Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
On the surface, the four Names of the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram are an odd collection. Linking them is the fact that the first three – the Tetragrammaton, YHVH; Adonai; and Eheyeh – are all on the Middle Pillar of the Tree of Life, with the fourth, Attah Gibor le-Olahm Adonai (AGLA), being an ancient phrase of broader significance. As a statement, AGLA has a connecting and summarising effect, while also being a further expansion of the Qabalistic Cross that begins the ritual.
There’ve been numerous speculations over the years as to the significance of the sequence, including some where people have tried to pretzel them into representing the four elements. A more probable origin for them lies in Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla’s text, Sha’areh Orah (Gates of Light), which expounds on the sequence of the initial three Names several times. For example, in his chapter on Hod and Netzach, Gikatilla writes:
“The essence of the word Amen is the essence of drawing blessings from the Name Ehye, to the Name YHVH, to the Name Adonay. Therefore, whoever prays in this fashion unites the spheres by bringing them all closer to each other.” (Avi Weinstein translation, Altamira Press 1994, pg 136). The Hermetic Qabalist, in using this ritual that most probably originated with the Golden Dawn, starts at the heart, at Tiphereth, and immediately directs attention to the manifest world at Malkuth, by calling on the Name Adonai, the accepted Atziluthic attribution for Malkuth. Then, having anchored the ritual process, the practitioner looks to the other extreme, the ultimate Divinity at Kether, and intones the Name Eheyeh.
In the fourth quarter, the North, “the place of Forgetfulness, Dumbness and Necessity, and of the greatest symbolical Darkness,” to quote the Stella Matutina Neophyte Ritual, the phrase Thou art the Power throughout all time and space, Lord (AGLA, in short) is then uttered. The significance of using it here isn’t hard to grasp.
Apart from getting the pronunciation more or less right (so that, for example, the last syllable of Adonai or Adonay is pronounced to rhyme with sky, not with pay), the magician needs to recognise that the Names have the power, not him. That is, the magical vitality of them already exists, and bellowing or snarling them won’t add to that. Intoning them should be rather like using a new power tool for the first time: confidence is necessary to avoid being surprised when it leaps into life, but we must learn to grasp and wield it with precision and respect. And also, with no conscious concern about how the power of the Names might take effect. Intoning should be, to quote The Book of the Law, “delivered from the lust of result.”
Before each Name is called, we carefully trace our pentagram, usually in bluish-white light (or pure blue if you insist on following Regardie’s suggestions), and hold the image of it before us to the extent our visualisation skills allow. The Name will give a charge to each pentagram, while in turn, the pentagram contains and focuses the Name’s dynamism out to Infinity. We can, in fact, imagine the pentagrams themselves extending out so, while the actual space they define is where the magician is to work, within their circle. The aim of the ritual, after all, is to position the ritualist at the ultimate Centre of things.
There’s a parallel here with Ancient Egyptian temples which, along with the rites performed in their inner chambers, were held to be situated upon the Primeval Mound that first arose from watery chaos at the Beginning of Creation. Qabalists are more oriented towards a three-dimensional (or four-dimensional) Universe than the priests of Ancient Kemet, but the principle is the same. The aim is to separate the magical practitioner from all external influences, at the ineffable centre of All, where lies the greatest power. The LRP’s consistent ability to do this, when rightly performed and without too many private ‘improvements,’ is one of the things that still impresses me after a couple of decades of using it.
A couple of posts ago, I was approvingly citing Harold Bloom to the effect that he is “perceptive enough to deny that there is, or ever could be, such a thing as a Judaeo-Christian tradition.” And I agree with him that Jesus would have had little or no Greek philosophy in him, being a Jew speaking solely to other Jews. It was a more Hellenised Jew, the Roman citizen St. Paul, who started importing all those unfortunate ideas of the separation of soul and body, and the hazards of ‘the flesh.’ Judaism was never alienated in such a way from Malkuth. It is more capable than Christianity of finding the immediate and physical circumstances of life to be sacred.
Sometimes, Thelemites are uneasy with the Names of the LRP because of some sort of lingering Christ-ophobia. It’s as if, in contradiction to Bloom’s view, there is some sleazy element of unctuous moralising they believe creeps in when we use Names and phrases arising from Biblical texts, even though Christianity twisted and reinterpreted the ‘Old Testament’ to a point far from its roots. Yet a perfunctory familiarity with the pre-Christian parts of the Bible shows that the moving Power involved was a very, very different thing to what was hung onto the murdered body of Jesus of Nazareth by Paul and his all-too-successful followers. The older writings are more drenched in blood, in sacrifice, and primal human experience than the New Testament. Their God even shows up armed and ready to fight at the Battle of Jericho (Joshua, 5, v. 14). The reported pacifism of Jesus is the antithesis of that.
While there can seem to be some distance between what we find in the Hebraic Kabbalists and in the sacred writings of Thelema – and obviously, there is – one of the first things I realised when I began using Qabalistic methods is that they actually link us back to a time and a mindset that are far more in tune with Thelemic concepts of reality and of Divinity. In the present Aeon, we’ve moved on, but we also incorporate anything useful of what came before us. I mention this to point out, if it still needs mentioning, that using these ancient Hebrew Names of Power isn’t something that keeps us tied to the immediate past of the Aeon of Osiris. Rather, even if Hebraic Kabbalah mostly derives from the medieval era, these Names link us back to a very ancient mindset that entailed none of the body-phobic prissiness that was to come after it. And from that, it follows that intoning the Names we use in the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram puts us not just in the centre of Space, but also opens out to us a window into Eternity.
Love is the law, love under will,