A Thoroughly Modern Goddess
Georgia van Raalte
We humans, when we seek to give authority to thought or deed or practice, tend to use one of a few set models. When it comes to religious truth, authority usually comes from one of two places: tradition, or a persuasive experience (and communication) of gnosis.
Babalon is a modern Goddess. Aspects of her constellation are ancient; but the programmatic syncretism by which Crowley dredged Her archetype from the mud of aeons was a thoroughly modern thing, a form of thought, an approach to religion, enabled by the empire, and by the Othering of the ancient east.
There have been Goddesses of Love, and Goddesses of Death, and great wrathful Goddesses who are Cities, and Queens who are the Goddess, and all of these share in the constellation that is Her.
But this ability to self-consciously recognise the Goddess as a process of syncresis is a modern ability. Religion has always borrowed and changed, the esoteric has always taken place at the interstice of two religious traditions, as sacred technologies are utilised in new contexts. But the power that Babalon has in the modern mind does not come from Her ancientness, but from our belief in the enduring power of archetype, our contemporary understanding of the loss of the Goddess, our contemporary desire to reinstate the feminine principle. This has not been a reaction to Babalon, but Her very creation.
Our Goddess was first manifest as a city, the polemic Other of a rigid new form of christianity that despised the gnosis of the flesh - for the gnosis of the flesh does not good sheep-slaves make. She is the Glory of the Earth; and in this, in our first knowing, She is already despised. We have no evidence of Her glories; the legends of Marah, of Persephone, of Ereshkigal - these are stories of the Goddess already deposed. We assume there was a time before this, a time of the Goddess in triumph. There is no persuasive evidence to suggest this was ever the case.
She has been constructed as the Other; and it is in Her Otherness that we, who are Others, know her. She is a conglomeration of all that is repressed; the unspoken centre of the unarticulated side of culture; She is the monstrous woman, the demon woman, the devil woman.
She is the succubus, for She is the emptiness which draws. She becomes a star chart upon which anything and all can be arranged; not in tables this time, but in constellations; a syncretism that denies programmatisation, revels in chaos.
She appeared first with the first appearance of modernity. The seeker who worked under the Virgin Queen; the voice of a young girl. She appeared next to the great breaker of chains, and She smote him.
Babalon is poised to jump at the edge of the Mystery that is this: there is a fluid that the body of the Other can produce, that I cannot. Thus Babalon is become a hieroglyph for the nature of the sex difference itself.
And all this is a thoroughly modern conception.
We can, indeed we must chart the genealogy of our Goddess, the similarities and inspiration and vortexes and evolution. But we must not forget that what we worship is not an ancient god, but a Goddess whose very essence is the mode of modern thought itself, the movement away from the symbol to the sign, the departure of the metaphysical referent, of the ease of medieval morality.
Babalon, in Her baphomet form, is Pan, a trickster god; god of ecstasy and excess. Yet let us not fool ourselves; we are not bacchantes. We draw inspiration and create something new.
There is no Babalon priestesshood. No line of transmission, no ancient hymns or temples. Babalon is a modern goddess.
She is as old as time itself, and unique to this apocalypse - as She was to every apocalypse that went before.
That is to say; there is no contradiction above the Abyss. Saturn is time itself. Thus She is the most ancient thing, and the thing just created.
And this is the grace of god, that these things should be thus.
The shape of the trial before the Goddess, the legend of the Cup, the Grail; these too are ancient things, rendered modern and new as the world tore itself into pieces. As men witnessed bloodshed on a scale never seen before, the blood in the Cup of the Saints changed colour, and viscosity.
Babalon is a thoroughly modern goddess. Her trials take the shape of those of Aphrodite, or Persephone, those of Innana, and Bearskin. She is a thoroughly modern conception of an ancient, entangled red thread.
We are post-christians. With the fear of the bearded Moloch drawn from our eyes we see keenly the mourning of the world for its Queen. This Queen whose darkness seems incidental - but this is our pattern, our prediction. We see Her in chains and assume there must have been a time before She was put in them, a time of the Great Goddess. This time did not exist; Her chains are bracelets of gold.
What She veils or signifies is the potential for every human being to experience the divine; not through Sophia, the Word, the force; not Wisdom, but that which is called Understanding: the sensation of the body, the nerves and skin and synapses, and the knowledge that they bring. We call this gnosis, for we have no better classification. Yet there is not one gnosis, but an infinity of noetic forms, wherein that which is learnt is indistinguishable from the sensation of learning itself.
Babalon relies on modern conceptions; of the shape and nature of time; the concept of evolution; our ease of syncretism; the knowledge of the cultural structure of Othering; contemporary understandings of how sexuality, freedom and liberation appear.
Our Babalon is a reaction, and we are reactionaries. She is the rearing head of the feminine in the midst of the cult of the patriarchy. Consequently She has been stripped and flogged, as Goddesses always are. Yet this time, we call this torture Her glory (and torture none but ourselves).
Babalon is not an ancient vision of gilded temples and debased splendour. Nor is She the manifestation of the divine in the woman first playing with her own fires. And yet She is both; for She is a great lurking mass, a vacuum of unsignification. And it is in this chorozonic form that we see Her now, and we begin to realise that we had called all divine that seemed clear, and light, and unified. And thus we have no understanding of the nature of divinity, and seek only and ever to leave our bodies, our bodies that are the sole site of divinity in this world. Is not the mind a part of the body? Is not the inner eye?
Babalon is not a reaction merely to the patriarchy; She is a reaction to the enlightenment, to the industrial revolution; She is the shadows of shadows that haunts the falsity of progress. Everything dies. Thus She is the mad woman in the attic, the monstrous double: all haunting things. She is the concept of haunting itself, the symbolic construction of temporality.
Babalon is a thoroughly modern goddess; forged in the fire of a sexual liberation that failed to deliver all that it had promised. Hers is the laugh in the cold grey after the orgy. She is the Goddess of the single mum, the slut, the whore; all the ways sexual liberation kept us from being free.
These are the lessons the Goddess learned so many years ago; for we have constructed a Goddess made of hindsight.
This Goddess that we seek, this Babalon; She is the secret centre of christianity. She is the revelation that Kundry and the Grail Maiden were one and the same. She is the christian fear of the woman, the Goddess who must be dark (for what is a devotee but a subjectivity?).
She is an amalgamation; the reification of dark space and unsaid things. She is the Devil Woman, the Witch. Faced with our refusal to articulate the divine feminine She has grown, a snake, through culture, the cup of gnosis, an immense, unspoken power, coextensive with our very selves. Seek any of the byways of strange, forbidden thought and She will be there, for She waits in your mind. Babalon is a mode of interpretation. The gnosis of half of the western world, the entire force of our bodily experience, our bodily sacrifice, all this waits within Her, the cup that is the womb, and She gives birth to Herself, a new daughter for a new age. The daughter who would kill the mother, as we would kill ourselves.
All this is Babalon.
She is other things too, of course. An aspect of the enochian universe. A magical formula. A ruthless force invoked.
But this is Her Archetype; She is Form itself. The embodiment of all that has been unspoken. She is the Dark Mother, the Divine Feminine in all Her dualistic glory.
In the final analysis it is crucial to remember that Babalon does not exist. She is a re-creation, a conglomeration of empty space, the restoration of the centre of the sacred symbols.
Our Lady is no more, nor less; both different and the same. A chimera which changes with every approach, a ruby with innumerable facets, a room of dancing girls all fitted with veils. Yet she sits, static and saturnine, regal upon her throne.
This Babalon; She is a thoroughly modern Goddess.