Friday, January 2, 2015

More Thoughts About the Bornless One and Other Stuff

It’s been nearly three months since I posted any kind of article to my blog, and some of you have probably been wondering what has happened to me. Well, I have been very busy doing other things and I haven’t had much opportunity to write. While I have successfully transitioned to my new role in my mundane job, it has also been very challenging and time consuming. I seem to have adopted the life-style of a shut-in person. I spend most of my day at the terminal, usually 8 to 10 hours straight with only a few breaks, spending all that time cooped up in my home office.

While I am working I occasionally notice the passing of the day outside my office window, but I have little time to go outside except to walk our dog. When I am done for the day my brain feels like Jell-O and my eyes are dry and I have problems focusing. About the only thing I am good for is to eat my dinner, mindlessly watch a bit of the Tube and then go to bed, exhausted. Weekends are typically for cleaning the house, shopping and spending some time with my wife. I don’t have a lot of time to visit with people and I usually forget to call or stay in touch with my friends. (I hope I still have some friends left when this cycle reaches its end.)

Right now there seems to be little time for writing or working magick, but I do try to read a bit before going to sleep. I have managed to read through a number of books, so at least I am continuing my research - that is unless I am indulging in some gratuitous fiction reading.  

This pattern of work and not much else has been going on for the last several months, but at least I can see that the pace will be slowing down in the near future - thankfully. My hope is that with the turning of the new year I will have more time for writing and working magick. At least I can boast that my wife and I have managed to put together a really great wedding ceremony and feast. We had some really important help from our friends, but it was our sole responsibility and it was quite a magical ordeal in its own right. I may have been unable to work any of my usual magical ordeals in the last couple of years, but the handfasting and feast were quite a magnificent magical working. We really needed to do nothing else than that to focus the transformative spiritual powers and bring them to bear on our lives. We feel quite bonded now and many of the issues that we had pondered about previously have now been swept aside. That alone should demonstrate to my readers that is was indeed a very magical and successful ordeal. It will be tough to top that for this year, but I’ll see what I can do.

My occult research and studies have been focusing on the writings of a very knowledgeable and brilliant German Professor of Egyptology by the name of Jan Assmann. His translated books on Egyptology and also, oddly, modern monotheism (and its price to the post-modern world) are all quite inspiring to me, although probably not in the way that Professor Assmann had in mind when he originally wrote these books. He is a contemporary scholar so I am not trying to read the writings of someone from the 19th or early 20th century whose scholarship is missing a century or more of archeological discoveries. Dr. Assmann’s writings are current and include a lot of the most up-to-date discoveries in the field of Egyptology. I will be discussing some of the things he has written in future articles since what he is saying about modern religious theology is also quite interesting and insightful.

While Dr. Assmann is a staunch Christian and has stated that the cost of monotheism was worth the benefits, his writings are helping me to determine what modern paganism should be like. Are we truly engaged in a primary earth-based religion or is our paganism a protest against Christianity and monotheism in general? Can we go back to the simpler times and mind-set of ancient paganism or do we have to come up with a completely different paradigm that takes 1,500 years of monotheistic religion into consideration? These are critical questions, and I am on the threshold of finally being able to answer some of them in a thorough and insightful manner.

Anyway, one of the points that caught my attention when I was reading the book “Of God and Gods: Egypt, Israel and the Rise of Monotheism” written by Jan Assmann (University of Wisconsin Press, 2008) was quite startling. Dr. Assmann compared the Egyptian mythological concept of “sep tepy” or “first time” to the first book in the Hebrew Bible, “berasheth” or Genesis. Seeing this comparison inspired me into thinking about the Bornless One all over again. Why would such a comparison bring that topic to mind? Because I had once written that I thought the famous ritual attributed to the Golden Dawn whose origin is a spell found in the Greek Magical Papyri in Translation (PGM V, lines 96 through 172 - Stele of Ieu the hieroglyphist) was correctly and aptly named. The Godhead that is invoked in that spell is called “Akephalos,” or the “Headless One” and somehow it got renamed to Bornless One.

The reason this happened was the simple fact that the word “headless” could also be considered a euphemism for a deity that had no origin, in other words, one that was bornless. Of course that could only be the case if the ancient Egyptian language used the same idiom as Hebrew, where the term “without a head” could be considered the same as “without a beginning.” The Hebrew word for head is “rosh,” and the first book in the Hebrew Bible about the creation of the world is called by the first word in that book, berasheth, or “in the beginning,” literally, “in the head.” Coincidently my thoughts about this term were similar to what Mathers in the Golden Dawn thought about the godhead named in this ritual, and that is how it got to be called the “Invocation of the Bornless One.” Others have pointed out the speciousness of this translation and its usage for this rite since there are indeed images of this god without a head on a number of Gnostic magical coins from verifiably ancient sources.

However, the comparison that Dr. Assmann made between “sep tepy” and “berasheth” intrigued me quite a bit. I managed to look up the Egyptian words for “sep tepy” and found that “tepy” does indeed mean “head.” It also means “chief” or “first,” but the hieroglyph is a man’s head. To the ancient Egyptians the term Sep Tepy represents the creation of the world from the watery abyss as performed by the creator god, who typically takes the form of Ra, Ptah or Atum. The God that creates the world would have to exist before the world was created in order to perform that feat. The First Time is a very hallowed event, and the age that immediately followed it was one where the gods, mankind and all of the flora and fauna lived together in peace. It was the golden age before the time of troubles when mankind rebelled against the gods and caused the world to be permanently separated into the sphere of humanity and the domain of the gods. The pharaonic king was the intermediary for the gods, and his court was the mechanism through which the gods ruled the earth and maintained contact (through their cultic centers) with humanity. One could say obliquely that the creator god was in fact without a beginning, bornless, or headless.

The invisible and unknowable headless deity called Akephalos that is summoned in the PGM exorcism rite has certain qualities that make this being an unmistakable amalgamation, similar to the contemporary Gnostic god Abraxas (the solar godhead whose name adds up to 365). He is said to be called “Osoronnophris” (Ausar un-nepher - Osiris the Blessed), but also compares him to “Iabes” and “Iapos” (probably corruptions of Bes and Apep). Only an amalgamation godhead would be able to reconcile opposed Egyptian deities such as Bes (the guardian) and the giant serpent Apep (personification of chaos and evil), not to mention also being associated with Osiris (fertility and resurrection) and the creative trinity of Ra, Ptah and Atum. The analogy to Apep might be an allusion to the Greek daimon Agathodaimon who was depicted as a giant serpent.

Akephalos is also associated with the primal creator godhead, and as such, represents the absolute spiritual master of everything in the material and spiritual worlds. This godhead would be the celebrated God who inaugurated the Sep Tepy or First Time according to the Egyptians, and he would also be the ultimate source of all being, perfectly representing the One of the Platonists without name or features. It would make sense that the erstwhile sorcerer of antiquity would call on this being to assist him in performing a grand exorcism. If you wish to eject an evil spirit from some person then it would make sense to summon the most powerful godhead available.

The odd epithet of this godhead which states that he has eyes in his feet seems to be a puzzle, but when you consider that the Headless God can be depicted as a serpent biting its tail then the mystery is revealed as a symbolic analogue. A serpent biting its tail would metaphorically have its eyes in its feet (tail). This symbol, called Ouroboros Ophis in Greek, represents the eternal cycle of self-creation and also primordial union, which would be a perfect emblem of the Headless or Bornless Godhead. This is also true of the phrase “my name is a heart encircled by a serpent,” which could symbolize the Sun in its eternal cycle, or that the core of one’s being is forever regenerated.

While the original spell in the PGM was a basic operation of summoning the absolute deity to perform an extremely powerful exorcism, the layered symbology of this being has taken on other qualities since that time. At around the same time that Europe and the Middle East was in the midst of a profound collapse and the beginning of the dark ages (7th Century CE), India was fashioning a new philosophy, beginning with the Mahayana Buddhists (the two truths doctrine) and continuing with the Hindu Vendantaists. Both groups postulated that the ultimate reality was non-dual, and in order to rectify the obvious duality of God (absolute) and immortal human spirit (relative) without completely negating one or the other, they simply stated that there was no duality. The ultimate Cosmic One was synonymous with the inherent union within all human beings. In Vendanta this concept was stated succinctly as there is no difference between Brahman and Atman, in other words, there is no difference between the absolute Godhead and the individual Godhead - they were one and the same. This new philosophical perspective took the Neoplatonist creed to its highest and ultimate level and resolved the inherent dualism found within it. If we consider then that the highest aspect of deity is the same as the deity within each and everyone of us then the Headless or Bornless deity becomes an analogue for our own internal godhead. We therefore invoke the Bornless One (or Headless One) that is within us in order to realize the highest expression of our beings - the non-dual godhead within us.

Magicians throughout the ages have always taken the liturgies and magical rites of the past and crafted new rites and magical lore from them. It seems to be almost the rule rather than the exception. We are shameless plagiarists and appropriators, and what we use as modern lore is often a mishmash of ancient and modern practices and beliefs. This also seems to be the case for the spells of the PGM that incorporated religious sources from a wide variety of religious cultures that were alive and accessible in late antiquity. We are no different today in regards to using all kinds of diverse sources for our magical rites and lore than the magicians and sorcerers in antiquity, and perhaps this is what unites us with them. Thus the ancient exorcism rite of the Stele of Ieu the hieroglyphist has become the epitome of one of the most powerful rituals in the arsenal of Western Magick used to realize and manifest the Bornless One or Higher Self within oneself.

Frater Barrabbas

BTW - I would like to thank Jake Stratton-Kent for writing his book “The Headless One” which I found very informative and helpful, and also my friend Jack Flash Von Faustus for his blog writings and the document that he pointed me towards, written from a lecture given by Morton Smith on PGM: Demons of Magick. You can find that lecture write-up here. I might add that Morton’s take on the Headless Godhead was quite interesting, stating that it was a possible personification of the flat “headless” land of Egypt itself and this would also lend it to being compared to the Egyptian fertility god Osiris. Although I must also state that the land mass of Egypt has been carved by the Nile for untold ages, making it anything but flat or for that matter, headless. You can also look over my previous article about the Bornless One that I wrote back in 2009.