it seemed like a legitimate question to me. Crowley and other occultists use the word "formula" in a peculiar sense, and dictionary definitions are not very helpful. Usually a formula prescribes the input or ingredients you need to produce a specific result. For example, if I know the radius of a circle and want to know the circumference, there's a well-known formula. I can put in the radius and get the circumference. Or if I have a formula for rocket fuel, that means I know what ingredients to mix and how to mix them to wind up with rocket fuel. But what does it mean to say that INRI is a formula? What do I put in, what do I do with it, and what comes put at the end?

I.N.R.I., ABRAHADABRA, VIAOV, and so forth are formulas much like the formulas employed in physics or mathematics, in my understanding. Just as someone without basic training in calculus has difficulty making sense of physics formulas, one needs occult training and experience to understand these formulas. The formulas are of broad use, and the results depend on what you apply them to. These formulas can be applied to a person as in the case of initiation, invocation, and so forth, or to items to perform consecrations, as well as being useful to a wide variety of other purposes. The Golden Dawn offered many examples of methods for applying the formula of the Neophyte to numerous operations, including alchemy, evocation, and, of course, initiation.

In a mathematical sense, I understand each of the letters in the magical formulas to represent both a variable and a function. The functions must occur in a particular order, according to specific relationships. The variables change according to the nature of the first matter. For example, I in I.N.R.I., corresponding to Virgo, quickly suggests purity of the first matter. So, if a person is the subject of the formula's application, that person must be purified before the operation even begins.

Of course, this is just my opinion, based on independent study and practice. Others may have learned differently, or come to different results. I just find this the most useful, practical available interpretation, as it limits speculation and makes the various formulas more clear and adaptable. Take what you will from my ideas, and leave the rest as the unneeded mental baggage it could easily become.

The trick to understanding life is to know how to spot the punchlines.