I remember at the end of a talk I once gave, a Thelemite showed another Thelemite my book – specifically my description and disproval of the so-called ‘Unicursal Hexagram’. They muttered darkly their own disapproval of my disapproval, shaking their heads, convinced their leader “would not like it”. Now that makes sense. It was Crowley who started the whole unicursal lark in the first place, and Thelemites kinda hold him in a high regard. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
However, neither these good chaps (nor their leader), nor anyone I have corresponded with so far have been able to address my basic concerns with the unicursal hexagram, which I repeat below. As I detail in this post, this form of hexagram may have been the norm in the Regardie inspired renaissance of the Golden Dawn in the 1980s, leading to folk not really working the traditional hexagrams at all. This is a shame, as there is much there people are missing out on.
The basic concern with the traditional Supreme Hexagram methods bequeathed to us from the RR et AC is the fact that the solar hexagram is not approached directly, but through six hexagrams of the other planets. This seems to have irked a few folk on the grounds of (a) it’s not a direct invocation of Sol, and (b) it takes a fair amount of time and arm waving. The unicursal hexagram solves these problems by having a lineal form ascribed the Sun and it being as neat and as speedy as all the other planets.
Some folks have another problem with the unicursal form, seeing it as unbalanced and ungainly, the vertical and basal angles being larger than the peripheral angles. OK. Good point, but not my main concern, and if the damn thing worked as well as the traditional method, this lack of aesthetics would bother only somewhat. My concerns are mainly twofold.
Firstly, the ‘Unicursal Hexagram’, in some GD texts, is also called the ‘Hexangle’, a lineal form containing the blessings of the four elements, Sun, Moon and Spirit – not the planets. And there are some RR et AC colleges that use this form in advanced Enochian magic. Not that the same geometric form cannot be assigned different meanings – they can and occasionally are. But there is no indication that this was the case in the historical GD which has a perfectly good Hexagram already assigned to the planets. If one were to spend years using the hexangle as the ‘unicursal hexagram’ to invoke the planetary forces and then had to relate to the symbol in a completely different manner within ritual, it could be a mite confusing.
However, my second and main concern is that the Unicursal Hexagram ritual ignores the vital Golden Dawn principle that for different forces to be affected there needs to be different names and/or images used. So if we are seeking to affect each of the four elemental principles we need to have four differing names or images. In Lesser Pentagram we use the same form, the banishing Earth pentagram, but change the name at each quarter. In the Lesser Hexagram, we use the same name, ARARITA, but change the forms (a procedure which, incidentally, reflects the unifying power of the name itself). The Unicursal Hexagram uses the same form and name in each quarter and is therefore is not fully effective nor as transformational.
We must also ask ourselves why we, or perhaps or teacher or perhaps our favourite author adopted this change? Regardie, when justifying his adoption and promotion of the unicursal system in the Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic writes:
The series of Hexagrams to invoke and banish Solar forces are repetitive, clumsy and tedious.
This is a gobsmacking thing for a ceremonial magician to write. Yes, there are six hexagram tracings for Sol – but each is focused on a different reflection of the solar force, through a unique planetary blessing. Each is different in inner workings and outer tracing, and any experienced ritualist would know and experience this difference. I cannot see how experiencing six reflections of the integrating solar force can be ‘tedious’. As for clumsy, well the same form is used for the other six planetary hexagrams – so unless all the traditional hexagrams are considered clumsy, this makes no sense. The obvious conclusion is that Regardie found the unicursal system easier – and would we want to make a change based on this motivation?
Other folk have opined that one of the drawbacks of the system is that Sol is not invoked in a single, direct, manner but through the six other invocations. I will address this in just a mo, but for now I will point out that there are other lineal ritual processes that do invoke the Sun in a single, direct manner, such as those created around the symbol of the Heptagram. And sometimes, this more direct (and advanced) method is to be preferred, but within the Hexagram ritual the Sun is supposed to be invoked in six stages or reflections.
Planets do not transmit their own light; they are dark until the light of the sun shines upon them, reflecting their unique characteristics and blessings to our world and consciousness. This is an incredibly important point, a deep metaphor pointing to an eternal verity. By analysing and invoking the different forms of reflected solar light through the six Solar-planetary hexagrams we are travelling through the full solar system of consciousness and arriving at the central core mystery – the sun itself. This is similar in some ways to my description in this post of how the Hierophant, as the representative and connecting point to the Inner Order is reflected and acts through the six Outer Order officers. There is a lot here, once we really start to look at it.
The other problem with the unicursal is that the two triangles in the Hexagram are supposed to be separated but intersecting. Combining the two triangles in one single, unified stroke misses the point entirely – it is the untouched, invisible centre, the still centre where all is resolved and which integrates and which unites the upper and lower triangles, fire and water, aspiration and inspiration. This again is a deep mystery which can be linked to and experienced in each traditional hexagram ritual but not the unicursal.
I recently came across this very interesting post, Hacking the Solar Hexagram, which treats the subject well and with intelligence, something often absent with those who follow Crowley or Regardie blindly. Here, Scott, drawing on the ideas within ‘The Book of the Glyph’ writes:
When you trace the planetary hexagram in the air, what you get is a unicursal figure because you have to trace across the hexagram from the initial planetary point to its complement.
And that, with this tracing across the hexagram we have “been dealing with a unicursal figure the whole time”.
Respectfully, I disagree. Of course, we do move our hands and tools across this figure, but this is not tracing the hexagram, as that is conducted with inner work not outer hand movement alone. My inner workings for the hexagram are quite clear: once the first triangle is complete, we cease projecting etheric substance from hands and tools and we cease the inner visualization and we cease the inner mental understanding. We commence again only when we begin to trace the second triangle. This is magic 101 – what we do on the inner is what matters. It is like we ‘turn off’ the torch in our tools as we move the line from first triangle to second triangle.
Therefore we are not creating a unicursal form, created from etheric substance, astral light and mental conception at all – we are actually creating the traditional hexagram symbol. If we were to use the method Scott suggests on the inner levels we would not create a hexagram at all, but a bifurcated hexagram, which would have a completely different, non-traditional and non-linked meaning and power. And of course, this method still does not address my concerns of needing to analyse and approach the solar force in six reflected stages nor of the need for the two triangles to be separate and interlocked.
So … I would love to see responses here (other than ‘I done it, it worked’) which address my concerns and explain why the unicursal is as effective as the traditional. Thanks 🙂