A Thelemic Site Dedicated To The Study Of The English Qabalah
Preface to the Commentaries
Trigrammaton Qabalah, (TQ), is an exploration of number mysticism using ternary mathematics. It originates in a study of the three-line figures, or trigrams, that appear in Liber XXVII, written in 1907 by Aleister Crowley. These trigrams are built up from a trinity of elements called Tao, Yang and Yin, in all their possible combinations, to create 27 symbolic figures.
Once these 27 figures are decoded, they are revealed as simply numbers written in an unfamiliar notation. We are all used to our decimal system, or “Base 10”, with its ten different single digits from 0 to 9, or the binary system that runs our computers, which uses just two different digits, 0 and 1. By the same token ternary, or trinary, is simply counting with three possible digits: 0, 1, and 2.
The TQ explores the nature of using a trinity to create a number system, and in the process discovers that the very structure of the graphicaldepiction of numbers in Base 3 reveals a wealth of information kept hidden from us by our normal decimal counting system. Some things that are rather mysterious when understood in the decimal system become quite plain when understood in Base 3. And some things that can be easily accomplished in Base 3 are not even possible in the decimal system.
But the concept of a Trinity is certainly not new. Although the particular approach found in Trigrammaton is novel, this method has an antecedent in the Ta’i Hsuan Ching, written in China ca. 100 BCE. This ancient work posed a system of a trinity of elements that combined in various ways to create 81 “tetragrams”, or four-line figures. It is highly unlikely that Aleister Crowley was aware of this work, but he was verymuch familiar with that other Chinese classic, the I Ching. Being influenced by that model, Crowley’s work puts the emphasis on trigrams rather than tetragrams.
And like the I Ching, the TQ combines the fundamental trigrams with each other in every possible way, to make hexagrams. In the I Ching, there are 8 trigrams, which can combine in 8^2 = 64 different hexagrams. In the TQ, there are 27 trigrams, and thus there are 27^2 = 729 hexagrams. This number 729 is also known as “Plato’s number” for its appearance in his dialogue Timaeus, where some of its properties are extolled.
Math is a language we speak to the universe, and it responds to us in kind. The underlying premise of the TQ is that the universe reveals itself to human consciousness through the agency of numbers. This is not a new idea. Science, our formalized attempt to understand the universe, would be impossible without numbers. But even beyond that, the universe itself would be impossible without numbers. While mathematics may be the language of science, the reason it can accurately describe the universe is because the structure of the world is mathematical to begin with. This idea goes back to Pythagoras and beyond, and it is safe to characterize the TQ as a Neo-Pythagorean philosophy.
The TQ is also a qabalah, and this term is used to indicate that Trigrammaton has its antecedents in the classic system of Hebrew mysticism, (which might be more properly spelled Kabbalah). The two systems share many similar approaches, since at heart they are both expressions of number mysticism. Both approaches are “emanationist” in the sense that they posit a creation of the world ex nihilo; and both systems consider the numbers themselves to be the fundamental constituents of the universe. They also share an affinity for geometrical diagrams, as examples of the inherent order of the cosmos. And they both have a literal component that places a great emphasis on language, especially at the level of single words, and the individual letters that compose them.
The Kabbalah uses the letters of the Hebrew Alef-bet for this purpose. The TQ uses the English alphabet. The individual letters of both languages become identified so closely with numbers that they become interchangeable with them, and this allows textual exegesis of various scriptures, based on the mathematical nature of the words involved.
In the Kabbalistic tradition, there are three main components of the literal Kabbalah; temurah, which is the substitution of letters in a word for other letters; notarikon, which is the use of letters in a word as acronyms; and gematria, which is the use of letters as numbers in order to generate a numerical identity for any word. Only the last approach will be used extensively in the TQ.
Although gematria plays an important role in the TQ, it is by no means the most prominent aspect of the system. It is simply one part of a manifold approach to number mysticism. Just like its classical predecessor the Hebrew Kabbalah, the TQ is a whole system, concerned with the nature of the universe on many levels. But since the human mind invests words with so much more potency than mere numbers, it is often beneficial to translate numbers into words in order to put linguistic flesh on the numeric skeleton.
Much of the literal qabalah to be found in the TQ involves the examination of several other texts written by Aleister Crowley, known as TheHoly Books of Thelema. These books were written at the turn of the last century in a state of high trance, composed spontaneously and without editing while Crowley was in communion with his higher self. Today we would call these “channeled” writings.
The Holy Books of Thelema take their name from a Greek word that is translated as “will”, or “willing pleasure”. The first and most important of these Holy Books, called The Book of the Law, was dictated to Crowley in Cairo, Egypt in 1904 by a being named Aiwass. In the text we find the sentences Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law, Love is the law, love under will, and The word of the Law is .
The reception of this book was the turning point in Crowley’s life, and the beginning of his philosophy of Pure Will. A few years later, more Holy Books began to appear, as Crowley advanced on his spiritual path. Liber Trigrammaton is among this group of works, and furnishes the numeric Key to unlock their many mysteries. In light of its significance, Crowley referred to Trigrammaton as “the ultimate foundation of the highest theoretical qabalah”.