It was established in the introduction that this work would look at Thelema and its central text of Liber AL vel Legis strictly from the perspective of psychology, interpreting metaphysical claims as mental phenomena. From this standpoint, a framework must be established within the confines of Liber AL vel Legis that can comply with current psychological understandings of the self and its place in the world. Thelema presents this framework in symbolic format, utilizing pseudo-Egyptian gods to explain how the Thelemite perceives the work: Each person is a star, and at the core of this star is “Hadit;” about this star are the infinite possibilities of Nuit, the starry night-sky. This conception of each person being at the center of a field of phenomena and possible experiences is analogous to one of Carl Rogers’ propositions describing his client-centered therapy that, “All individuals (organisms) exist in a continually changing world of experience (phenomenal field) of which they are the centre.”1 Each person being a star, they are self-luminous, have their own natural motion, and also have an effect (like gravitational pull) on other stars. This self-luminous nature attests to mankind’s inherent divinity and the natural motion is the star’s particular Will.
The Will is central in Thelema, for it is proclaimed, “Thou hast no right but to do thy will. Do that, and no other shall say nay.”2 Each star has a unique Will to carry out, and the way in which this is carried out is by the method – or modus operandi – of “love under will.” This means that all actions must be Love, which is essentially the “uniting of some one monad with one of the experiences possible to it,”3 or simply, the assimilation of experience. This Love must be “under will,” and therefore each act is done to fulfill and express the true nature of the individual involved rather than thwart it. This method of “love under will” was seen to be analogous to Carl Rogers’ propositions. A successful expression of “love under will,” where experience is harmoniously assimilated in accordance with the nature of the individual, is what Rogers calls “psychological adjustment,” whereas “psychological maladjustment” means that experience is not assimilated harmoniously and from which “psychological tension” (suffering in the mental sphere) will naturally arise. In addition, the Will itself was seen to be analogous to Carl Rogers’ notion of the “self-actualizing tendency” inherent in all people.
Further considerations on this Will showed that for it to be considered “pure” and “every way perfect,”4 it must be done with tireless energy, without regard for purpose, and with no “lust of result” or desire for the fruits of one’s work. Next, morality and sin were considered and found to be nothing but impediments to the free flow of the Will; it was established that in Thelema, “that it is no longer possible to say a priori that a given action is ‘wrong.’ Each man has the right – and an absolute right – to accomplish his True Will.”5 It was seen that these sets of moralities naturally repress and inhibit the Will, especially those notions which dictate our sexual morality. Thelema’s move beyond moral injunctions against sexual behavior is consistent with the findings of Alfred Kinsey’s innovative research in mid-20th century.
Aside from morality inhibiting the free and natural flow of the Will, it was seen that the mind, especially its faculty of reason, also prevents the true Will from manifesting. Reason is not discarded as useless in Thelema, but instead it is put into its most effective sphere of operation: in service to the Self and its Will. If the mind usurps the “throne” of the Self and dictates its actions through Reason, it renders the Will impotent because, “If Will stops and cries Why, invoking Because, then Will stops & does nought.”6 More importantly, it is understood that “there is a factor infinite & unknown,”7 the subconscious Will, which is, by definition, not able to be fully understood and interpreted by the conscious mind. Therefore, the mind can only inhibit the flow of the subconscious Will when it dictates the Will’s actions. It is this unknown factor of the subconscious Will that makes “reason… a lie” in that it is unable to dictate the Will of the individual in accordance with their true Selves (which must necessarily account for both conscious and subconscious natures). Carl Jung recognized that the mind cannot accurately dictate the whims of the Will. He said that rationalistic opinions come close to neurotic symptoms in that they split the awareness away from the subconscious promptings. For this reason, Jung deems these opinions “distorted thinking,” and those thoughts that proceed from the “tap-root” of the Self and its Will are deemed “psychologically correct thinking:” yet another psychological assumption that Liber AL anticipated in a way.
Next, the process of coming to know and express one’s Will is understood to be analogous not only to Crowley’s notions of “the Great Work” and “Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel,” but also Carl Jung’s process of “individuation.” All of these are united by the fact that they all attempt to penetrate to the deepest or true nature of the individual and attempt to assimilate and manifest it. In Jung’s process of “individuation,” one comes to identify with the archetype of the “Self,” which is the totality of the psyche, including both conscious and unconscious natures. Thelema uses the Egyptian god of Horus as its specific archetypal expression of the “Self,” and each person’s “Great Work” is to come to “revere” and identify with this Self and thereby manifest the Will more fully. Crowley specifically mentions that the “tribulations” of this ordeal are exactly the same as the modern processes of psychoanalysis, equating the pseudo-mystical process of “the Great Work” or “Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel” with the more modern notions of “individuation.” It was further asserted that the unconscious’s natural function is towards individuation and therefore every single person takes part in the “the Great Work,” whether they are conscious of it or not.
In Liber AL vel Legis, it was seen that a psychological model of “failure” (to assimilate experience) is constructed along familiar physiological lines. In the body, the appearance of pain signifies a malfunction of some sort, and also in the psyche, the appearance of “psychological tension” (as Carl Rogers terms it) signifies a failure of the harmonious functioning of the psyche. In the psyche, sorrow, pain, regret, fear, and pity are all seen to be disharmonious to the functioning of the Will. Next, a specific line in Liber AL is analyzed to show that Hadit, that symbol of the imperishable perceiver-of-events, can either lift his head to Nuit or droop down his head to the earth. These two possible actions were then equated with the life and death instincts of Freud and also the concepts of “MATER COELISTIS” and “PHALLOS” from Jung’s Septem Sermones ad Mortuos – most importantly it is asserted that no matter what “choice” Hadit makes, there is joy and rapture to be found in either option.
Finally, the inevitable topic of death is treated within a Thelemic context. First, death is understood as a joyous occasion, a time for a greater feast than even for birth. Death is also to be considered as the “seal” or symbolic fulfillment of life. In both of these ways Thelema attempts to overcome the morbidity associated with death and the common aversion thereto. The idea of a part or essence of the self surviving death is also entertained but because this is a psychological treatise, we can only make the statement that “the psyche’s attachment to the brain, i.e. its space-time limitation, is no longer as self-evident and incontrovertible as we have hitherto been led to believe,”8 while no conclusive metaphysical assertions may be made.
Essentially, Thelema cannot only be clearly interpreted through the lens of psychology but our understanding of Liber AL is greatly enriched thereby. This work is merely a brief overview of the way the field of psychology potentially enables us to better understand Thelema. Appended after this conclusion is a short discussion about the archetypal symbols of the star and the night sky, but this is merely the tip of the iceberg of the possible syntheses between Thelema and psychology. The conclusions of such eminent psychologists as Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Carl Rogers, and Alfred Kinsey are emphasized in this work but there are many other branches of psychological inquiry that have an important bearing on Thelema. Since psychology is the study of that psyche which is inherent in every man and every woman, it is certainly of interest to all Thelemites who seek to better understand themselves. The injunction of the Greeks to “know thyself” still holds true, and to do this we must delve into our darkest places and face our deepest fears – the “tribulation of ordeal, which is bliss.”9 For Thelema is a tradition of joy where one treats all events, even if they are ordeals, as equally valid experiences for growth. It is a tradition of joy whether we consider it as a psychological framework, a philosophy, a religion, a spiritual map, or whatever suits our particular nature.
“Remember all ye that existence is pure joy; that all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass & are done; but there is that which remains… They shall rejoice, our chosen: who sorroweth is not of us… Beauty and strength, leaping laughter and delicious languor, force and fire, are of us… But ye, o my people, rise up & awake! Let the rituals be rightly performed with joy & beauty! …A feast every day in your hearts in the joy of my rapture! A feast every night unto Nu, and the pleasure of uttermost delight! Aye! feast! rejoice! there is no dread hereafter. There is the dissolution, and eternal ecstasy in the kisses of Nu… Write, & find ecstasy in writing! Work, & be our bed in working! Thrill with the joy of life & death! Ah! thy death shall be lovely: whoso seeth it shall be glad. Thy death shall be the seal of the promise of our age long love. Come! lift up thine heart & rejoice!”10
1 Rogers, Carl. Client-Centred Therapy, ch.11.
2 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:42-43.
3 Crowley, Aleister. Introduction to Liber AL vel Legis, part II.
4 A reference to Liber AL vel Legis, I:44.
5 Crowley, Aleister. “The Method of Thelema.” Printed in The Revival of Magick.
6 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, II:30.
7 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, II:32.
8 Jung, Carl. “The Soul and Death” from Collected Works of C.G. Jung volume 8: The Struture and Dynamics of the Psyche, par. 813.
9 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, III:62.
10 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, II:9,19,20,34,35,42-44,66.
What a gorgeous blog you have here…
Thank you very much for these texts. Highly appreciated.