasy HAD
B Song Mercury Dionysus Instrument ABRA
Crowley gives further insight into the nature of RDB in Liber Aleph: The Book of Wisdom or Folly in the chapter titled “De Hac Formula Considerationes Kabbalisicae.” He states that “HAD is the Triangle erect upon twin Squares.” This is the third and central part of the formula of ABRA-HAD-ABRA. HAD is the “Metaphysical Ecstasy” or “the Holy Ghost, whose Name is HRILIU.” Crowley attributes both ABRAs to the Sun and Mercury, and HRILIU to Venus. Thus we have the Father, Son and Holy Ghost being the three sacred letters R, B and D (Resh-Sun, Beth-Mercury and Daleth-Venus). It is important to realize that these three letters spell out the “Word” (רבד) in Hebrew but this is not a Word in the sense of anything mundane – it is the sacred Word (Nous) made flesh and only Understood in its entirety by a IX and taught initially to the Minerval in the formula of ON.
Furthermore, consider what Crowley wrote in The Heart of the Master regarding the path of The Chariot – “The issue of the Vulture, Two-in-One, conveyed; this is the Chariot of Power. T R I N C: The last oracle!” To understand, consider the last oracle or paragraph in Liber Aleph which reads – “Now at the End of all do I come to the Being of Thee, beyond By-coming, and I cry aloud My Word, as it was given unto Man by thine Uncle Alcofribas Nasier, the Oracle of the Bottle of BACBUC, and this Word is TRINC.” If one is wondering who Uncle Alcofribas Nasier is, it’s merely an anagram of Francois Rabelais (1494–1553) the author of Gargantua and Pantagruel which is a story about two giants; a father named Gargantua, and his son, Pantagruel. As for the ‘Word’, this is also the utterance of a Magus whose Magickal Degree is centered in Chokmah. In chapter 81 of Crowley’s Confessions, he writes – “The Magus is thus, of course, not a person in any ordinary sense; he represents a certain nature or idea. To put it otherwise, we may say, the Magus is a word. He is the Logos of the Aeon which he brings to pass.” At the end of this last line is a footnote which reads – “Rabelais: the final secret is in the bottle inscribed TRINC.” In Rabelais’ book there is an Abbey of Thélème built by Gargantua which pokes fun at the monastic institutions. This abbey not only has a swimming pool but maid service and with only one rule – “Do what thou wilt.” Pantagruel’s sidekick is Panurge; a name taken from the ancient Greek language Πανοῦργος (Panoûrgos), meaning “He who knows makes everything.” In the book these two undertake a journey in order for Panurge to consult the Oracle of the Holy Bottle. It appears Panurge is consumed with worry as to whether or not he should marry or, more precisely, whether, once married, is he to be cuckolded which refers to a man straddled with an unfaithful wife. Inevitably they reach the door to the Temple of the Holy Bottle above which is inscribed, “In Vino Veritas.” This is a Latin phrase that translates “in wine [there is] truth.” The Greek counterpart is the phrase “Ἐν οἴνῳ ἀλήθεια” which means “In wine one finds (Aletheia) Truth.” Then, upon undergoing initiation, Panurge is finally able to pose the momentous question. The answer he is given is simply TRINC. To Panurge’s puzzlement, the Holy Bottle elaborates that “Trinc is a panophean word, that is, a word understood, us’d and celebrated by all nations, and signifies Drink.” Although many scholars state that “trinc” is the drinking of knowledge, truth and love, many others scholars simply enjoy a literal interpretation – “Wine, woman and song.” Still, as much as this magickal theory is important in regards to the gods of Heliopolis from a ritual point-of-view Crowley notes to Frater Achad – “Yes: strange as it may seem, wine and music mean wine and music” (Letter dated January 11th 1916).
There are no coincidences in magick; obviously when Crowley was writing the Minerval initiation he was looking at the myths surrounding both cities but as to why the Lebanese city might represent the O.T.O. Minerval mythos better is because, of the two Heliopolises, this was the only one where we know numerous battles were being fought. Finally, in 1175 Saladin personally led an army which was victorious in capturing it and although many Knights tried, none were ever successful in retaking the city. However, it can honestly be stated that if at any time when a Knight would have been taken prisoner, bound and hoodwinked and presented before Saladin, as in the Minerval initiation, in theory it could have been at either location in Egypt or Lebanon, or both. In this light, some believe that instead of asking the prisoner why are they are travelling in the land of Egypt, it might be more suitable to drop the name of this country all together and simply ask the Knights, “Why are you travelling to Heliopolis, the City of the Sun.”
Be that as it may, another more important reason why Heliopolis in Lebanon is more likely the final destination of a candidate aspiring to be a Minerval is due to the mysteries taught in the VI of Ordo Templi Orientis, this being the degree of Illustrious Knights Templar of the Order of KADOSH and of Dame Companions of the Order of the Holy Grail which is also the 30th Degree of certain branches of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. It is here where initiates are officially made Knights Templar, or defenders of the true Temple of God. The original Knights Templar initiation should not be seen as being anti-Christian as much as an affirmation to despise organized religions which inevitably brought about the martyrdom of our Grand Master Jacques de Molay (1244–1314). Somewhere in their travels in the Middle East the Knights Templars learned something which shifted their loyalty away from the Vatican to what the Church itself would later deem devil worship. Let us begin by considering the religious beliefs taught by Hassan-ben-Sabbah which the Knights Templars might have encountered around Heliopolis. He was born in 1054. His descendants were living in and around Lebanon near Heliopolis at the time of the battles between the Knights Templars and the forces of Saladin. Besides the fact that Hassan and the poet Omar Khayyam (1048-1131) shared a tutor at the University of Naishapur, Hassan was also the founder of a sect known as the Assassins. This name is often said to reflect its founder as well as being derived from the Arabic ‘Hashishins; or “users of hashish.” Hassan’s people referred to him as Sheik el Djebel the Lord of the Mountains although his name more often than not is translated as the ‘Old Man of the Mountains.’ Hasan died in 1124 at the age of 90. Crowley published a few essays on Hashish in The Equinox around 1909 and of one he writes – “The Psychology of Hashish pleases me more every time I read it. It contains such a wealth of knowledge, it shows such profundity of thought, that I find myself today still wondering how I ever wrote it.” Ten years later in 1918, around the same time that he was writing the ritual of Minerval, he was also writing Liber Aleph, The Book of Wisdom, or Folly (Liber CXI – 111). The mention of hashish is found scattered throughout this book but consider the section title De Herbo Sanctissimo Arabico (On The Most Holy Grass of the Arabs) wherein he writes – “O my Son, yester Eve came the Spirit upon me that I also should eat the Grass of the Arabians, and by Virtue of the Bewitchment thereof behold that which might be appointed for the Enlightenment of mine Eyes.” In the following year, on July 26th 1920, he elaborates upon his own usage of this drug in his diary – “I say I’ve taken hashish for some fifteen years—it’s true, but not much more than fifteen times in all!” (The Magical Record of the Beast 666, p.234.) To understand this topic further it is highly recommended that students read Israel Regardie’s Roll Away the Stone: An Introduction to Aleister Crowley’s Essays on the Psychology of Hashish (1968).
Still, although Hassan and the Assassins sounds like the definitive source which might have influenced the Knights Templar, and especially Aleister Crowley, other historians point to the fact that most likely what also inspired the Knights Templars around Heliopolis was the philosophy and ideas of Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir. He was a Yezidi saint who was born around 1070 in a small village near the city. The Yezidis, who live primarily in the region of Iraq, believed in God as the creator who placed seven Angels to rule over Earth, the chief of whom is Melek Taus the Peacock Angel who is also known as Shaytan; the name by which Satan is known in The Koran hence the reason for the Yezidis being known as Devil worshippers. For further study it is recommended to read Devil Worship: The Sacred Books and Traditions of the Yezidis by Isya Joseph (1919). Now consider this regarding the Knights Templars. In the Ante-room of VI there is a coffin where supposedly the body of “JBM” lies which refers to Jacobus Burgundus Molensis more commonly known as Jacques de Molay. In the Masonic version of this ritual a Knight lies within this coffin, wrapped in a white shroud, his face veiled. Later in the ritual, when the candidate is brought before the coffin, this Knight utters – “Thou who comes hither to disturb my rest fear my wrath. What is thy wish?” Who is this Knight lying within the coffin? In Masonry we are informed that he is none other than Satan himself. But who is Satan? In Hebrew (שטן) his name simply means the ‘adversary’, or in this case he is one who opposes organized religions and faith.
In both cases the cultures of the Assassins and Yezidis were a strange mix of religious ideas from Islamic, Greek, Gnostic and Persian faiths like Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism, as well as Sufism, along with Mithraism which is the worship of the Sacred Bull which made Heliopolis in Lebanon a unique area of religious turmoil around the time of the Knights Templars. Furthermore, consider the word ‘Leban’ (اللبن) which means buttermilk or fermented and coagulated sour milk diluted with water. It is a common ‘drink’ among the Arabs. Thus, from our point-of-view and in relationship to this paper, you must never forget the mysteries of TRINC and ON. Be that as it may, in ending I want to remind the reader that like an orgasm the initial leading up to and exiting the phallic-like Tent appears only as a fleeting moment in time to a candidate but inevitably, when taking First Degree, most will want to focus on where they now stand rather than where they once stood. This is the beginning of ‘forgetfulness’ in the Well of Lethe. How many First Degree initiates remember that they originally approached the O.T.O. traveling to Heliopolis, the City of the Sun? How many initiates ever pursue this quest after taking First Degree? Better yet, how many are ever truly free from the tethers which bind them to their new found Wants.
Finally, let me remind the student that Heliopolis is never again mentioned in O.T.O. rituals after Minerval but of this Mystery I can tell you this, just like the cities themselves, there are two specific O.T.O. Degrees which Crowley states working out of the Qabalistic sphere of Chokmah. The First is where the Minerval begins and the second is IX where they inevitably reach. This was not something idly done. Now consider the stories of the two cities named Heliopolis.
Written in the city of Berkeley
Monday February 3rd, 2014 ev
Sun in Aquarius, Moon in Aries
Love is the law, love under will. – AL I:57