Philosophy

Psychology of Liber AL – pt.3: The Notion of Sin Abolished

Psychology of Liber AL

The Notion of Sin Abolished

“The formula of this law is: Do what thou wilt. Its moral aspect is simple enough in theory. 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 a priori that a given action is “wrong.” Each man has the right – and an absolute right – to accomplish his True Will.
—Aleister Crowley, “The Method of Thelema”

In Thelema, one is enjoined to “Do what thou wilt,” and we have seen that this Will, if it is to be considered as “pure” and “perfect,” must be performed with tireless energy, without regard to purpose, and without lusting after results. One other diversion or veil from the “pure will” is conventional morality and especially notion of “sin.”

In Judeo-Christian-Islamic terms, the world is generally viewed in terms of good and evil, with “good” actions being those that adhere to the specific laws set forth in whatever book is held holy and “evil” being the turning away from such laws. Thelema is a philosophy or a point-of-view that Nietzsche would have termed to be “beyond good and evil.” The only restriction in Thelema is to restrict or be diverted from one’s Will. In fact, the line right after the aphorism “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” is this:

The word of Sin is Restriction.”1

Crowley explains this succinctly, saying that this “is a general statement or definition of Sin or Error. Anything soever that binds the will, hinders it, or diverts it, is Sin.”2 Here is a completely new view of ethics wherein the only “evil” is to divert from oneself, or more accurately, from one’s Will.

Psychologically, when one deviates from one’s true inner promptings, a conflict arises which is generally known as “neurosis.” Carl Jung defines nervous disorders a “consist[ing] primarily in an alienation from one’s instincts, a splitting off of consciousness from certain basic facts of the psyche.”3 Generally, when a action, thought, or tendency arises within someone that is contrary to their society’s (or religion’s) current view of what is “right” (Freud’s “superego”), the psyche tends to suppress and prevent those unlikable aspects from appearing to the conscious mind. Although these thoughts (e.g. to a Christian, the thought of performing a homosexual act) may not appear consciously to the person as much, the same exact tendency still lies within the subconscious and still exerts its influence. This suppression of a natural tendency to bring it into line with societal expectations of conduct is the basis of psychological “repression.”

In Thelema, these repressions are understood for what they are: repressions of the natural inclinations of an individual. Therefore, if the sole law is to do one’s will, artificially repressing aspects of oneself leads to a disastrous split in one’s psyche, and hence, one’s Will. One is deviating from one’s Will when one is creating a fundamental split in oneself – creating ‘multiple wills’ that diverge and conflict – which is fundamentally a split of the conscious (with its many arbitrary notions of “right and wrong”) from the unconscious and instinctual. Thelema recognizes that all deviations from this unique Will, including all repressions of the natural instinct to conform to artificial notions of moral conduct, will lead to repression, which leads inevitably to neurosis. Crowley wrote, “Thelemites are ‘thrice-born;’4 we accept everything for what it is, without ‘lust of result,’ without insisting upon things conforming with a priori ideals, or regretting their failure to do so. We can therefore ‘enjoy’ all things of sense and rapture’ according to their true nature.5

One of the most evident applications of this dictum that “the word of Sin is Restriction” is in relation to sex morality. Every religion has undoubtedly had innumerable restrictions upon sexual life, especially for women. Liber AL vel Legis proclaims that, not only is “every man and every woman… a star,”6 showing their essential equality, but further, it is written to “take your fill and will of love as ye will, when, where and with whom ye will!”7 This line is strangely prophetic of the Sexual Revolution that took place in the late 1960s, over half a century after the writing of Liber AL vel Legis, and also the groundbreaking research on sex by Alfred Kinsey in the 1940s. There are no restrictions even as to relationships of love that may be considered to be expressions of homosexuality, masochism, or sodomy, for, from the point-of-view of the Thelemite, a thing is “wrong” only insofar as it has brought one to deviate from one’s own Will. As Crowley says, “We have no right to interfere with any type of manifestation of the sexual impulse on a priori grounds.”8

Crowley writes, “‘Love under will’ is the Law. We refuse to regard love as shameful and degrading, as a peril to body and soul. We refuse to accept it as the surrender of the divine to the animal; to us it is the means by which the animal may be made the Winged Sphinx which shall bear man aloft to the House of the Gods.”9 The sexual instinct was repressed without mercy in the religions of the past and was often decried as animalistic or sinful. Thelema turns this idea on its head by saying not only is sex not shameful or degrading, it is the natural function of a human and if it is in accordance with their own will they should express it (not in accordance with some a priori rule-set).

Crowley summarizes all these sentiments when he proclaims, “It should be abundantly clear from the foregoing remarks that each individual has an absolute and indefeasible right to use his sexual vehicle in accordance with its own proper character, and that he is responsible only to himself.”10 Psychologically, this is a healthy route to take, for “Sex-repression leads to neurosis, and is the cause of social unrest.”11 Alfred Kinsey found in his research on sexuality that “Sexual desire is a basic, biological urge, drive, or instinct which demands satisfaction… if the (male) sexual drive is denied legitimate outlets, it will find satisfaction in illegitimate ones” (i.e. rape, sexual abuse of children, etc.), “repression of sexual desire may lead to physical or mental illness, especially ‘neurosis’ in women …[and] the need for sex is as basic as the need for food.”12 In this light, it seems Thelema has given us an adequate framework to act without fear of “physical or mental illness” because of our sexual inclinations.

Essentially, by proclaiming “the word of Sin is Restriction,” Liber AL vel Legis says that all restriction or repression of the Will is the only “evil” or “sin.”13 We know that “Repression of the natural satisfaction may result in addition to secret and dangerous vices which destroy their victim because they are artificial and unnatural aberrations.”14 The idea of restriction extends obviously beyond that of sex morality, but it has clear and obvious repercussions upon it and therefore it was necessary to go into this specific aspect in detail.

Truly, the dictums of “Do what thou wilt” and “the word of Sin is Restriction” apply to all morality in general. The quotation that begins this chapter succinctly explains this in simple terms that “it is no longer possible to say a priori that a given action is ‘wrong.’ Each man has the right-and an absolute right-to accomplish his True Will.” Crowley further writes that, “There are no ‘standards of Right’. Ethics is balderdash. Each Star must go on its own orbit. To hell with ‘moral principle’; there is no such thing.”15 In this sense, Thelema has shown there is no such thing as an absolute standard of right and wrong; there is only a relative standard of right and wrong in relation with each person’s unique nature and circumstance – their unique Will.

In reality, good and evil are not different from each other. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ are merely conventional terms. Depending on how it is used, the same thing can be ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Take, for example, this lamplight. Because of its burning we are able to see and do various works of utility; this is one mode of using the light. Now, if you put your fingers in it, they will be burnt; that is another mode of using the same light. So it is clear that a thing becomes good or bad according to the way we use it. The same is the case with virtue and vice. Broadly speaking, the proper use of any of the faculties of our mind and body is virtue, and their improper use is vice.”
—Swami Vivekananda
16

>>PART 4>>

1 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:41.

2 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, I:41.

3 Jung, Carl. “The Soul and Death” from Collected Works of C.G. Jung, volume 8: The Struture and Dynamics of the Psyche, par. 808.

4 A reference to the Thelemite’s transcending of the categories of ‘once-born’ and ‘twice-born’ as elucidated by William James in his book The Varieties of Religious Experience.

5 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, II:22.

6 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:3.

7 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:51.

8 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, I:51.

9 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, I:51.

10 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, I:51.

11 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, I:52.

12 Cablan, Pat & Caplan, Patricia. The Cultural Construction of Sexuality, p.72.

13 Though, it should be noted that in Thelema, the notion of “sin” can never nearly approach that of the Christian or Muslim’s for there is no notion of Original Sin nor of an eternal Judge of our actions.

14 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, I:51.

15 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, II:28.

16 Vivekananda, Swami. Conversation: Saturday, January 23, 1898. Recorded in Bengali by Surendra Nath Sen in his private diary. Complete Works, vol.5: 337.

>>PART 4>>

Psychology of Liber AL – pt.2: Each person as a Star with a Will

Psychology of Liber AL

Each person as a Star with a Will

“The really valuable thing in the pageant of human life seems to me not the State but the creative, sentient individual, the personality; it alone creates the noble and the sublime, while the herd as such remains dull in thought and dull in feeling.”
-Albert Einstein, Mein Weltbild (1931)

After the proclamations of Nuit and Hadit, there comes one of the most important statements to Thelema in the third line of Liber AL:

Every man and every woman is a star.”1

By this is meant that “we are all free, all independent, all shining gloriously, each one a radiant world”2 and further that “the Individual is the Autarch.”3 In the same sense that the sun, as a star, is center of the solar system in the physical macrocosm, every man and every woman is understood to be a sort of microcosmic star and center of his or her own system. “A star is an individual identity; it radiates energy, it goes, it is a point of view. Its object is to become the whole by establishing relations with other stars. Each such relation is an Event: it is an act of Love under Will”4 – Each individual is “an aggregate of such experiences, constantly changing with each fresh event, which affects him or her either consciously or subconsciously.”5

Certainly, from a psychological standpoint, it can be easily understood that we are all centers of our own universe6 and also ‘aggregates of experience’ as our own memories show. Further, stars are self-luminous implying that we derive power and strength from within ourselves and not an outside source (explained in depth later), and also stars are constantly in motion interacting with the gravitational pulls of the infinite other stars and systems.

Thelema posits that Hadit is “the flame that burns in every heart of man, and in the core of every star.”7 Crowley writes “He is then your own inmost divine self; it is you, and not another, who are lost in the constant rapture of the embraces of Infinite Beauty.”8 In fact, Nuit tells us “Be thou Hadit, my secret centre, my heart & my tongue!”9 showing that we are intimately interconnected with divinity, mirroring the general Eastern sentiment of the soul’s link to God and the sentiment seen in the West in mystics like Meister Eckhart and Miguel de Molinos:

“Thou art to know, that thy Soul is the Center, Habitation, and the Kingdom of God.”10

In a word, by saying “every man and every woman is a star,” we assert both the individual’s sovereignty and their divinity. Just as physical stars each have their unique course in the span of space, each individual is understood to have their own unique Will. In fact, “Thelema” itself means “Will” and this is the foundation of the entire philosophy of Thelema. It is said:

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”11

There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.”12

These two statements clearly establish that everything in Thelema revolves around the dictum of “do what thou wilt.” As Crowley often noted, this does not mean, “do what you like” but is a command to perform one’s “true” or “pure will” and nothing else. Liber AL proclaims, “Thou hast no right but to do thy will. Do that, and no other shall say nay.”13

Now we can see the general point-of-view of existence formulated in Thelema: each individual is considered as a “star” whose sole right or duty is to perform their Will. In the core of this star is Hadit and about the star are the infinite space & possibilities of Nuit. We have established that each individual is at the center of his or her own universe, a “secret centre, heart, & tongue”14 of the divine, each performing their unique Will amidst Nuit, Infinite Space.

Since the Will is considered absolutely paramount in Thelema, we must understand how a Thelemite is supposed to “Will” things. Liber AL asserts something distinguished as “pure will” and explains its conditions:

For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.”15

Therefore, for will to be considered “pure” and “every way perfect” by the conditions set forth in Liber AL, it must be

1) “unassuaged of purpose” and

2) “delivered from the lust of result”

The first consideration, “unassuaged of purpose,” has two meanings to be considered. The first is the more obvious, which is that will is impeded or weakened by “purpose” and it is meant to go on its way unrestricted by these notions of “purpose.” The mind and reason are generally an obstacle to the full expression of a person’s Will in many ways and this idea is treated in a later section more fully. The next consideration is simply that it means “with purpose unassuaged” or “with tireless energy.”

Secondly, to be “delivered from the lust of result” means to be unaffected by or unattached to the results of one’s actions. This doctrine is a central tenet to the Eastern system of karma yoga where it is generally called “non-attachment to the fruits of action.” It might also be said that it is known to the West under the aphorism of “Art for art’s sake.” The Bhagavad Gita succinctly describes this doctrine of being “delivered from the lust of result” when it says,

Those whose consciousness is unified abandon all attachment to the results of action and attain supreme peace. But those whose desires are fragmented, who are selfishly attached to the results of their work, are bound in everything they do. Those who renounce attachment in all their deeds live content in the ‘city of nine gates,’ the body, as its master.”16

Essentially, this line from Liber AL vel Legis means that to perform our “pure will” which “is every way perfect,” we must do our will with tireless energy, without regard to purpose, and without concern for results. Crowley wrote, “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.”17

In Liber AL vel Legis, Nuit declares, “Invoke me under my stars! Love is the law, love under will.”18 Crowley explains that this means “while Will is the Law, the nature of that Will is Love. But this Love is as it were a by-product of that Will; it does not contradict or supersede that Will; and if apparent contradiction should arise in any crisis, it is the Will that will guide us aright.” Therefore the method or modus operandi of Thelema is “love under will,” which means the assimilation of experience in accordance with one’s Will.19

It must be recognized that “Love” in the context of Thelema and Liber AL vel Legis is understood in a very universal way. It is not what most would consider the emotion of love or kindheartedness. Crowley writes, “Lo, while in The Book of the Law is much of Love, there is no word of Sentimentality. Hate itself is almost like Love!”20 for even hate is an experience worthy of our assimilation and integration. Instead, it essentially refers to all acts whatsoever, any “Change in conformity with Will,” for all actions are lawful and necessary. Crowley explains “Every event is a uniting of some one monad with one of the experiences possible to it,”21 and further that “Each action or motion is an act of love, the uniting with one or another part of “Nuit”; each such act must be ‘under will,’ chosen so as to fulfill and not to thwart the true nature of the being concerned.”22 Therefore, while “love” may refer specifically to acts of “union” (in the sense that sex is union on the physical plane, and samadhi23 is union on the mental plane) all experiences are understood as acts of “love” in the more universal sense that “every event is a uniting of some one monad with one of the experiences possible to it,” including acts of what may be perceived to be acts of “division.”

Now we can understand that “there is no law beyond Do what thou wilt,”24 and “love under will” is essentially the assimilation of experience in accordance with the nature of the individual. The conception mirrors Carl Roger’s propositions which are the assertions underlying his system of “client-centered therapy.” He writes as his sixth proposition,

The organism has one basic tendency and striving – to actualize, maintain and enhance the experiencing organism.”25

These acts of “actualiz[ing], maintain[ing] and enhanc[ing] the experiencing organism” are what Thelema terms acts of “love.” The one condition that is important from the standpoint of Liber AL vel Legis is that acts of “love” must be done “under will,” or in accordance with the nature of the particular circumstance and the individual (or the “organism” if we are to use Rogerian terminology). An act of “love under will” performed properly is what Carl Rogers would term “psychological adjustment” as opposed to “psychological maladjustment.” Rogers writes as his fourteenth and fifteenth propositions:

Psychological adjustment exists when the concept of the self is such that all the sensory and visceral experiences of the organism are, or may be, assimilated on a symbolic level into a consistent relationship with the concept of self.

Psychological maladjustment exists when the organism denies awareness of significant sensory and visceral experiences, which consequently are not symbolized and organized into the gestalt of the self structure. When this situation exists, there is a basic or potential psychological tension.”26

Psychological adjustment” consists in proper “assimilation” of experiences being equivalent to the “love under will” method of Thelema, whereas “psychological maladjustment” consists of the improper “assimilation” of experience, which creates “psychological tension.” Essentially, we can see that Thelema coincides with, and in a certain fashion anticipated, the Rogerian “propositions” that form the basis of his “client-centered therapy.”

“All love is expansion, all selfisihness is contraction. Love is therefore the only law of life. He who loves lives, he who is selfish is dying. Therefore love for love’s sake, because it is law of life, just as you breathe to live.” –Swami Vivekananda

>>PART 3>>

1 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:3.

2 Crowley, Aleister. “Liber DCCCXXXVII: The Law of Liberty” from Equinox III(1).

3 Crowley, Aleister. Magick Without Tears, ch.48.

4 Crowley, Aleister. “The Antecedents of Thelema” from The Revival of Magick.

5 Crowley, Aleister. Introduction to Liber AL vel Legis, part II.

6 This also attests to the universal import of mandala-like art pieces across cultures, for they are all expressions of that central point of consciousness and the apparent unfolding and expression of the psyche & universe around it. This was a subject of study for Carl Jung.

7 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, II:6.

8 Crowley, Aleister. “The Law of Liberty.”

9 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:6.

10 de Molinos, Miguel. Spiritual Guide of Miguel de Molinos (1685), ch.1, verse 1.

11 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:40.

12 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, III:60.

13 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:42-43.

14 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:6.

15 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:44.

16 Bhagavad Gita (trans. By E. Easwaran), chapter 5, verse 12-13.

17 Crowley, Aleister. “Liber II: Message of the Master Therion” from Equinox III(1).

18 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:57.

19 This harkens back to the Christian mystic Meister Eckhart who wrote, “The place where love has its being is only in the will; the person who has more will, also has more love. But no one knows about anyone else, whether one has more of it; that lies hidden in the soul, so long as God lies hidden in the soul’s ground. This love lies wholly in the will; whoever has more will, also has more love.” -Meister Eckhart, Counsels on Discernment (Counsel 10).

20 Crowley, Aleister. “The Message of the Master Therion” from Equinox III(1).

21 Crowley, Aleister. Introduction to Liber AL vel Legis, part II.

22 Crowley, Aleister. Introduction to Liber AL vel Legis, part III.

23 “Samadhi” is the Hindu term used n the practice of yoga for the psychological phenomenon of the disappearance (or ‘union’ or ‘cessation’) of subject and object known in various forms under different names in various cultures. This subject is too extensive to go into depth in this essay.

24 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:22.

25 Rogers, Carl. Client-Centred Therapy, ch.11.

26 Rogers, Carl. Client-Centred Therapy, ch.11.

>>PART 3>>

Psychology of Liber AL – pt.1: Introduction & First Principles

Psychology of Liber AL

Introduction

Liber AL vel Legis sub figura CCXX was a treatise that Aleister Crowley wrote (or “received”) in Egypt in 1904. This book is the foundation of the philosophical-religious system of Thelema, and this essay is intended to establish Liber AL as a valid exposition of psychology as well. Liber AL makes what appear to be many metaphysical and spiritual claims, but we will examine these in a strictly psychological light. Carl Jung wrote these carefully formulated words that characterize the attitude of this essay,

The religious point of view always expresses and formulates the essential psychological attitude and its specific prejudices.”1

and so, “Psychology accordingly treats all metaphysical claims and assertions as mental phenomena, and regards them as statements about the mind and its structure that derive ultimately from certain unconscious dispositions. It does not consider them to be absolutely valid or even capable of establishing a metaphysical truth.”2

Therefore, Liber AL vel Legiss many assertions are now understood as describing mental phenomena, or more accurately, things that are part of the psyche, from the conscious to the deepest recesses of the unconscious. Since Liber AL will be treated as a series of psychological assertions about mental phenomenon, it might be said to be entirely subjective. This is simply not true. Just as natural scientists rely upon the uniformity of nature, the psychologist depends on the relative uniformity of the human psyche. Jung writes:

It must be pointed out that just as the human body shows a common anatomy over and above all racial differences, so, too, the human psyche possesses a common substratum transcending all differences in culture and consciousness. I have called this substratum the collective unconscious. This unconscious psyche, common to all mankind does not consist merely of contents capable of becoming conscious, but of latent predispositions towards identical reactions. The collective unconscious is simply the psychic expression of the identity of brain structure irrespective of all racial differences.”3

Thus, potentially, we may more accurately describe Liber AL vel Legis as both a product and an expression of the collective unconscious, filtered through the peculiar and unique psyche of Aleister Crowley. We may therefore find statements of universal import explained under the figure of certain symbols that were familiar to Crowley’s consciousness and therefore reproduced by the unconscious in this text. If we can understand the meaning of various terms and symbols in Liber AL vel Legis as they are used hopefully as Crowley understood them – the meaning or purpose in their appearance from the unconscious in the text can be understood. Then we can see that Thelema essentially puts forward a new psychological point-of-view of life.

First principles

These principles must first be established to form a functional framework of Thelema to work adequately within. The principles of existence in Liber AL vel Legis are proclaimed as a dichotomy (much like the Taoist concepts of yin & yang and the Western concepts of the elements water & fire) in the first line of both chapter 1 and 2.4 They are Nu/Nuit and Had/Hadit, which are understood as Infinite Space/Potential and Infinite Motion respectively. Interestingly, they are represented under the ancient symbolic figure, “In the sphere I [Hadit] am everywhere the centre, as she [Nuit], the circumference, is nowhere found,” which echoes an almost identical statement made by Empedocles5 in the 5th century B.C..

Nuit is “The infinite in whom all we live and move and have our being,”6 “Nuit is all that may be, and is shewn by means of any one that is,”7 “the total of possibilities of every kind,”8 and she proclaims of herself, “I am Infinite Space, and the Infinite Stars thereof.”9 Hadit is very abstract: he “hath no Nature of His own, for He is that to which all Events occur,”10 and he is “any point which has experience of these possibilities.”11 The universe is then understood to be made up of the complements similar to Matter and Motion, Space and Time, but understood under the symbolic figures of Nuit and Hadit, etc. In this way, we can see that Thelema posits a universe much like our own understandings (e.g. the space-time continuum) yet adds a symbolic and almost personal dimension to these ideas. Further, Liber AL has presented a symbol set for the subconscious to work with. Crowley deepened this symbolism when he wrote:

The manifested Universe comes from the marriage of Nuit and Hadit; without this could no thing be. This eternal, this perpetual marriage-feast is then the nature of things themselves; and therefore everything that is, is a crystallization of divine ecstasy.”12

The first fact of life for the Thelemite is then that all things are understood under the symbol figure of a coition or ‘perpetual marriage-feast’ of these two ideas of “Infinite Space” (Nuit) and that which experiences these possibilities (Hadit); therefore life itself is understood as “a crystallization of divine ecstasy.” These are the first evidences that Thelema, as expressed in Liber AL vel Legis, puts forward a new psychological point-of-view of joy, a subject that will be touched upon in greater depth in a later section.

Essentially, a sort of dichotomy has been established: the Perceiver-of-events, having no qualities in itself, is called Hadit and All-events-that-can-be-perceived, the Field of perception, is Nuit – a perfectly acceptable model for understanding the world psychologically. This echoes a similar statement made in the Hindu Bhagavad Gita:

“Whatever exists… animate or inanimate, is born through the union of the field and its Knower.”13

It also is remarkably similar to the ideas of the psychologist Carl Rogers14 who described his “client-centered therapy” in 1951, four years after Aleister Crowley’s death. Rogers delineated nineteen propositions that describe his system of therapy, and the very first proposition is:

All individiuals (organisms) exist in a continually changing world of experience (phenomenal field) of which they are the centre.”15

The individual point-of-view, Hadit, exists in a continually changing phenomenal field, Nuit, of which he/she is the centre, just as was seen above. Rogers claims in the seventh proposition, “The best vantage point for understanding behaviour is from the internal frame of reference of the individual.”16 These are the first instances of Liber AL vel Legis anticipating various psychological models.

>>PART 2>>

1

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Jung, Carl. “Psychological Commentary on The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation,” extracted from Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 11, Psychology and Religion: West and East, par. 771.

2 Jung, Carl. “Psychological Commentary on The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation,” par. 760.

3 Jung, Carl. “Psychological Commentary on ‘The Secret of the Golden Flower’” extracted from Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 13, Alchemical Studies, par. 11.

4 “Had! The manifestation of Nuit” (Liber AL, I:1) & “Nu! The hiding of Hadit” (Liber AL, II:1).

5 Empedocles is the same person who also believed that the world was made up specifically of Fire, Water, Air, and Earth.

6 Crowley, Aleister. “Liber DCCCXXXVII: The Law of Liberty.”

7 Crowley, Aleister. “Djeridensis Working,” I:1.

8 Crowley, Aleister. Introduction to Liber AL vel Legis, part II.

9 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:22.

10 Crowley, Aleister. “Djeridensis Working,” II:2.

11 Crowley, Aleister. Introduction to Liber AL vel Legis, part II.

12 Crowley, Aleister. “Liber DCCCXXXVII: The Law of Liberty” from Equinox III(1).

13 Bhagavad Gita (trans. by E. Easwaran), ch.13, verse 26.

14 Carl Rogers (1902-1987) was one of the founders of the “humanistic” approach to psychology, he was one of the founders of psychotherapy research, he was the founder of the person-centered approach to therapy, and he was awarded by the American Psychological Association (of which he was the 55th president in 1947) with the Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions in 1952 and the Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Psychology in 1972.

15 Rogers, Carl. Client-Centred Therapy, ch.11

16 Rogers, Carl. Client-Centred Therapy, ch.11

>>PART 2>>

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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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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Liber LXV parables

The Parables and Lessons of Liber LXV (part 7)

Liber LXV: The Heart Girt with a Serpent

The Parable of the Waters, the Priest, and the Pyramid

Also I heard the voice of Adonai the Lord the desirable one concerning that which is beyond. Let not the dwellers in Thebai and the temples thereof prate ever of the Pillars of Hercules and the Ocean of the West. Is not the Nile a beautiful water?Let not the priest of Isis uncover the nakedness of Nuit, for every step is a death and a birth.The priest of Isis lifted the veil of Isis, and was slain by the kisses of her mouth. Then was he the priest of Nuit, and drank of the milk of the stars. Let not the failure and the pain turn aside the worshippers. The foundations of the pyramid were hewn in the living rock ere sunset; did the king weep at dawn that the crown of the pyramid was yet unquarried in the distant land?

Liber LXV, V:48-51

This is the second Parable dealing with the Next Step, which refers to the next step in humanity’s spiritual evolution. This should be read in conjunction with “The Parable of the Dolphin and the Harper which deals with a similar subject but has a different lesson. This Parable actually contains three separate Parables all combined together, all relating similar and interconnected lessons regarding the Next Step.

Also I heard the voice of Adonai the Lord the desirable one concerning that which is .”

This Parable begins with the Adept hearing the voice of God, i.e. “Adonai the Lord,” about attainment. “That which is beyond” refers to that which is beyond all images specifically, for the final attainment is beyond all names and forms and images. There is an explicit reference to this same idea earlier in Liber LXV when it is written, “Debate not of the image, saying Beyond! Beyond!”1 It is also referenced later in Liber LXV where it is written that Adepts “beheld not God; they beheld not the Image of God; therefore were they arisen to the Palace of the Splendour Ineffable.”2 Crowley comments on this line, “This passage is simple instruction. It should be read in connection with Cap: I, v. 9 [which has already been referenced] and similar texts where there is question of ‘that which is beyond.’”3

Crowley very explicitly comments about the relation of this line to the idea of the Next Step and it is worthwhile to quote in full:

I am told here that my Mission to Mankind concerns the Next Step on Jacob’s Ladder of the Spiritual Ascent of the Race. They must progress in a sane and orderly manner, not soaring Icarus-like toward ill-defined perfections like Nibbana, but In my experience, I have found this error to be the most dangerous to which really promising young Magicians are liable; while making any progress at all.” 4

Crowley informs us that his Mission or True Will is to bring humanity to the Next Step in its spiritual evolution, “the Next Step on Jacob’s Ladder of the Spiritual Ascent of the Race”5 as he puts it. The main idea is that we are to take the Next Step – “progress[ing] in a sane and orderly manner”6 – rather than focusing on the end goal or the “Last Step” – “not soaring Icarus-like toward ill-defined perfections like Nibbana.”7 Icarus’ folly was to fly too high and too close to the Sun before his wings were adequately fashioned for such heights. This same idea is conveyed in “The Parable of the Dolphin and the Harper” where the “harper” or initiator must guide the initiate based on their level of spiritual progress, bringing them step by step to further progress rather than simply giving the end goal as the only worthy attainment (which Crowley often likens to trying to attain Nibbana/Nirvana or Samadhi without having been adequately instructed in the necessity of basic practices such as the steadying of the body, breath, and mind). Crowley comments that aspirants should progress “steadily and critically using their existing faculties to the best advantage, fulfilling each function adequately, accurately, with intelligent aspiration, not shirking the hard work of evolution, not trying to run before they can walk, making sure of every step as it is taken, and fortifying each position as it is won before proceeding to attach the next line of entrenchments… In my experience, I have found this error to be the most dangerous to which really promising young Magicians are liable; while making any progress at all.”8

The main point is that one should progress slowly, for if one tries to get to the end without taking the proper precautions there will be inevitable ruin. We can see that Crowley attempted to create such a step-by-step system in the Order known as the A∴A∴ where aspirants progress steadily through various grades, each with their own set of practices and goals.

“Let not the dwellers in Thebai and the temples thereof prate ever of the Pillars of Hercules and the Ocean of the West. Is not the Nile a beautiful water?”

God now gives the Adept the first parable that counsels to work towards practical goals Liber LXV parable of the Watersrather than ones that are ambiguous, ideal, and far-off in the distance. Those who dwell in “Thebai” or Thebes are close to the Nile. The “Pillars of Hercules” refers to the Strait of Gibraltar that separates Europe and North Africa, and the “Ocean of the West” refers to the Atlantic Ocean. This is essentially saying that those who dwell in Thebes by the Nile shouldn’t “prate” or talk foolishly about distant waters, for the Nile is closeby and is “a beautiful water.” The general idea is that one should work with the real, the practical, and the immediate rather than what is ideal and distant. Crowley’s comment to this line begins with, “Cf. Cap: II, vv.37-44,”9 which is a direct reference to the Parable of the Dolphin and the Harper that gives a similar lesson.

Crowley goes on to give several ways of saying the same thing when he comments, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves. Those who despise detail are eventually destroyed by these vary things which they thought trivial; and their discomfiture and disgrace are all the more humiliating. Lord Nose-in-the-Air stumbled over his own door-stop.”10 Again, the idea is to focus on the immediate rather than the abstract goals such as Nirvana or Samadhi. Crowley makes this analogous to the steady, systematic progress through A∴A∴, as previously mentioned. Doing otherwise is symbolically attempting to form the capstone of the Pyramid of Initiation without having built its foundations for it to rest upon. Crowley further comments on this line, “Living in Thebes, seek your water in the Nile instead of wasting your time in vast vague vapourish vagaries about the Atlantic. In Plain English, follow out precisely and patiently the systematic course of Initiation prescribed by the A.A∴. Be THOROUGH.”11

“Let not the priest of Isis uncover the nakedness of Nuit, for every step is a death and a birth. The priest of Isis lifted the veil of Isis, and was slain by the kisses of her mouth. Then was he the priest of Nuit, and drank of the milk of the stars.”

The same idea is given in a related but distinct set of imagery; this is the second part of the parable that deals with similar and interconnected lessons regading the Next Step. The basic idea remains that one must experience the ordeals and do the work of one’s grade, not seeking to jump ahead. In regards to Isis and Nuit, “Isis” is the same thing as “Nuit” but on a “lower plane”; as Crowley comments, “Isis [is] a ‘Lower’ manifestation of the principle Yin than Nuit is”12 meaning they are both expressions of “Yin” or the feminine, passive, dark side of things (as opposed to “Yang”), but Nuit is a “higher” or more abstract expression thereof. Esoterically, Isis refers to the 3rd Sephirah of Binah on the Qabalistic Tree of Life while Nuit refers to the Negative Veils (often attributed to the number 0) on the Tree of Life.

Crowley comments, “Every incident in life is of combined importance. No man can afford to lose the experience proper to his actual stage of initiation.”13 That is, one must work within one’s current grade or stage of initiation; for example, one should not seek to do the work of a Zelator, the 2nd grade of A∴A∴, (or Magister Templi, one of the final grades of A∴A∴, etc.) when one is a Neophyte, the 1st grade of A∴A∴. If one is a Neophyte, every incident in your life is proper to your stage of initiation, and to do the work of another grade or aim at a goal beyond the immediate is to “lose the experience proper” to your current stage. If one “soars Icarus-like,” seeking to do the work of a Magister Templi when one is a Neophyte (to continue the example), there will be failure and ruin. An example of this is of Frater Achad (or Frater O.I.V.V.I.O.) took the Oath of the Abyss, which because of “his ignorance of the details of the intermediate Grades, led him constantly into the most deplorable errors, from the devastating penalties of which he was saved by the loving vigilance of his Superior in the Order, at least insofar as the more critical catastrophes were concerned.”14

Overall, the specific lesson of this second parable regarding the Next Step is that one must first work with the Lower (Isis) before the Higher (Nuit), and that by working with the Lower one will naturally come to the Higher.

“Let not the failure and the pain turn aside the worshippers. The foundations of the pyramid were hewn in the living rock ere sunset; did the king weep at dawn that the crown of the pyramid was yet unquarried in the distant land?”

This is the third part of the parable dealing with the Next Step. On the path of initiation, there is inevitably much failure and pain, but we are counseled to not let these things turn us aside from our work. Crowley comments, “The Parable of the Pyramid requires no commentary: it is as lucid as it is sublime.”15 While this may be so, it can’t hurt to give a brief commentary thereupon.

Firstly, the pyramid is a common symbol of initiation, both because it requires careful building and because the tomb inside is often related to the process whereby one’s ego is dissolved in love, which is often given under the figure of draining out one’s blood or individuality into the Cup of Babalon. Esoterically, the “City of the Pyramids” refers to the 3rd Sephirah on the Qabalistic Tree of Life, Binah, to which is attributed Babalon and the grade of Magister Templi. The parable explains that the stones used to build the base or “foundation” of the pyramid were fashioned by sunset. The foundation of the pyramid represents the basic practices required to “fashion” the mind and body into adequate tools and vessels for the Great Work; this “foundational” work cannot be ignored, which is the basic message permeating all three of these parables. “Sunset” implies the end of a period of work, and the next line is a rhetorical question implying that the king who oversees the construction of the pyramid does not weep because the top of the pyramid or the “crown” is still not fashioned. Again, the point is that one must work from the bottom up, starting from the beginning and working progressively and systematically toward the end, learning to walk before one runs. Even if one goes for a long period working only on the foundational, fundamental practices of Magick and Yoga (including things like the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram and Asana, respectively), one should not be turned aside by not having achieved the supreme attainments after all of this work. The “failure and pain” that are inevitable from these practices refers to the fact that, in working at these practices, we are going to fail and suffer physical and spiritual pain. We are going to not be able to sit in Asana for as long as we thought we could, our bodies may ache and be sore from meditating, we are going to have days where the pangs of hopelessness and fruitlessness plague our souls, we are going to have times when our rituals seem to be rote repetition, we are going to have times when the whole Path of the Great Work is called into question. The lesson is to acknowledge these things, learn from them, and not let them turn us from the Path. If we fail, we affirm that next time we will fail a little bit better. If we have pain, we affirm it as part of the Path, and use it to further our work with increased intensity.

Crowley comments, “There is yet a third consideration to be made in connection with this doctrine of The Next Step. It does in fact seem far easier to wander in the Wonderland of the Supernal Triad than to dig one’s way painfully through the Path of Tau, to make the Renunciation of a Dhamma-Buddha than to acquire Asana by dint of Anguished application and acutest agony…”16 The “Wonderland of the Supernal Triad” refers to the first three Sephiroth on the Tree of Life: Kether, Chokmah, and Binah. The “Path of Tau” is the path leading from the last Sephirah, Malkuth, to Yesod and is considered the first “Path” one has to take in climbing the Tree of Life, which is one symbolic metaphor for the path of initiation. “To make the Renunciation of a Dhamma-Buddha” refers to taking the Bodhisattva vow whereby one swears to obtain the virtues of a Buddha, and “acquir[ing] Asana by dint of Anguished application” refers to the practice of sitting in a meditative posture without moving for prolonged periods. The implication in both cases is that it is easier to speak about and pretend to be a High Initiate rather than doing the very basic, often arduous work of basic practices as represented by the Path of Tau, the first path that one must cross in the system of A∴A∴, and practicing Asana, the first practice one must begin to master in meditation.

Crowley continues, “But this is a ‘damnable heresy and a dangerous delusion’ arising from the simple fact that nobody can possibly form any idea soever of the Nature of the Task of any grade beyond his own – and I say this with every emphasis, despite by devotion and determination to describe the details of the Path of the Wise – even being at the pains of inventing what is practically a new language for this very purpose. Unless the Aspirant fully comprehend and freely acquiesce in this inherent incapacity, he is only too likely to try to sneak through the dim dreary dreadful discipline of his Grade – the more loathsome precisely because it represents his actual limitation of the moment – and have a perfectly lovely time fancying himself an Exempt Adept or an Arahat or even – I have known one such unhappy expert in self-delusion – an Ipsissimus!”17 The “damnable heresy and a dangerous delusion” refers in general to trying to understand or work at some kind of goal that is far beyond one’s current apprehension. This is because “nobody can possibly form any idea soever of the Nature of the Task of any grade beyond his own,” which is another reason that one should seek the water of the Nile rather than the Ocean of the West, i.e. do the work of one’s current grade rather than that which is above one’s grade. The “new language” refers to Crowley’s adaptation and use of Qabalistic language throughout his writings, including the Holy Books of Thelema. “Exempt Adept” and “Ipsissimus” are names for people who have achieved high grades of attainment in the A∴A∴ and “Arahat” is a name in the Buddhist system for one who has attained. The point is that even though the Path of initiation is laid out in every detail, one can still not understand the steps beyond one’s current stage. The basic overall message of this third part of the parable is that one should work at one’s current “grade” and not let the inevitable failure, pain, despair, distress, or distraction of the Work lead one away from the Path.

SUMMARY: This Parable of the Waters, the Priest, and the Pyramid is a threefold parable that describes the Next Step but gives three distinct but interrelated lessons. The lesson of the Parable of the Waters is that one should not seek distant, abstract, and ideal goals represented by the “Ocean of the West” but rather work with the real, the practical, and the immediate represented by the Nile. The lesson of the Parable of the Priest is that, by working on the task of one’s current stage or grade, one will inevitably come to the next stage or grade; by working with the “lower” as represented by Isis, one will inevitably come to the “higher” as represented by Nuit. The lesson of the Parable of the Pyramid is that one should not “weep,” be upset, nor be turned aside from one’s work at the inevitable “failure and the pain” involved in the path of initiation. All together, the Parable of the Waters, the Priest, and the Pyramid all counsel the same thing: focus on the basic work of one’s current level first, work systematically and thoroughly in a step-by-step manner, and don’t worry or even try to conceive of the tasks of the final stages or end of the Path.

1Liber LXV, I:9.

2Liber LXV, V:35.

3Commentary on Liber LXV, V:48-51.

4Commentary to Liber LXV, V:48-51.

5Commentary to Liber LXV, V:48-51.

6Commentary to Liber LXV, V:48-51.

7Commentary to Liber LXV, V:48-51.

8Commentary to Liber LXV, V:48-51.

9Commentary to Liber LXV, V:49.

10Commentary to Liber LXV, V:49.

11Commentary to Liber LXV, V:49.

12Commentary to Liber LXV, V:50.

13Commentary to Liber LXV, V:50.

14Commentary to Liber LXV, V:50.

15Commentary on Liber LXV, V:52.

16Commentary on Liber LXV, V:52.

17Commentary on Liber LXV, V:52.

Liber LXV parables

The Parables and Lessons of Liber LXV (part 6)

Liber LXV: The Heart Girt with a Serpent

The Parable of the Dolphin and the Harper

Behold! the Abyss of the Great Deep. Therein is a mighty dolphin, lashing his sides with the force of the waves. There is also an harper of gold, playing infinite tunes. Then the dolphin delighted therein, and put off his body, and became a bird. The harper also laid aside his harp, and played infinite tunes upon the Pan-pipe. Then the bird desired exceedingly this bliss, and laying down its wings became a faun of the forest. The harper also laid down his Pan-pipe, and with the human voice sang his infinite tunes. Then the faun was enraptured, and followed far; at last the harper was silent, and the faun became Pan in the midst of the primal forest of Eternity. Thou canst not charm the dolphin with silence, O my prophet!

Liber LXV, II:37-44

This Parable is the first of two that deal with the idea of the “Next Step.” The Master Therion was a Magus sent by the Secret Chiefs to teach humanity this Next Step of their spiritual evolution, which is to attain to Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. Esoterically, this means achieving the consciousness symbolized by Tiphareth, the Sun, on the Qabalistic Tree of Life. This isn’t the End of the Path, but – for all practical purposes – it is the goal of all those who aspire to attain to spiritual illumination. This Next Step is described by Crowley when he writes of himself in third person, “In the Crossing of the Abyss by the Seer during his Burma-China journey, he accomplished the meditation called Sammasati. He became aware of his True Will, of the purpose for which he had undertaken Incarnation. And this was expressed thus: to aid Mankind to take the Next Step. And at the time he understood this as meaning: to lead them to aspire to the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.”1

Liber LXV is a Holy Book specifically dealing with the attainment of Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, often speaking in terms of union with Adonai or the symbol of the Heart girt with the Serpent. Since the Next Step deals with this very attainment, it should come as no surprise that this Holy Book gives counsel regarding it.

In this Parable, there are two basic “characters”: the aspirant/student and the initiator/teacher. This initiator can be seen both externally in an actual teacher and internally as a form of God as the “Lord of Initiation.”2 In this Parable, the aspirant goes through four stages: the dolphin, the bird, the faun, and Pan. The initiator remains the harper throughout but uses four different instruments to guide the aspirant: the harp, the Pan-pipe, a human voice, and silence. These four stages correspond to many things at once. Some examples are given in this table, although it is not exhaustive:

Liber LXV Parable of the Dolphin and the Harper

Crowley writes that this Parable has at least four distinct but interrelated meanings. As with most symbols, the same ideas or images can express multiple truths at once. Crowley writes, “This passage is a parable with several applications. (1) It describes the method of attaining Concentration by ‘the Ladders’ (See Liber Aleph). (2) It indicates how to deal with people whom one wishes to initiate. (3) It gives a method for passing from one state of mind to another at Will. The main idea in all three matters is that one must apply the appropriate remedy to whatever malady may actually exist, not some ideally perfect medicine. The first matter must be brought step by step through each stage of the process; it is useless to try to obtain the Perfect Tincture from it by making the Final Projection.”3 The two last sentences are especially crucial: we must take the Next Step rather than trying to take the Last Step. One would never think to teach Calculus before giving a thorough grounding in Arithmetic, yet this is exactly what many spiritual teachers do. The Master Therion, on the other hand, is a practical teacher and gives us the next phase of our spiritual evolution. The fourth meaning of this Parable is that “It describes the whole course of Initiation.”4 While it would be possible to systematically go through each of these meanings one by one, each of the meanings are harmonious enough with each other that it is possible to comment upon each of them at once, understanding that this is a complex but sublime Parable.

“Behold! the Abyss of the Great Deep. Therein is a mighty dolphin, lashing his sides with the force of the waves.”

The “ladder” of the concentration by the method of “the Ladders” mentioned by Crowley implies the idea of a Ladder to Heaven. It refers to the steady progress of meditation or Yoga to the goal at the top of the ladder, which is perfect concentration or “Samadhi.” In this first perspective, the “Abyss of the Great Deep” is the consciousness of the aspirant, and the “mighty dolphin” is the untrained mind. The typical, untrained mind is uncontrolled and “lashes” in all directions without purpose or concentration. The “waves” are thoughts that barrage the untrained mind in all directions. In line with this interpretation, Crowley comments, “The Abyss is the Mind; the Dolphin the uneasy Consciousness.”5

In another sense, Crowley comments, “Men are ruled by pride and other passions.”6 Therefore, the “Abyss of the Great Deep” also represents the normal, mundane world. The “mighty dolphin” represents the profane, i.e. those who have not yet been initiated. The “waves” represent the emotions that rule the uninitiate, whether of pride, greed, sloth, lust, or whatever else.

The “lashing” also represents uneasiness, sorrow, and discontent that are typical of those who have not yet begun to tread the Path of the Great Work. The “waves” represent circumstances that impinge upon and control the individual, since they have not yet learned to obtain control of the Will. Crowley comments, “The dolphin signifies any state of mind that is uneasy, ill-content, and unable to escape from its surroundings.”7 In general, as Crowley comments, “The dolphin is the profane.”8 We can see that all four perspectives or meanings of this Parable cohere insofar as they represent the state of being untrained, uninitiated, or “profane.”

There is also an harper of gold, playing infinite tunes.”

The “harper” is the guru, teacher, or initiator. The guru plays the harp and makes harmonious “tunes” or sounds, which may entice the uninitiated to the Path of the Great Work. This is often practically seen when teachers or gurus expound the various benefits of accomplishing the Great Work – for example, when it is said to lead to “True Wisdom and Perfect Happiness.”9 The guru allows the uninitiated to begin to concentrate so that he or she is not simply “lashing” about with the typical untrained mind. The first “tune” is that of Asana, one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. Crowley comments, “The harper is the teacher whose praise of the Path of the Wise induces the profane to seek initiation; he is the Guru who stills the mind by making it listen to harmonious sounds, instead of torturing itself by thinking of its pains and its passions. These sounds are produced by mechanical means; they refer to practices like Asana, etc.”10

This line also means that the sorrows, discomfort, and anguish of life are shown to actually be harmonious. The teacher or guru allows the aspirant to come to see sorrow as a necessary and even joyous part of life. One comes to see that things are more savory when complemented with spice, so to speak. Crowley comments, “Cure [sorrow and discomfort] by reflecting that it is the material of Beauty, just as Macbeth’s character, Timon’s misfortunes, etc. gave Shakespeare his chance. Make your own trouble serve your sense of your own life as a sublime drama. Transform it by looking at it as a necessary and important fact in the framework of the Universe.”11 The harper or guru can allow for the profane to a place of acceptance, specifically of the more painful and darker aspects of existence.

In general, the guru or initiator is one who calls to the uninitiated or profane and entices them with the “benefits” of treading the Path of spirituality. The guru or initiator leads the profane to recognize their state of being uninitiated and expounds the benefits of the Great Work.

“Then the dolphin delighted therein, and put off his body, and became a bird.”

The dolphin (the profane) is enticed into transforming into the bird (the aspirant) by the tunes of the harper (the God or initiator/guru). Crowley comments, “Realizing his evil state, and delighting in the prospects offered by initiation, [the profane] renounces all and becomes a pure Aspirant.”12 The “delight” of the aspirant in the tunes of the guru refers not only to the delight in the prospects of the Great Work of wisdom and peace but also the “delight” of finding harmony in all aspects of life, including suffering. Again, the profane are “taught to aspire”13 to the Path of the Great Work by the initiator or guru until they are “clean of the baser appetites.”14 The profane then transcend their normal, mundane baseness and aspire to the Great Work.

From another perspective, the dolphin or profane is enticed by the benefits of meditation/Yoga propounded by the teacher. The aspirant is becomes freed from his former uninitiated condition, i.e. that of the “dolphin,” and becomes thereby transformed into the “bird.” The bird represents a creature that has freedom to fly rather than being buffeted by the waves of unruly thoughts of an unconcentrated mind. The bird is an animal of air, and the second “tune” of the harper is that of Pranayama, the control of breath or air, which is the next of the Eight Limbs of Yoga after Asana. Crowley comments, “Freed from its grossness and violence [as the dolphin], the consciousness aspires to lofty ideals [as the bird]. It is, however, unable to keep quiet, and has little intelligence. It is trained by hearing the harmony of life – breath inspiring a reed, instead of muscle agitating metal. This refers to Pranayama, but also to apprehending that inspiration is in itself more fluttering; it must learn the art of using every breath to produce harmony.”15 This is therefore not merely the practice of Pranayama, but also the practice of mindfulness of each breath whereby we acknowledge every aspect of life – every breath – can be seen as part of a harmonious whole.

“The harper also laid aside his harp, and played infinite tunes upon the Pan-pipe.”

With the “dolphin” of the profane having become the “bird” of the aspirant, the “harper” or guru/initiator picks up a new instrument in order that the next phase of initiation may be completed. The “Pan-pipe” was a musical instrument used by the goat-god Pan; it often has seven notes, which represent the entirety of existence under the figure of the seven classical Planets or the octave of music. Practically, as an initiator, it represents teaching the “seven sciences”16 to the aspirants who have begun to tread the Path of the Great Work. These seven sciences are grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy; in general, they represent that aspirants should have a wide base of knowledge before moving further upon the Path. This is seen in the many works from different cultures that one must read as a Student of the A∴A∴ before one can even become a Probationer.

Further, “Pan” is a name that literally means “All.” The initiator is therefore telling the aspirant in symbol that the Goal is not simply to become the “Higher Self,” but a complete microcosm of the Universe. One must become united with both the “higher” and “lower” aspects of oneself to become complete. Crowley comments, “Having instructed them till they are really complete and ready for true initiation, tell them Truth. [The Aspirant] learns that the Adept is not a perfection of what he feels to be the noblest part of him, but a Microcosm.”17 This same idea is spoken of in Liber Tzaddi, a Holy Book of Thelema, where the idea that the Adept encompasses both good and evil, light and dark, height and depth, is explained:

I reveal unto you a great mystery. Ye stand between the abyss of height and the abyss of depth. In either awaits you a Companion; and that Companion is Yourself. Ye can have no other Companion. Many have arisen, being wise. They have said ‘Seek out the glittering Image in the place ever golden, and unite yourselves with It.’ Many have arisen, being foolish. They have said, ‘Stoop down unto the darkly splendid world, and be wedded to that Blind Creature of the Slime.’ I who am beyond Wisdom and Folly, arise and say unto you: achieve both weddings! Unite yourselves with both! Beware, beware, I say, lest ye seek after the one and lose the other! My adepts stand upright; their head above the heavens, their feet below the hells.”18

In summary, the harper or initiator picks up a new musical instrument or means of instruction for the aspirant who is now transformed into a “bird.” The harper uses the sevenfold Pan-pipe, which represents the idea of accepting and integrating all aspects of oneself (as represented by the seven Planets or seven notes in a scale) as well as the idea that the initiator should teach the seven sciences to the beginning aspirant so that she may have a firm foundation for pursuing the Great Work.

“Then the bird desired exceedingly this bliss, and laying down its wings became a faun of the forest.”

The aspirant, upon hearing of this next lesson, enters into its second transformation to become “a faun of the forest.” This faun represents the completeness that the harper counseled the aspirant to attain. Crowley comments, “[The aspirant] completes the formation of himself as an image of the All. The consciousness now acquires divine and human completeness. The faun symbolized firm aspiration, creative power, and human intelligence. The wings of ideal longing are laid down; the thought accepts the fact of its true nature, and aims only at possible perfections.”19 The aspirant has come back “down to earth,” so to speak, insofar as he or she no longer strives after lofty ideals but strives to make the self as complete and whole as possible. Practically, considering even the discomfort and sorrow of life as part of the harmony and beauty of existence, one will come to accept all aspects of oneself and the World as necessary for wholeness. Crowley further comments, “The lyrical exaltation will now pass into a deep realization of yourself and all that concerns you as an Inhabitant of Nature, containing in your own consciousness the elements of the Divine, and the Bestial, both equally necessary to the Wholeness of the Universe. Your original discomfort of mind will now appear as pleasant, since, lacking that experience, you would have been eternally the poorer.”20 The airy bird of idealism has now become the faun who is both divine and “bestial” or earthly – both upright and averse – and who accepts all parts of the Universe as necessary, including experiences of suffering, sorrow, and distress.

“The harper also laid down his Pan-pipe, and with the human voice sang his infinite tunes.”

Now the harper lays down the Pan-pipe after having earlier laid down the harp. Now the harper or initiator sings with a “human voice,” which represents clarity of communication. The aspirant, having attained a sense of wholeness, is better able to understand the articulations of the initiator. Crowley comments, “[The aspirant] now hears the harmony of the Universe as expressed in the human voice; that is, as articulate and intelligible, so that every vibration, besides its power to delight the senses, appeals to the soul. This represents the stage of concentration when, being fixes in meditation upon any subject, one penetrates the superficial aspect and attempts to reach its reality, the true meaning of its relation with the observer.”21 Having transcended its normal, mundane dullness and lack of mental control through Asana and Pranayama, the aspirant strives to perfect Dharana – mental concentration – and is thereby able to see the clear, “true meaning” of that upon which he or she concentrates.

Also, in coming to regard all things – both positive and negative – as necessary parts of the Whole, the aspirant is able to see all experience “as a particular dealing of God with [the] soul.”22 The aspirant therefore comes one step closer to attaining unity or identity with the All.

“Then the faun was enraptured, and followed far; at last the harper was silent, and the faun became Pan in the midst of the primal forest of Eternity.”

The faun or aspirant becomes “enraptured,” which represents the last stages of illumination. Crowley comments, “The final stage is reached.”23 The aspirant, having regarded all experiences as dealings of God with the soul, is led from these considerations to rapture. Crowley comments, “Follow up this train of thought until you enter into Rapture, caused by the recognition of the fact that you – and all else – are ecstatic expressions of a sublime Spiritual spasm, elements of an omniform Eucharist.”24 One comes to see that all things or experiences – whether positive or negative – are necessary but only partial. In terms of the ontology of the New Aeon, both positive and negative experiences are always 2 (i.e. dualistic). In this line, the aspirant or faun comes to see that every instance of 2 is an expression of 0; every instance of multiplicity is actually a facet of the All. Crowley comments, “All possible positives are known to be errors from the Negative.”25 That is, the Original Harmony of 0 or “the Negative” is perfect, but it is only when we identify with one particular aspect, any “possible positive” as opposed to the Whole or “the Negative,” that we enter into error.

The harper or initiator becomes “silent,” no longer needing to give explicit lessons to the aspirant, for he or she has built up enough momentum on the Path of the Great Work to attain, i.e. to “follow far.” Crowley comments, “Once they are on the Path, be silent; they will naturally come to Attainment.”26

The faun comes to the final transformation into “Pan,” the All. As Crowley comments, “There is Silence. Then the faun becomes the All.”27 The faun is no more in the normal forest, but in that “primal forest of Eternity”28, which is beyond all multiplicity whether of space or time or causality. The aspirant has become an Adept, transcending all duality. Crowley comments, “Gone is the limited forest of secondary ideas in which he once dwelt, and left in order to follow the Word that enchanted him. He is now in the world of Ideas whose nature is simple (primal) and are not determined by such conditions as Time. Truth, no matter how splendid, will now lose all meaning for you. It belongs to a world where discrimination between Subject and Predicate is possible, which implies imperfection; and you are risen above it.”29 This discrimination between Subject and Predicate is the final duality that is overcome by the faun who has entered into Wholeness. Crowley continues, “You thus become Pan, the All; no longer a part. You thrill with the joy of the lust of creation, become a virgin goddess for your sake. Also, you are insane, sanity being the state which holds things in proper proportion; while you have dissolved all in your own being, in ecstasy beyond all measure.”30 That is, since knowledge implies some kind of relation between things, it is inherently dualistic, yet this direct experience or identity with Unity means that one has transcended knowledge along with all other expressions of duality. There are no limits or separations between things because this “ecstasy [is] beyond all measure.”31

“Thou canst not charm the dolphin with silence, O my prophet!”

The dolphin is, once again, the uninitiated individual or the profane. Crowley – as a teacher or initiator – is given a specific counsel that he cannot “charm the dolphin with silence.” While Silence may be the last phase for the guru or teacher, one has to teach the lesson that is appropriate to the level of the student. Crowley comments, “Practice Elementary Yoga until you are perfect: do not try to attain Nibbana till you know how.”32 That is, one does not strive at the beginning of the spiritual path to attain Nirvana or Samadhi, the Last Step (so to speak). One must begin at the beginning: practically, this means engaging in the “Elementary Yoga” of Asana, Pranayama, and Dharana. Crowley comments, “Many are the virtues of Silence: but who so is vowed to help men must teach them the Next Step.”33 This also means that the teacher has a responsibility to act and a duty to teach, not merely resting in stagnant enjoyment of his or her own attainment. There is an added responsibility for the teacher to teach the Path in a way that is practical and helpful for the student who is being taught: teach the Next Step for the student, not the Last Step.

In a very practical sense, “Do not attempt to cure a fit of melancholy by lofty ideas: such will seem absurd, and you will only deepen your despair.”34 By simply teaching – for example – about Nirvana to the aspirant who is just beginning on the Path, the goal will seem too lofty and too far away to be attainable. The lofty goals will “deepen your despair,” so one must start from the beginning and work one’s way up. If an Adept speaks to an aspirant, they must use the language and lessons that are practical for that aspirant. Crowley comments, “The profane cannot imagine what the Masters mean when they work with those nearest to them… Nobody can possibly form any idea soever of the Nature of the Task of any grade beyond his own.”35

SUMMARY: This Parable – although extremely complex in its intricacies – has a very simple and sublime message at the core of it. It provides a symbolism of a series of transformations by the aspirant in the course initiation; it also is a practical lesson to focus on what ever the Next Step for oneself is, rather than chasing after lofty ideals or goals.

The aspirant is represented by several images or metamorphoses. First, the aspirant is the dolphin, which represents the profane or uninitiated state of being, where one is full of discomfort, sorrow, and an uneasy mind. Second, the aspirant is led to the Path of the Great Work and becomes a bird, soaring after the lofty ideals expounded by his or her Master. Third, the aspirant sees all things – both pleasurable and painful, positive and negative – as necessary to the completion and wholeness of the Self, performing “love under will” in the expression and integration of all parts of the Self: therefore the bird becomes the faun. Finally, the faun becomes caught up and enraptured in this progress to become Pan, the Naught or Silence that contains All things in Itself. Esoterically, these different stages are represented by the Sephiroth along the Middle Pillar of the Qabalistic Tree of Life. The dolphin is in Malkuth, the profane who are entirely in the material, mundane world. The bird is in Yesod, where the profane have been called to become aspirants, beginning to climb the Tree of Life towards Godhead. The faun is in Tiphareth, as the Sun represents a balance of harmony and beauty. Finally, Pan is in Kether, being the secret and ineffable Unity that contains All.

The teacher, guru, or initiator is the harper who does not go through metamorphoses, but uses different musical instruments according to the stage of the aspirant. First, the harper plays upon the harp for the dolphin, which refers to the initiator preaching to the uninitiated of the benefits of initiation such as Light and Truth and Wisdom and Bliss. The harper then plays upon the sevenfold Pan-pipe for the bird, which refers to the initiator explaining to the aspirant regarding the necessity of building up the necessary foundation for attainment. The aspirant must have a thorough grounding in the basic knowledge of the world (the “seven sciences”), build a strong foundation in elementary Yoga (the first Seven Limbs of Yoga before being crowned in the Eighth Limb of Samadhi), and have balanced themselves by accepting and integrating all aspects (the seven classical Planets) of themselves and the World, both light and dark. The harper then sings with a human voice to the faun, which refers to aspirant becoming equilibrated as the Adept and being able to understand the initiator with further clarity. Through uniting in “love under will” with the opposite elements of the Self, the faun is eventually enraptured; this leads to the harper becoming silent. This Silence of rapture eventually leads to the faun becoming Pan, signaling the Adept attaining to absorption in the Infinite, identity with the All.

This parable lays out four basic stages of initiation in sublime symbolic language that can be of benefit to all aspirants as a map of the Path and it can also be of benefit to all teachers as a lesson to teach the Next Step to students rather than the final goal.

1The Vision and the Voice, 20th Aethyr.

2As in the Holy Book Liber Tzaddi vel Hamus Hermeticus.

3Commentary to Liber LXV, II:37-44.

4Commentary to Liber LXV, II:37-44.

5Commentary to Liber LXV, II:37.

6Commentary to Liber LXV, II:37.

7Commentary to Liber LXV, II:37.

8Commentary to Liber LXV, II:37.

9Mentioning both in The Gnostic Mass and in Liber Resh.

10Commentary to Liber LXV, II:38.

11Commentary to Liber LXV, II:38, 40.

12Commentary to Liber LXV, II:38-39.

13Commentary to Liber LXV, II:39-40.

14Commentary to Liber LXV, II:39-40.

15Commentary to Liber LXV, II:39.

16Commentary to Liber LXV, II:39-40.

17Commentary to Liber LXV, II:40.

18Liber Tzaddi, lines 33-40.

19Commentary to Liber LXV, II:40-42.

20Commentary to Liber LXV, II:40-42.

21Commentary to Liber LXV, II:42.

22Commentary to Liber LXV, II:42.

23Commentary to Liber LXV, II:43.

24Commentary to Liber LXV, II:43.

25Commentary to Liber LXV, II:43.

26Commentary to Liber LXV, II:43.

27Commentary to Liber LXV, II:43.

28From this particular line of Liber LXV.

29Commentary to Liber LXV, II:43.

30Commentary to Liber LXV, II:43.

31Commentary to Liber LXV, II:43.

32Commentary to Liber LXV, II:44.

33Commentary to Liber LXV, II:44.

34Commentary to Liber LXV, II:44.

35Commentary to Liber LXV, II:44 and V:51.

Liber LXV parables

The Parables and Lessons of Liber LXV (part 5)

Liber LXV: The Heart Girt with a Serpent

The Parable of the White Swan of Ecstasy and the Little Crazy Boy of Reason

Also the Holy One came upon me, and I beheld a white swan floating in the blue. Between its wings I sate, and the æons fled away. Then the swan flew and dived and soared, yet no whither we went. A little crazy boy that rode with me spake unto the swan, and said: 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? And laughing I chid him, saying: No whence! No whither! The swan being silent, he answered: Then, if with no goal, why this eternal journey? And I laid my head against the Head of the Swan, and laughed, saying: Is there not joy ineffable in this aimless winging? Is there not weariness and impatience for who would attain to some goal? And the swan was ever silent. Ah! but we floated in the infinite Abyss. Joy! Joy! White swan, bear thou ever me up between thy wings!

Liber LXV, II:17-25

This Parable of the White Swan of Ecstasy and the Little Crazy Boy of Reason is one of my personal favorite passages from the Holy Books of Thelema. Crowley refers to this passage in several places including his commentary on Blavatsky’s “The Voice of the Silence” and his commentary on The Book of the Law. There is also a chapter in The Book of Lies entitled “The Swan” (chapter 17) that is expands the symbolism of this passage, which I encourage you to read if this Parable particularly interests you.

Also the Holy One came upon me, and I beheld a white swan floating in the blue. Between its wings I sate, and the æons fled away.” The phrase “the Holy One came upon me” is a way to say that the Adept has entered into an ecstatic state of consciousness, similar to saying that the Holy Spirit has entered one’s heart or descended upon oneself. The Adept sees a “white swan,” which represents Ecstasy. This symbolism is developed in The Book of Lies where Crowley writes, “There is a Swan whose name is Ecstasy: it wingeth from the Deserts of the North; it wingeth through the blue; it wingeth over the fields of rice; at its coming they push forth the green.”1 Crowley comments further that “This Swan is Aum,”2 which is both the name of the swan and its nature, i.e. it is the Holy Mantra of the Hindus and whose symbolism is too deep and complex for this basic essay. Crowley comments, “The swan is the ecstatic Consciousness of the Adept.”3

This white swan “floats,” meaning it moves effortlessly. The swan floats “in the blue,” which represents infinite space (i.e. Nuit). This parallels the line from The Book of Lies where the swan “wingeth through the blue.” Crowley comments, “It is poised in infinite space.”4 The Adept sits between the wings of the swan, carried by its effortless floating of ecstasy. “The æons fled away” means that the Adept, through Ecstasy, has transcended Time. Entire aeons go past without any care or worry. Crowley comments, “In Ecstasy time does not count.”5

“Then the swan flew and dived and soared, yet no whither we went.” Despite the swan’s movements of flying, diving, and soaring, it remains essentially motionless. The aeons having fled away means Ecstasy transcends Time and now we see that this Ecstasy also transcends Space. Each movement of the Swan of Ecstasy is Joy even though there is no real movement or progress. From the perspective of the infinite, there is no goal to be attained, yet each movement through time and space is joy. From this point-of-view, one can truly say, “Existence is pure joy.”6 Crowley comments, “The Ecstasy moves from one sublimity of Joy to another; but there is no progress possible in perfection, therefore no aim to be attained by such movements.”7

“A little crazy boy that rode with me spake unto the swan, and said: 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?” We are now introduced to a new character, the “little crazy boy” who represents the mind or Ruach, especially insofar as it is the realm of Reason. This boy of Reason questions the Swan and essentially asks, “Who are you? All this time has passed but where did you come from and where are you going?” Reason cannot understand the initiated point-of-view, just as – esoterically – the Ruach of Knowledge can never reach above the Abyss to the Supernal Triad of Understanding. The mind is embedded in space and time: it cannot comprehend That which transcends both. Crowley comments, “The boy is the human reason, which demands measurement as the first condition of intelligible consciousness. Aware of time, he cannot understand why all this motion has not brought the swan nearer to some fixed point, or how the relation of the point of origin to its present position is not an ever-present anxiety. He cannot conceive of motion without reference to fixed axes.”8

“And laughing I chid him, saying: No whence! No whither!” The Adept replies for the swan and “chids him,” which means that he rebukes or scoffs at Reason. The Adept says that He and the swan did not come from anywhere in particular nor are they going anywhere in particular, for they are beyond past and future insofar as they transcend Time itself. In being carried by spiritual Ecstasy, one does not strive to attain certain goals but partakes in each action and moment with Joy. Crowley comments, “I reply that, apprehending the continuum (Nuit) as such, no ‘space-marks’ exist.”9 Crowley is referencing The Book of the Law where it is written, “If this be not aright; if ye confound the space-marks, saying: They are one; or saying, They are many; if the ritual be not ever unto me: then expect the direful judgments of Ra Hoor Khuit!”10 The Adept and the swan are beyond the multiciplity of space, time, and causality so there are no “space-marks” to separate any one thing from any other thing. As it says in The Book of the Law, “Bind nothing! Let there be no difference made among you between any one thing & any other thing; for thereby there cometh hurt.”11

“The swan being silent, he answered: Then, if with no goal, why this eternal journey?” The swan is always silent for it is caught up in Ecstasy that transcends the duality of thought and speech. Silence represents None or non-duality as Speech represents Two or duality/multiplicity. The little crazy boy of Reason then asks why go through these motions if there is no goal or end intended? Crowley comments, “The swan is of course silent: Ecstasy transcends expression. Reason asks the motive of motion, in the absence of all destination.”12

“And I laid my head against the Head of the Swan, and laughed, saying: Is there not joy ineffable in this aimless winging? Is there not weariness and impatience for who would attain to some goal?” The Adept puts his head against that of the swan, implying that he is one with the transcendent Ecstasy represented thereby. The Adept laughs because the nature of Ecstasy is Joy, and laughing a natural response of the illuminated or enlightened consciousness in response to the questioning of the ego/mind/Ruach. The Adept asks a rhetorical question, implying that there is no aim to the “winging” or motion of existence, yet there is Joy in each motion. This is the pure will where one is “unassuaged of purpose.”13 Crowley comments, “The Adept bringing this thought closes to Ecstasy, laughs, both for pure joy, and as amused by the incongruous absurdities of ‘rational’ arguments from which he is now for ever free, expresses his idea thus: Thus free exercise of some object thereby, it would imply the pain of desire, the strain of effort, and the fear of failure.”14 One might say that if there is no target, there is no possibility of missing the mark. The mind is always caught up in worrying about goals and aims and purposes, thereby leading to anxiety over the possibility of not attaining these aims, strain over attempting to attain them, and sorrow over having not achieved them. This ecstatic consciousness to which the Adept has attained does not worry itself with these things, but – instead – takes Joy in all instances of motion and existence no matter whether they are considered “success” or “failure” by the rational mind. This line is the true core or “moral” of this Parable: one should strive to attain that ecstatic consciousness whereby the fretting over finding and finishing goals falls away.

“And the swan was ever silent. Ah! but we floated in the infinite Abyss. Joy! Joy! White swan, bear thou ever me up between thy wings!The swan, as mentioned before, is always silent, for it abides in its Ecstasy that transcends all illusion, all multiplicity, and therefore all worry. The Adept then gets absorbed into the Ecstasy of the swan, calling to the swan to always bear the mind of the Adept in its Ecstasy. Crowley comments, “Ecstasy remains undisturbed. But the dialogue has caused the Adept to reflect more deeply on his state of bliss, so that the Ecstasy becomes motionless, realising its perfect relation to the Infinity of the continuum. The Adept demands that ecstasy shall be constant.”15

SUMMARY: The Adept, being carried on the Ecstasy that transcends space and time, is not focused on the past or future, especially attaining specific goals, but instead takes Joy in every experience. While Reason is always worrying about specific aims or goals, the ecstatic consciousness of the Adept rejoices in the “aimless winging” of existence. This Parable counsels us to attain that intoxicated spiritual Ecstasy whereby we transcend our rational anxieties, strains, and sorrows so that we might take Joy in every moment. While this is a certainly lofty attainment, the Parable also has a more mundane and practical import: We must strive to see the Joy of experience in itself no matter what its character may be, which comes from not being overly absorbed in and worrying over attaining specific goals. We all have many notions about what we “should be” doing or achieving, and it is not inherently wrong to have certain aims or purposes to guide behavior. Despite this, it is easy to become entirely engrossed in these notions of what should or should not be happening, and we then get caught up in the “lust of result” whereby we become attached to a certain outcome. The Parable therefore counsels us to be on guard against the constant questioning and criticism of the mind, which always seeks as “why” or “wherefore” or “because” to justify action, yet to become caught up in this is to lead into stagnation and sorrow where the inherent Joy of all instances of experience – both comedic and tragic – is forgotten.

Crowley – in an unusual bout of clarity – explains this idea which I will quote to end this particular section:

There is no ‘reason’ why a Star should continue in its orbit. Let her rip! Every time the conscious acts, it interferes with the Subconscious, which is Hadit. It is the voice of Man, and not of a God. Any man who ‘listens to reason’ ceases to be a revolutionary… It is ridiculous to ask a dog why it barks. One must fulfil one’s true Nature, one must do one’s Will. To question this is to destroy confidence, and so to create an inhibition… We are not to calculate, to argue, to criticise; these things lead to division of will and to stagnation. They are shackles of our Going. They hamstring our Pegasus. We are to rise up — to Go — to Love — we are to be awake, alert… This is the ready test of a Star, that it whirls flaming through the sky. You cannot mistake it for an Old Maid objecting to Everything. This Universe is a wild revel of atoms, men, and stars, each one a Soul of Light and Mirth, horsed on Eternity.” 16

1The Book of Lies, chapter 17.

2The Book of Lies, commentary to chapter 17.

3Commentary to Liber LXV, II:17.

4Commentary to Liber LXV, II:17.

5Commentary to Liber LXV, II:18.

6Liber AL vel Legis, II:9.

7Commentary to Liber LXV, II:19.

8Commentary to Liber LXV, II:20.

9Commentary to Liber LXV, II:22.

10Liber AL vel Legis, I:52.

11Liber AL vel Legis, I:22.

12Commentary to Liber LXV, II:23.

13The reference is to Liber AL, I:44, “For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.”

14Commentary to Liber LXV, II:24.

15Commentary to Liber LXV, II:25.

16New Comment to Liber AL, II:30-34.

Liber LXV parables

The Parables and Lessons of Liber LXV (part 4)

Liber LXV: The Heart Girt with a Serpent

The Parable of the Reaper and the Wise Man

Adonai spake yet again with V.V.V.V.V. and said: The earth is ripe for vintage; let us eat of her grapes, and be drunken thereon. And V.V.V.V.V. answered and said: O my lord, my dove, my excellent one, how shall this word seem unto the children of men?And He answered him: Not as thou canst see. It is certain that every letter of this cipher hath some value; but who shall determine the value? For it varieth ever, according to the subtlety of Him that made it. And He answered Him: Have I not the key thereof? I am clothed with the body of flesh; I am one with the Eternal and Omnipotent God. Then said Adonai: Thou hast the Head of the Hawk, and thy Phallus is the Phallus of Asar. Thou knowest the white, and thou knowest the black, and thou knowest that these are one. But why seekest thou the knowledge of their equivalence?And he said: That my Work may be right. And Adonai said: The strong brown reaper swept his swathe and rejoiced. The wise man counted his muscles, and pondered, and understood not, and was sad. Reap thou, and rejoice!

Liber LXV, I:50-56

 This entire parable consists of an exchange of the advanced Adept (V.V.V.V.V.) with God, (Adonai). Crowley comments that this exchange is “An elaborate Parable in dialogue.”1 The real parable comes at the very end: “The strong brown reaper swept his swathe and rejoiced. The wise man counted his muscles, and pondered, and understood not, and was sad. Reap thou, and rejoice!” However, the dialogue preceding this parable gives context to it:

“And V.V.V.V.V. answered and said: O my lord, my dove, my excellent one, how shall this word seem unto the children of men?” The Adept answers God, and wonders whether his “word” or message will be understood by humanity, i.e. “the children of men.” The Adept “returning to earth” or mundane life may doubt that her initiated expression of Truth will be received and understood rightly by the uninitiated. This can be seen, for example, in how many people misunderstand the Word of V.V.V.V.V.’s Truth, Do what thou wilt. Crowley comments, “The Adept doubts whether his doctrine will be understood rightly by mankind.”1

“And He answered him: Not as thou canst see. It is certain that every letter of this cipher hath some value; but who shall determine the value? For it varieth ever, according to the subtlety of Him that made it.” God answers the Adept and agrees that humanity may not understand his “word.” God goes further by saying that each individual interprets things differently – “it varieth ever” – reflecting the idea stated in the Parable of Light and Colors that each individual sees the one Light reflected into different colors according to their own understanding. Each individual is at a certain level of “subtlety,” i.e. of understanding or initiation. Each individual will understand the Word of the Adept in proportion to how far they have tread the Path of the Great Work, yet – even then – each individual will interpret things uniquely according to their own particular nature, history, and circumstance. Crowley comments, “The Angel agrees; but is more sceptical still, suggesting that any event may be taken as meaning anything one chooses.”2

“And He answered Him: Have I not the key thereof? I am clothed with the body of flesh; I am one with the Eternal and Omnipotent God.” The Adept answers God’s skepticism by asserting that he has the true “key” of understanding things. Although the “value” of the Adept’s “word” may be valued differently by each individual, the Adept claims that he knows the one true “value” as opposed to the many partial and false interpretations or “values.” Crowley comments, “The Adept claims to be able to interpret phenomena rightly; that there is one special relation which is true, and all others false.”3

The Adept then asserts his Adepthood insofar that he understands himself simultaneously as a finite mind and body as well as the infinite Godhead, i.e. the Adept understands that he is both None and Two. Esoterically, the Adept realizes that he is both in Malkuth as a “body of flesh” as well as in Kether as “the Eternal and Omnipotent God.” This fact of simultaneous identity with spiritual and material, None and Two, is a characteristic of advanced Adepts. Crowley comments, “He reminds the Angel that he realises Himself (as an unique Being always identical with Itself) alike in the lowest matter and the highest spirit.”4

“Then said Adonai: Thou hast the Head of the Hawk, and thy Phallus is the Phallus of Asar. Thou knowest the white, and thou knowest the black, and thou knowest that these are one. But why seekest thou the knowledge of their equivalence?” God responds to the Adept’s assertion of his initiated understanding by acknowledge his Adepthood. God says that the Adept has “the Head of the Hawk,” which is a reference to Horus and generally means that the Adept has attained the “sight” or perspective of an Adept. God says that the Adept’s “Phallus is the Phallus of Asar,” which is a reference to the phallus of Osiris that was used by Isis to give birth to Horus. This generally means that the Adept has awakened the sexual-generative power of the Unconscious or Secret Self and thereby has the ability to “make fertile” the earth, i.e. bring the Word of God down to the people of mundane existence to revitalize the world. Finally, God acknowledges that the Adept understands the pairs of opposites – black and white, yin and yang, etc. – and that he understands their ultimate equivalence. This is another way to say that the Adept understands the world as both None (where black and white “are one”) and Two (where black and white are opposites).

Despite God’s acknowledgment of the Adept’s attainment, He also questions the Adept by asking why the Adept who has attained such great spiritual heights would trouble himself with the relations between things of duality. To the mind, all things appear as multiplicity or duality, and while this is true “on its own plane,” the Adept knows that all multiplicity is actually unity. Since the Adept understands that all opposites are actually one, why would he seek to understand the relations between these illusory opposites? Crowley comments, “The Angel asks why one who possesses absolute Sight and Lordship and power to soar (the Head of the Hawk) who has creative energy able to fertilize Nature, his mother, sister, and wife (The Phallus of Asar) one who knows the pairs of opposites, and the fact of their identity, should trouble to calculate the equations which express the relations between the illusory symbols of diversity.”5

“And he said: That my Work may be right.” The Adept responds to God’s challenge by asserting that, regarding the pairs of opposites, he “seeks the knowledge of their equivalence” so that his “Work may be right.” That is, the Adept needs to understand the laws of duality (the mundane world of illusion) so that he can work effectively in the realm of duality. For example, an Adept might know that the bow, arrow, and target are actually all One Thing yet still seek to understand the relation between bow and arrow so that she may hit the target accurately. Consider also, for example, how the rules of Chess are essentially made-up illusions, but one must know and follow the rules in order to play the game. The better one knows the relationships of the different pieces and the possible combinations, the more skilled one becomes at playing Chess even though one can step back from the board and realize it is all a game. Crowley comments, “The Adept replies that he must understand the laws of illusion in order to work in the world of illusion.”6

“And Adonai said: The strong brown reaper swept his swathe and rejoiced. The wise man counted his muscles, and pondered, and understood not, and was sad. Reap thou, and rejoice!” God replies to the Adept’s assertion that he seeks to understand the laws of illusion in order to work in the realm of illusion. This is – as stated previously – the true parable of this section of the text. This parable contrasts “the strong brown reaper” with the “the wise man.”

The strong brown reaper is an image of an individual who acts without over-thinking things. He is “strong” because physical strength implies an ability to act and the actual use of one’s muscles. He is “brown” because the fertile earth is brown and able to bear harvest. He is a “reaper” because he reaps the harvest of the earth, i.e. he does his work and reaps the reward. This strong brown reaper simply “swept his swathe and rejoiced.” That is, the strong brown reaper is characterized by action, not over-thinking. Esoterically, the strong brown reaper is an image of a Master of the Temple insofar as this grade is attributed to Binah, for brown is a color of Binah and the reaper carries a scythe which is the weapon of Death.

This strong brown reaper is contrasted with the “wise man” who is focused on rational calculations. Over-thinking and hyper-rationalism is seen under the figure of the wise man counting, pondering, and not understanding: this leads to sorrow. The wise man has muscles but does not use them; instead he tries to understand them through counting and pondering.

Esoterically, the wise man is a symbol of the mind or the Ruach, which cannot reach above the Abyss that separates the bottom of the Tree of Life from the Supernal Triangle wherein the Master of the Temple abides. This refers to the Qabalistic idea that Da’ath – or “knowledge” – is the crown of the Ruach or mind, but it cannot reach beyond the mind to the Supernal Triangle for knowledge is always mired in duality or multiplicity. Binah – or “understanding” – represents the illuminated Adept that transcends the duality of thought and speech to the non-duality of the City of the Pyramids in the Supernal Triangle of the Tree of Life. This parallels the curse against Reason in The Book of the Law where it is written, “There is great danger in me; for who doth not understand these runes shall make a great miss. He shall fall down into the pit called Because, and there he shall perish with the dogs of Reason. Now a curse upon Because and his kin! May Because be accursed for ever! If Will stops and cries Why, invoking Because, then Will stops & does nought.. If Power asks why, then is Power weakness. Also reason is a lie; for there is a factor infinite & unknown; & all their words are skew-wise. Enough of Because! Be he damned for a dog! But ye, o my people, rise up & awake!”7

God then counsels, “Reap thou, and rejoice!” That is, one is to be the strong brown reaper who acts and does not over-think things. We must “rise up & awake” rather than being stuck in “the pit called Because” with “the dogs of Reason.” The first word of the Law of Thelema is “Do,” and we must do what we will, not be mired in the minutia of the mind. This parallels what is said in The Book of the Law, “Success is thy proof: argue not; convert not; talk not over much!”8 The wise man calculates, ponders, and does not understand so he is left in sadness and sorrow. The strong brown reaper simply acts in accordance with his Nature and thereby rejoices. The reason why we should not be too overly concerned with the rational calculations of the mind – the relations between illusions previously mentioned – is because they lead us to become stuck in the realm of duality rather than realizing the true Understanding of one’s identity with the non-dual Godhead. Crowley comments, “The Angel replies that such calculations lead one to believe in the reality of the illusions, to become confused by their complex falsities, and ultimately, mistrusting one’s own powers, to fail to act for fear of making mistakes; whereas it does not really matter what one does, since one set of illusions is just as good as another. The business of the Adept is to do his Work manfully and joyously, without lust of result or fear of accident. He should exercise his faculties to the full; the free fulfilment of their functions is sufficient justification. To become conscious of any organ is evidence that it is out of order.”9

SUMMARY: Adepts need to return to the material, mundane word and spread their “word” to humanity who may misunderstand the message. This may concern the Adept who claims to be able to interpret things rightly, but ultimately focusing on the “correct,” rational interpretation and knowledge of things leads us to become mired in unnecessary calculations and doubt that impede the free and full expression of the Will. If the aspirant focuses too much on calculation, analysis, and knowledge, she will fall prey the “dogs of Reason” and forget her true identity with Godhood, her Star. One should therefore not be the “wise man” who ponders over the endless and ultimately meaningless aspects of rational knowledge, but – instead – one should be the “strong brown reaper” who acts freely without over-thinking or excessive doubtfulness. That is, one should express one’s Nature in actions proper to that Nature, and one should not get caught up in the rational minutia of existence that brings no true satisfaction. By acting in accordance with our Nature, by doing our Wills, we naturally are filled with joy.

1Commentary to Liber LXV, I:51.

2Commentary to Liber LXV, I:52.

3Commentary to Liber LXV, I:53.

4Commentary to Liber LXV, I:53.

5Commentary to Liber LXV, I:54.

6Commentary to Liber LXV, I:54.

7Liber AL vel Legis, II:27-34.

8Liber AL vel Legis, III:42.

9Commentary to Liber LXV, I:56.

1Commentary to Liber LXV, I:50-58.

Liber LXV parables

The Parables and Lessons of Liber LXV (part 3)

Liber LXV: The Heart Girt with a Serpent

The Parable of the Maiden and Hades

There was a maiden that strayed among the corn, and sighed; then grew a new birth, a narcissus, and therein she forgot her sighing and her loneliness. Even instantly rode Hades heavily upon her, and ravished her away.

Liber LXV, I:47-49

There was a maiden that strayed among the corn, and sighed.” This “maiden” is a symbol of the soul in an uninitiated state, the “natural soul.” We are – each and every one of us – this maiden. Crowley comments, “Persephone [is] the earth-bound soul.”1 This maiden “strayed among the corn,” which means that the uninitiated soul only seeks material nourishment. In response, the maiden “sighed,” which shows dissatisfaction with mundane life. Crowley comments, “Corn = material nourishment; its result is sorrow.”2

More esoterically, the maiden is the Final Heh of YHVH, the Virgin Princess3, the Priestess as the Virgin in the beginning of the Gnostic Mass.4 In Qabalistic symbolism, the Final Heh (YHVH) of this Daughter/Princess/maiden unites with the Vav (YHVH) of the Son/Prince, the Holy Guardian Angel who is called Hades in this particular Parable of the Maiden. He sets the Daughter upon the Throne of the Mother (as seen in the Gnostic Mass), so she transforms from the Daughter to become the Heh of YHVH, the Queen or Mother. It is the process of the Final Heh of YHVH becoming the Heh of YHVH, and it is Malkuth becoming Binah on the Tree of Life.5 In this parable, we see the first part of this process, the Vav/Hades uniting with the Final Heh/maiden.

“then grew a new birth, a narcissus, and therein she forgot her sighing and her loneliness.” The maiden sees, amongst all the corn of mere mundane life, a new and beautiful flower bloom: the narcissus. This blooming flower represents the awareness of there being more to this world than mere mundane, material subsistence: this is the beginning of the “spiritual quest” where the flower of Truth begins to come to full blossom. This flower starting to bloom correlates, in the course of the individual’s life, to puberty. Conversely, the awakening of the sexual-generative powers corresponds to the point in the spiritual quest where the potent unconscious and spiritual forces of one’s Self have started to be accessed. This helps to explain Crowley’s cryptic comment on this line, “Narcissus = the sexual instinct flowering as Beauty.”6 The blooming of this sacred narcissus flower of spirituality amongst the profane corn of mundanity causes the maiden of the uninitiated soul to forget her sorrow. Crowley comments, “Instantly the soul forgets the corn’ and desires the flower.”7

More esoterically, the narcissus is a type of flower that is often bright yellow, has 6 petals called a “corona,”8 and has a stamen coming out of the middle: this is Solar-Phallic symbolism.9 The narcissus as “the sexual instinct flowering as Beauty” points Qabalistically to Tiphareth, which literally means “Beauty”; this Sephirah corresponds to Tiphareth as well as the attainment of Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel (who is called Hades in this parable). To desire Beauty is to, symbolically, desire what Tiphareth represents the dawning of the Solar, spiritual consciousness.

“Even instantly rode Hades heavily upon her, and ravished her away.” Hades is Lord of Hell, and Hell is the concealed place of one’s unconscious Self, i.e. the Self beyond the awareness of the ego. Hades is the Holy Guardian Angel, the Secret Self or soul of the individual,10 who is awoken through the pursuit of this narcissus flower of Truth and Beauty, the spiritual path. Hades taking the maiden into Hell represents initiation. This same idea is represented more generally in this text as the Heart of the aspirant being girt with the Serpent of Godhead.

More esoterically, Hades is the Prince/Son of YHVH who marries and unites with the Princess/Daughter of YHVH (ravishing her away), setting her upon the Throne of the Mother. Crowley comments, “Hades comes and carries her off. Hades is the lord of ‘Hell,’ i.e., the dark and secret but divine Soul within every man and woman. The rape thus means that the desire for Beauty awakes the Unconscious Self who then takes possession of the Soul, and enthrones her, only allowing her return to earth (Knowledge of the material world) at certain seasons, in order to attend to the welfare of mankind.”11 Crowley here confirms the idea that Hades is a name for the “divine Soul” in everyone. He then elaborates, based loosely on the classical mythology of Persephone and Hades, that she stays in the underworld and only returns to earth at certain seasons. That is, the soul – regardless of one’s level of initiation – must return to mundane reality from time to time to attend to material necessities.

Esoterically, Crowley makes this analogous to the Masters of the Temple who are in Binah on the Tree of Life, the place of the enthroned Queen (YHVH), where they exist in a state of non-duality, or no-ego. They “come back to earth” or duality (or are cast down out of the Abyss into the other Sephiroth, in Qabalistic symbolism) in order to “attend to the welfare of mankind,” similar to the idea of the Bodhisattva. Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who, instead of remaining in Nirvana, pledge to keep returning to the realm of illusion – Samsara or the profane, mundane, material world – in order to make sure that every being attains to Buddhahood.

SUMMARY: The natural, uninitiated soul is the “maiden.” The uninitiated soul-maiden strays among the “corn” of material, mundane nourishment, yet this causes dissatisfaction and sorrow. The possibility of spiritual Truth and the pursuit thereof unfolds the narcissus flower of aspiration to Beauty. The pursuit of this Path awakens the Unconscious Self, the Holy Guardian Angel or “Hades,” who initiates the soul by taking it into “Hell,” the secret Soul of each individual. This is an elaborate metaphor with deep Qabalistic meaning, yet its import can be stated simply: we must turn from mere material, mundane pursuits and enjoyment to seek the Beauty of Spiritual Truth, thereby awakening the Secret, Solar Self.

1Commentary to Liber LXV, I:47-48.

2Commentary to Liber LXV, I:47-48.

3The Vision and the Voice, 9th Aethyr: “This is the Daughter of the King. This is the Virgin of Eternity… For Kor they have called her, and Malkuth, and Betulah, and Persephone.”

4The Gnostic Mass specifically calls for the Priestess to be “Virgo Intacta,” she is called “VIRGIN” in the first part of the Mass, and the Priest explicitly states, “I, PRIEST and KING, take thee, Virgin pure without spot; I upraise thee; I lead thee to the East; I set thee upon the summit of the Earth.”

5This is succinctly explained by Crowley when he wrote in Book 4, “In one, the best, system of Magick, the Absolute is called the Crown, God is called the Father, the Pure Soul is called the Mother, the Holy Guardian Angel is called the Son, and the Natural Soul is called the Daughter. The Son purifies the Daughter by wedding her; she thus becomes the Mother, the uniting of whom with the Father absorbs all into the Crown.”

6Commentary to Liber LXV, I:47-48.

7Commentary to Liber LXV, I:47-48.

86 is the number of the Sephirah of Tiphareth, which is attributed to the Sun. The Sun is, of course, surrounded by a corona of light.

9The Sun is seen in its 6-fold petal and its yellow color, and its phallic nature is the stamen in the middle of the bowl of petals, the Lingam-Yoni.

10New Comment to Liber AL I:7, “He is the Wandering Knight or Prince of Fairy Tales who marries the King’s Daughter… [He] is also this same ‘Holy Ghost,’ or Silent Self of a man, or his Holy Guardian Angel… He is almost the ‘Unconscious’ of Freud, unknown, unaccountable, the silent Spirit, blowing ‘whither it listeth, but thou canst not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth.’ It commands with absolute authority when it appears at all, despite conscious reason and judgment.”

11Commentary to Liber LXV, I:47-48.

Liber LXV parables

The Parables and Lessons of Liber LXV (part 2)

Liber LXV: The Heart Girt with a Serpent

The Parable of the Petal of Amaranth

Thou seest yon petal of amaranth, blown by the wind from the low sweet brows of Hathor? (The Magister saw it and rejoiced in the beauty of it.) Listen! (From a certain world came an infinite wail.) That falling petal seemed to the little ones a wave to engulph their continent. So they will reproach thy servant, saying: Who hath sent thee to save us? He will be sore distressed.”

Liber LXV, I:34-38

Thou seest yon petal of amaranth, blown by the wind from the low sweet brows of Hathor? (The Magister saw it and rejoiced in the beauty of it.)”” God directs the attention of the Adept to the image of the “petal of amaranth.” Amaranth is a type of flower. The line “blown by the wind from the low sweet brows of Hathor” is a poetic way of saying that the petal of the flower is blown around by the wind of Nature. The Adept’s reaction to seeing this petal is to see its beauty and rejoice therein. 

Listen! (From a certain world came an infinite wail.)” God tells the Adept to listen and the Adept hears “an infinite wail.” That is, the Adept rejoices in the beauty of the flower but another sees it and is distressed. They represent two points-of-view from which one can understand phenomena. Crowley comments, “Two points of view: as a girl’s smile involves the death of many cells in her body.”1 Crowley gives another example: a smile can be seen – from a certain perspective – as happy and rejoicing, but – from another perspective – this same smile is a genocide of life, i.e. cells in the body. Specifically, the “wide” or “macroscopic” view can see the beauty in the petal and the smile, while the “narrow” or “microscopic” view can see only destruction and therefore there is wailing and miserable.

“That falling petal seemed to the little ones a wave to engulph their continent.” The “wide” and “narrow” views are further explained. The same falling petal in which the Adept rejoiced is the petal that, to others, appears as a catastrophe. Again, the same phenomenon can be interpreted in different ways, and – if one’s vision is narrow – one can interpret a thing of beauty to be catastrophic.

“So they will reproach thy servant, saying: Who hath sent thee to save us? He will be sore distressed.”God now counsels the Adept in a particular instance of this more general idea of multiple perspectives of the same phenomenon. God says that “they will reproach thy servant,” meaning that “the little ones” with the narrow view that the petal is a catastrophe will disapprove of the Adept on the material plane. The reference to “thy servant” is, in this particular case, to Aleister Crowley the man. By extension, “thy servant” also applies to every individual’s mind/personality and body as manifested in the world.

The “petal of amaranth” is the Word of the Adept, which is beautiful to him but seen as a source of infinite wailing to those with this narrow view. The reproaching of the servant means that the people of the Earth see the Beauty and Truth of the Adept’s words and acts as catastrophic and destructive. Crowley comments, “The above explains why men should resent their savior. They misinterpret his acts as destructive.”2 A similar lesson is given in Liber Porta Lucis sub figura X, “Even as a man ascending a steep mountain is lost to sight of his friends in the valley, so must the adept seem. They shall say: He is lost in the clouds. But he shall rejoice in the sunlight above them, and come to the eternal snows. Or as a scholar may learn some secret language of the ancients, his friends shall say: ‘Look! he pretends to read this book. But it is unintelligible—it is nonsense.’ Yet he delights in the Odyssey, while they read vain and vulgar things.”3 Again, we see that the Truth of the Adept is misunderstood by the profane, and even misinterpreted to be destructive and catastrophic when the Adept’s Word is of Truth. A similar idea is expressed in The Book of the Law, “Ye are against the people, O my chosen!”4

“He will be sore distressed.” Crowley comments, “He, in his human mind, is distressed at this.”5 That is, the Adept’s rational mind is distressed that his Word and Truth is misunderstood. There is, in fact, a more esoteric interpretation that the “little ones” with the “narrow view” are actually the ideas of the rational mind or ego of the Adept. The mind may balk at the Truth, which it cannot understand and even resent the Truth as catastrophic and destructive. The mind becomes “sore distressed” at this Truth. Crowley comments, “The Ego fears to lose control of the course of the mind. This (of course) occurs in a less real sphere, that of normal consciousness. The Ego is justly apprehensive, for this ecstasy will lead to a situation when its annihilation will be decreed so that the Adept may cross the Abyss and become a Master of the Temple.”6 Even as we must pass beyond all individual symbols, images, and colors, we must more generally pass beyond the limited conception of the rational mind or ego. The ego may actually be distressed by the Truth for it displaces the ego as the center of the mind and reasserts the True Self or Will as the rightful ruler. Crowley comments, “The Ego is not really the centre and crown of the individual; indeed the whole trouble arises from its false claim to be so.”7

SUMMARY: Any phenomenon can be perceived from multiple perspectives. What is beautiful and worthy of rejoicing from one point-of-view may be seen as destructive and catastrophic from another point-of-view. Therefore, the Truth of the Adept may be misunderstood by the profane who can only see the narrow view of the situation, which distresses the rational mind of the Adept. Also, the Truth distresses the ego of the Adept him or herself, for it leads ultimately to the displacement of the ego from the center or crown of the individual to which it makes an unrightful claim. Practically, this parable of the petal of amaranth counsels us to expect opposition from others who do not understand us, especially insofar as we are “ascending the steep mountain”8 of Adepthood. This can be seen by anyone who attempts to explain spiritual truths to those who are not familiar by experience, especially when done in a symbolic language such as that of the Qabalah. This parable also counsels us to expect resistance and distress from our own ego in our path to uncover the Truth.

1Commentary to Liber LXV, I:34-36.

2Commentary to Liber LXV, I:37.

3Liber Porta Lucis sub figura X, lines 15-16.

4Liber AL vel Legis, II:25.

5Commentary to Liber LXV, I:38.

6Commentary to Liber LXV, I:60.

7Commentary to Liber LXV, I:60.

8Liber Porta Lucis sub figura X, line 15.

Liber LXV parables

The Parables and Lessons of Liber LXV (part 1)

Liber LXV: The Heart Girt with a Serpent

Introduction

Parables are succinct stories in prose or verse that illustrate a lesson of some sort. The most famous are those of Jesus such as the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Sun, the Mustard Seed, the Friend at Night, et cetera. Liber LXV or Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV is part of our Holy Books of Thelema, and it is full of symbolic teachings that resemble parables. As far as I know, no one beyond Crowley has set forth interpretations of Liber LXV, especially as parables.

Within his commentary on Liber LXV, Crowley uses the term “parable” several times, often saying things like a certain parable “requires no commentary: it is as lucid as it is sublime” or “Any comment would be impertinent: the signification of the Parable, deep though it be, is lucid as any passage in literature; and the language, exquisitely ornate as it is, a sublimity and a simplicity all its own. The moral value, in particular, challenges that of the boasted parables of the Gospels. Contrast their sectarianism, their triteness, and (too frequently) their moral obliquity with this masterpiece.” Other commentaries to parables within in Liber LXV are usually either vague or nonexistent. The reason for this is, perhaps, because of Christ’s attitude in using parables was that “those with ears to hear” will hear. Fortunately or unfortunately, it seems that the parables of Liber LXV are a bit more difficult to discern, at least at this young stage of Thelema’s growth. It may be that, once time has passed and the symbolism of the New Aeon is more widely understood, the parables will reveal themselves as plain as day, but – for the most part – a basic understanding of these supposedly “lucid” parables requires an understanding of the Hermetic Qabalah as well as familiarity with other works of Crowley’s and Thelema in general.

In this multi-sectioned essay I therefore wish to attempt to explain the meaning of several parables found within Liber LXV. This is largely because I have found them, after much study, to be as “sublime” as Crowley claimed they were, and I hope to develop the interest of Thelemites in studying the Holy Books of our most sacred Law.

The Parable of the Light and Colors

Adonai spake unto V.V.V.V.V., saying: There must ever be division in the word. For the colours are many, but the light is one. Therefore thou writest that which is of mother of emerald, and of lapis-lazuli, and of turquoise, and of alexandrite. Another writeth the words of topaz, and of deep amethyst, and of gray sapphire, and of deep sapphire with a tinge as of blood. Therefore do ye fret yourselves because of this. Be not contented with the image. I who am the Image of an Image say this. Debate not of the image, saying Beyond! Beyond! One mounteth unto the Crown by the moon and by the Sun, and by the arrow, and by the Foundation, and by the dark home of the stars from the black earth. Not otherwise may ye reach unto the Smooth Point.”

Liber LXV, I:2-10

“Adonai spake unto V.V.V.V.V., saying:” Since I do not want to get into metaphysical minutia in this essay, for simplicity’s sake Adonai can be be understood as “God,” and “V.V.V.V.V.” is a name for the Master of the Temple, a very advanced Adept. Liber LXV therefore begins with this lesson from God to the Adept.

“There must ever be division in the word.” This “word” is the word of God, the Logos. A common idea in Thelema is that there is unity, but it is always expressed in a duality or multiplicity. This is very similar to the Tao that is always expressed in Yin and Yang. Crowley writes, “the Logos is essentially an Unity, although manifested through Vibration.”1

“For the colours are many, but the light is one.” This same idea, the unity of the Word is divided, is now expressed in a metaphor: Light is a single thing but it is expressed in a multiplicity of colors. This is a physical fact. It is also a fact that the world in general is perceived in a unique and particular way by each individual.

Therefore thou writest that which is of mother of emerald, and of lapis-lazuli, and of turquoise, and of alexandrite. Another writeth the words of topaz, and of deep amethyst, and of gray sapphire, and of deep sapphire with a tinge as of blood.” These various stones simply symbolize light being reflected into various colors. We see that, because the colours are many, one writes in a certain way while another writes in a completely different way. That is, although the Light is one, each individual will only see the Light in a certain way. Crowley comments, “Each man sees Nature in his own particular way.”2

Therefore do ye fret yourselves because of this. Be not contented with the image.” Since men see the world in different ways, it causes fret and concern. Consider the plethora of arguments about the nature of God and the world that have caused everything from argument to slaughter throughout humanity’s history. God then tells the Adept to “be not contented with the image.” That is, although each individual sees different colors of the single Light, this is merely an image. Each individual should not be satisfied with their unique perception of the Light, i.e. the particular “image” that they see. If we become “contented with the image,” this means that we are satisfied with our own relative view of Truth rather than incorporating many perspectives from many different individuals. Through exploring more “colors” by understanding more perspectives, we come closer to apprehending that One Light that is expressed in the many colors or understandings. For example, if we want to know what “dog” means, and we come across a poodle, we can rest contented with the idea that dogs are poodles. If we do not rest content in this image and explore other forms of dogs, then we will see that our first image of “dog” was simply a partial representation of the entire truth. Eventually we will see that the idea of “dog” transcends any one particular image or manifestation. The same goes for Truth as reflected into different religions, philosophies, and individuals across the globe and throughout history. Crowley comments, “Each man sees Nature in his own particular way. What he sees is only an image.3

“I who am the Image of an Image say this. Debate not of the image, saying Beyond! Beyond!” Adonai or God is “the Image of an Image,” implying that even He (at least in speaking to the Adept in this Book) is simply one color or image of many. God counsels the Adept to “debate not of the image, saying Beyond! Beyond!” That is, we must not debate over the individual differences of our perception of Nature. We must go beyond individual or partial images to attempt to perceive that unified Light or Truth beyond all differences. Crowley comments, “Each man sees Nature in his own particular way. What he sees is only an image. All images must be ignored.”4 This shows a unity behind all religious and spiritual doctrines: every system is a reflected color of the One True Light. This same idea is expressed in Liber LXI vel Causae, “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.”5There are diverse symbols and systems to express the same Path and Goal of initiation or enlightenment. We must not rest contented in any one particular image or color of Truth, but we must instead go beyond all partial images.

A similar idea is expressed in the Holy Book known as Liber Porta Lucis sub figura X, “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. 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.”6 The same idea is expressed here with the added notion that the “zelator,” or spiritual aspirant, must simply strive to attain and ignore all images. If the aspiration is pure (not limited by particular images or symbols) and steadfast (blowing sufficiently upon the furnace of aspiration), these differences or varied colors are all “consumed in the One Knowledge,” the singular Light which is divided into the multiplicity of symbols or understandings of different individuals.

One mounteth unto the Crown by the moon and by the Sun, and by the arrow, and by the Foundation, and by the dark home of the stars from the black earth. Not otherwise may ye reach unto the Smooth Point.” The path of aspiration to Truth is now understood symbolically, as one image among many. The symbolism used is that of the Qabalistic Tree of Life. The idea is that one reaches Kether (“the Crown”) by the path of Gimel (“the moon”), the Sephirah of Tiphareth (“the Sun”), the path of Sagittarius (“the arrow”), by the Sephirah of Yesod (“the Foundation”), the path of Earth or Saturn (“the dark home of the stars”), and the Sephirah of Malkuth (“the black earth”). If these are all placed on the Tree of Life, one will see that they form a straight line up the Middle Pillar from the bottom (Malkuth) to the top (Kether). The idea is that one must aspire to the highest understanding of Truth in a pure and steadfast way, which was already mentioned in connection to the line from Liber Porta Lucis sub figura X. Crowley comments, “All images must be ignored; the adept must aspire single-heartedly to the Smooth Point.”7

SUMMARY: It is by necessity that the Truth is reflected into particular images for each individual. Metaphorically, each individual perceives the Light in terms of certain colors. We should not debate over these individual differences but, rather, go beyond all images. We therefore must aspire single-heartedly to the End, the Light that is beyond all multiplicity and images and symbols. The lesson is both interpersonal and personal. Interpersonally, the lesson is of tolerance: we must not debate over the various “images” or “colors” in which the Light is reflected into different individual’s understandings, i.e. the various religions and philosophies of the world. Personally, the lesson is of aspiring beyond all images: we must not rest content in any particular image or symbol of Truth but, rather, keep our aspiration steadfast unto the End.

1The Vision and the Voice, 28th Aethyr.

2Commentary to Liber LXV, I:2-11.

3Commentary to Liber LXV, I:2-11.

4Commentary to Liber LXV, I:2-11.

5Liber LXI vel Causae, line 5.

6Liber Porta Lucis sub figura X, lines 19-20.

7Commentary to Liber LXV, I:2-11.

Why Thelema Kicks Ass

Why Thelema Kicks Ass

Why Thelema Kicks Ass

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

I. Do what thou wilt

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

II. Tolerance

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

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

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

III. Scientific Religion

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

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

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

IV. Embracing the world while transcending materialism

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

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

V. Sexuality

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

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

VI. Drugs

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

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

VII. Aleister Crowley

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

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

VIII. Rejoice!

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

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Thelema True Will Radical Reorientation towards Becoming Who We Are

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

IAO131 True Will

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

With-ness / Interdependence

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

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

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

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

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

Two modes of actualizing With-ness

1) want / having →

inauthentic →

I-It →

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

2)
Will / Being →

authentic →

I-Thou →

Love: Seeing and accepting others as they are

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

References

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1 Liber AL vel Legis I:2.

2 Liber AL vel Legis I:3.

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

4 Liber AL vel Legis I:21.

5 Liber AL vel Legis I:22.

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

7 Magick in Theory & Practice, Introduction.

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

9 Liber AL vel Legis I:3.

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

11 Liber AL vel Legis I:57.

12 Liber AL vel Legis I:41.

13 “OZ: Liber LXXVII.”

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

15 “The Comment Called D,” II:24.

16 Liber AL vel Legis I:44.

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

18 The Heart of the Master.

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

20 The Heart of the Master.

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

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

23 Liber AL vel Legis I:40.

24 The Heart of the Master.

25 Liber AL vel Legis I:2.

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

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