Author: IAO131

Why Thelema Kicks Ass

Why Thelema Kicks Ass

Why Thelema Kicks Ass

One question that I have heard from friends and that I have often asked myself is, “Why Thelema?” Why not identify with any of the other religions or philosophies? I want to explain why I believe in the power of Thelema as a rule of life, and consequently why I believe that Thelema will continue to grow.

I. Do what thou wilt

The most fundamental point is that we have a certain Law under which everything else is subsumed: Do what thou wilt. It is the simple sublimity of this spiritual infrastructure that differentiates Thelema both from the various New Age religions (or “spiritualities”) that are characterized by the amorphous and cherrypicking nature of their beliefs as well as from the Old Aeon religions that are characterized by their rigid dogmatism and sectarianism. The Law of Liberty is so far-reaching that it has implications in all facets of life including metaphysics (as a philosophy), ethics (as a way of life), and theology (as a religion) yet it is so elegant that can be summed up in a single word, Thelema.

II. Tolerance

The fundamental Law of Thelema is “Do what thou wilt” which is a radical exhortation for each individual to explore and express their true nature, whatever that may be. Fundamentally, we as Thelemites uphold everyone’s right to be who they are. This involves a revolutionary form of tolerance or acceptance of diversity. Thelema itself is partially the result of a syncretism of many religions and philosophies. It says in The Book of the Law, “Aum! All words are sacred and all prophets true; save only that they understand a little.” We can also find reference to Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Egyptian, Greek, Hermetic, Buddhist, and Hindu ideas within The Book of the Law itself, let alone the other Holy Books and writings by Aleister Crowley. This speaks to Thelema’s ability to appreciate the truths that are held by the various ideologies across the globe and throughout history.

Our eclectic syncretism is not arbitrary though insofar as everything revolves around the core of “Do what thou wilt”: threads are gathered from all corners of human existence to be woven together through the harmony expressed in the word of the Law that is Thelema. The tolerant acceptance of different points-of-view is what distinguishes Thelema from virtually every other religion that has come about in human history. This can be seen very explicitly in the declaration of the rights of man in “Liber OZ,” wherein it is written, “Man has the right to live by his own law—to live in the way that he wills to do.”

We are radical in our acceptance of others as they are, however they may think, speak, or act, yet we also take up arms against dogmatism, prejudice, and superstition that impede the full expression of humanity’s liberty. This is encapsulated in a quotation where Crowley writes, “Every Star has its own Nature, which is ‘Right’ for it. We are not to be missionaries, with ideal standards of dress and morals, and such hard-ideas. We are to do what we will, and leave others to do what they will. We are infinitely tolerant, save of intolerance.”

III. Scientific Religion

Thelema is wholly against superstition and dogmatism that are so obviously a part of the various religions and philosophies of the past. We do not argue about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin, which color clothing generates bad karma on a certain day, how many times a mantra should be said to please a god, or what actions will be favorably judged by the Almighty Gaseous God-in-the-clouds.

This has implications in terms of action (morally) and thought (philosophically). Morally, we say, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”; this places the responsibility on the individual to find what is right for them without reference to any theological threats of the shame and guilt of sin, the eternal hellfire of damnation, an unfavorable response from a god, or even having a reincarnation in an insect. Philosophically, we do not assert anything that is blatantly contradictory to the knowledge-base of humanity, especially in terms of modern science. There are plenty of cases of people willfully denying the evidence of things as fundamental as evolution or germ theory. For example, it is not difficult to find instances in America of thinly-veiled theology being pushed in schools in the pseudo-scientific guise of “intelligent design.” Stories of people – even children – dying because their parents do not believe in medical care are not unheard of. In contrast, Thelema is a “scientific religion” that speaks to the vicissitudes of human experience that we often call “religion” or “spirituality” while remaining true to the progress of human knowledge that we often call “science.” A great article was recently written on how Aleister Crowley envisioned Thelema as a scientific religion that I recommend if you would like to know more about this particular aspect of the Law of Liberty.

Further, Thelema is a humanized religion: we place the goal of our aspiration within ourselves and we accept others for who they are. As I have written elsewhere: In the Aeon of Isis the focus was Nature, in the Aeon of Osiris the focus was God, and now in the Aeon of Horus the focus is Man, the individual. Our Goal is the fullest expression of ourselves in the True Will, our Path is towards the deepest totality of our selves, and our Community are neither in a “here-after” of Heaven nor gods or demi-gods in some plane “beyond” the world but rather the men and women here on Earth. This ideal is encapsulated in that powerful phrase, “There is no god but man.”

IV. Embracing the world while transcending materialism

Thelema embraces the world insofar as we do not believe sensual pleasures are evil or bad, and we do not believe that existence or incarnation or awareness is something to be annihilated or transcended or left behind. This attitude is encapsulated in The Book of the Law where it is written, “Be strong, o man! lust, enjoy all things of sense and rapture: fear not that any God shall deny thee for this.” As I have said elsewhere: The Earth is not a prison, but a Temple where the sacrament of Life may be enacted; the body is not corrupt, but a pulsing and thriving vessel for the expression of Energy; sex is not sinful, but a mysterious conduit of pleasure and power as well as an image of the ecstatic nature of all Experience.

While we embrace the world, we do not fall into the trap of petty materialism. This is seen in our distinguishing between want – our conscious desires, wishes, and whims that constantly come and go – and True Will. We embrace the world not to have more and bigger and shinier things but as an expression of our nature and a celebration of the joy of existence. This idea was treated in more depth in another recent essay, which can be read if you would like to know more about this particular subject.

V. Sexuality

In line with what was said before about tolerance and acceptance, Thelema specifically embraces all forms of sexual identity, orientation, exploration, and expression that is in line with the Will of the individual. Thelema is a way of life that very explicitly encourages people to be what they are sexually, not to live up to some standard whether dictated by religion or society. We do not view any particular gender identity or sexual orientation as more natural or as superior in any way. The best identity is the one that most clearly and fully is an expression of your nature. We see this encapsulated in The Book of the Law where it is written, “take your fill and will of love as ye will, when, where and with whom ye will!”

Crowley was very far ahead of his time in this way; for example, he wrote in the beginning of the 20th century, “The Beast 666 ordains by His authority that every man, and every woman, and every intermediately-sexed individual, shall be absolutely free to interpret and communicate Self by means of any sexual practices soever, whether direct or indirect, rational or symbolic, physiologically, legally, ethically, or religiously approved or no, provided only that all parties to any act are fully aware of all implications and responsibilities thereof, and heartily agree thereto.” We must remember that – as one very small example – it was more than half a century later before the American Psychological Association stopped labeling homosexuality as a form of mental illness. We as Thelemites take up the banner of acceptance of people as they are, no matter how they may choose to define and express themselves sexually.

VI. Drugs

Thelemites do not shy away from the use of alcohol and drugs based on philosophical, moral, or theological grounds. Thelema has no prohibitions against drugs (or anything, really) so long as what you are doing is in line with your Will. This requires people to take responsibility for their choices. I often think that it helps to say, “Do what thou wilt… and suffer the consequences” because saying “There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt” does not somehow absolve you of the consequences of your action; the Law of Thelema did not somehow abrogate the law of cause and effect. Abusing a substance will still lead to addiction, misusing a substance can still lead to mental imbalance, and rightly using a substance can lead to immense leaps in self-exploration and self-understanding. It is up to every individual to be informed about the use of drugs and to do them responsibly with an intent of finding, exploring, and expressing their true natures.

In a time where the use of psychedelics has only really been explored for their therapeutic potential in the past 5-10 years, this is also a radical approach to drugs. We have Crowley’s own addictions, the history of excess and abuse of drugs as can stereotypically be seen in the late 1960s, and possibly experiences of our own and those around us to warn us about the abuse of drugs. Conversely, we have Crowley’s own successes, a long history of the successful experimentation with drugs, as well as the experiences of our own and those around us to remind us of the distinct potential of using drugs in harmony with our Wills. Click here to read more about Thelema’s approach to drugs.

VII. Aleister Crowley

I believe that Aleister Crowley is exactly the prophet we need in this day and age for one fundamental reason: he was a human being. He was a genius, but he was a human being (despite his attempts to be remembered as a solar myth!). Crowley pushed the boundaries in virtually every category of life and so we may admire him in this way, but we also see things that challenge us. Crowley played with virtually every taboo he could find and in this way he challenges us to confront our own demons and find our own beliefs about how we should live. Our reaction to Crowley can be seen as a microcosm of our own reaction to taboos in general. This is a valuable task in which each individual can engage: what did Crowley do that particularly offends our sentiments? What things are “too far” or “too much,” and – more importantly – examine why it is that you believe he went too far. In this way, in studying our reaction to the prophet of Thelema we can learn more about our own blind spots, limits, and boundaries.

Crowley’s sometimes outrageous behavior also reminds us that we are not supposed to imitate Crowley in any way; we are supposed to find our own Way. That is what Thelema is about. Thelemites are united in a mutual respect and reverence for Crowley, and we are united in a mutual quest to find our Selves. We are not all trying to be Crowley like Christians try to be like Christ or Buddhists like Buddha; we are all trying to be who we really are and that is what sets us apart.

VIII. Rejoice!

Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131In a document that I believe every Thelemite should read for its clarity and incisiveness, Crowley wrote that one of our duties is to “Rejoice!” Thelema is a religion of joy and beauty. Humor is our armor and laughter our weapon. No longer do we look upon solemnity and self-effacement as synonymous with spirituality. Thelema is a law of Liberty that holds the keys to unlock the innate potential of every individual, to release ourselves from the burden of sorrow and fear, and to allow ourselves to be ourselves and rejoice therein. As it says in The Book of the Law, “Remember all ye that existence is pure joy.” With this knowledge, we can consciously and willfully engage in that ultimate Sacrament we know as existence. I therefore say with Crowley, “Look, brother, we are free! Rejoice with me, sister, there is no law beyond Do what thou wilt!”

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Thelema True Will Radical Reorientation towards Becoming Who We Are

True Will: The Radical Re-orientation Towards Becoming Who We Are (pt.4)

IAO131 True Will

NOTE: Read part 1 and part 2 and part 3 before continuing on to this part.

With-ness / Interdependence

 Just as Alone-ness is an inextricable fact of our existence, so too is the inescapable fact of our being constantly with other people – the other side of the coin of our Alone-ness is our With-ness. This is not something of which we can simply opt in or opt out because it is a necessary and fundamental fact of our existing in the world. If With-ness/Interdependence is an inescapable fact, we might as well do it well, i.e. authentically rather than inauthentically. The fact of our Interdependence is, I believe, one of the most overlooked aspects of the development of the True Will and of Thelema as a whole. We can no longer take a view of the development of the individual as complete that does not take into account the fact that we are embedded, interwoven, and interacting with others.

The fact of our With-ness is actually exemplified throughout the literary corpus of Thelema. Nuit declares “the unveiling of the company of heaven”1 and that “every man and every woman is a star.”2 Crowley writes, “The ‘company of heaven’ is Mankind, and its ‘unveiling’ is the assertion of the independent godhead of every man and every woman!”3 Each of us is a star inherent in the “Heaven”4 of “Infinite Space.”5 This is the unavoidable reality of our Interdependence that co-exists simultaneously with our Independence. We are “one Star in the Company of Stars”6 and every thought we have, word we speak, and deed we do establishes us in relation to other stars and the world as a whole. Just as we are independent beings in our Alone-ness, we are interdependent beings in our With-ness. Crowley writes, “Every individual is essentially sufficient to himself. But he is unsatisfactory to himself until he has established himself in his right relation with the universe”7 and “It is surely obvious, even intellectually, that all phenomena are interdependent, and therefore involve each other.”8

Just as there is an authentic and inauthentic way to actualize one’s Independence or Alone-ness, so too is there an authentic and inauthentic way to actualize one’s Interdependence or With-ness. We saw that inauthentic Alone-ness expresses itself in the constant but fruitless searching outside of oneself to assuage one’s discontent, emptiness, and suffering. Conversely, inauthentic With-ness expresses itself in the obsessional absorption in an attitude of selfishness. Authentic Alone-ness is thwarted by misguided extroversion and authentic With-ness is thwarted by misguided introversion. Calling selfishness inauthentic may at first seem to contradict the Thelemic doctrine that enjoins us that pursuit of our own Will is the sole duty, right, and Law. That is, one might think that our one right and duty being to find and do our individual and unique True Wills is inherently selfish, yet this is not so as it neglects the fundamental With-ness or Interdependence of our existence. I believe this is precisely the reason that our With-ness is such an overlooked aspect of the development of our True Wills. The fact of our With-ness therefore deserves special attention and clarification.

As already stated, inauthentic With-ness expresses itself in the absorption in an attitude of selfishness. In doing this, we become overly introverted and concerned only for ourselves (or what we perceive to be our “selves”), and the end result is the objectification of other people. That is, when we are in a state of inauthentic With-ness, our interpersonal relations are reduced to objects, and their only value and meaning are in using them for our own concern and welfare. Once again we are immersed in the mode of want characterized by “having” – other people are simply “it’s” or objects to be used and possessed. In an inauthentic actualization of our With-ness, our Interpersonal mode becomes I-It. In reducing the other to an object, a mere “it,” we are failing to see that “every man and every woman is a star.”9 We deny that they are conscious beings of suffering and joy, confusion and clarity, just like we are; we deny that they, too, have a True Will that has an equal right and duty to be expressed as our own. In this way our mode is “having” in the form of manipulation, just as we would do with lifeless objects. We no longer authentically and genuinely encounter another living being but instead a mere role in our own drama, a piece of our world rather than a star that is sovereign in his or her own universe.

In contrast to the inauthentic I-It, an authentic actualization of our With-ness expresses itself in a Interpersonal mode of I-Thou.10 To see the other as a “Thou” and not an “it” is a distinguishing characteristic of the authentic actualization of our Interdependence. When we see others as a “Thou,” we acknowledge they are stars, co-equal with ourselves. This genuine encounter is acknowledged when we greet others with the Law – that is, we say, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” It is stated in a second-person affirmation of the True Will of the individual to which we are speaking. This fact is sometimes lost when we reduce our greeting to “93,” but the same meaning can be lost in saying the whole phrase. Whether saying the whole phrase or the simple 93, what is required is a conscious, intentional act of acknowledging the other as a Thou, a star like ourselves, not a mere object. This attitude is what we as Thelemites call “Agape” or “Love.” We know that “Love is the law, love under will”11 and that “There is no bond that can unite the divided but love: all else is a curse.”12 This Love is often identified with the Greek word “Agape,” which in contrast to the erotic love of Eros and the brotherly love of Philia, refers to Divine Love or Unconditional Love. In the Old Aeon, this word meant the Love of God, and this is still true in the New Aeon except that we assert, “There is no god but man.”13 Our Love of God is therefore the Love of one another unconditionally. This is a Love that strikes at the heart of Being, both of oneself and the other, because it is an acceptance of the other as they are; it is the acknowledgment of the other as a Thou, as a star, as a God engaged in the process of knowing and enacting his or her True Will just as you are. Crowley writes, “We are all inevitably allies, even identical in our variety; to ‘love one another with burning hearts’ is one of our essential qualities”14 and we are to “respect the equal kingship of others. We are to love our brother kings with eager passion.”15

Two modes of actualizing With-ness

1) want / having →

inauthentic →

I-It →

Manipulation: seeing others as objects or “it’s” that are to be used/possessed

2)
Will / Being →

authentic →

I-Thou →

Love: Seeing and accepting others as they are

What gets in the way of having an authentic and genuine encounter with the other as a Thou rather than an “it”? How do we move from a mode of want, dominated by our own selfishness and characterized by seeing and treating others as objects, to a mode of Will, characterized by a genuine encounter and appreciation of the other as another Being with a Will? First, we need to clear away notions of the other that thwart our genuine acknowledgment of the other and then we need to foster an attitude of authentic Love for the other – that is, we need a purification and a consecration.

In order to purify ourselves of conceptions that get in the way of the authentic actualization of our With-ness, we must take into account the ways in which we perceive people in accordance with our likes, dislikes, and indifference. We each habitually react to others in a way conditioned by our like, dislike, or indifference to the other. In our like of the other we are drawn toward them, in our dislike of the other we are pushed away, and in our indifference we remain apathetic to them. Each of these represent an imbalance that must be purified, so to speak, before we can authentically encounter the other. At the bottom of these three imbalances – like, dislike, and indifference – is the fact that we act towards people and expect others to act in accordance with our preconceptions of them. Even before we actually meet people we start forming opinions as to their characteristics, whether we will like or dislike them, and how they might act toward us. As we get to know people, the tendency to form conceptions of the other becomes even more pronounced. These preconceptions of the other are a limitation, both of them and of oneself. To have a conception or an image of the other is to see our own distorted version of them and not the other as they are. These conceptions are a form of “lust of result” from which we must be “delivered.”16 Crowley comments that being delivered from the lust of result “Recommends ‘non-attachment.’”17 We must not become attached to our notions of how people might be or are. In this way, we make a limit around the person, a box, that is static and unfair to both people involved. In being attached to a notion of how people are (or should be), we become upset and agitated when they do not conform to our pre-held beliefs of them. Also, in being attached to a notion of the other, we do not allow them the freedom to be the dynamic being that they are – we do not allow them to change, and we know that “The Universe is Change.”18 To not acknowledge this fundamental characteristic of the universe and everything and everyone within it is to live in a distorted fantasy that will bring consistent annoyance and suffering. As Crowley writes, “To resist change is to ask for pain.”19 To resist change is to ask for suffering because we find that things do not match up to how we expected them to be, and it is also to thwart the Will of the other in the dynamic expression of their Being. Conversely, to accept change is to accept Love – Crowley writes, “The Universe is Change; every Change is the effect of an Act of Love; all Acts of Love contain Pure Joy.”20 Further, he writes, “We have accepted Love as the meaning of Change, Change being the Life of all Matter soever in the Universe. And we have accepted Love as the mode of Motion of the Will to Change. To us every act, as implying Change, is an act of Love. Life is a dance of delight, its rhythm an infinite rapture that never can weary or stale.”21 This is an intimation into the nature of authentic With-ness, of the expression of Love rather than selfishness.

In recognizing the fundamental equality of the self and other, we purify ourselves of the distorted conceptions that thwart us from a genuine actualization of our With-ness. This clears away misconceptions and lays the groundwork for the counterpart to purification – that is, we have wiped away what is preventing our authentic With-ness and now we must consecrate ourselves in the strengthening of those qualities that encourage and facilitate an authentic With-ness. If the inauthentic actualization of our With-ness is characterized by an absorption in self-concern, the authentic actualization of our With-ness is characterized by concern for others. This has been called many things such as “compassion” and “charity,” but – as Thelemites – we call this quality Love. It is not something that must be carefully cultivated against all odds, but it is the fundamental nature of our authentic With-ness. We need only to purify ourselves from that which prevents this and cultivate that which facilitates this, and then Love will spring naturally, spontaneously, and joyfully from the depths of our Being. That is, we come to know Love not as an option or as a good idea but as the inherent nature of our True Will.

We have seen the first step toward the authentic actualization of our Interdependence is to see people as they are, not as we wish or think them to be in conformity with our like, dislike, or indifference of them. We have purified our Love, now we must consecrate it. One very practical way to begin this process is to see the equality of oneself and the other. This is done through the act of “putting yourself in the other’s shoes,” as it is often called. This method is spoken to in “Liber Librae” where it is written, “Be not hasty to condemn others; how knowest thou that in their place, thou couldest have resisted the temptation? And even were it so, why shouldst thou despise one who is weaker than thyself?”22 At the bottom of this is the recognition that the other is a Being just like yourself: loving and hating, crying and rejoicing, frustrated and excited, struggling and succeeding. The other, like you, is a star trying to fulfill his or her Will and you are both engaged in the same struggle, the same Great Work. When we pierce the veils that we habitually construct around the other, purifying the dross that covers the gold, we may begin to approach a genuine, authentic encounter with the other as a Thou and not an “it.” This attitude is reinforced every time we greet another by saying, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”23 We acknowledge the star within them, the Being that is striving to become itself fully. We must treat our fellow beings as stars, as royalty would greet royalty (i.e. with great respect and admiration) and as children would greet children (i.e. with great openness and vitality). This is the authentic expression of With-ness, the formula of the Crowned and Conquering Child on the Interpersonal plane, so to speak. This is what Crowley is speaking to when he writes, “Find thou thyself in every Star.”24 We must acknowledge the other as a Thou, not an “it” conditioned by our preconceptions of them in line with our like, dislike, or indifference; we must open ourselves to the unique and powerful presence of the other, not as an object but as a Being equal to our ourselves, i.e. as a “you” or a “Thou” and not simply a “he,” “she,” or “it.” In this way, we come to a fundamental existential insight into the nature of our Being, that we are in “the company of heaven”25 – we are with other people. Though the authentic expression of Love is spontaneous and natural, it is constantly threatened with relapses into the inauthentic distortion of selfishness. We must be ever-vigilant and gird ourselves with the method of seeing ourselves in every star, in the recognition of the other as a “Thou” and not an “it,” in the appreciation of the other as a Being equal to ourselves.

This experiential encounter, not some piece of knowledge, is what fuels the joy of participating in the world as a star among stars; it is the true foundation of Universal Brother-and-Sisterhood wherein we acknowledge the true Divinity of the other and cultivate our Love for them. When we truly are able to see and acknowledge in the depths of our being that, “every man and every woman is a star, and that every one’s will is the will of God,”26 then we have begun the authentic actualization of our With-ness. With this, we may also find that we aspire not only to the optimum and authentic actualization of our own potential but also to see other people actualize their own potential. We want them to come to the knowledge and expression of their True Wills. The genuine welfare of humanity as a whole is achieved through the authentic actualization of the potential of every Being. True Love is expressed in acknowledging the Being of the other and in the hopeful realization of their True Will.

We can now see that True Will as the Goal of our Path encompasses both our authentic Alone-ness and our authentic With-ness. We seek both our own True Will as well as to move beyond our distorted self-concern to a Love of others expressed in an encouragement of the authentic fulfillment of their potential, i.e. the accomplishment of their True Wills. Only in an authentic expression of both our Alone-ness and our With-ness can we come to a complete, total actualization of the totality of our Being, our True Wills, “the Great Work, the Summum Bonum, True Wisdom and Perfect Happiness.”27

Love and let love. Rejoice in every shape of love,
and get thy rapture and thy nourishment thereof.”
-Aleister Crowley, The Heart of the Master

Conclusion

Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131It should be apparent that this entire framework requires neither supernatural doctrines nor speculative metaphysics. We were driven by the Question arising from our own being and the Answer comes therefrom. Thelema represents not only a scientific religion but a humanized religion. In the Aeon of Isis the focus was Nature, in the Aeon of Osiris the focus was God, and now in the Aeon of Horus the focus is Man, the individual. Our Goal is the fullest expression of ourselves in the True Will, our Path is towards the deepest totality of our selves, and our Community are neither in a “here-after” of Heaven nor gods or demi-gods in some plane “beyond” the world but rather the men and women here on Earth. Our authentic Alone-ness is expressed in our True Will and our authentic With-ness is expressed in our Love, or Agape, wherein we see the other as a “Thou” and not an “it,” an object to be possessed or used – we experience and unite the two complementary facts of existence in every instant. Only thereby can we truly undergo a radical re-orientation from a mode of want to a mode of Will.

I am grateful to all who have made it this far through the essay. I hope you will take to heart, remember, and truly engage with what has been described throughout this text and when we say to one another:

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will.

References

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1 Liber AL vel Legis I:2.

2 Liber AL vel Legis I:3.

3 New Comment to Liber AL vel Legis I:2.

4 Liber AL vel Legis I:21.

5 Liber AL vel Legis I:22.

6 “Liber XV: Ecclesiæ Gnosticæ Catholicæ Canon Missæ” also known as “The Gnostic Mass.”

7 Magick in Theory & Practice, Introduction.

8 New Comment to Liber AL vel Legis II:22.

9 Liber AL vel Legis I:3.

10 See Martin Buber’s I and Thou for a deeper discussion of I-It versus I-Thou.

11 Liber AL vel Legis I:57.

12 Liber AL vel Legis I:41.

13 “OZ: Liber LXXVII.”

14 New Comment to Liber AL vel Legis II:24.

15 “The Comment Called D,” II:24.

16 Liber AL vel Legis I:44.

17 New Comment to Liber AL vel Legis I:44.

18 The Heart of the Master.

19 The Magical Record of the Beast 666, 6/2/1920, page 146.

20 The Heart of the Master.

21 New Comment to Liber AL vel Legis I:52.

22 “Liber Librae sub figura XXX,” line 6.

23 Liber AL vel Legis I:40.

24 The Heart of the Master.

25 Liber AL vel Legis I:2.

26 The Equinox III:1 (The Blue Equinox), “The Tank.”

27 “Liber XV: Ecclesiæ Gnosticæ Catholicæ Canon Missæ” also known as “The Gnostic Mass.”


Thelema True Will Radical Reorientation towards Becoming Who We Are

True Will: The Radical Re-orientation Towards Becoming Who We Are (pt.3)

IAO131 True Will

NOTE: Read part 1 and part 2 before continuing on to this part.

Alone-ness / Independence

Our essential Alone-ness is disclosed to us by that fact that we are born into this world alone and we die alone. As we live, our awareness – our very consciousness – is always only our own. We never will totally or completely be in another’s perspective; the closest we can get is sympathy and empathy. This is nicely described by Irvin Yalom, an existential psychologist, when he writes that, beyond interpersonal isolation (isolation from others) and intrapersonal isolation (isolation from parts of oneself), “[there is] a fundamental isolation – an isolation both from creatures and the world – which cuts beneath other isolation. No matter how close each us becomes to another, there remains a final, unbridgeable gap; each of us enters existence alone and must depart from it alone.”1 This Alone-ness is a fundamental and inescapable existential fact of being in the world.

Anxiety arises in the face of our mortality, our isolation, and the apparent meaninglessness of having been thrown into a world over whose conditions we seem to have little control. We typically seek to avoid or console ourselves about this fact through wanting things. We think that, by possessing things, especially other people, we can transcend our essential Alone-ness. We seek outside of ourselves for something to have that will squelch this underlying anxiety. In our inauthentic striving to cope with our Alone-ness we unfortunately perpetuate the same discontent and misery that led us to seek distractions and coping mechanisms in the first place. For example, in having a significant other we are necessarily vigilant against any and all signs that we will be left to our Alone-ness by them, and then we consequently act out of inauthentic anxiety rather than authentic relationship based in the mode of Being. Even in “having” a significant other, we seek to possess someone as a symbolic statement that we are in fact not alone. We cannot truly feel authentic in our Alone-ness until we understand, come to terms, and accept our Alone-ness; we consequently cannot truly be with others in an authentic way until we eliminate the anxiety that naturally results from being in the mode of “wanting” and “having” and that inevitably leads to inauthentic relationships with others.

At the core of each of us, the gnawing sense of discontent produces a question in ourselves. The question is not a mental, rational, verbal question, but it arises from the ground of our being – that is, the question arises before any articulation. Our very being poses this question and articulation comes only after the fact. When the question is articulated, it takes form such as “What is the meaning of my existence?” or “What is the purpose of life?” or “To what end?” The question will never be answered by a verbal, rational utterance in the form of “the meaning of life is this or that.” The question sprung from the depths of our being and the answer must come from the same level as the question. The answer is not stated, it is lived. The answer is True Will – but those are just words. Hearing and comprehending these words doesn’t give the answer, it merely points to it. The answer is a profound reorientation of our existence from want to Will, from the mode of having to the mode of Being, from inauthentic and limited actualization of our potential to the authentic and full actualization of our potential. The answer to our question is in our Will; that is, you must, as Crowley wrote, “know Thyself through Thy Way.”2 What we need is not something else to have, some other possession whether internal (such as knowledge) or external (such as wealth or other people). We need a radical reorientation of our very way of being in the world towards the authentic actualization of our own potential, from wanting to Willing.

Conversely, no amount of knowledge in itself can ever bring us to this Will. Knowledge is simply the accumulation or “having” of more and more facts unless the knowledge is itself is understood as a pointer towards the mode of Willing, of Being authentically. Being a Thelemite doesn’t mean constructing a vast super-structure of static knowledge and data. Rather, being a Thelemite involves the transformation of life itself from a state of discontent and limit – i.e. confusion, disorder, and anxiety – into a state of wholeness and purposefulness – i.e. harmony, strength, and joy – that is understood to be the process of coming to know and do your True Will. Our knowledge should, ideally, be pointers toward this end of transformation and reminders of it. In response to the profound need or question of our being, the objects of our endeavors must be optimal reflections of that need or question. As Crowley writes, “What is necessary is not to seek after some fantastic ideal, utterly unsuited to our real needs, but to discover the true nature of those needs, to fulfill them, and rejoice therein.”3 To lose sight of this, to aim at something other than the actualization of our full potential, the fulfillment of the totality of our being, is to cut ourselves off from the vital impulse that drove us to this path in the first place. This is what Crowley speaks to when he writes, “The whole and sole object of all true Magical and Mystical training is to become free from every kind of limitation.”4 Insofar as we forget the profound existential question at the heart of our endeavor of our meaning and purpose, we are liable to fall into a mode of absorption in the dogmas and intellectual structures for their own sakes. That is, we are liable to seek knowledge to be knowledgeable rather than seeking knowledge a means to the end of knowing and Being ourselves. We become stagnant and dogmatic because we seek knowledge for knowledge’s sake rather than as a means to our coming to the fullest and most authentic actualization of the potential of our being. This is what is spoken to in the Qabalistic notion of “knowledge” being a “false Sephirah” on the Tree of Life, i.e. knowledge is the crown of the Ruach or mind that cannot reach above the Abyss to the Supernals wherein reside the Understanding, Neshamah, and the Will, Chiah.

We become so overwhelmed with our sense of isolation and dissatisfaction, as well as with the complexity of the world, that we retreat into the illusory security in “having” something that we think will assuage our gnawing discontent. Whether we are seeking security externally in owning material possessions, having fame or titles of authority, or in having a significant other or whether we are seeking security internally in a structure of knowledge, the same principle is at work. This is the basic characteristic of inauthentic Alone-ness. So long as we look outside of ourselves for the solution to the problem of isolation and anxiety, we will remain in perpetual bondage to this cycle of feeling lack, seeking to rectify this lack by having something we want, and being dissatisfied with our possessions’ inabilities to address the real issue. The Question sprang from within; so, too, must the Answer. Again, the answer is not given to us, it is lived by us – it is the reorientation of our way of being in the world from that of want to that of True Will.

Two ways of actualizing the potential of our Alone-ness

wanting/ having →

Inauthentic →

The actualization of limited potential in striving to possess material objects, social standing, relationships, or knowledge

Willing/ Being →

Authentic →

The actualization of our full potential in the discovery and expression of the True Will

In our reorientation from wanting to Willing, from having to Being, we need to be constantly on guard against tendencies to slip back into the attitudes of having. We must find the island of Being within ourselves – the island of authentic Alone-ness – and, as it is written in The Book of the Law, “Fortify it!”5 How might we fortify ourselves against these tendencies? It is useful to bring in a concept from Buddhism, though it will be reinterpreted in light of the New Aeon. This concept is that of the Three Jewels of refuge, or the Three Refuges.

It is necessary to understand that the concept of “taking refuge” in no way implies an act of retreat or hiding. To take refuge is to remind oneself, to reorient oneself from what is truly unimportant to what is truly important – one could easily call them the Three Reorientations or Three Reminders if you will. In Buddhism, one would take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. These can be literally interpreted as Buddha as the person who became enlightened and promulgated Buddhism, Dharma as the teachings of Buddha, and the Sangha as the monastic community of Buddhists committed to Dharma. Buddha is, more generally, the state of being enlightened, an awakened one. Dharma is, more generally, the path taken to achieve Buddhahood. Sangha is, more generally, the community who agrees upon Buddhahood as the goal and Dharma as the path to get there. We may therefore see that in taking the Three Refuges, we are reorienting our attention towards the Goal, the Path, and the Community. In Thelema, the Goal is the authentic actualization of our full potential, the totality of our being; the Path has been called Initiation and the Great Work, the progressive shift to a mode of Being; the Community is the “company of heaven”6 of Thelemites, or one’s particular community such as O.T.O., composed of those who are committed to the Goal of True Will through the Path of Initiation. The three refuges are to help remind us to reorient the focus of our Alone-ness from an inauthentic obsession over “having” to an authentic focus on the Goal of Being through the Path we tread with our Community. I will go through each of these in further detail and explain how they can be understood in light of the New Aeon.

The Goal of True Will – In Thelema, our Goal is the achievement of an authentic actualization of the totality of the self. The attainment of the optimum mode of being that is the deepest and most complete expression of our potential is the authentic actualization of our Independence and our Dependence. We call this Goal the True Will.

This is interesting to compare to the goal of Buddhahood. It might be said that the two are identical goals when the veil of language conditioned by temporal and cultural conditions is lifted, yet there are important differences. Firstly, we understand that the expression of the True Will is unique to each person – that is, the Will won’t look the same as expressed in different people. We hold no absolute standards as to how we might expect someone to behave when doing their True Wills; some may be harsh and exuberant whereas others may be gentle and introverted, and some may both at different times. The unique and individual nature of the True Will further shows our Alone-ness; the Goal of True Will and the expression thereof can only be our own. No one can truly know or find this Goal except ourselves. Secondly, Buddhahood is a state and we may be liable to see it as a static object or goal. True Will, on the other hand, is dynamic; it is a process rather than an object, a verb rather than a noun. Crowley writes that the Thelemite understands herself “not as a fixed being of wrath but as the ‘the flying spark of light’ – a pure dynamic vibration. This conception, first formulated in Liber CCXX, and explained already in this Comment, is in fact the first condition of what the Buddhists call Samma Dithi – right views. So long as a man thinks of himself as a being rather than as an energy he attributes to himself not, as the profane suppose, stability, but stagnation, which is death.7 He also writes, “This True Self thus ultimately includes all things soever: its discovery is Initiation (the travelling inwards) and as its Nature is to move continually, it must be understood not as static, but as dynamic, not as a Noun but as a Verb.”8 The nature of True Will is a continual state of the authentic actualization of potential; the nature of Being is perpetual becoming.

This Goal is not something to obtained, yet another thing to “have” and possess. It is also not some distant, elusive, or beyond-human goal. The Goal is an authentic sense of being, the deepest and fullest expression of who we truly are. The Path is therefore the path inward towards that optimum mode of Being that we call True Will, or as Crowley writes “the true Motion of thine inmost Being”9 and “the true purpose of the totality of your Being.”10 We seek nothing other than our True Selves, the most complete expression of our nature. Crowley confirms this when he writes, “What is the meaning of Initiation? It is the Path to the realisation of your Self as the sole, the supreme, the absolute of all Truth, Beauty, Purity, Perfection!”11 and also when he writes, “Initiation means the Journey Inwards: nothing is changed or can be changed; but all is trulier understood with every step.”12 True Will is, in this sense, the most near and most human Goal of all.

The Path of Initiation – The Path is called Initiation and simply refers to the process of finding and actualizing our potential in the most authentic and complete way; it is the process of approaching the Goal. On this Crowley writes, “In all systems of religion is to be found a system of Initiation, which may be defined as the process by which a man comes to learn that unknown Crown. Though none can communicate either the knowledge or the power to achieve this, which we may call the Great Work, it is yet possible for initiates to guide others. Every man must overcome his own obstacles, expose his own illusions.”13 This does not mean the progressive initiation into the ascending grades of some temporal organization. These “outer” initiations can, even in their ideal state, be mere reflections of that inner process of moving from a mode of wanting to a mode of Willing.

This Path is called the Great Work because embarking upon and treading it involves coming to face our deepest anxieties, doubts, and fears as well as those parts of ourselves that we neglect, distort, or deny completely. This is no easy task, and as a fact of our Alone-ness, “every man must overcome his own obstacles [and] expose his own illusions.” Though others can point the way, no one can do it for you. As Morpheus says to Neo in The Matrix, “I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.” Our “shadow,” as Carl Jung would call it, encompasses all those parts of ourselves that we do not want to face, so our exposure and integration of them is necessarily a very Great Work. Our primary tools for treading this Path have been grouped under the two main categories of Magick and Yoga.

The Community of Thelemites – The Community involves all those who have accepted the Goal of True Will as the only satisfactory solution to human existence, a reoriented mode of being rather than constantly and frustratingly striving after the manifold and often contradictory objects of our conscious wishes, desires, and ideals. This Community includes all Thelemites in the sense that they have accepted the Goal and the Path to that Goal. They all are gathered into one fold in order to “bring the glory of the stars into the hearts of men.”14 It is also useful to think of one’s actual local community, perhaps that of O.T.O. for some readers, in this light. Those members are all bound together and united in their acceptance of the Law of Thelema, the Goal of True Will, and the Path of Initiation. Remembering this helps keep our perspective, not letting us fall so easily into the petty interpersonal drama and organizational politics that inevitably arise; instead, we reorient ourselves to remember our real Goal and the Path thereto, embracing and rejoicing in the fact that we have a Community of individuals devoted to this very ideal.

The Three Jewels or Refuges of the New Aeon

1) The Goal

True Will

2) The Path

Initiation, the Great Work

3) The Community

Thelemites

We can now see that, in the New Aeon, we may take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, but these are understood as True Will, Initiation, and the Community of Thelemites. We take refuge in the Will, the Way, and the Brotherhood of Stars. To take these three refuges is to reorient one’s attitude and focus, shifting away from the inauthentic actualization of our Alone-ness in the mode of wanting characterized by striving after possessing and towards the authentic actualization of our Alone-ness in the mode of Willing characterized by the personal growth towards the fullest expression of Being, the actualization of the totality of one’s potential. Again, to take refuge is not to run away or hide from anything; on the contrary, we are reorienting ourselves to very directly confront the reality of our situations. To take refuge is nothing other than reminding oneself of and reorienting oneself to hopeful process of actualizing an the authentic mode of Being, of True Will. In this way, the Three Jewels help fortify us in our Alone-ness against the ever-present possibility of slipping back into the inauthentic mode of wanting and having.

Buddhists often take refuge in the form of a short prayer such as, “I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.” As Thelemites, we may recite a short prayer of “I take refuge in the True Will, in the Great Work, and the Community of Thelemites” or “I guide myself in remembering the Goal of Will, the Path of Initiation thereto, and the Community dedicated to walking this Path with me” or any other form that speaks to you in a way that feels genuine for yourself. This can be repeated as a meditation in itself, as a prayer before and after a regimen of Yoga and/or Magick, or done at certain times of day. Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131The important point is not to form a rigid sense of exactly when this should be done or exactly how it should be said. The underlying meaning needs to be firmly in mind, that of a radical reorientation from a mode of wanting/having to a mode of Willing/Being so that we may authentically and fully actualize our potential. With freedom comes responsibility, and the responsibility falls on you to find a way that this works most effectively. No one can truly force you to do this nor can anyone do it for you. Only you can move from an inauthentic to an authentic expression of the fact of your Alone-ness. It is only through the radical reorientation of ourselves to accept what we are and the commitment to the Path that leads to the expression of the totality of our Being that we may transcend and finally overcome the anxiety that has resulted from being absorbed in the “wants” or desires that have provided no true solace or joy.

Keep pure your highest ideal; strive ever toward it without allowing aught to stop you or turn you aside, even as a star sweeps upon its incalculable and infinite course of glory, and all is Love. The Law of your being becomes Light, Life, Love and Liberty. All is peace, all is harmony and beauty, all is joy.”
-Aleister Crowley, “The Law of Liberty”

References

1 Yalom, Irvin. Existential Psychotherapy.

2 The Heart of the Master.

3 Magick Without Tears, chapter 8.

4 Little Essays Towards Truth, “Trance.”

5 Liber AL vel Legis III:5.

6 Liber AL vel Legis II:2.

7 Commentary to “Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV,” chapter V, line 2.

8 “Duty,” section A, part 2.

9 Liber Aleph, chapter 9.

10 “Duty,” Section A, part 5.

11 Magick Without Tears, chapter 71.

12 Little Essays Towards Truth, “Mastery.”

13 “Liber LXI vel Causae,” lines 2-4.

14Liber AL vel Legis I:15.


Thelema True Will Radical Reorientation towards Becoming Who We Are

True Will: The Radical Re-orientation Towards Becoming Who We Are (pt.2)

IAO131 True Will

NOTE: Read part 1 before continuing on to this part.

The Paradox of Human Existence:
Our Simultaneous Independence and Interdependence

 It has already been stated that there are two fundamental modes of existing in the world, (1) wanting, characterized by an attitude of “having” and (2) Willing, characterized by an attitude of “Being.” Wanting and having is inauthentic and the source and cause of perpetuation of anxiety. Willing and Being is authentic and the source of fulfillment. By “authentic” I mean that being in the mode of Willing is a state or process that is true to the totality one’s self, the actualization of one’s full potential. Conversely, “inauthentic” means we are limited in some way, as illustrated in the iceberg metaphor of the psyche mentioned previously where the the conscious ego is split from the unconscious potencies. To be inauthentic is therefore to avoid or limit the actualization of the full range of one’s possibilities; as it is written, “The word of Sin is Restriction.”1

These are two modes of existing in the world, but I want to turn our attention to the nature of our existence in the world. It is here that we encounter the paradox of human existence: we are always alone in the world and we are always with others in the world. There is a both an “Alone-ness” and “With-ness” that simultaneously characterize our existence in the world. We are simultaneously Independent beings and Interdependent beings; we are immersed in Alone-ness and With-ness at the same time. Though they are opposite in a way, they represent the two sides of the coin of life and are the two strands weaved together seamlessly in an inseparable unity; they are separated for convenience of explanation. Each of us is synchronously isolated in Alone-ness and immersed in With-ness. I will use Independence and Alone-ness interchangeably as well as Interdependence and With-ness interchangeably; the terms Alone-ness and With-ness emphasize that these are facts of our Being and not simply abstract or impersonal principles. Crowley speaks to the paradoxicality and inseparability of our simultaneous Independence and Interdependence when he writes, “It is not true to say either that we are separate Stars, or One Star. Each Star is individual, yet each is bound to the others by Law.”2

This dualistic unity is paralleled in the first two chapters of The Book of the Law and, by extension, in the symbols of Hadit and Nuit. Hadit characterizes the quintessence of Alone-ness and even states “I am alone.”3 Nuit characterizes the quintessence of With-ness. She discloses that we are all stars in “the company of heaven”4 and counsels us to “Bind nothing! Let there be no difference made among you between any one thing & any other thing; for thereby there cometh hurt.”5 The ultimate unity between Alone-ness and With-ness is paralleled by the identification of Nuit with Hadit.6 The Independence/ Interdependence duality can also be seen reflected in the two primary statements of our Law. “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” is a statement of Alone-ness or Independence, i.e. that we each have an individual Will that is unique from all others. “Love is the law, love under will” is a statement of With-ness or Interdependence, i.e. that in every thought, word, and act we establish some kind of relation or union with the world. The ultimate unity between Alone-ness and With-ness is also paralleled by the identification of Will and Love.7 Finally, Alone-ness and With-ness are reflected into the two main categories of practices in which we engage as Thelemites, Yoga and Magick. Once more, they are ultimately two facets of the same method.8

2 Elements of Existence

Hadit and Nuit

Liber AL

Will and Love

Magick and Yoga

Alone-ness, Independence

Hadit, ch.2

“I am alone”

Thelema, Will

Yoga

With-ness, Interdependence

Nuit, ch.1

“Bind nothing!”

Agape, Love

Magick

Since we are constantly immersed in simultaneous Alone-ness and With-ness, we bring to these facts of existence our mode of being. Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131That is, in both Alone-ness and With-ness, we act either in a mode of “want” characterized by having or we act in a mode of “Will” characterized by Being. Now we will examine Alone-ness and With-ness in turn to understand their nature, how an inauthentic approach of wanting looks in each case, and how an authentic approach of Willing looks in each case.

Contemplate your own Nature. Consider every element thereof both separately and in relation to all the rest as to judge accurately the true purpose of the totality of your Being.”
-Aleister Crowley, “Duty”

References

1 Liber AL vel Legis I:41.

2 New Comment to Liber AL vel Legis I:52.

3 Liber AL vel Legis II:23.

4 Liber AL vel Legis I:2.

5 Liber AL vel Legis I:22.

6 “The Perfect and the Perfect are one Perfect and not two; nay, are none!” –Liber AL vel Legis I:45.

7 Will = Thelema = Qelhma = 93; Love = Agape = Agaph = 93. Therefore, we see that Will = Love in the number of 93.

8 On this Crowley writes, “My system can be divided into two parts. Apparently diametrically opposed, but at the end converging, the one helping the other until the final method of progress partakes equally of both elements. For convenience I shall call the first method Magick, and the second method Yoga. The opposition between these is very plain for the direction of Magick is wholly outward, that of Yoga wholly inward.” –Magick Without Tears, chapter 83.

Thelema True Will Radical Reorientation towards Becoming Who We Are

True Will: The Radical Re-orientation Towards Becoming Who We Are (pt.1)

IAO131 True Will

Wanting versus Willing

To Will and to want. These are not simply two ideas. To Will and to want are two fundamental ways of existing in the world. Our Law as Thelemites is “Do what thou wilt”; it is our sole duty and right to find and do this Will. Aleister Crowley often distinguished Will – often called True Will – from want. For example, he wrote that the purpose of each individual is “the discovery of his True Will (as opposed to his conscious ideals or wishes) by each individual”1; “It should be clear that ‘Do what thou wilt’ does not mean ‘Do what you like.’ It is the apotheosis of Freedom; but it is also the strictest possible bond.”2;“Do what thou wilt does not mean Do as you please, although it implies this degree of emancipation, that it is no longer possible to say à priori that a given action is ‘wrong.’ Each man has the right—and an absolute right—to accomplish his True Will.”3; “It will be seen that the formula – ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law’ has nothing to do with ‘Do as you please.’ It is much more difficult to comply with the Law of Thelema than to follow out slavishly a set of dead regulations.”4

To Will and to want are two modes of existence. They are paralleled in the contrast between “to Be” and “to have.”5 In ordinary life, we are dominated by the mode of wanting or having at the expense of losing touch with Will or Being. This ordinary mode of existence, wanting and having, can be likened to a horizontal line: we are always trying to achieve our desires, to have more things. This is everyone’s natural, “un-initiated” state of constant striving after possessing more and more. Society bombards us from all directions with the message that fulfillment is found through possessing more. Our wants are endless – there is always more to amass. We see this most evidently in the frenzy over the accumulation of wealth and material objects; we want the latest gadgets, the fastest cars, and the fanciest clothes. It can also be seen in wanting social status or authority, so we seek to have labels and titles that reflect our authority… “I am a CEO,” “I have a PhD,” “I am a 7th degree,” or “I am a High Priest.” The attitude of wanting extends into relationships: the more friends on Facebook, the better! Our possessiveness shows itself in our intimate relationships – it is even embedded in the language we use such as, “I have a boyfriend” or “I have a wife.” Wanting/having can be seen more subtly in the accumulation of knowledge. We want to have wisdom, so we accumulate facts – the person who can list the most correspondences of the Tree of Life is surely the wisest! Even our spirituality is not protected from this nefarious mode of existence. We amass (and occasionally read) shelves of books that could easily crush us under their combined weights, we strive to get the most ornate and beautiful ritual implements for our temples, we accumulate a giant encyclopedia of knowledge of rituals and spiritual dogmas… we even speak of the goal of religion as a possession! They are the ultimate “wants”: We seek to obtain the Holy Grail or to find the Philosopher’s Stone, and we say that we “have” a True Will. Our absorption in this horizontal dimension of existence knows no bounds in terms of the unfathomable plethora of “wants.”

The modern age of technology has provided us the means to get more and more of what we want – friends through social networking sites, information through search engines, and all the food we could ever want at a supermarket (et cetera ad infinitum). In spite of this, a fundamental characteristic of our modern era is widespread dissatisfaction and disenchantment. We have houses with heating and plumbing that kings could only wish for in past epochs, yet we are not content. We have 500 friends on Facebook, yet we are lonely. We sail through the air in metal contraptions at unfathomable speeds, yet we are impatient. When we get down to it, what do we all hope to gain from this relentless pursuit of wants and accumulation of possessions? It stems from this deep, underlying sense that there is something lacking in our lives despite all the things we have. There is a hole and this hole is filled with stuff, whether material objects or knowledge or whatever else. We are looking for a sense of true fulfillment but the pursuit of our wants has left us no closer to our goal. In fact, all of our striving towards “having” makes us more dissatisfied: for everything we have, we also gain a fear of losing it. We have everything backwards: our very preoccupation with wanting is the source of our lack. It is the source of our anxiety, our loneliness, our emptiness, our meaninglessness, and our sense of inauthenticity that we strove to extinguish by obtaining the objects of our desires. We want to be truly and authentically alive, yet – paradoxically – we have our hands so full with our “wants” and “haves” that we are left completely empty-handed.

In the face of this delirious engrossment in the mode of wanting, it may seem that there is no other possible way of existing in the world. In contrast to this horizontal mode of preoccupation with wants, there is the vertical dimension of True Will, of Being. It is of note that the word “being” in Greek is “to on,” giving us the word “ontology” (the study of being), and an ancient name of the sun was “On,” as is mentioned in the Gnostic Mass.6 The effulgent glory of Solar light is an apt symbol of the way of Being or True Will in contrast to the confused groping-in-the-darkness of the way of wanting. To find a sense of self that is not empty and inauthentic, we do not need more desires and more possessions nor do we need more beliefs or knowledge. We need a radical re-orientation of our way of being in the world, one where we become who we are. This is what we of Thelema call the True Will. It is also of note, at least to occultists and Masons, that the word “reorient” means to get one’s bearings and etymologically means “to face the East,” i.e. to re-orient. We reorient ourselves to the East, the place of the rising Sun, which is a symbolic way of saying we reorient ourselves towards the way of Being or of True Will, remembering our starry nature, so to speak.

This vertical mode of being shows us symbolically that we are not simply striving towards more and more as in the horizontal mode of wanting. Instead, we extend upwards towards a loftier expression of ourselves and downwards towards a deeper understanding of ourselves. In our Holy Books it is written, “My adepts stand upright; their head above the heavens, their feet below the hells.”7 Instead of seeking after abundance through wanting and having things, we seek abundance in Being ourselves more fully, our True Selves. When we operate in this vertical dimension of True Will, religion is not something we adopt or “have,” our entire Being is religious. To be present in the vertical dimension of True Will is to be authentically religious.

The fatuousness of our attempts to gain satisfaction through the pursuit of our conscious desires is illustrated by the Freudian model of the psyche as an iceberg. Above the water there is the tip of the iceberg: our sense of self or ego and our conscious desires. Beneath the water lies the immensity of the rest of our psyches, the unconscious. In our engrossment with our conscious wants, we let the mere tip of ourselves dictate our direction. The majority of the self that lies underwater, the unconscious, is left unheeded and unsatisfied. To reorient ourselves to Will instead of want, Being instead of having, is to seek to encompass and express the totality of the self. It is to actualize the vast power and potential that lies dormant and untapped as long as we remain on the horizontal dimension of want and have. In fact, Crowley himself likened the Holy Guardian Angel8 and the True Will9 to the unconscious. He wrote, “Good sense is in reality common to all men: it is the property of the Unconscious whose Omniscience matches its Omnipotence. The trouble is that in practically every particular case the Intellect insists on interfering… Remember that the Ego is not really the centre and crown of the individual; indeed the whole trouble arises from its false claim to be so.”10 It might be said that, psychologically, the mode of wanting or having keeps us in a perpetual state of conflict between the ego/conscious and the unconscious. The mode of Willing or Being involves a harmonious alignment between conscious and unconscious. Crowley writes, “A Man whose conscious will is at odds with his True Will is wasting his strength. He cannot hope to influence his environment efficiently. A Man who is doing his True Will has the inertia of the Universe to assist him.”11

Aleister Crowley’s own life serves as an archetypal template of this radical reorientation from a mode of wanting and having to that of Willing and Being. This occurred in his “Vision of Sorrow” in 1897 of which he writes in his Confessions,

The occasion was an attack of illness. It was nothing very serious and I had long been accustomed to expect to die before I came of age. But for some reason or other I found myself forced to meditate upon the fact of mortality. It was impressed upon me that I hadn’t a moment to lose. There was no fear of death or of a possible ‘hereafter’; but I was appalled by the idea of the futility of all human endeavour. Suppose, I said to myself, that I make a great success in diplomacy and become ambassador to Paris. There was no good in that — I could not so much as remember the name of the ambassador a hundred years ago. Again, I wanted to be a great poet. Well, here I was in one of the two places in England that made a specialty of poets, yet only an insignificant fraction of the three thousand men in residence knew anything about so great a man as Aeschylus. I was not sufficiently enlightened to understand that the fame of the man had little or nothing to do with his real success, that the proof of his prowess lay in the invisible influence with he had had upon generations of men. My imagination went a step further. Suppose I did more than Caesar or Napoleon in one line, or than Homer and Shakespeare in the other — my work would be automatically cancelled when the globe became uninhabitable for man. I did not go into a definite trance in this meditations; but a spiritual consciousness was born in me corresponding to that which characterizes the Vision of the Universal Sorrow, as I learnt to call it later on. In Buddhist phraesology, I perceived the First Noble Truth – Sabbé Pi Dukkham – everything is sorrow. But this perception was confined to the planes familiar to the normal human consciousness. The fatuity of any work based upon physical continuity was evident. But I had at this time no reason for supposing that the same criticism applied to any transcendental universe. I formulated my will somewhat as follows: ‘I must find a material in which to work which is immune from the forces of change.’ I suppose that I still accepted Christian metaphysics in some sense or another. I had been satisfied to escape from religion to the world. I now found that there was no satisfaction here. I was not content to be annihilated. Spiritual facts were the only things worth while. Brain and body were valueless except as the instruments of the soul.”

We see that Crowley wanted to become a great poet, a great diplomat, a great chess master… yet all of these things were found wanting, so to speak. He turned his eyes away from the possession of these titles and towards spiritual attainment, and the rest is history. In embarking upon the vertical path, he was led to the discovery of his True Will. A parallel can be found in the life of Siddhartha Gautama who – upon seeing an old man, a sick man, a dead man, and then a yogi – renounced the possibility of being a king and having all the material comforts of the world and turned his attention toward becoming awakened. He found the answer to his gnawing dissatisfaction with the suffering of the world in enlightenment, in the vertical dimension of becoming who he really was, an awakened one, a Buddha. These two particularly good examples because they were men – not transcendent gods or demi-gods or mythical heroes – who represent the possibilities the actualization of potential that is available to all of us as men and women. William Blake described this attitude concisely when he wrote, “All deities reside in the human breast,”12 and, as it says at the top of our declaration of the rights of man, “There is no god but man.”13

Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131To summarize, there is a horizontal dimension of being of “want” that is characterized by preoccupation with “having” or possessing, whether material objects, knowledge, or other people. We strive to assuage our anxiety about our sense of emptiness through pursuing our “wants,” which ironically leaves us feeling more empty and inauthentic. To transcend this condition, we do not need more “wants” or a new and specific “want,” but instead we need a radical reorientation of our very being towards the vertical dimension of “Will” (or True Will) that is characterized by a focus on “Being” rather than having. The process of shifting from want to Will, having to Being, horizontal to vertical, is shown symbolically or archetypally in the life of Aleister Crowley, specifically his experience of the “Vision of Sorrow.”

“It all depends on your own acceptance of this new law, and you are not asked to believe anything, to accept a string of foolish fables beneath the intellectual level of a Bushman and the moral level of a drug-fiend. All you have to do is to be yourself, to do your will, and to rejoice.”
-Aleister Crowley, “The Law of Liberty”

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References

1 “The Constitution of the Order of Thelemites.”

2 “Liber II: The Message of the Master Therion.”

3 “The Method of Thelema.”

4 Eight Lectures on Yoga, “Yama.”

5 See Erich Fromm’s To Have or to Be?

6 “…our Lord and Father the Sun that travelleth over the Heavens in his name ΟΝ.”

7 “Liber Tzaddi vel Hamus Hermeticus,” line 40.

8 “The Holy Guardian Angel is the Unconscious Creature Self – the Spiritual Phallus.” -Liber Samekh.

9 “The Kingdom of Malkuth, the Virgin Bride, and the Child is the Dwarf-Self, the Phallic consciousness, which is the true life of Man, beyond his ‘veils’ of incarnation. We have to thank Freud — and especially Jung — for stating this part of the Magical Doctrine so plainly, as also for their development of the connexion of the Will of this ‘child’ with the True or Unconscious Will, and so for clarifying our doctrine of the ‘Silent Self’ or ‘Holy Guardian Angel’. They are of course totally ignorant of magical phenomena, and could hardly explain even such terms as ‘Augoeides’; and they are seriously to blame for not stating more openly that this True Will is not to be daunted or suppressed; but within their limits they have done excellent work.” -New Comment to Liber AL vel Legis III:22

10 Commentary to “Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV.”

11 Magick in Theory & Practice, “Introduction,” part III, Theorems 8-9.

12 William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.
13 “OZ: Liber LXXVII.”

Death in Thelema

Death in Thelema

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Thelema is an all-encompassing paradigm, and therefore it deals with all aspects of life. A universal experience of all people – and all living things – is death. What then is the view of death and the afterlife in Thelema?

We may examine this question first by understanding what Thelemites do not believe. Thelema does not have a conception of death like that of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). There is no notion of a heaven or hell that is beyond this world. There is no notion of Judgment for our moral actions or beliefs. This much is clear to anyone who has performed even a cursory review of the Thelemic literary corpus.

Thelema also does not have a conception of death like that of the Dharmic religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism). There is no notion of a desire to escape Samsara, the wheel of birth, death, and rebirth. There is also no notion of reincarnating in order to perfect the soul or achieve enlightenment throughout several lifetimes. This topic has been treated in a previous essay entitled “New Aeon Initiation” and Crowley has written, “The idea of incarnations ‘perfecting’ a thing originally perfect by definition is imbecile.” Thelemites see life and the world of duality as providing the opportunity for the “chance of union” (Liber AL I:29), to experience the joy of “love under will.”

Several questions still remain: Does Thelema hold the belief that we have only one life (like Abrahamic religions) or that we have many lives (like Dharmic religions)? Is there anything that survives death? If there are many lives, is there something that travels from life to life or are they all distinct in some way?

The first difficulty in figuring out Thelema’s approach to death is that the term “death” is used in at least two ways: firstly, it refers to the physical death of the body and, secondly, it refers to the spiritual experience of the death of the sense of self which is called “Crossing the Abyss” in this system. We may see the distinction in many places, and Crowley himself often differentiates the two ideas such as when he writes, “The death of the individual is his awakening to the impersonal immortality of Hadit. This applies less to physical death than to the Crossing of the Abyss.”

The “soul” in Thelema is understood to be something that is eternal and without quality – it is something beyond space and beyond time and identical with God or Godhead Itself. In the above quotation, Crowley explains that the death of the individual – what is often called the ego-self – causes an identity with Hadit which is “impersonal” – that is, not having anything to do with what we might ascribe to the personality or any personal qualities whatsoever – and “immortal” – that is, it does not ever die. What Crowley is describing is “the Crossing of the Abyss” which is an experience that one has while physically alive. Initiation or the process of “spiritual progress” essentially involves coming to conscious awareness and identity with this Self or Soul. When describing this Soul in a Three-in-One fashion, composed of Jechidah, Chiah, and Neshamah, Crowley writes, “It is the work of Initiation to journey inwards to them” (emphasis in the original).

This is a very basic understanding of the “death” that is involved in the Crossing of the Abyss. But what of the death of the physical body? Again, it is difficult to determine which references to death and dying are speaking about physical or spiritual death. There are many mentions of death in the Holy Books of Thelema, but there is one clear mention of the death of the body in The Book of the Law: “Think not, o king, upon that lie: That Thou Must Die: verily thou shalt not die, but live. Now let it be understood: If the body of the King dissolve, he shall remain in pure ecstasy for ever” (Liber AL II:21). The line itself, specifically “If the body of the King dissolve, he shall remain in pure ecstasy for ever”, is not particularly clear. Does this mean that when the body dies, we enter into an eternal ecstasy rather than incarnating ever again? Does it mean that we enter into the ecstasy that is beyond time (so to speak) and then enter back into space and time with every new incarnation? Is it simply a metaphor for the Crossing of the Abyss that happens to use the image of the body? Crowley comments on this line,

“One’s ‘immortal soul’ is a different kind of thing altogether from one’s mortal vesture. This Soul is a particular Star, with its own peculiar qualities, of course; but these qualities are all ‘eternal,’ and part of the nature of the Soul. This Soul being a monistic consciousness, it is unable to appreciate itself and its qualities, as explained in a previous entry; so it realizes itself by the device of duality, with the limitations of time, space and causality.”

Here we see the clear understanding that the immortal soul is not the same as the “mortal vesture,” which presumably refers to the mind (including the personality) and body of the individual. Also, Crowley contrasts the “eternal” Soul or Star with duality, which includes “time, space, and causality.” This re-affirms the notion that the Soul is beyond these things.

In his “Djeridensis Comment” (or “The Comment Called D”), Crowley writes on this line:

“The root of all such error is the belief of Kings that they are mortal. This is confuse their essence with that basis of a certain class of events which refers to the kind of life which includes death. Aiwass insists that if the body dissolve its King remains in timeless rapture. For his events have ceased; and he stands in a single state of joy as made one with Nuit. Should he wish further knowledge of himself, he must choose some other means by which to measure it, by which to set in motion a fresh series of events.”

Here we have a little more information. The idea that the Soul is eternal and the true essence and identity of everyone is re-affirmed, and it is once again contrasted with impermanent things (“a certain class of events which refers to the kind of life which includes death”) such as the “mortal vesture” mentioned previously. More importantly, we have a clarification to the line “If the body of the King dissolve, he shall remain in pure ecstasy for ever.” After death, “events have ceased” and the Soul is in ecstasy or joy. If the Soul desires “further knowledge of himself” (which we know to mean experience in the world of duality), there needs to be “some other means” to “set in motion a fresh series of events” – that is, a new incarnation.

We now have the basic conception of death in Thelema. The true essence and identity of every person, the Soul or Star, is perfect and beyond space, time, and causality. It is essentially a “monistic consciousess” (the Zero/0 of the Thelemic ontology) so it has to incarnate into a specific mind and body in order to have experience (the Two/2 of the Thelemic ontology). When the person’s body dies, the Soul remains in formless, timeless ecstasy or joy when not incarnated.

This is a consistent and satisfactory answer to the question of death, yet some questions remain unanswered. Specifically, is there any thread temporally tying together the lives of a Soul? That is, is there any notion of reincarnation or metempsychosis (transmigration of the soul)? After all, didn’t Crowley himself claim to have “past lives”? It is indeed logically possible that we may not believe in the notion of escaping Samsara or perfecting our souls yet still believe in some form of connection between lives.

If we look, the official website of U.S. Grand Lodge O.T.O. explicitly states a belief in metempsychosis. That being said, on this website it is said that the “Body of Light” is subject to metempsychosis and not necessarily the Soul of which we have been speaking. Let’s look at what Crowley himself said about the idea of metempsychosis.

In a chapter in Liber Aleph entitled “De Morte” (“On Death”), Crowley begins with this sentence, “Thou hast made Question of me concerning Death, and this is my Opinion, of which I say not: this is the Truth.” This disclaimer is not given for any other chapter, nor is it typical of his writing on Thelema to write in such a skeptical or reticent fashion. Interestingly, he begins his short treatise “Liber ThIShARB” (a document that details the practice of going backwards in one’s memory including back to past lives) in a similar way. He starts the document with these words, “May be. It has not been possible to construct this book on a basis of pure Scepticism. This matters less, as the practice leads to Scepticism, and it may be through it.” In “Liber ThIShARB,” Crowley is extremely explicit about the validity of these “memories,” saying repeatedly that they must be viewed skeptically and be checked with facts to ascertain if they are valid. He writes, “But let him not trust his memory to assert its conclusions as fact, and act thereupon, without most adequate confirmation.” It should be clear that Crowley treated this subject of the afterlife with great caution and critical thinking.

Coming back to the chapter “De Morte” from Liber Aleph, keeping Crowley’s disclaimer in mind, we can continue to examine the rest of what he says. Crowley then explains the idea of the Soul incarnating into a mind and body. He writes that the soul “inhabiteth a Tabernacle of Illusion, a Body and Mind. And this Tabernacle is Subject to the Law of Change, for it is complex, and diffuse reacting to every Stimulus or Impression.” This affirms the previously mentioned idea that the mind and body are impermanent vehicles of the immortal Soul. He continues:

“If then the mind be attached constantly to the Body, Death hath no Power to decompose it wholly, but a decaying Shell of the dead Man, his Mind holding together for a little his Body of Light, haunteth the Earth, seeking a new Tabernacle (in its Error that feareth Change) in some other Body. These Shells are broken away utterly from the Star that did enlighten them, and they are Vampires, obsessing them that adventure themselves into the Astral World without Magical Protection, or invoke them, as do the Spiritists. For by Death is Man released only from the Gross Body, at the first, and is complete otherwise upon the Astral Plane, as he was in his Life. But this Wholeness suffereth Stress, and its Girders are loosened, the weaker first and after that the stronger.”

Here is one possibility that Crowley expounds: if your mind is attached to the body, the mind will hold together and “haunt the Earth” but it has “broken away utterly from the Star.” The idea being that the mind can, in some way, persist beyond death but it is no longer connected to the Star or Soul. These “Shells” can account for some of what is seen in the “astral world,” what Spiritists communicate with, and potentially for other phenomena such as ghosts. Crowley then continues in the next chapter, contrasting this notion with what happens to Adepts after death (I apologize for the long quotation but it is all pertinent):

“Consider now in this Light what shall come to the Adept, to him that hath aspired constantly and firmly to his Star, attuning the Mind unto the Musick of its Will. In him, if his Mind be knit perfectly together is itself, and conjoined with the Star, is so strong a Confection that it breaketh away easily not only from the Gross Body, but the fine. It is this Fine Body which bindeth it to the Astral, as did the Gross to the Material World so then it accomplisheth willingly the Sacrament of a second Death and leaveth the Body of Light. But the Mind, cleaveth closely, by Right of its Harmony, and Might of its Love, to its Star, resisteth the Ministers of Disruption, for a Season, according to its Strength. Now, if this Star be of those that are bound by the Great Oath, incarnating without Remission because of Delight in the Cosmic Sacrament, it seeketh a new Vehicle in the appointed Way, and indwelleth the Fœtus of a Child, and quickeneth it. And if at this Time the mind of its Former Tabernacle yet cling to it, then is there Continuity of Character, and it may be Memory, between the two Vehicles. This is, briefly and without Elaboration, is the Way of Asar in Amennti, according to mine Opinion, of which I say not: This is the Truth.”

The basic idea is that Adepts spend their lives attuning their minds to the Will and so the mind can “cleave closely… to its Star” and incarnate into a new body. This allows for “Continuity of Character, and it may be Memory, between the two Vehicles,” which is the basic understanding of reincarnation and the basis for the belief in past lives. It is interesting, though, that Crowley appears to believe the continuity between lives is only possible for Adepts who have trained their minds thoroughly. Also of note is that Crowley, in ending this chapter on death, says once again “according to mine Opinion, of which I say not: This is the Truth.”

We can see that Crowley did indeed entertain a notion of metempsychosis, but one that is limited in a way to Adepts. We can also see that Crowley was especially careful to be skeptical and encourage skepticism around this issue. No other chapter in Liber Aleph contains such a disclaimer, let alone one both at the beginning and end of the discussion. The Holy Books themselves are not explicitly clear about this issue. Though there is an identification between Aleister Crowley and Ankh-af-na-khonsu in Liber AL (such as I:14 and I:36), it is not explicit whether this is a literal or symbolic statement (the latter of which Liber AL is clearly full of).

In conclusion, Thelema is a system where we believe each individual has a Soul or Star which is perfect, impersonal, and also beyond space, time, causality, and any form of duality. The Soul incarnates into the world of duality through a mind and body. When the physical body dies, and when not incarnated in general, the Soul remains in a timeless, formless ecstasy. All of this can be agreed upon, being that it is consistently affirmed and re-affirmed throughout Thelemic Holy Books as well as in Crowley’s commentaries to these texts. Beyond this, Crowley maintained that it is possible for the mind to “cleave” to a Star if one is an Adept, and this can lead to a “continuity of character” as well as the memory of past lives. That being said, Crowley had an atypical skepticism and cautiousness around this issue. This idea of some kind of continuity of character through lives remains to be explored by each Thelemite, confirmed or rejected based on experience, checking the facts, and utility.

Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131I want to end this essay by very briefly touching upon the last of the criteria just mentioned: utility. I encourage Thelemites – and magicians in general – to consider the usefulness of believing in past lives. Supposing for a moment that it is true that you have past lives, each life presents an entirely unique situation: you are born in a different place, with a different family, a different physiology (including genetic predispositions), possibly a different language, a different culture, a different experience being raised, a different peer group, exposure to different ideas at different times, etc. It is my personal opinion that, for example, the fact you are interested in trains as a child doesn’t mean you should be a train conductor or engineer as an adult. If one’s own childhood may not necessarily supply the necessary information to discover and accomplish your Will, how much less pertinent would information about a previous life? Further, we may so easily fall victim to that demon that appears to plague occultists of all stripes: the demon of Glamor. It is plain that there is a large possibility of an “ego trip” were one to think that you were Buddha, Caesar, or any figure of importance. There is a glamor in the claim to past lives, especially the glamor in possessing some kind of strange or powerful access to memories across lifetimes. Crowley himself warned about this in Magick Without Tears when he wrote,  “You ask if we, meaning, I suppose, the English, are now reincarnating the Egyptians. When I was a boy it was the Romans, while the French undertook the same thankless office for the Greeks.  I say ‘deadly poison’ because when you analyse you see at once that this is a device for flattering yourself.  You have a great reverence for the people who produced Luxor and the Pyramids; and it makes you feel nice and comfortable inside if you think that you were running around in those days as Rameses II or a high priest in Thebes or something equally congenial.” I am not discouraging the belief in or the practice of obtaining memories of past lives, but I encourage any readers of this essay to think very critically about the utility of memories of past lives. I hope that you seriously consider the possibility and consequences of falling prey to the glamor of the idea and remember that Crowley himself was very skeptical, repeating “this is my Opinion, of which I say not: this is the Truth.”

Love is the law, love under will.

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The Will in Thelema: Considered on Two Planes

The Will considered on two planes

The Will is completely central to Thelema. Liber AL vel Legis, the central text of Thelema states:

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. (I:40)
Thou hast no right but to do thy will. Do that, and no other shall say nay. (I:42-43)
There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt. (III:60)

There are two “planes” that one must consider the Will on for it to be understood completely. The first plane will be labeled the “theoretical/absolute” and the second will be labeled “practical/relative.” As Aleister Crowley warns in many places we are not to “confuse the planes” – that is, we must keep the considerations of each plane within its own sphere and not let the judgments that pertain to one be confused as pertaining to the other.

On the theoretical/absolute plane, everyone and everything is already doing its “true” or “pure” Will. 

“Know firmly, o my son, that the true Will cannot err; for this is thine appointed course in Heaven, in whose order is Perfection.”— Liber Aleph, “De Somniis”

“There are much deeper considerations in which it appears that ‘Everything that is, is right’. They are set forth elsewhere; we can only summarise them here by saying that the survival of the fittest is their upshot.” — Magick in Theory and Practice, Chapter I

“The uninitiate is a “Dark Star”, and the Great Work for him is to make his veils transparent by ‘purifying’ them. This ‘purification’ is really ‘simplification’; it is not that the veil is dirty, but that the complexity of its folds makes it opaque. The Great Work therefore consists principally in the solution of complexes. Everything in itself is perfect, but when things are muddled, they become ‘evil’.” –New Comment to AL I:8

“…Each of us stars is to move on our true orbit, as marked out by the nature of our position, the law of our growth, the impulse of our past experiences. All events are equally lawful – and every one necessary, in the long run – for all of us, in theory; but in practise, only one act is lawful for each one of us at any given moment. Therefore Duty consists in determining to experience the right event from one moment of consciousness to another.” –Intro to Liber AL, part III

This last quotation touches on the pertinent issue of this short essay: “All events are equally lawful – and every one necessary, in the long run – for all of us, in theory.” This is the Will perceived from the theoretical/absolute plane – Crowley himself uses the terminology of “in theory” to describe this aspect. In an “absolute” sense, or from an “absolute” perspective, “all events are equally lawful – and every one necessary.”

He then writes, “but in practise, only one act is lawful for each one of us at any given moment… Duty consists in determining to experience the right event from one moment of consciousness to another.” This is the Will perceived from the practical/relative plane. In a relative sense, there is discrimination needed.

The first and most common “confusion of the planes” occurs when one perceives the truth of the theoretical/absolute plane of Will. In this sense, all events are lawful and necessary and there is no “wrong” or “evil.” This means in the world that no actions are to be restricted whatsoever because all things “work out in the end,” you might say. This will literally be the death of you if one decides to adopt the theoretical/absolute perspective as a practical/relative philosophy. Although the Will is “perfect” and “necessary” on the theoretical/absolute plane, there is a “Duty” that is the practical necessity of determining the action that is “right.”

The theoretical/absolute plane of Will is virtually useless on a practical level, although knowledge of the fact that Will cannot truly ever err may give rise to a certain confidence, detachment, and carefree attitude. It is on the practical/relative plane of existence that we normally function on, therefore a practical/relative understanding of Will is needed.

In Thelema, the practical/relative application of this is stated as:

Love is the law, love under will. (I:57)

Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131Love is the modus operandi of the Thelemite, and it must be “under will.” “Each action or motion is an act of love, the uniting with one or another part of ‘Nuit’; each such act must be ‘under will,’ chosen so as to fulfill and not to thwart the true nature of the being concerned.” (Intro to Liber AL, part III)

Therefore, the Will of Thelema must be considered as simultaneously operating on two planes: the theoretical/absolute and the practical/relative. On the plane of the theoretical/absolute, all events are perfect, pure, & necessary; on the plane of the practical/relative, the Thelemite operates under the formula of “love under will,” assimilating experience in accordance with their unique nature.

See also in the series on Will in Thelema:

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The Will is Supra-Rational

The Will is Supra-rational

“Our own Silent Self, helpless and witless, hidden within us, will spring forth, if we have craft to loose him to the Light, spring lustily forward with his cry of Battle, the Word of our True Wills.”
-Aleister Crowley, The Law is for All, commentary to I:7

The first question one might ask when embarking upon the quest to understand the philosophy of Thelema is “What is my Will?” or “How do I know what my Will is?” The answer to this questions might initially be presumed to be answerable in the form of a sentence such as “my Will is to be a doctor” or “my Will is to eat this sandwich,” but this is not so, for this is to restrict the Will to the trappings of language and reason. The Will is the innermost Motion of one’s being, an individual expression of the Eternal Energy of the cosmos.

“The Way that can be named is not the Eternal Way.” [1]

To confine the Will to logical expression is to inherently assert a limit. Further, it assumes that one must have a logical reason for acting such-and-such way, but to do so would make one “fall down into the pit called Because” to “perish with the dogs of Reason.” [2] As the Beast remarked, “It is ridiculous to ask a dog why it barks,” [3] for this is simply an expression of its nature, not determined by any kind of rational process.

“One must fulfil one’s true Nature, one must do one’s Will. To question this is to destroy confidence, and so to create an inhibition… There is no ‘reason’ why a Star should continue in its orbit. Let her rip! Every time the conscious acts, it interferes with the Subconscious, which is Hadit. It is the voice of Man, and not of a God. Any man who ‘listens to reason’ ceases to be a revolutionary.” [4]

Again, to express one’s Will in terms of reason is to assert a limit. This is because of the inherently dualistic nature of not only logic & reason but language & thought themselves. To do this would be to drive a cleft into one’s being, fracturing it into multiplicity.

“Thoughts are false.” [5]

To experience and manifest one’s pure Will, one must not act out of notions of purpose nor out of desire for some pre-formed result or outcome. [6] Both of these things are manifestations of the dualistic mind and restrict one unnecessarily to the trappings of logic. The Will can only be the genuine and spontaneous manifestation of one’s inmost nature, the united whole of one’s being.

Since “the word of Sin is Restriction,” [7] the Will is certainly not deduced from the workings of the mind which, by its very nature, asserts division & separation and therefore restriction. When we clear away the morass of morality and the over-contemplated categories of metaphysics, the Will may more easily spring forward uninhibited.

“In logic there is a trace of effort and pain; logic is self-conscious. So is ethics, which is the application of logic to the facts of life… Life is an art, and like perfect art it should be self-forgetting; there ought not to be any trace of effort or painful feeling. Life… ought to be lived as a bird flies through the air or as a fish swims in the water. As soon as there are signs of elaboration, a man is doomed, he is no more a free being. You are not living as you ought to live, you are suffering under the tyranny of circumstances; you are feeling a constract of some sort, and you lose your independence… Not to be bound by rules, but to be creating one’s own rules…”[8]

And this last point is important because Thelema is not illogical in that it wishes reason to be entirely abolished, but rather it wishes that it be put in its rightful place, under the governance of the Will. The mind is a harsh master and a good mistress, for once one realizes that one’s Will is not amenable to the dualisms of thought, once freed from one’s earlier bonds of logic, one may again employ reason to one’s benefit in those circumstances that call for it.

“It is not the object… to look illogical for its own sake, but to make people know that logical consistency is not final, and that there is a certain transcendental statement that cannot be attained by mere intellectual cleverness… When we say ‘yes,’ we assert, and by asserting we limit ourselves. When we say ‘no,’ we deny, and to deny is exclusion. Exclusion and limitation, which after all are the same thing, murder the soul; for is it not the life of the soul that lives in perfect freedom and in perfect unity? There is no freedom or unity… in exclusion or in limitation.” [9]

Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131Here – outside logical dualisms, outside notions of ethics, purpose, and metaphysics – the Will can be known. This knowledge is not that of the mind which asserts duality – a knower and a thing known – but the experiential knowledge, the gnosis, of immersion in the flow of the world. Here the Eternal Will runs through oneself, is oneself, for “…mind, never at ease, creaketh “I”. / This I persisteth not, posteth not through generations, changeth momently, finally is dead. / Therefore is man only himself when lost to himself in The Charioting.” [10] Therefore, one ‘knows’ one’s Will in doing one’s Will. The Will that is not restricted by mental formulations springs freely from one’s innermost Self, crowned & conquering.

“Life is fact and no explanation is necessary or pertinent. To explain is to apologize, and why should we apologize for living? To live – is that not enough? Let us then live!” [11]

References

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[1] Lao Tsu, Tao Teh Ching, ch.1
[2] Liber AL vel Legis, II:27
[3] Aleister Crowley, The Law is For All, commentary to II:31
[4] Aleister Crowley, The Law is For All, commentary to II:30-31
[5] Aleister Crowley, The Book of Lies, ch.5
[6] A reference to Liber AL vel Legis, I:44, “For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.”
[7] Liber AL vel Legis, I:41
[8] D.T. Suzuki, Intro to Zen Buddhism, p.34
[9] D.T. Suzuki, Intro to Zen Buddhism, p.37
[10] Aleister Crowley, The Book of Lies, ch.8
[11] D.T. Suzuki, Intro to Zen Buddhism, p.41

Thelemic Thought-experiments

Thought-experiments in Thelema

Here are a couple of thought-experiments to ponder the intricacies of what many people take to be simple on the face of things… There is no “right” answer to any of these (although I definitely have my own answers) but are meant to bring some subtle complications to light

1) Addiction:
a) Suppose that someone is addicted to a substance or some behavior. Does this mean that they are
a priori NOT doing their Will?
b) If you answer yes: Suppose that this person conquers their addiction and therefore learns more about themselves – they learn about their limitations and the extent of their willpower. Now are they doing their Will?
c) Is the person doing their Will ‘better’ or ‘more completely’ because of this ordeal? If yes, then wouldn’t this imply that going through addiction is beneficial to the development of Will?

2) The problem of other Wills:
a) Suppose that person A does not enjoy what person B is doing. Does person A have a right to say that person B is not doing their Will?
b) Suppose that person A feels he is being infringed upon by what person B is doing, but person B feels she is doing their Will. Does person A have a right to say that person B is not doing their Will?
c) Suppose person A thinks person B is being irrational. Does person A have a right to say that person B is not doing their Will? Can person B point to the doctrines of Reason, Why, and Because being hindrances to assert her their position?
d) Is there any circumstance where person A can be sure about their right to tell person B that they are not doing their Will?
e) Is there any circumstance where person B can prove to person A that they are doing their Will?

3) Lust of result:
a) Suppose Person A wants circumstance X to come about (for example, getting an A on a test, retrieving groceries, getting a paycheck, wooing some person, etc.). Does this mean this person A suffers from ‘lust of result’? If so, should all desires for anything be destroyed?
b) Suppose Person A does not achieve circumstance X. Is Person A’s lamentation of this fact ‘lust of result’? Conversely: Suppose Person A does achieve circumstance X. Is Person A’s celebration of this fact ‘lust of result?’

4) Pure will & duality:
a) Suppose Person A has not attained to a Trance of Non-Duality/Unity. Is Person A
a priori not doing their Will? Not doing their Will to the full extent? Are there different extents of doing one’s Will or is it simply Doing your Will & Not doing your Will?
b) Suppose Person A has attained to a Trance of Non-Duality/Unity but has “come down” from it – back to duality. Is Person A not doing their Will while in duality? Does the Trance of Non-Duality/Unity help this person to do their Will ‘better’ or ‘more completely’?
c) Suppose Person A enjoys a constant Trance of Non-Duality/Unity. Is this person necessarily doing their Will?

5) Killing others:
a) Suppose Person A kills Person B. Was Person A
a priori not doing their Will?
b) Suppose Person A kills Person B out of self-defense. Was Person A not doing their Will?
c) Suppose Person A kills Person B because Person B is infringing on their rights (Liber OZ). Was Person A not doing their Will? Was Person B
a priori not doing their Will even if they think they are doing their Will?
d) Suppose Person A kills Person B because they BELIEVE Person B is infringing on their rights. Was Person A not doing their Will?
e) Suppose Person A kills Person B in a fit of ecstasy. Was Person A not doing their Will? Can Person A appeal to the ideas of Reason, Because, Why etc. being hindrances in justifying this act?
f) Suppose Person A decides to have an abortion. Was Person A not doing their Will? Suppose Person A knows that they do not have the means to support their baby. Was Person A not doing their Will in having an abortion?

6) A priori Will:
a) Is it possible to say
a priori that anyone else is not doing their Will in any circumstance? What circumstances?

Thelemic Blog Roundup 006

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Thelemic Blog Roundup 006

The Thelemic Blog Roundup is just a way to list the most recent blogs by Thelemites or about Thelema from around the internet that I have found interesting. Feel free to leave a comment to suggest other blogs & writings. Enjoy:

1. “The Source of Human Rights” by Sabazius X°

Sabazius writes a short examination of the source of human rights from a Thelemic point-of-view.

2. “The Master and his Promulgators (a short story)” by T Omphalos

A short story about the promulgation of the Law of Thelema, including the potential for people to try to recruit and train others in their own images rather than helping them to find their own unique Wills.

See also the essay “On the Promulgation and Establishment of the Law of Thelema” by T Omphalos which deals with similar issues in essay format.

3. “Viva a Sociedade Alternativa” by AC2012

The Aleister Crowley 2012 blog writes about Raul Seixas, a popular Brazilian musician, and his relation to Thelema.

See also AC2012’s “Guide to the Campaign Ad” which explains the references and symbolism in the popular Red State Update campaign ad for Aleister Crowley as president in 2012.

3. “The Beast against the Faith: First Article” by T Polyphilus

T Polyphilus writes regarding faith in his first installment of his comparison between Thelema and the points of Iman as defined in the Hadith of Gabriel.

4. “A Ritual of the Element of Earth” by T Omphalos

In The Book of the Law it says “Let the rituals be rightly performed with joy & beauty! There are rituals of the elements and feasts of the times…” Check out this ritual for the element of Earth that was written and performed by T Omphalos.

* * * * *

Check out the past installments of the Thelemic Blog Roundup:


Love is the law, love under will.

The Manifesto of Ra-Hoor-Khuit

The Manifesto of Ra-Hoor-Khuit

There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.

INTRODUCTION

This is a manifesto for every man and every woman who recognizes their own right to Divine Kingship, those who recognize themselves to be Stars.

The aim is the complete establishment of the Kingdom of Ra-Hoor-Khuit upon earth. That is, the permeating and infiltration of all facets of life with the sublime Word of Thelema.

This is the establishment of Life, Liberty, Love, and Light in the hearts of all men.

Let those who wish to aid the Crowned and Conquering Child in his manifestation first write the words “Do what thou wilt” upon their heart and soul. Now in this light let them read this Manifesto and bring “fresh fever from the skies.”

“Help me, o warrior lord of Thebes, in my unveiling before the Children of men!”  – Liber AL vel Legis I:5

ON THE PROPER SPIRIT

Let our actions not be out of regret, pity, malice, envy, jealousy, weariness, hate, or sorrow.

The proper spirit of this revolution is an overflowing of joy and strength.

See all obstacles, all threats, all intimidations, all criticisms as chances to Grow and exert your Will.

Life is a joyous battlefield wherein We Soldiers of Horus rejoice in conflict and strife. Could the artist’s statue be created and perfected without chiseling away the dross?

“Remember all ye that existence is pure joy… Beauty and strength, leaping laughter and delicious languor, force and fire, are of us… 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.”  – Liber AL vel Legis II:9,20,35,42-44

ON RELATIONS WITH THE WORLD

The knight-monks – the prince-priests and the hermit-soldiers – are the body of Ra-Hoor-Khuit’s Army. They are not the cloistered and emasculated hermits of old.

Although we too attain to the truth of Mystic Solitude wherein All is One and we proclaim, “I am alone: there is no God where I am” (AL II:23), we immerse ourselves into the fecundity of the world instead of retreating therefrom.

Work your jobs, do your duties, raise your children, laugh with friends, but let all these things, from the most important to the most trivial, be to the Glory of Ra-Hoor-Khuit!

“Behold! these be grave mysteries; for there are also of my friends who be hermits. Now think not to find them in the forest or on the mountain; but in beds of purple, caressed by magnificent beasts of women with large limbs, and fire and light in their eyes, and masses of flaming hair about them; there shall ye find them. Ye shall see them at rule, at victorious armies, at all the joy; and there shall be in them a joy a million times greater than this.”  – Liber AL vel Legis, II:24

ON MATERIAL THINGS

We are not to shun material objects, wealth, and power. They are not inherently evil nor are they “un-spiritual.”

Express your overflow of joy and beauty with fine robes, wine, headdresses, or whatever you will.

Feel no regret, guilt, or shame in your reckless expression of being Drunk with the Glory of Ra-Hoor-Khuit!

“Be goodly therefore: dress ye all in fine apparel; eat rich foods and drink sweet wines and wines that foam! Also, take your fill and will of love as ye will, when, where and with whom ye will! But always unto me… Ye shall gather goods and store of women and spices; ye shall wear rich jewels; ye shall exceed the nations of the earth in splendour & pride; but always in the love of me, and so shall ye come to my joy… Be strong, o man! lust, enjoy all things of sense and rapture: fear not that any God shall deny thee for this.” – Liber AL vel Legis, I:51, 61; II:22

ON THE WORK OF EACH SOLDIER

Every man, woman, and child who consciously accepts the word of the Law, “Do what thou wilt,” is certainly a warrior in the Army of Ra-Hoor-Khuit. Simply by existing and enacting the Law of Thelema in every circumstance, the stars of Force & Fire (each one of you) will spread the Law by their own example.

We must see the sublime beauty in Thelema’s answers to the conundrums of ethics, reasons, and metaphysics. Therefore must we constantly study the Holy Books of Thelema, especially Liber AL vel Legis, the Book of the Law.

The most important thing is to exude your overflow of strength, beauty, force and fire in a natural way. Do what thou wilt and let all around you see the joy you have in doing so!

“The excellence of the Law must be showed by its results upon those who accept it. When men see us as the hermits of Hadit described in [Liber AL], they will determine to emulate our joy.”  – Khabs am Pekht

A DAILY REGIMEN

One must make Thelema the center of one’s life, the locus of all meaning and motion. We may remind ourselves through rituals and feasts of all sorts.

But a truly effective Warrior of Life & Light must be strong and healthy in both mind and body.

“Wisdom says: be strong! Then canst thou bear more joy. Be not animal; refine thy rapture!”  – Liber AL vel Legis, II:70

Every warrior of Ra-Hoor-Khuit needs to exert themselves physically and mentally. We have no room for arm-chair dwellers who manipulate intellectual facts endlessly. Therefore every person should have a fair amount of physical exertion throughout their days.

“Establish at thy Kaaba a clerk-house; all must be done well and with business way.’”  – Liber AL vel Legis, III:41

Your Kaaba, your starry heart and essence of consciousness, must be established within a mind of great power and conciseness, arranged like a business with orderliness and detachment. Therefore practice meditation to make the mind a perfect instrument of the Will: perfect the skills of concentration and nonattachment.

Exercise your body and your mind with diligence but always strive unto higher goals and ideals. Never tire of competition and exceeding your own perceived limits.

“But exceed! exceed! Strive ever to more!” – Liber AL vel Legis, II:71-72

ON DEALING WITH OTHER FELLOW SOLDIERS

Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131Every person must be a pyramid: flawless from base to apex, sufficient unto themselves. Yet each Star is part of the Body of Infinite Space. Therefore make friends and enemies as ye will.

Our attitude to one another must be one of great respect like the chivalry from the West or bushido from the East. Thrill with the joy of vigorous competition and conflict yet always out of overflow of Will, strength, beauty, love, and rapture.

Therefore do not cover yourself to mask your true brilliance. Let the Sun of your Will shine effulgently on all things: care not that it will inevitably nourish some and destroy others.

But also do not fear losing your supposed “freedom” by banding together with other stars. Verily, a galaxy is an inconceivably potent source of gravitational force although it is, in reality, made up of individual stars…

Therefore make camps and lodges and groups and propagate the Spirit of Freedom, enshrined in the Word of the Law: Thelema.

“But the keen and the proud, the royal and the lofty; ye are brothers! As brothers fight ye!”  – Liber AL vel Legis, III:58-59

 

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The Philosophy of Thelema, pt.3: Ethics

Philosophy of Thelema

The proclamation “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” from Liber AL vel Legis (I:40) has especially profound implications in the sphere of morality. There is an immense amount of material on this topic throughout all of Crowley’s works.

Since “There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt” (Liber AL vel Legis III:60), the only “right” action is that which fulfills that Will and the only “wrong” action is that which thwarts that Will. As Liber AL vel Legis says (I:41), “The Word of Sin is Restriction.” Crowley explains that, “[This] is a general statement or definition of Sin or Error. Anything soever that binds the will, hinders it, or diverts it, is Sin” (The Law is For All). Essentially, any form of morality that works in absolutes, saying any quality is a priori “right” or “wrong” (or “evil”) is anathema to Thelema. “To us, then, ‘evil’ is a relative term; it is ‘that which hinders one from fulfilling his true Will'” (The Law is For All).

The attitudes toward oneself and others are necessary outgrowths of “Do what thou wilt.” Since “Thou hast no right but to do thy will” (Liber AL vel Legis I:42), the value of self-discipline helps one do one’s Will with one-pointedness. As Crowley explains, “What is true for every School is equally true for every individual. Success in life, on the basis of the Law of Thelema, implies severe self-discipline” (Magick Without Tears, ch.8). Further, since “Every man and every woman is a star” (Liber AL vel Legis I:3) and each star has its own unique path, each “star” is must pursue their own Will and avoid interference in the affairs of others. In short, mind your own business. “It is necessary that we stop, once for all, this ignorant meddling with other people’s business. Each individual must be left free to follow his own path” (The Law is For All). This consequently means there is total moral freedom, including sexual freedom. “Also, take your fill and will of love as ye will, when, where and with whom ye will!” (Liber AL vel Legis I:51). This is not “individualism run wild” – that is, it does not mean there is no possibility of government. The understanding in Thelema is that each star has its own particular function in the scheme of things and must perform that function with one-pointedness, and this can include one’s function in state affairs. “For every Individual in the State must be perfect in his own Function, with Contentment, respecting his own Task as necessary and holy, not envious of another’s. For so only mayst thou build up a free state, whose directing Will shall be singly directed to the Welfare of all” (Liber Aleph).

Aside from moving the locus of morality to the individual, making the Will the measure of what is “right” and “wrong,” Thelema does emphasize certain moral traits over others and views certain experiences as “good.”

One course of action that Thelema encourages is towards the attainment of Knowledge & Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, Union with God, the dissolution of the ego or any other metaphor used in mysticism. Crowley explains, “A man must think of himself as a LOGOS, as going, not as a fixed idea. ‘Do what thou wilt’ is thus necessarily his formula. He only becomes Himself when he attains the loss of Egoity, of the sense of separateness. He becomes All, PAN, when he becomes Zero [see the “Ontology” section of this essay]” (“The Antecedents of Thelema”). Crowley puts it plainly when he writes, “There are many ethical injunctions of a revolutionary character in the Book, but they are all particular cases of the general precept to realize one’s own absolute God-head and to act with the nobility which springs from that knowledge” (Confessions, ch.49). These attainments are understood to be available to anyone and to help one understand the world, oneself, and one’s will more completely.

A common moral theme in Thelema is strength over weakness. “Beauty and strength, leaping laughter and delicious languor, force and fire, are of us” (Liber AL vel Legis II:20). “My disciples are proud and beautiful; they are strong and swift; they rule their way like mighty conquerors. The weak, the timid, the imperfect, the cowardly, the poor, the tearful — these are mine enemies, and I am come to destroy them” (“Liber Tzaddi,” lines 24-25).

Consequently, Thelema has a different view on “compassion:” “This also is compassion: an end to the sickness of earth. A rooting-out of the weeds: a watering of the flowers” (“Liber Tzaddi,” line 26). “We have nothing with the outcast and the unfit: let them die in their misery. For they feel not. Compassion is the vice of kings: stamp down the wretched & the weak: this is the law of the strong: this is our law and the joy of the world” (Liber AL vel Legis II:21). That is, “compassion” is not understood to be the support of the weak but rather the opposite: the “rooting-out of the weeds” or the destruction of the weak and the “watering of the flowers” or the promotion of the strong. This is compassion because it is “an end to the sickness of earth.”

A different view of pity is also held in light of Thelema’s view that “Every man and every woman is a star” (Liber AL vel Legis I:3). Crowley writes, “Pity implies two very grave errors—errors which are utterly incompatible with the views of the universe above briefly indicated. The first error therein is an implicit assumption that something is wrong with the Universe… The second error is still greater since it involves the complex of the Ego. To pity another person implies that you are superior to him, and you fail to recognize his absolute right to exist as he is. You assert yourself superior to him, a concept utterly opposed to the ethics of Thelema—’Every man and every woman is a star’ and each being is a Sovereign Soul. A moment’s thought therefore will suffice to show how completely absurd any such attitude is, in reference to the underlying metaphysical facts” (“The Method of Thelema”). Also, “The Book of the Law regards pity as despicable… to pity another man is to insult him. He also is a star, ‘one, individual and eternal.’ The Book does not condemn fighting — ‘If he be a King, thou canst not hurt him'” (Confessions, ch.49).

This leads to another view which is that Thelema embraces conflict. “Despise also all cowards; professional soldiers who dare not fight, but play; all fools despise! But the keen and the proud, the royal and the lofty; ye are brothers! As brothers fight ye!” (Liber AL vel Legis III:57-59). “Lo, while in The Book of the Law is much of Love, there is no word of Sentimentality. Hate itself is almost like Love! ‘As brothers fight ye!” All the manly races of the world understand this. The Love of Liber Legis is always bold, virile, even orgiastic. There is delicacy, but it is the delicacy of strength” (“Liber II: The Message of the Master Therion”).

Thelema also enjoins the individual to rejoice because of life. A general theme of embracing and seeing the joy in all facets of life permeates Thelema. “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… But ye, o my people, rise up & awake! Let the rituals be rightly performed with joy & beauty! …a feast for life and a greater feast for death! 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… Write, & find ecstasy in writing! Work, & be our bed in working! Thrill with the joy of life & death!” (Liber AL vel Legis II:9, 19, 34-35, 41-44, 66); “There is joy in the setting-out; there is joy in the journey; there is joy in the goal” (“Liber Tzaddi,” line 22). This view of the world arises out of the metaphysical ideas [see the “Cosmology” section of this essay] that Thelema entertains. In short, “[Nuit] is the infinite in whom all we live and move and have our being. [Hadit] is eternal energy, the Infinite Motion of Things, the central core of all being. The manifested Universe comes from the marriage of Nuit and Hadit; without this could no thing be. This eternal, this perpetual marriage-feast is then the nature of things themselves; and therefore everything that is, is a crystallization of divine ecstasy” (“The Law of Liberty”).

Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131In the end one must remember “There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt” (Liber AL vel Legis III:60). All of these ideas are subservient to the central law of “Do what thou wilt.” This is the beauty of the word Thelema, that it implies such a succinct and sublime answer to the problems of morality while also having complex and intricate implications.

The Philosophy of Thelema, pt.2: Epistemology

Philosophy of Thelema

There are two stances on reason that are expounded in Liber AL vel Legis. The first stance is that reason must be subservient to Will and the second stance is the importance of direct experience over reason. These ideas about reason intertwine and support one another.

First, the Will is ‘supra-rational’ or beyond reason. The section in Liber AL vel Legis that deals with this comes from chapter 2,

“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!” (lines 27-34)

Here we have a curse upon “Because,” “Reason,” and “Why.” There is no “Why” or “Because” to Will: it simply GOES, it simply IS. Because we inhabit a world of Infinite Space and since reason can only work with finite ideas and quantities, then reason cannot express the Infinite purely and accurately. It is a “lie” because of this “factor infinite & unknown.” Crowley writes, “There is no ‘reason’ why a Star should continue in its orbit. Let her rip! …It is ridiculous to ask a dog why it barks. One must fulfil one’s true Nature, one must do one’s Will. To question this is to destroy confidence, and so to create an inhibition.” (The Law is For All, II:30-31) Therefore, reason should attend to its own business (solving problems of rationality) and allow the Will to flow uninhibited; otherwise, “One risks falling form the world of Will (‘freed from the lust of result’) to that of Reason” (Djeridensis Working, Liber AL II:30). Crowley continues, “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.” (The Law is For All, II:27). Also, “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” (“Djeridensis Working,” II:31).

Another claim is made in Liber AL vel Legis I:58, “I give unimaginable joys on earth: certainty, not faith, while in life, upon death; peace unutterable, rest, ecstasy; nor do I demand aught in sacrifice.” The Will does not require articles of faith to be accepted but rather asks that the individual rely on their experiences. It is the faith conferred by the direct experience of the”consciousness of the continuity of existence” (Liber AL vel Legis I:26) that is offered. Rational precepts are not proposed, debated over, accepted, and rejected but rather one attains various Trances and learn from one’s experiences. When one attains the “consciousness of the continuity of existence” (Liber AL vel Legis I:26) and becomes “chief of all” (Liber AL vel Legis I:23), the unity of this perception is not explainable by the duality of reason. In relation to this experience we find “there could be no reality in any intellectual concept of any kind, that the only reality must lie in direct experience of such a kind that it is beyond the scope of the critical apparatus of our minds. It cannot be subject to the laws of Reason; it cannot be found in the fetters of elementary mathematics; only transfinite and irrational conceptions in that subject can possibly shadow forth the truth in some such paradox as the identity of contradictories.” (Eight Lectures on Yoga) Crowley also says, “To have any sensible meaning at all, faith must mean experience… Nothing is any use to us unless it be a certainty unshakeable by criticism of any kind, and there is only one thing in the universe which complies with these conditions: the direct experience of spiritual truth. Here, and here only, do we find a position in which the great religious minds of all times and all climes coincide. It is necessarily above dogma, because dogma consists of a collection of intellectual statements, each of which, and also its contradictory, can easily be disputed and overthrown.” (Eight Lectures on Yoga) This perception of the world as continuous and unitary is not offered on faith but can be achieved and recognized as a certainty by those who attain thereto.

One other doctrine relating to reason that appears in Crowley’s writings but not explicitly in Liber AL vel Legis is the idea of the circularity of reason. Reason can only manipulate and work with articles of reason; this relates to what was said above because the problems in the sphere of reason should not usurp the power of or dictate actions to the sphere of Will. We have an example of this doctrine of the circularity of reason in “The Antecedents of Thelema” where Crowley writes, “All proofs turn out on examination to be definitions. All definitions are circular. (For a = bc, b = de … w = xy, and y = za.)” In this sense, reason deals with relations between illusion. This is certainly useful – science is a good example of this – but it doesn’t give us any powerful facts of the way things are. In a deeper sense, reason works within the realms of duality while the Will must remain one-pointed and therefore not mired in the relations of reason. Crowley writes further on this idea in the essay “Knowledge” in Little Essays Toward Truth, “All knowledge may be expressed in the form S=P. But if so, the idea P is really implicit in S; thus we have learnt nothing… S=P (unless identical, and therefore senseless) is an affirmation of duality; or, we may say, intellectual perception is a denial of Samadhic truth. It is therefore essentially false in the depths of its nature.” Reason is understood as simply the relation of words which point to other words, ad infinitum. Further, as mentioned above, because reason works with relations between ideas (the relation between ‘S’ and ‘P’ above), it affirms duality in the world. Two things can only be related in reason if they are distinct and therefore separate.

Again, all of these ideas about reason intertwine to give us a general picture of Thelema’s approach to the place of knowledge and reason. Essentially, the Will of the individual is beyond reason, or supra-rational, so one cannot ask “Why” of it or justify it with “Because.” Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131The individual must then constantly go forward and experience new and various things, not depending on articles of faith. Reason is a human faculty that allows us to manipulate & find the relations between finite facts and ideas. Because of this it must work within its own sphere (i.e. deal with problems of rationality like mathematics, science, etc.) while leaving the Will to act uninhibited. With this understanding, one can be guarded against reason when it asks “whence camest thou? Whither wilt thou go?” with the response “No whence! No whither! …Is there not joy ineffable in this aimless winging? Is there not weariness and impatience for who would attain to some goal?” (Liber LXV, II:21-22, 24)

The Philosophy of Thelema, pt.1: Metaphysics

Philosophy of Thelema

Introduction

There is an ongoing and perhaps eternal debate about whether Thelema is a religion, philosophy, or way of life (or all of them or none of them). In my view, Thelema certainly has something to offer the areas of both religion and philosophy. This essay will look at how Thelema approaches the classic divisions of philosophy including metaphysics (including ontology, cosmology, eschatology, and teleology), epistemology, and ethics.

Metaphysics is essentially the study of the nature of the world. It is traditionally split into ontology, cosmology, eschatology, and teleology.

Ontology: None & Two

Ontology is the study of being, existence, or reality. Thelema’s ontology is stated simply as “None and Two.” The world is understood as ‘Nothing’ or ‘Naught,’ which is something completely beyond all description and limit. In Liber AL vel Legis I:27, it is written “Then the priest answered & said unto the Queen of Space, kissing her lovely brows, and the dew of her light bathing his whole body in a sweet-smelling perfume of sweat: O Nuit, continuous one of Heaven, let it be ever thus; that men speak not of Thee as One but as None; and let them speak not of thee at all, since thou art continuous!” Many mystics have called it “Unity” but even this, some may argue, implies something as “not-One.” Crowley writes in “De Lege Libellum,” “All Things that are in Truth One Thing only, whose name hath been called No Thing.” From this comes the necessity of explaining the appearance of duality. Instead of a “Fall of Man” or an imprisonment of the soul in matter, Thelema explains the appearance of duality in this fashion: “None… and two. For I am divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union. This is the creation of the world, that the pain of division is as nothing, and the joy of dissolution all.” (Liber AL I:28-30). In this way, the many or divided are in such a position so they may become one and unite. This is given further explanation in Book of Lies ch.3 where it is written, “The Many is as adorable to the One as the One is to the Many. This is the Love of These; creation-parturition is the Bliss of the One; coition-dissolution is the Bliss of the Many. / The All, thus interwoven of These, is Bliss.”

…see also “Berashith” by Aleister Crowley, Magick Without Tears ch.5, Book of Lies ch.3, 12, and 46

 

Cosmology: Nuit, Hadit, Ra-Hoor-Khuit, and Stars

Cosmology deals with what the Universe is essentially. One might argue that there exist several similar but interchangeable cosmologies in Thelema: for example, the Creed of the Gnostic Mass gives a rudimentary cosmology, the “Matter in Motion” idea in the New Comment (to Chapter 1, Verse 1), and the Qabalistic understanding in chapter 0! of Book of Lies. In the end, the most widespread cosmology, and the one rooted in The Book of the Law, is the idea of Nuit, Hadit, and Ra-Hoor-Khuit. Thelema understands Nuit as Infinite Space which is “Heaven” that is occupied by various Points-of-View, or Hadit. Each star – “every man and every woman” – is in the Body of Infinite Space and has Hadit as its core, who is “the complement of Nu, my bride,” “the flame that burns in every heart of man, and in the core of every star,” as well as “Life, and the giver of Life.” These together create the Universe as we know it. “In the sphere [Hadit is] everywhere the centre, as [Nuit], the circumference, is nowhere found.” There are many interpretations of Nuit and Hadit – for example, with Nuit as matter and Hadit as motion and their interplay being the universe but the basic idea remains the same.

…see also Liber AL vel Legis ch.1 & 2, Book of Lies ch.0 & 11, the “Creed” of “The Gnostic Mass”

 

Eschatology: The destruction of the self & the dawning of the Aeon of Horus

Eschatology deals with the idea of end-times. There is certainly no Last Judgment in the philosophy of Thelema. In a sense, one can view the attainment of the Crossing of the Abyss, the destruction of the personality or ego, as the end-times of the ‘self’ and the waking to the Self. Another interpretation of eschatology is the “destruction of the world by fire” (which can also be interpreted in the former sense of the destruction of the self), which Crowley gives symbolically in Atu XX: Aeon of the Tarot. In this other interpretation, the world was “destroyed by fire” with the reception of Liber AL vel Legis in 1904. Crowley writes in The Book of Thoth, “The old card was called The Angel: or, The Last Judgment. It represented an Angel or Messenger blowing a trumpet, attached to which was a flag, bearing the symbol of the Aeon of Osiris… The card therefore represented the destruction of the world by Fire. This was accomplished in the year of the vulgar era 1904, when the fiery god Horus took the place of the airy god Osiris in the East as Hierophant.”

…see also The Book of Thoth “XX. The Aeon”

Teleology: Will

Teleology deals with the purpose or the understanding of the design of the universe. In Thelema, the teleology is clearly one of “Will.” One might contrast the teleology of Thelema with that of Schopenhauer’s Will-to-Life and Nietzsche’s Will-to-Power, where Thelema understands it as a Will-to-Love. All experiences and events are occurrences of two things uniting into a third. Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131The necessary formula of each star is then “love under will” – to find that Will and do it. Just as each star has its particular orbit in the macrocosm of space, every man and every woman has their particular Way on earth. As Crowley writes in the introduction to Liber AL vel Legis, “Each action or motion is an act of love, the uniting with one or another part of “Nuit”; each such act must be ‘under will,’ chosen so as to fulfil and not to thwart the true nature of the being concerned.”

Active Thelema, pt. 2: The Formula of the Child is Continual Growth

Nuit Infinite Space and the Infinite Stars thereof

“[In the Aeon of] Horus, the child… we come to perceive events as a continual growth…” -Aleister Crowley, Introduction to the Book of the Law

This new Aeon of human existence is a new dawn of a shift in our point-of-views. With the reception of Liber AL vel Legis, or the Book of the Law, in 1904 by Aleister Crowley, the paradigm of Thelema was brought to the world. Only a year after, Einstein had his famous “miracle year” which revolutionized physics and brought us, among other things, the special theory of relativity. Less than two decades later, quantum mechanics would spring onto the scene with full force and lead to technological achievements like transistors, computers, and A-bombs. In this century, not only were protons, neutrons, and quarks discovered, but so was the double-helix structure of DNA, genes, and other biological advances like stem-cell and cloning. There was the rise of psychology and neurology. There were incredible leaps in transportation (e.g. personal cars and commercial airliners) and communication (e.g., cell phones and the Internet). With the turn of the 21st century, it is an exciting time as ever to exist with much amazing growth remaining possible ahead of us.

Horus the Crowned and Conquering Child as Harpocrates

Consider how much growth has happened to the human race in the last century, especially in terms of the advances in physics, biology, and technology. Consider one’s own development and how much growth one has gone through physically, emotionally, and intellectually.

 

One may recognize the immense amount of growth that occurred in the period when one was a child. Childhood is a time of great openness and vitality, among other things. Being in this New Aeon of the Crowned & Conquering Child, each person may (much to their benefit) identify with this symbol of a child.

Now let us consider the characteristics of a child:

Openness to Experience

Ever-renewed Vitality & Resilience

and most importantly…

Ever-continuing Growth

As a symbol of this ideal, Thelema has Horus, the Egyptian sky and sun god, especially under the form of “Ra-Hoor-Khuit” (Ra-Horakhty was a synthesis of the gods of Ra and Horus in ancient times). Speaking in terms of the occult mysteries, Aleister Crowley writes in “Liber Samekh,”

“In the Neophyte Ritual of Golden Dawn (As it is printed in Equinox I, II, for the old aeon) the Hierophant is the perfected Osiris, who brings the candidate, the natural Osiris, to identity with himself. But in the new Aeon the Hierophant is Horus (Liber CCXX, I, 49) therefore the Candidate will be Horus too. What then is the formula of the initiation of Horus? It will no longer be that of the Man, through Death. It will be the natural growth of the Child. His experiences will no more be regarded as catastrophic. Their hieroglyph is the Fool: the innocent and impotent Harpocrates Babe becomes the Horus Adult by obtaining the Wand. ‘Der reine Thor’ seizes the Sacred Lance. Bacchus becomes Pan.” (emphasis added)

In the occult mysteries, one formerly identified with a form of the ideal man which was typified by the dying-and-resurrecting form – in this case it is the Egyptian Osiris. Now the ideal is the child with the formula of Ever-continual Growth. Just as dawn is understood to always follow the ordeals of midnight and spring always follows the ordeals of winter, we understand that all psychological ordeals – including the ‘death of the ego’ – are not catastrophic (although they, like the hour of midnight and the season of winter may seem so while living through them), but are in fact part of our Ever-continual Growth. But Thelema doesn’t just deal with the occult mysteries because, as mentioned at the beginning of this essay, Thelema is an all-encompassing paradigm and it is advantageously applicable to all facets of life. Thelemites therefore are open to all experience, however much joy or suffering may arise because all things are accepted as part of “love under will;” all experiences of all degrees add to one’s being. Crowley wrote in “Liber Tzaddi,”

My adepts stand upright; their head above the heavens, their feet below the hells.

This line perfectly captures the Thelemite’s acceptance of all facets of oneself, from the most apparently hellish to the most divine, and also all facets of Nature, spanning all degrees of beauty and terribleness.Consider how, in your life, certain events that seemed to be a time of great trouble (physically, financially, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually) eventually faded away into greater strength, energy, and insight. Consider how the events that seemed wonderful or even divine have transpired and what they have added to one’s experience. Ask oneself: how does integrating these diverse experiences of both joy & sadness into a coherent whole allow me to perform my Will more effectively?

Again, in “Liber Samekh” Crowley writes about how experience is necessary for the individual, “All experiences contribute to make us complete in ourselves. We feel ourselves subject to them so long as we fail to recognise this; when we do, we perceive that they are subject to us… To live is to change; and to oppose change is to revolt against the law… which govern[s] our lives.” Consider the many times one has needed to do something or been forced to do something that one did not want to (e.g. fold your laundry, take an entrance exam, go to the dentist, travel to a foreign country). How many times was your immediate desire (i.e. to leave the dentist’s office) in conflict with longer goals (i.e. to have healthy teeth)? How has pushing oneself to have experiences, however undesirable and uncomfortable, led to increased understanding, knowledge, strength, and adaptability?

Two different news articles have recently been released (late 2007) on the subject of growth and a ‘growth mind-set’ and its various advantages. In one case, the psychologist Carol Dweck has seen that kids who have a ‘growth mind-set’ – meaning they believe that their intelligence is mutable and liable to growth as opposed to static and unchanging – perform better in school. In another instance, Scientific American investigated the fact that, “teaching people to have a ‘growth mind-set,’ which encourages a focus on effort rather than on intelligence or talent, produces high achievers in school and in life.” These two subtly different views – one where seeing intelligence as mutable is beneficial and the other where emphasizing effort over intellect is beneficial – see the advantage of what they both label as a “growth mind-set.”

Continuing with the attributes of this ideal symbol of Horus, “the Crowned and Conquering Child,” Crowley writes in his Confessions, “The child is not merely a symbol of growth, but of complete moral independence and innocence.” This subject of morality in Thelema, related to the symbol of the child, growth, and innocence, has been treated more fully in the essay “Thelemic Values: a new view of morality” (forthcoming). We may then focus on how “innocence” is also characteristic of the Child.

Father Pan and Mother Moon with Horus the Crowned and Conquering ChildThe “innocence” of the formula of the Child in Thelema is certainly not the uninformed, unexperienced innocence of actual children but refers to their point-of-view. Children are much less unimpeded by the imposed values from their family, friends, and society. Not only are their values less imposed but even their very basic way of understanding the world is unclouded by preformed opinions, systems, and maps. Instead, the “innocence” of a Child – which is, again, an ideal that all Thelemites can advantageously identify with – refers to its openness. The child is open to experience, as mentioned previously as one of the characteristics of the Child, and is open to new and different ways of perceiving ideas. Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131This openness to physical experiences and mental ideas ties directly back into the formula of the Child being Ever-continuing Growth. It is this innocent openness which allows us to submerge our feet in the deepest hells and raise our heads to the highest heavens. Instead of fearing our comfortable balance may be lost, Thelemites push ever onward to new horizons, invigorated by the seemingly infinite possibilities and potential symbolized by the starry night sky of Nuit.