Sunday, June 15, 2014
The Faces of Babalon: Being a Compilation of Women's Voices
Book Review: The Faces of Babalon: Being a Compilation of Women’s Voices (Black Moon Publishing 1992, 2008)
This is a small book with five essays on the nature of the female erotic power archetype in Thelema, known as Babalon. Each is from a different angle or perspective and adds to the lore of this dynamic feminine goddess-thought-form.
It is noted in the preface that these articles see Babalon as: warrior, the gift of woman’s genius, woman of power, sacred prostitute, and as the cosmic female principle according to Aleister Crowley’s pantheon.
The first essay is: Kiss the Sky: On Channeling Babalon by Linda Falorio. She begins by saying that these “energies” of Babalon and the Scarlet Woman need not be confined to being channeled by woman. Men can do so as well and I tend to agree. She notes that:
“To walk the path of BABALON is to seek to allow oneself to experience existence as pure sensation, suspending value judgments of pleasure-pain, good-bad, attractive-repulsive by which we commonly limit and define our everyday experience.”
She describes four faces of the goddess: Maiden-Nymph-Warrior-Crone, and states that Babalon is the warrior aspect. She is fierce, free, and open to eroticism and sensation, much like a Tantric adept.
She gives six techniques for encountering self/other. Here they are as I understand them: 1) “take what they give” – this seems to be accepting whatever happens and appears, particularly coming from others. 2) as an extension of the previous this technique is to attempt to see all others encountered as sexual partners but without evocative negative emotions. 3) Use the technique of “the kiss” as a method to dissolve ego-boundaries between self and other, whether that other be a person, another life form, or an object. 4) the mirror: trade places. Stare into the eyes of another and trade places thus dissolving the boundaries between self and other. 5) Gaze at one’s own reflection in a mirror until one senses an “otherness.” Then accept that otherness again as your self. 6) Magickal Monogamy – here the idea is to realize that the muse is within, even in ‘union with the other.’ Thus one may work with just one partner and find much mystery and otherness in them as intimacy is increased if the practice is done mindfully.
The next section is on orgasmic magick. Here she notes that orgasm can be a gate to other dimensions or an expansion of one’s sense of “I”. She gives some techniques of breathing through the body, through the pores, through the crown of the head and working with the chakras and the Tree of Life during orgasm. She also gives a Tantra of Earth and Sky with arms upraised as being in a kiss with the sky, sun, moon, and stars and offering orgasmic energy to the earth.
Next essay is Failed Babalons by Soror Chen. She notes that the Babalon archetype has been personally difficult for her. She also notes that several of
so-called scarlet women later suffered from madness and psychological problems.
She talks about her own powerful mother as a Babalon trapped in the cage of
society. She was taught to be fierce and independent but also how to apply
sexual allure and to manipulate men. Her father taught that strong women are
problematic. She says that even though Crowley
tried to establish a new role for women he often failed due to his own
misunderstanding of, and lack of respect for women. She mentions the failings
of Leah Hirsig, who descended into madness after Crowley rejected her. She mentions meeting
another woman, who like Leah Hirsig, saw herself as the only one deserving the
title of such a goddess, being stuck in her own mythological complex. Leah
Hirsig wished to pass on her title in the manner of a Queen Bee but did not get such an
opportunity. During her own time with the O.T.O. Soror Chen notes encountering
two sexual roles of the Babalon type:
“One in which a woman devotes herself to one Beast and loves all men through him; and one in which a woman has sexual relations with as many men as are willing in order to fairly literally love “all.”
Being a liberated woman is not easy, she says, as negative self-image and self-destructive behavior due to society can happen. She also notes that:
“…Babalon’s beauty comes from knowing her Self, and radiating that Self, unfettered, to the world.”
She recommends artistic creation as a means to invoke Babalon as “…the strong, powerful, glorious woman…” Then, perhaps the genius of women can come through.
The next essay is Playing With Fire: The Training of Babalon by Mishlen Linden. This perspective sees Babalon as the one who connects directly with the Chaos which composes the universe. It is mind, she says, that makes patterns from this primordial stuff. In order to unite with this infinity of chaos, all patterns need to be abandoned so the mind needs to let go of control in order to unite with that which is uncontrollable.
She examines sexual Tantra from a few different perspectives. She notes that in ceremonial magick there is often an active role of “current-generator” and a passive role of “visionary.”
Crowley’s scarlet women were often the
visionaries but so too was he in certain rites (being passive or active) so one
cannot equate the passive role with the visionary. In the Tibetan terma
tradition it was often, but not always, the male that was the visionary. These
roles may be reversed but she also notes that:
“The most difficult type of Tantra is the ritual in which both partners SIMULTANEOUSLY invoke and absorb current from each other.”
What she has been referring to here is the Tantric technique of seeing the deity in the partner, of invoking them through one’s lover, using the body of the other as the house or mandala of the godform. Once the deity is invoked, she says, it is no longer necessary to work with a partner and she also notes that:
“A Scarlet Woman should not be dependent upon having a physical partner for the reification of her powers.”
She recommends working with the chakras of the subtle body, seeing them as wombs and as gates to other realms. It is the unification of spiritual and physical that is the Tantra of Babalon.
“The very concept of transcendence infers a division that does not exist. As Babalon, YOU ARE TRANSCENDENCE ITSELF.”
She mentions the dangers of becoming dependent on the current invoked for as the power of the current grows the more painful it can be when one loses contact with it. A Babalon is an initiator and so must access the disposition of others and guide them through her erotic and magickal prowess. This can be done through the archetypes of the lover: eroticism, the model of the spiritual beloved, or self-love in the sense of deepening one’s connection to the Higher Self or Holy Guardian Angel. Initiation, she says, involves working with patterns. Patterns are made by boundaries and limitations. Breaking up patterns and reforming them is the process of initiation. She offers “three degrees to Babalon Adeptship, corresponding to the three cross-paths of the Tree of Life.”
Peh - from Netzach to Hod – The Tower – creates ability to see patterns
Teth – from Geburah to Chesed – Lust – patterns are reformed into larger patterns
Daleth – from Binah to Chokmah – The Empress – patterns dissolve into Chaos
Next essay is: A Double Vision of Babalon by Nema. Nema gives Crowley’e definition of Babalon as the female cosmic principle. She says that “Nuit applies to all of nature and the Scarlet Woman applies to the individual.” The magickal function of Babalon as object of desire and devotion is to “receive every last drop of the Blood of the Saints in Her Chalice.” “She represents unrestricted sexual and sensual enjoyment, the Goddess of freedom, the female ideal.” Dissolving in sexual ecstasy (0) is a key to the 2=0 formula.
Nema mentions that as a Thelemite she is fine with Babalon but as a Priestess of Maat she is not thrilled with the symbolism adopted by
Crowley as rebellion
against Christian apocalypticism. She sees that as chaining Thelemic mysticism
to the modes of Christianity and I tend to agree. She suggests that opposition
to Christian imagery is no longer relevant (though I think it can be for some).
Both forms of Babylon/Babalon were created by men, she notes, one for shame and
the other for exaltation. In more modern times as women have gotten more
freedom, the needs of the archetype may be changing. An overly promiscuous
Babalon could spread STDs. An overly rebellious one could be over-enthralled
with outlaw thrills. Although Nema praises the historical function of Babalon
in establishing the Thelemic paradigm she also notes that:
“It’s time to seek out and create new Magickal images to better assist the changes we seek to make.”
I tend to agree with that statement. One could seek out new archetypes for the nature of the times or one could retrofit the existing Babalon goddess-thought-form for human needs now.
The final essay is: Notes of a Professional Babalon by Raven Greywalker. This one examines the nature of mindful, or sacred prostitution, not strictly for money but for work as a “whore of initiations” and for inner self-discovery.
“… SHe is Choronzon’s mate. Hir sexual potency is the creative and destructive urge of Chaos. To be touched by Hir is to enter Da’ath, to know that you Are/Not, and to be changed.”
The skills of a sacred prostitute, she says, can be powerful psychological tools involving role-playing and attending to the inner needs of the seeker. Babalon in this sense is sexual therapist. As a gatherer of the subtle sexual energies of many SHe is the node of a community of beings.
“SHe is WoMan girt with a sword and destroys the hive structure of society, so that we may be born as individuals and gods.”
I like this aspect of Babalon as the smasher of social taboos. Taking on the office of the despised one has to carry stigma and unfair mistreatment along. This may develop fearlessness, competence, and new perspectives and demonstrate a new freedom.
At the beginning and end of this book there are excerpts from “Babalon Speaks” and “The Book of the Holy Lady of the 3-Fold Name” channeled by D. Koons. This is from the vast and wonderful Black Moon Archives. Here is a piece:
“Choose ye not the lily-white, for I shall give you all by dissolution and so shall thou expand and break apart like stardust blown across the universe and we shall become faceless you and I and so shall we cease to be you and the I and become one and naught at the same moment, and every moment shall cease for there is no time!
“Our tears shall become mixed with our laughter, which shall flow beyond the reaches of eternity, for the joy of dissolution is to give all and become naught!”
This is quite a thoughtful tome on the evolving Thelemic form of “the Goddess” and offers insight into the nature of feminine force and fire.