Chapter V

The Formula of I.A.O.

This formula is the principal and most characteristic formula of Osiris, of the Redemption of Mankind. "I" is Isis, Nature, ruined by "A", Apophis the Destroyer, and restored to life by the Redeemer Osiris.[1] The same idea is expressed by the Rosicrucian formula of the Trinity:

Ex Deo nascimur.
In Jesu Morimur
Per Spiritum Sanctum reviviscimus.

This is also identical with the Word Lux, L.V.X., which is formed by the arms of a cross. It is this formula which is implied in those ancient and modern monuments in which the phallus is worshipped as the Saviour of the World.

The doctrine of resurrection as vulgarly understood is false and absurd. It is not even "Scriptural". St. Paul does not identify the glorified body which rises with the mortal body which dies. On the contrary, he repeatedly insists on the distinction.

The same is true of a magical ceremony. The magician who is destroyed by absorption in the Godhead is really destroyed. The miserable mortal automaton remains in the Circle. It is of no more consequence to Him that the dust of the floor.[2]

But before entering into the details of I.A.O. as a magick formula it should be remarked that it is essentially the formula of Yoga or meditation; in fact, of elementary mysticism in all its branches.

In beginning a meditation practice, there is always[3] a quiet pleasure, a gentle natural growth; one takes a lively interest in the work; it seems easy; one is quite pleased to have started. This stage represents Isis. Sooner or later it is succeeded by depression — the Dark Night of the Soul, an infinite weariness and detestation of the work. The simplest and easiest acts become almost impossible to perform. Such impotence fills the mind with apprehension and despair. The intensity of this loathing can hardly be understood by any person who has not experienced it. This is the period of Apophis.

It is followed by the arising not of Isis, but of Osiris. The ancient condition is not restored, but a new and superior condition is created, a condition only rendered possible by the process of death.

The Alchemists themselves taught this same truth. The first matter of the work was base and primitive, though "natural". After passing through various stages the "black dragon" appeared; but from this arose the pure and perfect gold.

Even in the legend of Prometheus we find an identical formula concealed; and a similar remark applies to those of Jesus Christ, and of many other mythical god-men worshipped in different countries.[4]

A magical ceremony constructed on this formula is thus in close essential harmony with the natural mystic process. We find it the basis of many important initiations, notably the Third Degree in Masonry, and the 5° = 6[] ceremony of the G∴ D∴ described in The Equinox I, III. A ceremonial self-initiation may be constructed with advantage on this formula. The essence of it consists in robing yourself as a king, then stripping and slaying yourself, and rising from that death to the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. This formula, although now superseded by that of HORUS, the Crowned and Conquering Child, remains valid for those who have not yet assimilated the point of view of the Law of Thelema. But see Appendix, Liber SAMEKH. Compare also "The Book of the Spirit of the Living Gods," — where there is a ritual given in extenso on slightly different lines: The Equinox I, III, pages 269-272.[5]. There is an etymological identity between Tetragrammaton and I A O, but the magical formulae are entirely different, as the descriptions here given have schewn.

Professor William James, in his Varieties of Religious Experience, has well classified religion as the "once-born" and the "twice-born"; but the religion now proclaimed in Liber Legis harmonizes these by transcending them. There is no attempt to get rid of death by denying it, as among the once-born; nor to accept death as the gate of a new life, as among the twice-born. With the A∴A∴ life and death are equally incidents in a career, very much like day and night in the history of a planet. But, to pursue the simile, we regard this planet from afar. A Brother of A∴A∴ looks at (what another person would call) "himself", as one — or, rather, some — among a group of phenomena. He is that "nothing" whose consciousness is in one sense the universe considered as a single phenomenon in time and space, and in another sense is the negation of that consciousness. The body and mind of the man are only important (if at all) as the telescope of the astronomer to him. If the telescope were destroyed it would make no appreciable difference to the Universe which that telescope reveals.

It will now be understood that this formula of I A O is a formula of Tiphareth. The magician who employs it is conscious of himself as a man liable to suffering, and anxious to transcend that state by becoming one with god. It will appear to him as the Supreme Ritual, as the final step; but, as has already been pointed out, it is but a preliminary. For the normal man today, however, it represents considerable attainment; and there is a much earlier formula whose investigation will occupy Chapter VI.

THE MASTER THERION, in the Seventeenth year of the Aeon,[6] has reconstructed the Word I A O to satisfy the new conditions of Magick imposed by progress. The Word of the Law being Thelema, whose number is 93, this number should be the canon of a corresponding Mass. Accordingly, he has expanded I A O by treating the O as an Ayin, and then adding Vau as prefix and affix. The full word is then


whose number is 93. We may analyse this new Word in detail and demonstrate that it is a proper hieroglyph of the Ritual of Self-Initiation in this Aeon of Horus. For the correspondence in the following note, see Liber 777. The principal points are these:

Atu (Tarot trump) No. of Atu Hebrew Letter No. of Letter Correspondence in Nature Other Correspondence
The Hierophant. (Osiris throned & crowned, with Wand.) V Vau (a nail) English V, W, or vowel between O and U - ma'ajab and ma'aruf. 6 Taurus (An earthy sign ruled by Venus; the Moon exalted therein, but male.) The Sun. The son in Tetragrammaton. (See Cap. III). The Pentagram which shows Spirit master & reconciler of the Four Elements.
Four Worshippers; the four elements. Liberty, i.e. free will. The Hexagram which unites God and Man. The consciousness or Ruach.

Parzival as the Child in his widowed mother's care: Horus, son of Isis and the slain Osiris.

Parzival as King & Priest in Montsalvat performing the miracle of redemption; Horus crowned and conquering, taking the place of his father.

Christ-Bacchus in Heaven - Olympus saving the world.

The Hermit (Hermes with Lamp, Wings, Wand, Cloak, and Serpent). IX Yod (a hand) English I or Y. 10 Virgo (an earthy sign ruled by Mercury exalted therein; sexually ambivalent) Light, i.e. of Wisdom, the Inmost. The root of the Alphabet. The Spermatozoon. The youth setting out on his adventures after receiving the Wand. Parzival in the desert. Christ taking refuge in Egypt, and on the Mount tempted by the Devil. The unconscious Will, or Word.
The Fool (The Babe in the Egg on the Lotus, Bacchus Diphues, etc.) 0 Aleph (an ox) English A, more or less 1 Air (The condition of all Life, the impartial vehicle. Sexually undeveloped). Life; i.e. the organ of possible expression. The free breath. The Svastika. The Holy Ghost. The Virgin's Womb. Parzial as "der reine Thor" who knows nothing. Horus. Christ-Bacchus as the innocent babe, pursued by Herod-Héré. Hercules strangling the serpents. The Unconscious Self not yet determined in any direction.
The Devil (Baphomet throned & adored by Male & Female. See Eliphas Levi's design.) XV Ayin (an eye) English A, or O ore or less: the bleat of a goat, A'a. 70 Capricornus (an earthy sign ruled by Saturn; Mars exalted therein. Sexually male). Love: i.e. the instinct to satisfy Godhead by uniting it with the Universe. Parzival in Black Armour, ready to return to Montsalvat as Redeemer-King: Horus come to full growth. Christ-Bacchus with Calvary-Cross Kithairon — Thyrsus.

ΙΑF varies in significance with successive Aeons.

Aeon of Isis. Matriarchal Age. The Great Work conceived as a straightforward simple affair.

We find the theory reflected in the customs of Matriarchy. Parthenogenesis is supposed to be true. The Virgin (Yod-Virgo) contains in herself the Principle of Growth — the epicene Hermetic seed. It becomes the Babe in the Egg (A — Harpocrates) by virtue of the Spirit (A = Air, impregnating the Mother-Vulture) and this becomes the Sun or Son (F = the letter of Tiphareth, 6, even when spelt as Omega, in Coptic. See 777).

Aeon of Osiris. Patriarchal age. Two sexes. I conceived as the Father-Wand. (Yod in Tetragrammaton). A, the Babe, is pursued by the Dragon, who casts a flood from his mouth to swallow it. See Revelation VII. The Dragon is also the Mother — the "Evil Mother" of Freud. It is Harpocrates, threatened by the crocodile in the Nile. We find the symbolism of the Ark, the Coffin of Osiris, etc. The Lotus is the Yoni; the Water the Amniotic Fluid. In order to live his own life, the child must leave the Mother, and overcome the temptation to return to her for refuge. Kundry, Armida, Jocasta, Circe, etc., are symbols of this force which tempts the Hero. He may take her as his servant[8] when he has mastered her, so as to heal his father (Amfortas), avenge him (Osiris), or pacify him (Jehovah). But in order to grow to manhood, he must cease to depend on her, earning the Lance (Parzival), claiming his arms (Achilles), or making his club (Hercules)[9], and wander in the waterless wilderness like Krishna, Jesus, Oedipus, χ. τ. λ. — until the hour when, as the "King's Son" or knight-errant, he must win the Princess, and set himself upon a strange throne. Almost all the legends of heroes imply this formula in strikingly similar symbols. F. Vau the Sun — Son. He is supposed to be mortal; but how is this shewn? It seems an absolute perversion of truth: the sacred symbols have no hint of it. This lie is the essence of the Great Sorcery. Osirian religion is a Freudian phantasy fashioned of man's dread of death and ignorance of nature. The parthenogenesis-idea persists, but is now the formula for incarnating demi-gods, or divine kings; these must be slain and raised from the dead in one way or another.[10]

Aeon of Horus. Two sexes in one person.

FΙΑΟF:[11] 93, the full formula, recognizing the Sun as the Son (Star), as the pre-existent manifested Unit from which all springs and to which all returns. The Great Work is to make the initial FF of Assiah[12] (The world of material illusion) into the final FΙF of Atziluth,[13] the world of pure reality.

Spelling the Name in full, FF + ΙFΔ + ΑΛΠ + ΟΙΝ + FΙ = 309 = Sh T = XX + XI = 31 the secret Key of the Law.[14]

Fis the manifested Star.
Ιis the secret
Life .............. Serpent
Light ............. Lamp
Love .............. Wand
Liberty ........... Wings
Silence ........... Cloak
These symbols are all shewn in the Atu "The Hermit". They are the powers of the Yod, whose extension is the Vau. Yod is the Hand wherewith man does his Will. It is also The Virgin; his essence is inviolate.
Αis the Babe "who has formulated his Father, and made fertile his Mother" — Harpocrates, etc., as before; but he develops to
The exalted "Devil" (also the other secret Eye[15]) by the formula of the Initiation of Horus elsewhere described in detail. This "Devil" is called Satan or Shaitan, and regarded with horror by people who are ignorant of his formula, and, imagining themselves to be evil, accuse Nature herself of their own phantasmal crime. Satan is Saturn, Set, Abrasax, Adad, Adonis, Attis, Adam, Adonai, etc. The most serious charge against him is that he is the Sun in the South. The Ancient Initiates, dwelling as they did in lands whose blood was the water of the Nile or the Euphrates, connected the South with life-withering heat, and cursed that quarter where the solar darts were deadliest. Even in the legend of Hiram,[16] it is at high noon that he is stricken down and slain. Capricornus is moreover the sign which the sun enterers when he reaches his extreme Southern declination at the Winter Solstice, the season of the death of vegetation, for the folk of the Northern hemisphere. This gave them a second cause for cursing the south. A third; the tyranny of hot, dry, poisonous winds; the menace of deserts or oceans dreadful because mysterious and impassable; these also were connected in their minds with the South. But to us, aware of astronomical facts, this antagonism to the South is a silly superstition which the accidents of their local conditions suggested to our animistic ancestors. We see no enmity between Right and Left, Up and Down, and similar pairs of opposites. These antitheses are real only as a statement of relation; they are the conventions of an arbitrary device for representing our ideas in a pluralistic symbolism based on duality. "Good" must be defined in terms of human ideals and instincts. "East" has no meaning except with reference to the earth's internal affairs; as an absolute direction in space it changes a degree every four minutes. "Up" is the same for no two men, unless one chance to be in the line joining the other with the centre of the earth. "Hard" is the private opinion of our muscles. "True" is an utterly unintelligible epithet which has proved refractory to the analysis of our ablest philosophers.

We have therefore no scruple in restoring the "devil-worship" of such ideas as those which the laws of sound, and the phenomena of speech and hearing, compel us to connect with the group of "Gods" whose names are based upon ShT or D, vocalized by the free breath A. For these Names imply the qualities of courage, frankness, energy, pride, power and triumph; they are the words which express the creative and paternal will.

Thus "the Devil" is Capricornus, the Goat who leaps upon the loftiest mountains, the Godhead which, if it become manifest in man, makes him Aegipan, the All.

The Sun enters this sign when he turns to renew the year in the North. He is also the vowel O, proper to roar, to boom, and to command, being a forcible breath controlled by the firm circle of the mouth.

He is the Open Eye of the exalted Sun, before whom all shadows flee away: also that Secret Eye which makes an image of its God, the Light, and gives it power to utter oracles, enlightening the mind.

Thus, he is Man made God, exalted, eager; he has come consciously to his full stature, and so is ready to set out on his journey to redeem the world. But he may not appear in this true form; the Vision of Pan would drive men mad with fear. He must conceal Himself in his original guise. He therefore becomes apparently the man that he was at the beginning; he lives the life of a man; indeed, he is wholly man. But his initiation has made him master of the Event by giving him the understanding that whatever happens to him is the execution of this true will. Thus the last stage of his initiation is expressed in our formula as the final:

F — The series of transformations has not affected his identity; but it has explained him to himself.

Similarly, Copper is still Copper after Cu + O = CuO: + H2SO4 = CuS4O(H2O): + K2S = CuS(K2SO4): + blowpipe and reducing agent = Cu(S).

It is the same copper, but we have learnt some of its properties. We observe especially that it is indestructible, inviolably itself throughout all its adventures, and in all its disguises. We see moreover that it can only make use of its powers, fulfill the possibilities of its nature, and satisfy its equations, by thus combining with its counterparts. Its existence as a separate substance is evidence of its subjection to stress; and this is felt as the ache of an incomprehensible yearning until it realises that every experience is a relief, an expression of itself; and that it cannot be injured by aught that may befall it. In the Aeon of Osiris it was indeed realised that Man must die in order to live. But now in the Aeon of Horus we know that every event is a death; subject and object slay each other in "love under will"; each such death is itself life, the means by which one realises oneself in a series of episodes.[17]

The second main point is the completion of the A, babe Bacchus, by the O, Pan (Parzival wins the Lance, etc.).

The first process is to find the I in the V[18] — initiation, purification, finding the Secret Root of oneself, the epicene Virgin who is 10 (Malkuth) but spelt in full 20 (Jupiter).

This Yod in the Virgin expands to the Babe in the Egg by formulating the Secret Wisdom of Truth of Hermes in the Silence of the Fool. He acquires the Eye-Wand[19], beholding the acting and being adored. The Inverted Pentagram — Baphomet — the Hermaphrodite fully grown — begets himself on himself as V again.

Note that there are now two sexes in one person throughout, so that each individual is self-procreative sexually, whereas Isis knew only one sex, and Osiris thought the two sexes opposed. Also the formula is now Love in all cases; and the end is the beginning, on a higher plane.

The I is formed from the V by removing its tail, the A by balancing 4 Yods, the O by making an inverted triangle of Yods, which suggests the formula of Nuit — Hadit — Ra-Hoor-Khuit. A is the elements whirling as a Svastika — the creative Energy in equilibrated action.

1There is a quite different formula in which I is the father, O the Mother, A the child — and yet another, in which I.A.O. are all fathers of different kinds balanced by H.H.H., 3 Mothers, to complete the Universe. In a third, the true formula of the Beast 666, I and O are the opposites which form the field for the operation of A. But this is a higher matter unsuited for this elementary handbook. See, however, Liber Samekh, Point II, Section J.

2It is, for all that, His instrument, acquired by Him as an astronomer buys a telescope. See Liber Aleph, for a full explanation of the objects attained by the stratagem of incarnation; also Part IV of this Book 4.

3If not, one is not working properly.

4See J.G.Frazer, The Golden Bough; J.M.Robertson, Pagan Christs; A. Crowley, Why Jesus Wept.

5The magic of Abra-Melin was practised by members of the Golden Dawn. Crowley was so successful with the magical formula of Abra-Melin that it brought him up to a higher stage, that of Thelema which (in the light of his system) supersedes it. Put in another way the formula of the previous aeon — that of Osiris — involved the conception of death and resurrection through self-sacrifice. In the formula of the new aeon (Thelema) the emphasis shifts from the Dying God (Osiris, Christ and others) to the ever-living Sun, Horus, the "Crowned and Conquering Child" who typifies the eternal and undying Self in Man. Not "Thy will be done", but "Do what thou wilt."

6The New Aeon began in 1904. The Seventeenth year of the Aeon is therefore 1921 when Crowley was at his Abbey of Thelema in Cefalu, Sicily.

7Table I (columns CLXXV and CLXXVI) gives the Hebrew letters with their Cabbalistic equivalents. ו‎ = 6; י‎ = 10; א‎ = 1; ע‎ = 70; ו‎ = 6. Total 93.

8Her sole speech in the last Act is "Dienen: Dienen".

9Note that all these three remain for a time as neuters among woman, prevented from living the male life.

10All these ideas may be explained by reference to anthropology. But this is not their condemnation, but their justification; for the customs and legends of mankind reflect the true nature of the species.

11F and V are alternate transliterations of the Hebrew letter ו (Vau). Hence FIAOF is VIAOV.

12One of the four worlds of Cabbalistic tradition. See Table II.

13For these spellings see 777.

14Crowley means spelling the letters of the name (FIAOF) in full, i.e. F = FF; I or Yod = ΙFΔ, etc. The total is 309 as opposed to 93. 309 is the number of the god Set (Sh = 300; T = 9). These two letters, Sh and T, are attributed to the Tarot Keys XX and XI, i.e. 31, the number of AL which is the secret key of The Book of the Law. See Liber Samekh, Point II.

15In man himself, i.e. the phallus.

16Hiram Abiff, the Master Builder of the Masonic tradition. See The Magical Record of the Beast 666.

17This passage is obscure. Crowley contrasts the Old Aeon, the Aeon of Osiris (Christianity, Buddhism et al.), with that of the New, the Aeon of Horus (Thelema, the present age). The experience of Reality is only possible by the union, i.e. the death, of subject and object in consciousness. What Crowley apparently omitted to say is that in the previous Aeon the experience of Reality (the Kingdom of Heaven) is only attainable through the sacrifice, the denial, of the senses.

18The I or Yod in the V or Vau, i.e. the Father in the Son.

19The Phallic-Power.

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