It’s that time of year again when Black Metal bands think its really kewl to release new albums – yes it is 6/6 day, or Great Beast Day as I have “antichristened” it. No doubt at around 6pm local time wherever you are, expect to see a lot of tweets on Twitter about Satan and what not.
666 is of course most famous from Revelation 13:18, whence comes its popularity in modern culture, from eschatology to horror novels & films (e.g. The Omen), rock music, etc. Aleister Crowley famously dubbed himself “The Great Beast 666” – partly out of re-action against his religious upbringing, but also to assert the Humanistic nature of Thelemic spirituality, i.e. as far as Crowley was concerned, the number of the Beast was not just the number of a particular man, but of Man generally.
Other writers (e.g. Rudolf Steiner) have identified the Great Beast as a being called “Sorath” – whose name in Hebrew Gematria (Samekh + Vau + Resh + Tau) enumerates to 666. This presents a tiny problem for ceremonial magicians (or at least the ones who claim not to be Satanists). According to Henry Cornelius Agrippa, the Intelligences and Spirits of the various Planets all have names whose gematria is associated with the Magic Square of the planet. The magic square of the Sun is a 6*6 grid containing the numbers 1 to 36. Each row adds up to 111, whilst the total for the whole grid – the 36th triangle number in other words – is 666. The Intelligence of the Sun is “Nakhiel,” the gematria of which is 111, whilst the Spirit is (you’ve guessed it) Sorath – for the gematric reasons stated previously. Hence when magicians perform a Qabalistic ceremony to invoke the forces of the Sun, e.g. to perform an evocation or consecrate a talisman, etc, they will wind up calling on Sorath. Magicians who purport to be of the right-hand path justify this by saying the only do so after first invoking all the divine and angelic Solar beings first, so that nasty old Sorath is not running wild, but is safely under control of the forces of light.
I am not alleging hypocrisy of any kind … too much … but this rationalisation starts to break down when it comes to practising the art of Geomancy. As far as the Golden Dawn is concerned, geomancers are encouraged to invoke a “Geomantic spirit” of the planet which most pertains to the question which they are attempting to answer. These Geomantic spirits are the same as the planetary spirits listed by Agrippa – so when a Geomancer attempts a Solar question, they will again find themselves calling upon Sorath – only this time they are not told to invoke the superior divine and angelic names first.
There are three possible conclusions to be drawn – magicians of the Golden Dawn are really closet devil-worshippers; writers like Rudolf Steiner did not know what they were talking about; or that St John the Divine was a git for mucking up an otherwise nice safe magical system. ;)