liber cordis cincti serpente

Thelemic Mysticism

Thelemic Mysticism – part 2: Mysticism in Theory

Thelemic Mysticism

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

PART 2: MYSTICISM IN THEORY

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

The Essential Nature of the Mystic Goal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Thelema, this Unity is often said to be “None” instead of “One.” This “None” is also called “Naught,” “Zero,” or “0.” This has its basis in The Book of the Law (I:27) where it is written, “O Nuit, continuous one of Heaven, let it be ever thus; that men speak not of Thee as One but as None; and let them speak not of thee at all, since thou art continuous!”

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

Characteristics of the Mystic Goal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Various Symbols of the Mystic Goal

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Various Symbols of the Mystic Goal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thelemic Mysticism

Thelemic Mysticism – part 1: Introduction

Thelemic Mysticism

PART 1: INTRODUCTION

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

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

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

What is Mysticism?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“In all systems of religion is to be found a system of Initiation, which may be defined as the process by which a man comes to learn that unknown Crown.”
Liber LXI vel Causae, line 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Mysticism isn’t

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

Therefore, Mysticism is NOT these things:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magick vs. Mysticism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

[→ Part 2: Mysticism in Theory → ]

Liber LXV parables

The Parables and Lessons of Liber LXV (part 6)

Liber LXV: The Heart Girt with a Serpent

The Parable of the Dolphin and the Harper

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

Liber LXV, II:37-44

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

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

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

Liber LXV Parable of the Dolphin and the Harper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1The Vision and the Voice, 20th Aethyr.

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

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

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

5Commentary to Liber LXV, II:37.

6Commentary to Liber LXV, II:37.

7Commentary to Liber LXV, II:37.

8Commentary to Liber LXV, II:37.

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

10Commentary to Liber LXV, II:38.

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

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

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

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

15Commentary to Liber LXV, II:39.

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

17Commentary to Liber LXV, II:40.

18Liber Tzaddi, lines 33-40.

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

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

21Commentary to Liber LXV, II:42.

22Commentary to Liber LXV, II:42.

23Commentary to Liber LXV, II:43.

24Commentary to Liber LXV, II:43.

25Commentary to Liber LXV, II:43.

26Commentary to Liber LXV, II:43.

27Commentary to Liber LXV, II:43.

28From this particular line of Liber LXV.

29Commentary to Liber LXV, II:43.

30Commentary to Liber LXV, II:43.

31Commentary to Liber LXV, II:43.

32Commentary to Liber LXV, II:44.

33Commentary to Liber LXV, II:44.

34Commentary to Liber LXV, II:44.

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

Liber LXV parables

The Parables and Lessons of Liber LXV (part 5)

Liber LXV: The Heart Girt with a Serpent

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

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

Liber LXV, II:17-25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1The Book of Lies, chapter 17.

2The Book of Lies, commentary to chapter 17.

3Commentary to Liber LXV, II:17.

4Commentary to Liber LXV, II:17.

5Commentary to Liber LXV, II:18.

6Liber AL vel Legis, II:9.

7Commentary to Liber LXV, II:19.

8Commentary to Liber LXV, II:20.

9Commentary to Liber LXV, II:22.

10Liber AL vel Legis, I:52.

11Liber AL vel Legis, I:22.

12Commentary to Liber LXV, II:23.

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

14Commentary to Liber LXV, II:24.

15Commentary to Liber LXV, II:25.

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

Liber LXV parables

The Parables and Lessons of Liber LXV (part 4)

Liber LXV: The Heart Girt with a Serpent

The Parable of the Reaper and the Wise Man

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

Liber LXV, I:50-56

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1Commentary to Liber LXV, I:51.

2Commentary to Liber LXV, I:52.

3Commentary to Liber LXV, I:53.

4Commentary to Liber LXV, I:53.

5Commentary to Liber LXV, I:54.

6Commentary to Liber LXV, I:54.

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

8Liber AL vel Legis, III:42.

9Commentary to Liber LXV, I:56.

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

Liber LXV parables

The Parables and Lessons of Liber LXV (part 3)

Liber LXV: The Heart Girt with a Serpent

The Parable of the Maiden and Hades

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

Liber LXV, I:47-49

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liber LXV parables

The Parables and Lessons of Liber LXV (part 2)

Liber LXV: The Heart Girt with a Serpent

The Parable of the Petal of Amaranth

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

Liber LXV, I:34-38

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2Commentary to Liber LXV, I:37.

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

4Liber AL vel Legis, II:25.

5Commentary to Liber LXV, I:38.

6Commentary to Liber LXV, I:60.

7Commentary to Liber LXV, I:60.

8Liber Porta Lucis sub figura X, line 15.

Liber LXV parables

The Parables and Lessons of Liber LXV (part 1)

Liber LXV: The Heart Girt with a Serpent

Introduction

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

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

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

The Parable of the Light and Colors

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

Liber LXV, I:2-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

A similar idea is expressed in the Holy Book known as Liber Porta Lucis sub figura X, “To you who yet wander in the Court of the Profane we cannot yet reveal all; but you will easily understand that the religions of the world are but symbols and veils of the Absolute Truth. So also are the philosophies. To the adept, seeing all these things from above, there seems nothing to choose between Buddha and Mohammed, between Atheism and Theism. The many change and pass; the one remains. Even as wood and coal and iron burn up together in one great flame, if only that furnace be of transcendent heat; so in the alembic of this spiritual alchemy, if only the zelator blow sufficiently upon his furnace all the systems of earth are consumed in the One Knowledge.”6 The same idea is expressed here with the added notion that the “zelator,” or spiritual aspirant, must simply strive to attain and ignore all images. If the aspiration is pure (not limited by particular images or symbols) and steadfast (blowing sufficiently upon the furnace of aspiration), these differences or varied colors are all “consumed in the One Knowledge,” the singular Light which is divided into the multiplicity of symbols or understandings of different individuals.

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

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

1The Vision and the Voice, 28th Aethyr.

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

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

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

5Liber LXI vel Causae, line 5.

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

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