Grady and his Thoth Deck

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law

The images above and below are of Grady McMurtry’s personal Thoth deck – one of the early Llewellyn editions.  Grady would be directly involved with the production of this deck which was first published in 1969.  This was the first time I had seen a deck wherein the borders had been removed, and the images were striking.  This practice has become more common today as many now prefer to personalize their decks.  Grady’s cards were well worn and the images somehow seemed more alive.  There was a presence about Grady’s deck which inspired me and for this reason I have chosen to personalize my own deck in a similar fashion. (More details on that later!)

Seeing Grady’s cards and holding them for the first time led me to wonder how he himself may have read them.  That is, what layout did Grady use?  I knew there were examples of Grady’s readings in the archives but had not, until that time, considered trying to reverse engineer his notes to extrapolate his method, or even if it could be done. 

There were a few people I could talk to that witnessed Grady reading.  But, none were able to recall specific details.  However, it was clear that all believed Grady to be a uniquely gifted reader.  I also learned that he had affinity not only with the Thoth deck but also to Manly P. Hall’s (also known as the Knapp-Hall deck published in 1929).  None of the witnesses could identify the layout he used, only that it was unusual.     

Luckily all the right pieces fell together and I found various samples of Grady’s readings in the archives, including a few in his own hand.  From these sources I was indeed able to reconstruct Grady’s method.  However, I should point out that this would not have been possible if not for the records of Frater Zardoz (A.K.A. Christopher Dietler).  Thankfully Frater Zardoz recorded a few of Grady’s readings in detail in his own records which he later passed onto me.  One particular reading occurred when Grady was visiting the Sacramento area in the early 80’s.  The reading was meant to serve as an omen for the local community, Boleskine House, which had just been officially chartered.  Zardoz took the opportunity to ask Grady details about how he did his readings.  This he did again on the following day.  The notes taken on those two days were the final pieces of the puzzle.  Had Zardoz not had the foresight to see the value in recording these details we would not have been able to reconstruct Grady’s unique method.


An example of a reading recorded in Grady’s hand.

Here is what we know: Grady used a variant of the Celtic Cross with complementary cards added across the layout.  In this way he would have a clearer picture of the forces at play as it results in a two-fold expression in each position.  He utilized an 18 card spread, in which nine of the cards were always thrown in the exact order and the other nine varied.  That is, the first card was always placed in the center and the last eight always formed the columns from bottom to top, but the nine cards complementing the central card Grady placed by intuition, guided by the hand of his Angel.


Grady doing readings at Ren Faire in Northern CA, circa 1978.

However, as is common, the manner in which Grady interpreted the positions would not change.  The illustration above guides you through three examples of readings located in the archives.  The colors of Black, Red and Blue each signify a separate reading.  Just shuffle your deck and follow the colors and sequence until all the cards have been placed.  Once you have done this a couple of times you will easily be able to replicate what Grady did.


The following notes illustrate how he interpreted each position once the cards were in place.(Following the black sequence)

  1. Current situation – Base, signifier
  2. Counter force – Opposition
  3. Possible future A – (Goal/Aim)
  4. Possible future B – (Goal/Aim)
  5. Past – Cause
  6. Past – Cause (complement)
  7. Future influences
  8. Future influences (complement)
  9. Present attitude
  10. Present attitude (complement)
  11. Self – Interior motive
  12. Self – Interior motive (complement)
  13. House/Resources
  14. House/Resources (complement)
  15. Hopes & fears – Expectations
  16. Hopes & fears – Expectations (complement)
  17. Future – Result
  18. Future – Result (complement)


Grady doing readings at Ren Faire here in Northern CA circa 1979

Grady offering readings at Ren Faire in September of 1978 with his wife Shirin to his right.


An example of a reading done for Boleskine House circa 1981. There are several of Grady’s readings recorded in the camp’s journal.  This is written in the hand of Frater Zardoz.

Love is the law, love under will


Crowley’s Yi King Sticks

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”

The Yi King was Crowley’s preferred method of divination and he consulted it regularly if not daily.  He also cast an omen with every Word of the Equinox which were sent to members of the A∴A∴ as a sort of oracular “password” – (See The Words of the Equinox in “The Vault” for details).  Crowley’s personal edition of the Yi King was from “The Sacred Books of the East” series, Vol XVI. (Oxford 1899); translated by Legge and edited by F. Max Muller.  Many practitioners might prefer a modern translation of this work.  However, this is the version Crowley used for over forty years and is therefore especially well suited to the Thelemic scholar researching Crowley’s Yi King readings.

It should be noted that Crowley often disagreed with Legge interpretations.  At times drawing lines through entire sections while simply adding the note “Ass” or “Shit to Legge” etc… but he still utilized this translation as a spring board for his own analysis.  Crowley may have had little choice being that it was the only English edition available at the time.  None the less, most of Crowley’s criticisms were based upon the old aeonic perspectives which colored Legge’s interpretations.

In studying Crowley’s journals it’s clear that he actively engaged the Yi king in his own internal quest for Knowledge.  In a note before the Introduction in his personal copy Crowley wrote, “Very normally: the good hexagrams end ill, and vice-versa. View held in ancient China and a doctrine discovered independently by myself – long experience, experiment, and statistical inquiry – it is not enough to receive a good omen; one must assure it to oneself by some further ritual”.  Crowley’s interpretations were developed through years of labor, trial and analysis in an ongoing process.  Further he recognized that only by his actions would the Omens manifest, bad or good.

Crowley would develop his own unique system which quickly derives a hexagram and utilizes just 6 sticks.  A description of this method was first published in the OTO newsletter Vol. III no. 9 (Summer/August) – 1979 e.v.

Written by Grady McMurtry and part of a series entitled ‘On Knowing Aleister Crowley Personally’.  Grady describes watching Crowley doing a reading while visiting with him at Aston Clinton during the war.  If not for this article we would have no idea how Crowley read his Yi King sticks.  Thank you Hymenaeus Alpha.

“Here is Grady’s description of Crowley’s sticks…

“The blank side is the male (Yang, energy) side.  The divided side (looks like red nail polish to me) is ·the female (Yin, receptive) side.  By my ruler, they are less than an 8th of an inch in thickness, but slightly more than a 16th thick.  They either were mahogany or teak or stained dark to look so.  Each stick has a Yang side and a Yin side. The way Crowley used them was to shuffle them (with his eyes closed) then take them one at a time and, holding each one upright with his right fore­finger (eyes, still closed), get a signal and lay it down either right or left.  First stick down is the bottom line.  You can also get moving lines this way.  If one of the sticks wants to move when you lay it down, just shove it right or left as indicated.  Personally, I like this method of taking The Oracle It gives you a chance for your Angel to communicate directly through your fingertips.”

The image below is a modern replica of Crowley’s sticks made to spec by a dear Brother.  If you wish to get closer to Crowley’s in appearance then the wood should be a dark cherry color and the squares a darker red. (measuring 4 ½” X ½” & just over a 16th of an inch thick)

“Love is the law, love under will”



Words of Wisdom by Grady McMurtry

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”

This article was first included in the O.T.O. newsletter and written about a year and half after Grady swore the Oath of the Abyss.  This was a very active time for Grady in both O.T.O. and A∴A∴.  By this time he had chartered Thelema Lodge as Grand Lodge #1 and reconstituted the modern OTO.  Grady had also broken from Soror Meral by this point and, having fused his own link to the sempiternal A∴A∴, was busy at work establishing his own line.  In the following article he mentions several “Lineages”: that of his own, Soror M(eral) and a few others.  It is no surprise to find some of these same “Lineages” still active in the greater Thelemic community today – Three in particular with many years of passionate service to the OTO.  Those aspiring to the A∴ A∴ would do well to carefully consider what Grady wrote here.

From the O.T.O. Newsletter, Berkeley, California Vol. II, #7&8 [Double Issue] Winter-Spring, May 1979, pgs. 104-105.


A∴ A∴ or, Who Has The Right To The Star ?

Over the past several years there have been a number of attempts to politicize A∴ A∴. Most of these have either taken the form of public advertising or private pressure tactics.  It seems an opportune time to make a few statements on the nature of this great order.

First of all, just who is a member of A∴ A∴?  In as much as this is an Inner Order, there can be only one person who can answer such a question in a particular case the claimant herself. When someone tells me that he or she (“she” is the traditional pronoun in this instance-for either a Frater or a Soror) is a member of A∴ A∴, I believe it. I also often wonder what business it is of mine. A∴ A∴ is not a school of outer initiation, like O.T.O. in some of its aspects. A∴ A∴ is a body of individuals who have attained particular grades of self-initiation in accordance with particular standards. Those standards are described by Crowley in “One Star in Sight” and in Liber CLXXXV. Some persons have direct lineage from Crowley as proctors for A∴ A∴ work. The basic texts are all in print. Anyone of sufficient judgment and intelligence can apply themselves diligently to the Great Work along this course. An Inner Order should be free from politics.  If an aspirant to A∴ A∴ would enter one of the several surviving direct lines of instruction, they can be found only through great effort. One of these is operative through O.T.O. valid through special provisions in Crowley’s letters and through magical sign. Another line is operative through Soror M, with valid CLXXXV lineage only. A reconstruction is to be had from Fr. A, based on personal attainment. Another Fr. A. looms near with whispered rumors of CLXXXV lineage. Fr. P. has representation in the American South and East Coast, but a propensity to make more of his papers than wood-pulp ever saw. Another Frater P. has declared that A∴ A∴ is now replaced by the Bavarian Illuminati – and his claim is not to be laughed out of consideration for all the oddness of it. These are only a few of many.

So, what is to be made of this?  Will a claimant come forth with court decision and papers of authorization, as has actually happened with O.T.O.? Will the matter at last be laid to rest? Not that way! O.T.O. is an Outer Order. Its governance is public knowledge, subject to legal proof. A∴ A∴ is an Inner Order. The Law of Man has no dominion. Crowley deliberately designed A∴ A∴ on the cell system, modified for one-on-one communication.  Division of branches is therefore inevitable on the death of the Frater or Soror linking particular series of members.  One of the obligations for advanced members is the establishment of independent systems, religions and orders. The Outer Grade recognition ends for all major purposes at Tiphareth.  Beyond Tiphareth the advancement is by the Knowledge and Conversation of the Angel. The Inner Head of A∴ A∴ is not in the ordinary sense a corporeal being.  Who is a Magister Templi? That person who can do the work of the Grade. It makes no difference whether her Oath is witnessed by Therion or by the Neteru. The Grade itself is as real as the blast that tore Jack Parsons from the world of men. To argue mightily that one is of such a grade is as near as may be to proving that one is not! One may simply say it by the way. One may not even mention it at all. To set one claim to A∴ A∴ against another is to fight as brothers — political exercise. But, the Brothers of A∴ A∴ are Sisters! Be done with politics at the sanctuary of NU!

There are many people in the world who have attained. In like manner, there are many who have not attained, but who have prepared. For some, one trail leads to the Star. For others another path. Let those who would take to the narrow road that widens in the Empyrean prepare themselves by discipline and diligence. The voice of the dove will be heard. The Angel will come in the right time.

What to take until the Angel arrives? A good look at “One Star in Sight.” Call in the redness of the morning.

“Love is the law, love under will”

Grady 1A