Magick

Rituals of the Elements: Vernal Equinox

The Rituals of the Elements: Vernal Equinox

Introduction

It is written in Liber AL vel Legis II:36, “There are rituals of the elements and feasts of the times.” Crowley comments, “The entry of the Sun into the cardinal signs of the elements at the Equinoxes and Solstices are suitable for festivals. The difference between ‘rituals’ and ‘feasts’ is this: by the one a particular form of energy is generated, while there is a general discharge of one’s superfluous force in the other. Yet a feast implies periodical nourishment.” This cycle of dramatic rituals are therefore invocations. They are intended to generate energy at the entrance of the Sun into the cardinal signs of elements at the four quarters of the year, i.e. the Equinoxes and Solstices.

The entire cycle of rituals simultaneously show:

  1. The macrocosmic cycle of the Sun going through the seasons
  2. The microcosmic cycle of Man going through the generations/Incarnation (birth/youth-adulthood-old age-death).
  3. The process of Attainment from 0=0 to 8=3 and back again.

The energies of each ritual correspond to each of these planes at once:

Equinox and Solstice rituals

Each ritual invokes a particular energy. Each ritual has a particular Word of Power associated therewith and it is intoned in between the scenes. The Word also appears once in each ritual within a particular Scene.

Each of the four rituals has 3 scenes for a total of 12 scenes for the entire cycle, one for each of the signs of the Zodiac. The middle scene of each ritual is the sign of the Equinox or Solstice – for example, the middle scene in Autumn is Libra. The first scene is therefore Virgo, the sign before Libra, and the last scene is Scorpio, the sign after Libra. In general, the first scene represents events leading up to the Equinox or Solstice, the middle scene represents the actual turning-point, and the last scene represents events leading to the next Equinox or Solstice.

The Basic Characters

  • (☉/♂) Priest/King – the conscious Self. The Child who grows to become King who attains and becomes a Priest and then dies and is reborn as the Child.
  • (☽/♀) Priestess/Queen the Non-Self (the unconscious self, the “higher self,” etc.)The  Mother of the Child, the Queen/Beloved of the King, the High Priestess of the Priest.
  • (+ and -) 2 Children – the duality of the World. Various roles throughout the entire cycle.
  • () The People (participants) – the inhabitants of the World; they identify (at least their conscious selves) with the Priest.


Mucha Winter SolsticeTHE VERNAL EQUINOX CEREMONY

Also known as “The Bornless Reborn”

The Word of this ceremony is ‘VIAOV.’ It is repeatedly intoned in between scenes by the People/Congregants. The Incense of this ceremony is Frankincense1 and/or Rose.2 The Talisman of this ceremony are fresh, Spring flowers.3

SCENE I: Pisces.
End of Winter, the Final Lamentations of the Mother

[MUSIC: The last ~2 minutes of Alexander Glazunov’s “Winter” from “The Seasons,” which continues the song that ended the Winter ceremony]

The Queen is the Mother4, lamenting the death of the King at the tomb in the West5. + and – stand in the East in front of the dais as forms of Anubis6, looking to the West at the Queen. The Obelisks are still broken.

[MUSIC: Sounds of wind howling/storm fade in and overpower the music]

MOTHER: Sterility is my name, and desolation.

+: Intolerable is thine ache

–: And incurable thy wound.

MOTHER: I said, Let the darkness cover me; and behold, I am compassed about with the blackness that hath no name.7

+: The sun has become black!

–: The moon has become as blood!8

MOTHER: All that was ordered and stable is shaken!9 The winter storm has plunged our kingdom into darkness.

The Queen pauses and listens to the howling winds.

MOTHER: The mystery, the evil darkness of these incoherent cries, sets my teeth on edge with horror. And yet I cannot give up the hope which thrilled me at the Voice.10 But so keen, so desolate, so deadly is the pain of my spirit that blank darkness overwhelms me altogether.11

+: Yet there was a star in sight…

–: A star of hope arose…

MOTHER: Yet fell back into the darkness of the waters!12 A Star in the West? What folly!13 The King has left no heir and I fear we may wallow in this darkness forever. This discipline is sorrowful…

+: And ploughing is laborious…

–: And age is weariness…14

MOTHER: I sink through waves of blackness… down!

The Queen falls down.

+: Down!

+ falls down.

–: Down!15

falls down.

MOTHER: In this Kingdom of the Grave, there is no light or knowledge.

+: Nor beauty.

–: Nor stability.

MOTHER: The worm is crowned!

The Queen places her crown on the ground.

MOTHER: All that we have been hath been eaten up! All that we shall be is nothing!16

+: The darkness of the earth is ruddy.

–: The darkness of the air is grey.

MOTHER: The darkness of the soul is utter blackness.17

The Mother laments and, with each wave of sobs and cries of pain18, the thunder of the storm gets louder and longer, an earthquake19 rumbles stronger and stronger.

+: The Queen is sore distressed!20

–: Who is now set to save us?21

+: Is not the egg of spirit a black egg?

–: Is not the snake that devoureth the spirit of man the lust of light?22

+ stands up while saying:

+: Let us beseech the Babe that abides in the egg!

stands up while saying:

–: Let us invoke the Son of Morning hidden in the Lotus!23

+ and – walk to the West and gather on opposite sides of the Mother. + turns around, and + and circle the Queen widdershins (counter-clockwise) while vibrating VIAOV three times. During the first vibration, + and – are in the Sign of Isis Mourning; during the second vibration, they are in the Sign of Apophis; during the third vibration, they are in the Sign of Osiris Risen; there are a total of 9 widdershins circumambulations.24

+ & –: VIAOV. VIAOV. VIAOV.

The King is hidden inside the Veil in the East. The Music gets quieter for a moment.

KING: In the thick darkness the seed awaiteth spring.25

END SCENE

[MUSIC: The thunderstorm continues and gets louder.]

Congregants repeatedly intone ‘VIAOV’ in between scenes.

SCENE II: Aries.
The Vernal Re-Birth of the Father in the Child

[MUSIC: The storm continues to rumble with thunder.]

The King is still behind the Veil. The Obelisks are stood upright and in front of the Veil.

The Queen gives + a Dagger and – a Disk.26

KING: Let the Illusion of the World pass over thee, unheeded, as thou goest from the Midnight to the Morning!27

+: It is He! The Bornless Spirit!28

–: It is He that lighteneth and thundereth!29

The Mother rises.

[The sound of the storm begins to fade away]

MOTHER: It is He! The Truth!30 He is risen!31

+: He is exalted!

–: He is great!

+: Glory to God!

–: Thanksgiving to God!32

MOTHER: There is no god but man.33

[MUSIC: Sound of lightning and “OM” intoned]

The Mother gives the Sign of Isis Rejoicing,34 and there is a flash of lightning.35 +, –, and the Mother all kneel in awe as the Child emerges. The King is seen as the Child36 in the East37 in the attitude of Resurrection,38 dressed in Green39 or Rose-pink40 or plant-life with a golden sash around his chest,41 and he carries fresh flowers in both hands. + holds up the Dagger42 and – holds up the Disk43; they then both kneel and adore the Child when he begins his speech.44

KING: “I am that I am, the flame / Hidden in the sacred ark. / I am the unspoken name / I the unbegotten spark. / I am He that ever goeth, / Being in myself the Way; / Known, that yet no mortal knoweth, / Shewn, that yet no mortal sheweth, / I, the child of night and day. / I am never-dying youth. / I am Love, and I am Truth. / I am the creating Word, / I the author of the aeon; / None but I have ever heard / Echo in the empyrean / Plectron of the primal paean! / I am the eternal one / Winged and white, the flowering rod, / I the fountain of the sun, Very God of very God! / I am he that lifteth up / Life, and flingeth it afar; / I have filled the crystal cup; / I have sealed the silver star. / I the wingless God that flieth / Through my firmamental fane, / I am he that daily dieth, / And is daily born again.”45 VIAOV!46

The King looks to + and – who are kneeling in supplicated adoration.

KING: Fear not; I am the first and the last; I am he that liveth and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, for I have the keys of hell and of death.47 Kneel not in supplication, for I am your fellowservant. You are my brother [he raises + to his feet, takes the Dagger in his right hand, and gives + half of the flowers] and my sister [he raises – to her feet, takes the Disk in his left hand, and gives – the other half of the flowers]. Worship Thyself!”48

The King stands in the Sign of Osiris Risen, holding the Dagger and Disk against his shoulders. + and – go around and give each of the Congregants a flower with the words “Worship Thyself!”

[MUSIC: Part of “Appalachian Spring” by Copland]

When complete, + and – return, place any extra flowers on the High Altar in the East, and take back the Dagger and Disk, respectively. The King then approaches the West to comfort his awe-struck Mother. + and – go with him, flanking him.

KING: Mother, you mourn sincerely, but your sorrow has no cause. The change which ye lament is the life of my rejoicing, and the sorrow that blackeneth your heart is the myriad deaths by which I am renewed.49 Grieve neither for the living nor for the dead. There has never been a time when you and I and all the stars gathered here have not existed, nor will there be a time when we will cease to exist.50 Wipe the tears from your eyes.

+: There is no death!

–: There is no sorrow!

+: There is no crying!

–: Nor is there pain.51

KING: 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.52 I am the Eternal Sun, the motionless axle of the cycle of night and day, constant and triumphant throughout the changing seasons. Realize you are That which pervades the universe and is indestructible; no power can affect this unchanging, imperishable reality. Even in the face of death, you should not grieve. Death is inevitable for the living; birth is inevitable for the dead. Since these are unavoidable, you should not sorrow… There is none that shall be cast down or lifted up: all is ever as it was53 … there is no sin, and there is no salvation54… Death means the attainment of heaven, and life means the enjoyment of the earth. Therefore, rise up, Mother, and resolve to rejoice!55

MOTHER: Behold! where are now the darkness and the terror and the lamentation? For we are born into the new Aeon; we shall not suffer death… In the nights we will dance together, and in the morning we will go forth to war; for, as my King liveth that was dead, so do you live now and shall never die!56

END SCENE.

[MUSIC: Alexander Glazunov’s “Spring” from “The Seasons,” fade in starting from ~1:00.]

Congregants repeatedly intone ‘VIAOV’ in between scenes. 

SCENE III: Taurus.
The growth of the Body in Boyhood, the equilibration of the Elements

The future King is a youth, growing into adolescence. He is counseled by the Mother to grow in preparation for the Child to take the throne as King: he is taught to balance the Elements57 in the form of attainment of the 4 Powers of the Sphinx:58 To Know, To Will, To Dare, To Keep Silence. The Mother leads the Child around to each Quarter.59

MOTHER: Ah, my son! You are like a hawk with mighty-sweeping wings of mother-of-emerald. The very earth gladdens into green at your coming. Children of Earth! Rejoice! Rejoice exceedingly, for our salvation is at hand. The end of sorrow is come!60

KING: I am still but a child, innocent and impotent.61 How should I ever become deserving to take my Father’s throne?

MOTHER: You must first become worthy to seize the Sacred Lance of his power.62 The temple must be builded before the God can indwell it.63 Strengthen thyself! Set thy feet firmly upon the earth.64 Tend the garden of your soul!65

KING: Heavy is the labour, but great indeed is the reward.

MOTHER: You shall not see the reward,66 but you must tend the garden. Who can tell upon what day a flower shall bloom?67 In the impure Soul no Vision will arise, therefore cleanse the Soul68: balance the Elements within oneself: You must achieve the Four Powers of the Sphinx, though even adepts hardly attain to one of them!69

The Mother leads the Child-King to the West where + stands as representing the threat of unbalanced introversion. – stands in the East.

+: The wiles of the world are a plague upon the spirit! Build yourself up as a fortress to withstand the poisonous attacks of sense.70

The King looks to the Mother for guidance.

MOTHER: Be strong, o man! lust, enjoy all things of sense and rapture: fear not that any God shall deny thee for this. Exceed! Exceed! Strive ever to more! Love is the law, love under will.71

The Mother gives the Sign of the Enterer,72 and the King turns back to + to give the Sign of the Enterer himself.

MOTHER: My Child, the Power of Daring is in your heart, coiled and ready to leap!Springcircle_1

[MUSIC: Fade in “Mars” by Holst during circumambulations and fade out before the next line is spoken]

The Mother leads the Child-King 1¼ deosil/clockwise circumambulations while + moves widdershins-counter-clockwise ¾ circle (– mirrors movements of + on the opposite side of the circle; + ends in the North and – in the South); King and Queen come to the North where + stands as representing external Tyranny. The King faces + with the Mother behind him and to the side, guiding him.

+: Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother! Thou shalt not commit adultery!73

The King looks to the Mother for guidance.

MOTHER: Thou hast no right but to do thy will. Do that, and no other shall say nay.74

The Mother gives the Sign of Silence,75 and the King turns back to + to give the Sign of Silence himself.

MOTHER: My Child, the Power of Knowledge grows within you!springcircle_2

[MUSIC: Fade in “Mars” by Holst during circumambulations and fade out before the next line is spoken]

The Mother leads the Child-King 1½ deosil/clockwise circumambulations; + and – do not move. The King and Queen come to the South where – stands as representing unbalanced extroversion. The King faces – with the Mother behind him and to the side, guiding him.

–: Be not lead into temptation, beware of your prideful sins!76 Love is charity and sacrifice to others.

The King looks to the Mother for guidance.

MOTHER: Ye shall be as ye are, & not other. Therefore the kings of the earth shall be Kings for ever: the slaves shall serve.77

The Mother gives the Sign of Silence,78 and the King turns back to – to give the Sign of Silence himself.

MOTHER: My Child, do not give overly of yourself to others in thought, word, or deed; Knowledge, Will, and Courage are for naught if you do not Keep Silence!

[MUSIC: Fade in “Mars” by Holst during circumambulations and fade out before the next line is spoken]

springcircle_3The Mother leads the Child-King ¾ deosil/clockwise circumambulations while – moves widdershins-counter-clockwise ¼ circle (+ mirrors movements of – on the opposite side of the circle; – ends in the East and + in the West); King and Queen come to the East where – stands as representing internal Tyranny. The King faces – with the Mother behind him and to the side, guiding him.

–: Who art thou that dost float and fly and dive and soar in the inane? Behold, these many æons have passed; whence camest thou? Whither wilt thou go?79

The King looks to the Mother for guidance.

MOTHER: 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.80

The Mother gives the Sign of the Enterer,81 and the King turns back to – to give the Sign of the Enterer himself.

MOTHER: My Child, you have begun to unfold the Power of Will. There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.82

The Mother takes off the King’s green/rose-pink tabard.83 + takes the tabard from the Queen; + and Queen move to the East to join –, and + places the tabard in the East.

The Queen retrieves the Lance from the High Altar. + and – move to the center, The King in the West, the Mother in the East, + in the South, and – in the North so that all four individuals form a circle or diamond in the center, all facing inwards.

+: You have passed through each of the quarters.

–: You have become an adherent, a Man of Earth.84

+ holds the Lance upright in the center. +, –, and the Mother all intone a syllable of “IAO.” The Mother begins with “I,” and while she is still intoning, + begins to vibrate “A,” and – vibrates “O” so that all three are vibrated at once. Finally, the King vibrates “VIAOV” and they all end at the same time.

QUEEN: I!

+ holds the Lance with the Mother while intoning:

+: A!

holds the Lance with the Mother and + while intoning:

–: O!

The King grabs the Lance and raises it while the Mother, +, and – all let go, all while the King intones:

KING: VIAOV!

+ and – turn to flank the Mother while facing toward the King.

KING: Am I not nearly purged of the iniquity of my forefathers?

MOTHER: Yet a little…85 This is only the first step upon the Path of the Great Work. Our Kingdom is still in danger: the Lower Kingdom threatens us where the Daughter of their King still rules. You must now leave me: win your own adulthood by winning a worthy Queen, and reclaim your rightful place as King.86 Go now, with ecstasy of worship in your heart.

+: With a clear mind.

–: And a passionate body.87

MOTHER: Go now, and may you grow to be a great King!

+: May you wax strong in spirit.

–: May you be filled with wisdom!88

[MUSIC: Fade in “Mars” from “The Planets, op.32” by Gustav Holst, starting from ~3:45]

KING: I shall find the Daughter of the King89 and she will become my bride! The voluptuous Virgin of Night will illumine my soul with arcane delight!90 Our Upper Kingdom will be united with the Lower once more: I shall set her upon the Throne of my Mother91 and the whole earth will rejoice.92

The King raises his Lance and marches to the West and into the Tomb.

END SCENE.

[OUTRO MUSIC: Play out “Mars” for about 2-3 minutes.]

1 In 777, Frankincense is attributed to Tiphareth (the Sun) and to the Element of Fire, which rules the Vernal Equinox because it occurs in the sign of Aries.

2 In 777, Rose is attributed to Tiphareth in the King Scale of Color, and it is also “traditionally been taken as [a] glyph of the circle” which refers in this case to the circle or cycle of the Seasons itself.

3 This represents vegetative Growth, the “Green Man” of Spring, and the general flowering of Beauty after lying fallow during the darkness of Winter.

4 Isis mourning Osiris/Mary mourning Jesus; Isis Mourning (L) of the INRI/LVX/IAO formula

5 The Sun sets in the West and therefore represents Death.

6 Atu XVIII: The Moon.

7 The Vision and the Voice, 14th Aethyr.

8 These lines are adapted from Revelation 6:12.

9 The Vision and the Voice, 16th Aethyr.

10 In terms of these Seasonal rites, “the hope which thrilled me” refers to the Star of the Redeemer appearing at the end of the Winter Solstice ceremony, i.e. in Aquarius, which directly precedes this particular scene.

11 The Heart of the Master.

12 A reference to the Star of the Redeemer that appeared at the end of the Winter Solstice ceremony, i.e. in Aquarius.

13 The Heart of the Master.

14 Adapted from The Vision and the Voice, 28th Aethyr, where it refers to the dispersion of the Abyss.

15 The Vision and the Voice, 16th Aethyr.

16 Adapted from The Vision and the Voice, 14th Aethyr.

17 The Vision and the Voice, 14th Aethyr.

18 These are the pangs of birth.

19 A reference to Revelation 6:12, “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood.”

20 An adaptation of Liber LXV, I:38.

21 An adaptation of Liber LXV, I:37.

22 The Vision and the Voice, 14th Aethyr.

23 These two lines are adapted from The Vision and the Voice, 14th Aethyr, “The voice of the Crowned Child, the Speech of the Babe that is hidden in the egg of blue… Rejoice with me, O ye Sons of the Morning; stand with me upon the Throne of Lotus…”

24 The three vibrations of the threefold word “VIAOV” (the V’s are silent) give 9 total syllables that are intoned, symbolic of the 9 months of the Child in the womb. They do not necessarily need to perform 9 circumambulations but it would strengthen the symbolism.

25 The Vision and the Voice, 15th Aethyr.

26 The Mother is the source of the mind (Dagger) and body (Disk) of the Child, which are given to Him in order that he may incarnate or “manifest.”

27 From Crowley’s The Heart of the Master.

28 He is the “Bornless Spirit” because the True Self is never born nor does it ever die, yet it enters into incarnation or manifestation – represented by the four seasons and four Elements – in order to experience Itself.

29 It is seen that the storm is the Child itself, no longer a source of fear but a signal of the divine presence. As it says in the Holy Book of Thelema known as Liber A’ash, “Fear not when I fall in the fury of the storm; for mine acorns are blown afar by the wind; and verily I shall rise again, and my children about me, so that we shall uplift our forest in Eternity. Eternity is the storm that covereth me.”

30 This exchange comes from Liber Samekh, Section Gg. “The Truth” is a name Christ gives to himself and it is also one of the many names of Allah. Mansur al-Hallaj – a Persian Sufi of the 9th and 10th centuries C.E. – attained this identity with Godhead and he was promptly killed for blasphemy when he proclaimed “I am the Truth.”

31 “He is risen” comes from what is called the “Paschal greeting.” On Easter, certain Christians will greet each other by saying “Christ is risen” and the response is “Truly, He is risen!” Easter, i.e. the Resurrection, corresponds to the Vernal Equinox ceremony insofar as the Father is resurrected in the Son in this Season.

32 This exchange is adapted from The Vision and the Voice, 15th Aethyr. “Exalted” and “great” are qualities or titles of the 5th Sephirah, Geburah, while “glory” and “thanksgiving” (the literal translation of eucharistos) are qualities or titles of the 4th Sephirah, Chesed. Together with Tiphareth, the Sun, they form the descending triangle of Ra-Hoor-Khuit, the Crowned and Conquering Child.

33 This line comes from Liber LXXVII: Liber OZ, and is switched in here for “There is no god but god,” which occurs in the 15th Aethyr. It is thus, in one sense, a development from the Muslim proclamation of faith insofar as the human being is understood to be the true God. It is said here by the Queen almost as a correction to the paeans being made by + and –.

34 The final sign of the NOX series, Mater Triumphans; it signifies the completion of the crossing of the Abyss to be born as Nemo

35 Lightning represents (a) Incarnation or Manifestation, i.e. the Qabalistic Lightning Flash ; (b) the birth of the Zarathustran Overman as in “Where is the lightning to lick you with its tongue? Where is the frenzy with which ye should be inoculated? Lo, I teach you the Superman: he is that lightning, he is that frenzy!-”; it is also therefore the birth of the Child of Attainment, i.e. Nemo in the City of the Pyramids; he is also the birth of the demi-god Savior as in, for example, the stories of Christ or Buddha (c) the Thelemic image of the generative force as in Liber A’ash, “Gnarled Oak of God! In thy branches is the lightning nested! Above thee hangs the Eyeless Hawk” and throughout Liber VII. It is therefore the Incarnation of the Spirit into Man and the birth of the Savior into the World, the Master of the Temple being cast from Binah back down into Malkuth to restart the cycle. The idea also relates to an aphorism from the Chaldean Oracles, “If thou often invokest thou shalt see all things growing dark; and then when no longer is visible unto thee the High-arched Vault of Heaven, when the Stars have lost their Light and the Lamp of the Moon is veiled, the Earth abideth not, and around thee darts the Lightning Flame and all things appear amid thunders.”

36 The Green Man/Pure Fool of Spring and youthful folly; also the Crowned & Conquering Child Horus

37 The East is where the Sun rises and therefore represents Birth.

38 The Sign of Osiris Risen with arms crossed over the chest; it is the sign of Life triumphant over Death.

39 This refers to the re-emergence of plant life after Winter and is reflected in many traditions, e.g. the Green Man, the green color of Osiris’ skin, or Atu 0: The Fool in the Thoth Tarot.

40 Rose-pink is a color of Tiphareth, the Sun, specifically “the rose-pink of dawn, the spring of the day” (777).

41 Revelation 1:13, “And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.”

42 The Dagger is the weapon of Air and therefore symbolizes the bestowing of a Mind as a weapon to work his Will. It also reflects the Scourge, i.e. of Geburah/Mars that Osiris traditionally holds.

43 The Disk is the weapon of Earth and therefore symbolizes the bestowing of a Body as a weapon of work his Will. It also reflects the Crook, i.e. of Chesed/Jupiter that Osiris traditionally holds.

44 This is Baphomet, the Two-in-One God, who is seen as Christ the Redeemer in Revelation 1, the Alpha & Omega.

45 “The Ship: A Mystery Play” by Crowley

46 VIAOV represents the V passing through the cycle of Incarnation (IAO), triumphant and sustained by the process rather than it being a catastrophe. It represents the triumph of Life/Hadit through apparent death.

47 An adaptation of Revelation 1:17-18.

48 An adaptation of Revelation 22:9, “Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets,and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.” The switch from “God” to “Thyself” represents the switch in perspective of the New Aeon of the Crowned and Conquering Child.

49 This particular line comes from The Vision and the Voice, 23rd Aethyr.

50 An adaptation of chapter 2 of Bhagavad Gita

51 Adapted from Revelation 21:4.

52 Liber AL II:9

53 Liber AL II:58.

54 This one line comes from The Vision and the Voice, 26th Aethyr.

55 An adaptation of more of chapter 2 of Bhagavad Gita

56 Adapted from The Vision and the Voice, 22nd Aethyr.

57 The 4 Elements are seen around the edges of Atu V: The Hierophant to which is attributed the sign of Taurus.

58 This arduous work of winning mastery over the Elements is reflected in the hard work of plowing the fields; Taurus, the Bull, is an animal used to help plow fields.

59 The Quarters represent the 4 Elements and the 4 Powers of the Sphinx.

60 Adapted from Liber Tzaddi, lines 1-4.

61 “Innocent and impotent” is a phrase used in Liber Samekh to describe the Pure Fool, the Babe Horus (Aleph – Atu 0: The Fool) that must obtain the Lance and become the Adult Horus (Ayin – Atu XV: The Devil).

62 Crowley writes in Liber Samekh, Point II, line 5, “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. The Holy Guardian Angel is the Unconscious Creature Self – the Spiritual Phallus. His knowledge and conversation contributes occult puberty.”

63 Liber LXI vel Causae, line 21.

64 The Vision and the Voice, 15th Aethyr.

65 A reference to the garden of the 13th Aethyr where a certain flower may arise as NEMO, the Master of the Temple.

66 A foreshadowing of the King’s death next Winter, and also a more esoteric reference to the fact that Attainment ultimates in the annihilation of the ego so the “you” of the ego shall not see the “reward.”

67 The Vision and the Voice, 13th Aethyr.

68 Adapted from AHA!

69 Adapted from AHA!

70 Basically, + represents the Threat of unbalanced Introversion: + tries to get the Child-King to keep to himself and be concerned only with himself.

71 Liber AL, II:22, 71, 72 and Liber AL, I:57.

72 The Sign of the Enterer, i.e. Silence, i.e. of Ra-Hoor-Khuit, represents a response to or attack against the – imbalance.

73 Two of the 10 Commandments of the Old Aeon. They represent, in general, the “Thou shalt”s and “Thou shalt not”s that are overturned in the New Aeon. In particular, the father and mother are no longer adored for it is the Aeon of the Crowned and Conquering Child. Adultery is no longer sacred, for we no longer pathologize the sexual instinct nor think it sinful, and Babalon is the Great Whore that we adore. Basically, + represents external Tyranny, i.e. religious-social Authority, and + tries to get the Child-King to conform to his ideal of what is right.

74 Liber AL, I:42-43.

75 The Sign of Silence, i.e. of Harpocrates or Hoor-Paar-Kraat, represents a response to or defense against the + imbalance.

76 A reference to the Lord’s prayer as in Luke 11:4, “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.” Basically, – represents the threat of unbalance Extroversion: – tries to get the Child to engage in self-sacrifice, only thinking of others, which is a hallmark of the Old Aeon of Osiris, the Dying God.

77 Liber AL, II:58.

78 The Sign of Silence, i.e. of Harpocrates or Hoor-Paar-Kraat, represents a response to or defense against the + imbalance.

79 This line comes from Liber LXV, II:21 where it is asked by the “little crazy boy” of Reason to the Adept. Basically, – represents Internal Tyranny, i.e. superstition and habit. – tries to get the Child-King to question himself through hyper-rationality.

80 Liber AL, II:28-31.

81 The Sign of the Enterer, i.e. Silence, i.e. of Ra-Hoor-Khuit, represents a response to or attack against the – imbalance.

82 Liber AL, III:60.

83 This represents the end of childhood and the entering into adulthood. There have now been a total of 3.5 deosil circumambulations, symbolic of the Kundalini serpent coiled 3.5 times at the base of the spine. The awakening of the Kundalini represents the awakening to the Creative Life-force of Godhead, which is seen symbolically in puberty in the course of the individual’s life.

84 This represents attaining the “grade” of Man of Earth, corresponding to the Third Order of Golden Dawn (Malkuth, 1=10) which contains the 4 Elements. The next grade is the Lover, which is in Tiphareth (5=6). This grade, as well as that of Geburah (6=5) are attained in the Summer Solstice ceremony. The grade of 7=4 is attained in Autumn when the King becomes a Hermit, which is the final aspect of the grade of Lover. The next grade of Hermit (8=3) is attained in the Winter Solstice when the King gives up his life in an act of supreme Love.

85 The Vision and the Voice, 16th Aethyr.

86 This represents the child leaving the home of the family and becoming an independent adult. It also refers to the Son/Prince of Tetragrammaton (YHVH) uniting with the Daughter/Princess of Tetragrammaton (YHVH), so that she may be set upon the throne of the Mother (YHVH) and the Prince may become King (YHVH).

87 The Vision and the Voice, 16th Aethyr.

88 Luke 2:40.

89 The Vision and the Voice, 9th Aethyr. She is the Daughter or Princess of Tetragrammaton, the Final Heh of YHVH. The King, having attained the Lance, has achieved become the Prince (Vav of YHVH) who weds the Princess (Final Heh of YHVH) so that she may be set upon the Throne of Understanding (Heh of YHVH) and he may assume the Throne of the King (Yod of YHVH).

90 Adapted from AHA!

91 The Vision and the Voice, 9th Aethyr, “This is she that is set upon the Throne of Understanding. Holy, Holy, Holy is her name, not to be spoken among men. For Kor they have called her, and Malkuth, and Betulah, and Persephone.” Also, the 4th Aethyr, “And this is that which is written: Malkuth shall be uplifted and set upon the throne of Binah.”

92 A foreshadowing of the Summer Solstice ritual, which reflects Revelation 19:7, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.” The King is, of course, the Lamb, the Solar Savior of Light, Life, Love, and Liberty.

 

Thelemic Mysticism

Thelemic Mysticism – part 4: Mysticism in Practice – The Lover

Thelemic Mysticism

[ ← Part 3: Mysticism in Practice – Intro & The Man of Earth ← |
Part 5: Mysticism in Practice – Crossing the Abyss & The Hermit → ]

PART 4: MYSTICISM IN PRACTICE – The Lover

2) The Lover: Communion with the Holy Guardian Angel

• “O my Lord, my beloved! How shall I indite songs, when even the memory of the shadow of thy glory is a thing beyond all music of speech or of silence?”
Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV, II:48
• “And the Beloved shall abide with Thee.”
Liber Stellae Rubeae sub figura LXVI, line 32
• “He shall await the sword of the Beloved and bare his throat for the stroke.”
Liber Liberi vel Lapidus Lazuli sub figura VII, III:47

If one persists in the work of the first Stage, continuing one’s meditation/devotion with increasing fervor and dedication, one will inevitably come to this second Stage. The second Stage can be likened to the Grade of “Lover.” This is the middle of the Path where one communes with the Divine, the Absolute, the One, et cetera, as a Lover with the Beloved.

In Thelemic Mysticism, this Love or Communion is understood under the figure of “the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel,” and it is often symbolized by a heart encircled by a serpent or the Rose-Cross. This is appropriate to the Grade of “Lover” because this stage is often described as the meeting or union between Lover (the Mystic) and Beloved (the Object of aspiration); this is the “Spiritual Marriage” spoken of by many Mystics.

“Union”: It should be clearly understood that “union” has two related but distinct meanings that are often conflated.

1) Two united but distinct: At this second Stage of the Mystic Path, “union” refers to two things uniting but remaining distinct. In the language of Thelemic Mysticism, the Adept and the Holy Guardian Angel are united like lovers, they meet and interact and enjoy one another but they remain separate as Adept and Angel. “Love” requires the interaction and union of “Lover” and “Beloved,” though they are united. “Communion” may be a more accurate term. The persistence in this Love so that it becomes complete and perfect, so to speak, leads to the next stage.

2) Two united into One (or None) without distinction: In the third Stage of the Mystic Path (which we will explore later), “union” refers to these two things uniting so completely that there is a dissolution of separateness, leaving only One Thing (or “No-Thing”). “Absorption” or “annihilation” may be more accurate terms.

The distinction between these two notions of “union” is important because, as mentioned previously, they are often conflated by both readers and writers of Mysticism. For now, it should be understood that “union” in the second Stage of the Lover refers to the first definition, where two things are united that still remain distinct (soul & God, subject & object, ego & non-ego, et cetera).

The Nature of the Second Stage:

This second stage of the Mystic Path is often called Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel in Thelemic Mysticism. In Christian Mysticism, it is often called “Illumination.”

“And again I was caught up into the presence of my Lord Adonai, and the knowledge and Conversation of the Holy One, the Angel that Guardeth me.”
Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV, V:41

The primary characteristic of this Illumination is the distinct and immediate perception of the “presence” of the Divine (or God/Absolute/Lord/Truth, et cetera).

This “presence” is not a mere metaphor or artistic flourish: it is a distinct, direct, experiential certainty of the presence of the Absolute, though this is expressed in various ways by various Mystics. This distinct, direct, experiential certainty is one aspect of the “Sense of Objectivity/Reality” mentioned in the previous section on “Mysticism in Theory.

• “Even as evil kisses corrupt the blood, so do my words devour the spirit of man.
Liber LXV, I:14
• “I was stricken as a bird by the bolt of the thunderer; I was pierced as the thief by the Lord of the Garden.”
Liber LXV, IV:40
“All this while did Adonai pierce my being with his sword…”
Liber LXV, V:14

This “presence” is often felt as the Divine “intruding” into the consciousness, so metaphors often involve “piercing” and “penetrating.” The use of the metaphor of the Divine as the Bridegroom and the Mystic as the Bride consummating their Spiritual Marriage should therefore come as no surprise.

This “Spiritual Marriage” corresponds to the second step of concentration in the Hindu system of Yoga: dhyana. In the first step of Yoga, dharana, one concentrates all of one’s thought upon a single Object, and there is much difficulty; this corresponds with the first Stage of the Mystic Path, the Man of Earth. This second step of concentration is called dhyana. In this second Stage of the Mystic Path, the Lover, there come times where the “subject” appears to disappear and only the Object remains, often co-occurring with a sense of ananda  (bliss). Dhyana also can be felt as a union of subject and object but not a complete union where both are annihilated. Dhyana represents a powerful and distinct stage of meditation, that is often said to be a lesser form of Samadhi, the total union of subject and object that is the Goal of Mysticism, characteristic of the third Stage of the Mystic Path, the Hermit.

The are various secondary characteristics of this Illumination:

“Then the adept was rapt away in bliss, and the beyond of bliss, and exceeded the excess of excess. Also his body shook and staggered with the burden of that bliss and that excess and that ultimate nameless.”
Liber LXV, II:45-46

1) “Joy,” “bliss,” or “ecstasy”: Joy, bliss, and ecstasy are not the primary factors of Illumination, they are Illumination’s natural by-products. That is, they do not constitute Illumination itself, but they often accompany Illumination. Crowley often likens  Illumination to the union of chemical elements, which naturally gives off light and heat. The “union of chemical elements” is analogous to Illumination itself, while the “light and heat” refer to the joy, bliss, and ecstasy that are by-products of the union. This feeling is felt as a joy that transcends one’s normal likes and dislikes, one’s typical pleasures and pains. Conversely, many of the anxieties, worries, and fears that plague the Mystic will fall away or seem petty in contrast to this Mystic communion.

“Having attained the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel (by a male effort so to speak) the Adept becomes receptive, feminine, patient, surrendering his will wholly to that of his Angel… The aspiration towards Him is masculine. At the moment of achievement it is replaced by passivity…”
Commentaries to Liber LXV, II:45-46

2) Passivity: The Mystic will often feel a sense of “surrender” or “passivity.” The achievement of this Stage requires great will and endurance, but it culminates in a surrender of that will. This is the surrender of the “personal will,” the volition or will-power of the individual, which allows for the Divine Will to take its place; it is the difference between one’s personal wishes/whims and the True Will. This release of “personal will” is virtually universal across all Mystics, especially Christian Mystics. It is because of this “surrender” or “passivity” that the image of a virgin is often used to describe the Mystic at this point: the virgin is “pure” insofar as her desire is only for One Thing, the Object of the Mystic Goal. In Western terms, the “virgin” is chaste except for God, and she passively awaits the coming of the Lord, so to speak. In the New Aeon, we understand this Divine Will to be nothing other than our own True Will, a more perfect expression of ourselves, rather than being something from “outside” of the self. We might say, “Let Thy Will, which is mine, be done.”

• “Neschamah: This is the faculty of under-standing the Word of Chiah [True Will]. It is the intelligence or intuition of what Jechidah [True Self] wishes to discover about itself.”
Little Essays Towards Truth, “Man”
• “The intuitions of the Neschamah are guaranteed by interior certainty.”
Confessions, chapter 64

3) Increased intuition: The term “intuition” means many things, but it seems to be the best word to describe this sense. Upon achieving the Stage of Illumination, the Mystic may receive many intuitive glimpses, whether through dreams, fantasy, certain thoughts, visions, et cetera. These are distinct from the normal “conscience” that Freud describes as the “super-ego,” which is essentially that little voice in your head that tells you what is right or wrong based on what you have been taught by your family, peers, and society. These intuitions – sometimes heard as voices but not necessarily – are a “voice” that represents the promptings of one’s “deeper Self,” a truer, more holistic sense of Self represented by the Holy Guardian Angel in Thelema. One may also start to see the deeper, more symbolic meanings of things, perceiving “divine truths” in the most mundane affairs; psychologically, this relates to the fact that the Mystic has opened channels to her Unconscious mind, which innately perceives the various interconnections and relations between things just as the conscious mind sees their differences. In Qabalistic terms, this is the “Neschamah” (the “spiritual intuition” or “divine intelligence”) that is attributed to Binah on the Tree of Life.

“A Man who is doing his True Will has the inertia of the Universe to assist him.”
Magick in Theory and Practice, “Introduction and Theorems”, III:9

4) Flow: Related to passivity and increased intuition, there is often a sense that life “flows” much more freely and naturally. Things seems to fall into place without much or any effort. This is the result of “unifying the Will,” specifically the harmony between conscious mind and the Unconscious. The immense inertia that is felt in the first Stage, where one is fighting against the world and one’s lower nature, seems to temporarily give way to a sense that one is flowing with the momentum of the world.

“In this Light naught exists, for It is homogeneous: and therefore have men called it Silence, and Darkness, and Nothing. But in this, as in all other effort to name it, is the root of every falsity and misapprehension, since all words imply some duality. Therefore, though I call it Light, it is not Light, nor absence of Light. Many also have sought to describe it by contradictions, since through transcendent negation of all speech it may by some natures be attained. Also by images and symbols have men striven to express it: but always in vain.”
Liber CL: De Lege Libellum

5) Light: The metaphor of this stage is almost invariably one of Light, hence the name “Illumination.” This is sometimes literally perceived by the Mystic at the moment of Illumination. It sometimes involves blinding light or an increasing light like a “Golden Dawn.” The Light may also be used by some Mystics as a metaphor for their sudden sense of clarity, of seeing beyond the normal ego-self and perceiving a much greater “presence.” Sometimes the Light is used as metaphor for the joy/bliss/rapture itself. Sometimes the Light is a metaphor for the “Creative energy” with which one feels one is infused in this Illumination or Communion (or “Knowledge and Conversation”). Nonetheless, this Light – sometimes called LVX – is virtually always present in some form or another in this second Stage of “Illumination,” whether literal or metaphorical. This “Light” is one reason among many that this stage is typically related to Solar imagery; Qabalistically, this is Tiphareth on the Tree of Life.

“I was also granted what mystics describe as ‘the Beatific Vision’ which is the most characteristic of those attributed to Tiphereth, the archetypal idea of beauty and harmony. In this vision one retains one’s normal consciousness, but every impression of daily life is as enchanting and exquisite as an ode of Keats. The incidents of life become a harmonious unity; one is lost in a rosy dream of romantic happiness. One may compare it to the effect produced by wine on some people. There is, however, no unreality in the vision. One is not blinded to the facts of existence. It is simply that the normal incoherence and discrepancy between them has been harmonized.”
Confessions, chapter 78

6) Beauty: Typically, the Mystic will perceive a certain sense of beauty in all things. This is sometimes called the Beatific Vision by Crowley. The term “Beatific Vision” originally comes from Christianity, used by people like Thomas Aquinas, and it was used to refer to the immediate knowledge of God that souls enjoy in Heaven. The Mystic naturally and effortlessly sees the Divine permeating all things in the world. This is sometimes expressed as Unity-in-Diversity, where there are distinct things seen in the world but one intuitively grasps their underlying unity in the One/Absolute/God. This is often described by Christian Mystics as Earth being “transfigured” into a new Heaven, or Heaven (or “New Jerusalem”) descending to Earth, or realizing the Kingdom of Heaven is all around. As one example, Blake describes this Beatific Vision when he writes, “To see a world in a grain of sand, / And a heaven in a wild flower, / Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, / And eternity in an hour.” Similarly, Henry Vaughan wrote, “Each bush and oak doth know I AM.” One can see that Infinity is perceived, yet “Finity” or duality remains; there is still multiplicity but there is Unity perceived therein. Mystics who remain at this stage are typically pantheists, meaning they see all things as identical with God/Absolute and themselves as part thereof. If one persists to the third Stage, one comes to identity with the Absolute itself rather than being simply a part thereof.

Because many of these by-products of Illumination are overwhelming and enrapturing, the Mystic is liable think that this is the end of the Path. It is helpful to remember that this is only the middle pylon along the Path, and that the true Unitive Life has still not been achieved. This is why Crowley calls this stage “The Next Step” and not “The Last Step.”

“It is impossible to lay down precise rules by which a man may attain to the knowledge and conversation of His Holy Guardian Angel; for that is the particular secret of each one of us; a secret not to be told or even divined by any other, whatever his grade. It is the Holy of Holies, whereof each man is his own High Priest, and none knoweth the Name of his brother’s God, or the Rite that invokes Him.”
One Star in Sight

Uniqueness of this Experience: It should be noted that this particular Stage is often very personal and unique, regardless of the underlying unity of various Mystics’ descriptions.

The way in which one understands or perceives the Presence of this Mystic Object depends entirely on one’s own history, make-up, development, intelligence, and understanding. One may see this as becoming the Bride of Christ, and another may see this as being pierced by a Divine sword; one may see this as a blinding Light, and another as a joyful Darkness. One may see this as an obliteration of one’s reality, and another may see this as awakening to Reality.

To set up expectations as to what Illumination (or Knowledge and Conversation) may entail is, in a sense, an impediment to being open and surrendering to what truly is. The descriptions of these Mystic states are, therefore, simply to be used as guideposts along the Path, not as absolutes to construct an intellectual system around. The sole rule in all cases is “Invoke often.”

Perfection isn’t immediate: Even if one has experienced the most blindingly exalted and ultimate version of this Illumination, one is not suddenly purged of all “bad” qualities (meaning, in the New Aeon, all aspects of oneself that are detrimental to or inhibiting of the True Will).

Although some habits may be “blasted” out of one’s system by the Illumination, some habits remain or return shortly after the experience of Illumination. There is further work to align the various aspects of oneself – body, emotions, thoughts, desires, et cetera  – under the “guidance” of this Divine Presence, of the Holy Guardian Angel.

It is typical of a Mystic at this Stage to think that she will never again see herself as separate from the Divine, that she will always be one with her True Will, that she is perfected, but the time always comes where this Illumination slowly fades away. This is a “non-abiding” union, and one inevitably “comes down” from it. The “abiding union” comes if one persists to the third Stage of the Mystic Path.

One must therefore be always vigilant to bring oneself to live more and more in this Light of Illumination, continuing the work of Purification and Consecration until All is One.

The Work: To a Mystic that has achieved this second Stage of the Path and entered through the Middle Pylon of Illumination or the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, there is still the final “crisis” of the Path. This final Crisis is known as the Crossing of the Abyss, the dissolution of a sense of a separate self, and a successful “Crossing” means that one has attained the third Stage of the Path.

“The Self surrendered must not be less than the All-Self; one must not come before the altar of the Most High with an impure or an imperfect offering. As it is written in Liber LXV, ‘To await Thee is the end, not the beginning.'”
Liber ABA: Book 4, Part II, chapter 6: The Wand

To Cross the Abyss, one must surrender all that one has and all that one is.  In order to surrender all that one has and is, though, one must first build oneself into a Whole.

If one has not performed the Purification of all “adverse” elements from oneself and Consecrated all other elements of oneself to one’s Single Goal, the surrender will not be complete or total. The Work of the Lover, after having achieved Knowledge and Conversation, is therefore one of Equilibrium: one must build up all opposites (or “complements”) within oneself to become Whole, not being attached or obsessed by anything incomplete or partial.

• “The Adept is not a perfection of what he feels to be the noblest part of him, but a Microcosm. He [must] complete the formation of himself as an image of the All.”
Commentaries to Liber LXV, II:45-46
• “For Perfection abideth not in the Pinnacles, or in the Foundations, but in the ordered Harmony of one with all.”
Liber LXI vel Causae, line 32
• “The microcosm is an exact image of the Macrocosm; the Great Work is the raising of the whole man in perfect balance to the power of Infinity.”
Magick in Theory & Practice, chapter 0: The Magical Theory of the Universe
• “[There is] the Necessity of extending constantly thy Nature to new Mates upon every Plane of Being, so that thou mayst become the perfect Microcosm, an Image without Flaw of all that is.”
Liber Aleph, ch. 44, “De Sapientia in Re Sexuali”
• “Imagine listening to Beethoven with the prepossession that C is a good note and F a bad one; yet this is exactly the stand point from which all uninitiates contemplate the universe. Obviously, they miss the music.”
Confessions, chapter 86

This Work of achieving Equilibrium or Wholeness of the self is the idea in Magick that is understood as becoming a perfect Microcosm of the Universe (or “Macrocosm”). This means that all aspects of the self must be balanced, especially the moral and intellectual aspects of the self. If one clings to the light and ignores the darkness, one is not equilibrated; if one clings to virtues and ignores vices, one is not equilibrated; if one clings to one belief and ignores its opposite, one is not equilibrated.

This is the reason that the “Higher Self” is a misleading term: this is often taken to mean that one’s “Higher Self” includes all of one’s best and noblest qualities elevated to the highest degree. In fact, one is seeking the Whole, both upright and averse, and not simply the Highest. 

This is what is generally said by Mystics to be the necessity of having a Love of All. This “Love” is not a sentimental or romantic kind of attitude which most people mean by the term. In the broadest sense, this Love is acceptance. In the emotions, a lack of Love or acceptance shows itself in the feeling of disgust.  This is why Liber LXV instructs us to “Go thou unto the outermost places and subdue all things. Subdue thy fear and thy disgust. Then—yield!” One must fully embrace all aspects of Nature, both the Nature of the Universe and one’s own Nature. The way to destroy demons is through Love.

This is the basic work of Equilibrium so that one may become a perfect Microcosm, the “All-Self,” in order that one may fully surrender all that one has and is. This why St. Francis of Assisi visited lepers, the sight of which disgusted him. This is why Buddhists meditate in the presence of decaying corpses. This is why Aleister Crowley deliberately ate Leah Hirsig’s feces to show he was indifferent to all material differences (Yes, that really happened). In short, we must confront everything that makes us squeamish, all that brings us a sense of disgust, all that we consider Evil… and unite with it in “love under will” so that no element of the Universe is not also part of ourselves. As perfect and complete microcosms of the Cosmos, we can then truly proclaim what is said in the Gnostic Mass, “There is no part of me that is not of the gods.”

Crowley lays out the essence this practice in Liber V vel Reguli when he writes, “The Magician should devise for himself a definite technique for destroying ‘evil.’ The essence of such a practice will consist in training the mind and the body to confront things which case fear, pain, disgust, shame and the like. He must learn to endure them, then to become indifferent to them, then to analyze them until they give pleasure and instruction, and finally to appreciate them for their own sake, as aspects of Truth. When this has been done, he should abandon them, if they are really harmful in relation to health and comfort.”

The Ordeal: The Ordeal of this Grade is a crucial one, known as the Crossing of the Abyss, and it will be discussed in the next section as the prelude to the third and final Grade or Stage of the Mystic Path.

← Part 3: Mysticism in Practice – Intro & The Man of Earth ← |
Part 5: Mysticism in Practice – Crossing the Abyss & The Hermit → ]

Thelemic Mysticism

Thelemic Mysticism – part 3: Mysticism in Practice – Introduction & The Man of Earth

Thelemic Mysticism

[ ← Part 2: Mysticism in Theory ← | → Part 4: Mysticism in Practice – The Lover → ]

PART 3: MYSTICISM IN PRACTICE

Conceived as a Path, Mysticism is the Science and Art of achieving the direct experience of the ultimate spiritual truth or goal. There are many ways of conceptualizing this Path and of treading this Path. These will be explored in turn.

The Conceptualizations of the Mystic Path

The Mystic Path refers to the process of achieving the direct experience of the Mystic Goal. There are two fundamental ways of conceiving  or conceptualizing this Path:

1) The Journey: The Goal is something we do not have but must attain, obtain, or achieve. We must therefore go on a “journey” (or “pilgrimage,” “quest,” “sojourn,” et cetera) to get what we do not yet have. 

2) The Transmutation: This Goal is something we already have but are not aware of it. We must therefore undergo a process of transmuting ourselves into one who is capable of perceiving this Goal, of  “uncovering” or “discovering” it.

The labels of “The Journey” and “The Transmutation” are for convenience, though the reasons for choosing these names will become apparent. Both of these conceptions of the Path are essentially identical, although using different metaphors. Sometimes both labels are intermingled with each other in a single metaphor. In a way, they are just reflections of one another: Transmutation may be considered as a Journey inwards until the Goal is perceived, and the Journey may be considered as a series of Transmutations until the Goal is reached. The use of one metaphor over another often implies or is the result of the particular metaphysical and/or theological views of whomever is speaking, but some Mystics – including Aleister Crowley – can operate within both the “Journey” and “Transmutation” metaphors.

“Little by little, as your eyes grow stronger, will we unveil to you the ineffable glory of the Path of the Adepts, and its nameless goal… The many change and pass; the one remains. Even as wood and coal and iron burn up together in one great flame, if only that furnace be of transcendent heat; so in the alembic of this spiritual alchemy, if only the zelator blow sufficiently upon his furnace all the systems of earth are consumed in the One Knowledge. Nevertheless, as a fire cannot be started with iron alone, in the beginning one system may be suited for one seeker, another for another. We therefore who are without the chains of ignorance, look closely into the heart of the seeker and lead him by the path which is best suited to his nature unto the ultimate end of all things, the supreme realization, the Life which abideth in Light, yea, the Life which abideth in Light.”
Liber Porta Lucis, lines 14, 20-22

We should always remember “the map is not the territory.” A certain type of map may be more useful to a certain type of person over another type – for example, a map using Buddhist terminology would probably be less useful to a Christian and a map using Jewish symbolism may obscure the Path more than reveal it for a Hindu. One of the natural outgrowths of Thelema’s syncretism of various traditions is its ability to fluidly move between different “maps” without getting caught in any one particular way of thinking about the “territory” of the Mystic Path. We must remember that the Mystic Goal always was and always will be, by its very nature, ultimately ineffable; it is truly incommunicable in the language of Reason and therefore the “secret of secrets.”

The Mystic Path, because it deals largely with the practicalities of the Work, is more amenable to language but still liable to confusion because it deals with the “inner life” of the individual of which we can only speak using symbols and metaphors. The Mystic Path also is highly variable depending on the constitution of the individual and their culture, yet there is a unity in the Mystic methods of attainment that certain individuals like Crowley were able to perceive beyond the variety of language used to describe the methods. Before looking into these methods, we will look further into the different conceptualizations of the Path: the Journey and the Transmutation.

The Journey

• “I shoot up vertically like an arrow, and become that Above. But it is death, and the flame of the pyre. Ascend in the flame of the pyre, O my soul!”
Liber Liberi vel Lapidis Lazuli sub figura VII, I:37-39
• “Verily and Amen! I passed through the deep sea, and by the rivers of running water that abound therein, and I came unto the Land of No Desire.”
Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV, III:1
• “…They abode in the Land that the far-off travellers call Naught.”
Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV, V:59
• “…the thread wherewith I guide you to the heart of the groves of Eleusis.”
Liber Tzaddi vel Hamus Hermeticus sub figura XC, line 23
• “At the end, be the end far distant as the stars that lie in the navel of Nuit…”
Liber A’ash vel Capricorni Pneumatici sub figura CCCLXX, line 38

Included in this category are all “Journeys” from a state that is “low” or “bad” to a state that is “high” or “good,” including:

  • The Journey from the Darkness of ignorance toward the Light of Truth.
  • The Journey from the lowest sphere of Malkuth toward the highest sphere of Kether, often called “climbing the Tree of Life.” Likewise, all “emanationist” theories that involve the emanation of the One into the Many, involve the “Journey” back to the Original One, sometimes called “The Path of Return.”
  • The Journey or Climbing of “Jacob’s Ladder” from Earth to Heaven, or upward through the various “hierarchies” of the Divine (e.g. through the hierarchies of Dionysius or the “Ten Heavens” of Dante).
  • The Journey from the realm of Samsara “across the stream” toward the realm of Nirvana. 
  • The Journey from home to some sacred place – for example, John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” where one travels from one’s home in the “City of Destruction” to the “Celestial City,” or – alternatively – the search for the Lost Paradise such as The Garden of Eden, El Dorado, Shangri-la, or Shambhala.
  • The Journey of the Lover to find and unite with the Beloved.

All “Quests” for holy, sacred, or rare objects fall under this category of the Journey including:

  • The Quest for the Holy Grail.
  • The Quest for the Elixir of Immortality / Potion of Eternal Life / Fountain of Youth.
  • The Search for the “buried treasure,” as in Matthew 13:44, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field.”
  • The Search for the “Lost Word.”

There are several characteristics of the Path that are implied by using the metaphor of “The Journey”:

  • One begins in an un-enlightened or “un-initiated” state. In the language of Magical Orders, one’s Path begins as one of the “profane.” This often involves understanding oneself as full of ignorance, dominated by the senses and instincts, and without any knowledge of one’s true Path. The “Journey” is from this state to the “perfected” state of achieving the Mystic Goal.
  • One is now on a difficult Journey, which will be full of hardships or obstacles (the “ordeals”), and there will be great uncertainty, even regardless of the fact that many “maps” have been made of the “Path” to guide one on one’s Journey.
  • There will be several “landmarks” along the Way (the “stages” or “grades”), both marking one’s progress as well as directing one further along the Path.

The Transmutation

• “There is none that shall be cast down or lifted up: all is ever as it was.”
-Liber AL vel Legis sub figura CCXX, II:58
• “We are not to regard ourselves as base beings, without whose sphere is Light or ‘God.’ Our minds and bodies are veils of the Light within. The uninitiate is a ‘Dark Star,’ and the Great Work for him is to make his veils transparent by ‘purifying’ them.”
New Comment to Liber AL, I:8
• “The prophet cried against the mountain; come thou hither, that I may speak with thee! The mountain stirred not. Therefore went the prophet unto the mountain, and spake unto it. But the feet of the prophet were weary, and the mountain heard not his voice. But I have called unto Thee, and I have journeyed unto Thee, and it availed me not. I waited patiently, and Thou wast with me from the beginning.”
Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV, II:57-60
• “Initiation means the Journey Inwards: nothing is changed or can be changed; but all is trulier understood with every step.”
Little Essays Towards Truth, “Mastery”

The “Transmutation” is a metaphor that essentially implies that we already are in possession of the “Goal” – we are already enlightened, already divine – but, because of our “imperfection” or “ignorance,” we are unaware of it. “Transmutation” therefore involves changing, perfecting, or “transmuting” the self in various ways in order that one may come to a clearer awareness thereof. All metaphors that involve altering, changing, or “perfecting” oneself are included in this category, including:

  • The Great Work of Alchemy, transmuting the “dross” of the self into “gold”
  • Progressively “seeing” one’s inherently “pure” or “perfect” nature, as when it is said in Mahayana Buddhism, “People should realize that the buddha-nature is something they have always had”
  • The process of “building the Temple of Solomon,” or – similarly – the process of working upon the crude “rough ashlar” in order to form it into the “perfect ashlar.”
  • The transmutation of the Kundalini serpent, bringing it from the lowest chakra at the base of the spine (Muladhara), all the way up the spine, to rest at the “third eye” (Ajna).
  • The “Journey to the Center” as seen in images of labyrinths and mandalas, which combines the ideas of the Journey and the Transmutation.

The metaphor of Transmutation implies several things. Primarily, Transmutation implies that we already “have” the Goal but our consciousness has not been “perfected” in order to become consciously aware of it. The “Path” is therefore a process of Transmutation that involves subjecting oneself to various processes – disciplines, purifications, et cetera – that enable this inherent Truth to become available to our conscious awareness.

Again, it should be remembered that both “The Journey” and “The Transmutation” are two sides of the same coin. As can be seen by the quotations above, both metaphors are used within Thelema even within the same text. The purpose of this section is to show the various manifestations of these two ways by which the Mystic Path is understood and to show that they are, in fact, two ways of understanding the same Path. 

The Stages or “Grades” of the Path

“Who calls us Thelemites will do no wrong, if he look but close into the word. For there are therein Three Grades, the Hermit, and the Lover, and the man of Earth. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”
Liber AL vel Legis sub figura CCXX, I:40

There are as many ways to conceptualize the various stages of the Mystic Path as there are Mystics. Some Mystics even use several “maps.” In the end, the Path is infinitely varied but maintains a near-identical essence in all cases. There are three fundamental stages of the Mystic Path that correspond with the Three Grades mentioned in The Book of the Law. Each stage or “Grade” is characterized by a certain “ordeal” that leads one to enter the Grade, and a certain “work” characteristic of the Grade. This loosely correspond to the beginning (ordeal) and middle (work) of the particular “Grade.” 

1) The Man of Earth: The Beginning of the Path

The first stage can be likened to the Grade of “Man of Earth.” This is the beginning of the Path where one is a “neophyte,” which literally means “newly planted.” 

“The Aspiration to become a Master is rooted in the Trance of Sorrow.”
Little Essays Toward Truth, “Sorrow”

The OrdealEveryone is drawn to the Path for the same, basic reason: Discontent.

Without some form of discontent (or “dissatisfaction” or “dis-ease”), there would never be any reason to seek or to strive for anything. Everyone begins with a discontent in some degree. Some begin with the impetus that amounts to realizing “There must be something more than this.” At the extreme, this same discontent approaches what is called “The Trance of Sorrow,” which amounts to realizing that all material things are finite, temporal, and subject to death. In Buddhist language, the First Noble Truth that “Existence is suffering” becomes overwhelmingly evident. The Path is then understood as “transcending suffering,” “transcending the temporal/finite,” or even “mastering myself and my environment.”

“It is the Trance of sorrow that has determined one to undertake the task of emancipation. This is the energising force of Law; it is the rigidity of the fact that everything is sorrow which moves one to the task, and keeps one on the Path”
Eight Lectures on Yoga, “Niyama”

Conversely, one may be drawn to the Path by the opposite or complement of discontent, which amounts to being drawn to the Path by having some kind of perception of the possibility of one’s “higher development.” One may realize that there is “something more to this” in the sense that one comes to believe that there is a possibility of life that involves greater wisdom, understanding, power, truth, beauty, and/or peace. At the extreme, this same “hope” approaches what is called “The Vision of Adonai,” becoming aware of the Mystic Goal in some way, even – in some cases – catching an experiential “glance” of what the Goal is like (sometimes called “higher states of consciousness”).

The Trance of Sorrow and the Vision of Adonai are really two sides of the same coin. If one perceives the unsatisfactoriness of all temporal things in the Trance of Sorrow, one will therefore conversely seek the possibility of a type of life that transcends these sorrows. If one perceives the joy and beauty of catching a glimpse of “Truth” (or “the Divine,” or “Reality,” et cetera), one will therefore conversely look at one’s life and see – by contrast – its finiteness, sorrow, and imperfection. These things can happen suddenly (as in a “flash”) or they can dawn gradually – each individual’s Path is unique, but each one begins with this perception of discontent or the perception of the possibility of transcendence.

The Work: The Work at this stage or “Grade” is called many names but essentially involves severe self-discipline in order to transform one’s character from the old habits – both old “vices” and old “virtues” – to a new way that is conducive to the achieving the Goal. There are generally “negative” and “positive” aspects of this that amount to clearing away the old habits (“vices,” which used to be called “sins”) that are in the way of one’s Path and building up new habits that are conducive to the Path (“virtues”). It is a stripping-away or rooting-out of the bad and a cleansing of the good (“good” and “bad” being relative terms to each individual as well as to the particular Purpose of achieving the Mystic Goal). They correspond exactly to the process of Purification and Consecration in Magick, and they may also be understood as the process of “balancing the Elements.” This Work is based on severe and persistent discipline: it is an incredibly difficult part of the Path, but we may be assured that – as with all habits – the process begins in a difficult way, becomes easier, and then becomes almost natural and effortless.

“Now then let us suppose that you have come to the Master, and that He has declared to you the Way of this attainment. What hindereth you? Alas! there is yet much Freedom afar off. Understand clearly this: that if you are sure of your Will, and sure of your means, then any thoughts or actions which are contrary to those means are contrary also to that Will. If therefore the Master should enjoin upon you a Vow of Holy Obedience, compliance is not a surrender of the Will, but a fulfilment thereof. For see, what hindereth you? It is either from without or from within, or both. It may be easy for the strong-minded seeker to put his heel upon public opinion, or to tear from his heart the objects which he loves, in a sense: but there will always remain in himself many discordant affections, as also the bond of habit, and these also must he conquer. In our holiest Book it is written: ‘Thou hast no right but to do thy will. Do that, and no other shall say nay.’ Write it also in your heart and in your brain: for this is the key of the whole matter… Search yourselves cunningly, I pray you, analysing your inmost thoughts. And first you shall discard all those gross obvious hindrances to your Will: idleness, foolish friendships, waste employments or enjoyments, I will not enumerate the conspirators against the welfare of your State.”
Liber CL: De Lege Libellum

PurificationThe self must be purged of all those parts of the self – body, senses, thoughts, emotions, and desires – that stand in opposition to the attainment of the one object of the Mystic Goal. This process has been called many things by different Mystics including “asceticism,” “detachment,” “poverty,” and “purgation.” These practices can often be harsh, but they are always used as a means to an end. All the “purifications” are a means to strip away all forms of egoism – of the sense of separateness that is the root of our discontent – to allow for the Truth (or “God” or “Reality” or “the Absolute”) to dawn in our awareness.

Why do we need Purification? We are slaves to our desires, our cravings, and our habits. We run after things including wealth, fame, and pleasure, but we are always left dissatisfied. This is because the only true satisfaction comes from the achievement of the Mystic Goal: we are assured of this by the ordeal of the Trance of Sorrow, although it can even be appreciated intellectually. Purification, then, is the process whereby we break down the habits of striving after and resting in things that are less than the Mystic Goal: Purification is renunciation. This is why the basis of Buddhist training is to release attachments from all the aspects of oneself, right down to the attachment to the sense of “self.” This is why Christ said, “Blessed are they who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” This is why, in Thelema, it is repeatedly said that True Will is not one’s wishes, whims, likes, or desires – it is the strictest possible bond. This is why the process of “the stripping of self-will” of Christian mystics is virtually identical to the process of attainment in the New Aeon: we must strip away the false layers of ego-driven desires in order to perceive the True Will. 

“Thou then, who hast trials and troubles, rejoice because of them, for in them is Strength, and by their means is a pathway opened unto that Light. How should it be otherwise, O man, whose life is but a day in Eternity, a drop in the Ocean of time; how, were thy trials not many, couldst thou purge thy soul from the dross of earth? …Rejoice therefore, O Initiate, for the greater thy trial the greater thy Triumph.”
Liber Librae sub figura XXX

What are the things we are purifying? The subjects of our purifying amounts essentially to anything within oneself that says “I want” or “I have.” We must give up all those things which we claim as our own, and we must give up all those desires which are not the One Desire of achieving the Mystic Goal. Though there are many intense phrases and images used when describing this Purification, the essential fact is a change of attitude, not certain acts. That is, when we say one must renounce all one’s possessions, that means that one must release all attachment thereto, not literally give away everything that one possesses (although there may be many things that one might literally give away that are unnecessary, and the attitude in giving things away is exactly the one required for the release of attachment). Giving away things does not mean one has released attachment from them, just as putting on the robe of a Buddhist monk does not mean one is a Buddhist monk: again, it is the attitude or “way of being” that is altered. 

“Now therefore that thou mayest achieve this ritual of the Holy Graal, do thou divest thyself of all thy goods.”
Liber Cheth vel Vallum Abiegni sub figura CLVI, line 7

Therefore, the process of Purification is a process of detachment from all things. One must analyze every aspect of one’s being, searching for all attachments we have, and progressively and completely renounce them for the Quest of achieving the Mystic Goal and nothing else. Purification is, in a way, ruthless in its abandonment and it must reach all aspects of one’s being. All sensory pleasures must be renounced. All relationships must be renounced. All one’s cherished beliefs and preferences must be renounced. All one’s aspirations and desires must be renounced. The only pleasure for the Mystic is the achievement of the Mystic Goal, the only relationship is that with God, the only belief is the necessity to achieve Truth, the only aspiration is the ultimate Union with the Absolute. Each individual’s path must be different by necessity, but all bear this hallmark of Purification or “renunciation.” The study of the seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride), the yama of Yoga (non-violence, non-falsehood, non-stealing, non-lusting, non-possessiveness), the five precepts of Buddhism (abstaining from violence, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech, and intoxicants), and other similar systems will give any earnest aspirant a good idea of what is necessarily involved in this process of Purification. The end result is a profound humility and detachment, yet the process is obviously one of the most difficult tasks that can be conceived insofar as one is changing one’s character by fighting against and releasing attachment to virtually everything that pushed and guided oneself until now. Suffering is the steam released by the fire of Purification, but the result is a humble, purified self that is ready to strive toward the next step on the Path. 

“To obtain Magical Power, learn to control thought; admit only those ideas that are in harmony with the end desired, and not every stray and contradictory Idea that presents itself. Fixed thought is a means to an end. Therefore pay attention to the power of silent thought and meditation. The material act is but the outward expression of thy thought, and therefore hath it been said that ‘the thought of foolishness is sin.’ Thought is the commencement of action, and if a chance thought can produce much effect, what cannot fixed thought do?”
Liber Librae sub figura XXX

Consecration – If Purification involves removing the “bad,” then Consecration involves strengthening the “good.” Again, this “good” is relative to each individual and relative to the particular End of achieving the Mystic Goal; Consecration is, like Purification, a means to an end. Failing to see this and, instead, perceiving the disciplines of Purification and consecration as Absolutes, is the foundation for endless superstition and dogmatism.

Purification involves disentangling ourselves from all the things which impede the achievement of our sole Object and Goal on the Path, and Consecration involves gathering together the various threads of our life in order to devote them to the achievement of this Goal. This involves the strengthening of “virtues” that are conducive to achieving the Goal. A study of the seven virtuous complements to the seven deadly sins (chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, humility), the niyama of Yoga (purity, contentment, spiritual effort, study of holy texts, surrender to God), the paramitas of Buddhism (geneorsity, proper conduct, renunciation, wisdom, energy, patience, honesty, determination, kindness, calmness), or the Eightfold Path (right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration) will give the earnest aspirant an understanding of what this Consecration may entail for them. In Eight Lectures on Yoga, Crowley enumerates the qualities of niyama that he believes are useful including endurance, patience, selfless love, willfullness/strength, courage, energy, acceptance of all experience, equilibrium, indifference, and pure aspiration. We may also include the mysterious and terrible Four Powers of the Sphinx: to Know, to Will, to Dare, and to Keep Silence.

“Find the minimum of daily time which is in good sooth necessary to your natural life. The rest you shall devote to the True Means of your Attainment. And even these necessary hours you shall consecrate to the Great Work, saying consciously always while at these Tasks that you perform them only in order to preserve your body and mind in health for the right application to that sublime and single Object. It shall not be very long before you come to understand that such a life is the true Liberty. You will feel distractions from your Will as being what they are. They will no longer appear pleasant and attractive, but as bonds, as shames. And when you have attained this point, know that you have passed the Middle Gate of this Path. For you will have unified your Will.”
Liber CL: De Lege Libellum

In general, every aspect of one’s life must be closely and consistently knit together to have everything be devoted toward the accomplishment of the Great Work, the achievement of the Mystic Goal. All actions, words, and thoughts must be devoted to the end of this Mystic Goal.

This work of “transmuting” the various things in one’s life into the single Purpose of achieving the Mystic Goal is seen in the practice of “saying Will.” At meals we say, “What is thy Will? It is my Will to eat and drink. To what end? That I may fortify my body thereby. To what end? That I may accomplish the Great Work.” This same process of asking “To what end?” must be done for every single aspect of one’s life, and the answer must always terminate in “To accomplish the Great Work.” If you cannot see how it relates to the accomplishment of the Great Work, the achievement of the Mystic Goal, then it is probably something that must be “purified” from your life. The process of devoting all things, all actions, all speech, and all thoughts to this single End is the essence of Consecration.

Therefore, the primary virtue beyond all others and to which all others attend and aid is that of one-pointedness. The primary skill of one-pointedness is concentration. Concentration is developed through meditation.

“Thou must (1) Find out what is thy Will. (2) Do that Will with (a) one-pointedness, (b) detachment, (c) peace. Then, and then only, art thou in harmony with the Movement of Things, thy will part of, and therefore equal to, the Will of God. And since the will is but the dynamic aspect of the self, and since two different selves could not possess identical wills; then, if thy will be God’s will, Thou art That.”
Liber II: The Message of the Master Therion

Meditation involves holding a single object of concentration in mind, throwing all one’s force into being aware solely of that object, and discarding all distractions from this one object. This is the essence of the method of all Mystics, and the process of becoming more and more engrossed in the object of meditation is also the process of progressing through the stages, steps, or “Grades” of the Mystic Path. The difficulties of meditation reflect the work of one’s “Grade” and the successes reflect one’s progress on the Path. It can be seen that this particular practice of meditation is in the microcosm, so to speak, what one must do with one’s entire life in the macrocosm. At this “Grade,” one must simply strive to maintain the object of one’s meditation in mind, whether this is a mantra, an image, one’s breath, or whatever else. This corresponds to the first “stage” of meditation in Yoga known as dharana. The process is difficult: the mind will find every possible excuse to stray from the one purpose of the meditation, which is a reflection of one’s current stage of the Path as a whole. Remember why you are on this Path, the ordeal of the Trance of Sorrow. Be persistent. Be one-pointed. One will then inevitably come to the next stage of the Mystic Path.

← Part 2: Mysticism in Theory ← | → Part 4: Mysticism in Practice – The Lover → ]

Thelemic Mysticism

Thelemic Mysticism – part 2: Mysticism in Theory

Thelemic Mysticism

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PART 2: MYSTICISM IN THEORY

Conceived as a Goal, Mysticism is the direct experience of the ultimate spiritual goal/truth.

The Essential Nature of the Mystic Goal

What is the basic, essential nature of this spiritual “Truth” or spiritual “Goal”? The Mystic Goal involves transcending our normal consciousness of multiplicity and duality to attain the Mystic Consciousness of Unity. 

Our normal consciousness is called “Many” or “Two.”

“This Abyss is also called ‘Hell,’ and ‘The Many.’ Its name is ‘Consciousness,’ and ‘The Universe,’ among men.”
The Book of Lies, chapter 10

  • Many: We are usually aware of many “things” in the world, including the multiplicity of objects of our awareness. Trees are different from tables which are different from birds which are different from clouds, et cetera. 
  • Two: Our normal awareness or consciousness is sometimes called “Two” or “duality” because there is a fundamental split in our awareness between (a) our self and (b) the world. This is sometimes expressed as the opposition between subject and object or the opposition between ego and non-ego.

“Understand now that in yourselves is a certain discontent. Analyse well its nature: at the end is in every case one conclusion. The ill springs from the belief in two things, the Self and the Not-Self, and the conflict between them. This also is a restriction of the Will… Ultimately, therefore, the problem is how to destroy this perception of duality, to attain to the apprehension of unity.”
Liber CL: De Lege Libellum

The Mystic Goal involves transcending our normal consciousness of Many/Two and achieving the consciousness of Unity/One.

  • The Goal is called Unity because it refers to unification of consciousness: this is the unification of the multiplicity of objects of awareness as well as the more fundamental unification between the subject and object(s) of awareness.
  • Since the awareness of a “self” or “ego” requires some kind of distinction between it and something else, the self/ego is said to “die” or “dissolve” or “merge” in this Unity.
  • Since there is no distinction between anything, including self and other, this Unity is sometimes called “Non-duality.” In defining the Mystic Goal by what it is not (i.e. not duality), the name “non-duality” avoids defining the Mystic Goal by what it is. Defining things “negatively” in this way is a common method for Mystics. This is often useful because asserting something “positive” about the Mystic Experience (e.g. “it is One”) allows for the introduction of various metaphysical propositions (e.g. “The One is Kether” or “The One is God” or “The One is separate from the Many”), theories, and beliefs, yet these theories and beliefs are forms of rational-intellectual mind that the Mystic attempts to transcend in directly penetrating to the Mystic Goal that is beyond rational-intellectual thinking. Also, asserting something “positive” about the Mystic Goal allows for distinctions to begin to be made – (e.g. “If the One is infinite, it does not include the finite”; “If the One is Good, it does not include the bad”; “If the Goal is powerful, it does not include weakness,” et cetera) – yet the Mystic Goal is beyond distinctions. Nonetheless, defining the Mystic Experience negatively or positively is still defining it, and – as will be seen repeatedly – the Mystic Experience is ultimately ineffable. 

“The Quintessence [of Life] is pure Light, an ecstacy formless, and without bound or mark. In this Light naught exists, for It is homogeneous: and therefore have men called it Silence, and Darkness, and Nothing. But in this, as in all other effort to name it, is the root of every falsity and misapprehension, since all words imply some duality.”
Liber CL: De Lege Libellum

In Thelema, this Unity is often said to be “None” instead of “One.” This “None” is also called “Naught,” “Zero,” or “0.” This has its basis in The Book of the Law (I:27) where it is written, “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!”

  • It is understood that even this term “None” is not ideal. Ideally, we should “speak not of thee at all” because of the ineffability of the Mystic Goal as mentioned previously.
  • One reason the idea of “None” is used instead of “One” is because the number 1 implies a “deviation” insofar as it is a positive number (in opposition to and balanced by negative numbers). Therefore, the “union of opposites” (one term for the Mystic Goal) can be seen to be between the “X” of ego and the “-X” of non-ego; when they combine, X+(-X), we get Zero or None.
  • This “None” is not a lack of something, it is That which contains all things and That which all things – if they united – would cancel out into. Further symbolism of this None/Naught/0 can be studied in The Book of Thoth regarding Atu 0: The Fool.
  • In the end, we must remember that “None” – just like every other name, title, or description – is ultimately inadequate to describe the ineffable nature of the Mystic Goal.

Characteristics of the Mystic Goal

The primary characteristic of the Mystic Goal is its undifferentiated Unity. There are also a few other characteristics of the Mystic Experience that are universal among all Mystics from across different times and different cultures. The characteristics of the Mystic Goal are:

1. Undifferentiated UnityThis is the fact that the Mystic Experience confers this direct experience of the Unity of all things, and one’s ultimate identity therewith. Whether this Unity is called “Non-duality,” “One,” “None,” “All,” “Infinity,” “God,” “The Absolute,” “Krishna,” “Brahman,” “Emptiness,” “Buddha-nature,” “Silence,” “Darkness,” or “Light,” it is the same fundamental idea of an undifferentiated, undivided It. There are two types of Unity that are actually two sides of the same coin, so to speak: Introvertive Unity and Extrovertive Unity. 

Introvertive Unity:
• “All is dissolved in formless Light of Unity.”
Liber CL: De Lege Libellum
• “They beheld not God; they beheld not the Image of God; therefore were they arisen to the Palace of the Splendour Ineffable.” Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV, V:35

Extrovertive Unity:
• “All is One.”Liber Aleph, chapter 187
• “No two faces are identical, still less are two individuals. Unspeakable is the variety of form and immeasurable the diversity of beauty, but in all is the seal of unity.”New Comment to Liber AL, I:52

a) Introvertive Unity – The undifferentiated unity beyond all sense, thinking, forms, and images. There are no “things” or differentiation; there is simply undifferentiated unity. It is called “introvertive” because the mystic “looks within,” beyond all sensuous and intellectual contents of consciousness to penetrate to the undifferentiated Unity at the ground of all things. It is often spoken of as being “beyond senses,” “beyond images,” “beyond space,” “beyond time,” and “beyond causality.”

b) Extrovertive Unity – The undifferentiated unity as seen within the world, typically phrased as “All things are One.” The Extrovertive Unity “looks outward” into the world of senses and sees Unity permeating the apparent diversity and multiplicity. The sensuous world (the world as experienced through the senses) is transformed or transfigured, not in that anything has changed in the sensory world, but one’s very way of perceiving the sensuous world is altered so that Unity is perceived rather than multiplicity.

“Samadhi [has] an authenticity, and confer[s] an interior certainty, which is to the experience of waking life as that is to a dream.”
Eight Lectures on Yoga, “Yoga for Yellowbellies,” Fourth Lecture

2. Sense of Objectivity/Reality – The Mystic Goal, the undifferentiated unity, is sensed or intuited to be objective and real. It is often said to be “more real” than our normal “dualistic” awareness which is therefore labeled as “illusion.” It is the intuitive insight that is normally said to be “gnosis,” the direct experiential “knowledge” that the undifferentiated unity is true; this is the non-rational “certainty” that is given by the Mystic Experience.

“Then the adept was rapt away in bliss, and the beyond of bliss, and exceeded the excess of excess. Also his body shook and staggered with the burden of that bliss and that excess and that ultimate nameless.”
Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente, II:45-46

3. Deeply felt Positive Mood – This is the “peace” and “bliss” spoken of by virtually every Mystic throughout history (called “ananda” in Sanskrit). It is sometimes referred to as “love” or “joy” or virtually any other positive emotion raised to an exponential degree, e.g. “Perfect Happiness” as is stated in “Liber XV: The Gnostic Mass.”

4. Sense of Sacredness – This is an intuitive, direct sense of the sacredness or divine nature of this Mystic Experience. Its characteristic reactions involve awe, humility, and reverence. It is called “numinous” by Rudolf Otto, which he describes as referring to a sense of a tremendous mystery that is simultaneously both (a) awful/terrible (causes trembling and reverence; the “fear of God” of Judaism) and (b) fascinating/entrancing. This is sense of sacredness is generally related to various Mystics interpreting their experience as relating to God or the Divine. Also, this is somewhat related to the ‘deeply felt positive mood’ but not necessarily identical with it; one can feel blissful without the sense of sacredness and vice versa.

“Little by little, as your eyes grow stronger, will we unveil to you the ineffable glory of the Path of the Adepts, and its nameless goal.”
Liber Porta Lucis, line 14

“I believe in one secret and ineffable LORD.”
Liber XV: The Gnostic Mass

5. Ineffability – This refers to the fact that the Mystic Experience is universally said to be “ineffable.” This means the Mystic Experience is ultimately beyond words; it is impossible to describe. One of the most classic formulations of this idea comes from the Tao Teh Ching, “The Tao that is spoken of is not the Tao.” Although the Mystic Goal is ineffable, Mystics tend to write endlessly about it. For example, the previously mentioned line from the Tao Teh Ching is followed by 80 more chapters about the nature of the Tao. Although silence would most accurately portray the ineffable nature of the Mystic Goal, Mystics often feel the need to communicate about the Truth they experience and so they must resort to words, metaphors, and symbols regardless of their inadequacy. The ineffability of the Mystic Experience is why Mystics universally assert that the Mystic Goal is “beyond words,” “beyond reason” or “supra-rational,” or “beyond definition.”

“And this is the great Mystery of the Supernals that are beyond the Abyss. For below the Abyss, contradiction is division; but above the Abyss, contradiction is Unity. And there could be nothing true except by virtue of the contradiction that is contained in itself.”
The Vision and the Voice, 5th Aethyr

6. Paradoxicality – This refers to the logical contradictions that appear if the various definitions and descriptions of the Mystic Experience are analyzed rationally. Paradoxicality is the natural result of the identity of opposites that occurs in the Mystic Experience by virtue of the fact that it transcends the normal duality of perception and speech. Mystics use many terms to refer to the Mystic Experience that appear to be blatant contradictions. There are innumerable examples of this throughout Mystical literature:

  • “It stirs and It stirs not” (Isa Upanishad)
  • “dazzling darkness” (Henry Suso)
  • “dark brightness” (Tao Teh Ching)
  • “The One is everything and not everything” (Plotinus)
  • “I am the first and the last; I am the honored one and the scorned one; I am the whore and the holy one” (“Thunder: Perfect Mind”)
  • “I am light, and I am night, and I am that which is beyond them; I am speech, and I am silence, and I am that which is beyond them; I am life, and I am death, and I am that which is beyond them” (The Vision and the Voice, 1st Aethyr)
  • there is no subject, and there is no predicate; nor is there the contradictory of either of these things” (The Book of Lies)
  • “a light undesired, most desirable” (Liber AL, II:61), et cetera. 

Therefore, there are several characteristics that can be seen to be true of the Mystic Experience regardless of time period or culture. The primary characteristic is the experience of an undifferentiated unity – this is the defining characteristic of the Mystic Goal and it is always present in some form. The other characteristics include an intuitive sense of objectivity or reality (the Mystic Experience is understood as true and with supra-rational certainty), deeply felt positive mood (joy, bliss, peace), a sense of sacredness (holy, sublime, numinous, divine), ineffability (beyond words and description), and paradoxicality (descriptions are logically contradictory).

It should be noted that expressions of the Mystic Experience do not necessarily – or even usually – include all 6 of these characteristics at once. Sometimes the ineffability is emphasized, sometimes the bliss of positive emotion is emphasized, sometimes paradoxicality is emphasized, et cetera. Certain cultures emphasize different qualities – for example, Sufism tends to stress the positive emotion of bliss and love while Buddhism tends to stress ineffability. Some Mystics write with much more clarity while others write with much more romantic poeticism; some try to speak rationally while some speak in parable or metaphor. Nonetheless, they all refer to the same Mystic Experience. When the various utterances of a Mystic are brought together, they usually encompass most or all of these characteristics. Thelema in particular is a system that has instances of all of these characteristics of the Mystic Experience.

The Various Symbols of the Mystic Goal

“If we are in any way to shadow forth the Ineffable, it must be by a degradation. Every symbol is a blasphemy against the Truth that it indicates.”
“The Big Stick” in Equinox I:4

For as many Mystics have existed, there are at least as many different symbols, names, titles, and metaphors to describe the Mystic Goal. Each of these symbols implies a view about the world or various metaphysical propositions, which is one of their shortcomings. Every symbol is an image and, since the Mystic Goal is ultimately beyond all images, names, forms, and all other partial phenomena, there is no symbol that can be “true” as opposed to all others; they are all ultimately “degradations” of the Truth. They can only be signposts – fingers pointing to the moon, so to speak – and they must be taken as such. Nonetheless, symbols are also helpful in that they can aid us in understanding the nature of the Mystic Goal, or at least the language and ideas surrounding this within a particular system.

It will be seen very quickly that these symbols overlap. Sometimes an individual will use many of these metaphors/symbols at once. In the end, these all refer to the same Mystic Goal. In general, the West tends to explain the Mystic Goal as some kind of ultimate Being whereas the East tends to explain the Mystic Goal as some kind of ultimate State of being (although there are examples where the opposites are true). 

“THE AUGOEIDES.
Lytton calls him Adonai in ‘Zanoni,’ and I often use this name in the note-books. Abramelin calls him Holy Guardian Angel. I adopt this:
   1. Because Abramelin’s system is so simple and effective.
   2. Because since all theories of the universe are absurd it is better to talk in the language of one which is patently absurd, so as to mortify the metaphysical man.
   3. Because a child can understand it.

* Theosophists call him the Higher Self, Silent Watcher, or Great Master.
* The Golden Dawn calls him the Genius.
* Gnostics say the Logos.
* Zoroaster talks about uniting all these symbols into the form of a Lion — see Chaldean Oracles.
* Anna Kingsford calls him Adonai (Clothed with the Sun).
* Buddhists call him Adi-Buddha — (says H. P. [Blavatsky])
* The Bhagavad-Gita calls him Vishnu (chapter xi).
* The Yi King calls him “The Great Person.”
* The Qabalah calls him Jechidah.

We also get metaphysical analysis of His nature, deeper and deeper according to the subtlety of the writer; for this vision — it is all one same phenomenon, variously coloured by our varying Ruachs [minds] — is, I believe, the first and the last of all Spiritual Experience. For though He is attributed to Malkuth [the tenth Sephirah], and the Door of the Path of His overshadowing, He is also in Kether [the first Sephirah] (Kether is in Malkuth and Malkuth in Kether — “as above, so beneath”), and the End of the “Path of the Wise” is identity with Him. So that while he is the Holy Guardian Angel, He is also Hua [the secret title of Kether, literally ‘He’] and the Tao [The great extreme of the Yi King].


For since Intra Nobis Regnum deI [I.N.R.I., ‘The Kingdom of God is within/inside’] all things are in Ourself, and all Spiritual Experience is a more of less complete Revelation of Him. Yet it is only in the Middle Pillar that His manifestation is in any way perfect.

The Augoeides invocation is the whole thing. Only it is so difficult; one goes along through all the fifty gates of Binah [i.e. ‘crossing the Abyss’] at once, more or less illuminated, more or less deluded. But the First and the Last is this Augoeides Invocation.”
“The Temple of Solomon the King” in Equinox I:1

The One – The Goal is sometimes explained numerically as “the One.” “One” implies something that is single, undivided, and complete.

  • In the Qabalah, this “One” is Kether, the 1st Sephirah on the Tree of Life, which literally means “Crown.” In Qabalistic terms, “All numbers [are] Veils of the One, emanations of and therefore corruptions of the One” (Crowley in 777)
  • The same term is often used by Neoplatonists such as Plotinus who says, “It is the simple unbroken Unity” (EnneadsI:1:9).
  • This “One” is – in the West – identified with God as in one of the central prayers of Judaism, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4), in Christ’s statement that, “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30), and in the Quran, “Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him” (Surah 112). 

None – The Goal is sometimes, as mentioned previously, explained as “None” (or “Naught,” “Zero,” or “0”). “None” implies no division, no distinction, no opposition, no separation, and other similar negatives. 

  • In the Qabalah, this “None” is the Negative Veils of Existence that “pre-exist” Kether. The three Negative Veils are “Ain,” “Ain Soph,” and “Ain Soph Aur,” which can be translated as “Nothing,” “No Limit,” and “Limitless Light,” respectively.
  • Numerically, “None” can be expressed as 0 = X + (-X), which implies that it contains opposites as well as that it is the “result” of uniting opposites.
  • The same idea also appears in Zen, as when Shunryu Suzuki writes, “True being comes out of nothingness, moment after moment. Nothingness is always there, and from it everything appears.” Similarly, Joshu Sasaki Roshi says, “The whole universe is one: equality holds difference and discrimination within it. The activity of equality includes plus and minus. Therefore, it is zero… Inevitably, the state in which you no longer claim yourself will be manifested. Buddhism concludes that this is the true self, true love, and the ultimate truth. Zen’s view is that words cannot point out the ultimate truth. It is utterly, completely zero.”

God – In the West, God is the ultimate goal of union. God is conceived as the ultimate Being who is omnipotent (contains all forces), omnipresent (contains all forms), and omniscient (contains all knowledge or all relations); God is therefore said to be “infinite.” The examples from every single Western Mystic are too innumerable to even begin to list.

  • Because of the Western notion that each individual has or “is” a soul that is separate from God, the Mystic Goal is seen as “union with God” (called “henosis” in Neoplatonism which literally means “oneness”).
  • God is the ultimate Good, the ultimate Truth, and philosophers equate their notion of the Absolute with that of God.
  • Alternate ways to refer to this same idea include “the Divine,” “the Lord,” and “Godhead” as well as the innumerable names of God from various systems (“YHVH,” “Adonai,” “Christ,” “Allah,” “Tetragrammaton,” “Elohim,” “El,” et cetera).

“The main idea is that the Infinite, the Absolute, God, the Over-soul, or whatever you may prefer to call it, is always present; but veiled or masked by the thoughts of the mind, just as one cannot hear a heart-beat in a noisy city.”
Liber ABA: Book Four, Part I

The Absolute – In Western philosophy, the concept of the Absolute is the unconditional, infinite, ultimate Reality.

  • While it is a way that Westerners have pointed to the same Mystic Goal, religious people inevitably equate this philosophical concept of the Absolute with God.
  • The Absolute is equivalent to the “Ain Soph” of Qabalah, the “Pleroma” of Gnosticism, the “Tao” or the “Wu Ji” of Chinese philosophy, the “Brahman” of Hinduism, et cetera.

“Thou that art One, our Lord in the Universe, the Sun, our Lord in ourselves whose name is Mystery of Mystery, uttermost being whose radiance, enlightening the worlds, is also the breath that maketh every God even and Death to tremble before Thee.”
Liber XV: The Gnostic Mass

The Sun – The Sun is one of the most ancient symbols of the Mystic Goal. In the West, it is endlessly associated with God in various ways.

  • The Sun is the source of light in the world, and therefore makes us able to “see” reality. Light is constantly associated with knowledge or awareness (as in “enlightenment”) whereas darkness is constantly associated with ignorance or delusion.
  • The Sun is the source of life in the world, so it is understood as a symbol of being the source of creative power/force of this Absolute/God, i.e. omnipotence.
  • The Sun is the “eye of the world,” so it is understood as seeing or being aware of all things, i.e. omniscience.
  • The Sun rules the ordering of days, seasons, and years, so it is understood as a symbol of order, harmony, law, and the “Architect” (source of all rules/laws and all forms) of the Cosmos.
  • In the New Aeon, we know (a) the Sun is the center of our system, and (b) the Sun never ‘dies.’ Therefore, it is a symbol of being (a) the central, ordering principle of the universe and therefore the center or “soul” of ourselves, and (b) eternal, immortal, infinite, deathless, et cetera.
  • Horus in His various forms – Ra-Hoor-Khuit, Ra-Hoor, Hoor-Apep, Hoori, Heru-Ra-Ha, et cetera – is a symbol of this “Sun.” 

The common symbol of the Sun, the point in the circle, is itself a symbol of the union of opposites: in this context, the Sun represents the Whole, the One, the All, et cetera. Sometimes the Sun (Sol) is seen as a complement to the Moon (Luna): in this context, the Sun is represented as one half of the whole, the Bridegroom as opposed to the Bride, the Male as opposed to the Female, the God as opposed to the Soul, et cetera.

“The true Magick of Horus requires the passionate Union of opposites.”
Little Essays Toward Truth, “Glossary”

Union of Opposites  – Since the Mystic Goal involves transcending duality, all symbols that involve the union of opposites in some way are symbolic of the Mystic Goal. These are innumerable as well but some examples include the Union of:

  • Soul and God (virtually all Western Mystics)
  • Bride and Bridegroom (many Christian and Sufi Mystics)
  • Male and Female
  • The Child as the union of Father and Mother (Horus as Crowned and Conquering Child)
  • Sun and Moon (Planetary)
  • Microcosm and Macrocosm; Pentagram and Hexagram; 5 and 6 (Hermetic)
  • Lingam and Yoni (and virtually all sexual symbolism; Hindu)
  • Lance and Cup/Chalice/Grail (Parsival; the Gnostic Mass)
  • Cross and Rose (Rosicrucian)
  • Lion and Eagle (Alchemical)
  • Cross and Circle; Point and Circle; Square and Circle (Geometric)
  • Square and Compass (Masonic)
  • Heart and Serpent (Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV)
  • Egg and Serpent (Orphic Mysteries)

“The Ultimate Reality… the Unthinkable Reality.”
The Book of Lies

Reality – The Mystic Goal is sometimes equated with “Reality.” This implies that normal understanding or awareness is “illusion,” i.e. the “Fall” of Western religion or the “illusion” (“Maya”) of Eastern philosophies. Virtually all Mystics equate the Mystic Goal to the ultimate Reality in some way or another. It is also called “Truth.” This emphasizes the “Sense of Objectivity/Reality” aspect of the Mystic Goal mentioned previously.

“…The knowledge of his infinite Will, his destiny to perform the Great Work, the realization of his True Self.”
Liber CL: De Lege Libellum

True Self – The “True Self” is sometimes used to distinguish from the “false self” of the dualistic and limited ego-self. This emphasizes that the Mystic Goal is not something separate from oneself.

  • The True Self is sometimes called “True Nature,” the “pure soul,” or the “Oversoul.”
  • In Hinduism, it is the “Atman” in Hinduism that is understood to be identical with “Brahman,” the infinite, boundless Reality, i.e. the “Absolute” of Hindu philosophy.
  • In Buddhism, the “True Self” is sometimes called the “Adi-Buddha” (“primordial Buddha”) in Mahayana/Vajrayana Buddhism, and the “True Nature” is sometimes called the “Buddha-dhatu” (“Buddha-nature”).
  • In the Qabalistic system, this is the “Yechidah” (or “Jechidah”), the primal individuality attributed to Kether on the Tree of Life.
  • The Golden Dawn and others call this the “Genius” or “Daimon” or “Augoeides.” It can, in certain ways, be identified with the Holy Guardian Angel of Thelemic mysticism.

Enlightenment – In Eastern systems there are various terms that are essentially equivalent to our English term “enlightenment.” The term implies insight into one’s True Self or True Nature or into the true nature of Reality. Various scholars and philosophers have introduced distinctions between these terms and various other sub-sets of these terms, but they all ultimately refer to the same Mystic Goal. There are various terms for this in different systems:

  • Samadhi – In the Hindu system, the term “Samadhi” is used to refer to the union of subject and object of perception in meditation. This brings “liberation” (“moksha”) from the Wheel of Samsara, i.e. of birth, death, and rebirth.
  • Nirvana – In the Buddhist system, the term “Nirvana” is used to refer to the cessation of the sense of self or of “desire” that frees one from the First Noble Truth of suffering (“dukkha”). It is equivalent to the Muslim “fana” (“to pass away/cease”).
  • Kensho/satori  – “Kensho” and “satori” are words used in Zen Buddhism that essentially mean “seeing into one’s true nature.” 

The Various Symbols of the Mystic Goal

“We shall bring you to Absolute Truth, Absolute Light, Absolute Bliss.
Many adepts throughout the ages have sought to do this; but their words have been perverted by their successors, and again and again the Veil has fallen upon the Holy of Holies.
To you who yet wander in the Court of the Profane we cannot yet reveal all; but you will easily understand that the religions of the world are but symbols and veils of the Absolute Truth. So also are the philosophies. To the adept, seeing all these things from above, there seems nothing to choose between Buddha and Mohammed, between Atheism and Theism.”
“Liber Porta Lucis”, lines 17-19

As we can see, there are more ways to symbolically express the Mystic Goal than can possibly be listed in this short essay. There are two main points to remember:

1. All of these symbols refer to the same Mystic Goal of transcending our normal consciousness of Many/Two and achieving the consciousness of Unity/One. The diversity of the symbolism veils its ultimate Unity.

2. The difference of these symbols enables us to not get dogmatically “stuck” in any one of them to the exclusion of others. One of the virtues of Thelemic Mysticism is the explicit awareness of these many different names and forms of expressing the same Mystic Goal, so we are particularly on guard against asserting one to be “more true” than another.

The question still remains: “How do I achieve the Mystic Goal?” or “What is the Mystic Path?” This will be explained in the next section, Mysticism in Practice.

← Part 1: Introduction ← | → Part 3: Mysticism in Practice → ] 

Thelemic Mysticism

Thelemic Mysticism – part 1: Introduction

Thelemic Mysticism

PART 1: INTRODUCTION

The intent of this essay is to set forth the basic theoretical principles and practical methods of Mysticism in the clearest possible language. This will therefore be neither academic nor exhaustive in its extent.

The intended audiences are those who want to learn about Thelemic Mysticism or those who are aware of Thelemic Mysticism but may seek further guidance on their Paths. It is hoped that this essay will help clarify the definition and basic tenets of Mysticism, encourage those who are already aspirants to this Truth, and potentially aid aspirants in avoiding various detours and pitfalls along the Mystic Path.

Since the Mystic Goal is universal, much of the language in this introduction will be generally applicable to all forms of Mysticism, regardless of religion or culture. Nonetheless, since the focus of this essay is upon Thelemic Mysticism which is a particular breed or “flavor” of Mysticism, there will be various quotations interspersed throughout the essay from the Holy Books of Thelema and other important writings of The Master Therion. This is to both help show that Thelema reinforces the same essential principles of Mysticism as well as to show the particular language and style used throughout Thelemic writings.

What is Mysticism?

Mysticism is a name for both the Goal and the Path to the Goal of the Mystic.

As a Goal: Mysticism is the direct experience of the ultimate spiritual goal/truth. 

Since the Mystic Goal involves a direct experience, it can also be called the Mystic Experience or the Mystical Experience.

“Now the Great Work is one, and the Initiation is one, and the Reward is one, however diverse are the symbols wherein the Unutterable is clothed.”
Liber LXI vel Causae, line 5

The Mystic Goal cannot be accurately named because it is beyond the normal distinctions that are inherently made by names and definitions. No name, description, or definition could ever be complete, so the Mystic Goal  is ultimately nameless. Though the many names and metaphors for this Goal are necessarily partial, the Goal itself is always the same regardless of whether it is called “crossing the Abyss,” “enlightenment,” “cosmic consciousness,” “samadhi,” “union with the Absolute,” “union with God,” “union of subject and object,” “union of microcosm and macrocosm,” “union of opposites,” “attaining Nirvana,” “accomplishing Great Work” or whatever else.

“In the true religion there is no sect.”
Liber Librae sub figura XXX, line 21

Since the Mystic Goal is the same regardless of time, place, or culture (despite the outward multiplicity of forms), Thelemic Mysticism is nothing new; it is merely a particular set of symbols and methods that achieve the same Truth as every other seeker of enlightenment in human history.

“Aum! All words are sacred and all prophets true; save only that they understand a little…”
Liber AL vel Legis sub figura CCXX, I:56

Thelemic Mysticism is aware of the many strands of Mysticism throughout human history, and it is therefore able to see beyond the partial truths, symbols, and language in which the Mystic Truth is explained by people of various temperaments and cultures.

In terms of Thelemic language, Crowley sometimes equates “Mysticism” with “Yoga,” the latter of which he defines simply as “Union.” Insofar as Mysticism may be understood as Union with God (or the Absolute, or Truth, or Reality, or whatever else), “Mysticism” and “Yoga” are essentially the same and the terms are interchangeable in virtually all cases of Crowley mentioning them. 

As a Path: Mysticism is the Science and Art of achieving the direct experience of the ultimate spiritual truth or goal.

“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.”
Liber LXI vel Causae, line 2

There are many metaphors for the Path, “the Path” being one of them. The metaphors can only be maps, and they plot and guide the progress of the individual on her way to Goal.

The Path itself is the various means of discipline and training for attaining the Mystic Goal, and the methods are often of the character of meditation and/or devotion.

“There must ever be division in the word. For the colours are many, but the light is one… Therefore do ye fret yourselves because of this. Be not contented with the image… Debate not of the image, saying Beyond! Beyond!”
Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV

All cultures have some kind of system of spiritual training – often called “initiation” in Thelema – yet different systems have different methods and different languages for talking about the Path and the Goal. Nevertheless, the Mystic Goal itself is always essentially the same. 

A “Mystic” is any individual who has achieved this Goal or is on the Path to the Goal. Mystics are not content with merely having intellectual knowledge or emotional feelings about Truth, Reality, God, the One, or the Absolute (or whatever name suits you best).

“Ye shall comprehend, when, rising above Reason, which is but a manipulation of the Mind, ye come to pure Knowledge by direct perception of the Truth.”
Liber CL: De Lege Libellum

Whether by choice or being called in some way, Mystics are those who strive toward the direct experience of Truth itself and, with the right attitude and effort, attain this experience. If we make the analogy that the Mystic Goal or Truth is like fire, the philosopher is content thinking about and conceptualizing fire, the scientist is content observing and manipulating fire, the romantic is content feeling love toward and writing poetry about fire, but the Mystic is only content in knowing the fire by being directly burnt and consumed by it.

“There is a physiological (or pathological; never mind now!) state which I call Samadhi; and that state is as real – in relation to man – as sleep, or intoxication, or death.”
The Soldier and the Hunchback

This Mystic Experience or Mystic Goal is not some transcendent world, object, or state that is somehow removed or distinct from everything else. It is only “beyond this world” by metaphor, not in reality. It is an experience that can (and has) been attained consciously while individuals are still alive and awake. Mystics who attain the Mystic Goal are not physically annihilated and most can and do still function within the world. The Mystic Experience is potentially available to everyone if they apply the right methods, just like cells are invisible but available to be perceived if one properly uses a microscope.

“I love you; I would sprinkle you with the divine dew of immortality. This immortality is no vain hope beyond the grave: I offer you the certain consciousness of bliss. I offer it at once, on earth; before an hour hath struck upon the bell, ye shall be with Me in the Abodes that are beyond Decay.”
Liber Tzaddi vel Hamus Hermeticus sub figura XC, lines 28-30

Direct experience means not hearing about the Mystic Goal from other people, thinking about it intellectually, or feeling good (or bad) feelings about the idea; it means actually bringing this Goal into our conscious awareness. Direct experience means that we experience the Mystic Goal through a shift in our way of perceiving, a change in our perception itself. We directly experience what the Mystic “Unity” is like in the Mystic Goal in the same way we directly experience what sleep is like in sleeping. It is intimate, immediate, and unmistakable in the same way a headache or intoxication are directly perceived in an intimate, immediate, and unmistakable way. The Mystic Goal is sometimes called “Samadhi” and used in an analogy such Dreaming:Waking::Waking:Samadhi; because it refers to a “state” of consciousness in this way, this is why the Mystic Goal is sometimes called the “Mystic Consciousness” or Unified/Un-differentiated/Cosmic Consciousness.

What Mysticism isn’t

Mysticism is only the pursuit of the Mystic Goal, the direct experience of union with God (as it is most commonly called in our Judeo-Christian, Western world). It is nothing else.

Therefore, Mysticism is NOT these things:

  • Senses: Mysticism is not the sensory experience of anything, including any tactile feeling, any taste, any smell, any sight, or any sound.

    “Thou art delicious beyond all taste and touch, Thou art not-to-be-beheld for glory, Thy voice is beyond the Speech and the Silence and the Speech therein, and Thy perfume is of pure ambergris, that is not weighed against the finest gold of the fine gold.”
    Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV, III:19

    • This is why virtually every single Mystic mentions the necessity of restraining and/or transcending the senses in some way.
    • Sensory phenomena may accompany the Path and Goal of Mysticism, and they may even prove useful in various ways, but they are not the Goal itself. 
    • Sensory phenomena are incredibly “intimate” in that they are felt directly, so there are many sensory metaphors and symbols used in Mysticism (e.g. “seeing God,” “tasting the Divine kisses,” “hearing the voice of God,” “smelling the perfume of God,” “touching” or even sexually uniting with God, et cetera)

“Since truth is supra-rational, it is incommunicable in the language of reason.”
Postcards to Probationers

  • Intellect: Mysticism is not the intellectual knowledge of anything, including math, science, logic, pop culture, and Mysticism itself (knowing about the Goal is not the same as achieving the Goal; the map is not the territory).
    • Mysticism is neither Reason nor Faith. The Mystic Goal is often explained to be “beyond” Reason in this way, i.e. intellect, knowledge, logic, or “ratiocination,” and Mysticism has nothing to do with “faith” in the ordinary sense of accepting propositions without evidence. The Mystic demands the supreme evidence of direct experience; they demand certainty, not faith.
    • Mysticism has nothing to do with knowledge derived through science (empiricism) or through logic (rationalism); Mysticism is concerned with one special class of knowledge, the direct experience of Truth. To distinguish this from normal knowledge, it is often called Wisdom or Understanding or Knowledge with a capital ‘K’ (or “true” or “perfect” is prefixed to the term to make it, for example, “True Wisdom” or “Perfection of Wisdom”).
    • Knowledge may accompany the Path and Goal of Mysticism, and it may even prove useful in various ways, but it is not the Goal itself.

“Every emotion is an obsession; the most horrible of blasphemies is to attribute any emotion to God in the macrocosm, or to the pure soul in the microcosm. How can that which is self-existent, complete, be ‘moved?'”
Book Four, Part 2, chapter 8

  • Emotion: Mysticism is not heightened emotions or any other form of emotional experience (heightened, dulled, strange, unique, potent, expansive, contractive, et cetera).  
    • This is why virtually every Mystic mentions the necessity of “taming the lower nature” in order to see the Truth; otherwise one’s vision is clouded.
    • Emotion may accompany the Path and Goal of Mysticism, and it may even prove useful in various ways, but it is not the Goal itself. 
  • Visions: Mysticism is not visions of any kind, including the most spectacular spiritual visions of 1,000-armed bodhisattvas, the most dazzling display of 1,000-eyed winged beasts, or even the most lofty visions seen in Crowley’s The Vision and the Voice. 
    • Visions necessarily deal with combinations of the above – sense, intellect, and emotion – although they are in the “interior world”; visions are the “inner” parallel of our various sensory experiences, and – to the Mystic – they are equally blinds to the Light of Truth.
    • Virtually all Mystics of every culture affirm that the ultimate Mystic Goal is beyond names, beyond forms, and beyond all images. In short, a vision of a bodhisattva does not make you a bodhisattva; a vision of Krishna does not make you united with Him; a vision of Horus does not make you the Crowned and Conquering Child. Only through the Mystic’s direct experience of the Mystic Truth does one become a bodhisattva, become united with Krishna, become the Crowned and Conquering Child, or whatever metaphor resonates with you.

“Morality is immaterial; for both Socrates and Mohammed were Christs… Since the ultimate truth of teleology is unknown, all codes of morality are arbitrary. Therefore the student has no concern with ethics as such.”
Postcards to Probationers

  • Being a Moral Paragon: Mysticism is not about being a moral paragon, a shining example of virtuousness that is associated with being a “saint”; it is not about “being a good person” or even “being a spiritual person.” The various virtues and vices of common religion have nothing inherently to do with Mysticism. Those vices that prevent the full attainment of the Mystic Goal are vices, and those virtues that aid the full attainment of the Mystic Goal are virtues, but these are seen as means toward the end of the Mystic Goal. The Mystic does not embark and travel on the Mystic Path in order to be praised by his colleagues or to be seen as a shining example of morality. Especially within Thelemic Mysticism, morality is simply the means toward the end of attaining the Mystic Goal, and since everyone is unique, the morality may be unique for each individual. This does not mean that Mystics do not care about vice and virtue, but they see them specifically in the context of hindering or helping their attainment of the direct experience of God/Truth/the Absolute. Contrary to being moral paragons, many mystics are actually criticized, persecuted, and reviled by the masses for their “unnatural,” “uncivilized,” or “blasphemous” behavior. Famous mystics like Meister Eckhart, Mansur Al-Hallaj, and even Christ himself were persecuted for their blasphemy, and the “outrageous” behavior of mystics is so pervasive there is even a term for it: “crazy wisdom.” 
  • Causing Change in the World: Mysticism is NOT the change of anything within the world. The bestowal of gifts or alms, the incitement of political change, acts of kindness and malice, the use of divination to ascertain and affect the future, and it is even the progress through any kind of organization (whether “mundane” like a corporation or “sacred” such as an esoteric organization) have nothing to do with the Mystic Path or the Mystic Goal. It is for this reason that Mysticism is often distinguished from Magick, although they inevitably intertwine, interconnect, and – in certain ways of thinking about and enacting Magick – have the same Goal. 

Mysticism is ONLY the Goal or the Path toward the Goal of direct experience of the Absolute, the ultimate spiritual Truth, the quintessential Mystic Goal. 

Magick vs. Mysticism

Magick is often defined in a way that complements or contrasts Mysticism. Liber ABA: Book Four, the Magnum Opus of Aleister Crowley, has four parts: the first part is titled “Mysticism” and the second part is titled “Magick.” 

“The aspiring Magician only analyses himself for the purpose of finding new worlds to conquer… the whole of Magick [is] the science and art of extending, first in oneself, one’s own faculties, secondly in external nature their hidden characteristics.”
Magick Without Tears, chapter 83

Magick is famously defined by Crowley as “the Science and Art of causing Change in conformity with Will.” Magick therefore involves many methods whereby the Magician may progressively expand, conquer, and enrich her Will. The Magician is concerned with more Power to execute her Will through, essentially, more control (of body and mind), more knowledge (of both self and the world), and more skill.

Mysticism is defined above as “the Science and Art of achieving the direct experience of the ultimate spiritual truth or goal.” Therefore, there is no Goal other than attaining this direct experience. Anything that hinders the attainment of this Goal through distraction from the Goal is not part the Path. Anything that helps attain the Goal by focusing further upon the Goal is part of the Path. It is for this reason that most Mystical systems of training involve the divestment of most things that will distract the aspirant through their senses (food, luxury), emotions (sex, intoxication), and minds (mundane knowledge, concern about worldly affairs); it is also for this reason that most Mystical systems do not even bother with “magical powers” (known as siddhis in India) even though they are naturally acquired by many along the Path. 

Some may (rightfully) argue that Magick and Mysticism are not as opposed as stated here. It is true that Magick and Mysticism both terminate at the same Truth. It is a certain perspective of Magick that is opposed to Mysticism. Magick is sometimes divided into “thaumaturgy” and “theurgy.”

  • Thaumaturgy – literally “miracle work” – involves causing changes in the world based on magical knowledge and skill including but not limited to divining the future, obtaining money, obtaining love, seeing remote places, virtually any psychic phenomena, or even various ways of improving or perfecting the body, mind, emotions, and will of the individual. This is the type of Magick that is distinguished from and opposed to Mysticism.
  • Theurgy is the magical practice of achieving union with the Source, the Divine, the Godhead, the One (et cetera). Insofar as Magick is “theurgic,” its aims are identical with those of Mysticism. This is the Magick that is only different in Path but not Goal from Mysticism. The “theurgic” perspective on Magick is the one Crowley takes when he writes at the beginning of Magick in Theory & Practice, “There is a single main definition of the object of all magical Ritual. It is the uniting of the Microcosm with the Macrocosm. The Supreme and Complete Ritual is therefore the Invocation of the Holy Guardian Angel; or, in the language of Mysticism, Union with God.” 

To the Magician, works of thaumaturgy are useful to help expand the power and dominion of the individual’s sphere of influence. To the Mystic, works of thaumaturgy are distractions at best and delusions that perpetuate falsehood at worst. Thaumaturgy involves most or all of those things that Mysticism is NOT as explained previously. Mystics are concerned with the Mystic Goal and nothing else, and all other things – magical or otherwise – are distractions from that Goal. 

Summary

  • As a Goal, Mysticism is the direct experience of the ultimate spiritual goal/truth.
  • The Mystic Goal is ultimately ineffable or unnameable. All cultures have various languages of describing this Mystic Goal, but all Mystics of all times and places attain to the same Truth despite the variety of ways of speaking about it. 
  • As a Path, Mysticism is the Science and Art of achieving the direct experience of the ultimate spiritual truth or goal.
  • Anyone who walks this Mystic Path and/or achieves this Mystic Goal is a “Mystic.”
  • Mysticism is a direct experience, or a state of being, that is available to anyone through the right attitude and efforts. This direct experience is not something outside of the world in another realm or beyond death: it is an experience available to each individual while they are consciously aware and alive. 
  • Direct experience means that we experience the Mystic Goal in our own awareness, through an intimiate and unmistakable change/shift in our perception itself, rather than merely hearing about the Mystic Goal, thinking about it, or conceptualizing it. 
  • Mysticism is only the attainment of the Mystic Goal. It is NOT the senses, the intellect, the emotions, having visions, being a moral paragon, or even causing change in the world in any way. 
  • Insofar as Magick is “thaumaturgic,” dealing with changes and powers within the world, it is distinct from Mysticism. Insofar as Magick is “theurgic,” seeking union with the Divine, it is identical with Mysticism.

Despite these definitions and clarifications, it is still yet to be seen exactly what the Mystic Goal really is and what the Mystic Path really involves. The next two parts of this essay will delve further into (a) the Mystic Goal and (b) the Mystic Path – that is, they will deal with (a) Mysticism in Theory and (b) Mysticism in Practice.

[→ Part 2: Mysticism in Theory → ]

11 Principles of Thelemites

11 Principles of Thelemites

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

In an ideal state, without jargon, without theology, what defines a Thelemite’s perspective? Is it possible to describe the essential characteristics of living as a Thelemite without the use of any technical terms or implying any kind of metaphysical system? Can it be described in a way that a 10-year-old could easily understand?

Here is one attempt, written from the perspective of someone asserting principles or truths about themselves as Thelemites. 

11 PRINCIPLES of THELEMITES
with no technical jargon

1. I know that exploring and expressing myself is my right and my purpose.

2. I know that every single other being also has the same right & purpose to explore and express their natures.

3. I accept all people no matter what they look like or believe, and I accept all moments no matter if they are good or bad.

4. I am always growing, always searching & striving ever to more in all things.

5. I look at the difficult things in life as my teachers that help me grow, and I embrace them.

6. I never forget that being alive and being aware is a mysterious blessing that always deserves gratitude and joy.

7. I enjoy the beauty in everyone and everything else, and I help to bring more beauty to the world.

8. I seek truth: I think for myself, I am honest with myself and others, and I question myself and others.

9. I explore and develop my creativity in all aspects of life, and I help others to do the same.

10. I am connected with everything in the universe, so I live in harmony with other people, animals, plants, and all other things on the earth and in the whole cosmos.

11. I laugh: I enjoy all parts of the world, and I do not take myself too seriously.

11 Principles of Thelemites

Supporting Quotations

All quotations are from Aleister Crowley.

1. I know that exploring and expressing myself is my right and my purpose.
2. I know that every single other being also has the same right & purpose to explore and express their natures.

  • “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” (AL, I:40)
  • “So with thy all; thou hast no right but to do thy will. Do that, and no other shall say nay.” (AL, I:42-43)
  • “Explore the Nature and Powers of your own Being… Contemplate your own Nature… Do not repress or restrict any true instinct of your Nature; but devote all in perfection to the sole service of your one True Will. (“Duty”)
  • “We are to do what we will, and leave others to do what they will.” (Commentary to AL, II:57)

3. I accept all people no matter what they look like or believe, and I accept all moments no matter if they are good or bad.

  • “Every man and every woman is a star.” (AL, I:3)
  • “Each human being is an Element of the Cosmos, self-determined and supreme, co-equal with all other Gods.” (Commentary to AL, I:3)
  • “Bind nothing! Let there be no difference made among you between any one thing & any other thing; for thereby there cometh hurt.” (AL, I:22)
  • “[Nuit] is also All Points of the View no less than All Vistas seen therefrom. Bind nothing, for all things alike pertain to her, and her Nature is to compose All in One and Naught. One thing is in the end like all the rest; the seeming not alike comes as a dream from choosing images after one’s own heart to worship them; thus each, though true as one of the All, is false if thought of as one apart from the rest.” (“Djeridensis Comment” on AL, I:22)
  • “All is a never ending Play of Love wherein our Lady Nuit and her Lord Hadit rejoice; and every Part of the Play is Play. All pain is but sharp Sauce to the Dish of Pleasure; for it is the Nature of the Universe that hath devised this everlasting Banquet of Joy.” (Liber Aleph, ch.59 “De Comedia Universa, Quae Dictur Man”)
  • “All events [become] equally indifferent, exquisite phrases in an eternal symphony. (Imagine listening to Beethoven with the prepossession that C is a good note and F a bad one; yet this is exactly the stand point from which all uninitiates contemplate the universe. Obviously, they miss the music.)” (Confessions, ch.86)
  • “You must accept everything exactly as it is in itself, as one of the factors which go to make up your True Self.” (“Duty”)

4. I am always growing, always searching & striving ever to more in all things.

  • “But exceed! exceed! Strive ever to more!” (AL, I:71-72)
  • “Her [Nuit’s] worship involves neither life nor death; it is a Growth in all ways, the primal mode of Being.” (“Djeridensis Comment” on AL, I:59)
  • “The joy of life consists in the exercise of one’s energies, continual growth, constant change, the enjoyment of every new experience. To stop means simply to die. The eternal mistake of mankind is to set up an attainable ideal.” (Confessions, ch.65)
  • “The Universe is Change; every Change is the effect of an Act of Love; all Acts of Love contain Pure Joy.” (The Heart of the Master)

5. I look at the difficult things in life as my teachers that help me grow, and I embrace them.

  • “Thou then, who hast trials and troubles, rejoice because of them, for in them is Strength, and by their means is a pathway opened unto that Light. How should it be otherwise, O man, whose life is but a day in Eternity, a drop in the Ocean of time; how, were thy trials not many, couldst thou purge thy soul from the dross of earth? Is it but now that the Higher Life is beset with dangers and difficulties; hath it not ever been so with the Sages and Hierophants of the past? They have been persecuted and reviled, they have been tormented of men; yet through this also has their Glory increased. Rejoice therefore, O Initiate, for the greater thy trial the greater thy Triumph.” (Liber Librae)
  • “Sorrow, pain, regret, are symptoms of diseased thought; those only who have ceased to be able to adjust themselves rightly and gladly to all Change, and to grow thereby, or those who still react, but only feebly and vainly, take Sorrow, pain, and regret to be Real. Those (also) who do not yet know Hadit (that is, know their True Selves to be Hadit) are likewise deceived.” (“Djeridensis Comment” to AL, II:17)
  • “To bring out saliently the differences between two points-of-view is useful to both in measuring the position of each in the whole. Combat stimulates the virile or creative energy; and, like love, of which it is one form, excites the mind to an orgasm which enables it to transcend its rational dullness.” (“Duty”)

6. I never forget that being alive and being aware is a mysterious blessing that always deserves gratitude and joy.

7. I enjoy the beauty in everyone and everything else, and I help to bring more beauty to the world.

  • “The greatest, like Rembrandt, paint a gallant, a hag, and a carcass with equal passion and rapture; they love the truth as it is. They do not admit that anything can be ugly or evil; its existence justifies itself. This is because they know themselves to be part of an harmonious unity; to disdain any item of it would be to blaspheme the whole. The Thelemite is able to revel in any experience soever; in each he recognizes the tokens of ultimate Truth..” (New Comment to AL, II:22)

8. I seek truth: I think for myself, I am honest with myself and others, and I question myself and others.

9. I explore and develop my creativity in all aspects of life, and I help others to do the same.

10. I am connected with everything in the universe, so I live in harmony with other people, animals, plants, and all other things on the earth and in the whole cosmos.

  • “Bind nothing! Let there be no difference made among you between any one thing & any other thing; for thereby there cometh hurt. But whoso availeth in this, let him be the chief of all!” (AL, I:22-23)
  • “We cannot extirpate or even alter in the minutest degree either the matter or manner of any element of the Universe, here each item is equally inherent and important, each aequipollent, independent, and interdependent.” (New Comment to AL, II:21)
  • “The greatest… know themselves to be part of an harmonious unity; to disdain any item of it would be to blaspheme the whole… It is surely obvious, even intellectually, that all phenomena are interdependent, and therefore involve each other.” (New Comment to AL, II:22)
  • “We cannot extirpate or even alter in the minutest degree either the matter or manner of any element of the Universe, here each item is equally inherent and important, each aequipollent, independent, and interdependent.” (New Comment to AL, II:21)

 

11. I laugh: I enjoy all parts of the world, and I do not take myself too seriously.

  • “They shall rejoice, our chosen: who sorroweth is not of us. Beauty and strength, leaping laughter and delicious languor, force and fire, are of us.” (AL, II:19-20)
  • “The common defect of all mystical systems previous to that of the Aeon whose Law is Thelema is that there has been no place for Laughter. But the sadness of the mournful Mother and the melancholy of the dying Man are swept in the limbo of the past by the confident smile of the immortal Child.” (Little Essays Toward Truth, “Laughter”)
  • “Also I was in the spirit vision and beheld a parricidal pomp of atheists, coupled by two and by two in the supernal ecstasy of the stars. They did laugh and rejoice exceedingly, being clad in purple robes and drunken with purple wine, and their whole soul was one purple flower-flame of holiness.” (LXV, V:35)
  • “Lord Nose-in-the-Air stumbled over his own door-stop.” (Commentary to LXV, V:49)
  • “If it must be that one’s most sacred shrine be profaned, let it be the clean assault of laughter rather than the slimy smear of sanctimoniousness!” (Magick Without Tears, ch.44)

Love is the law, love under will.

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True Will symbols and language

The Will in Thelema: The Symbolic Lessons of Life

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

All individuals are united by sharing a single task: finding and doing their True Will. “Thou hast no right but to do thy will” (Liber AL, I:42). The sole right and duty of every individual is encapsulated in the Word of the Law of this Aeon: THELEMA.

Though everyone shares this same goal, each individual’s Path is unique. Thelema is universal insofar as it recognizes the same goal of all individuals (True Will) while acknowledging the unique nature of that goal for each person. Therefore, no real universal guidance can be given beyond “find your Will and do it.” As it is has been written, “There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt” (Liber AL, III:60).

Though there is no written guidance especially suited to us as unique individuals with unique Paths, there is still guidance to be found in the world: everyone’s own life provides the necessary language and symbols to guide one on one’s particular path to the accomplishment of one’s True Will… provided only that one is open and attentive enough to read the writing of this language. The intuition of the soul, the “Neshamah,” the promptings of the Holy Guardian Angel, the wisdom of the unconscious – regardless of what we choose to name it, it will speak to the mind in terms of the symbols in which the individual is immersed. This intuition simply requires the openness and attentiveness to these symbols, and lessons suited to one’s own particular Path will naturally emerge. For example, a chemist may use the language of atoms and chemical compounds, an actor the language of directing and acting, a mason the language of building tools, a musician the language of instruments and composing, and so on and so forth. Again, the question becomes: Are you open enough to the symbols and attentive enough to the messages they speak to you?

There are an infinite number of examples because of the limitless amount of symbolic languages of Nature and the endless amount of potential messages within each of these languages. Here are but a few examples to illustrate the point:

  • A mason worked with tools to construct a building. He picked up a rough stone that he needed to chisel into the right shape so that it could be used in the building of the structure. The mason was open and attentive to the symbols of his trade that spoke to him, and they said, “You are this rough stone. By the chisel of virtue, you are shaped into a perfected man, even as the stone is formed into the proper shape. The building is your community which will crumble from its ill-fitting parts if you don’t undertake the work of chiseling away the scrap from your self.”
  • A musician desired to learn guitar that he might eventually play in a band, so he practiced endlessly. He was open and attentive to the symbols of his trade and they said to him, “Each string is an aspect of oneself – each needs to be perfectly tuned, neither too loose nor too taut, and only then will all work to create harmony. This is just as one must tune the various aspects of oneself, always striving toward perfect equilibrium so that one’s life is joyful and harmonious like a chord played on your guitar. The discipline you show in playing scales and finger exercises repeatedly may seem monotonous and tiresome but this allows, when the time comes to perform, that one plays effortlessly. Even so, the disciplines of magick and meditation may seem monotonous and tiresome at times, but they prepare the soul for those times when it may leap forward with full intensity to consummate itself with its goal in rapturous ecstasy.”
  • An alchemist devoted his life to the task of turning lead into gold. He bought many instruments and spent endless hours watching the flame of the athanor slowly heat the metals inside. Because he was open and attentive to the symbols of this language, he heard them say, “The purification of these metals is like the purification of your soul. The slow heat removes the dross to reveal the underlying gold, just as one’s slow but constant practice of meditation is the heat that burns away the dross of your self to reveal the pure gold of the Soul.”

In this age, many of us do not have a single career or trade to which we devote ourselves exclusively for our whole lives. This only means we have the responsibility and the privilege to learn several “languages.” We may be a teacher, musician, magician, cook, and bicyclist simultaneously, and each of these has its own symbolic “language” and lessons… provided that one is open and attentive to them.

Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131Now the question becomes, “What are your trades or passions?” To what do you devote your time and energy? If you are open and attentive to these trades or passions or skills or hobbies or whatever else, then you must ask “What lessons are they writing to me toward the end of accomplishing my True Will?” Since only you  can answer these questions for yourself, it’s now your responsibility to listen for the answers and to never stop listening.

Other articles in the series ‘The Will in Thelema’:

Love is the law, love under will.

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The Rituals of the Elements: Winter Solstice

Introduction

It is written in Liber AL vel Legis II:36, “There are rituals of the elements and feasts of the times.” Crowley comments, “The entry of the Sun into the cardinal signs of the elements at the Equinoxes and Solstices are suitable for festivals. The difference between ‘rituals’ and ‘feasts’ is this: by the one a particular form of energy is generated, while there is a general discharge of one’s superfluous force in the other. Yet a feast implies periodical nourishment.” This cycle of dramatic rituals are therefore invocations. They are intended to generate energy at the entrance of the Sun into the cardinal signs of elements at the four quarters of the year, i.e. the Equinoxes and Solstices.

The entire cycle of rituals simultaneously show:

  1. The macrocosmic cycle of the Sun going through the seasons
  2. The microcosmic cycle of Man going through the generations/Incarnation (birth/youth-adulthood-old age-death).
  3. The process of Attainment from 0=0 to 8=3 and back again.

The energies of each ritual correspond to each of these planes at once:

Equinox and Solstice rituals

Each ritual invokes a particular energy. Each ritual has a particular Word of Power associated therewith and it is intoned in between the scenes. The Word also appears once in each ritual within a particular Scene.

Each of the four rituals has 3 scenes for a total of 12 scenes for the entire cycle, one for each of the signs of the Zodiac. The middle scene of each ritual is the sign of the Equinox or Solstice – for example, the middle scene in Autumn is Libra. The first scene is therefore Virgo, the sign before Libra, and the last scene is Scorpio, the sign after Libra. In general, the first scene represents events leading up to the Equinox or Solstice, the middle scene represents the actual turning-point, and the last scene represents events leading to the next Equinox or Solstice.

The Basic Characters

  • (☉/♂) Priest/King – the conscious Self. The Child who grows to become King who attains and becomes a Priest and then dies and is reborn as the Child.
  • (☽/♀) Priestess/Queen the Non-Self (the unconscious self, the “higher self,” etc.)The  Mother of the Child, the Queen/Beloved of the King, the High Priestess of the Priest.
  • (+ and -) 2 Children – the duality of the World. Various roles throughout the entire cycle.
  • () The People (participants) – the inhabitants of the World; they identify (at least their conscious selves) with the Priest.


Mucha Winter SolsticeTHE WINTER SOLSTICE CEREMONY

Also known as “The Gate of Life”

The Word of this ceremony is ‘AUMGN.’ It is repeatedly intoned in between scenes, i.e. between Scenes 1 & 2 and between Scenes 2 & 3, by the People/Congregants. The Incense of this ceremony is Myrrh.1 The Talisman of this ceremony is the goblet(s) of Wine.

SCENE 1: Sagittarius.
The Wandering in the Wilderness.

The King is in the West, facing East. + and – are on either side of the King, holding the staff and lantern. The High Priestess sits behind the Veil in the East. The King circumambulates2 the Temple clockwise/deosil to symbolize his wandering in the wilderness.

[INTRO MUSIC: Frédéric Chopin’s Sonata, op. 35, Part III: “Marche funèbre” a.k.a. “Funeral March”]

The King approaches the East from the West in a winding or serpentine manner. + and – follow behind the King, + behind the King and in front of –.

KING: I have left my Beloved and my Kingdom in search for the Elixir of Immortality; I have wandered alone in the wilderness; I have endured the travails of the desert… The footprints of the Camel lead up this winding way to the Summit of the Mountain.

The King stops a few steps in front of the Veil, as if he was in front of the small altar in the Gnostic Mass. + and – stand on either side of the King, slightly behind him.

PRIESTESS: I am the Soul of the Desert; thou hast sought me in the wilderness of sand.3

The King turns to his right (deosil) and heads towards the West, starting his first circumambulation with + and – behind him in a line,.

KING: I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness. Make straight the Way of my Will!4

The King, halfway done with his circumambulation in the West, turns deosil back towards the East, + and – still following behind in a line, and finishes his first circumambulation while the Priestess says:

PRIESTESS: With courage conquering fear shall ye approach me.5

The King turns to his right (deosil) and heads towards the West with + and – behind him, starting his second circumambulation.

KING: By the word and the will, by the penance and the prayer, let me behold thy face.6

The King, halfway done with his circumambulation in the West, turns deosil back towards the East with + and – behind him, and finishes his second circumambulation while the Priestess says:

PRIESTESS: Fear not for aught; turn not aside for aught, eremite of Nuit, apostle of Hadit, warrior of Ra Hoor Khu!7 Only those who fear shall fail!8

The King turns to his right (deosil) and heads towards the West with + and – flanking him, starting his third circumambulation.

KING: I fear no power in heaven or upon the earth or under the earth.9 Success is my proof; courage is my armor; I shall turn not back for any!10

The King is halfway complete with his third circumambulation and stops in the West, facing East.

PRIESTESS: Many are the champions of life, but all are unhorsed by the lance of death.11

The King is stripped of his staff so that he has no support, i.e. + snaps the staff in two or throws it away and stands next to the King in the attitude of Resurrection (Osiris Risen).

PRIESTESS: Many are the children of the light, but their eyes shall all be put out by the Mother Darkness12

The King is then stripped of his lantern so he cannot see at night, i.e. – blows out the flame of the lantern and stands next to the King in the attitude of Resurrection (Osiris Risen). + and – then approach the King and remove his scarlet robe, throwing it on the floor, showing he is stripped of everything extraneous and unnecessary, i.e. the purging fire13 of asceticism. + and – then go to the sides of the Veil, and face outwards towards the West in the sign of Osiris Risen.

The King is exhausted but he persists to the East to finish his third and final circumambulation while saying:

KING: “Mighty and erect is this Will of mine [he lifts the Lance], this Pyramid of fire whose summit is lost in Heaven. Upon it have I burned the corpse of my desires!”14

PRIESTESS: “He who endures unto the end will have eternal life.”15

END SCENE.

No Music. A light is turned out to make the Temple slightly darker. Congregants repeatedly intone ‘AUMGN’ in between scenes.

SCENE 2: Capricorn.
The Temptation of the Buddha-Christ King and the Rending of the Veil of the High Priestess

Everyone is in the same position as the end of the first scene. + now holds a “false Grail” filled with jewels, jewelry, coins, and other things indicating material wealth. holds a “false Grail” filled with a potion (although not necessarily filled with anything, the symbolism remains). The King is three steps away from the Veil16, and with each step he undergoes a Temptation.17

The King takes his first step towards the Veil/on the dais.

+ steps down to the first step on the dais and turns to face the King, offering the “false Grail” full of coins, jewels, etc.

+: You have finished your quest. I will give you the endless pleasure of the most beautiful women of the world; I will grant you rulership over all the kingdoms of the Earth.

KING: It has been written, ‘Thou hast no right but to do thy will.’18 I am not swayed by your appeal to petty lusts. Neither pleasure nor power shall satisfy me. I seek only Nuit and will turn not aside for anything.

The King extends his Lance forward towards + (towards the South if the High Altar is in the East) to make a horizontal arm of a Cross of Light. + spins away, puts the “false Grail” away, and retreats back to the former position at the Veil in the Sign of Osiris Risen.

The King takes his second step.

descends to the second step, turns to face the King, and offers another “false Grail” containing a potion.

–: It is also written, ‘To worship me take wine and strange drugs whereof I will tell my prophet, & be drunk thereof! They shall not harm ye at all.’19 Therefore, drink this concoction and you will not be harmed.

KING: We have been warned to shun those who would interpret the Law for us as centres of pestilence.20 I have “certainty, not faith,”21 the certainty of my own Understanding won through my own struggles. I seek not to be deceived into swaying from my own path by resting content in adhering to others’ beliefs. I seek only Nuit and will turn not aside for anything.

The King extends his Lance forward towards – (towards the North if the High Altar is in the East) to make the second horizontal arm of a Cross of Light. – spins away, puts the “false Grail” away, and retreats back to the former position at the Veil in the Sign of Osiris Risen.

The King takes his third step.

Both + and – stand outward, questioning the King on the third step.

+: O man, who art thou that wouldst penetrate the Mystery?22

–: What makes you think you are worthy to speak to the High Priestess Nuit?

+: Who attests to your authority?

–: Who attests to your attainment?

KING: I am the Holy Chosen One.23 The very Earth testifies to my attainment.

The King raises the Lance and there is the sound of a lightning strike; he then strikes the ground with the Lance and there is the sound of loud thunder; he thereby makes the two vertical portions of the Cross of Light, therefore completing the entire Cross; the Earth trembles and thunders.24

+ and – retreat to the Veil, face one another, and are ready to rend the Veil.

KING: I seek only Nuit and will turn not aside for anything!

The Veil is then rent by + and –. The High Priestess sits enthroned. She has the moon under her feet, and upon her head is a crown of twelve stars.25 The golden Holy Grail is hidden behind her.26

PRIESTESS: Lonely am I and cold in the wilderness of the stars. For I am the queen of all them that dwell in Heaven, and the queen of all them that are pure upon earth, and the queen of all the sorcerers of hell. I am the lady of the stars, the Bride of them that are vowed unto loneliness.27

KING: O Lady of the Stars! I have left my Beloved and my Kingdom; I have wandered alone in the wilderness; I have endured the travails of the desert; I have followed the footprints of the Camel to the summit of the Earth… all in search for the Elixir of Immortality.

PRIESTESS: I alone have the Wisdom wherewith the Elixir may be produced… yet it requires a sacrifice.28

The High Priestess retrieves the hidden Holy Grail that was hidden behind her, and she holds it before the King.

KING: I have been stripped of all I have. What could I give as a sacrifice?

PRIESTESS: The Elixir may only work upon those who have sacrificed their body and blood.

KING: How could eternal life be given unto them who are no longer alive? I pray that you explain this paradox.

PRIESTESS: The reasoning mind cannot pass this threshold. “If Will stops and cries Why, invoking Because, then Will stops & does nought.”29 What spurned thee to this quest?

KING: Naught but Love.

PRIESTESS: Have you no Love left?

KING: The beat of my heart is the pendulum of love. The songs of me are the soft sighs: The thoughts of me are very rapture: And my deeds are the myriads of Thy children, the stars and the atoms. Let there be nothing! Let all things drop into this ocean of love!30

PRIESTESS: Give your last particle of dust31 in the ecstasy of sacrifice! Consummate Thy rapture!32

The King stabs himself in the side33 with the Lance.

KING AND PRIESTESS: Falutli!34

The Priestess and King kiss.

The King staggers and falters, and is almost dead. The Priestess fills her Cup with the blood from the King’s wound.35

PRIESTESS: It is done!36

+: He hath drunk of the waters of death!

PRIESTESS: Not otherwise could he water the Rose.

–: He hath burnt himself at the Fires of life!

PRIESTESS: Not otherwise could he sun the Rose.37

The Priestess raises the Chalice, and the King looks up at it.

Let him look upon the cup whose blood is mingled therein, for the wine of the cup is the blood of the saints. I have spilt their blood in every corner of the earth and lo! I have mingled it in the cup of my whoredom. With the breath of my kisses hath I fermented it, and it hath become the wine of the Sacrament, the wine of the Sabbath.38

The Priestess descends to fill the Congregant’s goblets with some wine from the Grail.

[MUSIC: Benedictine monks chanting of “Ave Maria” and “Alma Redemptoris Mater”39]

PRIESTESS: In the Holy Assembly hath I poured it out for my worshipers, and they had become drunken thereon, so that face to face they beheld my Father.

+: Thus are they made worthy to become partakers of the Mystery of this holy vessel.

–: For the blood is the life!40

PRIESTESS: Death is no catastrophe; it is Love.

The High Priestess raises her Grail and motions as if drinking from it, signaling to the People that they may drink the wine in their goblets.

PRIESTESS: Death is not the end; it is Life to come!41

The Priestess, +, and – all turn to face the King with arms extended towards one another to form a Hexagon.42

PRIESTESS, +, and –: AUMGN.

[MUSIC: While this is being intoned, begin to play Gustav Holst’s “Saturn” from “The Planets,” starting around ~4:15 so the crescendo comes right after the last line]

The Priestess crowns the King.

PRIESTESS: The King is dead! Long live the King!

END SCENE. 

[MUSIC: Let Holst’s ‘Saturn’ play out]

Congregants repeatedly intone ‘AUMGN’ in between scenes.

SCENE 3: Aquarius.
The Mourning of the Mother and the Portend of the Child-Savior.

The Queen (divested of her Priestess garments, now wearing her Green robe and crown of flowers) is back at the Kingdom; she is in the throne and mourning the absence of the King.

+ and – stand to the West and look concerned and distressed.

+: She is weeping…

–: Weeping…43

QUEEN: I sit solitary; I have become a widow! I weepeth sore and there is none that can comfort me! There is naught but treachery and affliction!44

The Queen gets up and starts to move towards the West.

I can neither strive nor wait. There is agony in my ears, and in my throat, and mine eyes have been so long blind that I cannot remember that there ever was such a thing as sight45. The Obelisks are broken; the stars have rushed together: the Light hath plunged into the Abyss: the Heavens are mixed with Hell… I am lost in the night of infinite pain: no hope: no God: no resurrection: no end: I fall: I fear.46

The Queen turns back towards the East and falls to her knees. + and – approach and kneel to comfort her, facing the West.

QUEEN: My mind is distraught by the bitterness of my heart.47 I doubt whether I may endure this winter storm.

The Eightfold Star48 [a Unicursal Hexagram can be substituted] then rises on the horizon (in the West) as a portend of the birth of the Child-Savior. The Queen is given Hope49 to persist through the final hours of Midnight/Winter50.

+ looks up, points with fear, and stands up.

+: Look! A great star falling from heaven, burning as if it were a lamp; it is falling upon the waters.51

+ starts to back away a few steps. – gets up and starts to back away as well while saying:

–: Beware: that is the Star called Wormwood!52 Many men will die of the waters, because they are made bitter.53

The Queen turns to look at the Star in the West, rises to her feet, and says:

QUEEN: Fear not my brothers and sisters… This is the world of the waters of Maim; this is the bitter water that becometh sweet!54

+ and – walk together to stand next to the Queen while + says:

+: Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.55

–: They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.56

QUEEN: I have dreaded this midnight of the soul, for I thought it was the end. Now I welcome the herald.57 Ay! It is the end!

[MUSIC: The beginning of Glazunov’s “Winter”]

QUEEN: …the gate of the beginning!58

END SCENE.

[OUTRO MUSIC: Play out the first ~6 minutes of Alexander Glazunov’s “Winter” from “The Seasons,” starting from ~0:45]

1 Myrrh is attributed to Saturn. In the story of Christ, “myrrhbearers” were said to be those involved in the burial of Christ or finding his tomb, which corresponds to the Winter Solstice ceremony insofar as the King (who is identified with Christ) dies and the world enters into complete darkness of the middle of Winter.

2 These three circumambulations are seen in the Gnostic Mass before his three steps of approaching the Veil.

3 Liber LXV, IV:61.

4 A reference to Mark 1:3 and John 1:23 where it is put in the mouth of Christ, which is itself a reference to a similar line in the Old Testament, i.e. he is fulfilling the prophecy of the Redeemer.

5 Liber Tzaddi, line 16.

6 The Vision and the Voice, 20th Aethyr.

7 The Vision and the Voice, 20th Aethyr.

8 Liber Tzaddi, line 18.

9 Liber AL, III:17.

10 Adapted from Liber AL, III:46.

11 The Vision and the Voice, 19th Aethyr.

12 The Vision and the Voice, 19th Aethyr.

13 It is like the Sagittarian Arrow of aspiration soaring upwards, leaving behind the chaff.

14 The Book of Lies, chapter 15.

15 An adaptation of Matthew 10:22 and 24:13; it is also a reference to the motto of 666, “Perdurabo,” i.e. he who endures unto the End.

16 This is seen in the Gnostic Mass in the Three Steps of the Priest toward the Altar before rending the Veil.

17 These refer to the three Temptations of Christ by Satan on the Mount as well as the three Temptations of Buddha by Mara.

18 Liber AL, I:42.

19 Liber AL, II:22.

20 A reference to the Tunis Comment to The Book of the Law.

21 Liber AL, I:58.

22 The Vision and the Voice, 28th Aethyr.

23 Liber AL, I:65.

24 A form of Buddha in his pose of defying Mara, i.e. in Lotus position with one hand on the ground.

25 Revelation 12:1.

26 The Cup of Babalon that is mentioned in Book of Revelation as well as in The Vision and the Voice; it is seen in the Gnostic Mass.

27 Adapted from The Vision and the Voice, 27th Aethyr. At this point, the King believes he has found the mythical “High Priestess Nuit” mentioned in the Autumn Equinox ceremony.

28 This line shows a sinister turn of the character of the High Priestess. At first we think she is the benevolent Nuit, lady of the stars, but she is actually Babalon, the Mother of Abominations, the Great Whore, who has the blood of the saints in her Cup upon which she is intoxicated.

29 Liber AL, II:30.

30 Liber VII, V:21-28.

31 Liber AL, I:61, “For one kiss wilt thou then be willing to give all; but whoso gives one particle of dust shall lose all in that hour.”

32 Liber VII, V:30.

33 The final wound of Christ on the Cross, c.f. John 19:34, “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.”

34 Liber VII, V:30; Also called “The outburst of the orgasm” in The Vision and the Voice, 2nd Aethyr, and is therefore identical to “HRILIU” as seen in the Gnostic Mass.

35 This is similar to the Crucifixion scene where Christ is stabbed in the side. His blood, in this ceremony, is collected into the Chalice by the Priestess who would be Mary Magdalene in the Crucifixion (who is often identified as a prostitute).

36 A reference to Revelation 16:17 that is itself referring to Armageddon, the End, which is here identified with the death of the self, the dissolution of the ego in the Absolute whereby 8=3 may be attained.

37 This exchange comes from The Vision and the Voice, 14th Aethyr.

38 This entire exchange comes from The Vision and the Voice, 12th Aethyr.

39 These are two of the four “Marian hymns” dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Mother Mary was the Old Aeon version of the Divine Feminine, which is equivalent to Babalon, the Whore, in the New Aeon. MARIE in Greek (Marie) = 156 = BABALON in Hebrew (n(l)b)b) as well as Greek (Babalon).

40 This entire exchange comes from The Vision and the Voice, 12th Aethyr.

41 An adaptation of The Book of Lies, chapter 18, “Verily, love is death, and death is life to come.”

42 The hexagon is a 6-sided figure, which relates it to the 6th Sephirah on the Tree of Life, Tiphareth, that is attributed to Sol, Death-and-Rebirth gods (e.g. Osiris, Christ, Orpheus, Dionysus, etc.), and the Son in whom the Father is reborn (which can be seen in the Vernal Equinox ceremony). Alternately, they form a triangle with the King in the center, representing the axle of the Wheel of Jupiter or Fortune that moves not yet undergoes the triplicity symbolized by the Sphinx, Hermanubis, and Typhon (i.e. Rajas, Tamas, and Sattvas or Sulphur, Salt, and Mercury, etc.)

43 The Vision and the Voice, 27th Aethyr.

44 Adapted from Lamentations 1:1-3.

45 The Vision and the Voice, 2nd Aethyr.

46 The Vision and the Voice, 30th Aethyr.

47 Adapted from The Heart of the Master.

48 The Star of Mercury, i.e. of the Redeemer; the Morning Star.

49 As seen in Atu XVII: The Star to which is attributed the sign of Aquarius.

50 That which is depicted in Atu XVIII: The Moon.

51 Adapted from Revelation 8:10.

52 From The Heart of the Master, also a reference to Revelation 8:11, “And the name of the star is called Wormwood…”

53 Revelation 8:11.

54 Liber LXV, III:55.

55 Psalm 30:5.

56 Psalm 126:5.

57 Adapted from AHA!, “Olympas: I dread this midnight of the soul. / Marsyas: Welcome the herald!”

58 The Vision and the Voice, 29th Aethyr.

 

Visions and Trances on the Path of Initiation (pt.2)

Qabalistic Map of Initiation

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

← Part 1  | → Part 3 → ]

Interlude: Visions of the Three Orders

The Three Orders on the Tree of Life

The Three Orders on the Tree of Life

The Tree of Life is often split into three different portions that correspond loosely (although not exactly) with the three Orders of systems like Golden Dawn and A∴A∴, the Hebrew parts of the Soul, and Tetragrammaton (YHVH):

  • The 3rd Order is in Malkuth (the 10th Sephirah). It corresponds with the Nephesh, or “Animal Soul,” in terms of the parts of the Soul, and it corresponds with the Final Heh of YHVH.
  • The 2nd Order is centered in Tiphareth (the 6th Sephirah) and encompasses the surrounding Sephiroth (Chesed, Geburah, Netzach, Hod, and Yesod). It corresponds with the Ruach, or the mind with its many faculties (e.g. memory, volition, reason, etc.), and it also corresponds with the Vav of YHVH.
  • The 1st Order includes the Supernal Triad of Kether, Chokmah, and Binah (the first three Sephiroth). It corresponds with the triad of the immortal Soul including Jechidah (the Individuality of Kether), the Chiah (the Life-Force of Chokmah), and the Neshamah (the Intuition of Binah). It also corresponds with the Yod and Heh of YHVH.

Each of the three Orders has a Trance that is characteristic of it: the 3rd Order has the Trance of Sorrow mentioned previously. The 2nd Order has Knowledge & Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel in Tiphareth. The 1st Order has the successful crossing of the Abyss.

One could say that each of these Orders and their characteristic Trances is distinguished by a certain view of life while upon the Path of initiation:

  • 3rd Order: Man versus World. The world is seen as a force to be overcome, and it is full of sorrow, disappointment, stress, and failure. This is the Grade of Man of Earth, and it corresponds to the Trance of Sorrow.
  • 2nd Order: Man and World. The world is seen as harmonious where one is united constantly with various elements thereof, and it is full of beauty and a constant source of joy. This is the Grade of Lover, and it corresponds to Knowledge & Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.
  • 1st Order: Man is World. The duality or distinction between “self” & “not-self” or “ego” & “environment” or “subject” & “object” is completely dissolved: the union has become so full that there is no difference between self and other so all that is, is Unity. This is the Grade of Hermit, and it corresponds to the successful crossing of the Abyss.

Second Order Visions

There are Visions within each of the three Orders, but the Second Order has a series of Visions corresponding with each Sephirah that are all highly interrelated. These 2nd Order Visions are all centered around Tiphareth, and they all have to do with certain insights into the nature of the Cosmos. These Visions are:

  • Yesod: The Vision of the Machinery of the Universe
  • Hod: The Vision of Splendour
  • Netzach: The Vision of Beauty Triumphant
  • Tiphareth: The Vision of the Harmony of Things
  • Geburah: The Vision of Power
  • Chesed: The Vision of Love

We will go into each of these in more depth in the following sections.

2) Yesod (2°=9: Luna)

The Vision of the Machinery of the Universe

In 777, we can see that “The Vision of the Machinery of the Universe” is attributed to Yesod, the 9th Sephirah on the Tree of Life. It may also be called “The Vision of Change” or “The Vision of Stability in Change.” It is the first of several Visions that involves noetic insight into the nature of the Universe (the only previous Vision, the Vision of Adonai, deals with one’s personal pursuit of the Great Work rather than being an insight into the nature of the world).

First, some esoteric symbolism: The 9th Sephirah is called Yesod, which literally means “Foundation.” This term implies stability. Nonetheless, the Moon (also known as “Luna”) is attributed to Yesod and is characterized by its constant waxing and waning along with its effect on the constant ebb and flow of the tides: therefore, this implies constant flux or change. This Sephirah therefore contains both the ideas of stability and change. This is an esoteric way of pointing to the paradox which is often phrased as something like “Stability is Change and Change Stability” (Liber CL: De Lege Libellum). The final resolution of this antinomy or paradox is said to come in the 2nd Sephirah of Chokmah, which shows how Yesod is a reflection of Chokmah “on a lower scale,” so to speak. Esoterically, this can be seen in that the grade attributed to Yesod is 2°=9☐  and the grade attributed to Chokmah is 9°=2. This paradox has many levels of truth, but one of the most basic forms, appropriate to the “lower” sphere of Yesod, is the idea that “The Stability of the Universe is Change” (The Heart of the Master). Crowley writes further concerning this idea:

“Of all important doctrines concerning equilibrium, this is the easiest to understand, that change is stability; that stability is guaranteed by change; that if anything should stop changing for the fraction of a split second, it would go to pieces. It is the intense energy of the primal elements of Nature, call them electrons, atoms, anything you will, it makes no difference; change guarantees the order of Nature. This is why, in learning to ride a bicycle, one falls in an extremely awkward and ridiculous manner. Balance is made difficult by not going fast enough. So also, one cannot draw a straight line if one’s hand shakes.”
—Aleister Crowley, The Book of Thoth, “Small Cards”

Yesod: The Vision of the Machinery of the Universe

Yesod: The Vision of the Machinery of the Universe

With this in mind, the Vision of the Stability in Change is characterized by the perception that the Universe is a constant change or flux of all things. It is therefore equatable to understanding one of the Three Characteristics of Buddhism, that of anicca, the impermanence of everything. The self – considered as one’s mind and body – is an intertwined, constantly changing, and inseparable part of the whole. This is related to the Trance of Sorrow insofar as sorrow or dukkha stems from the fact that all things are subject to impermanence or anicca and therefore are ultimately insubstantial or unsatisfactory, yet this Vision differs from the Trance of Sorrow insofar as its focus is upon mutability, change, flux, and motion (anicca) rather than on sorrow and dissatisfaction (dukkha). As Crowley says above, this idea that everything is in flux is fairly easy to understand but, yet again, the intellectual comprehension of this idea is not the same as the Vision itself, where the fact of the impermanence of all things is known or felt or understood in the core of one’s being.

One meditation that resembles such a Vision is through the contemplation of the world as constituted by atoms: consider how everything you perceive, including your own body, is composed of atoms – the machinery of the universe, in a sense – that are swirling around at incomprehensible speeds. All the objects around you with their apparently motionless solidity are actually, when considered at the atomic level, in constant, unstoppable motion. Extend this idea to yourself, the objects around you, everything on earth, and everything in the universe. Consider how all of this perpetual flux interacts and intertwines with itself in such a perfect fashion as to create what we know as the Universe, from the most basic rock to the most elaborate technology, from the most basic amoeba to the most complex pattern of neuronal firings and structure of the human brain. In this way, we come to peer into the Machinery of the Universe, perceiving that “The Universe is Change” (The Heart of the Master) and that the structure of the Universe is a result of it.

3) Hod (3°=8: Mercury)

The Vision of Splendor

In 777, we can see that “The Vision of Splendour” is attributed to Hod, the 8th Sephirah on the Tree of Life. The planet Mercury is attributed to this sphere, and Mercury is generally associated with things like communication, language, knowledge, and intellect.

Hod: The Vision of Splendor

Hod: The Vision of Splendor

In a way, the Vision of the Machinery of the Universe in Yesod is the foundation (pun intended) of the next few visions that all developments or even reactions to it. In perceiving the Universe as constant flux, one is struct by the wonder and glory that things are constituted in this way. The mind boggles in amazement at the sheer complexity, intricacy, and even strangeness that the world works. It is, in a way, a Vision of intellectual awe. The Vision of Splendor is characterized by the mind becoming awe-stricken and enraptured by the sheer wonder and splendor of the Nature of the Universe.

Just as a scientific contemplation was used in the previous section to attempt to approximate the nature of the Vision, various scientists have spontaneously or naturally attained the Vision of Splendor – or some form thereof – through their understanding and contemplation of the Universe. A classic example is the well-known scientist Carl Sagan who was famous for instilling a sense of awe and wonder about the Universe. He wrote in Pale Blue Dot, “How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant?’ Instead they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.’ A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.” Other examples include the biologist Richard Dawkins who wrote in Unweaving the Rainbow, “The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable.” Another example is the astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson who has said, among other things, “I know that the molecules in my body are traceable to phenomena in the cosmos. That makes me want to grab people on the street and say: ‘Have you HEARD THIS?'” These are, in a way, all expressions of the Vision of Splendor.

In this, we can see that the Vision of Splendor is like what Crowley calls “The Trance of Wonder,” at least on a “lower scale.” In speaking about this Trance of Wonder, Crowley writes:

“In all Trances of importance, and most especially in this, the Postulant should have acquired the greatest possible knowledge and Understanding of the Universe properly so called. His rational mind should have been trained thoroughly in intellectual apprehension: that is, he should be familiar with all Science. This is evidently impossible on the face of it; but he should aspire to the closest approximation to perfect Adeptship in this matter. The method most possible is to make a detached study of some chosen branch of Science, and a general study of epistemology. Then by analogy, fortified by contemplation, a certain inner apprehension of the Unity of Nature may grow up in the mind, one which will not be unduly presumptuous and misleading.”
—Aleister Crowley, Little Essays Toward Truth, “Wonder”

Crowley himself therefore saw the importance of an understanding of Science and its relationship to aiding in the attainment of Trances or Visions. This Vision of Splendor corresponding to Hod – the sphere of intellect, science, communication, mathematics, et cetera – shows that this Vision corresponds to a somewhat intellectual nature insofar as the mind is stricken with wonder and awe at the composition, patterns, and flux of the Universe. It is, in a way, the intellectual complement to the Vision of Beauty in Netzach that is similar but of the nature of aesthetics or emotion.

4) Netzach (4°=7: Venus)

The Vision of Beauty

Netzach: The Vision of Beauty

Netzach: The Vision of Beauty

In 777, we can see that “The Vision of Beauty” or “The Vision of Beauty Triumphant” is attributed to Netzach, the 7th Sephirah on the Tree of Life. The planet Venus is attributed to this sphere, and Venus is generally associated with things like sensuality, physical beauty, aesthetics, love, and devotion.

This Vision of Beauty must be distinguished from the “Beatific Vision” that is attributed to Tiphareth, for “beatific” implies holy bliss rather than the aesthetic beauty that is characteristic of this Vision of Beauty in Netzach. Just as the Vision of Splendor mentioned previously is an appreciation of the Nature of the Universe in terms of intellectual awe and wonder, the Vision of Beauty is characterized by the aesthetic appreciation and emotional rapture that results from a contemplation of the Nature of the world.

Specifically, this Beauty is not limited to what we normally consider as “beautiful” as opposed to “ugly,” but – instead – this rapture or Vision of Beauty includes absolutely all things in the cosmos from the smallest to largest, the lowest to the highest, the most peaceful to the most turbulent, the ugliest to the most beautiful. Crowley writes of this very idea when writes, “The New Aeon proclaims Man as Immortal God, eternally active to do His Will. All’s Joy, all’s Beauty; this Will we celebrate” (New Comment to Liber AL, II:35). Or: “All is a never ending Play of Love wherein our Lady Nuit and Her Lord Hadit rejoice; and every Part of the Play is Play. All pain is but sharp Sauce to the Dish of Pleasure; for it is the Nature of the Universe that hath devised this everlasting Banquet of Joy” (Liber Aleph). Or when he writes:

“The artist is he who can discover Beauty in all things, for nothing is common or unclean; and by unvarying determination to discover beauty man comes to the heaven of the artist. By beauty, moreover, We mean not any conventional type of sensuous beauty: it lies in the dwarfs of Velasquez and the monsters of Rabelais as in the women of Titian and the heroes of Homer; nor shall one brother do otherwise than lament if he be so limited in vision that he cannot see beauty in that which enchants another.”
—Aleister Crowley, Liber CXXIV: Of Eden and the Sacred Oak

This Vision of Beauty is therefore where we enraptured with beauty, “perceiving Beauty in the Harmony of the Diverse” (Liber Aleph), which is the emotional-aesthetic complement to the mental-intellectual Vision of Splendor that is based on the mind being bewildered by awe and wonder from contemplating the Universe.

[← Part 1  | → Part 3 →]

Love is the law, love under will.

Visions and Trances on the Path of Initiation (pt.1)

Qabalistic Map of Initiation

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

0) Introduction

In the Western tradition, the path of initiation (also known as “the Great Work”) is often laid out symbolically as “climbing” the Tree of Life from the bottom back to the top. While the map is not (nor can ever be) the territory, this map of the Tree of Life can be very useful to help elucidate the stages of the Path. The different “grades” of the Path are attributed to the different spheres or “Sephiroth” of the Tree of Life and can be characterized, to a certain extent, by the Qabalistic attributions of that Sephirah.

The Importance of Trances

If one is truly walking on the Path, one will not simply be able to pass simple tests of physical ability and mental knowledge. While these things are assuredly part of the Path and necessary thereto, real progress on this Path can be seen in changes of consciousness or the acquisition of new perspectives. Therefore, one of the indicators of having “achieved” a grade in an informal sense (i.e. outside of the rules of attaining a grade in any particular formal organization such as Golden Dawn or A∴A∴) is the attainment of a Vision and/or Trance characteristic of that grade. The importance of these Trances is stated clearly by Aleister Crowley:

“The word Trance implies a passing beyond: scil., the conditions which oppress. The whole and sole object of all true Magical and Mystical training is to become free from every kind of limitation… every Magical Operation soever is only complete when it is characterised (in one sense or another) by the occurrence of Trance.”
—Aleister Crowley, Little Essays Toward Truth, “Trance”

Definitions of Trance and Vision

Trance: A Trance is therefore an event within consciousness where one transcends the normal state of awareness, often in a “quasispasmodic” manner – that is, Trances are often (though not always) entered somewhat suddenly and the entering into Trance often comes at an unknown time. Samadhi can be seen as a special form or type of Trance characterized by “the supersession of dualistic human consciousness by the impersonal and monistic state” (Little Essays Toward Truth, “Trance”). A Trance is not necessarily in line with – and often in contradiction to – rational thinking: Samadhi is a characteristic example where whenever someone speaks about its nature they speak in paradox and contradiction. Trances are also characterized by their noetic nature – that is, they grant a felt sense of interior certainty regarding the truth of its content.

Vision: A Vision might be defined as a lesser form of Trance, where the acquisition of a new point-of-view or perspective does not necessarily require entering into a different state of consciousness, but it is still characterized by being noetic (i.e. granting a sense of interior certitude). Therefore, this distinguishes this definition of Vision from “astral visions,” which are not necessarily noetic in nature but may contain instances of Trance or Vision within them. It must also be stated that, although the term “Vision” implies sight, it really refers more to a particular type of experience or insight rather than being a series of visual sights, whether physical or mental (or astral). It is similar to the term “visualization” in occultism, which is often taken to mean focusing on visual images in the imagination but actually, in practice, refers to imagining things pertaining to all senses. Trances and Visions can therefore be distinguished from mere intellectual apprehension, for something can be intellectually grasped but not truly understood and felt as a certainty. To move beyond intellectual apprehension, one usually needs to have an experience for oneself that confirms the original idea but grants it a subject sense of truly “grasping” the idea or truly understanding it. As an illustration: a child might be told “you need to listen more carefully to others!” and grasp the idea intellectually, but not truly understand it. It requires the child having an experience – e.g., missing something important because of not listening carefully – to move from intellectual comprehension to real, certain understanding.

These definitions are not absolute, and there are blurry areas. People – including Crowley – often use these terms interchangeably. The main point is that Trance and Vision are states of consciousness that differ from normal, waking awareness and are characterized by (a) being noetic (felt sense of interior certitude) and (b) attaining a new point-of-view or perspective. This distinguishes them from both “astral visions” (both waking and dreaming) as well as from mere intellectual comprehension. The very fact of having attained a Trance or Vision inherently shows progress upon the Path insofar as they, by definition, imply a change within the individual – a shift of perspective or consciousness – whereas having an astral vision or intellectually grasping something do not necessarily imply any kind of real change in the individual at all.

We can now start to look at the various Trances or Visions in the context of the Tree of Life. Although the metaphor of “climbing the Tree of Life” implies that these steps are sequential, I believe that most of these Trances or Visions may happen at any time (depending on the right circumstances and intent), some may happen before others, some may even at the same time as others, and some may occur multiple times. There is no real test as to whether another person has attained any of these Trances or Visions, as tests must inherently be physical or intellectual, and I believe we all know that anyone can enter into a Yogic asana (physical) or say they are a Master (intellectual) but not actually be a Master at all. Therefore, this essay is intended to serve as a map for oneself – a kind of periodic table of Visions and Trances – both to show the possibilities of these Trances or Visions as well as to help understand various experiences that one may have had in the past or will have in the future (or perhaps presently if the reading of this essay somehow sends one spasmodically into a Trance – I wouldn’t exclude the possibility a priori!)

1) Malkuth (1°=10: Earth)

The Trance of Sorrow

The first Sephirah we encounter when “climbing the Tree of Life” is the 10th Sephirah that is called “Malkuth” (literally, “Kingdom”). We may attribute the Trance of Sorrow to Malkuth. The Trance of Sorrow may be defined as the Trance wherein one perceives that any and every endeavor, accomplishment, joy, connection, et cetera are ultimately insubstantial and will therefore eventually dissolve or end; essentially the Trance of Sorrow is where one realizes that nothing whatsoever lasts.

We may understand “Sorrow” as being a translation the Buddhist term dukkha, which is often translated as “suffering” (or “sorrow,” “misery,” “discontent,” “stress,” “dissatisfaction,” “anxiety,” etc.). In this way, the Trance of Sorrow represents an experiential understanding and appreciation of the First Noble Truth, which can be stated in many ways but ultimately means that “All things contain or are subject to suffering.”

The Trance of Sorrow helps to illustrate two points mentioned previously. Firstly, the “Trance of Sorrow” is called such by Crowley throughout his works, yet it is called the “Vision of Sorrow” in 777 and the “Vision of Universal Sorrow” elsewhere. This illustrates the point that “Trance” and “Vision” are terms that are often used interchangeably: one should not get too caught up in the words. Secondly, the Trance of Sorrow is a good example of how Trance is different from mere intellectual comprehension. One may intellectually grasp what has been said above – one may have previously encountered the First Noble Truth of Buddhism and grasped the idea being conveyed – yet the Trance of Sorrow goes beyond mere comprehension to a felt sense at the core of one’s being. The Trance involves an encompassing and even overwhelming sense of sorrow, dread, and even hopelessness. Although one can reach the Trance through intellectual contemplation, the Trance itself shows when this felt sense of certitude kicks in and one truly experiences the idea not merely as an idea but as an inescapable truth. A certain poetic explanation of this state can be found in Crowley’s “One Star in Sight” which begins with the lines, “Thy feet in mire, thine head in murk, / O man, how piteous thy plight, / The doubts that daunt, the ills that irk, / Thou hast nor wit nor will to fight— / How hope in heart, or worth in work? / No star in sight!”

To go further into the nature of the Trance of Sorrow: Nothing whatsoever lasts. You will inevitably die. Your family will die, your loved ones will die, your friends will die, your enemies will die, and all the people you’ve never known will all die: everyone will die. Every place you have been will change and pass away. The cycle of Life never stops; the Wheel of Samsara will never stop turning. Everything you know will eventually transform and perish.  The greatest joy and happiness you ever will achieve will eventually pass. No food, drink, idea, love, or anything else will ever truly satisfy you. Everything that you are striving for – all of your hopes, goals, and ambitions – will either remain unaccomplished or will be accomplished but will not last for long. No job lasts forever, no art piece lasts forever, no political change lasts forever, et cetera. Even if you were to become the most powerful and famous person on Earth, your memory will be distorted throughout time and eventually forgotten. If not within a few years, then it will happen in a few centuries; if not in a few centuries, it will happen when the human race no longer exists. While we may already know this to some extent and while one may grasp this idea while reading this essay, the Trance of Sorrow begins when it is truly felt and understood on a deep level that shakes the core of one’s very being.

In a sense, this Trance is one of the most crucial of all, for it is the Trance that leads one to tread the Path of the Great Work in the first place. Striving to attain the Light requires the acknowledgment that one is in Darkness. If one is completely content with oneself and one’s surroundings, there is no need to change anything or attain anything: this is the inertia of ignorance. Thus it has been said by Aleister Crowley that, “The Aspiration to become a Master is rooted in the Trance of Sorrow” (Little Essays Toward Truth, “Sorrow”) and also, “It is the Trance of sorrow that has determined one to undertake the task of emancipation. This is the energising force of Law; it is the rigidity of the fact that everything is sorrow which moves one to the task, and keeps one on the Path” (Eight Lectures on Yoga, “Niyama”). It is when one enters into this Trance that one determines to find a way to transcend it: one seeks to be liberated from the Wheel of Samsara in terms of Eastern phraseology; one seeks to find one’s immortal soul that is not subject to change, death, and sorrow in terms of Western phraseology. As Crowley once put it, one determines to enter upon the Path of “the Great Work, understanding thereby the Work of becoming a Spiritual Being, free from the constraints, accidents, and deceptions of material existence” (Magick in Theory & Practice, “Introduction and Theorems”).

As somewhat of a sidenote: In 777, the “Vision of Sorrow” is attributed to the 3rd Sephirah, Binah, and not the 10th, Malkuth. There is, in many ways, a resonance or harmony between Binah and Malkuth: they are both attributed to Heh’s in YHVH (the first Heh is attributed to Binah, the Mother, and the second or final Heh is attributed to Malkuth), and Malkuth is called the Daughter that is uplifted to the throne of Binah, the Mother (As in the 4th Aethyr of The Vision and the Voice, “And this is that which is written: Malkuth shall be uplifted and set upon the throne of Binah”). This shows that, although they are not the same, the Trance of Sorrow of Malkuth is related or harmonious with a Trance or Vision that is characteristic of Binah. In a sense, it is the Trance of Sorrow in Malkuth that gives one the impetus or motive to tread the Path of the Great Work that leads eventually to “crossing the Abyss” and landing in Binah as a Master of the Temple. To make the distinction clear, the Trance of Sorrow in Malkuth involves perceiving the insubstantiality or unsatisfactoriness of all phenomena and is therefore within the realm of duality; Binah is above the Abyss and therefore beyond duality and so not subject to “facts” or “rules” of the realm of duality. To distinguish between the two, the Trance related to Malkuth is called the “Trance of Sorrow” whereas that related to Binah is the “Trance of Compassion.” We should not get too far ahead of ourselves, though. The Path is tread step by step, and one should always seek to take the Next Step: first things first.

The Vision of Adonai / The Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel

The other Trance or Vision is called “The Vision of Adonai” or “The Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel.” Adonai is a name for God or the Lord that comes from Hebrew, and The Holy Guardian Angel is often called Adonai (for example, it is repeatedly named “Adonai” in Liber LXV, a Holy Book of Thelema). Again, it is not useful to get caught up in names: the point is that “The Vision of Adonai” and “The Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel” are two names for the same Vision.

Malkuth: The Trance of Sorrow & The Vision of Adonai

Malkuth: The Trance of Sorrow & The Vision of Adonai

The Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel is characterized by a certain awareness or perception of the Goal of the Path of the Great Work. One may get a glimpse of a certain state of consciousness that transcends the sorrow of duality, or one may even meet an aspect or form of Adonai in an astral vision or dream. Within the world of Darkness and sorrow, one catches sight of a Star that gives direction and hope: there is now “one star in sight.” In a way, the Vision of Adonai is a sort of answer to the Trance of Sorrow. Although one does not transcend the Trance of Sorrow, this Vision gives one the hope or notion of the possibility of transcending it. The Trance of Sorrow is the gravity that pulls one onto the Path that starts at Malkuth and the Vision of Adonai is the force that propels one forward to begin the climb upwards (so to speak).

To be clear: The Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel that is attributed to Malkuth is different from Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, which is attributed to Tiphareth (the 6th Sephirah). An analogy from the Golden Dawn may be useful to help explain. In the first initiation of the Hermetic Order of Golden Dawn, the “Neophyte” ritual, one is blindfolded to symbolize the darkness of ignorance. Eventually, the blindfold is removed and one is met with the sight of the Hierophant who symbolizes the Higher or True Self of the candidate. Crowley wrote:

“[The Adept] acclaims his Angel as ‘Himself Made Perfect’; adding that this Individuality is inscrutable and inviolable. In the Neophyte Ritual of G[olden] D[awn] 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, therefore the Candidate will be Horus too.”
—Aleister Crowley, Liber Samekh, Point II, Part A, line 5

That is, one is given a glimpse of the goal – the True Self with whom one must become united and identified – but one has not yet attained thereto. As it is said, “the End of the ‘Path of the Wise’ is identity with Him” (“Temple of Solomon the King” in Equinox I:1). This shows how Malkuth reflects Kether in a sense (just as the grade 1°=10 has both the number of Kether,1, and Malkuth, 10), for the Goal can be grasped at the beginning of the Path, although one’s understanding of it is inherently limited by ignorance and misconception. One therefore sets upon the path to reach the Sun (the Sun or Sol is attributed to Tiphareth, the sphere where Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel is attained, which is Kether “on a lower scale,” so to speak): the star is in sight and one is determined to reach it. When one has experienced the Trance of Sorrow and been granted the Vision of Adonai, one may truly be called a “neophyte,” a newly planted seed that may one day, if cultivated carefully and consistently, grow into a Flower of Truth.

→ Part 2 → ]

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Autumn Equinox Thelemic Rituals of the Elements

The Rituals of the Elements: Autumn Equinox

Introduction

It is written in Liber AL vel Legis II:36, “There are rituals of the elements and feasts of the times.” Crowley comments, “The entry of the Sun into the cardinal signs of the elements at the Equinoxes and Solstices are suitable for festivals. The difference between ‘rituals’ and ‘feasts’ is this: by the one a particular form of energy is generated, while there is a general discharge of one’s superfluous force in the other. Yet a feast implies periodical nourishment.” This cycle of dramatic rituals are therefore invocations. They are intended to generate energy at the entrance of the Sun into the cardinal signs of elements at the four quarters of the year, i.e. the Equinoxes and Solstices.

The entire cycle of rituals simultaneously show:

  1. The macrocosmic cycle of the Sun going through the seasons
  2. The microcosmic cycle of Man going through the generations/Incarnation (birth/youth-adulthood-old age-death).
  3. The process of Attainment from 0=0 to 8=3 and back again.

The energies of each ritual correspond to each of these planes at once:

Equinox and Solstice rituals

Each ritual invokes a particular energy. Each ritual has a particular Word of Power associated therewith and it is intoned in between the scenes. The Word also appears once in each ritual within a particular Scene.

Each of the four rituals has 3 scenes for a total of 12 scenes for the entire cycle, one for each of the signs of the Zodiac. The middle scene of each ritual is the sign of the Equinox or Solstice – for example, the middle scene in Autumn is Libra. The first scene is therefore Virgo, the sign before Libra, and the last scene is Scorpio, the sign after Libra. In general, the first scene represents events leading up to the Equinox or Solstice, the middle scene represents the actual turning-point, and the last scene represents events leading to the next Equinox or Solstice.

The Basic Characters

  • (☉/♂) Priest/King – the conscious Self. The Child who grows to become King who attains and becomes a Priest and then dies and is reborn as the Child.
  • (☽/♀) Priestess/Queen the Non-Self (the unconscious self, the “higher self,” etc.). The Mother of the Child, the Queen/Beloved of the King, the High Priestess of the Priest.
  • (+ and -) 2 Children – the duality of the World. Various roles throughout the entire cycle.
  • () The People (participants) – the inhabitants of the World; they identify (at least their conscious selves) with the Priest.

 

Autumn Equinox MuchaTHE AUTUMN EQUINOX CEREMONY

Also known as “The Hour of Truth”

The Word of this ceremony is ‘THELEMA’ (Theh-lay-muh). It is intoned three times in between scenes, i.e. between Scenes 1 & 2 and between Scenes 2 & 3, by the People/Congregants. 

The Talisman of this ceremony is an ostrich plume (or a smaller representation thereof).


SCENE 1: Virgo.
The End of Summer, the Threat of Winter/Death, the possibility of Immortality.

SETTING: The Kingdom at Sunset1; it is almost the time of harvest2. The King is entering Old Age. The room is lit, but dimly; the primary light comes from the West, i.e. the setting Sun. There are fields of wheat3 surrounding everyone or up on the Throne. Leaves are scattered about that are colored by Autumn. The King is enthroned in the East, facing Westward; he is wearing a white robe under his scarlet robe; the Queen is wearing a green robe over white and her hair is filled with 12 white flowers in a crown. + holds the Sword, – holds the Balances; the Staff and Lantern are hidden behind the Throne.

+ and – stand on either side of the King and speak as if announcing news to the Kingdom.

+: “Thrust in thy sickle and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; the harvest of the earth is ripe.”4

–: “Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.”5

KING: “Let there goeth forth a sickle that shall reap every flower!”6

+ and – march to the West side of the Temple and turn to face East. The Queen paces around, looking very worried.

KING: My Queen! The fruits of our labors are ripened. It is a time for reaping and rejoicing, yet you appear discontent.

QUEEN: Harvest time is indeed upon us… yet I tremble in fear at the thought of enduring another winter storm. What if our harvest does not last until the next blooming of flowers? What if you fail of an heir and we are left in darkness?

The King looks disappointed but does not respond. + and – take a few steps forward while + says:

+: My Queen, we may know of a certain solution to your sorrows.

+ and – stop before – speaks.

–: Indeed, the legend we have heard in our youth of the potion that provides permanence.

QUEEN: Ah! Yes! Yes! The Elixir of Immortality. I know this legend; how I could I have forgotten! If you could but find and drink of it, Eternal life would be granted. Winter storm would pose no threat; fear of having no heir would be banished at last!

KING: This sounds good, too good to be true. Where might I find this Elixir and what must I do?

QUEEN: It is said there is but one soul upon the Earth who has the Wisdom7 to create this Elixir.

+ and – are becoming excited by the Queen’s tale, taking further steps towards the East while + says:

+: The Priestess Nuit!

+ and – stop before – speaks.

–: Yet she lives afar off!

QUEEN: Across the great span of the wilderness to the West, you may find her at the summit of the highest, most holy mountain. There, where the Earth meets the Heavens!8 I must warn you, though, that I have heard many have tried and all have failed, for they did not persist.

+ and – take their final steps to be right next to the King in the East while + says:

+: They were turned aside by adversity.

+ and – stop before – speaks.

–: They settled for something less than that ultimate end.

+ and – turn around simultaneously to face the West.

KING: I will seek only Nuit. I will “turn not aside for aught”9.

QUEEN: Ah! Our perpetual predicament may be resolved at last! Save your Kingdom from disrepair; save your Queen from utter despair. The wasteland awaits thee, my King! Follow the footsteps of the Camel10 that lead the way through the desert.11

KING: Let the preparations be made at once!

QUEEN: But, my King, if you are gone, who will rule in your stead?

+ steps forward and raises the Sword.

+: I will rule with the severe sword!

– steps forward and raises the Balances.

–: I will rule with the benevolent balances!

KING: Only they who have the right of God and might of Will may take the throne. [+ and – step back to the sides] My Queen, you must rule in my stead.

QUEEN: How should I be worthy to ascend to the throne and administer the royal decrees to our Brothers and Sisters?

KING: The most potent power derives from the most solemn service12. Divest yourself of all pursuit of pleasure and all sin of selfishness.

QUEEN: I see “nothing but a blank midnight in this Emptying of the Soul!”13

KING: “This is the necessary condition of Illumination.”14 Even as the Sun is swallowed in Sea [The King points to the West] you too must undergo the darkness of the Night of Pan, purged of all egoity!

The King takes the Queen by the hand and slowly leads her into the West. As they walk, drums beat slowly and softly but become louder and faster.

QUEEN: “Why do I sweat with blood and dew? Blind horror catches at my breath. The path of the abyss runs through things darker, dismaller than death! …There is no memory possible of this unfathomable hell. Even the shadows that arise are things too dreadful to recount!”15

The drums become louder and more chaotic. The King and Queen approach the West; the rhythm of their words carry them onward.

KING: “This is the end of all our pain, the dissolution of the brain! For lo! in this no mortar sticks; Down come the house – a hail of bricks!”16

The drums are loud and completely chaotic; there is no rhythm.

QUEEN: “But my soul faints, my stomach sinks. Let me pass on! [The Queen pushes away the King to make the final steps to the West alone] My being drinks the nectar-poison of the Sphinx. This is a bitter medicine! Black, black, intolerably black! Go, spectre of the ages, go!”17

The drums stop suddenly. The Queen arises solemnly and turns to the East in the attitude of Resurrection, i.e. the sign of Osiris Risen.

KING: You have passed beyond… Beloved, thy stature spans the sky.18

QUEEN: Verily; but it is not I. The ego dissolves – pale phantom form blown from the black mouth of the storm. It is another that arises! …Ay, there is no more potent spell. Through life, through death, by land and sea, most surely will I follow thee.19

KING: Follow thyself, not me!20 It is complete! The Kingdom will obey thine command! My departure is nigh at hand!

END SCENE. Congregants repeatedly intone ‘THELEMA’ in between scenes.

SCENE 2: Libra.
The Installment of the Queen as Ruler of the Kingdom.

The light from the West is slightly darker; the Sun is halfway concealed by the horizon. The King stands in front of the Throne in the East and the Queen stands before him. + and – stand on either side of the Queen, facing her. + holds the Sword, – holds the Balances.

KING: The preparations for my departure into the wilderness of the West are almost complete. My final act is to raise you to the throne as Ruler21 of this Kingdom.

The King comes down from the Throne. He takes the Queen’s hand and sets her in the Throne where she sits. The King turns to address the People.

KING: I say that ‘Every man and every woman is a star.’ I do not fool and flatter women; I do not despise and abuse them. To me a woman is Herself, absolute, original, independent, free, self-justified, exactly as a man is. I dare not thwart Her Going, [The King turns to face the Queen] Goddess thee! I arrogate no right upon your will; I claim not to deflect your development, to dispose of your desires, or to determine your destiny. You are your own sole arbiter. I do not want you as a slave; I want you free and royal, whether your love fight death in my arms by night, or your loyalty ride by day beside me in the Charge of the Battle of Life.22

+ advances and hands the Sword to the Queen who holds it between her legs.

KING: Let your rule be strong yet precise. O be thou proud and mighty among men!23

advances and hands the Balances to the Queen who holds it against the hilt of the Sword. She holds both Sword and Balances at once.24

KING: Let your rule be merciful yet fair. Bring the glory of the stars into the hearts of men!25

The King takes a Crown of ostrich plumes26 and places it on the Queen’s head.

KING: May Truth stand upon your crown, eternally alert. Truth is your Path, and Truth is your Goal; [The King kneels while + and – give smaller versions of the ostrich plume to each Congregant.] Ay! there shall come to you a moment of great Light when, understanding what is Truth, you will understand your Self, for you are Truth!27

The King pauses and smiles.

KING: It is accomplished! [The King genuflects and extends his arms towards the Queen while saying:] “Unto thee is all power given.”28

The King, +, , and the People applaud.

QUEEN: “I will glorify myself and live deliciously. I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.”29 I will rule firmly with severity yet justly with mercy. I will not only uphold thine power, but it shall wax in strength to cover the world. Remember, my King: Seek only Nuit! Turn not aside for aught! I entrust unto thee this staff to support you in daytime [+ takes the staff]. I impart unto thee this lantern to guide you in darkness [– takes the lantern]30. I empower thee with this most holy word of force and fire31 that thou mayst endure unto the End: THELEMA.”

The Queen kisses the King.

QUEEN: The wasteland awaits thee, my King! Follow the footsteps of the Camel that lead the way through the desert.

END SCENE. Congregants repeatedly intone ‘THELEMA’ in between scenes.

SCENE 3: Scorpio.
The Kings leaves to wander in the wilderness.

The Light from the West is even darker; the Sun is almost set on the horizon. The King is prepared to leave the Queen32 and the Kingdom to wander in the wilderness33 for 50 days34. The King faces the Queen who is enthroned in the East.

The King closes the Veil, hiding the Queen from sight. He then turns towards the West.

KING: My Kingdom is secure with Justice enthroned.35 Her eyes of equity are etched into my brain. Her Word awakens my intent. Her kiss lingers on my lips. “Now, I goeth solitary…”36 Bearing my staff as support by day [+ raises the staff] and my lantern as guide by night [– raises the lantern].

The King points to the ground in the West.

KING: Look! The footprints of a Camel! The initiation of my journey is at hand.

The King lifts his Lance, pointing it to the Western horizon.

KING: “With my burning spear, to the wilderness I wander!”37

The King then holds the Lance upright with both hands, right over left, and begins to slowly march towards the West where the Sun sets completely and darkness envelops the Kingdom. + and – hold the staff and lantern and walk on either side of the King. + and – slowly and solemnly chant the word ‘THELEMA,’ starting loudly and slowly becoming silent.

+ and : THELEMA… THELEMA… THELEMA…

END SCENE.

Notes

1In the symbolism of day and night, this ceremony corresponds to Sunset as, in the symbolism of the seasons, it corresponds to Autumn.

2Virgo is the sign just before Libra, which is the traditional time of harvest.

3Wheat and corn are attributed to Virgo.

4Adapted from Revelation 14:15.

5Adapted from Revelation 14:18.

6From The Vision and the Voice, 7th Aethyr. The reference is to the coming month of Libra that is of harvest; Saturn, whose weapon is the sickle, is exalted in Libra.

7Virgo is Atu IX: The Hermit, Mercury or Wisdom.

8The mountain is the Holy Mountain, Abiegnus of the Rosicrucians; the Summit is where the Goat-God Pan lives, i.e. Capricorn the Winter Solstice, and it is seen symbolically as the High Altar in the Gnostic Mass.

9c.f. The Vision and the Voice, 20th Aethyr.

10The Book of Lies, chapter 73. It is not realized that Death rides this Camel of Initiation.

11This refers to the Gimel that literally means “camel,” which is the path of Atu II: The High Priestess that leads from Tiphareth across the Abyss to the Supernals.

12A reference to “Liber 194: An Intimation with Reference to the Constitution of the Order” where, when speaking about governmental positions in O.T.O., Crowley writes, “with us Government is Service, and nothing else.”

13From “AHA!”

14From “AHA!”

15From “AHA!”

16From “AHA!”

17From “AHA!”

18From “AHA!”

19From “AHA!”

20From “AHA!”

21This is seen in the Gnostic Mass when the Priest upraises the Priestess and sets her upon the summit of the Earth.

22This entire speech is adapted from the New Comment on Liber AL III:55.

23Liber AL II:77.

24This is Woman as Justice, seen in Atu VIII: Adjustment, to which is attributed the sign of Libra. It also is a reference to the liberation of Women from the subservience of the Old Aeon, c.f. Liber AL III:10, “Let the woman be girt with a sword before me.”

25Liber AL I:15.

26These are the feathers of Maat, c.f. The Book of Thoth, “She is crowned with the ostrich plumes of Maat, the Egyptian goddess of Justice.”

27This speech is adapted from the chapter “Truth” in Little Essays Towards Truth.

28A reference to Liber AL I:15, “…and in his woman called the Scarlet Woman is all power given.”

29Adapted from Revelation 18:7 where it refers to Babylon.

30The lantern and staff are the weapons of the Hermit as seen in Atu IX: The Hermit. They also reflect the Pillar of Fire that guided Moses in the desert by night and the Pillar of Cloud that guided him in the desert by day.

31Liber AL II:20.

32This is seen in the Gnostic Mass when the Priest closes the veil after raising Priestess to the summit of the Earth.

33The wilderness represents spiritual austerities as when Jesus fasted in the desert and Buddha meditated under the Bodhi tree. In terms of Thelema, it represents the Abyss. Crowley associates the Yod, which is attributed to Atu IX: The Hermit, with “Parzival in the desert. Christ taking refuge in Egypt, and on the Mount tempted by the Devil. The unconscious Will, or Word” in Magick in Theory and Practice.

3450 is the number of Nun, which is attributed to Atu XIII: Death and therefore Scorpio. It is also a reference to Christ’s wandering 40 days in the wilderness and Buddha’s 49 days of meditation under the Bodhi tree before enlightenment. In both cases this period directly precedes their temptation by Satan/Mara. This period is also seen in the Gnostic Mass after the Veil is drawn (the Sunlight dwindling in Sunset/Autumn) and the Priest circumambulating 3 times; it is seen at the beginning of the Winter Solstice ceremony.

35This represents the attainment of 7=4. The next step is to cross the Abyss and attain 8=3, which is shown in the Winter Solstice ceremony.

36A reference to The Vision and the Voice, 13th Aethyr, “The hermit goeth solitary, and giveth only of his light unto men”; it is therefore also a reference to the attainment of the Grade of Hermit.

37Adapted from The Vision and the Voice, 10th Aethyr.

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.”