Chapter II Commentary


The previous chapter describes the effect wrought by the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel upon the outward appearances of things and the sensations caused thereby; it is the transmutation of the element of Earth, and the corresponding part of the soul, Nephesch.

We now turn to the element of Air, the faculties called Ruach, that is, the mind considered as an instrument of intellectual apprehension, a machine proper to the analysis of impressions and their interpenetration in terms of conscious thought. The Work of attaining to the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel being in Tiphareth, the centre of the Ruach, the result of success is to harmonize, concentrate and glorify the medley of loose ideas which are suggested by the meaningless multiplicity of mental concepts.


(Verse 1)    Describes the passage of the Divine Consciousness (the Hawk) coloured by love (green) into the world of starry space (lapis lazuli, which is blue with specks of gold) by a balanced path from earth to heaven (the pillars of turquoise). The East is the quarter attributed to Air, and the Hawk is there “seated.” i.e., stable, not to be distracted by whatever thoughts arise in the mind.  

(Verses 2)    Being now open to the whole Universe, the Soul hears whatever is spoken. (Air is the vehicle of sound.)

(Verse 3)    A “Veiled One” (Isis) explains that no individual consciousness can be more than the sphere of which it is born and which constitutes its environment. It is equally supreme and vile, these qualities being illusions produced by artificial relations, which may be chosen at will.

(Verse 4)    The Godhead, in order to realize itself, must involuntarily submit to undergo the experience of imperfection. It must take the Sacrament which unites it with the dark glamour of “Evil,” the counterpart of that which exalts the “Sinner” to Godhead.

(Verse 5)    It accepts the formulae of
    (a) Duality, i.e., life as vibration.
        (1) Death.
        (2) The Illusion of Knowledge.
    (b) Exile.
        (1) The Hunger of Lust
        (2) Labour.
     It acquiesces in the shame of being a God concealed in animal form. 

(Verse 6)     The object of this act is to realize the possibilities of one’s unity by representing its wholeness as an infinite number of particular cases, just as one might try to get an idea of the meaning of “poetry” by studying all available poems. None of these can be more than one imperfect illustration of the abstract idea; yet only through these concrete images can one get any understanding of what it means. 

(Verse 7 - 16)     The river is the stream of thought. The boat is the consciousness. The purple sails are the passions that direct its course, and the woman is the pure Ideal which one seeks to make the constant occupant and the guiding principle of one’s conscious live. This “woman,” though of gold, is only a lifeless image. The river is of blood; that is, the current of thought must be identified with the object of one’s life, not a mere medium for reflecting every casual impression. 

(Verse 7)     The boat is of steel; that is, the consciousness must be able to resist the intrusion of all undesired thoughts. 
    Loving this ideal, the Aspirant frees himself from all that binds him (shame, selfishness, etc. - “loosing my girdle”) and loses his ego in Thought itself (”cast myself into the stream”).

(Verse 8)     He identifies himself with pure consciousness - immune from, yet floating upon, the course of Thought - and devotes himself to this Ideal, with poetical and religious fervour. 

(Verse 9)     He consecrates his creative energy to the Ideal.

(Verse 10)     This process destroys the superficial beauty of the Ideal. Its purity is corrupted by the contact of mortality.

(Verse 11)     Despite the disappointment, the Aspirant persists in “love under will.” He gives himself up utterly to Truth, even now when it seems so dark and dreadful. 

(Verse 12)     The Ideal now breaks up into loathsome forms, no longer recognizable as the object of his love. He is tempted to abandon her, and to seek refuge from Consciousness by drowning himself in those distracting thoughts which surround him. 
    by Aleister Crowley