F.B. got talking about Liber 325 – the Bartzabel Working as performed by Crowley as an example of an actual ceremonial magic ceremony.
Here’s the deal – the ceremony, as written, is wrong.
Did Crowley screw it up? Not likely. He recorded the results and apparently had a conversation. In fact, that conversation looks a lot like other successful magicians. The spirit isn’t happy to be contained, the spirit is oppositional, the spirit asks to be dismissed several times. It is, for all intents and purposes, a good record of an evocation. So then where does it go wrong? The ceremony is very likely filled with blinds.
Everything starts out well enough until we get to “the lamen of material basis”. Lamens have two sides, and there are five illustrations. If we are making a double-sided lamen, what goes on the other side? The Intelligence of Mars, or the sigil of Graphiel. I would have also accepted the Planetary Seal of Mars since the spirit seems oppositional, but Graphiel is mentioned several times by name.
So, cruising along, we then get to the illustration of the altar top and… what is this? That number square makes no sense whatsoever. There is a proper Kamea of Mars, including the correct number of squares, but the numbers in the Liber make no sense at all and do not represent the proper Kamea of Mars. I even went to far as to rework the Hebrew and I have no idea what is in Liber 325. Comments? The math behind magic squares is actually fairly elegant, but this clearly isn’t it. Crowley may not actually understand the math to generate the sigil (we have the luxury of the internet) and that may be why he omitted them.
I had also harped on the verse “Arise, Dog of Evil, that I may instruct thee in thy present duties” but upon re-reading it, I don’t think it’s a reference to the broken vessels (qliphoth), but instead just a jab at the spirit.
The incense would have been tobacco, nettle, and perhaps some of dittany of crete (majoram, in the spice aisle) as a base.
Rolling along to part 3, we see the correct number of knocks. Astute readers will notice the controversial word after the laying of hands on the spear. The next verse is where it starts to get off the rails. Kamael is only called… four times. The number of Mars is 5, not 4. I could assume that Crowley just called the name as much as he thought, but after the incredible attention to detail thus far, it is a bit of a reach to assume he would just let that name trail as many times as he wished. Similarly, Bartzabel is called 6 times (7 if we count the final stanza), and that isn’t correct either.
So that wraps up the ritual commentary. Doable? Yes. Do it by the book? I would hope not.
Since speculating wildly about numbers is a popular past time regarding magicians, I figure it might be worth talking about the spiritual commentary also derived from the spirit. Again, the luxury of history helps us here. Had I not access to the internet and such it very likely would be a wash for me to. In this way, Crowley does as well as anyone could be expected to for the day and age.
The 3rd Vault – I did a bunch of Googling looking for the rooms in the Vault of the Adepts, and I cannot recall what the third one was. I remember the Vault of the Adepts had two(?) other rooms concealed off to each side, but I cannot remember their purpose or name. This could also be a reference to the third Temple of Jerusalem.
43-77-91-08 are dates. The entire rest of the piece given in Thelemic time is the build up to World War 2. The confirmation is handed to Crowley before the Thelemic dates, so 1943, 1977 (Iran), 1991 (fall of the USSR), and 2008 was an excellent year for most nations space programs. Crowley is so interested in the cosmos that the Science portion of the international space station, the Iranian space program (is this a plus?), and the European space program all seeing major successes looks like a really reasonable candidate. And what is the crew of the space station except the “babe resting between the two mountains on the waters”? The orbital epoch happened two days ago, so I feel it’s weirdly synchronous with my life at the moment.
Note that the Thelemic dates don’t entirely line up nicely with the events, but in terms of spiritual contact, I think that this was more than an accomplishment.