A Discourse on the Third Article

T Polyphilus

So on this occasion
I want to explore with you
The third article of our Gnostic Catholic Creed
A short and cryptic text
In which we each declare,

I believe in the serpent and the lion
> Mystery of Mystery, in his name BAPHOMET.

And this is indeed a Mystery of Mystery,
Not a riddle or a puzzle
That I can help you solve
But a rite and a gnosis
Into which you can find a way.
In my own way into this mystery
I have noticed some things
That I hope to share with you
And you will decide for yourself
Whether these lead you deeper into the Mystery:
Deepening Mystery of deeper Mystery,
The light within our rite
In which we find the serpent and the lion.

Now the serpent alone is a powerful symbol
Of initiation and wisdom of death and regeneration
And the lion is a king of beasts
Incarnating strength and pride.
But these two have come together
In our qabalistic correspondences
The letter teth means “serpent”
And it is identified with the zodiacal sign of the lion
Leo, whose glyph looks like a little snake
And the tarot card for teth is Strength
But in the Crowley-Harris deck it is called Lust
And it shows the Scarlet Woman
Riding a beast with the body of a lion
And a serpent for a tail –
But that tail is not a serpent simply
It has a lion's head.

It is taken from an ancient image
Where the head of a lion appears
Atop the body of a serpent
And sometimes the lion head is crowned
Or surrounded by a halo or streaming rays.
And that image is called a Khnoubis.
It is carved on old gems
From the start of the Christian era
And there is often a name carved alongside it:
A name like A B R A S A X
Or a name like I A O
Or a name like I A L D A B A O T H.
These were all used as names of the demiurge
A greek word for “architect”
Meaning the creator god of this world
Who was not the first intelligence
Who is begetting and not unbegotten
Who is jealous and finite
Whose origin is described in this passage
From the Apocryphon of John:

Now Sophia who is the Wisdom of Afterthought

and who represents an eternal realm

conceived of a thought without permission of the spirit,

and because of her unconquerable power

it was not an idle thought.

Something came forth from her

that was imperfect and different in kind

because she had produced it without her lover.

When Sophia saw what her desire had brought forth

it changed into the figure of a snake

with the face of a lion.

Its eyes were like flashing bolts of lightning.

She flung it away fom her to hide it,

because she had brought it forth ignorantly.

She surrounded it with a bright cloud,

and put a throne in the middle of the cloud

so that it would be unseen

except by the Holy Spirit.

She named the child IALDABAOTH.

IALDABAOTH is the first ruler,

who took great power from his Mother.

Then he departed from his birthplace.

He was strong, and created new worlds

by means of a flame of fire that exists yet.

He mated with the Mindlessness in himself

and brought forth his own authorities.

Thus the Apocryphon of John.

Crowley also identifies the Lion-headed Serpent
with the god Harpocrates
understood as “the Dwarf-Soul,
“the Secret Self of every man,”
the spermatazoon or seed of life
as a concentration of “Phallic Consciousness.”
Such a lion-serpent destroys the destroyer
by overcoming death with renewal
by creating continuity through generation.
I know I believe in that.

And these various ideas
Of powerful lust and ignorant creation
Under the sign of the serpent and lion
Have a name, which is BAPHOMET.
This name comes from the history of the Templars
The holy order of Crusader Knights
Condemned by the accusations of jealous rivals
Banned by the Pope and outlawed by Kings
In the trials of the Templars
They were accused of a secret idolatry
And the name of their supposed idol was BAPHOMET.

The persecutors of the Templars
Never claimed to have found
Any artifact that could be identified
As the BAPHOMET of Templar idolatry
But it was described in charges and confessions
Voiced in the trials of the Templars
The BAPHOMET was variously said to be
Like a painting on a beam or a wall
Like a reliquary
Like a cat
Like two or three cats
Like a skull
Like a bearded head

Now the idea of the the head as a magic idol
Has a long and interesting history:
One of the earliest cases is the head of Orpheus
A legendary hero and saint of our Church
Who founded the Mysteries in Greece
He was dismembered by wild women
And his head and his lyre floated away
Down the river Hebron, out across the sea
To land near Mitylene on the isle of Lesbos
Singing and giving oracles all the way
The head was buried there
And a temple of Bacchus or Dionysos
Was built there as a place of prophecy

In later stories the head of John the Baptist
Was removed by the wicked work
Of the women Herodias and Salome
In the Apocryphon of James
Jesus says to James,

Do you not know that the head of prophecy

Was removed with John?

When you realize what the head is,

And that prophecy comes from the head,

Then you will understand what this means:

Its head was taken away.

At first I spoke with you in parables

But you did not understand.

Now I am speaking with you plainly

And you still do not perceive.

Accounts like this one were interpreted
By some early observers of Christianity
To refer to a cult of the head
In which Jesus had actually obtained
The head of John the Baptist
And used it to produce magic oracles

Much later, there were legends about Roger Bacon
A Franciscan who was contemporary with the Templars
And who is now a saint of our Church
After his death, Bacon gained a reputation for sorcery
And one of his works was supposed to have been
A bronze head that could speak
And answer questions about the future

Later still, another of our saints
Aleister Crowley at the Abbey of Thelema
Devised a version of Bacon's magick head
To manifest the goetic spirit Belial
Whom Crowley called a “not-God”
And his “own especial daimon
This “Brazen Head” was to be in a special temple
Waited upon by a Virgin Priestess and a young boy
And equipped with a telephonic “membrane”
So that Crowley, the Pontifex of the daimon
Could remotely command and converse with
The postulants in the temple
Postulants who didn't know what they believed
Who could be fooled into thinking
The demon Belial was mightier than the demon Crowley.

But “Belial” is a different name than BAPHOMET
Where did the Templars or their accusers
Get the mysterious name of eight letters?
The most conservative scholars are unanimous
That it was a corruption of “Mahomet”
And there seem to be documents from the trials
To support that ironic notion
That the Templars were infected with idolatry
By the severely aniconic Arabic Islam
Which repressed all images of God
I know that's hard for me to believe!

But after the Templars were banned
And their Grand Master was martyred
Their legend began to grow
And people came up with other ideas
About the origin of the name BAPHOMET
A Masonic bookseller named Nicolai
Derived it from the Greek “Baptism of Wisdom,”
Von Hammer pointed to a Hebrew phrase
Meaning “Key of the House of God,”
Eliphas Levi took it in reverse
For Latin initials of a phrase
Meaning “The Father of the Temple,
“The Universal Peace of Men.”
Idries Shah reads it in Spanish-inflected Arabic
To mean “Father of Understanding.”

Crowley took the name BAPHOMET for his own
As Supreme and Holy King of the O.T.O.
But its true etymology mystified him
Until he consulted the Wizard Amalantrah
An entity who spoke to him through
The Scarlet Woman Ahitha.
Amalantrah told Crowley the correct spelling
Was beth aleph vau ayin mem iod tau resh
Which Crowley read as “Father Mithras”
And its value Seven Hundred and Twenty-nine
Was the cube of nine:
Cephas the cornerstone
And the value of “Amalantrah” himself
And it seems that Crowley believed that.

Now the greatest contribution
To the popular image of BAPHOMET
Was due to the work of
Saint Alphonse Louis Constant
Usually known as Eliphas Levi
In his book on the Ritual of High Magick
Levi included an illustration taken from earlier sources
But published there for the first time.
He described it like this:

The Sabbatic Goat.

The Baphomet of Mendes.

A pantheistic and magical figure of the absolute.

The torch placed between the two horns

The goat's head … unites some characteristics

Of the dog, bull, and ass …

The hands are human …

They make the sign of esotericism above and below …

And they point at two lunar crescents,

The upper being white and the lower black …

The lower part of the body is veiled

Universal generation … is expressed … by … the caduceus

The belly … is scaled …

The plumage reach[es] to the breast …

The goat has female breasts …

On its forehead … the Pentagram with one point in the ascendant

Levi identifies this figure
With the Devil of the Tarot
And claims that its worship continues
Among those who view it
As a philosophical synthesis
The Orphic and Neo-Platonist Pan
Levi says that this figure is not a god
But rather the hieroglyph of initiation.

Another great nineteenth century occultist
Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
Wrote that the BAPHOMET of the Templars
Was the same as the biblical scapegoat
That the Law of Moses required for the Feast of Atonement
The goat on which the High Priest would lay his hands
Putting all the sins of Israel
Upon the head of this live goat
Which was then driven into the wilderness
Blavatsky bewails the inadequacy
Of the English Bible on this topic
She notes that the scapegoat was called Azazel
And this living goat was the “giver of death”
Just as the slain goat of the sin offering
Was considered to be the “giver of life”
But which goat is BAPHOMET really?

“It is no easier to tell the live snake from the dead snake.”

And this consideration brings us to Liber A'ash
The Book of Creation or of the Goat of the Spirit
In which we read as follows:

Now shalt thou adore me who am the Eye and the Tooth,

the Goat of the Spirit, the Lord of Creation.

I am the Eye in the Triangle,

the Silver Star that ye adore.

I am Baphomet, that is the Eightfold Word

that shall be equilibrated with the Three.

There is no act or passion

that shall not be a hymn in mine honor.

All holy things and all symbolic things

shall be my sacraments.

These animals are sacred unto me;

the goat, and the duck, and the ass, and the gazelle,

the man, the woman, and the child.

All corpses are sacred unto me;

they shall not be touched save in mine eucharist.

All lonely places are sacred unto me;

when one man gathereth himself together in my name,

there will I leap forth in the midst of him.

I am the hideous god;

and who mastereth me is uglier than I.

Yet I give more than Bacchus and Apollo;

my gifts exceed the olive and the horse.

Who worshippeth me must worship me with many rites.

I am concealed with all concealments;

when the Most Holy One is stripped

and driven through the marketplace

I am still secret and apart.

Whom I love I chastise with many rods.

All things are sacred to me;

no thing is sacred from me.

For there is no holiness where I am not.

Thus Liber A'ash.

What is this BAPHOMET after all?
This mysterious god-not-god that is
Like a goat
Like an ass
Like an eagle
Like a bearded head
Like two or three cats
Like a duck
Like a painting on a wall
Like a serpent and a lion
Can all of these be spermatazoa?
Can we know what there is to believe here?

When the true mind above the abyss
Looks down into the world of delusion
Then there is knowledge
Broken into difference and relation
“The broken manifests light.”

When our deluded minds in the abyss of the universe
Peer upwards from the depths of madness
Then there is knowledge
Scintillating against the darkness
Like stars behind a mist
Or candle lights through a moving veil.

Any rational attempt to imagine the true unity
That stands behind CHAOS and BABALON
Can only produce an unstable synthesis
of Cosmic and Personal
of Animal and Human
of Male and Female
of Life and Death
of Fire and Water
of Tragedy and Comedy
of all holy things
of all symbolic things
And this rational reflection
Is everything that the ultimate is not
And everything that the conditioned is:

The paradox of our non-essentiality
The mutability of our existence
The rapture of our progress
Through the wastelands of restriction
Towards the wonder of nothing-in-particular
I know I believe in that.

In the name of CHAOS, Amen.

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