Initiation of the King
and the Ordeal X



Beat the drums and don the paint! Weave the spell that I have taught thee! My word shall explode the world in its vocalization; as a mantra it is destructive to the dragon of death. – 718,3:27

Is there no end to the falling and climbing? This is the secret of Sisyphus, that angelic beast. That the climbing and falling is ever a joyous task, that this life and death is truly an unearned reward. – 77,3:16

The Book of the Law and its comment, the Book of Codes – Liber 718, provide much of the basis for this article. They are both contained in Liber 440, The Book of Perfection. The Book of the Law introduces the term “Ordeal x” and, as the letter X is represented by the Tarot major arcanum The Emperor, the corresponding initiation shares the name of the card. An emperor is just a king of group of kingdoms. Most of the symbolism found in the writings of Aiwass can only be understood in light of the qabalistical attributes of the Tarot. Most of the references you will find in this article are to the Book of Perfection (it is best to download the PDF and view it locally with Adobe Reader) and to Aleister Crowley’s qabalah, best documented in his popular book on Tarot The Book of Thoth.

It would be difficult to overestimate the value of Aleister Crowley’s own commentary on the Book of the Law. Although it leaves many verses un-commented, it well portrays a pro-active approach to further study. This personal commentary of the Great Beast is not to be confused with Aiwass’s commentary, Liber 718.


Verses 51 to 53 of the third chapter of the Book of the Law compare Abrahamic religions to Dharmic religions and find them both wanting. The metaphysics of Dharmic religions, their world view, is essentially accurate but the fatalistic approach sucks the life out of their otherwise useful practices, their flesh. The attitude that man can change his world and affect the outcome, which invigorates the practices of Abrahamic religions, is also essentially accurate. However, the fear of death and ignorance of nature support a world view (the eyes) in which humans must appease a supernatural god—in accord with the tenets of the sect in question—or face eternity as victims of torture, or at best, banishment from the presence of that god and the company of His loyal servants. With old-aeon religions, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

The Book of the Law, and its comment, merge the mysticism of the East with the magic of the West in a synergy named Thelema. We learn to express the Word through cycles of initiation and ordeal. Thelemic metaphysics describes these cycles of awakening in some detail. Thelemic practices change our experience of the world and affect the outcomes of our lives. We awaken not to a set of predetermined beliefs but to our own awareness of the truth of things. Thelema is not religion. It is the science and technology of practical immortality. It is spirituality without bondage and love without shame.


In The Initiation of the King and the Ordeal X we shall explore the initiation cycle in general, and in particular the initiation which begins the ordeal named X. The ‘Ordeal x’ is the only ordeal named in Liber Al vel Legis, the Book of the Law. The Book of the Law forms the first part of the Book of Perfection. The second part of the Book of Perfection is a commentary or expansion on the first part. It is named the Book of Codes, Liber 718. The third part, the Book of Oz, Liber 77, is essentially the child of the first part of the Book of Perfection, just as its amanuensis was the spiritual child—the reincarnation—of the prophet of the Book of the Law. At heart, the subject matter of the Book of Perfection is a practical technique to contact the consciousness that has continuity from lifetime to lifetime, that transcends the death/birth threshold.


Since the body and brain dissolve after death, the reasoning capacity and intellect do not survive the transition. The spiritual impetus, which does survive, motivates the new incarnation to connect with the levels of awareness inherited from previous lifetimes. After many incarnations of incremental progress, the inherited patterns of awareness have enough form and substance that they become available to waking consciousness. In that moment, the world we thought we knew may be contrasted by a world we always knew deep down inside. A choice appears. Will we ignore the eternal truth in favour of that which our senses show us? Or will we seek out that truth which is so real but so difficult to grasp?

Aleister Crowley wrote, in the Confessions on page 469, “Initiation consists in identifying the human self with the divine, and the man who does not strain constantly to this end is simply a brute made wretched and ashamed by the fact of self-consciousness.” In his comment on 220,1:8 he wrote, “Our minds and bodies are veils of the Light within. The uninitiate is a ‘Dark Star’, and the Great Work for him is to make his veils transparent by ‘purifying’ them. This ‘purification’ is really ‘simplification’; it is not that the veil is dirty, but that the complexity of its folds make it opaque. The Great Work therefore consists in the solution of complexes.” The more we simplify the folds of personality the more we can identify, each with his or her own divine self.

holy guardian angel

The star is the Holy Guardian Angel. It is also known as the True Self, Higher Self or Eternal Self, and was described as a ‘tutelary deity’ by James Beck in his 1983 c.e. introduction to Liber 440, the Book of Perfection. Initiation is conferred by one’s own Holy Guardian Angel. Thelemic initiations challenge us to clarify and strengthen the links between our material selves and our spiritual selves.

ladder of initiation

One Star in Sight portrays a ladder of initiation. Its lowest echelon is the Neophyte, or ‘new growth’, a fool. Its highest is the Ipsissimus, at once God incarnate and the Great Fool. Each ascending step on the ladder indicates a greater sharing of consciousness between the incarnation and the star within, which is progressively unveiled by the initiations.

To the Neophyte, the Holy Guardian Angel is a belief. Communication between the two states of being cannot be distinguished from products of the imagination.

At the mid-point of the system of initiation, the Adeptus Minor’s task is to make overt and explicit contact with the Angel. Here, the Holy Guardian Angel is perceived as an objective entity whose reality is beyond question.

At the top of the ladder, the Ipsissimus is so completely identified with the Holy Guardian Angel that the incarnation can no longer distinguish Angel from material-world self.

Each of the ten initiations, represented by the sephiroth of the Tree of Life, begins a cycle of learning or change in consciousness. Each of the ten initiations has a corresponding ordeal which implements or completes the shift in awareness begun by the initiation. Some of the ten ordeals are experienced in groups, much like those groups mentioned in Aleister Crowley’s One Star In Sight.


our astral bodies
Tree of Life with bodies

The Neophyte is at Malkuth, on the Tree of Life (ToL), which represents the human body (Ha) and consciousness in the world. The Zelator is at Yesod which represents the Ka, the doppelgänger or astral double. The Ka looks like the physical body that it reflects on the astral plane. The Adeptus Minor is at Tiphareth which represents the Khu, the bright and shiny spirit body which—when filtered through the folds of personality—is seen as the aura. The adept fashions a temple of the Khu suitable for the star to indwell. Tiphareth is also the heart; the phoenix; house of the Khabs; and the Sun itself. The Ipsissimus is at Kether which represents the Khabs or star, a state where the body, mind and being of the incarnation is one with the Holy Guardian Angel.

The ordeals earth the initiations, making them real in the world. An initiation which is not earthed by ordeal remains ethereal, unsubstantial and incomplete. One cannot be said to have attained a given degree of initiation until the corresponding ordeal is won through to the end.

While the ladder of initiation is portrayed as proceeding from lower to higher, it may be better understood as proceeding from outer to inner. In the outer world, we survive by organising our social behaviour in response to material needs and desires. In the inner world, we organise our physical & astral bodies as temples for our Holy Guardian Angels, our Eternal Selves. This temple is known as 418 (Het) and its architecture is given in the Word of the Aeon, Abrahadabra.


the present –
perpendicular to the arrow of time
TOL for Time Line

In outer material reality, we never leave the present. The future is coming toward us and the past is receding away from us, neither are real except when they are present. Both the future and the past are made in the present.

Remember all ye that existence is pure joy;
that all the sorrows are but as shadows; they
pass & are done; but there is that which
- 220,2:9.

Joy in life is the feeling of being connected in the moment. Sorrow is the feeling of being disconnected, abstracted in the past or future. The more contact between Angel and incarnation, the more moments of connection and the more joy. The sorrows are the ordeals by which we are motivated to plunge into the present. The initiations introduce new perspectives that necessitate new connections, which the ordeals provide at the cost of not a little anxiety. The incarnation comes to terms with his or her own spiritual awareness by means of the ordeals. That which remains is a spiritual resilience, or perhaps momentum, gained through the cycles of initiation and ordeal. This momentum, or impetus, is carried over to subsequent incarnations.

Any one step on the ladder of initiation may take several incarnations to win through, but, once a degree of initiation and its ordeal is completed, subsequent incarnations will cycle through that level quickly and efficiently. Even then it may take several years to come through all the ordeals of previously attained initiations before work may begin in earnest on the ordeal of the next initiation.

a promise

Nuit makes us a promise: “I give unimaginable joys on earth: certainty, not faith, while in life, upon death;...” – 220,1:58. The cycles of initiation and ordeal reveal not only the spiritual journey in the world but also the transitions of death and birth. Through the reciprocal effects of initiation and ordeal, we discover a continuity of consciousness from one incarnation to the next. This continuity of consciousness enables the pursuit of specific purposes over sequences of lifetimes. Those who are ruled by prejudice, dogma and superstition may restrict us, or even kill us, but they can never defeat us. When they die, they cling to their earthly identities on the lower astral plane while the energies that give cohesion to their astral bodies dissipate. It is the end of them. Death for us is a transition, not a terminus, for, being aware of our astral bodies, we plunge into the Clear Light (Nirvana) long before they dissipate. When we pop back into manifestation, the energies of our astral flesh remain available to us as potential. Thus we have a stronger presence on the astral plane, on all levels, than other children. This causes us to percieve the world differently and to seek the answers to different questions than the ones asked by those without a continuity of consciousness. The star persists and the lifetime’s experience persists as potential for the subsequent incarnation.

In Initiation of the King and the Ordeal X, we explore the first, and some say most difficult, of the initiation cycles portrayed on the Tree of Life. In the next section, called Naming, we discover how it is that the initiation and the ordeal are named X.

 Nemo Pandragon

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The other images group around me to support
me: let all be worshipped, for they shall
cluster to exalt me. I am the visible object
of worship; the others are secret; for the Beast
& his Bride are they: and for the winners of
the Ordeal x. What is this? Thou shalt know.
– 220,3:22
       ← Go Back

With my Hawk’s head I peck at the eyes of
Jesus as he hangs upon the cross.

I flap my wings in the face of Mohammed &
blind him.

With my claws I tear out the flesh of the
Indian and the Buddhist, Mongol and
– 220,3:51-53

Ra-Hoor-Khuit attacks the world view, the eyes, of the Abrahamic heroes and the fatalistic approach to the practices, the flesh, of Dharma.
       ← Go Back

The stars are thine angels, fixed in their proper and pleasing orbit. The lampstands are thy bodies, surmounted by an halo of light.
– 718,3:8
       ← Go Back

Aldus Huxley defined Eternal Self in his introduction to the Bhagavad-Gita. Huxley wrote that the third of four fundamental doctrines of the Perennial Philosophy is as follows, “Third: man possesses a double nature, a phenomenal ego and an eternal Self, which is the inner man, the spirit, the spark of divinity within the soul. It is possible for a man, if he so desires, to identify himself with the spirit and therefore with the Divine Ground, which is of the same or like nature with the spirit.”

The entertaining and informative What the BLEEP Do We Know?, and its extended Down the Rabbit Hole edition, discusses the Divine Ground in terms of quantum physics and neurology.
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These three verses from the first chapter of the Book of the Law introduce the Khu and the Khabs. Aleister Crowley called 220,1:8 “the first ‘revelation’ of Aiwass”. See AL 1,8 in this link.

Behold! it is revealed by Aiwass the
minister of Hoor-paar-kraat.
The Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in
the Khabs.
Worship then the Khabs, and behold my
light shed over you!
– 220,1:7-9

In the second chapter of Liber Al, Hadit says,

Come! all ye, and learn the secret that
hath not yet been revealed. I, Hadit, am
the complement of Nu, my bride. I am not
extended, and Khabs is the name of my House.
– 220,2:2
       ← Go Back

I avoid using the word ‘karma’ as it is too often associated with the notion of cosmic retribution for breaking the moral tenets of one cult or another. It is a word that is over-used and not much understood.
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