The Parable of the Reaper and the Wise Man
“Adonai spake yet again with V.V.V.V.V. and said: The earth is ripe for vintage; let us eat of her grapes, and be drunken thereon. And V.V.V.V.V. answered and said: O my lord, my dove, my excellent one, how shall this word seem unto the children of men?And He answered him: Not as thou canst see. It is certain that every letter of this cipher hath some value; but who shall determine the value? For it varieth ever, according to the subtlety of Him that made it. And He answered Him: Have I not the key thereof? I am clothed with the body of flesh; I am one with the Eternal and Omnipotent God. Then said Adonai: Thou hast the Head of the Hawk, and thy Phallus is the Phallus of Asar. Thou knowest the white, and thou knowest the black, and thou knowest that these are one. But why seekest thou the knowledge of their equivalence?And he said: That my Work may be right. And Adonai said: The strong brown reaper swept his swathe and rejoiced. The wise man counted his muscles, and pondered, and understood not, and was sad. Reap thou, and rejoice!”
–Liber LXV, I:50-56
This entire parable consists of an exchange of the advanced Adept (V.V.V.V.V.) with God, (Adonai). Crowley comments that this exchange is “An elaborate Parable in dialogue.”1 The real parable comes at the very end: “The strong brown reaper swept his swathe and rejoiced. The wise man counted his muscles, and pondered, and understood not, and was sad. Reap thou, and rejoice!” However, the dialogue preceding this parable gives context to it:
“And V.V.V.V.V. answered and said: O my lord, my dove, my excellent one, how shall this word seem unto the children of men?” The Adept answers God, and wonders whether his “word” or message will be understood by humanity, i.e. “the children of men.” The Adept “returning to earth” or mundane life may doubt that her initiated expression of Truth will be received and understood rightly by the uninitiated. This can be seen, for example, in how many people misunderstand the Word of V.V.V.V.V.’s Truth, Do what thou wilt. Crowley comments, “The Adept doubts whether his doctrine will be understood rightly by mankind.”1
“And He answered him: Not as thou canst see. It is certain that every letter of this cipher hath some value; but who shall determine the value? For it varieth ever, according to the subtlety of Him that made it.” God answers the Adept and agrees that humanity may not understand his “word.” God goes further by saying that each individual interprets things differently – “it varieth ever” – reflecting the idea stated in the Parable of Light and Colors that each individual sees the one Light reflected into different colors according to their own understanding. Each individual is at a certain level of “subtlety,” i.e. of understanding or initiation. Each individual will understand the Word of the Adept in proportion to how far they have tread the Path of the Great Work, yet – even then – each individual will interpret things uniquely according to their own particular nature, history, and circumstance. Crowley comments, “The Angel agrees; but is more sceptical still, suggesting that any event may be taken as meaning anything one chooses.”2
“And He answered Him: Have I not the key thereof? I am clothed with the body of flesh; I am one with the Eternal and Omnipotent God.” The Adept answers God’s skepticism by asserting that he has the true “key” of understanding things. Although the “value” of the Adept’s “word” may be valued differently by each individual, the Adept claims that he knows the one true “value” as opposed to the many partial and false interpretations or “values.” Crowley comments, “The Adept claims to be able to interpret phenomena rightly; that there is one special relation which is true, and all others false.”3
The Adept then asserts his Adepthood insofar that he understands himself simultaneously as a finite mind and body as well as the infinite Godhead, i.e. the Adept understands that he is both None and Two. Esoterically, the Adept realizes that he is both in Malkuth as a “body of flesh” as well as in Kether as “the Eternal and Omnipotent God.” This fact of simultaneous identity with spiritual and material, None and Two, is a characteristic of advanced Adepts. Crowley comments, “He reminds the Angel that he realises Himself (as an unique Being always identical with Itself) alike in the lowest matter and the highest spirit.”4
“Then said Adonai: Thou hast the Head of the Hawk, and thy Phallus is the Phallus of Asar. Thou knowest the white, and thou knowest the black, and thou knowest that these are one. But why seekest thou the knowledge of their equivalence?” God responds to the Adept’s assertion of his initiated understanding by acknowledge his Adepthood. God says that the Adept has “the Head of the Hawk,” which is a reference to Horus and generally means that the Adept has attained the “sight” or perspective of an Adept. God says that the Adept’s “Phallus is the Phallus of Asar,” which is a reference to the phallus of Osiris that was used by Isis to give birth to Horus. This generally means that the Adept has awakened the sexual-generative power of the Unconscious or Secret Self and thereby has the ability to “make fertile” the earth, i.e. bring the Word of God down to the people of mundane existence to revitalize the world. Finally, God acknowledges that the Adept understands the pairs of opposites – black and white, yin and yang, etc. – and that he understands their ultimate equivalence. This is another way to say that the Adept understands the world as both None (where black and white “are one”) and Two (where black and white are opposites).
Despite God’s acknowledgment of the Adept’s attainment, He also questions the Adept by asking why the Adept who has attained such great spiritual heights would trouble himself with the relations between things of duality. To the mind, all things appear as multiplicity or duality, and while this is true “on its own plane,” the Adept knows that all multiplicity is actually unity. Since the Adept understands that all opposites are actually one, why would he seek to understand the relations between these illusory opposites? Crowley comments, “The Angel asks why one who possesses absolute Sight and Lordship and power to soar (the Head of the Hawk) who has creative energy able to fertilize Nature, his mother, sister, and wife (The Phallus of Asar) one who knows the pairs of opposites, and the fact of their identity, should trouble to calculate the equations which express the relations between the illusory symbols of diversity.”5
“And he said: That my Work may be right.” The Adept responds to God’s challenge by asserting that, regarding the pairs of opposites, he “seeks the knowledge of their equivalence” so that his “Work may be right.” That is, the Adept needs to understand the laws of duality (the mundane world of illusion) so that he can work effectively in the realm of duality. For example, an Adept might know that the bow, arrow, and target are actually all One Thing yet still seek to understand the relation between bow and arrow so that she may hit the target accurately. Consider also, for example, how the rules of Chess are essentially made-up illusions, but one must know and follow the rules in order to play the game. The better one knows the relationships of the different pieces and the possible combinations, the more skilled one becomes at playing Chess even though one can step back from the board and realize it is all a game. Crowley comments, “The Adept replies that he must understand the laws of illusion in order to work in the world of illusion.”6
“And Adonai said: The strong brown reaper swept his swathe and rejoiced. The wise man counted his muscles, and pondered, and understood not, and was sad. Reap thou, and rejoice!” God replies to the Adept’s assertion that he seeks to understand the laws of illusion in order to work in the realm of illusion. This is – as stated previously – the true parable of this section of the text. This parable contrasts “the strong brown reaper” with the “the wise man.”
The strong brown reaper is an image of an individual who acts without over-thinking things. He is “strong” because physical strength implies an ability to act and the actual use of one’s muscles. He is “brown” because the fertile earth is brown and able to bear harvest. He is a “reaper” because he reaps the harvest of the earth, i.e. he does his work and reaps the reward. This strong brown reaper simply “swept his swathe and rejoiced.” That is, the strong brown reaper is characterized by action, not over-thinking. Esoterically, the strong brown reaper is an image of a Master of the Temple insofar as this grade is attributed to Binah, for brown is a color of Binah and the reaper carries a scythe which is the weapon of Death.
This strong brown reaper is contrasted with the “wise man” who is focused on rational calculations. Over-thinking and hyper-rationalism is seen under the figure of the wise man counting, pondering, and not understanding: this leads to sorrow. The wise man has muscles but does not use them; instead he tries to understand them through counting and pondering.
Esoterically, the wise man is a symbol of the mind or the Ruach, which cannot reach above the Abyss that separates the bottom of the Tree of Life from the Supernal Triangle wherein the Master of the Temple abides. This refers to the Qabalistic idea that Da’ath – or “knowledge” – is the crown of the Ruach or mind, but it cannot reach beyond the mind to the Supernal Triangle for knowledge is always mired in duality or multiplicity. Binah – or “understanding” – represents the illuminated Adept that transcends the duality of thought and speech to the non-duality of the City of the Pyramids in the Supernal Triangle of the Tree of Life. This parallels the curse against Reason in The Book of the Law where it is written, “There is great danger in me; for who doth not understand these runes shall make a great miss. He shall fall down into the pit called Because, and there he shall perish with the dogs of Reason. Now a curse upon Because and his kin! May Because be accursed for ever! If Will stops and cries Why, invoking Because, then Will stops & does nought.. If Power asks why, then is Power weakness. Also reason is a lie; for there is a factor infinite & unknown; & all their words are skew-wise. Enough of Because! Be he damned for a dog! But ye, o my people, rise up & awake!”7
God then counsels, “Reap thou, and rejoice!” That is, one is to be the strong brown reaper who acts and does not over-think things. We must “rise up & awake” rather than being stuck in “the pit called Because” with “the dogs of Reason.” The first word of the Law of Thelema is “Do,” and we must do what we will, not be mired in the minutia of the mind. This parallels what is said in The Book of the Law, “Success is thy proof: argue not; convert not; talk not over much!”8 The wise man calculates, ponders, and does not understand so he is left in sadness and sorrow. The strong brown reaper simply acts in accordance with his Nature and thereby rejoices. The reason why we should not be too overly concerned with the rational calculations of the mind – the relations between illusions previously mentioned – is because they lead us to become stuck in the realm of duality rather than realizing the true Understanding of one’s identity with the non-dual Godhead. Crowley comments, “The Angel replies that such calculations lead one to believe in the reality of the illusions, to become confused by their complex falsities, and ultimately, mistrusting one’s own powers, to fail to act for fear of making mistakes; whereas it does not really matter what one does, since one set of illusions is just as good as another. The business of the Adept is to do his Work manfully and joyously, without lust of result or fear of accident. He should exercise his faculties to the full; the free fulfilment of their functions is sufficient justification. To become conscious of any organ is evidence that it is out of order.”9
SUMMARY: Adepts need to return to the material, mundane word and spread their “word” to humanity who may misunderstand the message. This may concern the Adept who claims to be able to interpret things rightly, but ultimately focusing on the “correct,” rational interpretation and knowledge of things leads us to become mired in unnecessary calculations and doubt that impede the free and full expression of the Will. If the aspirant focuses too much on calculation, analysis, and knowledge, she will fall prey the “dogs of Reason” and forget her true identity with Godhood, her Star. One should therefore not be the “wise man” who ponders over the endless and ultimately meaningless aspects of rational knowledge, but – instead – one should be the “strong brown reaper” who acts freely without over-thinking or excessive doubtfulness. That is, one should express one’s Nature in actions proper to that Nature, and one should not get caught up in the rational minutia of existence that brings no true satisfaction. By acting in accordance with our Nature, by doing our Wills, we naturally are filled with joy.
1Commentary to Liber LXV, I:51.
2Commentary to Liber LXV, I:52.
3Commentary to Liber LXV, I:53.
4Commentary to Liber LXV, I:53.
5Commentary to Liber LXV, I:54.
6Commentary to Liber LXV, I:54.
7Liber AL vel Legis, II:27-34.
8Liber AL vel Legis, III:42.
9Commentary to Liber LXV, I:56.
1Commentary to Liber LXV, I:50-58.