AL I:26Posted: May 8, 2012
Then saith the prophet and slave of the beauteous one: Who am I, and what shall be the sign? So she answered him, bending down, a lambent flame of blue, all-touching, all penetrant, her lovely hands upon the black earth, & her lithe body arched for love, and her soft feet not hurting the little flowers: Thou knowest! And the sign shall be my ecstasy, the consciousness of the continuity of existence, the omnipresence of my body.
The style of the previous verses breaks here and Crowley seems to be describing something he did during the course of the reception. It is unclear whether Crowley heard the words as he did in the previous verses or whether he actually said “Who am I, and what shall be the sign?” aloud and then wrote down a description of such without hearing from the speaker. This seems to be the only time in the book where such an exchange happens, so it seems unlikely that this was the case. It also seems unlikely, given Crowley’s initial attitude towards the book that he would describe himself as “slave of the beauteous one”.
The phrase “beauteous one” here seems to refer to Nuit. In Crowley’s day was in fairly common usage and was not strongly associated with any particular deity or person. The earliest use of the phrase “beauteous one” that I could find is from Ælfric of Eynsham in 996.
Mary is more beauteous than the moon, for she shines without the waning of her brightness. She is choice as the sun with beams of holy virtues, for the Lord, Who is the Sun of Righteousness, chose her for His mother. Her course is compared to a wedding band, for she was surrounded with heavenly powers, and with companies of angels. Of this heavenly Queen it is yet said by the same Spirit of God, “I saw the beateous one as a dove mounting above the streaming rills, and an ineffable fragrance exhaled from her garments; and so as in the spring-tide, blossoms and lilies encircled her.”
The phrase “lambent flame” comes to us from Dryden’s translation [1697 EV] of Virgil’s Aeneid [19 BC]. The second book of this classic relates the story of the Greeks sneaking into Troy via the wooden horse. Aeneas, a trojan hero, mortal son of Aphrodite, wakes in the night to find his city burning and prepares to join the hopeless fight against the Greeks. After his wife, Creusa, begs him to stay in order to protect her and their family, a harmless fire appears on the top of their infant son’s head, which they interpret as an omen from Zeus to flee the city.
While thus she fills the house with clam’rous cries,
Our hearing is diverted by our eyes:
For, while I held my son, in the short space
Betwixt our kisses and our last embrace;
Strange to relate, from young Iulus’ head
A lambent flame arose, which gently spread
Around his brows, and on his temples fed.
Amaz’d, with running water we prepare
To quench the sacred fire, and slake his hair;
But old Anchises, vers’d in omens, rear’d
His hands to heav’n, and this request preferr’d:
‘If any vows, almighty Jove, can bend
Thy will; if piety can pray’rs commend,
Confirm the glad presage which thou art pleas’d to send.’
The phrase in latin is “lambere flamma”, which is translated by Dryden as “lambent flame” and by others as “tongue of flame” or “licking flame”. It is interesting to see this old idea of the lambent flame as a sign from god given when Crowley asks for a sign.
As for the import of the sign, it isn’t really fitting to speak at any length, either you’ve seen it or you haven’t. Nobody can give it to you, nor can anybody deny it, it is above authority of any kind being the union of Will and Love, it is the ecstasy of the Law.