The Symbolic Dimensions of the Gnostic Mass

The Symbolic Dimensions of the Gnostic Mass

The Symbolic and Mythic Dimensions of the Gnostic Mass

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


Liber XV, most commonly known as the Gnostic Mass, is a rich and multi-layered ritual. The Mass has many dimensions, and the more of these perspectives that one sees, the more one can have a deeper appreciation of the ritual.  Sometimes individuals seem to get stuck in a single dimension and see, for example, only the dimension that the Mass is a ritual enactment of sex magick and a veiled form of the IX° O.T.O. supreme secret. This is certainly one dimension, but to only see one dimension forecloses on the possibility of seeing the many perspectives that will enrich one’s knowledge, experience, and appreciation of the Mass. Therefore, the purpose of this essay is to discuss certain important dimensions of the Gnostic Mass, although it will not (nor can it be) a completely exhaustive list.

For example: From the dimension of the Hermetic Qabalah, the Priest is in Tiphareth, the Ruach or conscious self, with the surrounding faculties (Chesed/memory, Geburah/volition, Netzach/desire, Hod/reason) being represented by the Deacon. The Priestess is both the Nephesh, the animal soul, as well as the Neschamah, aspiration toward the divine and the influx of divine intelligence/intuition. Qabalistically, the Mass shows the Nephesh (Malkuth; the Virgin Priestess as Earthly) being elevated to the Neshamah (Binah; the High Priestess enthroned as an embodied form of Nuit), and the Ruach (Tiphareth; the Priest as a man among men) being elevated to Chiah (Chokmah; the Priest whose Rod is that which was, and is, and is to come). Their final union releases Yechidah, the supreme individuality of Kether, which communes with the entire Tree down to Malkuth (the Congregants).

This is just one dimension of the Gnostic Mass given as an example. I will now go through several important dimensions of the Mass in a bit more detail to show there are many different perspectives from which to view this ritual.

Celebration of the forces of Nature

If one reads the Mass fairly literally, one sees that it is a celebration of the forces of Nature. Crowley was a proponent of scientific religion that did not flaunt our current knowledge of the world. On this he wrote:

“Human nature demands (in the case of most people) the satisfaction of the religious instinct, and, to very many, this may best be done by ceremonial means. I wished therefore to construct a ritual through which people might enter into ecstasy as they have always done under the influence of appropriate ritual. In recent years, there has been an increasing failure to attain this object, because the established cults shock their intellectual convictions and outrage their common sense. Thus their minds criticize their enthusiasm; they are unable to consummate the union of their individual souls with the universal soul as a bridegroom would be to consummate his marriage if his love were constantly reminded that its assumptions were intellectually absurd.

I resolved that my ritual [the Gnostic Mass] should celebrate the sublimity of the operation of universal forces without introducing disputable metaphysical theories. I would neither make nor imply any statement about nature which would not be endorsed by the most materialistic man of science. On the surface this may sound difficult; but in practice I found it perfectly simple to combine the most rigidly rational conceptions of phenomena with the most exalted and enthusiastic celebration of their sublimity.” (Confessions)

There is a consistent Thelemic cosmology espoused in the Gnostic Mass that is fairly naturalistic. The cosmology is also reflected in many parts of The Book of Lies as they were written in the same year and show very similar views. The universe espoused in the Gnostic Mass is a series of dyads: one might call them “pairs of opposites” but they are not absolutely opposite in many ways, and their function is more to complement and work with one another. Crowley says “the universe [is] enclosed in the law of Lingam-Yoni,” which is another way to say “the law of yin-yang” or simply complementary dyads.

There is an ineffable Lord, Hadit, and an ineffable Lady, Nuit, who are consorts. This is mentioned in the Creed (“one secret and ineffable lord), the Collects (“The Lord” Collect and “The Lady” Collect), and elsewhere. Nuit is Space and Hadit is Motion. Another way to say “motion” is Time, as motion only takes place through the unfolding of time. Therefore, Nuit and Hadit are Space and Time, or simply Space-Time since it is an interwoven continuum. Nuit and Hadit are the foundations that give rise to the potential of a universe.

When manifested in the world, Hadit becomes “Chaos,” the “father of life.” Chaos is the masculine principle in all things, which on the grandest scale is Energy itself, the forces which constitute the universe. When manifested in the world, Nuit becomes “Babalon, “the mother of us all.” Babalon is the feminine principle in all things, which on the grandest scale is Matter itself. Therefore, Chaos and Babalon are the Energy and Matter which constitute the universe. “GOD is concealed in the whirling energy of Nature” (The Book of Lies). We also know that energy and matter are essentially the same thing, so Chaos and Babalon are consorts representing Matter-Energy. “[There is] a seeming duality of Chaos and Babalon; these are called Father and Mother, but it is not so. They are called Brother and Sister, but it is not so. They are called Husband and Wife, but it is not so” (The Book of Lies). As Crowley comments, “Chaos and Babalon… are really one” (The Book of Lies).

Chaos and Babalon are both reflected in the Macrocosm and the Microcosm.  In the Macrocosm, the Lord is the Sun and the Lady is the Earth. The Sun is “masculine” insofar as it gives life and light, and the Earth is “feminine” insofar as it conceives and nourishes life. The union of the life- and light-giving powers of the Sun with the conceptive powers of the Earth gives rise to all life.

Gnostic Mass CosmosChaos and Babalon reflected into the Microcosm are the Generative Powers in men and women. Hadit says of himself in The Book of the Law, “I am the flame that burns in every heart of man, and in the core of every star. I am Life, and the giver of Life, yet therefore is the knowledge of me the knowledge of death” (AL II:6). “Generative Powers” refers to our life-energy and creative power in general, but especially the power to sexually reproduce. “GOD the Father and Mother is concealed in Generation” (The Book of Lies). The union of Man and Woman give rise to the perpetuation of new life. This is known as the “Phallus,” which is the creative-generative power within each individual regardless of sex. The name goes unspoken or is called Mystery of Mystery in the Gnostic Mass, although the Priest does say “Phalle” in the rending of the Veil. It is called “the essence of every true god that is upon the surface of the Earth” in the Collects.

The Generative Power of Man is reflected in the Sacred Lance and that of Woman in the Holy Graal or Chalice. These are the reproductive organs (and their powers) of the male and female, specifically the penis and the womb. The particle represents the Semen or Seed of the Man, and the wine represents the menstruum of the Woman. Therefore, one important dimension of the Gnostic Mass is the celebration of the the process of Generation, the union of complementary powers to perpetuate Life. The Lance and Chalice are used to create the Eucharist, the masculine reflected in the Cake of Light and the feminine reflected in the Wine. The Cake of Light is that which fortifies our bodies (“life”; “sustenance of endeavour”) and the Wine is that which vitalizes our minds (“joy”; “inspiration of endeavour”).

The Path of Initiation

Another dimension of the Gnostic Mass is that it is an enactment of the Path of Initiation. Initiation is the process of “spiritual advancement”; it is called “the process by which a man comes to learn that unknown Crown” (Liber Causae) as well as the path of enlightenment, the path of attainment, and many other names. In other words, the Mass depicts the unfolding of inner transformation.

The Priest represents every individual, the conscious self: he is the one who undergoes the “hero’s journey” in the narrative of the Mass. The other Officers (Priestess, Deacon, and Children) are “part of the PRIEST himself.” This shows that the interaction between the Officers shows an interaction within every individual, reinforcing that the Mass depicts an inner transformation.

The Priest begins asleep in the darkness of ignorance. The rest of the Mass involves his awakening to the Light of Truth. The Priestess represents both the spiritual forces of awakening as well as the object of attainment itself. She can be seen as the Holy Guardian Angel of the Priest. He is “directly inspired from Kether, the ultimate Self, through the Path of the High Priestess, or initiated intuition” (Liber Samekh).

The Priestess descends to the Tomb and rends the veil of darkness “by the power of Iron.” Iron represents Mars or destructive energy, and individuals are often called to the path in response to tragedy, crisis, or suffering in general. “The Aspiration to become a Master is rooted in the Trance of Sorrow” (Little Essays Toward Truth). The Priestess raises the Priest in order to “administer the virtues to the Brethren.” This shows the ultimate goal is to vitalize others, “the Way of Service” (Liber Causae), essentially identical with the bodhisattva vow to attain for the sake of all beings.

The Priest is purified and consecrated in body and soul, and he obtains the Lance, a symbol of spiritual maturity. Crowley wrote, “What then is the formula of the initiation of Horus? It will no longer be that of the Man, through Death. It will be the natural growth of the Child. His experiences will no more be regarded as catastrophic. Their hieroglyph is the Fool: the innocent and impotent Harpocrates Babe becomes the Horus Adult by obtaining the Wand. ‘Der reine Thor’ [the pure fool] seizes the Sacred Lance” (Liber Samekh).

The Priest’s spiritual fire is kindled by his aspiration toward Godhead. Through this, he has the Power to raise the Priestess to the High Altar in the East, which can be seen as the sacralization or spiritualization of the “lower self,” the transformation of the materialization of energy into its more subtle form of Spirit. After purifying and consecrating the now enthroned Priestess, the Priest is cast out into darkness in the dark night of the soul; having set upon the Path, he encounters trials and troubles. Through his aspiration, the Priest invokes Nuit in the Priestess, the ultimate object of desire and union. The Priest invokes Hadit in himself, identifying with the ultimate subject, Life and Motion itself. Finally he invokes Nuit and Hadit’s union, Ra-Hoor-Khuit, the God within who transcends space, time, and causality, who transcends all the gods and even death itself. The complete identification with Him essentially constitutes Attainment.

The veil of darkness is then thrown open, casting light from the High Altar upon the Priest and filling the whole Temple with brilliance. The Priestess is transformed and is now naked, holding the Chalice and Paten, the Godhead that is beyond particular forms with which we commune in Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. The Collects are then read, each element of the world being invoked, a perfect, complete, and balanced Microcosm of the Universe. The Priest then consecrates the Cake of Light and the wine with the power of the Lance, turning them into their Divine form, the body and blood of God. These are the elements of the Priest with which he will interact with the world: his body and his spirit. They are prepared as such through the “spiritual power” obtained through the Knowledge and Conversation of his Holy Guardian Angel.

Chamber of AnnihilationThe Priest then invokes the highest, ineffable Godhead through the Anthem, That which is “I beyond all I am who hast no nature and no name,” “male-female, quintessential, one.” This is the steady aspiration and devotion that propels the Priest to confront the Abyss, the dissolution of self whereby the True Self, that which is one with Godhead, arises. The Priest breaks off a particle, which represents “his Soul, a virgin offering to his Angel, pressed forth from his being by the intensity of this Aspiration” (Liber Samekh). It is the final offering of the self, the draining of one’s blood into the Cup of Babalon, whereby one becomes annihilated and crosses the Abyss. This occurs in the simultaneous “HRILIU,” the orgasm of the spirit wherein Two become One, the dissolution of All into None, and the Priest has thereby become a Master of the Temple.  

Then, Baphomet is invoked, the Two-in-One God who is “male-female, quintessential, one,” representing a state of consciousness where opposites are fused into a unity. The Priest turns around to utter his Word. He lowers the Lance, announcing the Law, and the Congregants respond in kind, signifying the descent of this Two-in-One into all parts of the self, the entire Tree of Life from Supernals to Malkuth. This includes the Brethren for whom the Priest has attained in order that he may administer the Virtues to them. The Brethren take part in his Wisdom and Understanding through the Eucharist, and through this they come to recognize the Godhead with themselves. “God manifest in flesh” is their name. After a final blessing, the Priest exhausts his purpose and dies, descending into the darkness of the Tomb that another Priest may arise and the cycle perpetuate through the generations.

Psychological Transformation

Another dimension of the Gnostic Mass is that it represents psychological transformation. The Jungian model of the psyche is especially conducive to being seen reflected in the Mass.

The Jungian Model of the PsycheThe Priest represents the conscious self, the sense of subjectivity. This is not confined merely to the ego, the sense of personal identity, but the conscious awareness itself (within which is the ego). The Deacon represents the faculties of the conscious self. The Priestess represents the Unconscious: she is both the earthly, animal, instinctual side as well as the heavenly, divine side. In particular, she seems to be identified at parts with the “anima,” an anthropomorphization of the unconscious mind, and an intermediary between the conscious self and the archetypal Self, the true center of one’s being.

The entire Gnostic Mass shows the psychological transformation of the Priest going from an identification with the persona to an identification with the archetypal Self, which encompasses the totality of the psyche, both conscious and unconscious. The entire process may be summarized as: the Priest identifying with Persona → Priest identifying with Ego → encounter with the Shadow → encounter with the Anima → union with the Anima to “release” or access the Self with which the Priest finally identifies. 

At the beginning of the Mass, the Priest is in the Tomb representing the darkness and confinement of being identified with the persona, one’s outer personality. The Priestess descends as an unconscious impulse, experienced by the Priest as an appearance or a welling-up of unconscious forces. The Priest is awakened to a self not confined merely to persona, and he becomes identified with the ego.

As the ego, he then exerts his power over his unconscious and habitual instincts, represented as the Priestess kneeling before being upraised. Then, the Priest and the Temple are plunged into darkness as he confronts his “shadow”, those aspects of the self that are denied, repressed, and feared. His aspiration carries him through the darkness, and eventually he rends the veil to be met with an image of his “anima,” the naked Priestess enthroned. The anima is the almost like a reflection in the unconscious of the conscious self, it is the “hidden opposite gender in each individual,” representing a layer of the psyche deeper than the shadow. As Jung wrote, “Every man carries within him the eternal image of woman, not the image of this or that particular woman, but a definite feminine image. This image is fundamentally unconscious, an hereditary factor of primordial origin engraved in the living organic system of the man” (Collected Works vol.17). The “anima” or Priestess acts as mediator between the unconscious (the High Altar and all within the Veil of the Supernals) and the conscious (the Priest).

The Priest and Priestess unite, representing the acceptance and integration of the contrasexual archetype into oneself, i.e. becoming Two-in-One, represented in imagery such as the Alchemical Androgyne or, more aptly, Baphomet. The final proclamation of “There is no part of me that is not of the gods” signifies the emergence of the archetype of the Self, that which contains all elements of the psyche in a unified totality. This is not the same as “mystical union” or samadhi, but a sense of complete unity within one’s own being, the integration of all the parts of oneself into a single whole. Jung defined individuation as:

“becoming an ‘in-dividual,’ and in so far as ‘individuality’ embraces our innermost, last, and incomparable uniqueness, it also implies becoming one’s own self. We could therefore translate individuation as ‘coming to selfhood’ or ‘self-realization…’ Egotists are called ‘selfish,’ but this, naturally, has nothing to do with the concept of ‘Self’ as I am using it here… Individuation, therefore, can only mean a process of psychological development that fulfils the individual qualities given; in other words, it is a process by which a man becomes the definite, unique being he in fact is. In so doing he does not become ‘selfish’ in the ordinary sense of the word, but is merely fulfilling the peculiarity of his nature, and this… is vastly different from egotism or individualism.” (Collected Works vol.7)

In other words, the Priest has immersed himself in the unconscious self stage by stage. He has united by “love under will,” i.e. revealed, accepted, and integrated the various archetypal forces that emerge, and he has become wholly Himself.

The Union of Subject and Object

The Gnostic Mass also contains the dimension of it being a symbolic, ritual reflection of the process of meditation whereby the subject of awareness merges with the object in samadhi.

The Temple represents the field of consciousness itself. The Priest represents the subject of awareness, the sense of “I” or self. The Priestess represents the object of concentration or devotion. The Lance of the Priest represents the power of concentration itself.

Traditionally, the process of concentration culminating in samadhi is called, as a whole, samyama. Samyama has three stages: dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. To oversimplify, dharana is when the subject begins to concentrate on the chosen object: the focus has been narrowed down to that particular object of concentration so that no other object takes the subject’s focus away. Crowley writes, “In the course of our concentration we noticed that the contents of the mind at any moment consisted of two things, and no more: the Object, variable, and the Subject, invariable, or apparently so. By success in Dharana the object has been made as invariable as the subject” (Liber ABA, Part I).

Dhyana is when dharana has been intensified to the point where there is only an awareness of the object, even the awareness of oneself as a subject has faded away. Samadhi is the culmination of dhyana whereby both subject and object “merge” or disappear into a non-dual unity.

SamadhiIn the Gnostic Mass, the Priest’s Lance is stroked eleven times by the Priestess; this shows the awakening to dharana, the first stage of samyama. This dharana culminates in the Priest kissing the Book on the Priestess’ chest three times and kneeling in adoration. The Priest is then in darkness for three circumambulations of the Temple. This may represent the “darkness” or struggle that often comes when beginning in the practice of samyama. Crowley likens this aspect of the work of samyama (or simply “Yoga”) to the formula of IAO:

“In beginning a meditation practice, there is always a quiet pleasure, a gentle natural growth [dharana and the raising up to the High Altar]; one takes a lively interest in the work; it seems easy; one is quite pleased to have started. This stage represents Isis. Sooner or later it is succeeded by depression—the Dark Night of the Soul, an infinite weariness and detestation of the work [the three circumambulations of the darkened Temple]. The simplest and easiest acts become almost impossible to perform. Such impotence fills the mind with apprehension and despair. The intensity of this loathing can hardly be understood by any person who has not experienced it. This is the period of Apophis.” (Magick in Theory & Practice)

By continued concentration, the dharana breaks into dhyana in the piercing of the Veil and the influx of Light from the High Altar. This trance of dhyana continues throughout the Collects.

This dhyana builds slowly through the Consecration of the Elements and the Anthem, and it culminates in the only word spoken simultaneously by Priest and Priestess in the Gnostic Mass: HRILIU. At this moment, both Priest and Priestess hold both Lance and Cup and depress the “particle,” the last bit of separateness, into the Wine so that the two become One in samadhi. 

This “Eucharist” of samadhi may be understood as a subtler level of meaning to what Crowley says when he writes, “The highest form of the Eucharist is that in which the Element consecrated is One. It is one substance and not two, not living and not dead, neither liquid nor solid, neither hot nor cold, neither male nor female. This sacrament is secret in every respect” (Magick in Theory & Practice). It is “neither this nor that” because the samadhi is transcendent of dualities – it is non-dual – and it is “secret in every respect” because it is beyond the possibility of communication as all language is inherently dualistic.

Tantric Rite

The Gnostic Mass also contains the dimension of being an enactment of a Tantric rite. There are an immense amount of similarities between Tantra and Thelema, including but not limited to: seeing the body as “good” and useful for attainment, seeing the body as a microcosm of the Universe, seeing the world not as maya or illusion but as the play of the power of Godhead, the visualization of self as Deity, the transcendence of common morality and ethics, et cetera. 

In Tantra, there is something called the “Great Ritual” or the “Secret Ritual,” which involves the use of wine (madya) and sexual union (maithuna). Sound familiar? There are “left-hand” Tantrics who actually engage in sexual intercourse and “right-hand” Tantrics who only engage in sexual intercourse symbolically (with sexual union itself being symbolic as well as the visualization of sexual union).

Shiva is the formless, motionless Godhead that is beyond all forms and expression, and Shakti is the Power of that Godhead when expressed in form and motion; it is very similar to the concepts of Tao (Shiva) and of Teh (Shakti). Shakti is often identified with Kundalini, reinforced in the Mass by the Priestess’ 3 and a half circles around the Temple reflecting the Kundalini serpent coiled 3 and a half times around the base of each individual’s spine. Interestingly, Shakti’s symbol is that of a triangle with the apex downward, which is the symbol of Ra-Hoor-Khuit and the sign given by the Priestess when she is first raised to the High Altar. The Priestess becomes not merely a woman but the Absolute Woman when raised to the High Altar, and she becomes Shakti devoid of all particular forms in the stripping away all clothing.

Basically, the yogi identifies with Shiva and all his corresponding properties; the female identifies with Shakti, the primordial Power inherent in all motion. This is similar to the idea of the Scarlet Woman as an earthly avatar of Babalon. Their union is a hieros gamos or “holy marriage”: the union of male and female is seen as the union of Shiva and Shakti, which may be oversimplified as the ultimate Subject and the ultimate Object. This union creates the “androgynous Shiva,” known as Ardhanarishvara, which literally means “the Lord who is half woman.” Ardhanarishvara is essentially a Two-in-One form representing both elements fused into One: nearly identical images are found in that of Baphomet and of the Alchemical Hermaphrodite or “Rebis.”

Baphomet and Rebis

This suspension of duality occurs during the erotic rapture of union, liberating this “Force” of Ardhanarishvara or Baphomet. This Two-in-One figure transcends all, including space and time: it therefore is That which is the “breath that makest every God even and Death to tremble before Thee.” It is the Lion and Serpent that “destroys the destroyer” of Death, being That which transcends all manifestation, all motion, and all duality. This is the amrita or ambrosia, both words meaning “not mortal” or “beyond death”; this is the true Elixir of Immortality, the sacrament of which one may partake and truly proclaim “There is no part of me that is not of the gods.”

Concluding Remarks

It should be emphasized once more that this list is not exhaustive: there are potentially infinite other dimensions at work in the Gnostic Mass. Also, none of these dimensions that are mentioned are fully fleshed out: one could easily write a whole book on the Gnostic Mass as a Tantric rite, for example. The real point is to emphasize that there are, in fact, many dimensions to the Gnostic Mass. I believe that the more dimensions one can appreciate, the deeper one’s experience and appreciation of the Mass can be. Therefore, I hope that this essay will spark in the reader a desire to see the Gnostic Mass as something beyond merely a Qabalistic drama or a veiled sexual magick ritual. There is a vast reservoir of potential hidden within the central rite of O.T.O., merely waiting for the ingenium and courage of an earnest seeker to tap into it.

Love is the law, love under will.

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The First Act of Magick

The Primary Act of Magick

The First Act of Magick

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

The Will is the dynamic motion of your Being, and your sole right and duty is to do that Will (AL I:42). Most of us go about our lives in a state of darkness: there is ignorance about who we really are and we are not in touch with our Will.  Battered about by thoughts, emotions, and circumstance, we can be like a rudderless boat adrift in the sea. Really, we are all like this to a certain extent, sometimes more so than at other times, but we have all been “wandering in the Darkness” as it is said in the Neophyte initiation ceremony of the Golden Dawn.

Although not all individuals are called to the Path of striving to do one’s Will, there are those of us – most likely including yourself if you are taking time to read this – who have perceived that there is something more to life than merely being a victim of circumstance, of simply eating, working, sleeping, and then dying. There is a greater purpose awaiting, a fuller way to live: there is the possibility of Light. 

Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change in conformity with Will. This means that Magick is essentially the science and art of Life. Those of us who are called to the Path engage in some form of Magick in order to try to find the Light of Will, whether through meditation, ritual, or whatever else. No one would engage in any form of Magick if they did not believe in the possibility of improving themselves and their lives; the very act implies a conscious desire to change. Since we perceive the possibility of the Light and don’t want to live in darkness, the most basic form of Magick involves altering the way we act in the world, trying to become more conscious and intentional in the way we engage with circumstance. That is, we don’t want to just stumble about the world through the darkness; we want the light and freedom of conscious intent. This involves, in some way or another, the discipline of not reacting to things in our typical, conditioned, habitual ways. We  – for example – try to eat better, think in new and different ways, not be carried away by emotions, and not follow out every passing whim or desire. We do these things when we remember to do them, and we fail when we forget ourselves and our Path.

This is then the primary act of Magick: remembering. If you do not remember to do something, you will not do it, regardless of whether you have the strength and skill to carry it out or not. For the sake of example, if you are trying not to insult people out of anger, there are two possibilities: you will either forget and insult someone out of anger again or you will feel angry and you will remember your Path. Only then is the possibility of change open to you. Your discipline allows for the possibility of choice: without remembering you will simply react in the same habitual way. Remembering is the possibility of liberty, and forgetting is the resignation to slavery.

The most important thing to remember is who you really are. So who are you really? You are not the physical stuff of your body, the thoughts that pass through your mind, the emotions that well up, or your desires. You are not your personality or your career or your possessions. In the language of Hermeticism, you are not the four Elements: you are Spirit. You are the Light of consciousness itself, the “Khabs” or star, and every aspect of experience is merely “the dance of the Veil of Life upon the Face of the Spirit” (Liber XV). Actually, you are even beyond consciousness. Consciousness is simply the vehicle of the expression of That which you really are: boundlessness. Call it infinity, Godhead, Dharmakaya, the Absolute, True Self, Atman, the Truth, or whatever else you like, but this is ultimately what we are. This is what every mystic, yogi, and buddha who has ever lived has tried to express and this is also what Thelema expresses.

In a sense, The Book of the Law is a text telling you to remember who you really are. Crowley wrote, “There are many ethical injunctions of a revolutionary character in the Book, but they are all particular cases of the general precept to realize one’s own absolute God-head and to act with the nobility which springs from that knowledge. Practically all vices springs from failure to do this” (Confessions).

Well, what does The Book of the Law have to say about remembering? There are two instances of the word “remember” and they both essentially say the same thing: Remember that you are Hadit. In the second chapter where Hadit is the speaker it says, “But remember, o chosen one, to be me; to follow the love of Nu in the star-lit heaven; to look forth upon men, to tell them this glad word” (AL II:76). Remember to be me, to be Hadit. You are the inexhaustible, procreative life-will, the expression of Energy through Possibility, the “love of Nu.” From this Hadit-perspective, every Experience is a sacrament, a Fulfillment of the union of Hadit with one of the infinite possibilities of Nuit. Where are your petty quarrels, your resentments, and your fears when you remember you are Hadit? “Dost thou fail? Art thou sorry? Is fear in thine heart? Where I am these are not” (AL II:46-47).

Also in the second chapter, the Book says, “Remember all ye that existence is pure joy; that all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass & are done; but there is that which remains” (AL II:9). If you remember that you are Hadit, you will naturally know that existence is pure joy: if you are All, then every Event is the fulfillment of your Will, every Experience is a new note in the music of your rapturous love-song to Nuit. Insofar as we identify with those things that pass and are done, we fall back into darkness, we become shadows and sorrow is naturally our lot. Crowley wrote, “For in each Man his Inmost Light is the Core of his Star. That is, Hadit; and his Work is the Identification of himself with that Light” (Liber Aleph).

This is the primary act of Magick, the foundation upon which all other acts should be based: Remember.

Love is the law, love under will.

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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>>

Psychology of Liber AL – pt.7: Life and Death Instincts

Psychology of Liber AL

Life and Death Instincts

I am the secret Serpent coiled about to spring: in my coiling there is joy. If I lift up my head, I and my Nuit are one. If I droop down mine head, and shoot forth venom, then is rapture of the earth, and I and the earth are one.” –Liber AL vel Legis II:26

In this verse from Liber AL, we find Hadit comparing “himself” to “the secret Serpent coiled about to spring.” This symbol is obviously showing the vast potential stored within the Self, like that contained within a coiled serpent, analogous to the unknowable power hidden in the recesses of each person’s unconscious.1 From this position of coiling, Hadit either lifts up his head or droops down. These two actions are related to becoming one with Nuit and becoming one with the earth, respectively. Crowley writes in his commentary to this line, “The mystic Union is to be practised both with Spirit and with Matter,” which are “two main types of the Orgia of Magick [causing Change in conformity with Will].” This shows that there are two fundamental actions to be taken or courses of the Will: (1) return to the spirit, and (2) immersion in matter.

Crowley says elsewhere that “Magick = the Will to Live” and “Mysticism = the Will to Die.”2 This brings to mind the theories of the life drive (termed eros) and death drive (termed thanatos) expounded by Sigmund Freud, the famous psychologist. Freud’s definition of the death drive being “an urge inherent in all organic life to restore an earlier state of things”3 may be likened to the “union with Nuit” in which one’s consciousness “becomes one,” and his life instinct of eros may be seen to be analogous to the “rapture of the earth.”

Jung also posits two similar ideas in his pseudo-mystical treatise “Septem Sermones ad Mortuos.” He writes:

The world of the gods is made manifest in spirituality and in sexuality. The celestial ones appear in spirituality, the earthly in sexuality. Spirituality conceiveth and embraceth. It is womanlike and therefore we call it MATER COELESTIS, the celestial mother. Sexuality engendereth and createth. It is manlike, and therefore we call it PHALLOS, the earthly father. The sexuality of man is more of the earth, the sexuality of woman is more of the spirit.”4

Here are two seemingly autonomous psychic functions in relation to the individual identified as “the celestial mother” – very much like lifting up of Hadit’s head to union with Nuit (who is often pictured as a star goddess) – and “the earthly father” which is analogous to Hadit drooping his head to the earth. In Jungian psychology, it is understood that the individual’s psyche is bi-gendered in that it contains both masculine and feminine aspects, and in this case it should be understood that these two things – “celestial mother” and “earthly father” – relate to “every man and every woman.” Jung continues:

Man shall distinguish himself both from spirituality and sexuality. He shall call spirituality Mother, and set her between heaven and earth. He shall call sexuality Phallos, and set him between himself and earth. For the Mother and the Phallos are super-human daemons which reveal the world of the gods.”5

Here we have almost the same language being used as in Liber AL vel Legis. Once again we must remember that “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.”6 We can now understand that this line in Liber AL vel Legis that started this chapter refers to the two fundamental drives or two aspects of the Will.

Two potential courses of the Will

Liber AL II:26

Aleister Crowley

Sigmund Freud

Carl Jung

Hadit is “coiled,” prepared to Will a certain course of actions, either (1) return to spirit or (2) immersion in matter

1: “return to spirit”

I lift up my head, I and my Nuit are one.”

Mysticism = the Will to Death;” “Union… with Spirit”

Thanatos: the death drive

MATER COELESTIS, the celestial mother;” “spirituality”

2: “immersion in matter”

If I droop down mine head… I and the earth are one.”

Magick = the Will to Life;” “Union… with Matter”

Eros: the life drive

PHALLOS, the earthly father;” “sexuality”

[Figure 1. The two courses of Will once Hadit is “coiled about to spring”]

I referred to these two “drives” or “psychological contents” as seemingly autonomous psychic functions above, and Jung writes that “man shall distinguish himself” from both of them, for they are most practically understood as autonomous functions. He then proclaims these words:

Spirituality and sexuality are not your qualities, not things ye possess and contain. But they possess and contain you; for they are powerful daemons, manifestations of the gods, and are, therefore, things which reach beyond you, existing in themselves. No man hath a spirituality unto himself, or a sexuality unto himself. But he standeth under the law of spirituality and of sexuality. No man, therefore, escapeth these daemons.”7

This is a fundamentally important point. These actions or drives are not our qualities in the normal sense that we would normally think of something as part of ourselves, part of our personalities or mental structure. Rather, they are understood as forces influencing our psyches. Our normal, conscious sense of self is the ego, which is informed by these two influencing drives, these two aspects of the Will, and – as we explored earlier – the Will of the individual is the guiding Law of life (“There is no law beyond” doing it)8

It should be remarked that no matter what Hadit “does” – if there is coiling, lifting of the head, drooping of the head – there is joy and rapture. Once again it is shown that, in all aspects, “Existence is pure joy.”9

>>PART 8>>

1 The connections between this symbol and the Hindu kundalini are also plainly apparent, but elaboration on this point not appropriate for this essay.

2 Crowley, Aleister. “The Antecedents of Thelema.” Printed in The Revival of Magick.

3 Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the Pleasure Principle.

4 Jung, Carl. “Septem Sermones ad Mortuos,” Sermo V.

5 Jung, Carl. “Septem Sermones ad Mortuos,” Sermo V.

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

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

8 A reference to Liber AL, III:60, “There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.”

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

>>PART 8>>

Psychology of Liber AL – pt.6: Psychological Model of Failure

Psychology of Liber AL

Psychological Model of Failure

Thelema constructs a completely practical psychological system, and it is established among familiar physiological lines. In the body, if all is working harmoniously – if the body is healthy, that is – the consciousness continues to operate undisturbed by the functions of the various organs and systems of the body. It is only when there is a malady of some sort – e.g., a malfunction of an organ, the skin is pierced by a knife, stress and anxiety, et cetera – that consciousness is disturbed and made aware of the body’s functioning. In a physiological sense, the body conveniently notifies the consciousness of its trouble by issuing signals of pain. Liber AL vel Legis has applied this to the functioning of the psyche:

Dost thou fail? Art thou sorry? Is fear in thine heart? Where I am these are not.”1

Crowley comments, “This verse brings out what is a fact in psychology, the necessary connection between fear, sorrow, and failure.”2 In the same sense that the appearance of pain signals a certain failure of the harmonious functioning of the body, the appearance of sorrow and fear signal a certain failure in the harmonious functioning of the psyche. Crowley writes, “Sorrow, pain, regret, are symptoms of diseased thought; those only who have ceased to be able to adjust themselves rightly and gladly to all Change, and to grow thereby, or those who still react, but only feebly and vainly, take Sorrow, pain, and regret to be Real”3 It is understood in Thelema that “existence is pure joy; that all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass & are done; but there is that which remains.”4 Therefore, any kind of sorrow, pain, or regret necessarily implies some kind of failure to truly understand this perspective.

In another Holy Book of Thelema it is written, “Only if ye are sorrowful, or weary, or angry, or discomforted; then ye may know that ye have lost the golden thread, the thread wherewith I guide you to the heart of the groves of Eleusis.”5 This reaffirms the notion that the appearance of sorrow, pain, regret, weariness, anger, and discomfort are all, just as they are in the physiological sense, signs of some error in the functioning of the psyche of the organism. They are signals being sent to the psyche that “love under will” is not being performed properly, so to speak. Crowley confirms this once again when he writes, “Sorrow thus appears as the result of any unsuccessful – therefore, ill-judged – struggle. Acquiescence in the order of Nature is the ultimate Wisdom.”6

This notion of sorrow appearing as an unsuccessful assimilation of experience parallels the propositions from Carl Rogers’ client-centered therapy. In an earlier segment of this essay, it was seen how the Thelemic maxim of “love under will” is essentially the same concept as that of “psychological adjustment” from Carl Rogers’ nineteen propositions (the assumptions that underlie his client-centered therapy), i.e. assimilation of experience in accordance with one’s self. Whenever this fails, there is what Carl Rogers called “psychological maladjustment.” Rogers writes has as fifteenth and sixteenth propositions,

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.

Any experience which is inconsistent with the organization of the structure of the self may be perceived as a threat, and the more of these perceptions there are, the more rigidly the self structure is organized to maintain itself.”7

This “psychological tension” is the same “sorrow” or “pain” that Crowley mentions, but it is applied specifically to the psyche (as opposed to physiological sorrow or pain). If experiences are not assimilated, they generate “psychological tension” and may also be “perceived as a threat” which causes the self-structure to become even more rigid and unadaptable; this will therefore cause further unsuccessful acts of “love under will” or “psychological adjustment.”

Essentially, sorrow, pain, regret, fear, anger, discomfort, and one other psychological phenomenon – pity – are all signals of “failure” to perform an act of “love under will” properly – that is, assimilate an experience in a harmonious way.

In regards to pity, in the second chapter of Liber AL vel Legis it is written, “Pity not the fallen! I never knew them. I am not for them. I console not: I hate the consoled & the consoler”8 and also in the third chapter it is written, “Mercy let be off; damn them who pity!”9 Crowley comments on this saying:

It is several times shewn in this Book that ‘falling’ is in truth impossible. ‘All is ever as it was.’ To sympathize with the illusion is not only absurd, but tends to perpetuate the false idea. It is a mistake to ‘spoil’ a child, or humour a malade imaginaire. One must, on the contrary, chase away the shadows by lighting a fire, which fire is: Do what thou wilt!” Crowley asserts that pitying another is akin to “sympathiz[ing] with the illusion,” for it is said in Liber AL that “Existence is pure joy,” and “all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass & are done; but there is that which remains.”10

One can only pity someone that is in a situation that one perceives to be “unfortunate,” but if one truly understands the dictum of “Existence is pure joy,” they know that even this pity is based on a false perception of things and therefore “sympathyz[ing] with the illusion.” It also implies “looking down” on someone, thinking oneself better rather than recognizing the unique sovereignty of each individual, each being a King or Queen in his or her own Kingdom. This echoes the sentiments that Friedrich Nietzsche expressed when discussing Christianity as a religion of pity. He writes,

Pity stands in opposition to all the tonic passions that augment the energy of the feeling of aliveness: it is a depressant. A man loses power when he pities. Through pity that drain upon strength which suffering works is multiplied a thousandfold. Suffering is made contagious by pity; under certain circumstances it may lead to a total sacrifice of life and living energy–a loss out of all proportion to the magnitude of the cause.” 11

Nietzsche also identifies pity as the “contagious source” of even more of “that drain upon strength” than what normally is experienced from suffering or sorrow “multiplied a thousand fold.” Nietzsche continues,

Pity thwarts the whole law of evolution, which is the law of natural selection. It preserves whatever is ripe for destruction; it fights on the side of those disinherited and condemned by life; by maintaining life in so many of the botched of all kinds, it gives life itself a gloomy and dubious aspect. Mankind has ventured to call pity a virtue… Let me repeat: this depressing and contagious instinct stands against all those instincts which work for the preservation and enhancement of life: in the role of protector of the miserable, it is a prime agent in the promotion of decadence–pity persuades to extinction… Aristotle, as every one knows, saw in pity a sickly and dangerous state of mind, the remedy for which was an occasional purgative: he regarded tragedy as that purgative… Nothing is more unhealthy, amid all our unhealthy modernism, than Christian pity.” 12

Pity not only causes more identification with the “shadows” of suffering, but it “preserves whatever is ripe for destruction” because it is a “contagious instinct [that] stands against all those instincts which for the preservation and enhancement of life” – something that one obviously should have to maintain physiological and psychological health. Nietzsche was especially concerned with maintaining these instincts that preserve and enhance life, and he was therefore on guard against all sentiments that would obstruct this natural process.

Aside from these appearances of sorrow, pain, regret, fear, anger, discomfort, and pity being treated as signs of maladjustment – or “love” being performed not “under will” – there are also the considerations of sin and reason that are mentioned in previous segments of this essay. The thought of oneself as sinful is a misperception in Thelema; reason must be kept in its rightful place as interpreter and helper of the Will, which must be performed with tireless energy, without regard to purpose, and unattached to any lust of result. Any diversion from this necessarily restricts the Will, and not only is “the word of Sin… Restriction,”13 but “thou hast no right but to do thy will. Do that, and no other shall say nay.”14 We now have a more complete sense of how the Thelemite ideally views and oeprates within the world: Free of the sense of sin, free of reason’s stranglehold upon our behavior, and aware of sorrow, pain, regret, discomfort, and pity as signals of our failure to perform “love under will.”

Fear not at all; fear neither men nor Fates, nor gods, nor anything. Money fear not, nor laughter of the folk folly, nor any other power in heaven or upon the earth or under the earth.” 15

>>PART 7>>

1 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, II:46-47.

2 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, II:46.

3 Crowley, Aleister. “Djeridensis Working,” II:17.

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

5 Crowley, Aleister. Liber Tzaddi vel Hamus Hermeticus, line 23.

6 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, II:9.

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

8 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, II:48.

9 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, II:18.

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

11 Nietzsche, Frierich. The Antichrist, ch.7.

12 Nietzsche, Frierich. The Antichrist, ch.7.

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

14Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:42-43.

15Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, III:17.

>>PART 7>>

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


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>>


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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>>