Jason Louv’s John Dee and the Empire of Angels is one of the most exciting occult works to come out this year. Beyond keen research, it’s an engaging adventure across the history of western esoterica from the Renaissance to modern times.

Louv certainly covers Gnostic thought in several sections of the book, including relating John Dee and Edward Kelly’s cosmology to Valentinian systems. The Gnostic Sophia doesn’t get overlooked. In fact, Wisdom incarnate is associated with the early aspects of the great Thelema goddess, Babalon.

Within the Sophia-Babalon connection, lies the solutions to the fall of man that continues to happen in the 21st century.

 

Beyond the Thunderdome

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Louv explains in both his book that after a strange spouse-swapping incident in 1587 (commanded by angels), the Enochian rituals of Dee and Kelly went on hyperdrive. An angelic female being appeared before the two magician bros, with attire “like beaten gold; she hath on her forehead a Cross chrystal lyne, her neck and breast are bare unto under her dugs; She had a girdle of beaten gold slack buckled unto her with a pendant of gold down to the ground.”

The angel then offered this speech, these days famous in Occultism:

I am the daughter of Fortitude, and ravished every hour, from my youth. For behold, I am Understanding, and Science dwelleth in me; and the heavens oppress me. They covet and desire me with infinite appetite; few or none that are earthly have embraced me, for I am shadowed with the Circle of the Stone, and covered with the morning Clouds. My feet are swifter than the winds, and my hands are sweeter than the morning dew. My garments are from the beginning, and my dwelling place is in my self. The Lion knoweth not where I walk, neither do the beasts of the field understand me. I am deflowered, and yet a virgin; I sanctify, and am not sanctified. Happy is he that embraceth me: for in the night season I am sweet, and in the day full of pleasure. My company is a harmony of many Cymbals, and my lips sweeter than health itself. I am a harlot for such as ravish me, and a virgin with such as know me not: For Lo, I am loved of many, and I am a lover to many; and as many as come unto me as they should do, have entertainment. Purge your streets, O ye sons of men, and wash your houses clean; make yourselves holy, and put on righteousness. Cast out your old strumpets, and burn their clothes; abstain from the company of other women that are defiled, that are sluttish, and not so handsome and beautiful as I, and then will I come and dwell amongst you: and behold, I will bring forth children unto you, and they shall be the sons of Comfort. I will open my garments, and stand naked before you, that your love may be more enflamed toward me. As yet, I walk in the clouds; as yet, I am carried with the winds, and cannot descend unto you for the multitude of your abominations, and the filthy loathsomeness of your dwelling places.

The angelic being would be later be associated with the Whore of Babylon from the Apocalypse of John; and evolved into Babalon when Aleister Crowley engaged in his own angelic ritual centuries later.

Louv notes that the Daughter of Fortitude passage eerily matches The Thunder, Perfect Mind. This Nag Hammadi text is the first-person poetic doxology by a female divinity often associated with Sophia or one of her avatars (and I argue in another article that it might have written by a woman).

Here is one example from The Thunder, Perfect Mind:

For I am the first and the last.

I am the honored one and the scorned one.

I am the whore and the holy one.

I am the wife and the virgin.

I am the mother and the daughter.

I am the members of my mother.

I am the barren one

and many are her sons.

I am she whose wedding is great,

and I have not taken a husband.

I am the midwife and she who does not give birth.

Louv indicates the apparent overlapping of these two texts, as in this instance:

  • I am a harlot for such as ravish me, and a virgin with such as know me not. (Daughter of Fortitude)
  • I am the whore and the holy one. I am the wife and the virgin. (The Thunder, Perfect Mind)

It should be noted that Dee and Kelly could not have known of The Thunder, Perfect Mind. The text wasn’t discovered in Egypt with the rest of the Nag Hammadi library until 1945 (one month before the beginning of Jack Parsons’ Babalon Working, as Louv points out).

So across time and geography, the subversive Wisdom aspect made her call to recognize her essence and promise of ultimate freedom. In fact, as Louv explains, after this encounter the angels told Dee and Kelly that they had finally attained wisdom…or should we say “Sophia.”

What’s more, engaging with this entity would be the last of Dee and Kelly’s work for good, an ending to a storied spiritual partnership that would profoundly inform modern occultism.

 

Fire on Babalon

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To be clear, when talking about the Gnostic Sophia, we’re not merely dealing with the tame, Hellenistic/Orthodox hypostasis of wisdom. Throughout Gnostic texts, Sophia is depicted as a scorned, complex, and even trickster entity. Sophia represents that forbidden, primordial, and holy knowledge that humanity has either forgotten or censored. I deal more in-depth into her characteristics in my article The Spiritual Meaning Behind the Story of Sophia.

A perfect example of Sophia’s complexity and dynamism is found in the NHL’s The Second Treatise of the Great Seth:

For those who were in the world had been prepared by the will of our sister Sophia – she who is a whore – because of the innocence which has not been uttered. And she did not ask anything from the All, nor from the greatness of the Assembly, nor from the Pleroma. Since she was first, she came forth to prepare monads and places for the Son of Light and the fellow workers which she took from the elements below to build bodily dwellings from them. But, having come into being in an empty glory, they ended in destruction in the dwellings in which they were, since they were prepared by Sophia.

Emphasis mine.

Going back to John Dee and the Empire of Angels, Louv explains that Babalon is depicted “as an inversion of the Virgin Mary or Sophia, the Goddess as a cosmic womb that absorbs and then extinguishes the individual egos of spiritual aspirants, and is therefore a ‘whore.’”

However, with Sophia, we also get a type of inversion. In the NHL’S The Exegesis of the Soul, the Sophia-character is described like this:

For the womb of the body is inside the body like the other internal organs, but the womb of the soul is around the outside like the male genitalia which is external.

I know it sounds weird, but it does detail a reversal of theological characteristics and processes, part of the classic disruption and deconstruction of the ancient Gnostics. As another example, sects like the serpent-worshipping Naassenes spoke about the River Jordan flowing backward in a symbolical act that creation is being absorbed inwardly as certain humans awaken.

But how can Sophia be anything like the notorious Whore of Babylon of Christianity? Beyond her antinomian characteristics, Tim Claason and Alex Rivera said in our interview that the Whore of Babylon is a polemic portrayal of the supreme divine feminine the early Gnostics held on to — or a caricature of such goddesses as Ashera/Astarte, once primordial representations of not only fertility but cosmic awareness.

 

Black ho sun, won’t you come?

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Louv and I are not alone in the Sophia-Babalon parallels. The site The Holy Books of Babalon makes the same keen connection, even relating Babalon to Barbelo, the ultimate female principle of the Gnostics who is sometimes depicted as the mother of both Sophia and Christ.

Scholars have not deciphered what Barbelo means, but we do know that some Gnostics called Barbelo (and Sophia) “Prunikos,” which means “lewd one” or (yes) “whore.” Her whoredom does have a different dimension than Babalon or Sophia’s, though. According to the church father Epiphanius, in a Sethian myth, Barbelo would appear in such a beautiful form to the Archons that they would get hopelessly aroused. This would cause them to ejaculate. Barbelo would gladly the take the Archon money-shots since their emissions contained the divine essence stolen from the Pleroma.

Then again, Barbelo might be like Sophia/Babalon, as we are talking about the whole inversion thing of the cosmos: rebelling and reversing the status quo of sensible reality.

Regardless of the purpose of divine whoring, what we have here are marginalized, left-hand goddess archetypes, similar to the aspects of Lilith, Ishtar, or Hekate. These deities are all fallen angels in a solar age.

 

Like a rollin’ thunder chasing the wind

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But who cares, right? Who needs these saucy harlots in an age of reason? Who needs any Gnosis-induced headaches in these times of digital Inquisitions and neo-Puritanism? Ignorance is still viewed as bliss and guilt-by-association can mean tribal expulsion. Like the Gospel of Thomas says:

Whoever knows the father and the mother will be called the child of a whore.

Well, our survival might depend on becoming children of the whore goddesses.

Beyond what I mentioned above about the gifts of Sophia, we can look to Tobias Churton’s Gnostic Mysteries of Sex. Churton provides a striking parallel between Sophia/Barbelo and Shatki, the Hindu goddess. More than a goddess, Shakti is the vital energy of the universe. She is the creator and destroyer, and very much the sustainer for the forming powers of Shiva. In tantric systems, Shatki flows through everything “but is principally most fruitful in the creative juices of man and woman.”

Hence so much sexual imagery in Gnostic myths, the wife-swapping of Dee and Kelly, and the prostitute metaphors in western esoterica. You see, once you suppress the manifestations of Shakti from the world, imbalance permeates every corner of the cosmos – and humans tend to pimp out their individuality to the highest bidder.

Let’s put it another way, going back to the word “Prunikos.” In the excellent A Separate God, Simone Petrement makes the case that “Prunikos” has more than one meaning. One of them is the “invisible force” in the context of being able to beget or create by thought alone.

In other words, these whore goddesses are manifestations of the Logos or the Divine Reason that nourishes and invigorates all reality.

Maybe it’s time to heed the Word coming from painted lips and serpentine tongues, speaking even before the universe was created. What you will hear is a sound like thunder as civilizations continue to commit untold evils, a cry from illicit goddesses urging to be let back into the consciousness of man.

 

Our interview with Jason Louv on Dee & Kelly, Babalon & Enochian Magick

References:
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