Curse against Reason
Aside from the Will being beyond rest, purpose, attachment to results, and morality, it also transcends reason and the mind in general in an important sense. In the normal functioning of daily life, the mind and reason often play integral parts: Thelema does not deny the usefulness of the mind and reason but seeks to put it in its right place. In the West, reason has held a central position in philosophy at least since Socrates. Reason was thought to be the only way to ascertain truth, and at times reason was often equated with God himself.1 The first major check to the dominance of reason in the Western mind came from Kant when he published his Critique of Pure Reason and demonstrated its various limits. This sort of check to the dominance of reason over one’s actions is echoed in Liber AL vel Legis. Essentially, the dominance and control of the mind, especially the reason, over the individual’s Will is brought into question. Liber AL vel Legis itself says,
“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.”2
Once again we must emphasize that Thelema is not denying the practical necessity of reason, but it attempts to delineate reason’s boundaries for the most effective functioning of the Will. On this Crowley writes, “We must not suppose for an instant that the Book of the Law is opposed to reason. On the contrary, its own claim to authority rests upon reason, and nothing else. It disdains the arts of the orator. It makes reason the autocrat of the mind. But that very fact emphasizes that the mind should attend to its own business. It should not transgress its limits. It should be a perfect machine, an apparatus for representing the universe accurately and impartially to its master. The Self, its Will, and its Apprehension, should be utterly beyond it.”3
First, “Because,” “Reason,” and “Why,” are all attacked under the form of a cursing by the speaker of the Book. If one asks “why” one should will something or if it is because of something, it cripples the Will and makes “Power weakness.” It was seen in an earlier segment of this essay that, if Will is considered to be “perfect in every way,” it must continue going or working without regard to purpose. In this way, the Will will be “unassuaged.” Crowley writes, “There is no ‘reason’ why a Star should continue in its orbit. Let her rip!”4 and also, “It is ridiculous to ask a dog why it barks. One must fulfill one’s true Nature, one must do one’s Will. To question this is to destroy confidence, and so to create an inhibition.”5 These considerations of purpose are understood now to cause the “Will to stop & do nought,” essentially making it impotent. Therefore, the very nature of our actions is not decided by conscious reason but is to be decided by the Will. “Reason is a lie” because of a “factor infinite & unknown,” which Crowley clearly states “is the subconscious Will.”6 The subconscious naturally cannot be completely understood by the conscious mind, the sphere of reason, so therefore reason’s “words are skew-wise.” It can never delineate the true Will in words because of the subconscious Will, a factor that is by definition “unknown” or below the conscious level of perception. The Will therefore can certainly not be coterminous with “will power” or “volition,” for the Will must encompass the subconscious aspect of one’s self as well as the conscious.
Crowley affirms this doctrine when he writes, “every time the conscious acts, it interferes with the Subconscious… It is the voice of Man, and not of a God. Any man who ‘listens to reason’ ceases to be a revolutionary.”7 Here Crowley makes the subconscious analogous to “the voice of… a God,” for the depths of the unconscious contents contain latent potencies that seem God-like when awakened and assimilated. Crowley explains Liber AL’s position on reason succinctly:
“We now come to a challenge which is in some ways even more daring than any yet made. Before, the moral sense of men was outraged. He now turns to attack the Reason itself. He looks on reason as a soulless machine. Its proper function is to express the Will in terms of conscious thought, the will being the need of the inmost self to express itself by causing some Event.”8
This is the summary of Liber AL vel Legis’ point-of-view of the correct use of reason. Here we see that reason is “a soulless machine” in that the actual self or soul is not in reason, but the Will merely utilizes reason and the mind in general as a machine for expression. Essentially, the proper function of reason is to express the Will in terms of conscious thought but not dictate its actions, for that would cause the Will to “stop & do nought.” The idea behind this is that reason cannot fully comprehend and execute the demands of the Will because “This will (as such) is not conscious. We can only become aware of it, and thus enjoy and learn from the Event, by making an Image of it. Reason is the machine whose function it is to do this. When reason usurps the higher functions of the mind, when it presumes to dictate to the Will what its desires ought to be, it wrecks the entire structure of the star. The Self should set the Will in motion, that is, the Will should only take its orders from within and above.”9 Jung echoes this exact sentiment when he says, “The intellect does indeed do harm to the soul when it dares to possess itself of the heritage of the spirit. It is in no way fitted to do this, for spirit is something higher than intellect since it embraces the latter and includes the feelings as well.”10 The Self that Jung equates with “spirit” in this quotation includes both conscious and unconscious contents and therefore its actions should not be delineated by reason, a construct of merely the conscious aspect of his being.
The overuse of reason has caused a split in modern man’s psyche, detaching him/her from the subconscious sphere of the psyche. Carl Jung defines nervous disorders as “consist[ing] primarily in an alienation from one’s instincts, a splitting off of consciousness from certain basic facts of the psyche.” This over-extension of reason’s boundaries in our Western society has caused “a splitting off of consciousness” from the basic facts of the subconscious. Jung continues, “Rationalistic opinions come unexpectedly close to neurotic symptoms. Like these, they consist of distorted thinking, which takes the place of psychologically correct thinking. The latter kind of thinking always retains its connection with the heart, with the depths of the psyche, the tap-root.”11 Here he identifies “psychologically correct thinking” as that “kind of thinking [which] always retains its connection… with the depths of the psyche, tap-root.” This “psychologically correct thinking” is exactly the same notion that is implied in Liber AL’s curses against the intellect and reason. The thinking which takes its directives from the Will is “psychologically correct” whereas reason delineating boundaries itself will cause the Will to “fall into the pit called Because” and become impotent.
While commenting on one of Jung’s works, Stephan Hoeller writes, “Thinking, the function of reason, has many commendable uses and cannot be eliminated, but it also builds barriers between the personality and its unconscious matrix. In order to reach the necessary transformative self-knowledge, one needs to keep the thinking function subservient to the inspiration proceeding from the Self.”12 Once again the same doctrine is expounded. “The inspiration proceeding from the Self,” which contains both the conscious and unconscious, is the Will of the individual and therefore to this the thinking function must remain subservient. If it does not, it will “build barriers between the personality [conscious self] and its unconscious matrix,” to do so would create a conflict in the Will and it will “perish with the dogs of Reason.”
“If the Sun and Moon should ever doubt, they’d immediately go out.”
1 The logos of the Gospel of John ch.1 refers to the Word of God but is sometimes translated as “Reason.”
2 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, II:27-32.
3 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, II:28.
4 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, II:30.
5 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, II:31.
6 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, II:30.
7 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, II:30.
8 Crowley, Aleister. “Djeridensis Working,” II:28-31.
9 Crowley, Aleister. “Djeridensis Working,” II:28-31.
10 Jung, Carl. “Psychological Commentary on The Secret of the Golden Flower” par.7.
11 Jung, Carl. “The Soul and Death” from Collected Works of C.G. Jung, volume 8: The Struture and Dynamics of the Psyche, par. 808.