Updated: Jun 20
Fr Ascendas, Kantharos Lodge Master One of my favourite parts of the Gnostic Mass as a Priest is the first step. This part for me is one of the most profound. First steps in general can be uncertain, awkward or even wobbly. Our parents make a big deal about “our first steps” as children and in the system of the OTO we all learn steps. These steps below the altar are a useful and illuminating symbol of our way of going, and the great work.
Just prior to taking the first step, the Priest walks around the temple a number of times. To me this represents the time I spent in life before I took up this Great Work business. I largely went round in circles and all I really accomplished was the accumulation of birthdays, before taking the first step to becoming an initiate. It’s interesting that at this point, the congregation kneels. The Priest can’t see that happening, but you can hear the creaking bodies take to the asana. It’s almost as if the various aspects of the mundane life of the individual have been consecrated to the great work in concert with the Priest’s own attention. It’s a little bit nerve jangling at this point. Up to this point, the Priest's job is a doddle - you get dressed up, take a stroll with a beautiful lady and then walk about a bit. Now you have to come up with the goods and there is no way you can hide if it goes wrong. But, this is the sexiest part of the mass for me as well; it’s at this point there is no going back.
Here, at the first step, the Priest has stopped wandering the world and has decided on his will. At this point his goal, his bride, Nuit is so high above him and so far above the veil, it’s amazingly romantic, this journey across the abyss itself so long and perilous that it takes real courage – this Priest is a real hero, a Knight. He invokes Nuit, he calls to his bride. (Those of you who did Reguli with us last month might notice that invoking Nuit is the first thing you do when performing this ritual as well, again using a circle… “O Circle of stars.”)
I’m certain that I’m not the only Priest to have recited this part of the Mass under the stars. I did this last week at a yoga retreat, I wandered out to the car park where there were no lights and the view of the stars took my breath away and I simply had to recite those lines “… whereof our Father is the younger brother.” Crowley is on record as saying there is no statement made in the mass that can’t stand up to scientific reasoning and this is a good example of this as ours is a young sun.
Last weekend, looking up at the stars “Marvel beyond imagination” came near to how I felt, looking up there at all that stuff shining in the darkness, I was awestruck.
“Soul of infinite space, before whom time is ashamed the mind bewildered and the understanding dark” - It is up there, it’s huge, I’m part of it, I’ve no idea what it is, I’ve no idea what I am. “Not unto Thee may we attain, unless Thine image be Love” - We can’t get there without love, we can’t go without love, we can’t be without love.
“Therefore by seed and root and stem and bud and leaf and flower and fruit do we invoke Thee” - Through all our endeavours we invoke Nuit. I assume the ‘seed and root’ part is a reference to the Neophyte, the newly planted, and that the stem, bud, leaf, flower and fruit refers to even more exalted stages of development.
To recap, the Priest has wandered about the world then decided that it’s his will to pursue the great work, that is to discover his purpose or way of going in life and so he begins by invoking the starry sky. It is as though Nuit answers with silence and so he goes on to invoke with the most beautiful words he knows.
“… kissing her lovely brows, and the dew of her light bathing his whole body in a sweet-smelling perfume of sweat: O Nuit, continuous one of Heaven, let it be ever thus; that men speak not of Thee as One but as None; and let them speak not of thee at all, since thou art continuous!”