Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The previous post looked at establishing a circle of power in the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram. The Divine Names applied to the pentagrams of the four quarters accomplish this.
The shift to the Archangels is a critical step, and for many people, forms the essence of the ritual’s mystery. To understand why this is so calls for looking into the four Worlds of the Qabalists, because the transition from one World to the next is a critical part of the operation.
Atziluth, or Origins, is attributed to the force of alchemical Fire, and beyond that, not a lot concrete can be said about it. It’s essentially experienced as energy, usually in very brief bursts that can convey a considerable amount of information. There is no sense of form here at all, which is why we use pentagrams to contain and direct the power of the Names. Pentagrams themselves are of the World of Yetzirah (Formation), which we commonly think of as the astral realm. The formative aspect is critical as a way of directing the invoked energies of the ritual.
Between Atziluth and Yetzirah is the World of Briah (Creation), which is attributed to alchemical Water. In magick, Water has a critical role as a medium that’s malleable, capable of transmitting certain kinds of energies; and can also, like a standing pond, represent utter stillness.
Archangels are still conventionally represented in a form that the churches passed down to us from ancient Babylonia: majestic, winged beings in full-length robes. In occult terms, they are mediators, translating the ‘thoughts’ of Atziluth into action through their direction of the assemblies of angels under them. Their exact mode of operation is hardly going to be visible to us, but by establishing contact – sensing their presence, appreciating their power, tuning into their contained energy – we can appreciate better what they’re about. And we do this in the second set of quarter-invocations of the LRP.
Most descriptions of the ritual stress the four Archangels’ presidency of the elements: Raphael of Air, clad in a bright yellow robe; Mikhael of Fire, garbed in striking red; Gabriel of Water, and robed in royal blue; and Uriel of Earth, traditionally in a black robe, though according to Crowley this can be green. I demur on that point, finding green too specific and limiting; but make your own call on that. The Archangel’s name, by the way, begins with a Hebrew letter Aleph, which is why in English it’s often written as Auriel. However, Aleph is a silent letter, and ancient texts vocalise the name as Uriel.
What more do these Archangels represent than collective elemental forces? Various things.
Starting with Raphael (“The Healer of God”), this is the Archangel of Tiphereth, which puts him at the centre of the Ruach, the reasoning part of our nature, and the core of our individuals self-concept. Raphael, with his upright sword, symbol of reason, represents predominantly the ruling power of reason in its highest, all-embracing sense.
Air and the East are usually associated with Space, and the Thelemic concept of Liberty.
Mikhael (“Who is like unto God”) is the Archangel of Fire, and oddly, is positioned on the Tree in watery Hod. But Hod is of Mercury, and in matters Mercurial, paradox rules.
Mikhael’s traditional role is that of the warrior and defender. In conventional iconography, he is the one who defeats and binds the Universal Adversary (in the Revelation of St. John, a ‘dragon’), though many a psychologist will tell you that their contest implies unconscious affinity: the One is the Other. Mikhael’s primary task here is to exercise control over the destructive sides of our nature, as well as to aspire to the highest good – that is, the True Will. If Raphael is identified with reason and Ruach, Mikhael is the Will-master within each of us.
In the usual attributions, Fire and the South, the quarter of Mikhael, embodies energy and the Thelemic concept of Light.
Gabriel (“Strength of God”) is the best-known of the four from scripture, being both the Angel of the Annunciation to Mary, and the being who transmitted the Quran, or most of it, to Mohammed.
It would be easy to say Gabriel is the Talker, Heaven’s PR man, but the most interesting aspect of him (her?) is how he has such high-level information. He can communicate with mortals because his Water-nature means he has access to the depths and their stillness. To tune into Gabriel full-on is to enter a potent silence that yet seems to contain much wisdom and insight. The sacred Strength is strong precisely because it’s expressed with restraint, and only at critical intervals.
In the usual attributions, Water and the West correspond to Time and to the Thelemic concept of Love.
Uriel (“The Light of God”) is unknown from the Christian scriptures, unlike the other three, even if Raphael only shows up in the apocryphal Book of Tobit. Positioned in the North, the quarter of Earth, that of Matter and of the Thelemic concept of Life, Uriel is an anchoring presence yet also, to my mind, a harbinger of new mystery. To be in the darkest quadrant, yet to embody the Divine Light, is to indicate or imply expansion and revivifying spirituality.
In the Thelemic Aeon, the old division between soul and body, or spirit and mind, is superseded, and we have reverted to the pre-Christian notion of the sacredness of the physical. As the Archangel of matter and the body, Uriel is therefore not limited to matter, but rather points to its holiness and its forming the Sanctuary of the Temple. Everyone experiences these things uniquely, but for me grasping this became a key understanding of how Thelema should be appreciated.
With the four Archangels, we have thus moved from the rather uniform and indefinite, or indefinable, realm of the Names, to a differentiated realm of living sacred principles. We haven’t needed to move around in a circle as we did to trace and charge the pentagrams, the vividly differentiated image of each being simple to visualise on its own.
Notice also that we trace an equal-armed cross here, at right-angles to the one performed in the opening Qabalistic Cross. First we intone Raphael, then Gabriel, then Mikhael and finally Uriel. There are various ways of apprehending this tracing, but one would be that since the Qabalistic Cross is delineated in relation to our bodies, so the Archangels reflect different aspects of our own total nature, in the manner defined above. Which is not to say, one way or the other, that they are purely mental phenomena; and it is limiting to see them that way. But such a perspective can expand our self-concept very usefully.
The final step, though one not often written in published instructions, is to see them all connected, either in some form of fraternal identity, or with their actual wingtips touching at the corners of the ritual space. For me, this moment is the one when there’s a click, which at times manifests as a minor muscle-spasm or stretching of the spine. I then feel I’ve moved into the fringes of their world. Atziluth is beyond me, but I can consciously inhabit Briah to some extent, and feel both calmed and uplifted.
The experience is particular to each of us, but with a conscientiously performed ritual, there’s always a sense here of having been lifted up or energised. And with that, we can then move on to the closing Qabalistic Cross.
Love is the law, love under will,