The image of Baphomet, other then being one of the most notorious occult symbols, is a combination of numerous symbols, deities, demons and spirits. Some of the more significant ones include Pan, Cernunnos and Hathor, the most significant feature of course being the archetype of the horned-god. The most famous depiction of the Baphomet (picture above) was made by Eliphas Levi for his book Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie.
The origin of the word “Baphomet” is almost certainly a corruption of “Muhammad” (“Mohamet” in Latin). Others claim it to be a combination of two Greek words, “baphe” and “metis”, meaning roughly “absorption of knowledge”, but given the context of the Baphomet, this doesn’t make as much sense.
The trials of the Knights Templar
The Baphomet was first made famous during the trials of the Templars, when they were, among other things, accused of worshiping an idol called Baphomet. These claims were probably fabricated, for the most part. This was when a great number of people owed money to the Templars, the church was a bit scared of the Templars, for whatever reason, and the Templars were no longer of use, they were no longer worth keeping around, so they were destroyed (at least partly). At the time it was common to make up some wild accusations against the group of people you were persecuting and then torture them until they confessed, the witch-hunt model, pretty much, and this was the case with the Templars as well. However, there is a case that could potentially be made for the Templars revering Baphomet, or what was later called Baphomet. This is because the Templars quickly became familiar with eastern (relatively) philosophy and religion, including Islam. Being immersed in the culture, I don’t think it’s too outrageous to say that they adopted some of the elements of the local religion and philosophy. It could, therefore, be that the accusations of Baphomet-worship weren’t completely fabricated. It could be that the Baphomet was just created to demonize Islam and the philosophy of Muhammad that the Templars had indeed adopted. The name also appears in 1098 in a letter by the crusader Anselm of Ribemont: Sequenti die aurora apparente, altis vocibus Baphometh invocaverunt; et nos Deum nostrum in cordibus nostris deprecantes, impetum facientes in eos, de muris civitatis omnes expulimus. This translates into “As the next day dawned they called loudly upon Baphometh while we prayed silently in our hearts to God; then we attacked and forced all of them outside the city walls …”. This strongly implies that Baphometh indeed was a form of the word “Muhammed”.
Relation to Pagan beliefs
The idea of Baphomet, like the modern idea of the Christian Devil, has been largely colored by Pagan gods and goddesses. It was common for the Christian church to make demons out of Pagan deities to literally demonize them (the term “Pagan” was also made up by Christians, referring to people living outside of cities and, therefore, less civilized and educated people. This was used as an insult and a slur towards the native beliefs of the people). Many aspects of the Pagan deities were taken into the image of Baphometh, including horns, sexuality (possibly hermaphroditic) and ideas of both creative and destructive energies or influences. Christian mythology has been largely colored by pagan deities and spirits, which were largely adopted as demons or devils. Common examples of this include Baal, Marduk and Dagon. This, of course, was a useful way to demonize and dehumanize the opposition, making it rather excusable to say, burn them at the stake or torture them to make them confess to this or that.
The occult meaning of the Baphomet, according to Levi specifically(picture above), is somewhat similar to the pagan roots of it. One of the more important and overt meanings of the symbol is the idea of balance. It includes imagery of both male and female sexuality, tied into a balance of good and evil, light and dark, creative and destructive, mercy and justice. The figure is depicted pointing to the white moon (Chesed) and the black moon (Gevurah)[note that both of those are from a Jewish source]. This also represents the idea of As above, so below, which of course has a number of meanings unto itself, I’ll allow the reader to decide that for themselves. On top of the upwards pointing pentagram, which Levi saw as a symbol of light, is the torch. The flame of knowledge, the Black Flame, the light of intelligence, elevated above the body. This represents the transcendental part of the Left-hand path (if one chooses to use that term). The initiate seeks to unleash himself to realize and achieve Thelema. The torch is also positioned between the two horns, symbolizing it being tied into matter and the flesh, which is inherently “sinful”.
The image created by Levi is of course different from the ones commonly used in the Templar trials, but it still continues to be the best known and most relevant representation of the Baphomet.
Crowley was heavily influenced by Levi in his cosmology and ritual, especially when creating the system of Thelema. This of course includes some mentions of Baphomet in his work including The Gnostic Mass (“And I believe in the Serpent and the Lion, Mystery of Mystery, in His name BAPHOMET.”) and one of Crowleys aliases, Baphomet. Then there is the passage in Magick (Book IV):
The Devil does not exist. It is a false name invented by the Black Brothers to imply a Unity in their ignorant muddle of dispersions. A devil who had unity would be a God… ‘The Devil’ is, historically, the God of any people that one personally dislikes… This serpent, SATAN, is not the enemy of Man, but He who made Gods of our race, knowing Good and Evil; He bade ‘Know Thyself!’ and taught Initiation. He is ‘The Devil’ of the Book of Thoth, and His emblem is BAPHOMET, the Androgyne who is the hieroglyph of arcane perfection… He is therefore Life, and Love. But moreover his letter is ayin, the Eye, so that he is Light; and his Zodiacal image is Capricornus, that leaping goat whose attribute is Liberty.
Baphomet being androgynous, to Crowley it represents harmony and balance, the unification of Chaos and Babalon (the scarlet woman), therefore representing the unification of opposites. As such, Baphomet is an important symbol in sex magic, bringing forth “the magickal child” and the perfect sacrifice.
Crowley also talks about Baphomet in his book Confessions:
I had taken the name Baphomet as my motto in the O.T.O. For six years and more I had tried to discover the proper way to spell this name. I knew that it must have eight letters, and also that the numerical and literal correspondences must be such as to express the meaning of the name in such a ways as to confirm what scholarship had found out about it, and also to clear up those problems which archaeologists had so far failed to solve…. One theory of the name is that it represents the words βαφὴ μήτεος, the baptism of wisdom; another, that it is a corruption of a title meaning “Father Mithras”. Needless to say, the suffix R supported the latter theory. I added up the word as spelt by the Wizard. It totalled 729. This number had never appeared in my Cabbalistic working and therefore meant nothing to me. It however justified itself as being the cube of nine. The word κηφας, the mystic title given by Christ to Peter as the cornerstone of the Church, has this same value. So far, the Wizard had shown great qualities! He had cleared up the etymological problem and shown why the Templars should have given the name Baphomet to their so-called idol. Baphomet was Father Mithras, the cubical stone which was the corner of the Temple.
I suppose the question of Freemasonry can’t be avoided on this topic either. A popular quote from the late 1800’s, originally created by one Léo Taxil. Taxil made an elaborate expose of Freemasonry, in paperback form, including Levis image of Baphomet and accused Masons of Baphomet worship, this was backed up by some made up quotes. Taxil of course admitted his book to be a hoax in 1897, explaining that his intention was to satirize anti-Masonic propaganda, especially the ultra catholic type. However, this admission hasn’t stopped modern conspiracy theorists and other nutters from forwarding this as valid evidence of whatever they feel like accusing Masons of that week. Major proponents include Jack Chick, the infamous creator of Chick tracts. The following is the most used quote from the hoax and the cover of the book, just know that when someone throws this at you, they’re using a hoax.
“That which we must say to the world is that we worship a god, but it is the god that one adores without superstition. To you, Sovereign Grand Inspectors General, we say this, that you may repeat it to the brethren of the 32nd, 31st and 30th degrees: The masonic Religion should be, by all of us initiates of the higher degrees, maintained in the Purity of the Luciferian doctrine. If Lucifer were not God, would Adonay and his priests calumniate him?
Yes, Lucifer is God, and unfortunately Adonay is also god. For the eternal law is that there is no light without shade, no beauty without ugliness, no white without black, for the absolute can only exist as two gods; darkness being necessary for light to serve as its foil as the pedestal is necessary to the statue, and the brake to the locomotive….
Thus, the doctrine of Satanism is a heresy, and the true and pure philosophical religion is the belief in Lucifer, the equal of Adonay; but Lucifer, God of Light and God of Good, is struggling for humanity against Adonay, the God of Darkness and Evil.”