The Ninth Arch
The Ninth Arch is woven around a transmission received over the course of New Isis Lodge workings, The Book of the Spider or Liber OKBISh. This transmission first started during a magical working of the 29th Tunnel of Set, Qulielfi, around 1952. The principal medium for the transmissions was a priestess known as Soror Arim. She appears in GrantÕs novel Against the Light as Margaret Leesing. She was not the only medium for the transmissions, but she played the larger role and co-ordinated the work of several priestesses of the Lodge.
The Book of the Spider is essentially a collection of cryptic oracles which were received over a number of years, and were in retrospect arranged into 29 chapters, each of 29 verses. Some of the verses were not heard, or have been lost, but this is the basic pattern. A couple of years after the original transmission was received, the Current once again became active, and a second transmission was received. This was a smaller number of verses, and again was arranged retrospectively into 3 additional chapters, again of 29 verses each.
The transmissions were sometimes audible, but sometimes apprehended visually also. Thus there are sigils amongst the verses.
With all this talk of transmissions, I think that we had better stop and remind ourselves of what Grant had to say in relation to the transmission of the Wisdom of SÕlba:
The series of verses entitled collectively the Wisdom of SÕlba ... were not written down at any particular time or place, although the state of consciousness in which they were received was invariably the same. The process was initiated as early as the year 1939 when the Vision of Aossic first manifested in the manner described in Outside the Circles of Time (chapter 8). The vision unfolded sporadically throughout the time of AossicÕs association with Aleister Crowley and Austin Osman Spare. But the dynamic aspect of the Working, that is to say the integration of the Vision into a coherent whole, occurred during the period of New Isis LodgeÕs existence.
Transmissions are not a matter of establishing some sort of radio contact with a discarnate entity and transcribing what it has to say. A transmission can be via any of the senses. Often it will be intuited or subtly apprehended, with the imagination as catalyst. Imagination is not whim or fancy, though this is the baggage that the word has accumulated in modern times. Rather, imagination is the space in which things occur. It is cosmic, though there are individual areas of awareness of imagination, and it is those areas around the individual of which he or she is more immediately aware, that we regard as "our" imagination. The truth is, though, that it is not "ours", but a common or cosmic area, the local reaches of which we are more immediately aware.
Transmission takes many forms. It is an inspirational flow into the more personal areas of imagination, and will often become garbed in forms drawn from the personal subconscious. We see this in LovecraftÕs work for instance, much of the inspiration occurring through dream, and expressed through imagery drawn from the extensive reading and day-dreaming of LovecraftÕs childhood. This is not to be wondered at. Much as light is refracted and transformed by its passage through a prism or a piece of coloured glass, or as the setting sun through atmospheric matter produces a pageant of glorious and stirring colours, so the transmission of a Current will be coloured by the personal areas of imagination. This is absolutely inevitable. The wind, for instance, only becomes manifest in the stirring leaves of the tree through which it moves, the perfumes which it agitates, the skin against which it brushes, the shapes into which it swirls the desert sand.
At the time of the New Isis Lodge workings which attracted and then incubated this informing Current, the main Priestess, Margaret Leesing, and many of her colleagues, were extremely caught up in occult fiction, and in two books in particular – Dope by Sax Rohmer, and The Beetle by Richard Marsh. At this time, New Isis Lodge had evolved a magical ritual technique which involved the dramatization of fiction. As Kenneth Grant describes it in The Ninth Arch:
As already mentioned in the General Introduction to this book, the ritualists of New Isis Lodge utilized certain novels and stories as other magicians might use paintings or musical compositions to affect perichoresis and astral encounters. They entered into a tale as they might enter into a given picture, a scene, a desert, a crowded drawing-room, or other venue. Applied to the novel, the process develops dramatically as a vividly kinetic experience that becomes startlingly oracular. We used, principally, Richard MarshÕs novel The Beetle, and Sax RohmerÕs ÔA Tale of ChinatownÕ or Dope, for no other reason than because the chief Skryer had recently read these writings, and because other Lodge members also were acquainted with them. MarshÕs tale, in particular, was chosen because it contained the only published account known to the present author of the Children of Isis, and therefore seemed en rapport with the Wisdom of SÕlba and with the oracles of OKBISh.
These are the circumstances, the prism, the coloured glass, though which the verses of The Book of the Spider is expressed. There is reference, for instance, to such characters as Sha, the Evil Woman; to Sin Sin Wa, the Chinese villain and sage; to Tling-a-Ling, his pet raven and familiar; to Sam Tk, his revered Ancestor; all these characters are drawn from Sax RohmerÕs novel Dope. There are also references to other characters drawn from fiction, such as Helen Vaughan and Mrs Beaumont from Arthur MachenÕs story The Great God Pan. These are masks, clothing, and are not intended to point to profundities of meaning inherent in the stories in which these characters occur. There are references to scenes in novels, such as The Brood of the Witch Queen by Sax Rohmer; or characters from LovecraftÕs stories, such as Joseph Curwen in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Take the verses of chapter 6, for example:
Oily waters, murky, lapping, licking the rotten timbers of the wharf encrusted with Limehouse slime.
Perhaps it was a Chandu dive where first I met her, Sha, the Evil Woman.
No telling where a roamer might end up and find himself face to face with the bird of Sin Sin Wa.
There were in those days
Sails on the misty Yellow River
Chinese dreams, junks on the poppy trails. Nothing relevant to an aeon of
remorse except the faint green spirals of incense curling about the ecstatic features of a barbaric goddess ...
Sha! Sha! Sha!
How the silent river fled and hid the white frills of its troubled surf between the dark flanks of the Witch‑Queen, below Festat!
Only one plumbed the depths of that river and found nothing there
but the bones of innumerable crocodiles – bound for Faym, beneath the sacred lake.
And these bones assembled themselves
and made an immaculate Goddess in alabaster wrought,
or plaster bought of an image‑caster in LondonÕs Chancery Lane.
Again the chinless abnormality with the lantern eyes and meldrum snout no yellow veil may hide. Darkening to a silhouette against the pure pale azure sky ... sixteen teeth and the sharpness of death washed by a surging vermilion foam.
Nightmare in the eyes. They increase, they wax, growing enormous they eclipse the whole accursd face.
Floating in their abysmal skies the junk rides the gentle ripple as it laps the wharf.
A single lantern showers its beams on deserted streets licked by the encroaching tide
as it eats tiny holes in the decomposing planks. They overlap the water – calm now, swaying gently like the lantern.
They see – these eyes – where the steep staircase cleaves a deep furrow in the outer waves, and plunges.
All nautical now, reeking of fish and decaying hunks ...
It is possible at this point to swing oneself onto the staircase by means of the hawser‑web the Spider spun but yesterday when
strolling down Chancery Lane in brilliant sunshine.
I collided head on with that indescribable monstrosity.
Much of this imagery is drawn from Sax RohmerÕs novel Dope – for example, the references to Limehouse, to Ho-Nan, to Chandu, to Sha, to the Yellow River, to the poppy trails. There is the languor of dream, of reverie; the images seem to drift, to shift, to coalesce – to emerge, to flicker, to fall back.
There is another element. Several years ago we published a short story by Kenneth Grant entitled Against the Light, subtitled ÔA Nightside NarrativeÕ. This was written as a dramatization of some of the elements of The Book of the Spider, written as an introduction to it in fact. This was supposed to have been published between Beyond the Mauve Zone and The Ninth Arch, but this programme was disrupted by Skoob suspending publication of GrantÕs works. In the event it was published before Beyond the Mauve Zone. It stands very well as a novel in its own right, but it is intimately interwoven with The Book of the Spider and hence The Ninth Arch. Anyone acquainted with Against the Light will recognise the echoes in the verses just quoted – the oily waters, the rotting timbers of the wharf, the crocodiles, Chancery Lane in brilliant sunshine ...
There is much in the verses of The Book of the Spider which bears on the life of Kenneth Grant, and it seems at times as if the informing Current is principally directed at him. We should not be surprised at this. We are all of us expressing an informing Current of magical energy. None of us can express an absolute truth, but convey truth as we see it. The work of an adept is always in a sense intrinsic to him or her. The light is one but the lamps are many, and each lamp transmits that light in its own way.
Non-fictional characters are also woven into this Spider Web. These are the verses that are gathered into chapter 11:
It needed but one to reveal it. But the spider knew.
[From the destruction of mind that gives birth to Chaos
a zone of mauve is created, a desert of sand above the Tunnels of Set. The winds
hurry through them,
a sinister piping bearing the Beetle on its wings.]
It had in its mandibles millions of years; spanned infinite oceans.
No gulf too wide, no chasm too deep, that its fathomless wisdom does not embrace.
Flung into the heights the Shadows of the Outer Ones
play upon the walls of the Empty Place
above the secret cell where in the lidless cask the echoes of aeons reverberate
bringing down fresh fever
and a Word ...
spoken by another prophet when One arises and One descends, invoking the Beast.
LamÕs legions through the eyes
burnings of Isis bring fresh fever
from the skies
Another woman shall awake
and slake the hunger of the Snake!
Yes – the Shadow falls: Sha, the Evil Woman; Lilu, too, Hekt and the she‑Goat OZ, and that Great Spirit that cannot be invoked because
It sleepeth. The Fire of the Earth and of Lam.
When She joins with the fever from the skies, Truth will prevail.
There is She.
(He that heeds these shadows of SÕlba
goes in danger of destruction by the Children of Isis.)
A silent sampan glides upstream.
Wharf ... lanterns ... mist descending ...
Riverboats, their foghorns muffled in the dark of a Limehouse winter.
The jewelled tray, mother‑of‑pearl, the serene boatman. Dancing scintillations ... the cosy household fire ... the domestic hearth ... childhood. Flickering shadows on the walls, the napery, tea is served ...
Black man ... Black Eagle
Stone ... crumbling ... the still weir ...
In the course of The Book of the Spider, we become aware of a doctrine of avatars, whereby several persons living at the same time can each be embodiments of an entity. As anyone who has read Against the Light will know, it concerns a witch called Awryd, an ancestor of GrantÕs who was executed for witchcraft in the Sixteenth Century. Awryd returns, in the guise of Margaret Leesing, Soror Arim, the chief seer, and before her, Yelda Paterson, SpareÕs witch-mentor. However, the situation becomes more complex when several people living at the same time are each avatars of Awryd – for instance, Margaret Leesing and Clanda Fane, both contemporaries of Grant in New Isis Lodge. Some of the avatars are characters drawn from fiction, such as Helen Vaughan from MachenÕs The Great God Pan, or Besza Loriel from GrantÕs novel The Stellar Lode. There are references to David Curwen, another contemporary of GrantÕs in New Isis Lodge who had a strong interest in alchemy, being an avatar of Joseph Curwen, the alchemist whose dark presence looms large in one of LovecraftÕs best stories, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Before going further, let us hear chapter 22:
Spells – they are woven by Awryd;
picked up by the first alchemist
passed on to the second after centuries had passed.
These are things Earth should know ... that when Joseph became David, AwrydÕs formula was made complete. Zos had it from a page of GrantÕs Grimoire, even in YeldaÕs time.
Explain, but darkly, how Awryd and Vaughan are one, that she became Yelda and Loriel and Fane. Machen knew the secret, but the Master did not.
When Aossic showed him SÕlba, the Master knew that the nest had been found.
and that the nest is SÕlba –
Ixaxaar Lam-Aiwass Ilyarun-bel-Aossic.
What a lugubrious game!
But Earth should know this:
that out of lost time
the Qliphoth of Dath will descend
below Malkuth and void themselves through the Tunnels of Set.
A man named Black will open the Gate.
Those will fall through whom Black Eagle lets pass.
You will recover the Stone – you who hold the Sword of Zin and understand the knowing wink of Zos, and the unwavering glance of Sin Sin Wa whose Eye is single; and the Word
that arose. Set all this forth in a special Book so that those that read will quote the words of the MasterÕs Angel: "Why hast thou whispered so ambiguous things?"
And if they reply: "Be precise!", ask them where they are from and where their destination.
They can not reply.
Or ask of them their Name as the Yellow One asked of me.
Only those of Khem – they know their Name – which was Their Word.
It took flesh of itself and in Festat manifested.
They can tell you why the coffer was void in the Pyramid without a Name.
It is without a Name because born of the Aeon without a Word outside the circles of time ...
and of the Tangled Light, Qrixkuor –
AwrydÕs Elemental of the Black Wings
--- the Tripod and the Stone
... and the Raven of Ho-Nan.
The reference to " ... explain, but darkly ... " is because there is something here which cannot be well articulated, but I shall try. It concerns the imagination, which as discussed earlier is cosmic. We misuse the term "imagination" when we use it to mean whim, fancy, something not rooted in fact. On the contrary, we are adrift in imagination. Images created in the imagination can take on a form perceptible to others. There are areas of the occult which are concerned with the creation of thought-forms. The fulcrum of group ritual magic is the creation of common images – images which all members of the group can draw upon. Imagination is the fulcrum of all this because it is the image-making faculty.
Helen Vaughan was not created by Machen. Rather, Helen Vaughan became perceptible to Machen. Essentially, she intruded into the localisation of imagination around Machen.
The Ninth Arch consists not only of The Book of the Spider, but of a verse by verse commentary. The fulcrum of commentary is the number of the verse running in serial order, whereby verse 1 of chapter 2 becomes 30, and so on. The verse is then commented upon taking into account gematrical correspondences for that number. Kenneth Grant has accumulated a vast amount of gematria over the years, and has drawn upon it exhaustively for this commentary. Having said that, there is a great deal of material in the commentary other than gematria.
The Ninth Arch is the diadem of the Typhonian Trilogies. I have the impression that although the work done in New Isis Lodge was GrantÕs formative work, the foundation of everything which he has done since, by the same token it is the work done over the years since New Isis Lodge which has enabled Grant to understand fully the work of those earlier years, and to take it to another level. Kenneth GrantÕs initiation continues apace.
To close this brief account, here are the final collection of verses, chapter 32:
From the stairhead she descended
bearing the battered volume 67964
an innocent tale for children
who became the Children of Isis.
A page of it is enough to send you beyond sleep.
A torn page of it covered in childhood scribbles and scrawls – if held against the light
I followed the critterÕs advice.
That is why I know the contents of GrantÕs Grimoire and the secret of the Ninth Arch.
Why not follow the SpiderÕs web?
Hop from strand to strand of its glittering tracery ...
Meet the awesome insect
Like a vast beetle emerging from the vulva of Isis!
Why not? To do so signals the end of this world-web, and as one dangles over narrow voids above Dunsanian gulfs ...
even a Sime would hesitate.
Let us then close the grimoire.
Let us not dive into the arms of Her, whose brow bears the telltale mark of an alien qliphoth.
Phineas Black; deep mysterious Phineas Black took back to the Stars the secret of an awful spawn.
Tarry awhile, Õthough your feet slip upon the crazy pathway ...
Õthough the arches fly past in your abysmal fall like the cavernous eye-sockets in a skull from which Baphomet even would recoil ...
The shadow of Anubis
like Mr. Meldrum
walks unbidden in a human walker
stalker of nightmares in the aftermath of holy days ...
Hunted the hunter hunts
no bright survivor
and an aeon of darkness; the Darkness that is undying wherein the nosferatu eat the shades.
On the table-cloth with knife-crisp folds is spread the feast ...