English Qabalah

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English Qabalah, or English Kabbalah, refers to several different systems[1]:24–25 of mysticism related to Hermetic Qabalah that interpret the letters of the Roman script or English alphabet via their supposed numerological significance.[2]:269[3] The antiquarian spelling "Qabalah" is more common in this context, but the modern spelling "Kabbalah" is also found.

Qabalah vs. gematria[edit]

According to Jake Stratton-Kent the English Qaballa is neither merely a qabalah nor a system of numerology or solely gematria. He believes a qabalah is specifically related to three factors: a language, a 'holy' text or texts, and mathematical laws at work in these two.[4] Cath Thompson writes that the English Qaballa is the tool given by its Holy Book for the interpretation thereof and that it is itself a complete magickal system in theory and in practice, with a consistent philosophy, a coherently stable Mandala, and infinite correspondences.[5] Emery More further suggests that the Roman script and Arabic Numerals (the glyph set of the English Alphabet) being the standardized scripting of the Aeon, reveals new truths and natural orders hitherto unknown and should effectively replace those keys of past systems whose truth is already subsumed. [6]

Gematria, on the other hand, is a system in which letters are equated to number values. The letters comprising the word or name of person or object are then summed together. The number of this sum is termed the key of that particular word. Words sharing the same key are said to share properties. The letters are often tabulated along with their numerical equivalents.[7][8][9]

An example of the simplest 'serial gematria' for English letters would be the following:

A=1  B=2  C=3  D=4  E=5  F=6  G=7  H=8  I=9  J=10 K=11 L=12  M=13 N=14  
O=15  P=16  Q=17  R=18  S=19  T=20  U=21  V=22  W=23  X=24  Y=25  Z=26

Systems of English Qabalah[edit]

Willis. F Whitehead[edit]

The first reference to an "English Qabalah" found in the literature was made by Willis F. Whitehead in 1898 in his book, "The Mystic Thesaurus" in which he describes a system he called English Cabala.[10]

Aleister Crowley[edit]

In 1904, Aleister Crowley wrote out the text of the foundational document of his world-view, known as Liber AL vel legis, or The Book of the Law. In this text was the injunction found at verse 2:55; "Thou shalt obtain the order & value of the English Alphabet, thou shalt find new symbols to attribute them unto" which was understood by Crowley as referring to an English Qabalah yet to be developed or revealed.[11]

In one of the Holy Books of Thelema written by Aleister Crowley in 1907, called Liber Trigrammaton, sub figura XXVII -- Being the Book of the Mutations of the Tao with the Yin and the Yang[12] are 27 three-line diagrams known as 'trigrams', which are composed of a solid line for the Yang, a broken line for the Yin, and a point for the Tao. By attributing 26 Roman script letters to the trigrams of this work, Crowley felt that he had fulfilled the injunction to "obtain the order & value of the English Alphabet", as noted in his 'Old Comment' to The Book of the Law.[13] Crowley did not go on to develop a full qabalah from this work, but many subsequent qabalists have been inspired by the injunction in verse 2:55 to develop a more complete system of English Qabalah, using various methods of exegesis.

William Gray[edit]

William G. Gray proposes another system in his 1984 book Concepts of Qabalah,[14] more recently republished as Qabalistic Concepts.[15] This system has been summarized by Joan Schraith Cole[16] and includes correspondence attributions of the English letters to the positions on the tree of life.

William Eisen[edit]

A system related to the Spiritualist Agasha Temple of Wisdom was described by William Eisen in his two volume The English Cabalah (1980–82).[17][18]

Trigrammaton Qabalah (TQ)[edit]

One system of English Qabalah with a strong English gematria component was proposed by R. L. Gillis in 1996, and published on his website since 1998.[19] Known as Trigrammaton Qabalah, or TQ, this system is based on one of the Holy Books of Thelema written by Aleister Crowley in 1907, called Liber Trigrammaton, sub figura XXVII -- Being the Book of the Mutations of the Tao with the Yin and the Yang. Liber Trigrammaton (aka Liber XXVII) was called by Crowley "the ultimate foundation of the highest theoretical qabalah".[20] In Liber XXVII are 27 three-line diagrams known as 'trigrams', which are composed of a solid line representing the Yang, a broken line representing the Yin, and a point representing the Tao. Crowley later attributed the 26 letters of the English alphabet to these trigrams, in an attempt to fulfill an injunction found in his earlier work The Book of the Law, or Liber AL vel Legis.

In Liber AL, verse 2:55 states: "Thou shalt obtain the order & value of the English Alphabet, thou shalt find new symbols to attribute them unto". By attributing the English alphabet to the trigrams of his later work, Crowley considered this verse to be fulfilled, as noted in his "Old Comment" to The Book of the Law.[21] The TQ is an extension of Crowley's work with Liber Trigrammaton. By considering the numerical value of the 27 trigrams as expressions in Base 3, (or ternary), and then transferring those values to the letters attributed by Crowley to the trigrams, a system of English gematria is created. Further use is made of the trigrams to create a true qabalah in the sense of the definition provided by Jake Stratton-Kent above. In the TQ, correspondences are created with all the major forms of divination such as I Ching, tarot and runes, as well as Greek and Hebrew alphabets, the qabalistic Tree of Life, Western and Vedic astrology, magic squares, and the Platonic solids of geometry. A primary feature of this qabalah is a new understanding of the Cube of Space and its 26 components of edges, faces and vertices, which equal the number of Roman script letters used in the English alphabet.[22]

Trigrammaton English Gematria values are as follows:

A=5  B=20  C=2  D=23  E=13  F=12  G=11  H=3  I=0  J=7 K=17 L=1  M=21
N=24 O=10  P=4  Q=16  R=14  S=15  T=9   U=25 V=22 W=8 X=6  Y=18 Z=19

Systems of English Gematria[edit]

The first appearance of a system of gematria using the natural order of the English alphabet was developed in 1532 by Michael Stifel, who also proposed a system called the trigonal alphabet, using successive triangular numbers.[23]:50 Another early system of English gematria was used by poet John Skelton.[24] An analogue of the Greek system of isopsephy using the Latin alphabet appeared in 1583.[23]:49 Other variations appeared in 1683 (simply referred to as the 1683 alphabet, this system was used by Leo Tolstoy in War and Peace to identify Napoleon with the number of the Beast) and 1707 (Alphabetum Cabbalisticum Vulgare). These and other variations are detailed in Underwood Dudley's Numerology, Or, What Pythagoras Wrought.[23]:49–51

More recently, Michael Bertiaux described a system called Angelic Gematria in his The Voudon Gnostic Workbook (1989),[25] and David Rankine described a system of English gematria[26]:244 using prime numbers which he calls Prime Qabalah in his book Becoming Magick (2004).[27]

ALW Cipher[edit]

According to Allen Greenfield, Carol Smith discovered the ALW Cipher, which she later called "English Qaballa", in 1974.[28] This is a popular error which Smith attempted to persuade Greenfield to correct, but to no avail. James Lees discovered the Key on November 26 1976 and he named the new order & value of the English Alphabet "English Qaballa". He chose that spelling deliberately because it was not in popular use at the time.[5] The cipher and the reasoning behind it, and other details of the system were published in five issues of The New Equinox / British Journal of Magick in a number of essays written by Lees and edited by Smith and given different bylines, which led to the aforementioned inaccuracy .[29] Some of this original material was later summarized by Jake Stratton-Kent in The Equinox: British Journal of Thelema.[30] Since then other self-published authors have discussed the system, referring to it as New Aeon English Qabala.[31][32]

The order & value of the letters in the ALW Cipher can be derived from the grid superimposed on one of the pages of manuscript of Liber AL on which this verse appears (sheet 16 of Chapter III). Also appearing on this page are a diagonal line and a circled cross. Thelemites believe the book of the law should ideally only be printed in Crowley's hand-written version, because the books says there are messages in the chance shapes Crowley's handwriting made, or any shapes he adds to the pages.[33] It is plain to see that whichever top-left to bottom-right diagonal is read the magickal order of the letters is obtained.[33]

As there are ten squares per column, this method is equivalent to taking every eleventh letter of the alphabet as the order and then assigning them sequential values:

A=1  L=2  W=3  H=4  S=5  D=6  O=7  Z=8  K=9  V=10 G=11 R=12 C=13
N=14 Y=15 J=16 U=17 F=18 Q=19 B=20 M=21 X=22 I=23 T=24 E=25 P=26

The proof given by the grid was noted some time after the order and value was originally worked out by James Lees. Lees had seen that the number 286 is the sum of 13x22 (a reference to the Hebrew alphabet of 22 letters) and of 11x26, the latter indicating the 26 letters of the English alphabet and the Key number 11 which unlocks the magical cipher.[5]

In the original handwritten text, the string of letters and numbers in the 76th verse of the second chapter is divided into two lines, the first ending with "Y" and the second beginning with "X". Stratton-Kent thought that in the manuscript the 'X' at the beginning of line two looked like a multiplication symbol, so he added each line's values together and multiplied them; 17x11=187, the numerical value of the phrase "English alphabet", which he felt confirmed the correctness of the system.[34]

Also notable in this period of development was the contributions of Tina Coutu, Coutu was also a member of the OBLH, and had worked with the Head of that order at the time, William Wallace Webb (aka 'Frater Damon'). Coutu was a computer programmer and network engineer, who, in the late 1980s, developed the second text analysis software for Qaballists, called LEXICON. (The first text analysis software was written in 1984-5 for James Lees by Trevor Langford. Langford subsequently worked with Stratton Kent on The Equinox: British Journal of Thelema.[35] ) The Lexicon software enabled large scale analysis of entire texts, which enabled an almost exponential expansion in the available research. LEXICON allowed a user to input any type of cipher key, and it was here that ALW began to be colloquially referred to by LEXICON users as 'Cipher 6'.[36] Coutu, or 'Soror Ishtaria', was a close colleague of Allen Greenfield.

ALW and Cipher X[edit]

In 1994, E. Joel Love, a student of the ALW Cipher (who was both a colleague of Greenfield and Coutu), and a member of the Hermetic Alchemical Order of the QBLH, proposed another English cipher that he would call 'Cipher X'. Love possessed a high mathematical aptitude and formal training in Cryptography in the U.S Coast Guard. A lifelong Thelemite, Love considered the ALW cipher to be incomplete to the task of answering many of the cosmological and deep structure questions proposed by Gillis' system. Both Gillis and Stratton-Kent met with Joel Love in 2004 and were mutually surprised to find that both Love's and Gillis' work contained many striking parallels. Love considered the ALW cipher to be representative of an authentic epistle, and interpreted verses in Liber XXVII to hint at a process of inversion. By taking the obvious base three trigrams system of Liber XXVII, and by comparing them to the cipher key of ALW, these inversions resulted in 'Cipher X' which, technically speaking, is the base three inversion of the ALW Cipher. Love always maintained that Cipher X was a complement to ALW, and himself being an advanced user of LEXICON, was a vocal proponent of comparing the results of many ciphers, a study he called 'cross cipher correlation'. Love would go on to compile over 20 years of notes and research. Love had several students, the first of which was longtime friend and colleague H. Thomas Chaudoin. Chaudoin maintains that he was present during the years that the bulk of this research was 'transmitted' to Love. Chaudoin would go on to found the NOT (New Order of Thelema), using many of Love's innovations as a foundation. Love was also a colleague and acquaintance of the late Robert Anton Wilson and a close friend of the late Kerry Wendell Thornley, co-founder of Discordianism. Love passed in June 2015.

Base 3 inversion of the ALW Cipher values results in the following values:

A=9  L=18  W=3  H=12  S=21  D=6  O=15  Z=24  K=1  V=10 G=19 R=4 C=13
N=22 Y=7 J=16 U=25 F=2 Q=11 B=20 M=5 X=14 I=23 T=8 E=17 P=26

Other systems[edit]

  • Linda Falorio's Liber CXV: The English Qabalah (1978),[37]
  • David Cherubim's The Key of it All (1996),
  • The English Qabalah of AREXZ 1496 (2001),
  • Simple English Gematria, Suggestive Gematria by J. P. Hughes (Holmes, 2008)
  • Frater Infek's four systems of the Gematria of Nothing (c 1995?)
  • Shane Clayton's THE ENGLISH CABALA 111, or 1=A=0 Cipher, writing as Frater Perseverando and/or Nox Cipher (c 1995)
  • Cicada 3301 (2012)[38]


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