new aeon

Top 5 Mistakes of Newcomers about OTO

Top 5 Mistakes Newcomers make about OTO

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

What are some of the most common mistakes and misconceptions that newcomers have about OTO (Ordo Templi Orientis)?

1) Thinking that OTO is an occult society that teaches occultism.

SOLUTION: Realize that it’s not. OTO is a fraternal order that teaches how to live in accordance with the Law of Thelema, with a strong ecclesiastical arm to administer sacraments in accordance with the New Aeon’s Law of Liberty. We are here to establish the Law of Thelema in the world, and to spread its message, not to yell mispronounced Hebrew at the walls.

2) Expecting that all OTO members are High Adepts that conform with your distorted notion of ‘how an Adept should act’.

SOLUTION: Realize that OTO is made up of human beings who are living, thriving, shitting, fucking, and making mistakes like the rest of us. We are just doing it together, to try to build something. Care to help serve?

3) Thinking that taking an OTO degree somehow makes you a better person than someone of a lower degree or someone not in OTO.

SOLUTION: Realize that the Work is your own and the initiations are guidance, and that your smarminess actually, if anything, makes you a worse person. If you actually learned the lessons you wouldn’t be wasting your time comparing your dick length to others and you’d be trying to go and do your Will.

4) Expecting that joining the OTO means you get free access to sex orgies, or free access to touch anyone without their consent.

SOLUTION: Grow up and be an adult, and realize that both Thelema and general adult human society agrees that you need consent before engaging in such things.

5) Expecting OTO to hand you all the Real Secrets™ on a platter so you can do absolutely no work.

SOLUTION: Realize that you get out of OTO what you put into it, and that the real Karma Yoga of OTO is service to the Order.

Love is the law, love under will.

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Fundamentals of Initiation in Thelema

Fundamentals of Initiation in Thelema

Fundamentals of Initiation in Thelema

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

Introduction

In Thelema, the term “initiation” is used often and in varying ways. This essay is intended to elucidate the basic meaning and fundamentals of initiation, especially in the context of spiritual system of Thelema.

Basic definition: “Initiation” essentially refers to the path of spiritual progress of every individual. The “path of initiation” is synonymous with other terms such as “the path of attainment” or “the quest for enlightenment.” It is sometimes called the Great Work, or “climbing the Tree of Life,” or simply “the Path.”

Along the path, one reaches various “degrees” of initiation which can be construed as certain levels of insight or understanding or simply certain shifts in one’s awareness that move progressively from the ignorance of the mundane view of self and the world to the “initiated” or enlightened view. These “degrees” of initiation refer strictly to an internal process, and the ceremonies and “degrees” of temporal organizations can only be a symbolic reflection of one’s inner initiations. As Crowley wrote, “The Master Therion warns all Aspirants to the Sacred Wisdom and the Magick of Light that Initiation cannot be bought, or even conferred; it must be won by personal endeavor” (letter to W.T. Smith, 1934 e.v.).

This leads to some general principles of initiation that are true across all forms of spirituality:

1) Initiation can ultimately only come from the endeavors and work of the individual.

2) True initiation is always in the form of the direct experience of the individual.

3) Initiation cannot be bestowed from others through words, symbols, rituals, or any other way. The most another can do is help point the way and aid one to avoid common pitfalls.

Initiation in General

The basics of initiation are explained fairly succinctly in a text called Liber LXI vel Causae or simply Liber CausaeIt reads:

“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.”

This establishes that all systems of religion have some form or another of approaching the same Truth. They all contain some form of “the process by which a man comes to learn that unknown Crown,” which is here called “Initiation.” The “unknown Crown” is a Qabalistic reference to the first Sephirah on the Tree of Life, Kether, which literally means “Crown” and represents the Unity of Godhead to which man may attain. Some have called this “unknown Crown” the term “God,” some have called it “liberation,” or “unity,” or “Truth,” and countless other names. Ultimately, it is “unknown” and nameless because it is beyond the dualities of knower and known, beyond the dualities of the subject and object of language, and therefore cannot be accurately named. It is, to use the language of the Gnostic Mass, always “beyond speech and beyond sight.” Initiation is defined as the process whereby one may come to learn That. Liber Causae continues:

“Though none can communicate either the knowledge or the power to achieve this, which we may call the Great Work, it is yet possible for initiates to guide others.”

Here we are told what was mentioned above as a general principle of initiation: Initiation cannot be bestowed from others through words, symbols, rituals, or any other way. “None can communicate” does not mean there is not anyone smart or enlightened enough to communicate this Truth, but it is a Truth whose nature is simply incommunicable by virtue of it being beyond all names, forms, signs, and symbols.

Here we also see the process of “Initiation” being equated with the term “the Great Work,” as mentioned previously as well. We also learn that initiates may not communicate “that unknown Crown” but they can guide others toward it. Liber Causae continues on this theme:

“Every man must overcome his own obstacles, expose his own illusions. Yet others may assist him to do both, and they may enable him altogether to avoid many of the false paths, leading no whither, which tempt the weary feet of the uninitiated pilgrim. They can further insure that he is duly tried and tested, for there are many who think themselves to be Masters who have not even begun to tread the Way of Service that leads thereto.”

Here we have affirmation of another general principle of initiation mentioned before: Initiation can ultimately only come from the endeavors and work of the individual. We also learn that the path of initiation must involve overcoming obstacles and exposing one’s illusions about reality. As another important foundational text says, “Thou then who hast trials and troubles, rejoice because of them, for in them is Strength, and by their means is a pathway opened unto that Light… Rejoice therefore, O Initiate, for the greater thy trial the greater thy Triumph” (Liber Librae).

There is a reaffirmation of the fact that initiates may help guide others in order to enable them to not fall into common pitfalls. There is also an assertion that “there are many who think themselves to be Masters” who are not even close, “Masters” being a name for those who have succeeded in treading the Path. Those who “think themselves to be Masters” includes people who earnestly may think they have attained but have only obtained minor glimpses of truth as well as those who may be called “charlatans” insofar as they knowingly prey upon earnest seekers by deception and manipulation.

One thing that is particularly striking is the mention that “the Way of Service” is what “leads thereto,” i.e. to becoming a Master. There are several ways to understand what is meant by “the Way of Service” that are all connected. Firstly, there is the fact which has already been mentioned repeatedly: one function of initiates is to be a guide to others on the path. In many systems, once one has become judged to be sufficiently advanced in understanding (or “attainment” or any other similar term), one becomes a teacher or guide to others – there are many traditions that involve the “transmission” of wisdom from guru or Master to disciple, from the initiated to uninitiated.

Related to this way of understanding “the Way of Service” is the fact that, especially within Thelema, there is an emphasis on “coming back to the world” once one has attained. This is virtually identical to the bodhisattva vow in Mahayana Buddhism whereby one swears to return from nirvana (liberation, attainment, etc) back to samsara (the mundane world of ignorance) in order that all beings may be liberated. There are plentiful examples within the Western tradition of this same idea, often involving the symbolism of someone who has attained returning from a distant and/or isolated place; prominent examples include returning from a mountain (e.g. Moses, Muhammad, and Nietzsche’s Zarathustra) as well as returning from the wilderness (e.g. Jesus). That is, becoming a Master is tied up in the Way of Service for one does not become a Master solely for enlightening oneself but also to help others attain to the Light.

Finally, connected to these other two ways of understanding “the Way of Service,” one can understand this Service in a more general sense:  it requires a diminishing of one’s attachment to the ego, the personal identity or sense of self, and one cannot become a Master if one clings to this self with its self-oriented goals. In all systems of attainment, one seeks the “unknown Crown” which is always beyond the personal sense of self or “ego”; it is, to use the language of the Gnostic Mass again, “Thou who art I beyond all I am.” It should be noted that in none of these ways of understanding the Way of Service is there any semblance of “servility,” of abasing oneself before others or self-denigration: it is a Service of strength, of one who overflows with Light and so bestows it upon others that they may partake of it.

“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.”

This is an especially important point: essentially, initiation always leads to the One, to “that unknown Crown,” to “the Unutterable.” The mystics and initiates of all times have spoken of the same “Great Work,” but everyone has used different symbols and language to explain it. In a Holy Book of Thelema it is written, “There must ever be division in the word. For the colours are many, but the light is one” (Liber LXV). This is a beautiful image where the Light, the “Unutterable,” is always One, but it enters through the prism of the world and each individual who speaks about it represents one color among many. There must always be a diversity of expression, but they are all facets pointing to the one Light. An identical idea is expressed in another Holy Book of Thelema where it is written:

“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 X). 

The Mysteries in the New Aeon

It is understood that there is a single Light, “the Absolute Truth,” “the Unutterable,” et cetera, and the diversity of expression are simply different ways to symbolize and veil that Unity. In Thelema, there is a further understanding that there are different “formulas” of initiation or attainment that are efficacious in one time but that need to be updated for a new era or “aeon.” A virtually identical notion is held in the Hindu doctrine of the “yugas” or epochs (e.g. the Kali Yuga) where the requirements to attain liberation change with each “yuga.”  This is the essential meaning behind the idea that we are in a “New Aeon.” Let’s look into this idea in more depth:

In the world of Western esotericism or “occultism,” there is a certain symbolic way that the “Mysteries” of the path of initiation are explained. In general, there are a series of ceremonial rituals which each candidate undergoes, symbolizing the stages of illumination and offering guidance on the Path. Most importantly, there is a “Hierophant” (literally meaning “one who reveals sacred things”) whose purpose is to serve as the dispenser of the Mysteries. Ultimately, this Hierophant represents or reflects the God within each individual who is the true Hierophant of every initiate.

In one esoteric tradition, that of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Path was symbolized in various psycho-dramas of the various “degrees” of initiation. The Hierophant sat in the East, the place of the rising Sun, while other officers sat in other quarters. This Hierophant not only dispensed the Mysteries as the “initiator” but also represented the “formula” of the Mysteries themselves. In this system, the Hierophant was represented as Osiris, a god who underwent death and was resurrected in a more “divine” form. This essentially means that attainment was achieved through a life-death-resurrection process, the “formula” of Osiris. This, of course, includes the formula represented by the death and resurrection of Christ who is seen as one expression of the “Osirian” formula (along with Attis, Adonis, Dionysus, et cetera).

In something called the “Ceremony the Equinox,” the various officers rotate around the room, taking on new offices with a new individual becoming the Hierophant. In the same way, there was an “Equinox of the Gods” where the gods themselves shifted their positions: Osiris no longer represented the formula of initiation. This is why the era or aeon where his formula was active is called the “Aeon of Osiris” or the “Aeon of the Dying God.” Now Horus sat in the East as the Hierophant and a new formula of attainment was put in place: “the word of the Law is Thelema” (AL I:39).  This is the symbolism at work in The Book of the Law when it is written, “Abrogate are all rituals, all ordeals, all words and signs. Ra-Hoor-Khuit hath taken his seat in the East at the Equinox of the Gods… Hoor in his secret name and splendour is the Lord initiating” (AL I:49). In Thelema, this Equinox of the Gods is said to have occurred on the Vernal Equinox of 1904, with the new Book of the Law – a new Law for a new aeon – being received a few days afterward. Crowley comments on this verse of The Book of the Law: 

“This verse [AL I:49] declares that the old formula of Magick — the Osiris-Adonis-Jesus-Marsyas-Dionysus-Attis-et cetera formula of the Dying God – is no longer efficacious. It rested on the ignorant belief that the Sun died every day, and every year, and that its resurrection was a miracle. The Formula of the New Aeon recognizes Horus, the Child crowned and conquering, as God. We are all members of the Body of God, the Sun; and about our System is the Ocean of Space. This formula is then to be based upon these facts. Our ‘Evil’, ‘Error’, ‘Darkness’, ‘Illusion’, whatever one chooses to call it, is simply a phenomenon of accidental and temporary separateness. If you are ‘walking in darkness’, do not try to make the sun rise by self-sacrifice [i.e. the formula of Osiris], but wait in confidence for the dawn, and enjoy the pleasures of the night meanwhile. The general allusion is to the Equinox Ritual of the G[olden] D[awn].”

There are many aspects of the path of initiation that have changed – or rather, are better understood – in the New Aeon. A more in-depth look into the major aspects that have changed is given in the series of essays “New Aeon Initiation.” What is notable in Thelema is the understanding that the Law of this Aeon will shift again in the future: Thelema is for this Aeon and a new Law will come about when there is another shift, another “Equinox of the Gods.” This is what is spoken to in another line of The Book of the Law:

“But your holy place shall be untouched throughout the centuries: though with fire and sword it be burnt down & shattered, yet an invisible house there standeth, and shall stand until the fall of the Great Equinox; when Hrumachis shall arise and the double-wanded one assume my throne and place. Another prophet shall arise, and bring fresh fever from the skies; another woman shall awake the lust & worship of the Snake; another soul of God and beast shall mingle in the globèd priest; another sacrifice shall stain the tomb; another king shall reign; and blessing no longer be poured To the Hawk-headed mystical Lord!” (AL III:34).

There will be a “fall of the Great Equinox” and, instead of Horus, the god “Hrumachis” will arise, and a new god – “the double-wanded one” – will be installed in the East as Hierophant with a different “formula” for a new aeon. Crowley comments, “Hrumachis is the Dawning Sun; he therefore symbolizes any new course of events.” Therefore “Hrumachis shall arise” is another way to say the light of a new aeon will come. Crowley continues, “The ‘double-wanded one’ is ‘Thmaist of dual form as Thmais and Thmait’, from whom the Greeks derived their Themis, goddess of Justice.” Crowley is referring to Thmaist as an officer of the Golden Dawn ceremonies; Thmaist is identical to the Greek “Themis” and the Egyptian “Maat” or simply “Ma,” all gods of Justice and balance. Crowley continues, “Following him [Horus] will arise the Equinox of Ma, the Goddess of Justice, it may be a hundred or ten thousand years from now; for the Computation of Time is not here as There… Strength will prepare the Reign of Justice. We should begin already, as I deem, to regard this Justice as the Ideal whose Way we should make ready, by virtue of our Force and Fire.”

Summary

Initiation is the process whereby we come to the one Light, the “unknown Crown” within each of us. It can only be attained through our own efforts, although other initiates and adepts may guide us to point the way and help avoid common pitfalls. Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131There is a single Light, although it is expressed in many different ways; it is the same Light regardless of belief or tradition. The old initiatory formula of Osiris became no longer efficacious with the dawning of the New Aeon of Horus whose word of the Law is Thelema. Further details of the nature of initiation in this New Aeon can be explored in the series “New Aeon Initiation.” In the distant future, the Aeon of Horus will itself end and a new god, that of Justice, will arise with a new Law.

Love is the law, love under will.

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New Aeon Initiation: No Perfecting of the Soul

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

New Aeon Initiation

NOTE: written originally on April 20, 2009

5) No Perfecting of the Soul

“The soul is, in its own nature, perfect purity, perfect calm, perfect silence… This soul can never be injured, never marred, never defiled”
– “The Soul of the Desert”

This idea is related strongly to the ideas in the last section of the Self as Redeemer. We assert there is no reliance on God, guru, priest, or any external authority, but it is a misnomer to say we “redeem” ourselves for there is nothing to redeem. Crowley writes, “Redemption is a bad word; it implies a debt. For every star possesses boundless wealth; the only proper way to deal with the ignorant is to bring them to the knowledge of their starry heritage” (The Book of Thoth). The “soul” does not need to be redeemed for it is perfect and pure in itself, it only is because of ignorance of our own Divine Birthright that we think ourselves imperfect and transient. This “soul” isn’t the personality of the individual – the ego-self which identifies with the mind and body – but rather the Self which is coterminous with All Things.

The True Self never dies as it is beyond all limitation, containing all things and relations within Itself. The body along with the mind surely will expire but it is only through the mysterious mechanisms of this mind and body that the Self, beyond all limits and opposites, may become self-aware and consciously experience the rapture of existence. This Self does not need to be redeemed or perfected: there is no Fall of Man to be rectified (Abrahamic religions) nor a Wheel of Suffering to be liberated from (Dharmic religions). There is even no sense of the soul incarnating to attain to higher and higher “spiritual states” or towards “enlightenment.” In the New Aeon, the “starting point” is not a fallen, suffering, and sinful state, but rather we are all Royal and Divine, Divinity-made-manifest, and “existence is pure joy” (Liber AL II:9) if it is seen with eyes that “Bind nothing!” (Liber AL I:22) i.e. eyes that see the unity underlying apparent dualities. As it is said, “Since all things are God, in all things thou seest just so much of God as thy capacity affordeth thee” (The Vision and the Voice, 17th Aethyr). The essential symbol-metaphor is that the Star of Unity is always shining, potentially conscious, but we identify with the ego-self and are therefore mired in duality and limitation (once you identify with the ego, you are immediately not the non-ego or the world and therefore the world becomes Two instead of One). Crowley writes on this imagery in The Law is For All:

“We are not to regard ourselves as base beings, without whose sphere is Light or ‘God.’ Our minds and bodies are veils of the Light within. The uninitiate is a ‘Dark Star,’ and the Great Work for him is to make his veils transparent by ‘purifying’ them. This ‘purification’ is really ‘simplification’; it is not that the veil is dirty, but that the complexity of its folds makes it opaque. The Great Work therefore consists principally in the solution of complexes. Everything in itself is perfect, but when things are muddled, they become ‘evil’.”

The important point is that “everything in itself is perfect” but our minds inevitably “muddle” the situation which ends with us identifying with the ego instead of the True Self. Because all things are perfect in themselves, we obviously do not need any kind of God or guru to bestow redemption, liberation, or initiation upon us: the aspirant need only clear away the cloud-veils of ignorance around her Star, and the True Self will leap up within her awareness and burn away all division and limitation. As Crowley explains in The Law is For All,

“This ‘star’ or ‘Inmost Light’ is the original, individual, eternal essence….we are warned against the idea of a Pleroma, a flame of which we are Sparks, and to which we return when we ‘attain’. That would indeed be to make the whole curse of separate existence ridiculous, a senseless and inexcusable folly. It would throw us back on the dilemma of Manichaeism. The idea of incarnations ‘perfecting’ a thing originally perfect by definition is imbecile. The only sane solution is as given previously, to suppose that the Perfect enjoys experience of (apparent) Imperfection.”

In the New Aeon we go even further than one might expect: the “ignorance” of duality is not inherently evil or bad at all either. In short, duality is “ignorance” for one who still identifies with the ego, but once one has dissolved the ego and identified with the True Self one recognizes duality as the necessary means for self-awareness. For the individual mired in duality and identification with the ego, “coition-dissolution” is her formula, but one who has dissolved the ego and identified with the True Self has the formula of “creation-parturition”… and “The All, thus interwoven of These, is Bliss” (The Book of Lies). The body and the mind, with its inherently dualistic conceptions, are a prison of ignorance for the uninitiate and a temple for performing the Sacrament of Life for the initiate.

It takes the experience of the dissolution of the ego to overcome the morbid fear of death and accept duality not as the condition of our suffering but as the opportunity for us to rejoice in the uniting of diverse elements (self and world in each experience, along with the Supreme Union of ego and non-ego/subject and object). The world is both “None… and two” (Liber AL I:28)… None, the continuous, is “divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union. This is the creation of the world, that the pain of division is as nothing, and the joy of dissolution all” (Liber AL I:29-30). In this conception, duality and the “creation of the world” as we know it (i.e. the normal dualistic world which we commonly inhabit) is actually the condition of “the chance of union.” Only if two things are separate can they unite and have the possibility of “the joy of dissolution” wherein the self becomes “all.” Crowley explains, “Nuit shews the object of creating the Illusion of Duality. She said: The world exists as two, for only so can there be known the Joy of Love, whereby are Two made One. Aught that is One is alone, and has little pain in making itself two, that it may know itself, and love itself, and rejoice therein” (“Djeridensis Working”). Thereby does one embrace both unity and multiplicity (duality) in a higher Unity.

This perception of “the consciousness of the continuity of existence” (Liber AL I:22) is not something given by a god or a guru but a natural birthright of each individual. It is, as described in the first part, a natural step of Growth towards psychological-spiritual Maturity. And this also leads us to the final point: even this is a step along the Path. It may be the “End” in one sense (the end of the dominance of the ego, for once thing) but it is also the beginning, for “death is life to come” (The Book of Lies). One still has to live one’s life. One might say, “Before initiation: work, live, and play; after initiation: work, live, and play,” for coming to identify with the True Self doesn’t mean the end of one’s mind and body along with their normal needs. In fact, the mind and body – the ego-self – are not destroyed permanently but rather they are reborn with renewed energy, the veils of ignorance (of duality as well as the falsity of the doctrines of the Fall of Man and the inherent Suffering of the world) having been torn away. Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131One does not suddenly obtain the earthly power of a king or have the intellectual power of Einstein, but the change is something largely “internal” or psychological, for in initiation, “nothing is changed or can be changed; but all is trulier understood with every step” (Little Essays Toward Truth, “Mastery”). It is this understanding of our True Selves, beyond the veils of mind and body, which we each strive to attain so that we may more effectively and joyfully manifest our wills in the world. The task is then simple yet difficult: each individual must dissolve the ego and their identification with it to identify with the True Self, always shining though we are unaware, which is beyond dualities and all limitation. In the end, “All you have to do is to be yourself, to do your will, and to rejoice” (“The Law of Liberty”).

“No star can stray from its self-chosen course: for in the infinite soul of space all ways are endless, all-embracing: perfect.”
-The Heart of the Master

Love is the law, love under will.

Part 4: Self as Redeemer  

New Aeon Initiation: The True Self contains Good & Evil, Upright & Averse

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

New Aeon Initiation

NOTE: written originally on April 14, 2009

2) The True Self contains Good & Evil, Upright & Averse

“My adepts stand upright; their head above the heavens, their feet below the hells.”
– “Liber Tzaddi,” line 40

Initiation in the New Aeon is “the Child Growing to Maturity” by the slaying of the ego-self whose “death is life to come” for the True Self. But what is the nature of that True Self? Essentially, the True Self transcends dualities. Specifically, the True Self transcends the moral duality of Good and Evil.

People have a common tendency to imagine their goal as their “Higher Self” which they imagine as Absolute Good, caring, benevolent, etc. In short, many people construct an ideal or an abstraction of their highest ideals and believe that to be the goal. Crowley asserts in Magick Without Tears, “He is not, let me say with emphasis, a mere abstraction from yourself; and that is why I have insisted rather heavily that the term ‘Higher Self’ implies ‘a damnable heresy and a dangerous delusion.” The term “Higher Self” is a delusion because the aim of Initiation in the New Aeon is to bring the individual to identify with the “Total Self” or “All-Self,” not the “Higher Self” (or “Lower Self”). We must explore and conquer both the “good” and “evil” sides of ourselves: in terms of modern psychology, we cannot neglect our own Shadow. As Crowley advises, “every magician must firmly extend his empire to the depth of hell” (MIT&P, chapter 21). As Nietzsche says, “The great epochs of our life are the occasions when we gain the courage to rebaptize our evil qualities as our best qualities” (Beyond Good & Evil, Aphorism 116).

Much of Thelema’s imagery may be seen as “sinister.” Examples include the “Beast” and “Babalon” from the Book of Revelations (where they do not appear in a favorable light), the experience of divinity as “evil kisses corrupt[ing] the blood… as an acid eats into steel, as a cancer that utterly corrupts the body” (“Liber LXV” I:13, 16) and “poison” (“Liber LXV” III:39 IV: 24-25 V:52-53, 55-56), “the concealed” within oneself wherein “all things are in thine own Self” (Liber Aleph, “De Libidine Secreta”) is called Hell or Satan (who is identified with the Sun in “Liber Samekh”), etc. These could all be considered as attempts to bring the psyche of the individual to acceptance of both the upright and averse aspects of existence. One might even say it is the “darker” side of the self emerging because of its neglect in Old Aeon systems which focus on Good, Virtue, Grace, etc. and exclude their opposites. In the New Aeon we assert that the True Self contains (and thereby transcends) both Good and Evil. “Less than All cannot satisfy Man” (William Blake, “There is No Natural Religion”).

This idea of the True Self as containing both Heaven and Hell, Good and Evil, Upright and Averse, is captured succinctly in “Liber Tzaddi,” lines 33-42:

“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… Thus shall equilibrium become perfect.”

As mentioned in the last section, the True Self transcends the duality of Life and Death. In this section we see that the True Self transcends the duality of Upright and Averse, Good and Evil. The True Self is even “beyond Wisdom and Folly.” We must unite both with the Upright, “the glittering Image in the place ever golden,” and with the Averse, “that Blind Creature of the Slime.” Only thereby may man come to knowledge of his true Self: otherwise the individual will have a lopsided perspective of the self. One must remember that it is only because of its roots deep into the dark ground that a tree is able to produce fruit. As the psychologist Abraham Maslow noted, “Man’s higher nature rests upon man’s lower nature, needing it as a foundation and collapsing without this foundation” (Toward a Psychology of Being, 1968).

The method of Initiation in the New Aeon is therefore one of Union of Opposites and Equilibrium. The equilibrium is not that of moderation, the Middle Path of Buddha (or the Doctrine of the Mean of Aristotle), where we seek to avoid extremes and remain in the center. The equilibrium of New Aeon Initiation is understood as the balance attained by pushing to both extremes of any duality. “Go thou unto the outermost places and subdue all things” (“Liber LXV” I:45). We don’t take the upright (“white light”) or averse (“satanic”) of the Upright/Averse duality and aim for that alone, we aim for both the heavens and the hells. One might say, symbolically, the Old Aeon is like a pole or a tree, where the vertical section is straight and narrow, avoiding extremes. The New Aeon is then like a large building or a pyramid where the base is expanded horizontally. This symbolically shows that, by pushing towards the extremes (expanding the base horizontally in this metaphor), we enlarge our foundations which thereby allow us to withstand the “winds” of experience better. As it says in The Book of the Law, “Wisdom says: be strong! Then canst thou bear more joy. Be not animal; refine thy rapture! …But exceed! exceed! Strive ever to more!” (II:70-72). William Blake also enigmatically stated, “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”

Again, we can look again to Horus (with the Infinitely Contracted Core of Flame as His Heart and the Infinitely Expansive Space as His Body) as a symbol of That which transcends the dualities of Good and Evil, Upright and Averse. In uniting with both the “glittering Image” and the “Blind Creature of the Slime,” we come to know ourselves as the All which contains but transcends both: “For two things are done and a third thing is begun… Horus leaps up thrice armed from the womb of his mother” (“Liber A’ash,” line 8). As Horus says in The Vision and the Voice, “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.” We might add, “I am good, and I am evil, and I am that which is beyond them.” Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131Horus, the Sun, is a symbol of That which contains & transcends dualities, an image of our True Selves, identical in essence yet diverse in expression for each individual; other cognate symbols include the point in the circle (the Solar glyph), the Rose-Cross, semen and menstrual fluid combined (two live, generative fluids combined into a third which “is one substance and not two, not living and not dead, neither liquid nor solid, neither hot nor cold, neither male nor female” -MIT&P, chapter 20), the Heart Girt with the Serpent (see “Liber LXV”), the cross in the circle, the circle squared (Liber AL II:47), the Sun and the Moon conjoined (called “the Mark of the Beast” in “Liber Reguli” and “the secret sigil of the Beast” in the 1st Aethyr of The Vision and the Voice), the Lion and the Eagle, the word ABRAHADABRA, and infinite others. In a certain ritual where the individual comes to identify with Horus (“Liber XLIV: The Mass of the Phoenix”), we proclaim our transcendence of the moral duality: “There is no grace: there is no guilt: / This is the Law: DO WHAT THOU WILT!”

“For Perfection abideth not in the Pinnacles, or in the Foundations, but in the ordered Harmony of one with all.”
– “Liber Causae,” line 32

 

Love is the law, love under will.

Part 3: Embrace of the World 
← Part 1: Introduction & Death/Attainment as Non-Cataclysmic 

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

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

New Aeon Initiation

NOTE: written originally on April 12, 2009

0) Introduction

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

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

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

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

1) Death/Attainment as Non-cataclysmic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving onto AUM becoming AUMGN, Crowley writes,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love is the law, love under will.

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