The Red Goddess by Peter Grey (Scarlet Imprint, 2008)
The Red Goddess by Peter Grey is a very long sermon. It’s his personal take on the figure of Babalon from the Book of Revelations and the work of Renaissance adepts Dee and Kelly. She is the mother of harlots to some people, the spirit of the age to others. Many have tried to equate her with the Hindu deity Kali in all her forms, but Babalon is something different. Peter Grey, a gifted writer and practicing adept does his best to get at the source of Our Lady Babalon and he almost succeeds. I say “almost” because the True Babalon can never be defined. Ask twenty Thelema philosophers what Babalon is and you will get twenty-one answers. This is not to be confused with the city of Babylon or the song by German power metal band Edguy.
The Red Goddess is divided into three sections or books. The work begins with a look at the historic Babalon of the New Testament. Grey writes with the inspired heart of a beat poet. He tries to find all the paths which lead from Babalon, and sometimes they do intersect. This book is full of divine inspiration and repeatable quotes. For instance, from the first chapter:
“She is a Holy Whore wrapped in scarlet and gold ready to deliver her Antichrist son, the ultimate battlefield weapon, oil the side of the fallen angels. She is the archetypical bad girl, sexy as hell with her blood red lips and raking fingernails. Totally in control, Her thighs are wrapped around one muscular looking beast.”
And he’s just getting warmed up.
After a look at Revelations where she appears as a woman who rides the seven headed dragon with a cup of the blood of saints, Grey plunges into hyperspace with his interpretation of Her as and alchemical reaction. As he puts it, “Magick is sex, sex is magick.” As many of the writers of the tantras saw, her wine is the sexual fluids comingled to create something new. He sees a ban on sexual alchemy in Revelations as a means to keep beings from being created by comingling with the Divine. The author feels Babalon reclaims the essential primal power of man and woman to give birth to something new.
A long section follows where he looks at the historical precedent of Babalon in the ancient kingdoms of the East. The Jewish people were carted off to the Babylonian captivity where they were forced to endure a culture completely alien to anything they knew. Grey sees precedent for her in Ishtar and Astarte’s cults. From there he swiftly moves to the deities of Ancient Egypt.
“….They were recognition of the ultimate reality of God as a hermaphroditic fusion of the male and female, with sex as the highest sacrament. The cults of the Love Goddesses promised transcendent experience that did not require a priest to unroll a Jesus sheath as a barrier between the worshipper and gnosis….”
“Unless you can fall in Love all your works are as nothing. This prayer starts on the lips. Set up an image of the Goddess and tell her you Love Her. Bend your thoughts towards Her until you are annihilated in Love for Her. Your mind must be consumed with passion for Her, your body resonating . to Her pulse. If your devotion is pure the Holy Whore will receive you in the body of Her Priestess. If you have never been in Love then stop reading now. There is no point in reading a book on the Goddess of Love when you have not experienced it. Put your time to better use. Get out and get laid and fall in Love. Spirit without flesh is an utter waste, the two are intimately intertwined.”
Like I said, this is a sermon. The Red Goddess is one of the most quotable books I’ve ever encountered.
In a chapter entitled “All Goddesses Are Not One Goddess”, Grey makes it clear that Babalon is distinct and not to be merged with every other diety who comes down the road. He compares the late 20th century trend of using many Goddess names for one invocation to calling your lover by an old girlfriend’s name. It’s likely to get you kicked out of the bed or hit by a lightning bolt.
“If you see Babalon as Diana, or Aphrodite then call Diana or Aphrodite. Whatever turns you on. Babalon does it for me. Not Aleister’s Babalon, not Dee’s Babalon, my vision of Her as She comes to me and IT rises to Her.”
There is a long section that compares the cults of St. Mary Magdalene to Babalon. Grey views them as a way to put some humanity back into Christianity. However, he sees great damage done by ignoring or suppressing Babalon, which tried to ignore the sexual side of human nature. The Cathars and other Middle Ages gnostic cults went further by declaring this world profane. He sees Simon Magus as one who tried to preserve the ability of sexuality to bring about a change in human awareness.
The current spelling of Babalon came by way of the renaissance sorcerers Dee and Kelly who felt they’d found a way to communicate with angels through the layers or aethers. Their notes were conveniently discovered in the bottom of some furniture and served to jump-start an occult revival. Using a gazing crystal and tablets, they contacted Babalon as the Daughter of Fortitude who delivered several intense revelations to them, most of which were transcribed.
Naturally, Aleister Crowley’s encounter with Babalon appears next. His experience with Dee and Kelly’s Enochian keys produced The Vision and Voice, his encounter with the sprits in an Algerian desert where Babalon is described as the mistress of the city of the pyramids
“Aleister interjects in the record and explains that the sacramental wine which fills the Cup is ‘compassion’ , an ecstasy of suffering without pain, like delivering the self up to the beloved. Compassion is also an alternate name for Tiphareth, the heart centre of the Tree of Life. Students of The Book of the Law may wish to reread what it has to
say about compassion in the light of this. The devotees of Babalon do not just drink the wine. The Saints have sacrificed their individuality and ended the pain of separation by
pouring every drop of their life’s blood into Her chalice. You must do the same and, like Dionysus, be crushed in the winepress to attain resurrection.”
Babalon, as Grey writes, is beyond the abyss. Anyone one who works with her must be prepared to loose themselves. Babalon is a mystery because Babalon is sex. She is locked in eternal copulation with The Great Beast, according to Grey. Again, similar to the Shakti school of Hindu thought where Shiva and Shakti are locked together and create the universe. He spends much wordage on the numerical significance of Babalon’s name, which is 156.
Grey shows the difference between Thelema and Tantra as the former is about Will and the latter Letting Go. It all comes down to the big “Who am I and what am I doing here?” questions that every adept must encounter. Some call this Touching the Void; some call it The Knowledge and Conversation of Your Holy Guardian Angel.
No book on Babalon can be complete unless it takes Jack Parsons into account. The man was one of the founders of Jet Propulsion Laboratories and helped lead the only functioning OTO lodge in the 1940’s. He tried to invoke Babalon and came close to insanity. He married the woman he thought was Babalon in the flesh and ended up blowing himself to pieces in a home laboratory accident. Grey sees him as “the poster boy of the new aeon” who lost control of the lodge and was scammed by L Ron Hubbard. Parsons wrote his Book of the Antichrist (1949) before his tragic death. In it, he proclaimed his desire to finish the work of the Beast 666 on earth and bring about the reign of Babalon. Grey sees him as a gnostic saint and a lesson in passion.
Toward the end of the book, Grey states:
“BABALON IS LUST, sexual, primal power. Lust knows no limits. Lust violates moral sense. Lust is strength, vitality and joy. Lust is action.”
Grey feels there is only one lover and one beloved and that marriage is a biological treaty. And we should not set love and lust against each other. There is also a large section that compares Babalon to the rose. He sees Babalon as a beautiful goddess and that is what makes her terrible. Anyone can look at pictures of Babalon on the Internet and notice how sexy they are. Babalon understands the power of glamour. The book has a section that discusses the ritual uses of mirrors.
He writes extensively on the pornography industry and sex workers. Grey seems to feel there is a place for both, but he is totally opposed to the use of women in rituals as a piece of furniture. I’ve always found it amusing people are surprised at the number of single men who pursue occult organizations. To some, naked priestesses are a feature and not a bug.
The book delves into sexual chemistry, kissing and bondage. Grey looks at every aspect of sexual pleasure he can find and relates it to Babalon. However, he sees Babalon as a very different deity than Lilith, the queen of the night. There is also a section on the black mass and how it may have been once used as a tool of personal liberation before its perversion.
There is also a section that contrasts the vision of the Holy City of Jerusalem to the City of Babylon. If you can have one vision of utopia, why not another? The book concludes with Grey’s vision of The Apocalypse.
The Red Goddess is an important work in the understanding of Babalon. There are many things in it that are unique to his interpretation, but Grey is a gifted writer who makes his arguments clear and passionate. I give this book a strong recommendation.