death

Psychology of Liber AL – pt.8: A New Perspective of Death

Psychology of Liber AL

A New Perspective of Death

A full psychological perspective must  take into account the many facets of life, and it must also take into account the universal fact that all things are impermanent and eventually die. Thelema asserts a new perspective on this issue in that death is understood as climax to and fulfillment of life. Also, although currently psychologically and scientifically unverifiable, it is asserted that there is an indestructible element of the Self that survives death and views death merely as another accretion of experience.

It has been explored earlier how fear is a sign of the failure of the harmonious functioning of the psyche. Death is possibly the most universally feared idea, and in this sense, it is necessary to dispel our misperceptions about it. In Thelema, it is understood that “Existence is pure joy,”1 but not only is life joyous, death is as well. It is written in Liber AL vel Legis:

A feast for life and a greater feast for death!”2

Write, & find ecstasy in writing! Work, & be our bed in working! Thrill with the joy of life & death! Ah! thy death shall be lovely: whoso seeth it shall be glad. Thy death shall be the seal of the promise of our age long love. Come! lift up thine heart & rejoice!”3

Here we have a statement that says we should not only have a feast for death, but one greater than the one for life. We are then told to thrill with the joy of both life and death. Death is considered as a “seal of the promise of our age long love” and so one is bidden to “lift up thine heart & rejoice!” Death being a seal implies that death is a sort of fulfillment of life. Jung writes about this, “We are so convinced that death is simply the end of a process that it does not ordinarily occur to us to conceive of death as a goal and a fulfillment as we do without hesitation the aims and purposes of youthful life in its ascendance.”4 Liber AL vel Legis is obviously one exception as it does indeed assert the need to not only view death as a fulfillment, but as a time for rejoicing just as a new life is. Thelema affirms not only life but death also, and Thelemites approach death without fear. We are told “Fear not at all; fear neither men nor Fates, nor gods, nor anything,”5 and in this way, a Thelemite accepts all facts of life, including the inevitability of death, with the same “love under will” and rejoicing.

Liber AL vel Legis itself says “death is the crown of all,”6 and Crowley comments, “Death is the End that crowns the Work.”7 Truly, a Thelemite is ready to accept death, for they are performing their Will with tireless energy, without regard to purpose, and most importantly, unattached from the lust of result. Death will come at its proper moment while one is doing one’s will with one-pointedness, peace, and detachment.8 Death is not something be fearful about, but instead, one must embrace both one’s life and one’s death. Jung writes:

Natural life is the nourishing soil of the soul. Anyone who fails to go along with life remains suspended, stiff and rigid in midair. That is why so many people get wooden in old age; they look back and cling to the past wit ha secret fear of death in their hearts. They withdraw from the life-process, at least psychologically, and consequently remain fixed like nostalgic pillars of salt, with vivid recollections of youth but no living relation to the present. From the middle of life onward, only he remains vitally alive who is ready to die with life. For in the secret hour of life’s midday the parabola is reversed, death is born. The second half of life does not signify ascent, unfolding, increase, exuberance, but death, since the end is its goal. The negation of life’s fulfillment is synonymous with the refusal to accept its ending.”9

Thelema is certainly not a system that refuses to accept life’s ending, it is understood to be a time of great joy in that it signifies life’s fulfillment. As mentioned earlier, Liber AL vel Legis asserts that there is a part of oneself that is immortal. This “immortality” is better understood as an identity that is removed from or beyond the conditions of space and time rather than an entity that lives forever throughout all time. It is not the ego or personality that transcends death, it is the element of Impersonal Life within us all and with which we may identify. With this consideration, Jung noted that, “the psyche’s attachment to the brain, i.e. its space-time limitation, is no longer as self-evident and incontrovertible as we have hitherto been led to believe.”10 It may be possible that there is an element of the psyche that may “attain to,” or more perhaps “belong to,” a state that transcends this “space-time limitation.” On this Jung writes:

The fact that we are totally unable to imagine a form of existence without space and time by no means proves that such an existence is in itself impossible. And therefore, just as we cannot draw, from an appearance of space-timelessness, any absolute conclusion about a space-timeless form of existence, so we are not entitled to conclude from the apparent space-time quality of our perception that there is no form of existence without space and time. It is not only permissible to doubt the absolute validity of space-time perception; it is, in view of the available facts, even imperative to do so. The hypothetical possibility that the psyche touches on a form of existence outside space and time presents a scientific question-mark that merits serious consideration for a long time to come.” 11

With this in mind, we now turn to what Liber AL says itself in this regard:

Yea! Deem not of change: ye shall be as ye are, & not other… There is none that shall be cast down or lifted up: all is ever as it was.” 12

In this sense, there is an indestructible element of the Self that cannot be “cast down or lifted up.” This is what we call Hadit, that which perceives and endures all events but is ultimately unaffected by them. It is said in Liber AL that “all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass & are done; but there is that which remains.”13 That part which remains is this “Crowned and Conquering Child” within us all, which perceives that “every event, including death, is only one more accretion to our experience.”14 Crowley writes on these verses of Liber AL that they “demonstrate the inviolability of Hadit our Quintessence. Every Star has its own Nature, which is ‘Right’ for it… It is impossible to alter the ultimate Nature of any Being, however completely we may succeed in transfiguring its external signs as displayed in any of its combinations.”15 This starry or “Kingly” nature cannot be “cast down or lifted up,” and in fact it is said in Liber AL that “If he be a King, thou canst not hurt him.”16 By virtue of the fact that this “element” is beyond space and time by definition, it does not suffer death nor is it ever truly “born,” so it cannot possibly suffer “hurt.”

Essentially, Thelema asserts an aspect or “essence” of the self that one cannot hurt – an essence that accepts experiences of both life and death as acts of “love under will.” The idea of an immortal essence of man – or of his “soul” – is a common element to many religious traditions. Although scientifically and psychologically unverifiable, as mentioned earlier, the possibility of consciousness or identity not based on our normal ideas of space and time is not as far-fetched as it once seemed. In another sense, if one looks at any process, they are all aspects of a continuum. On this Jung writes,

Beginning and end are unavoidable aspects of all processes. Yet on closer examination it is extremely difficult to see where on process ends and another begins, since events and processes, beginnings and endings, merge into each other and form, strictly speaking, an indivisible continuum. We divide the processes from one another for the sake of discrimination and understanding, knowing full well that at bottom every division is arbitrary and conventional. This procedure in no way infringes the continuum of the world processes, for ‘beginning’ and ‘end’ are primarily necessities of conscious cognition. We may establish with reasonable certainty that an individual consciousness as it relates to ourselves has come to an end. But whether this means that the continuity of the psychic process is also interrupted remains doubtful, since the psyche’s attachment to the brain can be affirmed with far less certitude today than it could fifty years ago.” 17

On this note, we may assert that it is indeed possible that there is an essence or element of the self that survives what we perceive to be our physical death. In fact, it does not even suffer the “hurt” of existence while alive. Even so, the mere belief in such a notion would naturally give one the disposition of, as Jung writes, being ready to “die with life.” That is, truly understanding this will bring a tendency toward living life to its fullest potential, living without fear or attachment, striving towards the full expression of the Self that will end in death, recognized as the seal of life’s fulfillment.

“Great is Life, real and mystical, wherever and whoever;
Great is Death—sure as life holds all parts together, Death holds all parts together.
Has Life much purport?—Ah, Death has the greatest purport.”
—Walt Whitman

>>PART 9>>

1 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, II:9.

2 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, II:41.

3 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, II:66.

4 Jung, Carl. “The Soul and Death” from Collected Works of C.G. Jung volume 8: The Struture and Dynamics of the Psyche, par. 797.

5 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, II:17.

6 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, II:72.

7 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, II:72.

8 As endorsed by Crowley in his epistle “Liber II Message of the Master Therion.”

9 Jung, Carl. “The Soul and Death” from Collected Works of C.G. Jung volume 8: The Struture and Dynamics of the Psyche, par. 800.

10 Jung, Carl. “The Soul and Death” from Collected Works of C.G. Jung volume 8: The Struture and Dynamics of the Psyche, par. 813.

11 Jung, Carl. “The Soul and Death” from Collected Works of C.G. Jung volume 8: The Struture and Dynamics of the Psyche, par. 797.

12 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, II:58.

13 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, II:9.

14 Crowley, Aleister. Introduction to Liber AL vel Legis, part IV.

15 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, II:57.

16 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, II:59.

17 Jung, Carl. “The Soul and Death” from Collected Works of C.G. Jung volume 8: The Struture and Dynamics of the Psyche, par. 812.

>>PART 9>>

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Death in Thelema

Death in Thelema

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love is the law, love under will.

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New Aeon Initiation: Introduction & Death/Attainment as Non-Cataclysmic

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

New Aeon Initiation

NOTE: written originally on April 12, 2009

0) Introduction

“In the name of the Lord of Initiation. Amen.”
-“Liber Tzaddi,” lines 0 & 44

A New Aeon was proclaimed and begun in April of 1904 with the reception of The Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis. A New Aeon implies a new paradigm or a new point-of-view with which to view the world. According to “Liber Causae,” “In all systems of religion is to be found a system of Initiation, which may be defined as the process by which a man comes to learn that unknown Crown.” If Initiation is common to “all systems of religion,” then how is Initiation to be understood in this Aeon of the Crowned & Conquering Child? What are the paradigm-shifts which characterize the point-of-view from this New Aeon?

I intend to outline the basic views of New Aeon Initiation in this essay. There will be as little recourse to esoteric jargon as possible; ideally, an individual who has never encountered Thelema should be able to grasp many of the ideas explained here. It should be noted that the various ideas & formulae which are still valid in this New Aeon, i.e. those ideas that are “superseded” and not “abrogated,” will not be mentioned (as nothing has changed in these cases from the Old Aeons).

The basic ideas surrounding New Aeon Initiation are: death/attainment as non-cataclysmic, the True Self contains both good and evil, an embracing of the world, the self as redeemer, and no perfection of the soul. All of these points will be treated in turn, and each will be exemplified by a central quotation from the corpus of Thelema.

1) Death/Attainment as Non-cataclysmic

“…There is that which remains.”
-Liber AL vel Legis II:9

The basic idea associated with the last, Old Aeon is an obsession with death. The symbolic proponents of the Old Aeon paradigms – Osiris, Dionysus, Jesus, Adonis, etc. – are all bound by the central motif of a (painful) death. Death is seen as catastrophic and a ritual act must be performed for the dead to be resurrected (or avenged). The cosmological parallel with this initiatory viewpoint is the idea that the Sun dies each night and the priesthood must perform a ritual for the Sun to rise again in the morning. Crowley often writes of the switch from the Old Aeon to the New Aeon view as paralleling the switch from a geocentric to a heliocentric view of our Solar System. Now we know that the Sun does not “die” each night, nor does any priest need to perform any kind of ritual for the Sun to rise in the morning. We know the Sun is constantly shining and it is only the turning of the earth which creates the succession of day and night: the apparent sight of the Sun “dying” and being “reborn” each night has changed to the understanding that the Sun is never born nor dies. Frater Achad, or Charles Stansfeld Jones, encapsulated this idea in his essay “Stepping Out of the Old Aeon Into the New,”

“You know how deeply we have always been impressed with the ideas of Sun-rise and Sun-set, and how our ancient brethren, seeing the Sun disappear at night and rise again in the morning, based all their religious ideas in this one conception of a Dying and Re-arisen God. This is the central idea of the religion of the Old Aeon but we have left it behind us because although it seemed to be based on Nature (and Nature’s symbols are always true), yet we have outgrown this idea which is only apparently true in Nature. Since this great Ritual of Sacrifice and Death was conceived and perpetuated, we, through the observation of our men of science, have come to know that it is not the Sun which rises and sets, but the earth on which we live which revolves so that its shadow cuts us off from the sunlight during what we call night. The Sun does not die, as the ancients thought; It is always shining, always radiating Light and Life.”

Crowley reiterates this view and explains the spiritual significance in The Heart of the Master where he writes,

“…When the time was ripe, appeared the Brethren of the Formula of Osiris, whose word is I A O; so that men worshipped Man, thinking him subject to Death, and his victory dependent upon Resurrection. Even so conceived they of the Sun as slain and reborn with every day, and every year. Now, this great Formula being fulfilled, and turned into abomination, this Lion came forth to proclaim the Aeon of Horus, the crowned and conquering child, who dieth not, nor is reborn, but goeth radiant ever upon His Way. Even so goeth the Sun: for as it is now known that night is but the shadow of the Earth, so Death is but the shadow of the Body, that veileth his Light from its bearer.”

Assimilating this idea of the Sun, in reality, never setting goes a long way to help the aspirant understand the spiritual truth of Thelema that this mirrors. In short, death (both of the ego and of the body) is no longer seen as cataclysmic in the New Aeon. This is because of two connected ideas: Death is complementary with Life, and Death is actually Change (“life to come”).

Let’s start with the first idea that Death is complementary with Life. “Death is the apex of one curve of the snake Life: behold all opposites as necessary complements, and rejoice” (The Heart of the Master). Life and death are the two complements that constitute existence, and all things are formed from the interplay of Life and Death. All things in the universe, including the mind and body of the aspirant, are subject to Life and Death. One might visualize existence as an undulating serpent, where the crest of a wave is Life and the trough is Death (which is the image Crowley uses above in The Heart of the Master).

This leads into the idea of Death as Change. We often think of Life as constituting change and Death as constituting stagnation: death implies a stop or an end. The New Aeon views Death not as an end but as the possibility for new Life. Just as the Winter brings “death” to plant life, it also gives nutrients to the soil to allow for the inevitable new Spring. (As a note, “Death” refers to the death of the physical body, but more importantly to the “death” or “dissolution” of the ego which can and does occur during an individual’s life). Chapter 18, “Dewdrops,” of The Book of Lies explains this idea that Death is Change very succinctly:

“Verily, love is death, and death is life to come. / Man returneth not again; the stream floweth not uphill; the old life is no more; there is a new life that is not his. / Yet that life is of his very essence; it is more He than all that he calls He.”

The succinct idea that “death is life to come” is expounded here along with the idea that in the life that arises from death, we become “more ourselves.” The Life which arises from Death “is more He than all that he calls He.” This is because “all that he calls He” is his ego and in the death of the ego, we come to identify with the True Self which contains both Life and Death (and is therefore Eternal and Infinite). This death is not cataclysmic, but even equated with “love.” In the Tarot, which symbolically mirrors the initiatory paradigm of its age, traditionally has “Atu XIII” (or the 13th Trump) as “Death.” In the New Aeon, we may understand this card not as “Death” but “Transformation” or “Change.” In The Heart of the Master, Crowley writes short, poetic stanzas to describe each Tarot card. For “Atu XIII: Death” he writes, “The Universe is Change; every Change is the effect of an Act of Love; all Acts of Love contain Pure Joy. Die daily. Death is the apex of one curve of the snake Life: behold all opposites as necessary complements, and rejoice.” This is the fundamental paradigm-shift of the New Aeon: not only is Death actually Change (and “life to come”), but it is a form of Love, and “all Acts of Love contain Pure Joy.” There is no trace of cataclysm, sorrow, or suffering in this conception of Death in the New Aeon.

Symbolically, this means Initiation (the myth-drama of each individual’s Path) is no longer portrayed as “The Man performing Self-Sacrifice” but as “The Child Growing to Maturity.” On this Crowley writes, “What then is the formula of the initiation of Horus? It will no longer be that of the Man, through Death. It will be the natural growth of the Child. His experiences will no more be regarded as catastrophic. Their hieroglyph is the Fool: the innocent and impotent Harpocrates Babe becomes the Horus Adult by obtaining the Wand” (“Liber Samekh”). The idea is one of coming to maturity, specifically of “obtaining the Wand” which represents the creative, generative power: this experience constitutes “spiritual puberty” for the individual, one might say. The process is not a cataclysm that needs rectifying (although puberty often seems cataclysmic!) but a natural process of growth and fulfillment of human potential.

Each person must destroy their ego self and come to identify with the True Self. Every man and woman must “break down the fortress of thine Individual Self, that thy Truth may spring free from the ruins” (The Heart of the Master). This necessarily involves the death or dissolution of the ego (“thine Individual Self”) to which many people are strongly attached. This is why death is seen as catastrophic: people view losses as catastrophic and the greatest loss to people is the loss of their personal ego-identity. In both the Old and New Aeons, the ego must experience death in process of Initiation. The difference is the view of this phenomenon: the Old Aeon views death as a cataclysmic event whereas the New Aeon views it as a necessary step in the progress of Growth. As Crowley explains, “The Ego fears to lose control of the course of the mind… The Ego is justly apprehensive, for this ecstasy will lead to a situation when its annhilation will be decreed… Remember that the Ego is not really the centre and crown of the individual; indeed the whole trouble arises from its false claim to be so” (Commentary to “Liber LXV” I:60). Before the individual personally experiences the dissolution of their own ego, they must assimilate this New Aeon idea that “there is that which remains” after this death. Each person then must come to directly experience and even embody this truth – that is, each individual must come to know this truth through their own experience. “Faith must be slain by certainty,” as Crowley wrote (The Book of Thoth). We might even say that each person is psychologically stuck in the Old Aeon paradigm until they have this experience of the death of the ego. Only then can they be “freed of the obsession of the doom of the Ego in Death” (Little Essays Toward Truth, “Mastery”). Only then can the individual identify with “that which remains,” which transcends but contains both Life and Death. In the New Aeon, each person “Let[s] the Illusion of the World pass over thee, unheeded, as thou goest from Midnight to the Morning. ” (The Heart of the Master). The New Aeon is the Aeon of the Crowned & Conquering Child: Horus, Heru-Ra-Ha, Ra-Hoor-Khuit, and many other names. Horus is a symbol of the True Self which transcends Life and Death just as the Sun is a symbol of that which constantly shines even though day (Life) and night (Death) pass on earth, and just as the Child is a symbol of that which contains but transcends both mother (Life) and father (Death). In the “1st Aethyr” of The Vision and the Voice, Horus himself says of his nature:

“I am light, and I am night, and I am that which is beyond them.
I am speech, and I am silence, and I am that which is beyond them.
I am life, and I am death, and I am that which is beyond them.
I am war, and I am peace, and I am that which is beyond them.
I am weakness, and I am strength, and I am that which is beyond them.
…And it shall be unto them a grace and a sacrament, and ye shall all sit down together at the supernal banquet, and ye shall feast upon the honey of the gods, and be drunk upon the dew of immortality — FOR I AM HORUS, THE CROWNED AND CONQUERING CHILD, WHOM THOU KNEWEST NOT!”

As mentioned in later sections, in the New Aeon we view each individual as God Him/Herself. Therefore the work of each person is the release of identification with the ego and the consequent identification with Horus, That which transcends Life and Death (and all dualities). This is expressed symbolically by Frater Achad (and Crowley) by the idea of switching one’s perspective from Earth (the geocentric viewpoint where we experience day/life and night/death; the perspective of the ego) to the perspective from the Sun (the heliocentric viewpoint where we experience perpetual shining through day and night; the perspective of the True Self).

This paradigmatic change from Old Aeon to New, in the sense of no longer seeing Death as cataclysmic, is captured symbolically in Crowley’s changes to old “formulae” to conform with the New Aeon point-of-view. Specifically, the change from IAO to VIAOV and the change from AUM to AUMGN that Crowley speaks about in Magick in Theory & Practice (chapters 5 and 7, respectively) exemplify the paradigm shift from Old Aeon to New Aeon.

On the formula of IAO, Crowley writes, “This formula is the principal and most characteristic formula of Osiris, of the Redemption of Mankind. “I” is Isis, Nature, ruined by “A”, Apophis the Destroyer, and restored to life by the Redeemer Osiris” (MIT&P, chapter 5 which should be consulted for a more full examination of VIAOV). The basic idea is that I = Life which is ruined by A = Death/Chaos which must then be redeemed by O. Existence is therefore a process of endless cataclysms which require redemption from this point-of-view. How is this view changed from the point-of-view of New Aeon Initiation? Crowley writes, “THE MASTER THERION, in the Seventeenth year of the Aeon, has reconstructed the Word I A O to satisfy the new conditions of Magick imposed by progress.” Now, no one would deny that all things change, that “all things must pass,” but from the point-of-view of physics, energy is never created nor destroyed. It is simply transformed into different forms. If we identify with any of these partial phenomena which inevitably must be transformed, we are subject to death. If we “die daily” to our ego-self, to our sense of division or separateness from the world, then we come to identify with the Whole Process. “The many change and pass; the one remains” (“Liber Porta Lucis,” line 20). The All contains all opposites within itself, it is the symbol of the Serpent itself whose undulations are Life and Death, and therefore is eternal. This True Self, the All which knows no division, is Horus and “that which remains.” It is with these ideas in mind we can understand why, in the New Aeon, IAO has become VIAOV. Basically, IAO has been surrounded by two “V”s (these refer to the Hebrew letter “Vav” or the Greek letter “Digamma” for various reasons which can be investigated in chapter 5 of MIT&P). What does this mean?

Essentially, the “V” represents “that which remains.” There may be processes of creation, destruction, and reconstruction (IAO) but there is always “that which remains.” The “V” remains unchanged through the various “IAO processes” one might say. Even though the phallus of the father must “die” in ejaculation, it is a necessary step for new Life – the Child – to emerge… And the Semen, the Quintessence, remains unchanged (“that which remains”) throughout the entire process. This symbolic process exemplifies the ideas of the New Aeon, especially because the “death” in this case is ecstatic: the death is literally orgasmic. Further, Crowley writes in The Book of Lies, “the snake is the hieroglyphic representation of semen” and so the semen which is “that which remains” is identified with the snake or serpent which, as explained above, represents That which contains the complements of Life and Death (being the crest and trough of His undulations).

There is another interesting idea which this symbolic formula, VIAOV, conceals: One might consider the original “V” as ignorant man, i.e. man as ignorant of his True Self/his identity with All Things, and the final “V” as man conscious of his own Divinity. It is through the process of IAO, or death of the ego, that each individual becomes consciously aware of him or herself as Horus, “that which remains,” for since all things are contained in the All-Self, it cannot be created or destroyed. Also, the “V” or the True Self was always there, except the individual was simply ignorant of this fact: “The series of transformations has not affected his identity; but it has explained him to himself” (MIT&P, chapter 5). Crowley explains, “…the ‘Stone’ or ‘Elixir’ which results from our labours will be the pure and perfect Individual originally inherent in the substance chosen, and nothing else… the effective element of the Product is of the essence of its own nature, and inherent therein; the Work [then] consists in isolating it from its accretions” (MIT&P, chapter 20). As Crowley writes in “Liber LXV,” “Thou wast with me from the beginning.”

Moving onto AUM becoming AUMGN, Crowley writes,

“The word AUM is the sacred Hindu mantra which was the supreme hieroglyph of Truth, a compendium of the Sacred Knowledge… Firstly, it represents the complete course of sound… Symbolically, this announces the course of Nature as proceeding from free and formless creation through controlled and formed preservation to the silence of destruction… We see accordingly how AUM is, on either system, the expression of a dogma which implies catastrophe in nature. It is cognate with the formula of the Slain God.”
(MIT&P, chapter 7 which should be consulted for a more full examination of AUMGN)

The formula of AUM therefore suffers from the same attitude problem as the formula of IAO: nature is catastrophic. Moving beyond this idea of existence as catastrophic is, as explained above, one facet of New Aeon Initiation. Crowley explains,

“The cardinal revelation of the Great Aeon of Horus is that this formula AUM does not represent the facts of nature. The point of view is based upon misapprehension of the character of existence. It soon became obvious to The Master Therion that AUM was an inadequate and misleading hieroglyph. It stated only part of the truth, and it implied a fundamental falsehood. He consequently determined to modify the word in such a manner as to fit it to represent the Arcana unveiled by the Aeon of which He had attained to be the Logos. The essential task was to emphasize the fact that nature is not catastrophic, but proceeds by means of undulations.”

The essential idea appears in the final sentence. As we have gone over above, the New Aeon point-of-view conceives existence as a Serpent whose undulations are Life and Death. The word AUM ends in “M” which symbolizes the fact that, “the formation of the individual from the absolute is closed by his death” (MIT&P, chapter 7). Again the idea is one of Death as a stop or an end instead of “life to come” or one instance of Change. Now, how would “GN” be added to the end of AUM “fix” the word? Crowley writes, “The undulatory formula of putrefaction is represented in the Qabalah by the letter N, which refers to Scorpio.” Both of these (the letter N and Scorpio) are traditionally attributed to “Atu XIII: Death” in the Tarot which was spoken of above (when it was suggested it might be more accurately titled “Change” or “Transformation”). Basically, “N” represents the idea that, “Death is life to come;” that is, Death is not an end but one apex of the curve of endless undulations. Crowley continues, “Now it so happens that the root GN signifies both knowledge [gnosis] and generation combined in a single idea, in an absolute form independent of personality.” The idea is basically that AUM does not accurately describe the course of nature because existence does not end in cataclysm. Therefore, by adding “GN” to AUM to form “AUMGN,” we assert that the process of nature is not cataclysmic. In fact, it does not end at all but instead “proceeds by means of undulations:” Death is not the end but simply one trough of the endless winding of the Serpent of the All-Self.

Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131Essentially, “all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass & are done; but there is that which remains” (Liber AL vel Legis II:9). It is the work of each individual to dissolve and de-identify with the ego-self and identify with “that which remains,” the True Self which transcends all division (especially between Life and Death) in that it contains All. The death of the ego is not cataclysmic because we know the Sun of the True, All-Self which “is more He than all that he calls He” (The Book of Lies, chapter 18) is always shining regardless of our ignorance (our “darkness”). In short, in the New Aeon we give the advice, “If you are “walking in darkness”, do not try to make the sun rise by self-sacrifice, but wait in confidence for the dawn, and enjoy the pleasures of the night meanwhile” (The Law is For All).

“With courage conquering fear shall ye approach me: ye shall lay down your heads upon mine altar, expecting the sweep of the sword. But the first kiss of love shall be radiant on your lips; and all my darkness and terror shall turn to light and joy. Only those who fear shall fail.”
-“Liber Tzaddi,” lines 16-18

Love is the law, love under will.

→ Part 2: The True Self contains Good & Evil, Upright & Averse →