the absolute

The First Act of Magick

The Primary Act of Magick

The First Act of Magick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love is the law, love under will.

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Thelemic Mysticism

Thelemic Mysticism – part 4: Mysticism in Practice – The Lover

Thelemic Mysticism

[ ← Part 3: Mysticism in Practice – Intro & The Man of Earth ← |
Part 5: Mysticism in Practice – Crossing the Abyss & The Hermit → ]

PART 4: MYSTICISM IN PRACTICE – The Lover

2) The Lover: Communion with the Holy Guardian Angel

• “O my Lord, my beloved! How shall I indite songs, when even the memory of the shadow of thy glory is a thing beyond all music of speech or of silence?”
Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV, II:48
• “And the Beloved shall abide with Thee.”
Liber Stellae Rubeae sub figura LXVI, line 32
• “He shall await the sword of the Beloved and bare his throat for the stroke.”
Liber Liberi vel Lapidus Lazuli sub figura VII, III:47

If one persists in the work of the first Stage, continuing one’s meditation/devotion with increasing fervor and dedication, one will inevitably come to this second Stage. The second Stage can be likened to the Grade of “Lover.” This is the middle of the Path where one communes with the Divine, the Absolute, the One, et cetera, as a Lover with the Beloved.

In Thelemic Mysticism, this Love or Communion is understood under the figure of “the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel,” and it is often symbolized by a heart encircled by a serpent or the Rose-Cross. This is appropriate to the Grade of “Lover” because this stage is often described as the meeting or union between Lover (the Mystic) and Beloved (the Object of aspiration); this is the “Spiritual Marriage” spoken of by many Mystics.

“Union”: It should be clearly understood that “union” has two related but distinct meanings that are often conflated.

1) Two united but distinct: At this second Stage of the Mystic Path, “union” refers to two things uniting but remaining distinct. In the language of Thelemic Mysticism, the Adept and the Holy Guardian Angel are united like lovers, they meet and interact and enjoy one another but they remain separate as Adept and Angel. “Love” requires the interaction and union of “Lover” and “Beloved,” though they are united. “Communion” may be a more accurate term. The persistence in this Love so that it becomes complete and perfect, so to speak, leads to the next stage.

2) Two united into One (or None) without distinction: In the third Stage of the Mystic Path (which we will explore later), “union” refers to these two things uniting so completely that there is a dissolution of separateness, leaving only One Thing (or “No-Thing”). “Absorption” or “annihilation” may be more accurate terms.

The distinction between these two notions of “union” is important because, as mentioned previously, they are often conflated by both readers and writers of Mysticism. For now, it should be understood that “union” in the second Stage of the Lover refers to the first definition, where two things are united that still remain distinct (soul & God, subject & object, ego & non-ego, et cetera).

The Nature of the Second Stage:

This second stage of the Mystic Path is often called Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel in Thelemic Mysticism. In Christian Mysticism, it is often called “Illumination.”

“And again I was caught up into the presence of my Lord Adonai, and the knowledge and Conversation of the Holy One, the Angel that Guardeth me.”
Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV, V:41

The primary characteristic of this Illumination is the distinct and immediate perception of the “presence” of the Divine (or God/Absolute/Lord/Truth, et cetera).

This “presence” is not a mere metaphor or artistic flourish: it is a distinct, direct, experiential certainty of the presence of the Absolute, though this is expressed in various ways by various Mystics. This distinct, direct, experiential certainty is one aspect of the “Sense of Objectivity/Reality” mentioned in the previous section on “Mysticism in Theory.

• “Even as evil kisses corrupt the blood, so do my words devour the spirit of man.
Liber LXV, I:14
• “I was stricken as a bird by the bolt of the thunderer; I was pierced as the thief by the Lord of the Garden.”
Liber LXV, IV:40
“All this while did Adonai pierce my being with his sword…”
Liber LXV, V:14

This “presence” is often felt as the Divine “intruding” into the consciousness, so metaphors often involve “piercing” and “penetrating.” The use of the metaphor of the Divine as the Bridegroom and the Mystic as the Bride consummating their Spiritual Marriage should therefore come as no surprise.

This “Spiritual Marriage” corresponds to the second step of concentration in the Hindu system of Yoga: dhyana. In the first step of Yoga, dharana, one concentrates all of one’s thought upon a single Object, and there is much difficulty; this corresponds with the first Stage of the Mystic Path, the Man of Earth. This second step of concentration is called dhyana. In this second Stage of the Mystic Path, the Lover, there come times where the “subject” appears to disappear and only the Object remains, often co-occurring with a sense of ananda  (bliss). Dhyana also can be felt as a union of subject and object but not a complete union where both are annihilated. Dhyana represents a powerful and distinct stage of meditation, that is often said to be a lesser form of Samadhi, the total union of subject and object that is the Goal of Mysticism, characteristic of the third Stage of the Mystic Path, the Hermit.

The are various secondary characteristics of this Illumination:

“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 LXV, II:45-46

1) “Joy,” “bliss,” or “ecstasy”: Joy, bliss, and ecstasy are not the primary factors of Illumination, they are Illumination’s natural by-products. That is, they do not constitute Illumination itself, but they often accompany Illumination. Crowley often likens  Illumination to the union of chemical elements, which naturally gives off light and heat. The “union of chemical elements” is analogous to Illumination itself, while the “light and heat” refer to the joy, bliss, and ecstasy that are by-products of the union. This feeling is felt as a joy that transcends one’s normal likes and dislikes, one’s typical pleasures and pains. Conversely, many of the anxieties, worries, and fears that plague the Mystic will fall away or seem petty in contrast to this Mystic communion.

“Having attained the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel (by a male effort so to speak) the Adept becomes receptive, feminine, patient, surrendering his will wholly to that of his Angel… The aspiration towards Him is masculine. At the moment of achievement it is replaced by passivity…”
Commentaries to Liber LXV, II:45-46

2) Passivity: The Mystic will often feel a sense of “surrender” or “passivity.” The achievement of this Stage requires great will and endurance, but it culminates in a surrender of that will. This is the surrender of the “personal will,” the volition or will-power of the individual, which allows for the Divine Will to take its place; it is the difference between one’s personal wishes/whims and the True Will. This release of “personal will” is virtually universal across all Mystics, especially Christian Mystics. It is because of this “surrender” or “passivity” that the image of a virgin is often used to describe the Mystic at this point: the virgin is “pure” insofar as her desire is only for One Thing, the Object of the Mystic Goal. In Western terms, the “virgin” is chaste except for God, and she passively awaits the coming of the Lord, so to speak. In the New Aeon, we understand this Divine Will to be nothing other than our own True Will, a more perfect expression of ourselves, rather than being something from “outside” of the self. We might say, “Let Thy Will, which is mine, be done.”

• “Neschamah: This is the faculty of under-standing the Word of Chiah [True Will]. It is the intelligence or intuition of what Jechidah [True Self] wishes to discover about itself.”
Little Essays Towards Truth, “Man”
• “The intuitions of the Neschamah are guaranteed by interior certainty.”
Confessions, chapter 64

3) Increased intuition: The term “intuition” means many things, but it seems to be the best word to describe this sense. Upon achieving the Stage of Illumination, the Mystic may receive many intuitive glimpses, whether through dreams, fantasy, certain thoughts, visions, et cetera. These are distinct from the normal “conscience” that Freud describes as the “super-ego,” which is essentially that little voice in your head that tells you what is right or wrong based on what you have been taught by your family, peers, and society. These intuitions – sometimes heard as voices but not necessarily – are a “voice” that represents the promptings of one’s “deeper Self,” a truer, more holistic sense of Self represented by the Holy Guardian Angel in Thelema. One may also start to see the deeper, more symbolic meanings of things, perceiving “divine truths” in the most mundane affairs; psychologically, this relates to the fact that the Mystic has opened channels to her Unconscious mind, which innately perceives the various interconnections and relations between things just as the conscious mind sees their differences. In Qabalistic terms, this is the “Neschamah” (the “spiritual intuition” or “divine intelligence”) that is attributed to Binah on the Tree of Life.

“A Man who is doing his True Will has the inertia of the Universe to assist him.”
Magick in Theory and Practice, “Introduction and Theorems”, III:9

4) Flow: Related to passivity and increased intuition, there is often a sense that life “flows” much more freely and naturally. Things seems to fall into place without much or any effort. This is the result of “unifying the Will,” specifically the harmony between conscious mind and the Unconscious. The immense inertia that is felt in the first Stage, where one is fighting against the world and one’s lower nature, seems to temporarily give way to a sense that one is flowing with the momentum of the world.

“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. Therefore, though I call it Light, it is not Light, nor absence of Light. Many also have sought to describe it by contradictions, since through transcendent negation of all speech it may by some natures be attained. Also by images and symbols have men striven to express it: but always in vain.”
Liber CL: De Lege Libellum

5) Light: The metaphor of this stage is almost invariably one of Light, hence the name “Illumination.” This is sometimes literally perceived by the Mystic at the moment of Illumination. It sometimes involves blinding light or an increasing light like a “Golden Dawn.” The Light may also be used by some Mystics as a metaphor for their sudden sense of clarity, of seeing beyond the normal ego-self and perceiving a much greater “presence.” Sometimes the Light is used as metaphor for the joy/bliss/rapture itself. Sometimes the Light is a metaphor for the “Creative energy” with which one feels one is infused in this Illumination or Communion (or “Knowledge and Conversation”). Nonetheless, this Light – sometimes called LVX – is virtually always present in some form or another in this second Stage of “Illumination,” whether literal or metaphorical. This “Light” is one reason among many that this stage is typically related to Solar imagery; Qabalistically, this is Tiphareth on the Tree of Life.

“I was also granted what mystics describe as ‘the Beatific Vision’ which is the most characteristic of those attributed to Tiphereth, the archetypal idea of beauty and harmony. In this vision one retains one’s normal consciousness, but every impression of daily life is as enchanting and exquisite as an ode of Keats. The incidents of life become a harmonious unity; one is lost in a rosy dream of romantic happiness. One may compare it to the effect produced by wine on some people. There is, however, no unreality in the vision. One is not blinded to the facts of existence. It is simply that the normal incoherence and discrepancy between them has been harmonized.”
Confessions, chapter 78

6) Beauty: Typically, the Mystic will perceive a certain sense of beauty in all things. This is sometimes called the Beatific Vision by Crowley. The term “Beatific Vision” originally comes from Christianity, used by people like Thomas Aquinas, and it was used to refer to the immediate knowledge of God that souls enjoy in Heaven. The Mystic naturally and effortlessly sees the Divine permeating all things in the world. This is sometimes expressed as Unity-in-Diversity, where there are distinct things seen in the world but one intuitively grasps their underlying unity in the One/Absolute/God. This is often described by Christian Mystics as Earth being “transfigured” into a new Heaven, or Heaven (or “New Jerusalem”) descending to Earth, or realizing the Kingdom of Heaven is all around. As one example, Blake describes this Beatific Vision when he writes, “To see a world in a grain of sand, / And a heaven in a wild flower, / Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, / And eternity in an hour.” Similarly, Henry Vaughan wrote, “Each bush and oak doth know I AM.” One can see that Infinity is perceived, yet “Finity” or duality remains; there is still multiplicity but there is Unity perceived therein. Mystics who remain at this stage are typically pantheists, meaning they see all things as identical with God/Absolute and themselves as part thereof. If one persists to the third Stage, one comes to identity with the Absolute itself rather than being simply a part thereof.

Because many of these by-products of Illumination are overwhelming and enrapturing, the Mystic is liable think that this is the end of the Path. It is helpful to remember that this is only the middle pylon along the Path, and that the true Unitive Life has still not been achieved. This is why Crowley calls this stage “The Next Step” and not “The Last Step.”

“It is impossible to lay down precise rules by which a man may attain to the knowledge and conversation of His Holy Guardian Angel; for that is the particular secret of each one of us; a secret not to be told or even divined by any other, whatever his grade. It is the Holy of Holies, whereof each man is his own High Priest, and none knoweth the Name of his brother’s God, or the Rite that invokes Him.”
One Star in Sight

Uniqueness of this Experience: It should be noted that this particular Stage is often very personal and unique, regardless of the underlying unity of various Mystics’ descriptions.

The way in which one understands or perceives the Presence of this Mystic Object depends entirely on one’s own history, make-up, development, intelligence, and understanding. One may see this as becoming the Bride of Christ, and another may see this as being pierced by a Divine sword; one may see this as a blinding Light, and another as a joyful Darkness. One may see this as an obliteration of one’s reality, and another may see this as awakening to Reality.

To set up expectations as to what Illumination (or Knowledge and Conversation) may entail is, in a sense, an impediment to being open and surrendering to what truly is. The descriptions of these Mystic states are, therefore, simply to be used as guideposts along the Path, not as absolutes to construct an intellectual system around. The sole rule in all cases is “Invoke often.”

Perfection isn’t immediate: Even if one has experienced the most blindingly exalted and ultimate version of this Illumination, one is not suddenly purged of all “bad” qualities (meaning, in the New Aeon, all aspects of oneself that are detrimental to or inhibiting of the True Will).

Although some habits may be “blasted” out of one’s system by the Illumination, some habits remain or return shortly after the experience of Illumination. There is further work to align the various aspects of oneself – body, emotions, thoughts, desires, et cetera  – under the “guidance” of this Divine Presence, of the Holy Guardian Angel.

It is typical of a Mystic at this Stage to think that she will never again see herself as separate from the Divine, that she will always be one with her True Will, that she is perfected, but the time always comes where this Illumination slowly fades away. This is a “non-abiding” union, and one inevitably “comes down” from it. The “abiding union” comes if one persists to the third Stage of the Mystic Path.

One must therefore be always vigilant to bring oneself to live more and more in this Light of Illumination, continuing the work of Purification and Consecration until All is One.

The Work: To a Mystic that has achieved this second Stage of the Path and entered through the Middle Pylon of Illumination or the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, there is still the final “crisis” of the Path. This final Crisis is known as the Crossing of the Abyss, the dissolution of a sense of a separate self, and a successful “Crossing” means that one has attained the third Stage of the Path.

“The Self surrendered must not be less than the All-Self; one must not come before the altar of the Most High with an impure or an imperfect offering. As it is written in Liber LXV, ‘To await Thee is the end, not the beginning.'”
Liber ABA: Book 4, Part II, chapter 6: The Wand

To Cross the Abyss, one must surrender all that one has and all that one is.  In order to surrender all that one has and is, though, one must first build oneself into a Whole.

If one has not performed the Purification of all “adverse” elements from oneself and Consecrated all other elements of oneself to one’s Single Goal, the surrender will not be complete or total. The Work of the Lover, after having achieved Knowledge and Conversation, is therefore one of Equilibrium: one must build up all opposites (or “complements”) within oneself to become Whole, not being attached or obsessed by anything incomplete or partial.

• “The Adept is not a perfection of what he feels to be the noblest part of him, but a Microcosm. He [must] complete the formation of himself as an image of the All.”
Commentaries to Liber LXV, II:45-46
• “For Perfection abideth not in the Pinnacles, or in the Foundations, but in the ordered Harmony of one with all.”
Liber LXI vel Causae, line 32
• “The microcosm is an exact image of the Macrocosm; the Great Work is the raising of the whole man in perfect balance to the power of Infinity.”
Magick in Theory & Practice, chapter 0: The Magical Theory of the Universe
• “[There is] the Necessity of extending constantly thy Nature to new Mates upon every Plane of Being, so that thou mayst become the perfect Microcosm, an Image without Flaw of all that is.”
Liber Aleph, ch. 44, “De Sapientia in Re Sexuali”
• “Imagine listening to Beethoven with the prepossession that C is a good note and F a bad one; yet this is exactly the stand point from which all uninitiates contemplate the universe. Obviously, they miss the music.”
Confessions, chapter 86

This Work of achieving Equilibrium or Wholeness of the self is the idea in Magick that is understood as becoming a perfect Microcosm of the Universe (or “Macrocosm”). This means that all aspects of the self must be balanced, especially the moral and intellectual aspects of the self. If one clings to the light and ignores the darkness, one is not equilibrated; if one clings to virtues and ignores vices, one is not equilibrated; if one clings to one belief and ignores its opposite, one is not equilibrated.

This is the reason that the “Higher Self” is a misleading term: this is often taken to mean that one’s “Higher Self” includes all of one’s best and noblest qualities elevated to the highest degree. In fact, one is seeking the Whole, both upright and averse, and not simply the Highest. 

This is what is generally said by Mystics to be the necessity of having a Love of All. This “Love” is not a sentimental or romantic kind of attitude which most people mean by the term. In the broadest sense, this Love is acceptance. In the emotions, a lack of Love or acceptance shows itself in the feeling of disgust.  This is why Liber LXV instructs us to “Go thou unto the outermost places and subdue all things. Subdue thy fear and thy disgust. Then—yield!” One must fully embrace all aspects of Nature, both the Nature of the Universe and one’s own Nature. The way to destroy demons is through Love.

This is the basic work of Equilibrium so that one may become a perfect Microcosm, the “All-Self,” in order that one may fully surrender all that one has and is. This why St. Francis of Assisi visited lepers, the sight of which disgusted him. This is why Buddhists meditate in the presence of decaying corpses. This is why Aleister Crowley deliberately ate Leah Hirsig’s feces to show he was indifferent to all material differences (Yes, that really happened). In short, we must confront everything that makes us squeamish, all that brings us a sense of disgust, all that we consider Evil… and unite with it in “love under will” so that no element of the Universe is not also part of ourselves. As perfect and complete microcosms of the Cosmos, we can then truly proclaim what is said in the Gnostic Mass, “There is no part of me that is not of the gods.”

Crowley lays out the essence this practice in Liber V vel Reguli when he writes, “The Magician should devise for himself a definite technique for destroying ‘evil.’ The essence of such a practice will consist in training the mind and the body to confront things which case fear, pain, disgust, shame and the like. He must learn to endure them, then to become indifferent to them, then to analyze them until they give pleasure and instruction, and finally to appreciate them for their own sake, as aspects of Truth. When this has been done, he should abandon them, if they are really harmful in relation to health and comfort.”

The Ordeal: The Ordeal of this Grade is a crucial one, known as the Crossing of the Abyss, and it will be discussed in the next section as the prelude to the third and final Grade or Stage of the Mystic Path.

← Part 3: Mysticism in Practice – Intro & The Man of Earth ← |
Part 5: Mysticism in Practice – Crossing the Abyss & The Hermit → ]

Thelemic Mysticism

Thelemic Mysticism – part 3: Mysticism in Practice – Introduction & The Man of Earth

Thelemic Mysticism

[ ← Part 2: Mysticism in Theory ← | → Part 4: Mysticism in Practice – The Lover → ]

PART 3: MYSTICISM IN PRACTICE

Conceived as a Path, Mysticism is the Science and Art of achieving the direct experience of the ultimate spiritual truth or goal. There are many ways of conceptualizing this Path and of treading this Path. These will be explored in turn.

The Conceptualizations of the Mystic Path

The Mystic Path refers to the process of achieving the direct experience of the Mystic Goal. There are two fundamental ways of conceiving  or conceptualizing this Path:

1) The Journey: The Goal is something we do not have but must attain, obtain, or achieve. We must therefore go on a “journey” (or “pilgrimage,” “quest,” “sojourn,” et cetera) to get what we do not yet have. 

2) The Transmutation: This Goal is something we already have but are not aware of it. We must therefore undergo a process of transmuting ourselves into one who is capable of perceiving this Goal, of  “uncovering” or “discovering” it.

The labels of “The Journey” and “The Transmutation” are for convenience, though the reasons for choosing these names will become apparent. Both of these conceptions of the Path are essentially identical, although using different metaphors. Sometimes both labels are intermingled with each other in a single metaphor. In a way, they are just reflections of one another: Transmutation may be considered as a Journey inwards until the Goal is perceived, and the Journey may be considered as a series of Transmutations until the Goal is reached. The use of one metaphor over another often implies or is the result of the particular metaphysical and/or theological views of whomever is speaking, but some Mystics – including Aleister Crowley – can operate within both the “Journey” and “Transmutation” metaphors.

“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… 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. Nevertheless, as a fire cannot be started with iron alone, in the beginning one system may be suited for one seeker, another for another. We therefore who are without the chains of ignorance, look closely into the heart of the seeker and lead him by the path which is best suited to his nature unto the ultimate end of all things, the supreme realization, the Life which abideth in Light, yea, the Life which abideth in Light.”
Liber Porta Lucis, lines 14, 20-22

We should always remember “the map is not the territory.” A certain type of map may be more useful to a certain type of person over another type – for example, a map using Buddhist terminology would probably be less useful to a Christian and a map using Jewish symbolism may obscure the Path more than reveal it for a Hindu. One of the natural outgrowths of Thelema’s syncretism of various traditions is its ability to fluidly move between different “maps” without getting caught in any one particular way of thinking about the “territory” of the Mystic Path. We must remember that the Mystic Goal always was and always will be, by its very nature, ultimately ineffable; it is truly incommunicable in the language of Reason and therefore the “secret of secrets.”

The Mystic Path, because it deals largely with the practicalities of the Work, is more amenable to language but still liable to confusion because it deals with the “inner life” of the individual of which we can only speak using symbols and metaphors. The Mystic Path also is highly variable depending on the constitution of the individual and their culture, yet there is a unity in the Mystic methods of attainment that certain individuals like Crowley were able to perceive beyond the variety of language used to describe the methods. Before looking into these methods, we will look further into the different conceptualizations of the Path: the Journey and the Transmutation.

The Journey

• “I shoot up vertically like an arrow, and become that Above. But it is death, and the flame of the pyre. Ascend in the flame of the pyre, O my soul!”
Liber Liberi vel Lapidis Lazuli sub figura VII, I:37-39
• “Verily and Amen! I passed through the deep sea, and by the rivers of running water that abound therein, and I came unto the Land of No Desire.”
Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV, III:1
• “…They abode in the Land that the far-off travellers call Naught.”
Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV, V:59
• “…the thread wherewith I guide you to the heart of the groves of Eleusis.”
Liber Tzaddi vel Hamus Hermeticus sub figura XC, line 23
• “At the end, be the end far distant as the stars that lie in the navel of Nuit…”
Liber A’ash vel Capricorni Pneumatici sub figura CCCLXX, line 38

Included in this category are all “Journeys” from a state that is “low” or “bad” to a state that is “high” or “good,” including:

  • The Journey from the Darkness of ignorance toward the Light of Truth.
  • The Journey from the lowest sphere of Malkuth toward the highest sphere of Kether, often called “climbing the Tree of Life.” Likewise, all “emanationist” theories that involve the emanation of the One into the Many, involve the “Journey” back to the Original One, sometimes called “The Path of Return.”
  • The Journey or Climbing of “Jacob’s Ladder” from Earth to Heaven, or upward through the various “hierarchies” of the Divine (e.g. through the hierarchies of Dionysius or the “Ten Heavens” of Dante).
  • The Journey from the realm of Samsara “across the stream” toward the realm of Nirvana. 
  • The Journey from home to some sacred place – for example, John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” where one travels from one’s home in the “City of Destruction” to the “Celestial City,” or – alternatively – the search for the Lost Paradise such as The Garden of Eden, El Dorado, Shangri-la, or Shambhala.
  • The Journey of the Lover to find and unite with the Beloved.

All “Quests” for holy, sacred, or rare objects fall under this category of the Journey including:

  • The Quest for the Holy Grail.
  • The Quest for the Elixir of Immortality / Potion of Eternal Life / Fountain of Youth.
  • The Search for the “buried treasure,” as in Matthew 13:44, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field.”
  • The Search for the “Lost Word.”

There are several characteristics of the Path that are implied by using the metaphor of “The Journey”:

  • One begins in an un-enlightened or “un-initiated” state. In the language of Magical Orders, one’s Path begins as one of the “profane.” This often involves understanding oneself as full of ignorance, dominated by the senses and instincts, and without any knowledge of one’s true Path. The “Journey” is from this state to the “perfected” state of achieving the Mystic Goal.
  • One is now on a difficult Journey, which will be full of hardships or obstacles (the “ordeals”), and there will be great uncertainty, even regardless of the fact that many “maps” have been made of the “Path” to guide one on one’s Journey.
  • There will be several “landmarks” along the Way (the “stages” or “grades”), both marking one’s progress as well as directing one further along the Path.

The Transmutation

• “There is none that shall be cast down or lifted up: all is ever as it was.”
-Liber AL vel Legis sub figura CCXX, II:58
• “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.”
New Comment to Liber AL, I:8
• “The prophet cried against the mountain; come thou hither, that I may speak with thee! The mountain stirred not. Therefore went the prophet unto the mountain, and spake unto it. But the feet of the prophet were weary, and the mountain heard not his voice. But I have called unto Thee, and I have journeyed unto Thee, and it availed me not. I waited patiently, and Thou wast with me from the beginning.”
Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV, II:57-60
• “Initiation means the Journey Inwards: nothing is changed or can be changed; but all is trulier understood with every step.”
Little Essays Towards Truth, “Mastery”

The “Transmutation” is a metaphor that essentially implies that we already are in possession of the “Goal” – we are already enlightened, already divine – but, because of our “imperfection” or “ignorance,” we are unaware of it. “Transmutation” therefore involves changing, perfecting, or “transmuting” the self in various ways in order that one may come to a clearer awareness thereof. All metaphors that involve altering, changing, or “perfecting” oneself are included in this category, including:

  • The Great Work of Alchemy, transmuting the “dross” of the self into “gold”
  • Progressively “seeing” one’s inherently “pure” or “perfect” nature, as when it is said in Mahayana Buddhism, “People should realize that the buddha-nature is something they have always had”
  • The process of “building the Temple of Solomon,” or – similarly – the process of working upon the crude “rough ashlar” in order to form it into the “perfect ashlar.”
  • The transmutation of the Kundalini serpent, bringing it from the lowest chakra at the base of the spine (Muladhara), all the way up the spine, to rest at the “third eye” (Ajna).
  • The “Journey to the Center” as seen in images of labyrinths and mandalas, which combines the ideas of the Journey and the Transmutation.

The metaphor of Transmutation implies several things. Primarily, Transmutation implies that we already “have” the Goal but our consciousness has not been “perfected” in order to become consciously aware of it. The “Path” is therefore a process of Transmutation that involves subjecting oneself to various processes – disciplines, purifications, et cetera – that enable this inherent Truth to become available to our conscious awareness.

Again, it should be remembered that both “The Journey” and “The Transmutation” are two sides of the same coin. As can be seen by the quotations above, both metaphors are used within Thelema even within the same text. The purpose of this section is to show the various manifestations of these two ways by which the Mystic Path is understood and to show that they are, in fact, two ways of understanding the same Path. 

The Stages or “Grades” of the Path

“Who calls us Thelemites will do no wrong, if he look but close into the word. For there are therein Three Grades, the Hermit, and the Lover, and the man of Earth. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”
Liber AL vel Legis sub figura CCXX, I:40

There are as many ways to conceptualize the various stages of the Mystic Path as there are Mystics. Some Mystics even use several “maps.” In the end, the Path is infinitely varied but maintains a near-identical essence in all cases. There are three fundamental stages of the Mystic Path that correspond with the Three Grades mentioned in The Book of the Law. Each stage or “Grade” is characterized by a certain “ordeal” that leads one to enter the Grade, and a certain “work” characteristic of the Grade. This loosely correspond to the beginning (ordeal) and middle (work) of the particular “Grade.” 

1) The Man of Earth: The Beginning of the Path

The first stage can be likened to the Grade of “Man of Earth.” This is the beginning of the Path where one is a “neophyte,” which literally means “newly planted.” 

“The Aspiration to become a Master is rooted in the Trance of Sorrow.”
Little Essays Toward Truth, “Sorrow”

The OrdealEveryone is drawn to the Path for the same, basic reason: Discontent.

Without some form of discontent (or “dissatisfaction” or “dis-ease”), there would never be any reason to seek or to strive for anything. Everyone begins with a discontent in some degree. Some begin with the impetus that amounts to realizing “There must be something more than this.” At the extreme, this same discontent approaches what is called “The Trance of Sorrow,” which amounts to realizing that all material things are finite, temporal, and subject to death. In Buddhist language, the First Noble Truth that “Existence is suffering” becomes overwhelmingly evident. The Path is then understood as “transcending suffering,” “transcending the temporal/finite,” or even “mastering myself and my environment.”

“It is the Trance of sorrow that has determined one to undertake the task of emancipation. This is the energising force of Law; it is the rigidity of the fact that everything is sorrow which moves one to the task, and keeps one on the Path”
Eight Lectures on Yoga, “Niyama”

Conversely, one may be drawn to the Path by the opposite or complement of discontent, which amounts to being drawn to the Path by having some kind of perception of the possibility of one’s “higher development.” One may realize that there is “something more to this” in the sense that one comes to believe that there is a possibility of life that involves greater wisdom, understanding, power, truth, beauty, and/or peace. At the extreme, this same “hope” approaches what is called “The Vision of Adonai,” becoming aware of the Mystic Goal in some way, even – in some cases – catching an experiential “glance” of what the Goal is like (sometimes called “higher states of consciousness”).

The Trance of Sorrow and the Vision of Adonai are really two sides of the same coin. If one perceives the unsatisfactoriness of all temporal things in the Trance of Sorrow, one will therefore conversely seek the possibility of a type of life that transcends these sorrows. If one perceives the joy and beauty of catching a glimpse of “Truth” (or “the Divine,” or “Reality,” et cetera), one will therefore conversely look at one’s life and see – by contrast – its finiteness, sorrow, and imperfection. These things can happen suddenly (as in a “flash”) or they can dawn gradually – each individual’s Path is unique, but each one begins with this perception of discontent or the perception of the possibility of transcendence.

The Work: The Work at this stage or “Grade” is called many names but essentially involves severe self-discipline in order to transform one’s character from the old habits – both old “vices” and old “virtues” – to a new way that is conducive to the achieving the Goal. There are generally “negative” and “positive” aspects of this that amount to clearing away the old habits (“vices,” which used to be called “sins”) that are in the way of one’s Path and building up new habits that are conducive to the Path (“virtues”). It is a stripping-away or rooting-out of the bad and a cleansing of the good (“good” and “bad” being relative terms to each individual as well as to the particular Purpose of achieving the Mystic Goal). They correspond exactly to the process of Purification and Consecration in Magick, and they may also be understood as the process of “balancing the Elements.” This Work is based on severe and persistent discipline: it is an incredibly difficult part of the Path, but we may be assured that – as with all habits – the process begins in a difficult way, becomes easier, and then becomes almost natural and effortless.

“Now then let us suppose that you have come to the Master, and that He has declared to you the Way of this attainment. What hindereth you? Alas! there is yet much Freedom afar off. Understand clearly this: that if you are sure of your Will, and sure of your means, then any thoughts or actions which are contrary to those means are contrary also to that Will. If therefore the Master should enjoin upon you a Vow of Holy Obedience, compliance is not a surrender of the Will, but a fulfilment thereof. For see, what hindereth you? It is either from without or from within, or both. It may be easy for the strong-minded seeker to put his heel upon public opinion, or to tear from his heart the objects which he loves, in a sense: but there will always remain in himself many discordant affections, as also the bond of habit, and these also must he conquer. In our holiest Book it is written: ‘Thou hast no right but to do thy will. Do that, and no other shall say nay.’ Write it also in your heart and in your brain: for this is the key of the whole matter… Search yourselves cunningly, I pray you, analysing your inmost thoughts. And first you shall discard all those gross obvious hindrances to your Will: idleness, foolish friendships, waste employments or enjoyments, I will not enumerate the conspirators against the welfare of your State.”
Liber CL: De Lege Libellum

PurificationThe self must be purged of all those parts of the self – body, senses, thoughts, emotions, and desires – that stand in opposition to the attainment of the one object of the Mystic Goal. This process has been called many things by different Mystics including “asceticism,” “detachment,” “poverty,” and “purgation.” These practices can often be harsh, but they are always used as a means to an end. All the “purifications” are a means to strip away all forms of egoism – of the sense of separateness that is the root of our discontent – to allow for the Truth (or “God” or “Reality” or “the Absolute”) to dawn in our awareness.

Why do we need Purification? We are slaves to our desires, our cravings, and our habits. We run after things including wealth, fame, and pleasure, but we are always left dissatisfied. This is because the only true satisfaction comes from the achievement of the Mystic Goal: we are assured of this by the ordeal of the Trance of Sorrow, although it can even be appreciated intellectually. Purification, then, is the process whereby we break down the habits of striving after and resting in things that are less than the Mystic Goal: Purification is renunciation. This is why the basis of Buddhist training is to release attachments from all the aspects of oneself, right down to the attachment to the sense of “self.” This is why Christ said, “Blessed are they who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” This is why, in Thelema, it is repeatedly said that True Will is not one’s wishes, whims, likes, or desires – it is the strictest possible bond. This is why the process of “the stripping of self-will” of Christian mystics is virtually identical to the process of attainment in the New Aeon: we must strip away the false layers of ego-driven desires in order to perceive the True Will. 

“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. How should it be otherwise, O man, whose life is but a day in Eternity, a drop in the Ocean of time; how, were thy trials not many, couldst thou purge thy soul from the dross of earth? …Rejoice therefore, O Initiate, for the greater thy trial the greater thy Triumph.”
Liber Librae sub figura XXX

What are the things we are purifying? The subjects of our purifying amounts essentially to anything within oneself that says “I want” or “I have.” We must give up all those things which we claim as our own, and we must give up all those desires which are not the One Desire of achieving the Mystic Goal. Though there are many intense phrases and images used when describing this Purification, the essential fact is a change of attitude, not certain acts. That is, when we say one must renounce all one’s possessions, that means that one must release all attachment thereto, not literally give away everything that one possesses (although there may be many things that one might literally give away that are unnecessary, and the attitude in giving things away is exactly the one required for the release of attachment). Giving away things does not mean one has released attachment from them, just as putting on the robe of a Buddhist monk does not mean one is a Buddhist monk: again, it is the attitude or “way of being” that is altered. 

“Now therefore that thou mayest achieve this ritual of the Holy Graal, do thou divest thyself of all thy goods.”
Liber Cheth vel Vallum Abiegni sub figura CLVI, line 7

Therefore, the process of Purification is a process of detachment from all things. One must analyze every aspect of one’s being, searching for all attachments we have, and progressively and completely renounce them for the Quest of achieving the Mystic Goal and nothing else. Purification is, in a way, ruthless in its abandonment and it must reach all aspects of one’s being. All sensory pleasures must be renounced. All relationships must be renounced. All one’s cherished beliefs and preferences must be renounced. All one’s aspirations and desires must be renounced. The only pleasure for the Mystic is the achievement of the Mystic Goal, the only relationship is that with God, the only belief is the necessity to achieve Truth, the only aspiration is the ultimate Union with the Absolute. Each individual’s path must be different by necessity, but all bear this hallmark of Purification or “renunciation.” The study of the seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride), the yama of Yoga (non-violence, non-falsehood, non-stealing, non-lusting, non-possessiveness), the five precepts of Buddhism (abstaining from violence, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech, and intoxicants), and other similar systems will give any earnest aspirant a good idea of what is necessarily involved in this process of Purification. The end result is a profound humility and detachment, yet the process is obviously one of the most difficult tasks that can be conceived insofar as one is changing one’s character by fighting against and releasing attachment to virtually everything that pushed and guided oneself until now. Suffering is the steam released by the fire of Purification, but the result is a humble, purified self that is ready to strive toward the next step on the Path. 

“To obtain Magical Power, learn to control thought; admit only those ideas that are in harmony with the end desired, and not every stray and contradictory Idea that presents itself. Fixed thought is a means to an end. Therefore pay attention to the power of silent thought and meditation. The material act is but the outward expression of thy thought, and therefore hath it been said that ‘the thought of foolishness is sin.’ Thought is the commencement of action, and if a chance thought can produce much effect, what cannot fixed thought do?”
Liber Librae sub figura XXX

Consecration – If Purification involves removing the “bad,” then Consecration involves strengthening the “good.” Again, this “good” is relative to each individual and relative to the particular End of achieving the Mystic Goal; Consecration is, like Purification, a means to an end. Failing to see this and, instead, perceiving the disciplines of Purification and consecration as Absolutes, is the foundation for endless superstition and dogmatism.

Purification involves disentangling ourselves from all the things which impede the achievement of our sole Object and Goal on the Path, and Consecration involves gathering together the various threads of our life in order to devote them to the achievement of this Goal. This involves the strengthening of “virtues” that are conducive to achieving the Goal. A study of the seven virtuous complements to the seven deadly sins (chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, humility), the niyama of Yoga (purity, contentment, spiritual effort, study of holy texts, surrender to God), the paramitas of Buddhism (geneorsity, proper conduct, renunciation, wisdom, energy, patience, honesty, determination, kindness, calmness), or the Eightfold Path (right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration) will give the earnest aspirant an understanding of what this Consecration may entail for them. In Eight Lectures on Yoga, Crowley enumerates the qualities of niyama that he believes are useful including endurance, patience, selfless love, willfullness/strength, courage, energy, acceptance of all experience, equilibrium, indifference, and pure aspiration. We may also include the mysterious and terrible Four Powers of the Sphinx: to Know, to Will, to Dare, and to Keep Silence.

“Find the minimum of daily time which is in good sooth necessary to your natural life. The rest you shall devote to the True Means of your Attainment. And even these necessary hours you shall consecrate to the Great Work, saying consciously always while at these Tasks that you perform them only in order to preserve your body and mind in health for the right application to that sublime and single Object. It shall not be very long before you come to understand that such a life is the true Liberty. You will feel distractions from your Will as being what they are. They will no longer appear pleasant and attractive, but as bonds, as shames. And when you have attained this point, know that you have passed the Middle Gate of this Path. For you will have unified your Will.”
Liber CL: De Lege Libellum

In general, every aspect of one’s life must be closely and consistently knit together to have everything be devoted toward the accomplishment of the Great Work, the achievement of the Mystic Goal. All actions, words, and thoughts must be devoted to the end of this Mystic Goal.

This work of “transmuting” the various things in one’s life into the single Purpose of achieving the Mystic Goal is seen in the practice of “saying Will.” At meals we say, “What is thy Will? It is my Will to eat and drink. To what end? That I may fortify my body thereby. To what end? That I may accomplish the Great Work.” This same process of asking “To what end?” must be done for every single aspect of one’s life, and the answer must always terminate in “To accomplish the Great Work.” If you cannot see how it relates to the accomplishment of the Great Work, the achievement of the Mystic Goal, then it is probably something that must be “purified” from your life. The process of devoting all things, all actions, all speech, and all thoughts to this single End is the essence of Consecration.

Therefore, the primary virtue beyond all others and to which all others attend and aid is that of one-pointedness. The primary skill of one-pointedness is concentration. Concentration is developed through meditation.

“Thou must (1) Find out what is thy Will. (2) Do that Will with (a) one-pointedness, (b) detachment, (c) peace. Then, and then only, art thou in harmony with the Movement of Things, thy will part of, and therefore equal to, the Will of God. And since the will is but the dynamic aspect of the self, and since two different selves could not possess identical wills; then, if thy will be God’s will, Thou art That.”
Liber II: The Message of the Master Therion

Meditation involves holding a single object of concentration in mind, throwing all one’s force into being aware solely of that object, and discarding all distractions from this one object. This is the essence of the method of all Mystics, and the process of becoming more and more engrossed in the object of meditation is also the process of progressing through the stages, steps, or “Grades” of the Mystic Path. The difficulties of meditation reflect the work of one’s “Grade” and the successes reflect one’s progress on the Path. It can be seen that this particular practice of meditation is in the microcosm, so to speak, what one must do with one’s entire life in the macrocosm. At this “Grade,” one must simply strive to maintain the object of one’s meditation in mind, whether this is a mantra, an image, one’s breath, or whatever else. This corresponds to the first “stage” of meditation in Yoga known as dharana. The process is difficult: the mind will find every possible excuse to stray from the one purpose of the meditation, which is a reflection of one’s current stage of the Path as a whole. Remember why you are on this Path, the ordeal of the Trance of Sorrow. Be persistent. Be one-pointed. One will then inevitably come to the next stage of the Mystic Path.

← Part 2: Mysticism in Theory ← | → Part 4: Mysticism in Practice – The Lover → ]

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 → ]