On Tuesday, 1st of November 2011 during the morning hour of Mars I conducted the fifth rite in the ritual cycle described in the Arbatel, this time for the Olympic Spirit of Phaleg. Phaleg is associated with the planet of Mars which again is related to the Sephira of Geburah (often translated as judgement, strength or severity). The Olympic Spirit of Phaleg comes with the shortest description of all in the Arbatel:
Even though very short, it stroke me as interesting that the Arbatel described Phaleg as the ‘Prince of peace’. Rather than associated with peace we find the planet Mars much more often related to the opposing dynamics, i.e. war, dominance, power, juvenility and combat in general.
However, if we take a closer look at the idea of Strength as embodied in the Sephira of Geburah the nature of Phaleg might become more clear. In the Sephira Geburah (as opposed to its Qliphoth Golohab) the idea of strength is a balanced one. It is the strength of a structure or frame that allows the continuously extending forces of the divine (Chesed) to take shape and come into effect. Without the restraining forces of Geburah no creation was possible - as all boundaries, all shapes sleeping, all forms waiting to be embodied would wash away in the limitless presence of the divine. Thus the nature of strength in Geburah is creating a balance between the forces of extension and stability, between matter and life, between continuation and change.
It is in light of this kabbalistic view that the term ‘Prince of peace’ becomes more clear. What this name implies is that once the forces of this Olympic Spirit are applied wisely they become an essential part in creating a synthesis of otherwise opposing forces - a synthesis called peace.
The goal of my ritual for Phaleg was to get one step closer to understanding exactly how this force needed to be applied for such a synthesis to be achieved.
“Magically the Princes of the seven Governments are called simply, in that time, day and hour wherein they rule visibly or invisibly, by their Names and Offices which God hath given unto them; and by proposing their Character which they have given or confirmed.”
(Third Septenary, Aphorism 17)
As mentioned in the same chapter for the ritual of OCH the journey through the last four Arbatel rites had taken me towards a more simplistic approach in working with the planetary spirits. Rather than restraining the period of contact on the actual ritual I had started to extend it by meditating on and conversing with the spirit in advance and maintaining a working relationship with them afterwards.
In preparing for the rite of Phaleg I took the same approach. Through the preliminary workings I had achieved a very basic - still somewhat theoretical - understanding of how the forces of Phaleg needed to be applied within myself. Most importantly I had received strict guidance from Phaleg that maturing his forces within me would mean to constrict and reduce anything that’s related to my incarnated Ego... As this task would clearly require a lot of strength it seemed to be quite in line with the forces of Mars.
The planetary contacts that resulted from the guidance described above formed an essential part of the preparatory purification process. With regards to the forthcoming ritual the goal was to clean my body and mind of any other spiritual influences. Thus creating an inner focus on the approaching work with Phaleg and attuning myself to his forthcoming presence.
The very first step in this process was to depart from the strong influences of OCH that had prevailed in my life since the previous Arbatel rite in July. The deeper the level of spirit companionship the more difficult it can become to lessen and weaken its bounds - in order to create readiness for new contact within one’s spiritual being.
For my relationship with OCH - as well as with the three other Olympic Spirits beforehand - this meant I needed us to stay in touch and in positive balance, however, without him dominating my inner presence anymore. As a complete banishing rite would have wiped his influence out of my presence a more subtle method had to be applied.
Luckily there was a very straight forward way of achieving this - it was called ‘keep calm and carry on’. I just stopped to actively engage with OCH in meditations or inner workings, I consciously reduced many of the OCH- or Sun-related topics that had started to populate my life for a long period now and embarked on several weeks without any new magical rites or active workings.
Just like sand sinks to the the ground of a sea, the same happens in cases like these with spiritual influences that aren’t actively stirred up anymore. The undersea-soil becomes fertilized while the waters turn clear again, ready to absorb new influences. Going through this process reminded me of something I had only started to understand recently: So many magical processes which require much deliberation and presence on the inside cannot be observed on the outside at all.
After almost six weeks in my magical-decompression-chamber-of-letting-go I felt ready for the next deep dive...
In preparing the Liturgic Book for the rite I followed exactly the same approach as during the previous four rites. None of the prayers were changed nor did I alter any text elements of the invocations.
The only element that continued to take much deliberation in advance was to carve out the questions I would ask Phaleg once in full communion. In previous rites I had started to realize that much of the communication between the spirits and myself took place on a level of actual experience - rather than words. I.e. if I asked the spirit about the nature of their forces they would raise their level of presence in the magical circle and thus ‘show’ me and allow me to experience it directly. In parallel I also received a verbal answer to my question. However, it always remained short and very concise compared to the actual physical experience.
Thus preparing the right questions for Phaleg was an important point. Only now I was prepared for him to give me an answer in terms of an actual experience much more than in articulated words.
The preparation of the Lamen took a full day as during previous rites. After I had created the digital layout and printed it in the right ratio I copied the outlines onto the final parchment by use of carbon paper and hand-colored the entire work.
While preparing the Lamen I listened to Gustav Holst’s ‘Mars, the Bringer of War’. Initially I wasn’t quite sure whether I would endure the loop of this title for the two to three hours the hand-coloring of the final Lamen would take... It struck me as incredibly pompous and lofty. However, the longer I listened to it and the more I allowed myself to just go with it the more I learned about the forces of the planet Mars as evoked by Holst.
Hidden below its stately posture and glory was a powerful and almost childish playfulness. It was the unbroken playfulness of a child that had never experienced defeat. It was the bliss of the narcissist - fueled by an imperturbable believe in one’s self-worth, adorability and triumph over all antagonistic forces. What I came to experience in this symphony was a moment of pure strength and power - shielded by a ring of steel from doubts or hesitations.
If the Arbatel called Phaleg ‘the Prince of Peace’ this interpretation came from the exact opposite end of the dynamics unfolded by Mars’ forces: As the title said, here Mars was the bringer of war, the moment before steel would met steel and blood would soak the earth...
Once I fully finished the Lamen I had come a little closer to understanding the force that still brings so much pain and grief into the world when out of balance... In Astrology they say Mars is the juvenile force of the Sun and needs a whole lifetime to mature. Just as the forces of Venus turn into the power of the Moon when matured so does Mars turn into the Sun in older age.
Coming closer to and communing with the source of this powerful yet also highly destructive force - I hoped - would allow me to understand it better and help to accelerate the integration process within myself. Because once balanced, once tightly focussed and set free at its right place the forces of Mars turn from the bringer of war into the prince of peace.
Frontispiece of the Lamen of Phaleg
Verso of the Lamen of Phaleg (Psalm, 110:5)
With a slight modification the structure of the rite followed the same as for the four previous Arbatel rites.
While in the outer temple:
On entering the inner temple:
As during this rite I had started to separate the action in a part to be performed before entering the inner temple and the actual rite once within the magical circle, let me also share the general layout of the temple.
“All things are possible to them that believe them, and are willing to receive them; but to the incredulous and unwilling, all things are unpossible (...).”
(Third Septenary, Aphorism 20)
About an hour and a half before the operation I entered the temple. I put on the magical robe as well as the long black cloak that shields off the autumn cold. Then I sat down outside of the inner temple, burned pure olibanum and conducted my standard meditation. After an hour of meditation I recited the two Arbatel prayers for the protection of God as well as for the appearance of Phaleg and sang the psalter...
I had learned from previous rites that after entering the inner temple my magical trance was induced mostly by physical movement, a calm mind and open senses for inner realm perceptions. Reciting the actual evocation of the Olympic Spirit was enough spoken word one the rite. Had I included the additional two prayers at this point it would have rather reduced my trance level. Moreover, it seemed fitting to recite these opening and blessing prayers before entering into the circle and starting the actual operation.
Then I inspirited the Lamen by use of a magical oil dedicated to Mars. And - as Phaleg had mentioned to me in one of the preliminary workings - I adorned my forehead with iron dust. Then I put on the magical belt, the Lamen as well as the ring of the art and the magical crown and entered into the inner temple.
The opening of the rite had been successfully completed when I realized I had done a simple yet major mistake. On entering the inner temple there had been an itching feeling that something wasn’t just right yet, something was still missing that I should have taken with me over the liminal border of the white chalk circle... And lo and behold - when I opened the brass thurible - where was my charcoal?
As you can imagine I was completely gobsmacked by my own stupidness and - more importantly - the fact such a basic error had slipped off my radar after preparing magical rites successfully for years. At the same time I could feel how my level of magical trance quickly started to decline. This was a moment for decisive actions - not self-blame or deep error analysis...
So with a clear and swift decision I performed another Quabalistic Cross and ended the rite I had started. I stepped out of the inner temple, grabbed the missing charcoal, closed the black curtains behind me again and began the entire ritual all over again.
What a stupid mistake to make! I still cannot believe it: after months of preparing for this rite, crafting the Lamen, calculating the right hour, engaging with the spirit in advance - I simply forgot to load the thurible with fresh charcoal - in a rite for Mars!? Well, I guess the good thing is that I might lack intellectual horsepower but I am doing okay on perseverance and strength of purpose.
After returning into the circle I started the rite all over again. However, what I quickly came to realize was the intensity that had started to build up in the realm of the temple. Maybe it was because this was the second time I conducted the LBPR and the Welcoming of God in the four Quarters - yet, the spirit presence and contact was so intense that I was almost blinded by it. They say we learn more from our failures than from our successes? This clearly was another case of this.
The colors behind my eyes were intense and sparkling and on welcoming God in the quarters I felt pressing waves of divine elemental presence overflowing my small circle. On drawing the hexagrams the glowing lines almost exploded when activated by Phaleg’s sigil in their centers. The hexagrams hung like blistering bars of iron in the dark around me. Then, when I concluded the opening ritual with the central hexagram above the altar the entire temple realm was focussed on this very point, vibrant of tension and contact.
Now I lit the incense of Mars and the sweet smoke filled the sphere of the spirit. At this point of the rite I was completely caught in a Faraday cage of spirit presence - safe yet surrounded by a powerful electrical current - the sigil of Phaleg pounding like a living heart above the altar. I closed my eyes, immersed myself into singing the mantra of Phaleg’s name and opened my mind to the inner spirit contact...
After singing Phaleg’s name for a while I started to perceive a form spinning high above the altar. It was huge in size and my mind slowly peeled it out the darkness.
It is these moments when communion is initiated that require a completely devoted and blank mind; nothing of the practitioners own conscious thoughts or images should mix into the process of spirit perception. Yet, worrying about this or trying to control this process is the best way to get.
What I had learned in previous rites is that the geometrical forms perceived functioned as keys to the specific presence of the spirit for me. I cannot tell if the same forms would work for other practitioners nor is it important for my own work. They are living, three dimensional sigils or gateways that open at this specific point in time to establish a bridge between myself and the presence of the spirit. Thus my assumption is that they will only work for me as this bridge is halfway built by the forces of the spirit as well as the forces of the practitioner.
After a while of deep meditation my mind had grasped the full three-dimensional form of the shape piercing through the faraday cage of energy I was caught in. In the top sphere a diamond-like, crystalline energy centre was embedded which radiated energy that fueled the entire living form and made it spin around its vertical axis...
I grabbed the whole form and pulled its presence down onto the altar and into the black mirror that forms the centre of the Table of Practice. Suddenly the communion opened and my mind had access to Phaleg’s presence:
Acher: What is your secret name?
A: What is your nature?
P: I am the force that breaks open, the one that needs to flow.
A: Which power governs you?
P: I am being fed from high above, I am continuously extending my presence, I enter through cracks and openings. The shield of the moon weakens my powers, it bundles my presence like a lens, yet tones me down.
A: Which parts in the human body do you govern?
P: All elements that contribute to maintaing tension, the genitals, the heart, the muscles.
A: Which human experiences do you govern?
P: All types of breakthroughs, overthrows, and creations of new currents.
A: What decides if your influence destroys or creates?
P: I create new boundaries, I open up, I seal, I change and shift rooms and spaces and shapes, all with the goal to create a balance of pressure of tension, so all things can always remain in flux.
A: What is your relation to war and peace?
P: One follows the other. If it was different peace would congeal and nothing new would come through. Every birth is a battle.
A: Which alchemical substance is governed by your forces?
P: All acids, the Alkahest.
A: What is the nature of rage?
P: Rage comes into being when my forces are trapped, all things congealed are intractable to me. Do not lock me up. My forces will surge and we will create excess voltage until we break free again.
A: What is the current state of your forces on Earth?
P: In decay. All structures that guide my forces are decomposing. As they decompose so do I, and start to destroy myself.
A: How can I cleanse and renew your energies within me?
P: Burn yourself out, cleanse yourself. The Ego is my enemy, do not abuse my forces through the filter of the Ego. Grant me freedom and I will be potent. Become the medium not the message of my power.
A: How do your forces relate to the Sephira Geburah?
P: Geburah is a realm, I am a point. Geburah is a field, a space, a door. I am a living force.
A: What is your relation to the Olympic Spirit of Phul?
P: The alleviator. He extinguishes my fires, I don’t like him. Yet he is my twin.
A: What is your relation to my Holy Guardian Angel?
P: My child, my love. I will foster his will to realization. It is through me that the will of the highest being comes into being, it is through me that creation comes to life. It is through me that the divine spark is embedded into each being. All things living thus stem from me and are my children. They all deserve to discover, to act on and to perfect their will.
A: Which forces rules over your forces?
P: The highest Agens (moving force, ed.A.), Kether.
A: Which sacrifice can I give to you?
P: Sing for me. Infuse my forces into all things organic, take me where I cannot go on my own. Help me to create a union between the electric and the organic.
And Phaleg speaks: “I am the electrical current. I am the spark and the fire that bring things to life. I am the force that tears down barriers and all doors closed for new life to rush through and immerse itself. I am the force that creates boundaries and seals up gateways for all things to vibrate and echo in tension and balance. I am the lightning flash, the iron shaft, the Lingam that pierces through the veils. I am the one and mine are the forces that pave the way for all things uncreated, eternally, at all costs. I am the seeder of all species, spiritual, animal, human and crystalline. I am all the forces flowing, eternally intertwined, from life into death and death into life. I am the lover of all forms sleeping. I am one. I am the founder of all, the sustainer of nothing.”
Our communion is almost over; yet not quite.
The rotating shape withdraws and disappears. What remains is an intense airiness that fills the entire sphere of the circle and dissolves the boundaries of my body. I am floating in the subtle organic substance that is filling the sphere of the magical circle. I am the space confined by the hexagrams in the four quadrants only...
And through my being, through the substance I turned into roams the presence, the electrical current of Phaleg. His forces swirl and dance through my expanded consciousness and body like invisible currents through water, like wind through the skies. He is weightless, yet full of living force.
If I ever encountered a spirit smiling or in a happy state it is right now. I continue to sing Phaleg’s name and allow his electrical currents to fill everything with vibrant life. All my body has turned into organic, Venusian matter just to balance his immense power.
For a couple of moments I am pure substance, pure matter into which Phaleg seeds new life. Playfully, just like nature creates and destroys in moments of pure presence and lust. This is my sacrifice to the Olympic Spirit for the time he spent with me, adapted to the limited abilities of my mind, willing to answer my accidental human questions...
Then I stop my chanting. The hexagrams in the four quadrants open like floodgates, the vacuum of the circle is filled with material presence in an instant and the presence of Phaleg is gone. I conduct the gesture of the closing of the veil as well as the lesser banishing pentagram rite. The presence of the archangels levels out all excess charge. My body has returned to its normal size and energy and form.
Finally, I extinguish the candles in the quarters and on the altar and leave the circle.
Every rite of the Arbatel cycle is different. Yet there are some things within them that seem to remain the same. These are the immense powers of the Olympic Spirits during communion, the living presence of the geometrical shapes that form the keys to our conversations as well as the precise answers to my questions, giving a concise and clear understanding of the living forces we deal with.
In addition to these constants a whole sequence of additional insights came out of the rite for Phaleg. While many of these realizations are very personal - as one would expect - some of them might be of interest for others as well. I will go on to share a few of the ones that I think might belong into the latter category...
What was unique about the communion with Phaleg was the distinctly playful tone that dominated the rite - and made it possible in the first place. Looking back today, I can see that it was the ability to quickly assume a playful perspective that saved the rite when I had forgotten to take the charcoals with me. Only through the eyes of a fool could this rite be continued without deep flaws in its rhythm. Dancing from one beginning to the next without stumbling so hard that my spirit trance broke was the only way to recover. And it was through the eyes of a child - curious, yet innocent - that I handed over my mind, my body and spirit presence to Phaleg’s pounding waves of electrical currents towards the end of the rite.
Only now I do understand that it is Playfulness itself that underlies the creation and destruction caused by the forces of Phaleg (Mars). He is the prince of peace just as he is the prince of war. His interest, his motive is not to create one or the other, yet to maintain a constant flow of coming and going, of passing through and new creation. New life can be seeded in an embrace of lust, just as it will be seeded in the grip of pain. It is the penetration itself, the unstoppable flow of electrical, life-bringing currents that remain the same.
And this is the danger of dealing with Phaleg’s forces for us as humans: Phaleg doesn’t need us to take responsibility, to foresee the consequences of our actions, nor to consider others and their right to coexist. Phaleg just needs us to become the medium of his force, the divine matter within which he can roam freely. The shaft that penetrates the skin, the Lingam that seeds new life... It is no one but us who need to direct his forces responsibly in whatever realm we work in.
It took me all of the five Arbatel rites to come to a better understanding of the geometrical spirit keys which I perceive during the rituals. Earlier I called them a bridge between the sphere of the spirit and the sphere of my own mind. I now understand that this is exactly what they are - personalized keys of communion.
Similar to the spirit names I am given, I assume that these three-dimensional sigils are of little value for anybody else other than myself. Just like the sigils shared by Franz Bardon they represent mind-patterns that unlock specific external access points to my own psyche. They are gateways through which the spirit can access my mind - and vice versa.
In order to create spirit communion one has to move through these gates. Or in other words one has to embrace them fully - just like keys are fully embraced by their locks before they open a door. During the peak of the rite these keys have to become a part of us, undistinguishable from the rest of our being.
It remains to be examined just how personalized these keys truly are. Clearly the sigils and seals of the Solomonic Grimoires have successfully been in use for centuries. So have the seals and divine hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt, Arabic kameas or Hebrew letter talismans. What essentially is the difference between such collective shapes and seals and a personalized spirit gate? Maybe the former are more archetypical in nature or maybe they are just a code once invented as a personal key and then adopted by others?
Either way, as magicians our search always is for the animal and not the track they leave behind. Often we need to trace the latter to find the former. Thus the discussion about authenticity and origin of sigils and seals has some relevance. Yet what puts them to the test will always be our own subjective experience.
This time the Gematria of the spirit name I received proved to be a treasury of metaphors and insights. However, to make this ritual account not longer than it is already and because gematric meditations are always personal in nature, let me share only a few of the insights I have been given.
From the various hebrew transliterations possible, the one I settled on for Sitahiel is Samek-Teth-He-Aleph-Lamed. If we translate this hebrew name into its numerical value we receive 105 according to the common method of Gematria.
(Note - It’s important to remember that many methods of calculating gematrical sums are known. Here are the results of just a few others: according to ATBASH it would have been 568, Mispar Katan 24, Mispar ha-Kadmi 421, Mispar ha-Perati 4607, etc. For calculating gematric values for other hebrew words feel free to take a look at my free Gematria Dictionary.)
Related to the gematric value of Sitahiel we find the following words which we will examine with reference to the Olympic Spirit of Phaleg one by one:
The first verb, HE-PHE-KAPH, is a wonderful summary of the forces of Sitahiel if one tries to unnaturally confine his powers. On my question about his nature Phaleg answered “I am the force that breaks open, that needs to flow.” Subversion, ruin and (painful) change will come to those who don’t respect this essential quality of the forces of Mars.
The second verb, AYIN-LAMED-HE, expresses the opposite side of Sitahiel or Phaleg’s forces. If not kept confined forcefully, but respected, balanced and nurtured in a natural way the powers of Phaleg will help to give rise, to ascend and advance on whatever plans one holds. On my question to Phaleg’s relationship to my Holy Guardian Angel his answer was “I will foster his will to realization.” This is the way Phaleg’s forces support us in finding our True Will and nurturing it all the way from insight to realization.
The fourth term, KAPH-PHE-HE, refers to the skullcap religious jews wear during prayer (or daytime in general). If we try to trace back the spiritual origin of this head cover we encounter the concept of Kiddush Hashem, or the sanctification of the Name of God. The kipah thus becomes an expression of humbleness once confronted with divine powers and an act of devotion to divine forces. On my question how I could cleanse his energies within myself Phaleg answered “The Ego is my enemy, do not abuse my forces through the filter of the Ego. Grant me freedom and I will be potent. Become the medium not the message of my power.” The kipah or jewish skullcap is a wonderful expression of lowering one’s ego in service to the divine.
Finally, the last term, Jehoida, is the name of a prominent jewish high priest who lived during the reigns of the wicked Queen Athaliah. His life story is an utterly intriguing meditation on the forces of Mars and how they can support society once matured and applied in a balanced way. Due to his guidance and advice the wicked Queen Athaliah was overthrown, the holy temple could be restored and a new covenant for the jewish people was formed.
Ultimately, and only after reading Gareth Knight’s autobiography in the weeks that followed the rite of Phaleg I came to understand a fundamental element of the nature of the Arbatel operation. It is so plain obvious that it kind of hurts not to have seen or written about it earlier.
If performed in a sequential pattern the ritual operations of the Arbatel take the magician through the gates of all seven Olympic Spirit spheres. The journey starts with Phul (Moon) and ends - probably more than two years later in my case - behind the gate of Aratron (Saturn).
What this sequence of orchestrated ritual experiences does to the personality, mind and soul of the magician has also been alluded to in another ritual technique. Only in this case it is an exercise in astral projection and well know under the name of ‘Rising on the Planes’...
“(...) 2. Let him then begin exactly as before; but with the most intense solemnity and determination.
3. Let him be very careful to cause his imaginary body to rise in a line exactly perpendicular to the earth's tangent at the point where his physical body is situated (or, to put it more simply, straight upwards).
4. Instead of stopping, let him continue to rise until fatigue almost overcomes him. If he should find that he has stopped without willing to do so, and that figures appear, let him at all costs rise above them. Yea, though his very life tremble on his lips, let him force his way upward and onward!
5. Let him continue in this so long as the breath of life is in him. Whatever threatens, whatever allures, though it were Typhon and all his hosts loosed from the pit and leagued against him, though it were from the very Throne of God himself that a voice issues bidding him stay and be content, let him struggle on, ever on.
6. At last there must come a moment when his whole being is swallowed up in fatigue, overwhelmed by its own inertia. Let him sink (when no longer can he strive, though his tongue be bitten through with the effort and the blood gush from his nostrils) into the blackness of unconsciousness; and then on coming to himself, let him write down soberly and accurately a record of all that hath occurred: yea, a record of all that hath occurred.
Of course, the Rising may be done from any starting pint. One can go (for example) into the circle of Jupiter, and the results, especially in the lower planes, will be very different to those obtained from a Saturnian starting point."
(Crowley, Magick in Theory and Practice, Chapter XVIII, p.III - link)
What we have here are two pretty different magical techniques that still aim towards similar ends. The Rising on the Planes elevates the astral body of the practitioner above Earth and then onwards through the seven planetary realms. That is, it pulls the astral energy of the magician upwards into higher realms. The ritual cycle of the Arbatel takes the opposite approach with a similar goal - it opens gateways of planetary forces into the material realm and pulls down their energies one after the other to be grounded within Earth and the physical body of the practitioner.
The major difference between the two thus is that the first exercises predominantly works on the astral plane, whereas the latter aims to bring down the planetary forces through all planes and into the material realm.
As Crowley hints to in the last sentence of the quote above - the Rising on the Planes can become a method of exploring, exposing and integrating the influences of the various planetary realms into ones own energy structure as a human being. It was the same goal I had in mind when setting out to perform the full Arbatel cycle more than a year ago. With the only difference that my goal was to bring down the planetary forces through all realms into the material one and not to center the action on the astral plane alone.
With this in mind we can come to see what the Arbatel really offers us: Treated in this way it turns into a powerful method of self-initiation. Not an initiation into a particular lineage or magical current of course, yet into the planetary forces of creation itself.
Performed in a full sequence of seven rites the Arbatel presents a profound way of exploring these forces in great detail. Yet it can be more than that. Walking through the gates of the Olympic Spirits one by one, turns the Arbatel into a method to cathartically re-balance and reintegrate the planetary forces into ones own psyche, subconscious mind and magical art.
May the serpent bite its tail.