In his Old Comment to Liber Legis, I,39 – “The word of the Law is Θελημα[/font:2b7vabm1]” - Crowley nods in the general direction of his literary conceptual precursor François Rabelais merely by noting: “Compare Rabelais.” Both the term “Thelema” and the phrase “Do what thou wilt” come from Crowley’s reading of Rabelais, who clearly influenced him profoundly, but in my reading of Crowley I can’t find any indication which edition of Rabelais Crowley read, or when. It may well have been the new translation in 1893, by William Francis Smith, Fellow of St. John’s College, Cambridge. with its very attractively balanced textual layout. Note the elegant framing of the motto of the Thelemites:
(Rabelais: the Five Books and Minor Writings; London: 1893; p. 190)
Or, he may have read it in one of the many printings of the classic English translation of Thomas Urquhart, first published in 1653. Here is one from 1851:
(The Works of Francis Rabelais; London: 1851; p. 279)
When he later came to write his draft essay “The Antecedents of Thelema” (October 1926; published in November 1993, Thelema Lodge Calendar; and in in Hymenaeus Beta and Richard Kaczynski, eds., The Revival of Magick and Other Essays (Weiser, 1998)), Crowley demonstrates the depth of his debt to Rabelais. His summary of the foundation of the Abbey of Thelema, the qualities of admission of members, and the quotation of the oracle from the end of Gargantua (chapter LVIII) suggest that he had a book on hand, but which one? He mentions the Cardinal du Bellay telling King Francis I that Gargantua is the “New Gospel;” these words seem to come from Edith Sichel’s The Renaissance (1914), pp. 195-197 (she discusses Rabelais at length on pp. 192-207). But he cites the key phrase Do what thou wilt incorrectly in French as Fay ce que veulx, while Sichel quotes it correctly as Fais ce que voudras on page 201 (Sichel’s is modernized French; in fact, after the first and second editions of 1534 and 1535 (see images below), where it is Faictz ce que vouldras, it is invariably Fay ce que vouldras in all subsequent editions (see below; the modern French forms Fais and voudras sometimes appear in engravings, and often appear in commentaries and modernized renderings of Rabelais’ Middle French, i.e. as Fais ce que (tu) voudras, but never with the Old French form of the verb, veulx).
The motto of the Thelemites, Faictz ce que vouldras, does not stand out in the first printing of Gargantua (1534):
(Gargantua; [Lyon: François Juste, 1534], chapter LV)
But a year later, for its second printing, it has assumed a greater importance, printed entirely in capital letters :
(La vie inestimable du grand Gargantua, pere de Pantagruel, iadis composée par L’abstracteur de quinte essence. Livre plein de pantagruelisme. ; Lyon : Francois Juste, 1535, chapter LV)
By the third edition, while Rabelais was still alive, Faictz has been changed to Fay, and the text is normal again:
(La vie treshorrificque du grand Gargantua, pere de Pantagruel, iadis composée par M. Alcofribas abstracteur de quinte essence. Livre plein de Pantagruelisme.; Lyon: François Juste, 1542, chapter LVII (fol. 150v))
Subsequent editions in French, like in the English, would begin setting it apart with special emphasis.
In the quasi-modern form Fay ce que voudras, it was the motto inscribed above the door to Medmenham Abbey in Buckinghamshire, the home of Sir Francis Dashwood’s rakish Hell-fire Club (founded 1755), with members styled Monks of Medmenham. The “abbey” has been a private home for some time, apparently, and I have not been able to find any photographs of the door. But the inscription is reportedly still there, and an engraving from 1885 exists (I haven’t been able to find the original context or publication):
Illustrations for Gargantua sometimes illustrate the Abbey of Thelema with the motto inscribed. In 1797 a luxuriously illustrated Rabelais was published, with the following anonymous engraving for the chapters dealing with the Abbey of Thelema (53-57), and the motto translated into quasi-Augustinian Latin as Fac quod vis (reflecting considerations linking it to “Dilige et fac quod vis”, and other formulations of “Love, and do what thou wilt”):
One of the most prized engraved editions of Rabelais is that published by Garnier Frères in 1873, illustrated by Gustave Doré. Here is his engraving heading chapter LIII:
I have made the angel inscribe this in English as Do what thou wilt, for the enjoyment of seeing it.
It still remains a mystery to me how Crowley came up with veulx, but a fuller study of Rabelais’ influence on Crowley’s ideas seems desirable.
Some stupendously wonderful images together with excellent research and exactitude here once again, bel. Such a great pity that all of the contributions to the Lash cannot be equal to the high standard that you set!
Norma N Joy Conquest
Yes belmurru, thank you. A very interesting post.
A nice exposition, indeed 🙂
I am slowly making a mental list of sources that AC tapped to "invent" and "proclaim" Thelema. Maybe someday it will become a written list. The term "Thelema" and the "Abbey of Thelema" and the phrase "Do what thou wilt" are pretty much known by us as being "lifted" or "borrowed" or "quoted" from previous sources. The concept known as "The Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel" was obviously adopted from Abramelin, whose book was translated by Mathers and was known by all the Golden Dawn members.
Actually, there's very little that AC came up with on his own that was "new." His genius was that he put these "old" concepts into a "new" format. Not that he invented the Tree of Life or the X=X grades or most of the rituals, but that he made it all more understandable by rallying everything around the "Will" concept.
I enjoyed seeing Dore's angel engraving "Do what thou wilt" in English. Thanks for that.
I think it's a little more than this. He didn't just make the old terms "more understandable." He repurposed them in many cases -- the "Holy Guardian Angel" being an obvious example -- and greatly elaborated on older systems (look at the Vision and the Voice that he got out of the Enochian system). He also set these older terms in a more "scientific" context, which is to say that he advocated trying to understand magick -- and ultimately ourselves and the universe -- as objectively as possible. To this end, he also drew on the science of his day to furnish metaphors to illuminate his ideas.
Nice work, belmurru. As usual.
Owner and Editor
I agree, very nice work, belmurru. As usual. Your first pic indeed looks as if directly from Crowley's Equinox series. IIRC according to "the Books of the Beast" this was Crowley's favourite font at the time: Bembo, though the W looks different in Bembo, but maybe I do not remember correctly. Your retouching and typographic-reconstruction skills are also impressive.
Norma N Joy Conquest
Thanks very much, Jamie! Glad you like it. Study is ongoing - I've a few things yet to add. Maybe others can too, on the subject of Crowley's Rabelais.
You're very welcome!
More is coming, if you liked that. After Rabelais, maybe Burton.
I am slowly making a mental list of sources that AC tapped to "invent" and "proclaim" Thelema. Maybe someday it will become a written list.
I hope it does become a written list. Always better than memory.
Actually, there's very little that AC came up with on his own that was "new." His genius was that he put these "old" concepts into a "new" format. Not that he invented the Tree of Life or the X=X grades or most of the rituals, but that he made it all more understandable by rallying everything around the "Will" concept.
For me his genius, and his novelty, is much more than that. It's partly what Regardie says: "Crowley first, and the Golden Dawn second. On the other hand, I cannot separate Crowley from the Golden Dawn, because Crowley was the Golden Dawn, and the Golden Dawn was Crowley. Crowley was, to use one of my earlier cliches, a graduate without honor from the Golden Dawn. He took the Golden Dawn teaching and transformed some of it, used other bits of it literally, but still it was all based on the Golden Dawn, even though he gave his Order another name, the A. A. So I felt very much at home in the Golden Dawn, and really had no problem absorbing the material, sailing through it very, very rapidly just as Crowley had many years earlier."
(From An Interview with Israel Regardie: His Final Thoughts and Views (Falcon Press, 1985), quoted in the "Foreward" by David Cherubim to The Portable Complete Golden Dawn System of Magick (New Falcon Press, 2013 (paperback)), p. xxxvi, note 5)
I have to concur - he lived through the GD system, he transformed it as it transformed him, just as it should do. I think, in terms of that system, his most original contributions might be in Enochian magic and the doctrine of N.O.X., the Night of Pan, which has roots in several places in Theosophy and the GD, but is completely unprecedented as Crowley created and developed it.
You're very welcome. Please use it wherever and however you will.
Thank you, Paul.
I agree, very nice work, belmurru. As usual. Your first pic indeed looks as if directly from Crowley's Equinox series. IIRC according to "the Books of the Beast" this was Crowley's favourite font at the time: Bembo, though the W looks different in Bembo, but maybe I do not remember correctly. Your retouching and typographic-reconstruction skills are also impressive.
I always appreciate the eye of connoisseur. I had to read through the whole essay again to catch it, but Timothy D'Arch Smith says something a little different - "Crown quarto in size, printed in 16pt Bembo on Crowley's favourite (Japanese) paper..." (p. 26)
I am coming to think that he wasn't using Smith's translation though - he prized Urquhart and Motteux's too much, and he may have had an 18th century French edition up to at least the Cefalù period... but I can't be sure that it was that one.
My wife is the real professional in design; I just made the letters and placed them, she polished the job.
Should it bother me reading through this thread that the base themes and slogans are so simply traceable to their original sources, does this not undermine the stated supernatural origins of Thelema. Or do we simply say that prophets have a tendency to interpret the utterances of their supernatural guides through the focused and therefore limited lens of their own literary experience.
Basically, no, it shouldn't.
Have you read Crowley's own answer to your questions?
"The Antecedents of Thelema"
In the Thelema Lodge Calendar for November, 1993 -
“Basically, no, it shouldn't”
Appears to be your reply.
The rest is just quotes from an expert in word salads.
And fine salads they are to the select who partake of such delicacies, after stomaching many years of such rarities. But what is your answer.
Successful Prophets learn to speak to those who eat far less rare fare.
Does Thelema only speak to those who have the time and intellect to understand it.
Your reply does not in any way answer my question from your heart.
You simply, like a politician, point me to the manifesto.
Do you have an opinion ?
Or are all your personal views based upon Quotes, as are the majority of “believers” in any currant manic cult.
I ask a simple question , or so I dumbly imagine it, and get a reading list. Unless I take your basic reply, which is flat and meaningless.
No, it shouldn't bother you. Whatever the origins of The Book of the Law - and I believe that origin to be praeter-human intelligence - it was mediated at some stage through the consciousness of Aleister Crowley, and thus to some extent is filtered through his mind. It's my opinion that inevitably, whatever the origins of the book, there is a certain measure of Crowley there.
It doesn't bother me and, no, I don't think it should bother you.
A good question. The Law is for All, but perhaps only a few ("Let my servants be few and secret") have the time and inclination to dig deep. After all, there are all those other choices (Islam, Zion, Rome, Protesting, Orthodox, Atheism, Buddha-ism, Hare Krishna, Environmentalism, etc) that are so BIG and have such intense, anti-enemy stances.
'Do what do wilt' and Aiwass depicted in monk clothing is pretty strong references back to Rabelais or to another cult. If Liber Al's origin was channeled from an exterior source, I'd rather believe it was the work of human agency, a master of some kind of cult. The scheduling suggests so; the next transmission occurs then and then...
So it is all a simple matter of belief. How true that is I fear. Because belief allows me to see whatever I want to see, to interpret the truth as I see it, I think we call this religion. To interpret holy books in my own way, no matter how distorted that way may be. Praeter-human intelligence trusts in the limited human vocabulary so much that it is happy that a prophet interpret its world shaking proclamations as it wills, or through random references culled from its favorite reading list . Does this not worry anyone? I quote the great Clint, praises be upon him "Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining"
For what it's worth, I see Thelema as having virtually nothing to do with "belief" in the sense you mean here (that is, in the sense of "accepting things without evidence").
Now sure, someone might respond, "But Los, that's just your belief, isn't it?" but that's a silly response because what I say above is rooted in evidence. Crowley consistently emphasizes that doubt is superior to faith, that "faith" in the sense of believing things without evidence is dumb, that he doesn't want people just blindly believing him (and, I would argue, that he doesn't want people blindly believing their own subjective impressions), that Thelema is about piercing illusion.
As long as we're talking about "Thelema" in the sense of the philosophy created by Aleister Crowley based on The Book of the Law, I don't see how "belief" in the sense of "religious belief" or "faith" has anything to do with it. In fact, just the opposite: as you point out, Baal, "belief" "allows [one] to see whatever [one] want[ s] to see," and Thelema is simply not about accepting whatever you want. For example, a person's will is not just whatever that person picks. The will is discovered, not chosen: you either find it or you don't.
So what, in your estimation, is the difference between a text that originates from a "praeter-human intelliegence" and a text that is written by a human being?
Since you've made a judgment, you presumably have some specific criteria that enables you to set the two apart, and I'm curious what those criteria are.
Rabelais had connection with our beloved Rosicrucians (and possibly other groups), and they started, as we all know, many historical reformative movements. And we all know that Crowley was in their scope. In the book Amorc unmasked several of the degrees actually deals with projecting the consciousness into other peoples consciousness. There are reformative elements in Liber Al - no doubt about that.
First off, I have a feeling this is drifting far away from the original post.
But for what its worth, I am a huge Dore fan so was drawn to the pictures.
I spent a great deal of time in the past collecting his stuff, all be it in reproductions, as is the way of us paupers ;). And I still use it as inspiration in my own work, which is building virtual worlds.
I too was drawn to Gargantua and Pantagrule by Crowleys use of Thelema, Do what thou wilt, etc
But, what Los says about Thelema having nothing to do with belief, sounds no different to the passionate statements of any other true believer.
They all “Do the work”. They all deny belief and claim Gnosis of some direct kind as a result of practice.
Maybe it would be more productive to compare the lives, motivations and defects of these profits rather than to worry to much about the seeming preternatural origins of their works. I truly love the works of Crowley the man. I admire greatly his ability to dream true and shape the minds of others. But I am sure beyond any doubt, that this has nothing to do whatsoever with entities that exist beyond the mind.
They all “Do the work”. They all deny belief and claim Gnosis of some direct kind as a result of practice.
Well, I totally agree with you that the following line is indistinguishable from the crap that other religionists say: "It takes no faith to be a Thelemite! Just do the work, and you'll *know*! We have the certainty of experience, not the faulty faith of belief!"
A line like that is indistinguishable from a Christian saying, "If you pray sincerely (that is, 'do the work'), Christ will reveal himself to you, and you'll have a personal relationship with him, and you'll know for sure that Christianity is true, while all these false Christianities just encourage 'belief' and idolatry." It's also indistinguishable from a Hindu saying, "If you do the following practices, you'll see for yourself that Maya is a veil of illusion. You'll know that Hinduism is true, rather than just 'believing' it because some priest tells you."
Virtually all religions have versions of this kind of claim.
However, when I said above that Thelema doesn't require "belief" (in the sense of accepting things without evidence), I wasn't making this sort of claim. I wasn't talking about some kind of make believe "gnostic" revelation. I was talking about how Thelema is, at its core, an individual philosophy of behavior that deals with actually existing psychological realities experienced by all healthy people.
Now maybe you don't agree with my interpretation of Crowley's Thelema, and that's fine. But what I'm saying is that Thelema is not just one more religion with one more fallacious fantasy about spiritual "knowledge."
Don’t worry then, I’ll bring it back.
In the January 1995 TLC, Bill Heidrick helpfully listed a little over a dozen instances of Crowley’s references to Rabelais –
I recently found one he missed, in The Magical Record of the Beast 666, entry for Friday, November 19, 1920 (p. 292, Symonds and Grant edition):
“In my Rabelais, vol. I, p. 188, last chapter of Book I, Pantagruel, the editor, says that Merlin is usually spelt Melin. Can this be the origin of Abramelin?”
It is a tantalizing reference, in relation to the question mark in my title for this thread, what he might mean by “my Rabelais.” We have a volume number (implying multiple volumes), a page number, and a footnote with specific information. Given the number of scanned editions online now, and the date prior to 1920, it just might be possible to find it.
But, despite there being many English editions available to read, I can’t find one which matches that description. Hardly conclusive, since there have been so many printings of Rabelais, but here is what I have found in any case…
The footnote in question is from Jacob Le Duchat’s heavily annotated French edition of 1741, where it explains Rabelais’ allusion to “the style of the Prophet Merlin” in chapter LVIII, the very end, of Gargantua. John Ozell’s editions of Thomas Urquhart and Peter (Pierre) Motteux’s Enlgish translations began to incorporate Duchat’s annotations, for instance in this edition of The Works of Francis Rabelais, from 1807:
Keep in mind that in all editions of the five books of Gargantua and Pantagruel, as a series, that that of Gargantua, the father of Pantagruel, is placed first, although it was the second one published (1532 and 1534 respectively). Hence, in the Rabelaisian “Pentateuch”, there is no “Book I” of Pantagruel. Pantagruel, prior to modern critical editions, is always “Book II” of the series. “Book I”, is, by definition, Gargantua. However, we need not assume such erudition on Crowley’s part to explain the ambiguity in his diary note – the last chapter of the “first book” of Pantagruel has no mention of the Prophet Merlin, or any Merlin at all. The note explaining how Merlin is spelled “Melin” or “Mellin” belongs only to the end of Book I, which is Gargantua.
What I found that surprised me is that there is an edition of the five books of Gargantua and Pantagruel where page 188 of volume I is indeed the last chapter of Book I, and it has the footnote about Merlin/Melin – this is exactly the 1741 edition of Duchat! (pardon the profusion of pointers, but I want to spare readers the effort of searching for the proofs)
Could Crowley actually have owned one of these editions at Cefalù? It seems incredible, but could it be perhaps that he had guarded some of his treasures all those long years, and this prized edition of Jacob Le Duchat’s Oeuvres de Maître François Rabelais, avec des remarques historiques et critiques de Mr. Le Duchat (Amsterdam: Jean Frederic Bernard, MDCCXLI) was the “my Rabelais” he was referring to?
Note the prominence of the name “Pantagruel” and “Livre II” on the facing page as well, which might explain why Crowley would write “last chapter of Book I” and “Pantagruel” (rather than “Gargantua”) in his brief diary entry.
I tend to imagine him as fairly poverty-stricken, having pawned everything already, but maybe in the first year or two at Cefalù it wasn’t like that. Betty May recalls him wearing a kilt (implying the MacGregor tartan) when she met him, and he still had considerable “bulk” when she climbed with him at Cefalù, so they weren’t starving yet, and I imagine he wasn’t wearing the same kilt at 46 that he was wearing at 24, so he must have been able to buy a new one after 1920. So, maybe he had this rare Rabelais too.
Or, maybe it was an English edition that just happens not to be scanned and uploaded yet.
But I still prefer to imagine him with a bit of luxury, and taste.
Crowley was also a Fantasist if there is such a word. Maybe it’s the Artist part of him. He painted his dream and fashioned his real world as he wanted it to be, a living canvas, and made it real by convincing others to believe in it. He was at times the most awful of upper class snobs because he wanted to live this life also. The photos of his life are like a parade of characters he played, the greatest of which was the Great Beast. It is a great work of art. But the greatest challenge of all is to create your own. I love the great work of Art that was Crowley. But I do not wish to become a frozen character in the background of the great portrait of the Master. I must paint my own Masterpiece based upon, like Crowley, the myriad images and influences that have entered my own small sphere of experience. A painting where Crowley himself, like on the Sergeant Pepper album, is reduced to an almost insignificant also ran.
Ok, back on subject.
Which rendition did Crowley have.
Well I suppose if you were going to ask such a question any place, here would be best.
But would not your question be better phrased as “Is there anyone here who saw Crowley reading Rabelais?” Or “Does anyone know anyone who knew him who saw him reading” etc.
As it is all you will ever get is a speculative conversation, a sort of fan based mush of opinions, as are most books on or about Crowley these days.
From the Weiser Antiquarian catalogue number 20:
Frieda Harris & Aleister Crowley, [association copy]
Francis [François] Rabelais
Five Books of the Lives, Heroic Deeds and Sayings of Gargantua and his Son Pantagruel
2 Vol. Set. Translated by Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty & Peter Anthony Motteux. Illustrations by Lousi Chalon. London: Lawrence and Bullen, 1892. First Edition Thus. Hardcovers, 2 Vols. Small Folios, 11 x 7 3/4 inches. xlviii + 342pp, xiv + 456pp. Original green patterned cloth with gilt titling etc. to spines, and small gilt decorative devices on front covers. Title pages in red & black.
One of the best English language editions of Rabelais. With presentation inscription from Frieda Harris to Aleister Crowley: 'To my dear Aleister with all my best wishes from Frieda Harris Xmas 1942.' Crowley, who was of course a great fan of Rabelais, was delighted with the gift, recording in his diary "Frieda brought me the Laurence and Bullen Urquhart and Motteux for a present! What a peach!" (unpublished diary, Dec. 23, 1942). It was probably no co-incidence that she selected a work for him that was printed by the Chiswick Press, one of his favourite printers, and the one to whom they would turn when the time came to publish The Book of Thoth. FitzGerald collection. Although not certain it seems likely that Harris reclaimed the set from Crowley's estate after his death, and in turn passed it FitzGerald, who was a keen collector of everything associated with Crowley. Boards a little rubbed around the edges, still overall VG+ condition of this remarkable association set. (32814)
See also attached pics.
Obviously he would have had copies before this, but probably was without one at the time.
Owner and Editor
With presentation inscription from Frieda Harris to Aleister Crowley: 'To my dear Aleister with all my best wishes from Frieda Harris Xmas 1942.' Crowley, who was of course a great fan of Rabelais, was delighted with the gift, recording in his diary "Frieda brought me the Laurence and Bullen Urquhart and Motteux for a present! What a peach!" (unpublished diary, Dec. 23, 1942).
Slightly off at a tangent, but not altogether irrelevant considering the time of year, I wondered whether A.C. was known to be an observer of Xmas festivities, even informally, in any way? Did he exchange gifts – Christmas presents – himself at this time of year, or would Lady Frieda’s gift have been strictly one-way ?
Some slightly po-faced ‘Thelemites’ I have come across in the past of a fairly hard-line persuasion have rivalled Ebenezer if not the puritanical Plymouth Brethren themselves in their determination to ignore the trappings of the season, and were not above muttering ‘Apo pantos kakodaimonos’ even at the exchange of simple yuletide greetings such as "Happy Christmas"! While not suggesting A.C. may have gone quite so far himself, I would not have thought he would have directly encouraged any acknowledgement of the festivities, though he has made reference to it from several years – for example he was known to have at least spent the festive season 1919 with his favourite aunt Annie in Addiscombe immediately upon returning from the U.S. following the Great War; maybe he might have also turned up with some gifts or festive fare – a goose, perhaps! - upon that merry occasion?
I imagine he would also have tucked into a delicious traditional Christmas dinner served up at Netherwood too, although it slightly strains the imagination to picture him seated around the Christmas table with a party hat on atop his famous bald pate pulling crackers, singing carols & dispensing the usual corny gags therein to all those present…
...with a yo ho ho,
Jamie: Your recent flurry of posts appears to serve little purpose beyond derailing the threads they're attached to. Please keep your posts on-topic.
Owner and Editor
Thanks very much for posting that, Paul.
Perhaps the Lawrence and Bullen 1892 was his first Rabelais, too, and he had mentioned this to Frieda. He refers to it as "the Lawrence and Bullen", implying it had a reputation for him.
Volme I of this edition is available at archive.org -
Rabelais - Louis Chalon illustrations, Lawrence and Bullen, 1892
This is not the edition he had at Cefalù when he refers to "my Rabelais" in his diary note above, though, since page 188 here is the middle of chapter VIII of Book II of Pantagruel, and has no editor's remarks at all (and no mention of any Merlin to annotate).
Louis Chalon's illustrations were also used in a 1904 edition published by Bullen alone. See the archive.org volume III here (the other two volumes are there also) -
1904 Chalon, Bullen, volume III
Richard Clay and Sons, Limited
Here are Chalon's two views of life at the Abbey of Thelema -
Here is the flirting scene in context, illustrating Gargantua (Book I), chapter LVII, from the 1892 edition -
If you would like to see all of Dore's illustrations for Rabelais, they are at gallica.fr
To find an engraving, the quickest way to is to go to the top left drop-down menu "Affichage". Click on "Mosaïque", which will show thumbnails of a few dozen pages, which expand when you pass your cursor over them. Click or double-click on the page.
When you are on the page, you can double-click on it to make it into a magnification window that allows quite high-resolution images. You can use their "save for export" file for that portion of the image, but I prefer to screen-save the picture, then crop it in Photoshop. It is easy to reassemble them, from a few pieces, at extremely high resolution, much better than I can post here.
Use you browser's back button to go back to the mosaic or your previous window, and the arrows at the left and right to go forward or backward in the Gallica viewing window, whether it is on magnification or not.
He only did a couple for the Abbey part. Here he shows all the unworthy types being repelled by the splendor within the Abbey -
Here is a detail of that, the highest resolution available with that tool -
(I just noticed, with this detail, that the figure is wearing a Phrygian cap - the famous red cap seen in French Revolutionary art - which has symbolized, since Roman times, liberty - particularly freedom from tyranny.)
Insight into this obscure formulation from the last chapter of Liber Aleph came from my ongoing study of Crowley’s Rabelais, but it is so small a point that it might get lost in the longer posts I’ve prepared on this topic.
In chapter 208, “De Oraculo Summo”, he writes:
“… I cry aloud My Word, as it was given unto Man by thine Uncle Alcofribas Nasier, the Oracle of the Bottle of BACBUC, and this Word is TRINC.
“But in the antient right Spelling this is TRINU whereof the Number is the Number of the Name of Me thy Father! To wit, Six Hundred and Three Score and Six.”
= 680 or 1160;
= 289 or 769; but
As far as I know, this “Trinu” is a hapax legomenon in Crowley’s writings – that is, it is a word which appears only once in his entire body of work. He does not base any further speculations on it or go into further doctrinal expansions in any place that I can find, although I seem to vaguely recall somebody else taking it up, either in an OTO publication or somewhere else. Perhaps someone here knows more. As it stands, then, it appears to be merely a gematria game of Crowley, gratuitously replacing the “c” with a “u” for the sole purpose of making the word add up to 666.
Adding to the sense that it was gratuitous, as well as a dead end as far as doctrine goes, is that he does not quote this “antient right spelling” in the section of this chapter quoted in The Book of Thoth, p. 123. All in all, he just appears to have dropped “Trinu” from his thought, although he goes on to cite “Trinc” several more times in his published writings and diaries.
For a long time I left it there, an orphan hapax, in much the same category as, but with much less subtle ramifications than, his rendering of Σφιγξ, Sphinx (=773), as Σϝινυ (=666) in Chapter 151 of Liber Aleph.
(This also deserves some study. Presumably we are to take the digamma as the “f” sound, and changing Xi to U for the sake of the “-nu”; I say “presumably” because his phonetic value for digamma is unclear, as he goes on in the chapter to speak of “swine”, which might mean that he meant there to be ambiguity in the pronunciation, as “swinu” instead of “sfinu”; in other words, he is playing on the graphic and phonetic ambiguity of the digamma, without resolving it one way or the other for the reader; he also invents the “n”, which only exists phonetically in the real Greek word (Γ before Ξ is pronounced as a geminated (γγ) Gamma, (“ng”)): thus, out of the original word ΣΦΙΓΞ (sfingks), he has preserved in his new word ΣϜΙΝΥ (svinu or sfinu) only two of the original letters, Σ and Ι)
However, it struck me a few days ago that TRINU has the same transliterated letters as TRIUN, תריון ”Therion”, 666, the spelling of which he had received from Samuel Aiwaz Jacobs some six weeks before writing the last chapter of Liber Aleph, which is given as “Sun in Aries, Moon in Aries”, that is, April 10, 11 or 12, 1918 (Jacobs’ letter is dated (Sunday) 24 February, 1918; it was delivered to Viereck at the offices of The International the next day, and Crowley received it on Tuesday, 26 February. See, e.g. Confessions pp. 834ff.).
Therefore, I now prefer to think of TRINU as an anagram of TRIUN, simultaneously “correcting” (or updating) the Word of the Oracle TRINC, incorporating his name as Logos (Word) of the Aeon, and, with the same licence he had given himself with ΣΦΙΓΞ –ΣϜΙΝΥ, bringing out the Nu (“Prophet of Nu!”... “they shall bring the glory of the stars into the hearts of men”, etc.). Like the latter, TRINU is a polyvalent and fluid reading of this word, not intended or able to be definitively “fixed” in spoken or printed form. This mercurial quality is thus appropriate for the Beast and the New Aeon, and is neither an ad hoc attempt to make yet another old mystical and prophetic word add up to 666, nor a considered contribution to the science (and art) of etymology.
A hint in the direction of an anagram may be seen in Crowley’s use of Rabelais’ anagram for his own name, Alcofribas Nasier. While Crowley liked this anagram for its own sake, in this particular context it might be read to indicate that a similar play of spelling is coming up, this context being the recent revelation of Therion as TRIUN=666.
(François Rabelais also used the visual and phonetic ambiguity of the letter “c” in French orthography, which in his real name is pronounced “s”, indicated by the cedilla “ç”, whereas in his anagram it is pronounced hard, like a “k”)
On Monday 10 September, 1923, Crowley outlined eight parts of an ambitious essay he intended to write on Rabelais (Skinner, ed. The Magical Diaries of Aleister Crowley, pp. 149-150):
1. Levi’s remark.
2. General atmosphere of Magick.
- a. Symbolism: moral ideas expressed by physical.
- b. Powers, methods, & Aims of characters: their motives.
- c. Laws of Magick assumed throughout.
3. Who are Pantagruel, John Epistemon Panurge? – all parts of the soul. Divine rulers of all things.
ΠΑΝ-ΤΑΓ- ΡΥ-ΕΛ RU = ΡΗ?
4. 3 climaxes:
(β) Pantagruelion = Elixir or stone;
(γ) TRINC = ecstasy conferring omnipotence, etc.
5. Note prophesy about 666.
6. Frankness: sees all as a matter of joy.
7. Parable of Devil & Old Woman. The Womb of Nuit will swallow all Evil.
8. His message: against Rome.
It appears that he never wrote this essay. On 25 September (Skinner, op. cit., p. 180), there is a list of the names or initials of 29 figures he presumably intended to write essays on, with Rabelais at the top of the list. The poet (William) Blake also appears on the list, and what is probably this essay, “William Blake”, survives, now published in Hymenaeus Beta, Richard Kaczynski, eds., The Revival of Magick and Other Essays (New Falcon Press, 1998), pp. 115-125 (although the editors, p. 215, suggest a date of “c. 1919” without explanation).
Although Crowley never completed it, we may presume that parts II to V of the unfinished essay “Antecedents of Thelema” give a suggestion of what he intended to write about parts 4(α) and 5 in his outline of 10 September above (see Hymenaeus Beta and Richard Kaczynski, op. cit., pp. 162-169, 216).
This article is the first of an elaboration of each of the parts of Crowley’s projected essay on Rabelais (split into three posts: introduction, text, notes).
1. “Levi’s remark.”
Éliphas Lévi made more than one remark about Rabelais; he wrote a trilogy of novels inspired by him, and mentioned him either in passing or with slight elaboration, in several of his magical works, so one can at best only make an educated guess as to which remark Crowley was referring.
The fact that Crowley writes “remark” instead of “remarks”, suggests to me that he is thinking of a briefer rather than a longer passage, perhaps to have been used as an introductory quotation at the head of his essay.
Given that it densely summarizes the themes of mystery and initiation, magic and science, I thnk it is most likely from the following passage in Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual (translation Waite, 1896), p. 251 (=French edition of 1856, p. 99; edition of 1861, t. II, p. 140):
(The word Waite translates “device” is devise, the heraldic motto. This motto is attributed to Rabelais on a now-lost portrait first noted in 1650, with the motto itself noted in 1697. See note (5), below)
Although I believe Crowley had the short remark above in mind, he certainly knew of Lévi's deep esteem for Rabelais. However, it was a discovery for me, and it seems proper to share some of what I've found. Here is a series of such remarks so that others can appreciate how Lévi understood Rabelais. Given Crowley's identification with Lévi, it seems probable to me that he must have, at one time, collected as many of his works as he could, and he was probably well aware of all that Lévi wrote about him.
Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual (translation A. E. Waite, 1896) p. 10:
“Another heals imaginary diseases by fantastic remedies, giving a formal denial in advance by the proverb which enforces the futility of a cautery on a wooden leg – he is the marvellous Paracelsus, always drunk and always lucid, like the heroes of Rabelais.”
History of Magic (Waite translation, 1922; Histoire de la Magie, 1860, p. 215), p. 206:
“All this is learnedly written and intermingled with episodes which are now heroic and again grotesque in character, as befitted the double nature of Lucius and the ass. Apuleius was at once the Rabelais and the Swedenborg of the old world at the close of the epoch.”
Key of the Mysteries (translation Crowley, Equinox I,10 (1913), Supplement; La Clef des Grands Mystères, 1861, p. 60) p. 57:
“The France of the Crusades, the France of the Troubadours, the France of songs, the France of Rabelais and of Voltaire, the France of Bossuet and of Pascal, it is she who is the synthesis of all peoples:”
Preface to Éliphas Lévi’s Le Sorcier de Meudon (The Wizard of Meudon), 1861
(”Le Sorcier de Meudon” is a collection of three short novels based around various fictional adventures of the historical figure of François Rabelais, works which Lévi characterized as mock-apocryphal “extraits des chroniques du joyeux curé de Meudon” (extracts from the chronicles of the merry priest of Meudon (Rabelais)), and which A. E. Waite characterized as “a beautiful pastoral idyll, impressed with the cachet cabalistique” (Transcendental Magic (1896), p. viii). Constant wrote and published each book separately, Rabelais à la Basmette (1847), and Le Seigneur de La Devinière (1850), before republishing them in one volume as Le Sorcier de Meudon, with the trilogy’s third and final part, “Le Ménétrier de Meudon”. The stories are loosely based on Rabelais’ biography. Lévi himself wrote the prefaces for the first and third novels, while his Fourierist political associate Antony Méray (1817-1889) wrote that for the second. The first two books were published under his name “A. Constant”, by the Fourierist (1) imprint La Librairie Phalansterienne, and Constant dedicated the first novel to his new wife, Marie-Noëmi Cadiot (pseudonym Claude Vignon) . Some eleven years would elapse before he published the third and last part in Le Sorcier de Meudon, during which time his wife Noëmi had left him for her lover (October 1853), his young daughter had died (1854), his political activity had ceased, and his occult interests had considerably deepened and matured. 1861 also marked the appearance of the much-enlarged and definitive second edition of Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie (the first edition had appeared in two volumes in 1854 and 1856 respectively for Dogme and Rituel). By this time Constant had Hebraized his name to Éliphas Lévi (Zahed), the name under which he published Le Sorcier de Meudon, by a publisher with no overt political leaning, La Librairie Nouvelle. He dedicated it to “Madame de Balzac”, Ewelina Rzewuska, the countess Hańska (1801-1882), widow since 21 years of Lévi’s friend Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850). I have included the dedication in the translation.
The figure of François Rabelais in Lévi’s novels reflects the ideal that Rabelais himself described as the characteristics of the perfect physician – he has “a face joyous, serene, pleasant, laughing, and open” (la face joyeuse, sereine, plaisante, riante, ouverte; Preface to the Fourth Book, 1548 edition). Lévi’s Rabelais is always smiling, always master of circumstances, never confused, never loses his temper, always one step ahead of events, above all troubles, as wisdom and serenity incarnate. There can be no doubt that Lévi’s own ideal was Rabelais the Sage, the “joyeux (merry, jolly, cheerful) curé”, our master in “la gaie science du pantagruélisme.” Replete with wit and seraphic wisdom, he appears as such in the first two novels. But Rabelais was no passing fancy for Lévi, since he republished the old books with a new part after the major emotional and intellectual turning point in his life, in the mid-1850s. Thus, by 1861, to Rabelais the Sage has been added Rabelais the Adept, which can be seen in Lévi’s far more concrete references to esoteric teachings such as those of alchemy, applied to medicine (e.g . p. 233 of Le Sorcier de Meudon).
In fact, Lévi appears to have initiated the esoteric interpretation of Rabelais, unprecedented at the time. But it would prove to be a decisive impetus to an underground appreciation of him among alchemists, Rosicrucians, Freemasons and other esotericists whose perspective Crowley shared, and which continues to this day. This at the very least justifies its presentation here. The endnotes are my own.
Constant/Lévi’s trilogy of novels featuring François Rabelais. Left to right : (Rabelais à la Basmette (1847), Le Seigneur de la Devinière (1850), Le Sorcier de Meudon (1861))
(Part 2 - text)
ÉLIPHAS LÉVI - / LE SORCIER DE MEUDON
Les dévots, par rancune,
Au sorcier criaient tous,
Disant : Au clair de lune
Il fait danser les loups.
PARIS / LIBRAIRIE NOUVELLE / BOULEVARD DES ITALIENS, 15 / A. BOURDILLAT ET Ce, EDITEURS - / La traduction et la reproduction sont réservés - / 1861]
To Madame de Balzac, née comtesse Éveline Rzewuska
Permit me, Madame, to lay at your feet this book, to which your encouragements have made in advance all the success that I might hope for. It will be loved by every elevated soul, and by all refined intellects, if it is not unworthy to be offered to you.
Most noble and illustrious idiots, and you, thrice-precious table-rappers (2), never have you had the good sense to recognize, in the sacred person of the merry Priest of Meudon, one of our greatest masters in the hidden science of the Magi. There is no doubt that you have neither properly read, nor contemplated well at all, his Pantagruelian Prognostications, nay, even that enigma in guise of prophecy which begins the grimoire of Gargantua. Master François was no less than the most illustrious enchanter of France, and his life was a very tissue of wonders, so much so that he was to his own time the unique wonder of the world. Of good sense, and in good spirit, protestant, in a century of furious folly and fanatic upheavals; a magician of the Gay Science during a time of gloomy sadness, good and orthodox priest that he was, he reconciled and knew how to reunite the most contrary qualities in himself. Through his encyclopedic knowledge he demonstrated the truth of the ars notaria, for, better even than Pico della Mirandola, he was able to hold forth “on every knowable thing, and even certain other things” (3). A monk and a wit, physician of body and of soul, protégé of the great but always guarding his independence as an honest man; a simple Frenchman, a profound thinker, a charming conversationalist, an incomparable writer, he mystified the stupid and the persecutors of his time (being, as they always are, one and the same), in making them believe, not that bladders were lanterns, but very much to the contrary that lanterns were bladders (4), so well and to such an extent that they took his scepter of wisdom for a fool’s stick, the flowerets of his golden crown for bells, his double ray of light, resembling Moses’ horns, for the two asses ears on Folly’s cap. In truth, it was Apollo covered in the skin of Marsyas, and all the crew of satyrs out of laughter let him pass among them, taking him for one of theirs. Oh! How grand that sorcerer who disarmed the Sorbonnists by making them laugh, who broke open the spirit with full barrels, washed away the tears of the world with wine, drew oracles from the rounded sides of the divine bottle; himself otherwise sober, a drinker of water, for only he finds truth in wine who makes it speak to drinkers, while for his part is never drunk.
Also, he had as motto this profound sentence, which is one of the great arcana of magic and magnetism:
Noli ire, fac venire.
Do not go: make to come.(5)
Oh! The wise and beautiful formula! Here in merely two phrases is all the philosophy of Socrates, who, nevertheless, did not know how to accomplish this stupendous program, for he did not make Anytus come to reason and was himself forced to go to his death (6). Nothing in this world gets done with fuss and haste, and the Great Work of the Alchemists is not the secret of going out to seek gold, but rather to make it, but so gently and so softly, come. Behold the Sun, does he torment himself and deviate from his axis to seek out, one after the other, our two hemispheres? No, he lures them by his magnetic warmth, he makes them fall in love with his light, and each takes its turn to be caressed by him. It is this that they cannot understand, those confused hotheads, troublemakers and propagators of fads. They go, go, always go, and nothing comes. They only make wars, reactions, destruction and ravage. Have we advanced in theology since Luther? No, but the calm and profound good sense of Master François has created since his time the true French spirit, and, under the name of pantagruelism, it has regenerated, vivified, and fertilized this well-known universal spirit of charity, which is surprised by nothing, is aroused by nothing doubtful or transitory, calmly observing nature, loves, smiles, soothes, and says nothing. Nothing; I hear not overmuch, just as it has been recommended by the wise hierophants to initiates of the high doctrine of the Magi. To know how to remain silent, this is the science of sciences, and it is for this reason that Master François presented himself, for his time, neither as a reformer, nor above all as a magician, he who knew perfectly how to hear and so profoundly to feel this marvelous and silent music of the secret harmonies of nature. If you are so skilled that you would like to make us believe it, say continually the gullible and the idle passers-by, surprise us, amuse us, pull a rabbit out of a hat better than anyone, plant trees in the sky, walk upside-down, put horseshoes on cicadas, teach grimoire to bridled goslings, plant thorns and harvest roses, sow figs and gather grapes … Go on, what are you waiting for? We no longer burn sorcerers at the stake, we are content to scoff at them, slander them, call them charlatans, conmen, carnies. With nothing to fear, you may displace the stars, make the moon dance, blow out the candle of the sun. If what you do is truly prodigious, impossible, unbelievable… so much the better! What risk is there? Even after having seen it, even after seeing it again, they won’t believe it.
What do you take us for? Imbeciles? Are we stupid? Don’t we read the papers of the Academy of Science? See there how the initiates of the cccult sciences are challenged, and, of course, one must have press to satisfy these gentlemen. All the same, they are right, they are too lazy to come to us, they want us to go to them, and we find this way of doing things so good that we treat them the same. We will not go at all, let him come who will!
In the same century there lived two cultivated men, two great savants, two living encyclopedias, both otherwise priests and good men while occupying their posts. The one was our Rabelais, and the other was called Guillaume Postel. This latter let his contemporaries glimpse that he was a great kabbalist, knowing the original Hebrew, translating the Zohar and rediscovering the key of those things hidden since the beginning of the world.
Oh! my fine fellow, if they have been hidden for such a long time, do you not suppose there has to be some compelling reason for why they were? And do you believe that in offering us the key to a door condemned for six thousand years that we advance much? While Postel was deemed a maniac, hypochondriac, melancholic, lunatic, almost a heretic, and he travelled across the world poor, despised, opposed, slandered; at the same time Master François, after having escaped his brother monks, after having made the pope laugh, went quietly to Meudon, cherished by the great, beloved of the people, healer of the poor, instructing children, tending his parish and drinking cool drinks, which he particularly recommended to theologians and philosophers as a supreme remedy for cerebral illnesses.
Is this to say that Rabelais, the most learned man of his time, was ignorant of the Kabbalah, astrology, hermetic chemistry, occult medicine and all the other areas of the high science of the ancient Magi? You would certainly not believe so, if you consider above all that Gargantua and Pantagruel are books of perfect occultism, where, under symbols just as bizarre as, but less unhappy than the devilries of the middle ages, hide all the secrets of wholesome thinking and living, which constitute the true basis of high magic acknowledged by all the great masters.
The learned Trithemius, who taught magic to the poor Cornelius Agrippa, knew a hundred times more of it than his student; but he knew how to remain silent and fulfilled as a good monk all the duties of his position, while Agrippa made a great showing of his horoscopes, his talismans, his broomsticks that were really not so diabolic, his imaginary recipes, his fantastic transmutations; also the adventurous and boastful disciple, he was placed on the Index of books forbidden to all good Christians; the onlookers took him seriously and very certainly would have burned him without a second thought. If he travelled, it was in the company of Beelzebub; if he paid his lodgings, it was with coin that changed back into birch leaves. He had two black dogs, which could be nothing other than two great devils in disguise; if he were sometimes rich, it was that Satan had lined his purse. He finally died, poor in a hospital, the just punishment of his misdeeds. He is called only the Arch-Sorcerer, and the silly little books of false black magic that are yet sold discreetly to the cunning-folk of the countryside, are invariably taken from the works of the great Agrippa.
Dear reader, what is the purpose of this preamble? It is simply to tell you that the author of this little book, after having studied to the core the sciences of Trithemius and Postel, has taken from them this precious and salutary fruit, to understand, to esteem and to love beyond everything the right sense of simple wisdom and wholesome nature. That the Keys of Solomon have well served him to appreciate Rabelais, and to present to you today the legend of the Priest of Meudon as the archetype of the most perfect understanding of life; into this legend is mixed and intertwined, like the ivy around the vine, the history of brave Guilain, who, according to our Béranger (7), was fiddler of Meudon in the time of Master François. How and why these two jolly characters are here reunited, what allegorical mysteries are hidden under this bringing together of musician and priest, this you will easily understand in reading the book. Now, enjoy yourselves, my loves, as the merry master says, and believe that it is neither a sorcerer’s grimoire, nor a philosophical treatise which surpasses in depth, knowledge, and abundant possibilities, a page of Rabelais or a song of Béranger.
(part 3 - my notes)
(1) Name for the followers of François Marie Charles Fourier (1772-1837)
For an introduction to his visionary ideas, still relevant to radical thinkers and strikingly similar to Crowley’s, see the thoughtful essay-length appreciation of Peter Lamborn Wilson (Hakim Bey) in “The Lemonade Ocean & Modern Times” (1991), e.g.:
“Fourier was amazing. He lived at the same time as De Sade & Blake, & deserves to be remembered as their equal or even superior. Those other two apostles of freedom & desire had no political disciples, but in the middle of the 19th century literally hundreds of communes (phalansteries) were founded on fourierist principles in France, N. America, Mexico, S. America, Algeria, Yugoslavia, etc. Proudhon, Engels, & Kropotkin all read him with fascination, as did Andre Breton & Roland Barthes.”
“For Fourier the universe is composed of living beings, planets, & stars, who feel passion & who carry out sexual intercourse, so that creation itself is continual. The miseries of Civilization have deflected Earth & humanity from their proper destiny in a literal cosmic sense. Passion, which we have been taught to regard as “evil,” is in fact virtually the divine principle. Human beings are microscopic stars, & all passions & desires (including “fetishes” & “perversions”) are by nature not only good but necessary for the realization of human destiny. In Fourier’s system of Harmony all creative activity including industry, craft, agriculture, etc. will arise from liberated passion — this is the famous theory of “attractive labor.” Fourier sexualizes work itself — the life of the Phalanstery is a continual orgy of intense feeling, intellection, & activity, a society of lovers & wild enthusiasts. When the social life of Earth is harmonized, our planet will re-join the universe of Passion & undergo vast transformations, affecting human form, weather, animals, & plants, even the oceans.”
Fourier’s vision shares with Rabelais’ Thelema a utopian ideal of society, but cosmologically (and eschatologically) goes well beyond it. The connection between Fourier and Rabelais in Constant’s thought at this period is therefore easy to see.
(2) The opening words are a parody of the famous opening lines of the Prologues of Rabelais’ Pantagruel, Gargantua, Tiers Livre,Quart Livre (1548), and the Cinquiesme Livre. Compare the beginning of these prefaces with those of Lévi’s prefaces for Rabelais à la Basmette and Le Sorcier de Meudon:
Rabelais: Tres-illustres et Tres-chevaleureux champions…
Rabelais: Beuveurs tres-illustres, et vous Verolez tres-precieux…
Rabelais : Beuveurs tres-illustres, et vous Goutteux tres-precieux…
Rabelais : Beuveurs tres-illustres, et vous goutteurs tres precieux…
Rabelais : Beuveurs infatigables, et vous verollez tres-precieux…
Lévi 1: Buveurs très-illustres et vous moralistes très-précieux…
Lévi 2: Idiots très-illustres, et vous, tourneurs de tables très-précieux…
(3) Lévi quotes the Latin de omni re scibili et quibusdam aliis. The first part, “De omni re scibili”, is the motto of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494), often considered to be presumptuous, but perhaps to be more charitably understood as a statement of humanistic aspiration; the second part is an ironic addition, apocryphally attributed to Voltaire, but the earliest I can trace it is in Marie Constance Albertine (Baroness of) Montaran, Mes Loisirs (Paris, 1846), where it is the title of a chapter.
(4) This is a literal translation of the French expression “faire passer des vessies pour des lanternes”, with an equivalent sense to the English “pull the wool over someone’s eyes” or “make someone believe that the moon is made of green cheese”. But since Lévi plays on the words, I thought it best to keep it literal. Otherwise, it might expressed as something like “not in making them believe that the moon was made of green cheese, but very much to the contrary that a green cheese was the moon”.
(5) The attribution of the device or motto Noli ire, fac venire to Rabelais deserves some amplification. Lévi also quotes it in Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, volume II (Rituel), chapter IX (1856, p. 99; 1861, p. 140 ; Arthur Edward Waite translation, Transcendental Magic, Its Doctrine and Ritual (London, 1896), p. 251). There he says that the Sages “must speak, not to disclose, but to lead others to discover. Noli ire, fac venire, was the device of Rabelais, who, being master of all the sciences of his time, could not be unacquainted with magic.” (Waite trans.) This is the passage I think that Crowley likely had in mind by his outline point “Levi’s remark.”
Lévi ‘s interpretation is novel: it is an axiom of both philosophical wisdom and magical technique. He must have learned of it in a then-recent edition of Rabelais’ work, that of L. Jacob (pseudonym for Paul Lacroix, 1806-1884), ed., Oeuvres de F. Rabelais (Paris, 1841), p. LXVII, where Jacob, in his introductory “Notice historique sur la vie et les ouvrages de Francçois Rabelais”, when discussing the various devices associated with Rabelais, like that of the ex libris signatures Francisci Rabelaesi medici καὶ τῶν αὐτοῦ φίλων and Φραγκίσκου τοῦ Ῥαβελαίσου καὶ τῶν αὐτοῦ φίλων (“[A book of] François Rabelais (physician), and his friends”), and an inscription printed on the title-page of several editions of Pantagruel and Gargantua, “ἀγαθὴ τύχη” (“σὺν θεῷ”) (“Good Fortune (with God)”), as well as tempore et loco praelibatis (“in due time and place”), says that “On lui attribue encore une autre devise plus obscure: Noli ire, fac venire.” (Yet another, more obscure motto, is attributed to him: Noli ire, fac venire). In his note to this Jacob cites only Jean Bernier (1622-1698), Jugement et Nouvelles Observations sur les Oeuvres Greques, Latines, Toscanes & Françoises de Maître François Rabelais D.M., ou, Le Veritable Rabelais Reformé (Paris, 1697), pp. 16-17, which turns out to be the only source (as he is equally for tempore et loco praelibatis as Rabelais’ motto). My own research has turned up no references to it before Bernier, or between Bernier and Jacob, nor any references to Bernier’s reference to the motto itself before Jacob – that is, for the whole of the 18th century and the first four decades of the 19th. Given his unique testimony, and the influence Lévi’s interpretation has had in esoteric circles, Bernier’s original brief remarks and explanation of its meaning deserve to be presented:
“Quant à la plate peinture, il y en a … un chez Mr Baluze, qui avoit été à Guy Patin, mais qui n’est nullement conforme à celui que je vis il y a trente ans chez ce Medecin (…) Ce qu’il y a de singulier dans le Tableau appartenant à Mr Baluze, c’est qu’il est representé avec cette inscription : Noli ire, fac venire, ce qui ne me paroît pas fort spirituel & fort à propos ; c’est, dit-on, que les Catalans, tels qu’étoient Mrs Miron d’origine, dont Guy Patin avoit eu ce Tableau, croyent que si la fornication est un peché mortel, quand on va chez la Dame, ce n’en est qu’un veniel quand on la fait venir chez soi ; injure faite à notre Docteur, puisqu’il a été fort reservé depuis qu’il a été Curé“
As for paintings [of Rabelais], there is … Mr. Baluze’s, which had belonged to Guy Patin, but which resembles in no way that which I saw thirty years ago at the home of this Physician (…) What is unique about the painting belonging to Mr Baluze, is that it bears this inscription: Noli ire, fac venire, which does not appear very spiritual nor very appropriate to me; it is said that this is because the Catalans, such as was the origin of the Miron family, from whom Guy Patin had the painting, believed that if fornication is a mortal sin when one goes to the Lady’s house, it is only a venial sin when one makes her come to one’s own; this is clearly an insult to our Doctor [Rabelais], because he had been extremely discreet since he had been a Priest.
Thus, the physician and man of letters Guy (or Gui) Patin (1601-1672) apparently had two portraits of Rabelais, one of which Jean Bernier saw at his home in the 1660s, and another that had ended up in the possession of the jurist Étienne Baluze (1630-1718), which bore the famous inscription. Bernier implies that he believes the inscription is not due to Rabelais himself, but rather to the Miron, a Catalan family from whom Patin had received the painting. The painting has been lost since Bernier wrote of it.
Bernier’s witness is invaluable, since he must have heard from Baluze himself that Patin had gotten the painting from one of the Mirons, presumably Robert, Treasurer of Paris (Maître des comptes), who was Patin’s neighbour and friend. Otherwise, it may have been Robert’s father Robert, who was godfather to Patin’s first child. In any case there were multiple avenues for the painting to have come to him from this family. But what makes the story of the lost painting with its enigmatic motto lean to the side of intriguing plausibility, is that the Miron family, in addition to their later political achievements, had been, since around 1450, primarily a family of physicians, with at least one member of the family, sometimes two, of each generation having been trained at Montpellier. The elder Robert’s own father François (died 1572) was an exact contempoary of Rabelais, graduated and taught medicine there while Rabelais himself studied and graduated there. Thus a direct link between Miron and Rabelais is not unlikely, and it is not difficult to imagine that Rabelais himself could have supplied the motto, whatever its meaning, on a portrait dating from his lifetime.
(6) Anytus, one of the prosecutors of Socrates at his trial; see Plato, Meno, 90c-95a.
(7) Pierre-Jean de Béranger (1780-1857), celebrated Parisian songwriter and satirist. Levi is referring to his song “Le Ménétrier de Meudon”, part of the first stanza of which he quotes on the title-page, and the title he took as the third part of his Rabelaisian trilogy; see, e.g. Chansons Nouvelles et Dernières de De Béranger (Brussels, 1833), pp. 176-179. Lévi has mischievously changed a word in the first line of his quotation; where Béranger’s different publications invariably read “Les bigots, par rancune”, Lévi has put “Les dévots, par rancune”.
Chorus and first stanza:
“Dansez vite! Obéissez donc
Au ménétrier de Meudon.
Dansez vite ! obéissez donc :
Il est le roi du rigodon.
“Guilain, sous les charmilles,
Au temps de Rabelais,
Mit en train femmes, filles,
Bourgeois, manans, varlets.
Les bigots, par rancune,
Au sorcier criaient tous,
Disant : Au clair de lune
Il fait danser les loups.
“Dansez vite! Obéissez donc
Au ménétrier de Meudon… “
“Step quickly ! and thereby obey
The fiddler of Meudon’s tune.
Step quickly! And thereby obey:
He is the king of rigadoon.
“Guilain, under the arbour shade,
In the time of Rabelais,
Is followed by every lady, maid,
Bourgeois, yokel, and valet.
The sanctimonious, out of spite,
Decry the sorcerer’s merry prance,
Shout “Look! in the moonlight,
He even makes the wolves to dance!”
Lévi corresponded with Béranger after the publication of his novel Rabelais à la Basmette. Béranger’s reply survives and was published in the posthumous collection of his letters in three volumes edited by Paul Boiteau (see volume 3, page 427 (Lettre CCLXIX)). The letter reveals that Lévi’s approach to the artist was extremely flattering, that had sent him a copy of Rabelais à la Basmette, and that he hoped for a meeting. I do not know if they ever met.
To Monsieur Constant
14 January, 1848.
“Please understand it, sir, only as this period of the end and the beginning of the year, the time I have taken to respond to your extremely flattering letter and to thank you for sending the Basmette, a charming novel which, for my edification, I had already read in Démocratie. I thank you no less, sir, for having given me the opportunity to read it again in honour of Master François.
“As for he whom, you say, might console you for not being able to see Rabelais and la Fontaine in person, you know that his door is open to you, and that he may almost always be found in the morning.
“Whatever you may say, if la Fontaine and Rabelais were alive, your taste is too good not to prefer to go to knock upon their door, and you would be a hundred times right; but without doubt we would meet each other at the home of these divine Masters.”
(By “Démocratie”, Béranger is refering to the Fourierist daily newspaper La Démocratie Pacifique, which ran from 1843 to 1851 under Fourier’s successor in the movement, Victor Prosper Considerant (1808-1893). Constant’s Rabelais à la Basmette was serialized in ten parts from 4 November to 20 November, 1847. See the last link below for a reproduction of these issues of the journal)
Links to public domain books mentioned in the notes, online at the time of publication:
1. Alphonse-Louis Constant / Éliphas Lévi
Rabelais à la Basmette, 1847
Le Seigneur de la Devinière, 1850
Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie,1856, volume 2
Histoire de la Magie, 1860
Le Sorcier de Meudon, 1861
Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie,1861, volume 1
Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, 1861, volume 2
La Clef des Grands Mystères, 1861
Transcendental Magic, Its Doctrine and Ritual (translated by Arthur Edward Waite), 1896
The History of Magic (translated by Arthur Edward Waite), 1922
2. Paul Lacroix (Jacob), Œuvres de F. Rabelais, 1841
3. Jean Bernier, Jugement et Nouvelles Observations sur les Oeuvres Greques, Latines, Toscanes & Françoises de Maître François Rabelais D.M., ou, Le Veritable Rabelais Reformé, 1697
4. Pierre-Jean de Béranger, Chansons Nouvelles et Dernières de De Béranger, 1833
Correspondance de Béranger, 1860, volume 3
La Démocratie Pacifique, volume 9 (1 July to 31 December, 1847 ; serial begins on page 521 of the online reader ; the tops of the pages are cut off, but the novel is fully readable, at the bottoms of the pages)
Wow! This is going to take some studying! Thank you so much, Belmurru, for sharing your research.
Owner and Editor
Seconded, there! This is the sort of thing which shows the resources of Lashtal at its finest.
indeed, six thousand thanks!
Only six thousand?? Why so churlish?
Thanks, Paul. It's a pleasure to share it here; there is always some new angle to discover in Crowley. In particular, it gave me an opportunity to learn something about Lévi, which I had to share for anyone who might have similarly overlooked him.
Crowley's Rabelais has proven a much richer vein than I could have ever guessed. Point 3 of his essay outline actually allows us to see that he was about 50 years ahead of his time in his interpretation of Gargantua and Pantagruel. That is, as a mystical and psychological unity. I'll try to show how that is in subsequent posts. Crowley shared with Lévi his esteem of Rabelais as an Adept, in all senses, but he took it further both in seeing him literally as a prophet of Thelema, and of he, Perdurabo, himself.
“Six thousand” is actually a serendipitous choice of numbers (if it is not intentional 😉 ), given the centrality of the number 6 to Rabelais’ design of the Abbey.
Michael Screech summarizes the importance of the number six in the symbolism of the Abbey of Thelema, first noted by Emile Villemeur Telle in 1953 (1):
“Professor Telle has made an arresting and important contribution to the number mysticism underlying the Abbey of Thelema. He points out that six plays a very great rôle in the construction and life of the Abbey. This important, since six, the hexad, is not just another number amongst many; it had special powers of its own. The Abbey has six stories, six libraries for six languages, staircases six toises (2) wide and broad enough to take six men-at-arms abreast. The diameter of the redoubts is sixty paces; the number of the apartments is given as 932 (which Telle analyses as an inverted six before 3 x 2)… And, of course, Thelema is hexagonal. … In Telle’s opinion, ‘even if Rabelais did not believe in the value of the number six, it cannot be denied that he made use of it in the same sense as Philo, a usage which squared perfectly with the philogamic sense of his antimonastic monastery where everything goes by pairs.’ Telle’s interpretation of the meaning of six for Rabelais leads easily to his interpretation of the real meaning of the Abbey: it is meant above all to trample down celibacy as a virtue and replace it with the chastity of marriage.“
(M. A. Screech, The Rabelaisian Marriage: Aspects of Rabelais’ Religion, Ethics & Comic Philosophy (Arnold, 1958), p. 30)
(1) Emile V. Telle, “Thélème et le paulinisme matrimonial érasmien : le sens de l’Enigme en Prophétie“, in François Rabelais : Ouvrage publié pour le quatrième centenaire de sa mort, 1553-1953 (Librairie Droz, 1953), pp. 104-119 ; see page 112 for his discussion of the number 6.
(2) toise = a measure of length of six feet.
Following Rabelais’ detailed descripions, Charles Lenormant had these two views drawn up in 1840, in Rabelais et l’architecture de la Renaissance. Restitution de l’Abbaye de Thélème
Plan of Abbey, north is down (Loire is north). It kind of looks like the Six of Disks, "Success", in the Thoth Tarot, although I detect no Rabelaisian influence on Crowley's description (see The Book of Thoth, p. 182, pp. 214-215):
View of the Abbey of Thelema, looking south:
Location of Thelema on the map (near top centre, with pointer added), as shown by William Francis Smith, Rabelais: The Five Books and Minor Writings (London, 1893), fold-out facing page lx:
L’enorme solution de continuité en toutes dimentions
The enormous Solution of the Continuity in all its Dimensions
The Womb of Nuit will swallow all Evil.[/align:2f9sn4sv]
Point 7 of Crowley’s outline:
7. Parable of Devil & Old Woman. The Womb of Nuit will swallow all Evil.
Crowley is referring to the Quart Livre (Fourth Book) of Rabelais, chapter XLVII, Comment le Diable fut trompé par une Vieille de Papefiguiere, “How the Devil was deceived by an Old Woman of Popefig Land”. The story reads like a folktale, although it originates with Rabelais. In the tale (chapters XLV-XLVI), a devil, who claims a field but knows nothing about farming, decides to try to cheat the peasant who works it of his crop. The devil divides the field into what is above the ground and what is below, and offers the peasant what is above, while he will take what is below. The peasant sows wheat, and when the harvest comes he takes the wheat, while devil ignorantly harvests the stubble. The peasant sells his harvest profitably at the market, while the devil and his minions are ridiculed for what they offer. Realizing he has been cheated, the devil decides that with next year’s crop he will take what is above the ground. The next year, the peaant plants turnips, and the devil takes the tops, while the peasant harvests the turnips, with the same result at the market. The devil is now furious and challenges the peasant to a claw-fight in a week’s time. The peasant is terrified (chapter XLVII), relating everything to his wife, but she assures him that she can take care of such a stupid young devil. When the day arrives, he goes to confession and hides in the Holy Water basin, while his wife waits at home for the devil to arrive.
Crowley’s preferred translation, that of Peter Motteux of 1694, takes up the tale from there (followed by a modern English version):
“The Day that we landed in the Island happen’d to be that which the Devil had fix’d for the Combat. Now the Countryman, having like a good Catholic very fairly confessed himself and received, betimes in the Morning, by the Advice of the Vicar, had hid himself, all but the Snout, in the Holy-Waterpot, in the Posture in which we found him: And just as they were telling us this Story, News came that the old Woman had fool’d the Devil, and gain’d the Field: You may not be sorry perhaps to hear how this happen’d.
“The Devil, you must know, came to the poor Man’s Door, and rapping there, cry’d so hoe, ho the House, hoe, Clod-pate, where art thou? Come out with a vengeance, come out with a wannion, come out and be damn’d; now for clawing. Then briskly and resolutely entring the House, and not finding the Country-Man there, he spy’d his Wife lying on the ground pitiously weeping and howling: What’s the matter? Ask’d the Devil, where is he? What does he? Oh! that I knew where he is, reply’d the Threescore and five, the wicked Rogue, the Butcherly Dog, the Murtherer? He has spoiled me, I am undone, I dye of what he has done to me. How, cry’d the Devil, what is it? I’ll tickle him off for you, by and by. Alas, cry’d the old Dissembler, he told me, the Butcher, the Tyrant, the Tearer of Devils, told me, that he had made a match to scratch with you this Day, and to try his Claws, he did but just touch me with his little Finger, here betwixt the Legs, and has spoil’d me for ever. Oh! I am a dead Woman, I shall never be my self again: do but see! nay and besides he talk’d of going to the Smith’s to have his Pounces sharpen’d and pointed. Alas you are undone, Mr. Devil; good Sir, scamper quickly, I am sure he won’t stay; save your self, I beseech you: While she said this, she uncover’d her self up to the Chin, after the manner in which the Persian Women met their Children, who fled from the fight, and plainly shew’d her What de’e call them. The frighted Devil, seeing the enormous Solution of the Continuity in all its Dimensions, blest himself, and cry’d out, Mahon, Demiourgon, Megaera, Alecto, Persephone: s’Life, catch me here when he comes! I am gon: s’Death what a gash! I resign him the Field.”
(Translation of Peter Motteux, Pantagruel’s Voyage to the Oracle of the Bottle. Being the Fourth and Fifth Books of Francis Rabelais, M.D. With the Pantagruelian Prognostication, and other Pieces in Verse and Prose by that Author. Also his Historical Letters. Compleating all his Works that are Extant. Never before printed in English. Done out of French by Mr. Motteux. (London, Richard Baldwin, 1694); “How the Devil was deceiv’d by an Old Woman of Popefig-land”, pp. 183-184)
“The day we landed on the island was the day they were due to meet. Early that morning the ploughman had made a very full confession and taken communion like a good Catholic, and then, on the advice of his curé, had plunged into the water-bowl to hide himself. In which state we had found him.
“At the very instant we were told this tale, we received news that the old woman had diddled the devil and won the field.
“And this is how: the devil came to the ploughman’s door, rang the bell and yelled, ‘Hey! Villein! Villein! Look: what lovely claws!’ He then went into the house, sure of himself and fully resolved; but finding that the ploughman was not there, he noticed the ploughman’s wife lying on the ground, sobbing and wailing.
“’What’s going on?’ asked the devil. ‘Where is he? What’s he up to?’
“Ha! said the old woman, ‘where is he? He’s a bad man, a hangman, a savage. He’s given me such a wound. I’m done for. I’m dying from the harm he’s done me.’
“’Eh?’ said the devil. ‘What’s wrong? I’ll soon trounce him for you.’
“’Oh,’ said the old woman, ‘He told me – that hangman, that bully, that clawer of devils! – that he had an appointment to claw it out with you this very day. So to try out his nails he just flicked me here between my legs with his little finger. He’s totally done for me. I’m finished. I shall never get better. Have a look! And he’s just gone to the blacksmith’s to have his claws pointed up and sharpened. Monsieur le Diable: you’ve had it, my friend. Save yourself. Nothing can stop him. Get away, I beseech you.’
“She then bared herself up to her chin (adopting the position of those Persian women who exhibited themselves to their sons as they fled from the battle) and showed him her what-d’you-call. The devil, upon seeing that monstrous solution of continuity in all its dimensions, exclaimed, ‘Mahoun! Demiourgon! Megaera! Alecto! Persephone! He’s not getting hold of me! I’m running away double quick! Selah! I quit the field.’”
(Translation of Michael A. Screech, Gargantua and Pantagruel (Penguin, 2006), pp. 800-801)
This part of the story has rarely been illustrated. The only one I can find is from the 1797 Oeuvres de Maitre François Rabelais (Paris: Ferdinand Bastien, An VI (=1797)), where the plate (missing in all online scanned editions) would have been inserted in volume 2, probably with the story on pages 531-533. The hapless peasant is in the basin in the main picture:
The Old Woman and the Devil is a vignette at the top of the picture:
However, the story was taken up in verse by Rabelais’ fan Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695), where, in an 18th century edition, it was sublimely illustrated by the engraver Charles Eisen (1720-1778). La Fontaine has given names to the characters: the peasant is Philipot (Phil in the English, see below), while his wife is Perrette (Perretta), and she is clearly anything but old.
Eisen’s engraving from Contes et Nouvelles en Vers, par M. de La Fontaine (Amsterdam, 1762), plate facing page 149.
This depiction of the enorme solution de continuité en toutes dimentions evidently gave some people the same reaction as the devil in the picture, since later versions of the engraving were reworked to put the brakes on the imagination, like this one from an edition of the same work in 1777:
An anonymous translation of all of La Fontaine’s stories appeared in 1814 in two volumes, published by C. Chapple, London, as La Fontaine’s Tales: Imitated in English Verse; “The Devil of Pope-Fig Island” is in volume 2, pages 185-194. This version of La Fontaine has been since reprinted many times, once in a volume illustrated with the engravings of Charles Eisen as they appeared in the 1762 edition (1896, see the link below). Here is the climax of the story in the anonymous English translation:
“Perretta at the house remained to greet
The lordly devil whom she hoped to cheat.
He soon appeared; when, with dishevelled hair
And flowing tears, as if o’erwhelmed with care,
She sallied forth, and bitterly complained
How oft by Phil she had been scratched and caned.
Said she, “The wretch has used me very ill;
Of cruelty he has obtained his fill.
For God’s sake try, my lord, to get away:
Just now I heard the savage fellow say
He’s with his claws your lordship tear and slash:
See, only see, my lord, he made this gash.”
On which she showed what you will guess, no doubt,
And put the demon presently to rout,
Who crossed himself and trembled with affright:
He’d never seen near heard of such a sight
Where scratch from claws or nails had so appeared.
His fears prevailed, and off he quickly steered.”
Besides the mystical element of the Womb of Nuit, there are other elements in the story Crowley may have developed in his interpretation. The most obvious is the above-ground/below-ground dichotomy, emphasized the by the devil’s exclamation of, among others, “Persephone”, an agrarian and underworld goddess who spends half the year in Hades, and half on the surface of the earth. The peasant and his wife both represent the natural order, whle the devil tries to force what is unnatural, taking what is not his. The moral might be that one has to gain from both above and below, at the right time. Thus the devil, glimpsing the totality of the natural order but unable to accept it, is forced to flee in terror from what he cannot comprehend.
This line of thought is what reminded me of the Sheela na gig carvings, like the detail of the one above from Kilpeck, Herefordshire. See, e.g.
Online links to books:
Motteux, 1694 (text version)
Contes et Nouvelles en Vers, par M. de La Fontaine (Amsterdam, 1762), volume 1
La Fontaine’s Tales: Imitated in English Verse (London, 1814)
Tales and Novels of Jean de La Fontaine (1896)
The enormous Solution of the Continuity in all its Dimensions
Thanks for posting the beautiful prints and exploring the language of Rabelais. The phrase solution de continuité also appears in the story of the lion, the fox, and the “ageless old woman,” in the first of Rabelais’ Giant works, Pantagruel, Chapter 11. There he writes solution de continuité manifeste which Screech translates manifest dissolution of continuity. All French editions consulted do appear to have “solution” and not “dissolution." The writer of lassilia explains solution de continuité as Nature de la femme, terme hautement technique pour designer le minou de dames ( Dictionnaire erotique moderne, d’Alfred Delvau). Solution doit etre pris au sens initial, c’est-a-dire dissolution. Donc dissolution de continuite entre les cuisses = trou!” ( a term for a lady’s kitty, solution in its initial sense dissolution )
Delvau’s entry for the term reads La nature de la femme, ou il a en effet une sorte d’interruption de surface
The Urquhart and Motteux translation readsthere is a manifest solution of continuity. See how great a wound it is …
Although Rabelais is not the first to use the phrase, it is probable that its erotic usage springs from him and Fontaine. French Wikipedia states that the word solution in the phrase solution de continuité is to be understood in the sense of dissolution.
The primary surgical sense will be taken up in the sequel. Andre Breton uses the phrase solution de continuité in his Manifesto of Surrealism when he speaks of Freud and Dreams.
In the study Georges Méliès, l'Illusionniste fin de siècle? we find the both the terms solution de continuité and dissolution de continuité. In 1899 Méliès created and released l'Illusionniste fin de siècle ( an Up-to-Date Conjuror or a Turn-of-the-Century Illusionist )
Readers of Crowley’s Book of the Law are no doubt well aware of his choice of words “manifestation of Nuit” “consciousness of the continuity of existence” “joy of dissolution all” “dissolution and eternal ecstasy”.
The terror of solution of continuity of that devil in Rabelais has an analogue in the Facebook legal battle over L’Origin du Monde
Screech’s introduction to the chapter states “A tale in the current tradition of jokes about pudenda and the women of Paris. In the only extant copy of the first edition of Pantagruel, the page on which most of this tale was printed was so heavily censored that it became detached and lost, leaving signs of the censor’s ink on the facing pages. To fill the gap editors follow the second edition. Rabelais made several excisions, all prudential, none ‘obscene’.The chapter is best replaced in the tradition of the Querelle des Femmes, a quarrel about the status of women which produced bawdy at one extreme and a platonizing idealization of women at the other.”
After Rabelais left the University of Montpellier he settled in Lyons. There he published his first learned work in 1532, the Latin letters of Doctor Jean Manardi of Ferrara, an “examination and commentary of Greek and Latin” medical manuscripts, which had been recommended to him by Tiraqueau as though they had been dictated by Pæon or Æsculapius
He also wrote a preface to another volume of Manardi on Dioscorides, and published an edition of Hippocrates Aphorisms with philological notes. These works helped him get appointed as physician at the Grand Hostel Dieu de Notre Dame de Pitie du Pont-du-Rhône established a thousand years earlier by Childebert, son of Clovis and Saint Clotilda. He wrote a letter shortly thereafter to the Dutch Renaissance humanist, Erasmus - author of the Praise of Folly and On Free Will - along with which he sent a copy of Josephus’ Jewish Antiquities which he had helped procure for Erasmus. Jean Plattard writes in his Life of François Rabelais
“Erasmus was then at the height of his glory and we have no idea whether he paid any attention to this epistle from the Lyons doctor. It was worthy of moving him, so much is it overflowing with admiration and gratitude towards him. Rabelais declares that he would be the most ungrateful of men did he not proclaim that whatever he is, he is it through Erasmus. This protector of letters, this defender of the truth is his spiritual father.
No doubt, Erasmus’ genius is so rich, his culture so varied, his learning so wide that there is hardly a Humanist of his day who is not among his posterity. However, Rabelais’ declaration is noteworthy. It is not a mere stylistic formula. It points out truly the origin of some of his general ideas which he inherits from Erasmus, from the Praise of Folly and the Colloquies. On both sides is the same absence of mysticism, the same imperious need to introduce reason into the practices of religion, the same hatred of scholasticism, the same horror of dogmatism. These two minds are certainly of the same family and the expressions of gratitude in Rabelais’ letter can be taken literally.” Page 113
Evidently not everyone thinks Rabelais mystical or occult like Levi or Crowley judged him to be. I read Rabelais back in 1979 at my tactical nuclear missle site. I had purchased a copy of the Great Books of the Western World, and it was the first volume I read. I laughed all the way through. It inspired me later to read works in the same vein, Tristram Shandy, and Finnegans Wake. Perhaps one of the meanings of the famous passage in the parable of the Mookse and Gripes is a reference to the fox/continuity passage of Rabelais ( from Revised Finnegans Wake )
He gaddered togodder the odds docence of his vellumes, gresk, letton and russicruxian, onto the lapse of his prolegs, into umfullth onescuppered, and sat about his widerproof. He proved it pompifically, in a most consistorous allocution, well whoonearth dry and drysick times, and vremiament, tu cesses, to the extinction of Niklaus altogether (Niklaus Alopysius having been the once Gripes’s popwilled nimbum), by Neuclidius and by Inexagoras, by Mumfsen and by Thumpsen, by Orasmus and by Amenius, by Anacletus the Jew and by Malachy the Augurer and by the Cappon’s collection and all the mummyscrips in Sick Bokes’ Juncroom. And after that, with Cheekee’s gelatine and Alldaybrandy’s formolon, he reproved it ehrltogether, when not in that order sundering in some different order, alter three thirty and a hundred times, by the binomial dioram and the penic walls and the ind, the inklespill legends and the rure, the rule of the hoop and the blessons of expedience and the jus, the jugicants of Pontius Pilax and the Chapters for the Cunning of the Chapters of the Conning Fox by Tail. While that Mooksius with preprocession and with proprecession, duplicitly and diplussedly, was promulgating ipsofacts and sadcontras this raskolly Gripos he had allbust seceded in monophysicking his illsobordunates.[/font:tu1xztl9]
To return to the medical and surgical sense of the phrase solution de continuité. The reason I cited the above passages laying emphasis on Rabelais’ interest in the medical sciences, relates to one of the origins of the phrase in French literature. It is well known Rabelais performed a public dissection, and this phrase is used in early French medical texts. The first occurrence is in Henri de Mondeville’s Chirurgie circa 1312, where one finds both solution de continuite manifeste, and multiple occurances of solution de continuité
Mondeville – the Father of French Surgery, and surgeon to Phillippe Le Bel and Louis X – was trained at both Paris and Montpellier ( where Rabelais studied ) and later in Italy by Borgognoni who was renown for his treatment of wounds. The juxtaposition of the surgical phrase “solution de continuite manifeste” with the wound of the “ageless old woman” in Pantagruel, suggests familiarity of Rabelais either with Mondeville’s Chirurgie, or the text which eclipsed it Guy de Chauliac’s Chirurgia Magna circa 1363
Hostel Dieu - in Hebrew בית־אל[/font:tu1xztl9] - signifies House of God - House of AL - in Genesis 28:12 is the name Jacob gave to the place of his vision of angels of יהוה[/font:tu1xztl9] ascending and descending Heaven and Earth. The Hebrew passage describing the dream equals in value the Ten Sephiroth = He dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven
כתר חכמה בינה חסד גבורה תיפארת נצח הוד עסוד מלכת = יַּחֲלֹם, וְהִנֵּה סֻלָּם מֻצָּב אַרְצָה, וְרֹאשׁוֹ, מַגִּיעַ הַשָּׁמָיְמָה[/font:tu1xztl9]
The ascension of Pharaoh, or later, after the democratization of the after-life, anyone able to afford the spells, to the Ikhemw-sek - the Imperishable Circumpolar Stars - after being interred in the sarcophagus - symbolizing the body of Nuit - is characterized by Jan Assmann in his magisterial Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt as a case of regressus ad uterum. In his notes he cites his essay Tod und Initiation in altägyptischen Totenglauben and Muttergottheit, as well as Hermsen's Regressus Ad Uterum: Die embryonale Jenseitssymbolik Altägyptens und die pra- und perinatale Psychologie among other works. In the same notes he quotes from a variety of his sun hymn translations:
Descending into the body
of his mother Nut
You set as Atum
You embrace your mother, your mother embraces you.
Msqt¹ receives you, your mother embraces you,
the western Light-land opens to you,
its arms are outstretched to receive you.
I enter the earth from which I emerged,
I settle down on the place of my first birth.
The one who is carried in pregnancy during the night and is born in the morning,
when it becomes light he is at his place of yesterday.
The one who enters the mouth and emerges from the thighs,
... rising without wearying
¹Thomas George Allen in his translation of the Book of Going Forth By Day page 54 note 104 states that Sethe's commentary on Pyr. 279 d suggests that ( msqn var. msqt) may be the Milky Way
Clearly, for the above to be equal the Sephiroth need to be correctly spelled!
כתר חכמה בינה חסד גבורה תיפארת נצח הוד יסוד מלכות = יַּחֲלֹם, וְהִנֵּה סֻלָּם מֻצָּב אַרְצָה, וְרֹאשׁוֹ, מַגִּיעַ הַשָּׁמָיְמָה[/font:1bg1bvk2]
The question of 'number mysticism' in Rabelais is an interesting one. He uses so many numbers, and applies them to so many objects, often of the most trivial sort, one might be inclined to dismiss the possibility. However, in light of the facts that works of the Cabala were beginning to be translated into European tongues, and that Pico della Mirandola had published his 900 Theses at the end of the 1400's, sections of which deal with the Cabala, and the fame of which certainly had reached the ears of Rabelais, it is quite possible he did incorporate some stuff.
The inner circumference of the six towers of the Abbey equals 360 PI, and the total distance between the six towers equal 1872 = 12 * 156, which in Crowley's literal Qabalah is Babalon or the Moon in the Zodiac, and in classical Hebrew/Christian hermetic cabala might signify the 12 Tribes of Zion, or the Revelation 144 cubits and ציונ[/font:1bg1bvk2]. Crowley's non-linear Trigrammaton system as developed by Leo has 1872 as an important factor it being the product of the outer two groups of letters less the product of the inner two groups of letters of the numbers & the words, which when multiplied by the numbers equals the Trigrammaton sum of the Book
[ A B K · R P S T O V A L – A L G M O R · X Y ] · 4 6 3 8 2 4 24 89 = 1872 · 143 = 267696
The total number of paces between the Towers plus the number of paces of the diameter of Towers ( 6 * 60 = 360 ) equals 1872 + 360 = 24 * 93 = Elders of Apocalypse * θελημα
The 22 foot long serpentine marble steps suggest the 22 letters of the Hebrew Alphabet, although I do not know if esoteric thought conceived the letters as a serpent of wisdom at the time.
The number of paces around the five above ground levels of the hexagon equals 31 * 360 = 93 * 5! and the paces around all levels between and within the towers equals 93 * 144 ּ= θελημα * 144
The number 932 is a prominent number in classical, Work of Creation, Qabalah, it being the value of Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in Genesis עצ הדעת טוב ורע[/font:1bg1bvk2]
It also equals 4 times 233 or the Tree of Life חצ החיימ[/font:1bg1bvk2] manifest in the 4 Worlds. This number being distributed among all the rooms of the occupants might indicate that such knowledge is a consequence of the social life of the Abbey. In Genesis is written, "And יהוה אלהימ[/font:1bg1bvk2] said, "Behold, the man is become as one of us, by knowing good and evil" וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים, הֵן הָאָדָם הָיָה כְּאַחַד מִמֶּנּוּ, לָדַעַת, טוֹב וָרָע[/font:1bg1bvk2]
Thanks for looking up the origin of the term solution de continuité, John. I hadn’t thought of that. Its medical origin, solutio continui, meaning “rupture”, “fracture”, “crack”, “tear”, “wound”, etc., is perfectly apropos of the joke, I see now. Such diseases or injuries can be visible or hidden, solutio continui manifesta vel occulta (Johannes de Concoreggio, Practica nova medicine (Venice, 1501)). Vulnus est solutio continui (A wound is a (dis)solution of the continuity), in the formulation of Matthias Glandorp (1595-after 1652; see Speculum Chirurgorum (Bremen, 1619) I,1).
Some English authors of the 17th and 18th centuries used it in the figurative sense, e.g.:
James Ussher, “A Sermon preached before the Commons House of Parliament, 18th February, 1620”, in Charles Richard Elrington, ed., The Whole Works of the Most Rev. James Ussher, D.D., Lord Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland (Dublin, 1847) volume II, p. 423:
“They know full well, that ‘every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every house divided against itself shall not stand:’ nor do they forget the politician’s old rule, Divide et impera, Make a division, and get the dominion. The more need have we to look herein unto ourselves; who cannot be ignorant how dolorous solutio continui, and how dangerous ruptures prove to be unto our bodies.”
John Donne, “A Sermon Preached at St. Paul’s” (undated, but between 1621 and 1631), Sermon CXX in The Works of John Donne, D.D., Dean of Saint Paul’s, 1621-1631 (London, 1839), volume V, pp. 131ff.
“First, for this concision of the body, of the body of divinity, in doctrinal things, since still concision is solutio continui, the breaking of that which should be entire, consider we first, what this continuum, this that should be kept entire, is:… Not to profess the whole Gospel, totum Jesum, not to believe all the articles of faith, this is solutio continui…” (Donne uses solutio continui about a dozen more times in this section.)
Thomas Newton, commentary on John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667 and 1674 editions), Book VI, lines 329-330: “the griding sword with discontinuous wound / pass’d through him”. Newton comments:
“The griding sword with discontinuous wound] Discontinuous wound is said in allusion to the old defiinition of a wound, that it separates the continuity of the parts, vulnus est solutio continui : and griding is an old word for cutting, and used in Spenser, as in Faery Queen, B. 2. Cant. 8. St. 36.
‘That through his thigh the mortal steel did gride.’
(Paradise Lost. A Poem in Twelve Books… With Notes of various Authors, by Thomas Newton, D.D. (London, 1750), p. 457. David Loewenstein, in his edition of Paradise Lost (Milton. Paradise Lost (Cambridge UP, 2004, p. 515), adds to this Francis Bacon’s (1561-1626) use of the term in his essay “Of Unity in Religion” (1625): “as in the natural body a wound or solution of continuity is worse than a corrupt humour, so in the spiritual”)
In Rabelais it’s the old vagina as wound topos, and the term solutio continui for it must have been a current joke in medical schools.
So Screech was correct to translate it by “dissolution” in Pantagruel XV (XI), although he could have explanined why he did so. I wonder why he did not do so in the Fourth Book? Perhaps we can suspect that Rabelais took solution in the other sense, of resolution, which would mean there is a double meaning there. Rabelais got it from his medical studies, where it means a fracture, wound, injury or other discontinuity in a continuous tissue, but the Latin solutio does also have the literal meaning of what we commonly understand by “solution” or “explaination”, implicit in its etymology from solvere, “to loosen, release, break”, from se (archaic sed), “without” luo (luere), “to loosen”. Thus a solution to a problem is what breaks the stress of being problematic, what makes an apparent discontinuity, or disparity, whole again (hence also its sense as “payment of a debt”; insolvent, solvent). I couldn’t put it beyond Rabelais to use it in a double sense.
Thus if we like we can take it mystically as the Crowleyan “the tearing asunder is a crushing together” (Liber CDXVIII, 4th Aethyr), or the Cohenesque (Leonard), “There is a crack, a crack, in everything: that’s how the light gets in.”
(I noted something just now remembering Crowley’s passage – I recalled it as “the tearing apart is the crushing together”, and got Magick Without Tears, letter 81, as the only response from Google. I knew it was from The Vision and the Voice, but I wanted the exact place. So it turns out that Crowley paraphrased it in Magick Without Tears, and the real formulation of the passage is as quoted above.)
All of the French usage guides point out the common misunderstanding of this phrase. See, e.g., the following four places.
1. Academie française:
“Solution de continuité
“In order not to use it incorrectly, this expression should be related to the etymological meaning of the word solution: a separation of parts, destruction, crumbling; the sense taken nowadays by the word dissolution.
“A solution of continuity is therefore a rupture, an interruption of that which should be continuous. A break, a crack, a gap, is a solution of continuity in a given body.
“To say, figuratively, There is a solution of continuity in his reasoning in this policy means that one seeks in vain any hoped-for continuity, coherence or permanence.”
2. Maurice Grevisse, Le Français Correct. Guide pratique (5th edition, edited by Michèle Lenoble-Pinson, 1998), number 426 (page 113).
“Solution de continuité. In this expression, solution (from the Latin solvere, ‘untie, undo, break’) means ‘act of interruption, separation, cutting’. There is a solution of continuity when, either abstractly or concretely, an ‘interruption between the parts of a whole previously continuous’ occurs. “
3. French Wikipedia, “Solution de continuité”
“The expression solution de continuité means “rupture, interruption which occurs in the continuity of something, concrete or abstract.” This expression comes from the surgical lexicon : the solution of continuity, for example for a fracture : there is no longer continuity in the bone, in the sense that it is broken.
“This is an expression which could be included in the category of false friends. Most people understand the opposite of what it means: they can take it effectively as meaning success in… (or guarantee of…). In reality, to understand what it means, the prefix dis- should be added to it. By analogy, in the Middle Ages one finds otherwise the phrase solution de mariage to designate divorce.
4. Office québécois de la langue française
“The expression solution of continuity means “rupture, interruption which occurs in the continuity of something, concrete or abstract.” It thus designates a point of rupture, a separation.
“The expression solution of continuity is attested since 1314. It appears as such in surgical vocabulary and designates wounds, cuts and fractures. By analogy, it then becomes used for concrete things, and afterwards abstractions, in the 16th and 17th centuries respectively, to signify “separation.”
“The utilization of the expression in the sense of “manner of assuring continuity” is the basis of the unfortunate misinterpretation. To understand the origin of this error, we have to go back to the meaning of the word solution. It must be recalled that even though the word often corresponds to the verb resolve (as in the solution of a problem or of an enigma), it can also correspond to the verb dissolve (as in a substance in solution or a liquid solution). Solution comes from the classical Latin solutio, which signinfies notably “explanation”, but also “dissolution, coming apart.” The Latin verb solvere means “to detach, unloose”, a sense which gave birth to the extended meanings of “to resolve (untie, unbind, in speaking of a difficulty)”, as well as “to come apart, crumble, dissolve.” Moreover, in the 16th century, it was also used in the expression solution of marriage (solution de mariage), which meant “divorce.”
I found that quite a nice match, too. Doubtlessly Crowley would have pointed it out, if he had finally come to write his essay and investigated the texts a little more deeply (as he seemed to be doing in 1920, quoted earlier in the thread), since Urquhart used the edition which had 9332 rooms. Rabelais changed it quickly from 932 to 9332.
Here is part of the article by Emile Telle that I cited earlier, with some notes and expansions (in two parts - introduction and text, notes)
The "Nuptial Number" 6 and Thelema
Émile Villemeur Telle (1907-2000) was a Romance language scholar who was best known for his studies on early 16th century humanism, particularly the influence of the thought of Erasmus. Naturally he also delved into the Erasmian Rabelais. Telle’s thesis in the 1953 paper from which the following excerpts are translated is that the “anti-monastery” of Thelema is based on the repudiation of celibacy (along with poverty and obedience) as a virtue; admitting men and women equally, who may choose to marry, it is about balance, harmony, and union, symbolized by the number 6, the “nuptial number” (see endnote (2) below). He notes that he is the first to remark on this feature of the symbolism of the Abbey of Thelema.
His remarks on Rabelais’ conspicuous use of the number 6 in the design of the Abbey of Thelema may cast some indirect light on Crowley’s understanding of the number, for many reasons, but in this context particularly in his explanation of the Tarot trump VI, The Lovers, in The Book of Thoth (pp. 80-84, and general remarks on the Sixes, pp. 181-182), where it is “the Royal Marriage” (p. 80), “the Creation of theWorld” (p. 81), and “the Hermetic Marriage” (p. 82). When compared to Philo’s and Augustine’s own remarks below, when interpreting the six days of creation in Genesis, the coincidence is remarkable, and is further reinforced when Philo considers the number 6 to be the “mixed” number of marriage (union) and generation (see endnote (3)), compared to Crowley’s meaning of Atu VI as the “Royal” and the “Hermetic Marriage.” Crowley further identified Atu VI with θέλημα by having the word written on Cupid’s quiver, depicting thereby Love (the Marriage) under Will. As the letter Zayin means “sword”, it perhaps noteworthy that the only other card to bear the word θέλημα is the Ace of Swords. Finally, since Atu VI is attributed, through Zayin, to Gemini, which is ruled by the planet Mercury, this will have ramifications for Crowley’s identification of Panurge with Mercury, and his problem (indecision over marriage) as that of “fixing Mercury” (in the alchemical sense), as we will see in a subsequent essay here. It is a pity that Crowley never completed his essay on Rabelais, or he might have discovered this “Rabelaisian Six” before Telle did, in 1953. Telle omits to note that the word θέλημα also has six letters, a word which, although it may be justly argued that Rabelais does not use this word in Greek as such, no commentator has ever doubted was the source of Rabelais’ Thélème. Crowley might also have noted that θηρίον, like θέλημα, has six letters.
Please note that the terms Evangelical, Evangelism, etc. in the context of Rabelais studies have a technical definition, referring to a very specific humanist current of the early 16th century, and should not be confused with the common use of the term nowadays for Christian churches described as “Evangelical”. Margaret Harp conveniently summarizes its characteristics: “EVANGELISM. An early sixteenth-century, principally French, movement among scholars, humanists, theologians, and the laity to reform Church practices by emphasizing the study and the practice of the Evangile, or Gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Initially indistinguishable from the Protestant Reformation, the evangelical movement distinguished itself by its confidence in human nature when inspired by faith and charity. Evangelical doctrine is most closely linked with the teachings of Saint Paul. The writings of Rabelais, Erasmus, Thomas More, Lefèvre d’Etaples, Marguerite de Navarre, and Clément Marot reveal an evangelical sensibility.”
(see the entry “Evangelism” in Elizabeth Chesney Zegura, ed., The Rabelais Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2004), p. 73)
From Émile V. Telle, “Thélème et le paulinisme matrimonial érasmien: le sens de l’énigme en prophétie (Gargantua, chap. LVIII)”, in AA.VV., François Rabelais : Ouvrage publié pour le quatrième centenaire de sa mort. 1553-1953 (Droz, 1953), pp. 104-11 (selections from pp. 111-114; I have omitted some of his notes, and added my own)
“The château of Thelema: is it not an amalgamation of a monastery of men and a convent of women, in a perfect architectural hexagon, a Platonic fusion playing with the concerns, half-humorous, half-serious, of the Erasmians who could not forget the marriage of Luther? How to purify, Christianly, how to “return to the Evangelical simplicity” these cesspools of iniquity that the monasteries of men, and above all of women, were to the enemies of celibacy? The answer is perfectly simple – by marriage. And as it was shameful to marry an ex-monk or an ex-nun, nothing remained but marriage between monks and nuns… and thus to build Thelema.
“With this, we open a parenthesis related to this building in a “figure exagone”. The number 6 plays a highly significant and eloquent role in it, upon which no Rabelais scholar has yet, to this day, remarked.
“Saint Augustine devoted a chapter of The City of God (1) to the symbolism of the number 6, in which he follows the Pythagorean arithmetic of Plato (2) and of Philo of Alexandria (3). The number 6 is the first perfect number because it is the sum of its factors (4); this is why God created the World in six days. But – and this is the most important point for its relevance to Thelema – a temporary residence (château de passage) where alliances are made, source of marriages to come – 6 is perfect because, as Philo tells us, it is by its nature earthly (7 is the first celestial number), male (odd: 3) and female (even: 2), and the product of the two… and “as it was necessary that the world, which is the most perfect of created things, was made according to a perfect number, that is, 6, so, as it should contain beings issuing from a union, it had to receive the impression of a mixed number, that is, 6, the first number in which odd and even are combined, the essential principle of the male who sows the seed and the female who receives the seed.”
“Rabelais reinforced the esoteric and ‘evangelical’ sense of 6, the symbol of order, productivity, and fecundity, corresponding also to the six attributes of divinity: power, wisdom, majesty, love, mercy and justice. His abbey would have 6 floors; it would contain 6 libraries where studies would be in 6 languages: Greek, Latin, Hebrew, French, Tuscan (Italian), and Spanish (he eliminated the Arabic and Chaldean recommended to Pantagruel in Pantagruel chapter VIII). The diameter of the corner towers is of 60 steps: 6x10 (10 is also a perfect number: 1+2+3+4; a triangular number). The number of apartments, and thus residents, is 932: 9 is 6 inverted facing 3x2; later Rabelais would make this number 9332 (9; 3x3; 3x2). Even the staircases in the centre of each part of the building reveal concern over numerological symbolism: the steps are 22 feet long and 3 fingers thick; there are 12 flights between each landing: (3x2)x2. The winding staircaises leading to the libraries are 6 toises wide and 6 men-at-arms, ‘with their lances in their rests, might together in a breast ride all up to the very top of all the palace’ (chapter LIII) (5).
“It could not be more explicit…
“That Rabelais sincerely believed in the symbolism of the number 6 is not certain. But he, like his contemporaries, lived in a forest of symbols that Ficinism, Hermeticism and the taste for allegory had only accentuated. Besides, the hexagonal castle remained in the mind of Rabelais and never in the architecture of his time. But even if the architect of Thelema did not believe in the value of the number 6, it is undeniable that he made use of it in the sense understood by Philo, a usage which squared perfectly with the philogamic meaning of his antimonastic Abbey where everything goes by pairs.
“Do not forget a detail that has long gone unperceived: Thelema had already been reformed one time… : “The Ladies at the foundation of this order were apparelled after their own pleasure and liking; but since that, of their own accord and free-will, they have reformed themselves; their accoutrements were in manner as followeth…” (chapter LVI)
“A vestimentary reform, benign enough but revealing of a transformation otherwise symptomatic: the gentlemen, themselves also, were sartorially reformed following the example of their female friends, thus signifying that they yield to the Precellence of the Female Sex, and that they place their will in the hands of the Ladies, who, themselves, would decide the apparel of the day… ‘.. but there was such a sympathy betwixt the gallants and the ladies, that every day they were apparelled in the same livery. And that they might not miss, there were certain gentlmen appointed to tell the youths every morning, what vestments the ladies would on that day wear; for all was done according to the pleasure of the ladies. ‘ (chapter LVI)
“A foundation reformed in the philogynic (6) sense where everything (the clothing, like the rest) was done according to the Good Pleasure of the humanist ladies in this Erasmian monastery, because the institution had been established from the beginning on the bedrock of amity and afterwards on the observance of amourous alliance, a natural blossoming of the friendship between gentlemen and ladies. The servant apparently abandons all initiative at the discretion of his mistress because he knows it to be perfect, and that the sole rule that regulates Thelema is that it should have none: it is that of Love, which knows neither restriction nor regulation; a rule of loving pre-marital friendship leading finally (3x2=6) to pure and holy marriage, of which Saint Paul, Castiglione, and Erasmus spoke. (7) No vows, unless vows of matrimony pronounced of one’s own free will and with eyes wide open, after having consulted with parents and friends. Thus our Thelemites, born enemies of celibacy and future citizens participating usefully in the well-being of the State, enter, upon leaving the Abbey, into the active life on the same level as married man and married woman. In summary, the Thelemite college is to the pre-marital preparation what the conjugal life is to the formation of the citizen… In this Abbey without Abbot, where each young man elects the mistress of his heart, one breathes the air of freedom and amical sympathy, free of jealousy, of the malaise poisoning the atmosphere of the monasteries; a charming picture that Erasmus presented as historically authentic for the true monks in the good old days of the Golden Age of pure monasticism, as his arm-chair illusions would have it:
‘If you look closely into the life and rule of Saint Benedict, Saint Francis, Saint Augustine, you will fully see that for them the vow was nothing more (!) than the desire to live with friends in spiritual freedom, according to the Evangelical doctrine.”
“To paraphrase: If we study attentively the lifestyle of the Thelemites, we will clearly see that for them the free course at Thelema had no other purpose than that of men and women living together as friends, according to the evangelical doctrine as well as the evangelical doctrine of marriage of Saint Paul-Erasmus.
“Thelema is obviously a monument built in honour of Erasmian antimonasticism as well as to the glory of Erasmian philogamy. It is the Erasmian Thelema… ‘reformed’ according to the fancy of the Ladies! … And this philogamy belonging to Erasmus is, as I have demonstrated in my study on Erasmus and theSeventh Sacrament, the fruit of a Jovinian (8 ) interpretation of the Epistles of Saint Paul.”
The "Nuptial Number" 6 and Thelema (part 2, notes)
(1) Book XI, chapter 30: “Of the Perfection of the Number Six, Which is the First of the Numbers Which is Composed of the Sum of Its Proper Divisors”.
I.e. 6 (1+2+3=6) is the first “perfect number”; they are rare, only 48 are crrently known: the next is 28 (1+2+4+7+14=28), then 496, then 8128, then 33,550,336, then 8,589,869,056, then 137,438,691,328. For an explanation, see
For a continuously updated list of the “Mersenne Primes” and their corresponding Perfect Numbers, see
Six also has the additional, perhaps unique, “perfection” of also being the product of its parts, i.e. 1x2x3=6. It is this quality which leads Philo to consider it the number of union (female 2 x male 3) and generation (2x3=6).
Here is Augustine’s chapter:
Augustine of Hippo, The city of God against the pagans, translation Robert William Dyson, Cambridge University Press, 1998, Book XI, chapter 30 (pp. 490-491; the footnotes are Dyson’s)
Of the perfection of the number six, the first number which is the sum of its own parts
It is recorded that these works were completed in six days, the same ‘day’ being repeated six times, because six is a perfect number.(1) It is not that any interval of time was necessary to God, as if He could not create all things simultaneously, which would then mark the course of time by the movements appropriate to them. Rather, the number six is used to signify the perfection of God’s works. For the number six is the first number which is composed of its own parts: that is, of its sixth, third and half, which are one, two and three, and which make a total of six. In a number considered in this way, those are said to be its parts which divide it exactly, as a half, a third, a quarter, or a fraction without any denominator. Thus four is, in a sense, a part of nine, but it cannot be called a part in our present sense. One can, however, because it is a ninth; and three can, because it is a third. But these two parts added together – that is, the ninth and the third, or one and three – do not by any means make up the whole sum of nine. So also, in the number ten, four is a part in a sense, but it cannot be called a part in our sense. One can, however, because it is a tenth; and it has a fifth, which is two; and it has a half, which is five. But these three added parts, a tenth, a fifth, a half, or one, two and five, added together, do not make ten; for they make eight. On the other hand, the parts of the number twelve, when added together, are greeater than the whole. For it has a twelfth, which is one; a sixth, which is two; a quarter, which is three; a third, which is four; and a half, which is six. But one, two, three, four and six make not twelve, but more: to wit, sixteen. I have thought it appropriate to call these things briefly to mind here in order to demonstrate the perfection of the number six, which is, as I have said, the first number to be exactly made up of the sum of its parts; and in this number of days God finished His work. We must not overlook the science of number, therefore, which, in many passages of Holy Scripture, is found to be of great value to the diligent student. Not without reason is it said in praise of God, ‘Thou has ordered all things in number, and measure, and weight.’”(2)
(1) Cf. Augustine, De gen ad lit., 4,2ff, 4,37; De Trin. 4,7
(2) Wisdom 11,21; cf. Bk XV,20; XVII,4; XX,5; 7.))
(2) Republic, VIII, 546b
(Telle does not elaborate on this passage in the Republic, a conceptually and mathematically obscure section, upon the meaning of which scholarly consensus has only been reached in the last century or so. Here is Jowett’s translation:
“Now that which is of divine birth (θείῳ γεννητῷ ) has a period which is contained in a perfect number, but the period of human birth is comprehended in a number in which increments by involution and evolution [or squared and cubed] obtaining three intervals and four terms of like and unlike, waxing and waning numbers, make all the terms commensurable and agreeing with one another. The base of these, with a third added, when combined with five and raised to the third power furnishes two harmonies, the first a square which is a hundred times as great, and the third a figure having one side equal to the former, but oblong, consisting of a hundred numbers squared upon rational diameters of a square [i.e. omitting fractions] the side of which is five, each of them being less by one than, or less than two perfect squares of irrational diameters: and a hundred cubes of three. Now this number represents a geometrical figure which has control over good and evil births. For when your guardians are ignorant of the law of births, and unite bride and bridegroom out of season, the children will not be goodly or fortunate.”
-Benjamin Jowett, translator and editor, The Dialogues of Plato (Oxford, 1892), volume III, pp. 250-251.
In an article in 1908, George Barton summed up the basic interpretation to his time:
“Recent interpreters of Plato seem to agree that θείῳ γεννητῷ refers to the world, the formation of which is controlled by a large number, and that Plato claims that human births are controlled by a smaller number which bears a certain relation to this larger number. Dupuis (1881) understands that the ‘perfect number’ is 6, - a ‘perfect number’ being, according to Euclid and the Greek mathematicians, a number which is equal to the sum of all its divisors. Thus 6=1+2+3. Apparently, however, the meaning here is, not that six is the actual number, but that it lies at the basis of that number. Adam (1902), therefore, understands this to be a reference to the number which expresses the gestation of the universe, and which Plato in this phrase leaves shrouded in silence and obscurity, but explains more fully in the last part of the passage.
“There seems also to be the general agreement that the number which controls human births, which is obtained by ‘squaring and cubing,’ by which ‘three intervals and four terms are produced’, is 216 (=6^3 =3^3+4^3+5^3). This is the view of Dupuis (1881), Hultsch (1882), Jowett (1891), Campbell (1894) and Adam (1902). Some scholars have reached this conclusion by cubing 6, and some (as Adam) by adding the cubes of 3, 4 and 5.”
-George A. Barton, “On the Babylonian Origin of Plato’s Nuptial Number”, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 29 (1908), pp. 210-219.
(3) On the Creation of the World, chapter III, and Allegorical Interpretation, I,3-4
Here are Philo’s passages on the number 6:
On the Creation of the World, chapter III; translation of Charles Duke Yonge, The Works of Philo Judaeus (London, 1854), volume I, pp. 3-4:
III. And he says that the world was made in six days, not because the Creator stood in need of a length of time (for it is natural that God should do everything at once, not merely by uttering a command, but by even thinking of it); but because the things created required arrangement; and number is akin to arrangement; and, of all numbers, six is, by the laws of nature, the most productive: for of all the numbers, from the unit upwards, it is the first perfect one, being made equal to its parts, and being made complete by them; the number three being half of it, and the number two a third of it, and the unit a sixth of it, and, so to say, it is formed so as to be both male and female, and is made up of the power of both natures; for in existing things the odd number is the male, and the even number is the female; accordingly, of odd numbers the first is the number three, and of even numbers the first is two, and the two numbers multiplied together make six. It was fitting therefore, that the world, being the most perfect of created things, should be made according to the perfect number, namely, six: and, as it was to have in it the causes of both, which arise from combination, that it should be formed according to a mixed number, the first combination of odd and even numbers, since it was to embrace the character both of the male who sows the seed, and of the female who receives it. And he allotted each of the six days to one of the portions of the whole, taking out the first day, which he does not even call the first day, that it may not be numbered with the others, but entitling it one, he names it rightly, perceiving in it, and ascribing to it the nature and appellation of the limit.
The First Book of the Treatise on the Allegories of the Sacred Law After the Work of the Six Days of Creation, translation op. cit., pp. 52-53:
II. "And on the sixth day God finished his work which he had made." It would be a sign of great simplicity to think that the world was created in six days, or indeed at all in time; because all time is only the space of days and nights, and these things the motion of the sun as he passes over the earth and under the earth does necessarily make. But the sun is a portion of heaven, so that one must confess that time is a thing posterior to the world. Therefore it would be correctly said that the world was not created in time, but that time had its existence in consequence of the world. For it is the motion of the heaven that has displayed the nature of time.
“When, therefore, Moses says, "God completed his works on the sixth day," we must understand that he is speaking not of a number of days, but that he takes six as a perfect number. Since it is the first number which is equal in its parts, in the half, and the third and sixth parts, and since it is produced by the multiplication of two unequal factors, two and three. And the numbers two and three exceed the incorporeality which exists in the unit; because the number two is an image of matter being divided into two parts and dissected like matter. And the number three is an image of a solid body, because a solid can be divided according to a threefold division. Not but what it is also akin to the motions of organic animals. For an organic body is naturally capable of motion in six directions, forward, backwards, upwards, downwards, to the right, and to the left. And at all events he desires to show that the races of mortal, and also of all the immortal beings, exist according to their appropriate numbers; measuring mortal beings, as I have said, by the number six, and the blessed and immortal beings by the number seven.”
Web version - http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/philo.html
PDF scan of original text - https://archive.org/details/worksofphilojuda01phil
(4) Vitruvius, Architectura Libri decem, III, 1, §6
Here is the passage in Vitruvius:
Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, De Architectura libri decem, III,6; translation of Joseph Gwilt, The Architecture of Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (London: Priestley and Weale, 1826), p. 80.
“The mathematicians, on the other hand, contend for the perfection of the number six, because, according to their reasoning, its divisors equal its number: for a sixth part is one, a third two, a half three, two-thirds four, which they call δίμοιρος; the fifth in order, which they call πεντάμοιρος, five, and then the perfect number six.”
PDF scan of original - https://archive.org/details/architectureofma00vitruoft
Electronically entered text:
(5) Crowley would have made other associations than those Telle has. Telle’s explanation of the 9 in 932 as an inverted 6 seems a little ad hoc. Crowley may have seen the gematria value of θέλημα in it, harmonized by the 2, and therefore symbolizing the balance of the sexes (two wills in harmony). When Rabelais enlarged the number of rooms to 9332 (which it is in Urquhart’s edition), a year or two after the first edition, the 32 could be interpreted quite fully to reflect the completion of Will’s 93, e.g.:
“32. Number of Sephiroth and Paths. 10+22. Hence is completion of perfection. Finality: things as they are in their totality. אהיהוה, the combined אהיה and יהוה, Macroprosopus and Microprosopus, is here. If we suppose the 3 female letters H to conceal the 3 mothers א, מ, ש, we obtain the number 358, Messiach, q.v. Note 32=2^5, the divine Will extended through motion.
“32. Admirable, in spite of its perfection, because it is the perfection which all from 1 to 10 and Aleph to Tau, share. Also connects with 6, through אהיהוה.”
(“An Essay Upon Number” (1910), Equinox I,5, pp. 100, 114)
Of course 22 is the Hebrew alphabet and Tarot Trumps, the 12 flights the Zodiac and year, the six “toises” (atoise is a measure of six feet; Urquhart translates as a “fathom”) are 36 feet (6^2), while the six staircases of six toises are 6x6x6, or 6^3 = 216, the Platonic number governing gestation as explained in the interpretations of Republic VIII, 546 b-d, note (2) above, etc.
(6) It was then that Il Cortegiano (The Book of the Courtier) of Castiglione, and above all its third book, was at the height of its popularity. The declamation De nobilitate et praecellentia foeminei sexus of Agrippa of Nettesheim was printed in 1529 and knew an enormous success comparable to that of the Encomium matrimonii of Erasmus.
On Castiglione’s Il Cortegiano -
(7) Hebrews 13:4; Encomium matrimonii (1518); Institutio Christiani Matrimonii (1526); Epicureus (1533);
-“’If my Court Lady be unmarried,’ replied my lord Magnifico, ‘and must love, I wish her to love someone whom she can marry; nor shall I account it an error if she shows him some sign of love’.” Leonard Eckstein Opdycke, translator, The Book of the Courtier (New York: Scribner’s, 1903), p. 225
(8 ) Jovinian, died circa 405 c.e., a former monk famously opposed to asceticism. Jerome called him Epicurus Christianorum – the “Epicurus of Christianity”. His thought is only known through the attacks of his opponents, such as Jerome.
Indeed, those specialists who see a mystical hermeneutic consistency in Rabelais (e.g. Masters, Weinberg) are a minority, and any occult interpretation will be completely idiosyncratic. Crowley’s version of the idiosyncracy includes interpreting the last stanza of the Enigme en prophetie of chapter LVIII (chapter 56 in Screech and the earliest editions) to contain a direct prophecy of himself. Crowley quotes it in Antecedents (Hymenaeus Beta and Richard Kaczynski, eds., The Revival of Magick and Other Essays (New Falcon, 1998) pp. 162-169):
O que est à reverer,
Cil qui pourra en fin perseverer.
Some translations :
“The other at the last all strip’t shall be,
That after this great work all men may see
How each shall have his due, this is their lot,
O he is worthy-praise that shrinketh not.”
(The First Book of the Works of Mr. Francis Rabelais (London, 1653), p. 254)
“That when the Toils are ended at this Point,
Each one may gain his Lot predestinate.
Such was the Bargain. O how blessed is he
Whoso shall persevere unto the End!”
(Rabelais: The Five Books and Minor Writings (London, 1893), vol. I, p. 195)
“That when this work is done in such a state,
Each man may have his own predestined fate.
Such was the pact. O how we should revere
Whoever to the end can persevere!”
(Complete Works of François Rabelais (University of California Press, 1991), p. 130)
“To whom, before, most suffering did grieve
Shall be allotted most, shall most receive.
Such was the promise. How must we revere
Him who unto the End does persevere.”
(Gargantua and Pantagruel (Penguin, 2006), p. 377)
Hymenaeus Beta and Kaczynski give the prmary biblical references to the theme of “persevering to the end” (p. 167):
Matthew 10 :22, 24 :13 ; Mark 13 :13
Telle’s paper, analyzing this verse of the Prophecy, does not mention these biblical allusions at all, but rather claims it is a “summary of 2 Thessalonians 2, particularly verse 14.” (this is not the first passage that would have come to my mind)
The prophecy of Perdurabo was of such importance to Crowley, I wonder if he did not have it engraved “on a bronze plaque” (or at least on brass or copper), as it was in the story, and buried under the Villa Santa Barbara in Sicily. Given the extensive renovations the house underwent since the 1950s, including electrical and plumbing, I imagine it was already found, if it existed.
For the mystical strain, in this case Renaissance Neo-Platonism, I emphatically recommend G. Mallary Masters, Rabelaisian Dialectic and the Platonic-Hermetic Tradition (SUNY Press, 1969), and Florence M. Weinberg, The Wine and the Will: Rabelais’s Bacchic Christianity (Wayne State University Press, 1972). I believe Crowley would have loved these studies, and anticipated them in some ways. Besides seeing “Pantagruel, John, Epistemon, Panurge” as “parts of the soul” (point 3 of Crowley’s outline above, and absolutely unprecedented as far as I can find), an important theme for Masters, Crowley also introduced his essay on William Blake with the line “Verily Omar Khayyam was not the first, nor Alcofribas Nasier the last, of the Angelical Doctors of the Theological Schools of Dionysus” (Revival, p. 115), which is essentially Weinberg’s thesis (Bacchus=Dionysus; what unites the Rabelaisian cycle is the mystical wine).
For anyone coming newly to Rabelais, as I did a few months ago, it is important to know that the Fifth Book, with the Oracle of the Bottle and word Trinc, is controversial. Most concede it is not entirely Rabelais’ work, but there are nuances. Some reject it entirely, like Screech, and others accept it entirely, like Masters, and Weinberg implicitly. Such concerns were far from Crowley’s mind, he was probably not even aware of the debate, so they do not directly concern us, but when approaching the Masters-Weinberg school of interpretation it is important to keep in mind the implications that Screech noted, in what seems like a pointed allusion to these two authors:
“Other great authors drag along a chain of doubtful works. It may not matter much, but it can. An authentic play by Shakespeare is not likely to be interepreted in the light of a doubtful one. In the case of Rabelais, however, it matters a great deal. Ever since 1564 readers of Rabelais have been presented with copies of his works which include a book, published a decade after his death, which claims to round off his writings. It brings the heroes back to Touraine. It tells of the end of the quest for the ‘Word’ of the Dive Bouteille, of that ‘Sainted Bottle’ dwelling in a mystical Never-never Land. Some read back into the four Books the often cryptic meanings they find in the Fifth. For them, Rabelais’ last word is essentially Trinck (Drink!), the ‘Word’ of the Dive Bouteille. And here Trinck risks turning the real, soul-uplifting wine of the wingèd Bacchus of the Fourth Book into something other: a quest for something symbolized by wine – knowledge, say, or even enlightenment.” (Screech, op. cit. p. xxxvii)
(note that “Trinck” is Screech’s adaptation of the word, which in the original is invariably Trinch. English translators since Motteux (who spelled it Trinc) have taken it be a hard “k” at the end, but I have my own theory about the pronunciation, which I’ll share in the appropriate post).
Nevertheless, Masters and Weinberg tell a compelling story, but it is dense meat, as is everything to do with Rabelai (so is Crowley, but we all know that).
I read Rabelais back in 1979 at my tactical nuclear missle site.
Well, you're WAY ahead of me. Although he comes highly recommended, not least by Crowley, I didn't start on him until a few months ago, trying to understand exactly and in all its dimensions what Crowley might have meant by his occasional, but very serious, references to "Trinc". It has led me into this vast, but not completely unfamiliar, world (the 16th century is not so alien to me).
I had purchased a copy of the Great Books of the Western World, and it was the first volume I read. I laughed all the way through. It inspired me later to read works in the same vein, Tristram Shandy, and Finnegans Wake. Perhaps one of the meanings of the famous passage in the parable of the Mookse and Gripes is a reference to the fox/continuity passage of Rabelais ( from Revised Finnegans Wake )
He gaddered togodder the odds docence of his vellumes, gresk, letton and russicruxian, onto the lapse of his prolegs, into umfullth onescuppered, and sat about his widerproof. He proved it pompifically, in a most consistorous allocution, well whoonearth dry and drysick times, and vremiament, tu cesses, to the extinction of Niklaus altogether (Niklaus Alopysius having been the once Gripes’s popwilled nimbum), by Neuclidius and by Inexagoras, by Mumfsen and by Thumpsen, by Orasmus and by Amenius, by Anacletus the Jew and by Malachy the Augurer and by the Cappon’s collection and all the mummyscrips in Sick Bokes’ Juncroom. And after that, with Cheekee’s gelatine and Alldaybrandy’s formolon, he reproved it ehrltogether, when not in that order sundering in some different order, alter three thirty and a hundred times, by the binomial dioram and the penic walls and the ind, the inklespill legends and the rure, the rule of the hoop and the blessons of expedience and the jus, the jugicants of Pontius Pilax and the Chapters for the Cunning of the Chapters of the Conning Fox by Tail. While that Mooksius with preprocession and with proprecession, duplicitly and diplussedly, was promulgating ipsofacts and sadcontras this raskolly Gripos he had allbust seceded in monophysicking his illsobordunates.[/font:3e34x6sh]
It could well be, well spotted! I don't think any book in human history matches Finnegan's Wake for density and polysemy. But the investment in learning about Joyce has kept me from serious study; I like to dip into it, just to get some rhythm or perhaps a funny line, but I have never studied it.