Psychological Model of Failure
Thelema constructs a completely practical psychological system, and it is established among familiar physiological lines. In the body, if all is working harmoniously – if the body is healthy, that is – the consciousness continues to operate undisturbed by the functions of the various organs and systems of the body. It is only when there is a malady of some sort – e.g., a malfunction of an organ, the skin is pierced by a knife, stress and anxiety, et cetera – that consciousness is disturbed and made aware of the body’s functioning. In a physiological sense, the body conveniently notifies the consciousness of its trouble by issuing signals of pain. Liber AL vel Legis has applied this to the functioning of the psyche:
“Dost thou fail? Art thou sorry? Is fear in thine heart? Where I am these are not.”1
Crowley comments, “This verse brings out what is a fact in psychology, the necessary connection between fear, sorrow, and failure.”2 In the same sense that the appearance of pain signals a certain failure of the harmonious functioning of the body, the appearance of sorrow and fear signal a certain failure in the harmonious functioning of the psyche. Crowley writes, “Sorrow, pain, regret, are symptoms of diseased thought; those only who have ceased to be able to adjust themselves rightly and gladly to all Change, and to grow thereby, or those who still react, but only feebly and vainly, take Sorrow, pain, and regret to be Real”3 It is understood in Thelema that “existence is pure joy; that all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass & are done; but there is that which remains.”4 Therefore, any kind of sorrow, pain, or regret necessarily implies some kind of failure to truly understand this perspective.
In another Holy Book of Thelema it is written, “Only if ye are sorrowful, or weary, or angry, or discomforted; then ye may know that ye have lost the golden thread, the thread wherewith I guide you to the heart of the groves of Eleusis.”5 This reaffirms the notion that the appearance of sorrow, pain, regret, weariness, anger, and discomfort are all, just as they are in the physiological sense, signs of some error in the functioning of the psyche of the organism. They are signals being sent to the psyche that “love under will” is not being performed properly, so to speak. Crowley confirms this once again when he writes, “Sorrow thus appears as the result of any unsuccessful – therefore, ill-judged – struggle. Acquiescence in the order of Nature is the ultimate Wisdom.”6
This notion of sorrow appearing as an unsuccessful assimilation of experience parallels the propositions from Carl Rogers’ client-centered therapy. In an earlier segment of this essay, it was seen how the Thelemic maxim of “love under will” is essentially the same concept as that of “psychological adjustment” from Carl Rogers’ nineteen propositions (the assumptions that underlie his client-centered therapy), i.e. assimilation of experience in accordance with one’s self. Whenever this fails, there is what Carl Rogers called “psychological maladjustment.” Rogers writes has as fifteenth and sixteenth propositions,
“Psychological maladjustment exists when the organism denies awareness of significant sensory and visceral experiences, which consequently are not symbolized and organized into the gestalt of the self structure. When this situation exists, there is a basic or potential psychological tension.
Any experience which is inconsistent with the organization of the structure of the self may be perceived as a threat, and the more of these perceptions there are, the more rigidly the self structure is organized to maintain itself.”7
This “psychological tension” is the same “sorrow” or “pain” that Crowley mentions, but it is applied specifically to the psyche (as opposed to physiological sorrow or pain). If experiences are not assimilated, they generate “psychological tension” and may also be “perceived as a threat” which causes the self-structure to become even more rigid and unadaptable; this will therefore cause further unsuccessful acts of “love under will” or “psychological adjustment.”
Essentially, sorrow, pain, regret, fear, anger, discomfort, and one other psychological phenomenon – pity – are all signals of “failure” to perform an act of “love under will” properly – that is, assimilate an experience in a harmonious way.
In regards to pity, in the second chapter of Liber AL vel Legis it is written, “Pity not the fallen! I never knew them. I am not for them. I console not: I hate the consoled & the consoler”8 and also in the third chapter it is written, “Mercy let be off; damn them who pity!”9 Crowley comments on this saying:
“It is several times shewn in this Book that ‘falling’ is in truth impossible. ‘All is ever as it was.’ To sympathize with the illusion is not only absurd, but tends to perpetuate the false idea. It is a mistake to ‘spoil’ a child, or humour a malade imaginaire. One must, on the contrary, chase away the shadows by lighting a fire, which fire is: Do what thou wilt!” Crowley asserts that pitying another is akin to “sympathiz[ing] with the illusion,” for it is said in Liber AL that “Existence is pure joy,” and “all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass & are done; but there is that which remains.”10
One can only pity someone that is in a situation that one perceives to be “unfortunate,” but if one truly understands the dictum of “Existence is pure joy,” they know that even this pity is based on a false perception of things and therefore “sympathyz[ing] with the illusion.” It also implies “looking down” on someone, thinking oneself better rather than recognizing the unique sovereignty of each individual, each being a King or Queen in his or her own Kingdom. This echoes the sentiments that Friedrich Nietzsche expressed when discussing Christianity as a religion of pity. He writes,
“Pity stands in opposition to all the tonic passions that augment the energy of the feeling of aliveness: it is a depressant. A man loses power when he pities. Through pity that drain upon strength which suffering works is multiplied a thousandfold. Suffering is made contagious by pity; under certain circumstances it may lead to a total sacrifice of life and living energy–a loss out of all proportion to the magnitude of the cause.” 11
Nietzsche also identifies pity as the “contagious source” of even more of “that drain upon strength” than what normally is experienced from suffering or sorrow “multiplied a thousand fold.” Nietzsche continues,
“Pity thwarts the whole law of evolution, which is the law of natural selection. It preserves whatever is ripe for destruction; it fights on the side of those disinherited and condemned by life; by maintaining life in so many of the botched of all kinds, it gives life itself a gloomy and dubious aspect. Mankind has ventured to call pity a virtue… Let me repeat: this depressing and contagious instinct stands against all those instincts which work for the preservation and enhancement of life: in the role of protector of the miserable, it is a prime agent in the promotion of decadence–pity persuades to extinction… Aristotle, as every one knows, saw in pity a sickly and dangerous state of mind, the remedy for which was an occasional purgative: he regarded tragedy as that purgative… Nothing is more unhealthy, amid all our unhealthy modernism, than Christian pity.” 12
Pity not only causes more identification with the “shadows” of suffering, but it “preserves whatever is ripe for destruction” because it is a “contagious instinct [that] stands against all those instincts which for the preservation and enhancement of life” – something that one obviously should have to maintain physiological and psychological health. Nietzsche was especially concerned with maintaining these instincts that preserve and enhance life, and he was therefore on guard against all sentiments that would obstruct this natural process.
Aside from these appearances of sorrow, pain, regret, fear, anger, discomfort, and pity being treated as signs of maladjustment – or “love” being performed not “under will” – there are also the considerations of sin and reason that are mentioned in previous segments of this essay. The thought of oneself as sinful is a misperception in Thelema; reason must be kept in its rightful place as interpreter and helper of the Will, which must be performed with tireless energy, without regard to purpose, and unattached to any lust of result. Any diversion from this necessarily restricts the Will, and not only is “the word of Sin… Restriction,”13 but “thou hast no right but to do thy will. Do that, and no other shall say nay.”14 We now have a more complete sense of how the Thelemite ideally views and oeprates within the world: Free of the sense of sin, free of reason’s stranglehold upon our behavior, and aware of sorrow, pain, regret, discomfort, and pity as signals of our failure to perform “love under will.”
“Fear not at all; fear neither men nor Fates, nor gods, nor anything. Money fear not, nor laughter of the folk folly, nor any other power in heaven or upon the earth or under the earth.” 15
1 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, II:46-47.
2 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, II:46.
3 Crowley, Aleister. “Djeridensis Working,” II:17.
4 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, II:9.
5 Crowley, Aleister. Liber Tzaddi vel Hamus Hermeticus, line 23.
6 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, II:9.
7 Rogers, Carl. Client-Centred Therapy, ch.11.
8 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, II:48.
9 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, II:18.
10 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, II:9.
11 Nietzsche, Frierich. The Antichrist, ch.7.
12 Nietzsche, Frierich. The Antichrist, ch.7.
13 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:41.
14Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:42-43.