thelema

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93 reader!

I have been writing Thelemic books, essays, and blogs for over 10 years now…. Many of you may be familiar with my writings on iao131.com  or various books like HRILIU, Fresh Fever From the Skies, and Naturalistic Occultism 

The response over the past years has been overwhelmingly encouraging and positive. If it weren’t for you, the many fans who have taken the time to read (and some bold enough to even contact me directly! – there would be no reason for my writing.

Writing takes a lot of time and energy, of course. Getting a little bit from these writings online, even a small amount, would in fact make a real difference for me. It would allow a little extra bandwidth for even more writings. I plan to have many subjects tackled in upcoming posts on various websites, and — if you pledge a bit — you can even suggest topics!

If you have the ability, and wish to see more of my writings (and to help me out ) please consider pledging. Thank you!

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Fraternally,
IAO131

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IAO131 podcast interview on Scientific Illuminism and Naturalistic Occultism

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

About a year ago, I was interviewed as part of the “Greening Out Podcast” which mysteriously disappeared into the aether shortly after recording… Magically, a copy of the podcast interview has resurfaced and is now available for your listening pleasure!

Greening Out Podcast interview with IAO131 on Scientific Illuminism

NOTE: Please consider pledging $1+ to my Patreon if you support my writings and work.

Love is the law, love under will.

IAO131 on Patreon

If you enjoy these writings, please consider pledging $1+ on my Patreon

IAO131

Support IAO131’s writings?

93 reader!

I have been writing Thelemic books, essays, and blogs for over 10 years now…. Many of you may be familiar with my writings on iao131.com  or various books like HRILIU, Fresh Fever From the Skies, and Naturalistic Occultism 

The response over the past years has been overwhelmingly encouraging and positive. If it weren’t for you, the many fans who have taken the time to read (and some bold enough to even contact me directly! – there would be no reason for my writing.

Writing takes a lot of time and energy, of course. Getting a little bit from these writings online, even a small amount, would in fact make a real difference for me. It would allow a little extra bandwidth for even more writings. I plan to have many subjects tackled in upcoming posts on various websites, and — if you pledge a bit — you can even suggest topics!

If you have the ability, and wish to see more of my writings (and to help me out ) please consider pledging. Thank you!

IAO131 on Patreon

If you enjoy these writings, please consider pledging $1+ on my Patreon

Fraternally,
IAO131

Thelemic Political Manifesto

A Thelemic Political Manifesto

Thelemic Political Manifesto

NOTE: This manifesto speaks for no organization. It gives a voice to these principles and those who hold them, so feel free to share as you will. 

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

“Above us today hangs a danger never yet paralleled in history. We suppress the individual in more and more ways. We think in terms of the herd. War no longer kills soldiers; it kills all indiscriminately… The dictators suppress all art, literature, theater, music, news, that does not meet their requirements; yet the world only moves by the light of genius. The herd will be destroyed in mass. The establishment of the Law of Thelema is the only way to preserve individual liberty and to assure the future of the human race.” —Aleister Crowley

1. We believe the time has come for us to unify, and to fight for the Liberty of all under the Law of Thelema.

We believe that Thelemites, those who adhere to the Law of Thelema which is “Do what thou wilt”, should come together in order to fight for our shared values and causes.

We have the power to cause Change in conformity with our ideals, and to manifest greater Liberty in very tangible, material ways. This requires us to unify in thought and deed in order to accomplish the task of fighting for liberty.

“Observe: the business before the meetings is this: How shall we put into effect the Law of Thelema… Our sole business should be to use the Law to reconstruct the world from the chaos into which it is already half tumbled. That formula is a simple one, and requires no specialised training.” —Aleister Crowley

2. We believe that the entire purpose of each individual, and their sole right and duty in life, is to “Do what thou wilt”; to find and do their True Will.

All of our goals, purposes, projects, and endeavors are toward this end of ourselves achieving our True Wills and aiding others in achieving theirs.

In a social sense, this means each individual has the absolute right to fulfill their own Nature and to live in the way that they will to do, provided that it does not impede on the equal rights of all other individuals to fulfill their own Nature. We each ideally allow others the freedom to be who they are, and to live in they will to do, while they accord us the same liberty.

In a political sense, this means we must as groups (and as states and as nations), strive toward the ideal of preserving the liberty of the individual. The absolute rule of the state shall be a function of the absolute liberty of each individual will.

In other words, on the political scale, Thelema is about figuring out the best way to organize a society to lead to the most people being able to do their True Wills with the greatest freedom. The real arguments between Thelemites comes about by differing opinions on how to bring about this freedom.

3. We must focus on the issues themselves, and not get caught up in pedantic arguments.

Arguing vs DoingWe believe that ownership over one’s own body is foundational: we are utterly opposed to any form of slavery or human ownership.

We believe that freedom of thought, freedom of speech, and freedom of expression in general are of paramount importance.

We believe the freedom to love as one wills — “when, where, and with whom ye will” (AL I:51) — is an inalienable right.

None of this is controversial, and yet there is a strong tendency to quibble with pedantic points or overblown details.

“When people begin to argue about things instead of doing them, they become absolutely impossible.” —Aleister Crowley

Rather than focusing on determining whether a particular policy can be labeled as this or that –ism or is “Thelemic” enough, consider the concrete, tangible effects of implementing that policy and whether they aid or inhibit individuals in accomplishing their Wills more fully  and freely. Rather than labeling something “socialism” or “fascism” or “liberalism” or whatever else, consider if the proposed actions will lead to our proposed end of helping individuals to fulfill their True Wills. Our causes are not Left or Right; in many cases they may encompass both or neither of these. The important point is whether the policy upholds our freedoms or whether it diminishes them. 

These arguments go on endlessly unto eternity and no one is any better off: words are worthless unless they lead to action. There are plenty of powerful people and powerful organizations out there who are continuing to work against us and virtually everything we stand for. They are happy to let us sit around arguing with one another about non-essentials. 

4. We stand united on many fronts, and we should act on these fronts to the best of our abilities.

We stand united in support of free speech and the ability to think freely and express one’s ideas freely.

We stand united in support of women’s rights, and the general treatment of women with dignity and respect. 

We stand united in support of sexual freedom and the ability of adults to engage consensually and responsibly as they will and with whom they will. 

We stand united in support of sexual education which gives adults the information they need to make informed choices as responsible adults.

We stand united in support of LGBTQ individuals, and believe that each individual has the right to self-identify and to express themselves as they will. 

We stand united in support of people of color and cultural and ethnic minorities, and that every individual regardless of age, color, creed, sexual orientation, nationality, disability, gender identity deserves fair, just, and respectful treatment.

We stand united in support of science and scientific literacy, acknowledging that climate change is the real and our environment needs active steps to preserve.

We stand united against the oppressive drug war that restricts and punishes individuals for their personal choices. 

We stand united in support of having the right to die as one wills, and generally to combat the fear of death in our culture. 

…And this is not an exhaustive list of what we agree upon. The point is that, even if we could only agree upon one of these things, we would have an inherent obligation to act to bring about that ideal to the best of our abilities. There are many fronts upon which to wage our battle for freedom, and little to prevent many from acting toward manifesting these goals. To not take action is to admit either you do not hold these ideals, or you are too ambivalent with intellectualizations to be decisive enough to act.

Of course, those who are afraid will brand you as naive, or say you are watering down the message if you simply speak in your own voice. They will bark, mock, and holler from the sidelines while the real effort is done to move our world forward, little by little, through actual service and  work. 

None of this means we should ignore our areas of disagreement nor should we attempt to blur distinctions between our different viewpoints. Nonetheless: We can endlessly categorize and pick apart various stances and arguments forever, and it will impress no one nor change anything. We can only cause Change in conformity with our collective Wills if we actually work and act together.

5. Political “magick” is causing change in society by mobilizing resources.

This means we absolutely must commit to generating real, tangible resources. The two primary “resources” we have are people themselves and money. These aren’t the only resources, of course. Time, energy, creativity, and endurance go a long way as well. However, in the end, success is our proof. That success will come from concrete, material resources and whether or not we use these resources intelligently. 

Uniting gives us the ability to generate greater amounts of resources than if we are simply a bunch of disconnected, individual stars. We need to unite into a veritable galaxy, a conglomerate of stars that has immense gravitational power. It is not only logical, it is urgently necessary.

We are committed to the twofold goal of (1) spreading the philosophy of Thelema as enshrined in the three phrases “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”, “Love is the law, love under will”, and “Every man and every woman is a star”, and (2) supporting all those causes, organizations, and individuals who are in harmony with our aims. These things should be basically self-evident to virtually every Thelemite (and to most everyone if they were to glimpse an understanding of Thelema). 

Thelemic organizations can and should turn their attention toward these aims where appropriate. Many organizations are arguably already doing this Work in many ways, such as Ordo Templi Orientis. There are many historical, recent, ongoing, and future projects toward spreading the Law as well as supporting many sympathetic organizations.

This work requires the cooperation of thousands of individuals of all types, from all different walks of life and points-of-view. This “Greater Great Work”, as Karl Germer called it, of spreading the Law of Thelema is the ongoing fight to establish Justice.

This Justice will only be established through our sweat and tears, our “fire & blood” (AL III:11). It is only through our Strength, not just our words and our best intentions, but through our toil and service that we will truly establish the Law of Thelema on Earth and begin to pave the way for an age of Truth and Justice. 

“Strength will prepare the Reign of Justice. We should begin already, as I deem, to regard this Justice as the Ideal whose Way we should make ready, by virtue of our Force and Fire.” -Aleister Crowley

Thelemic Union

Love is the law, love under will.

NOTE: Feel free to repost this with a different header image:

 

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Top 5 Mistakes of Newcomers about OTO

Top 5 Mistakes Newcomers make about OTO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love is the law, love under will.

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Possible Principles of Thelemic Hermeneutics

Thelemic Hermeneutics

1st Principle

These interpretations are interpretations – not final pronouncements of truth. They should not be uttered as such nor should they be read and heard as such.

2nd Principle

Each text must be interpreted within its unique historical, linguistic, religious, social, and mystical context to be fully understood

3rd Principle

An apparently obvious historical or literal interpretation is not inherently primary.

4th Principle

Each text must be interpreted with honesty, clarity, and conciseness.

5th Principle

Views contrary to one’s own must be investigated indifferently.

6th Principle

Honest, clear, and concise criticism is encouraged and should be expected if one dares to publicly espouse one’s own particular interpretation.

7th Principle

The various “meeting-places” of the texts (i.e. where the same word is used in both, where similar concepts & motifs occur, etc.) will create three possible outcomes: synthesis, separation, or contradiction. Synthesis means that the two texts actually speak about the same subject. Separation means that the two texts appear to be similar but are actually speaking of separate topics or different contexts. Contradiction means that the two places in the texts cannot be reconciled by either synthesis or separation – one interpretation contradicts another.

8th Principle

Interpretations of texts are dynamic and must be understood and fostered as a continually changing processes, not as fixed pronouncements of unalterable truths.

Finally,

There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt

 

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Unus Deus: The Eightfold Key to Thelemic Magick

Unus Deus: The Eightfold Key to Thelemic Magick

Unus Deus: The Eightfold Key to Thelemic Magick

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

This essay is intended to serve as an explication for the symbols & ideas synthesized in the diagram which heads this article. This image combines the various ideas that are to be discussed and, by the end of reading this article, you should ideally be able to understand why everything in this image is there. The main thesis is that this “Eightfold Key” represents a way to unlock a certain understanding of certain rituals, symbols, and ideas in Thelemic magick.

Disclaimer: I do not pretend to believe that this Key is the “Key to all Thelemic Magick ever” or anything like that; it is only one perspective among potentially infinite. Its worth should ultimately be judged by whether it is seen to be a perspective that is useful, that simply “clicks,” that generates new ideas, that stimulates new thoughts and connections, and so on. That is, it should be judged by each individual as to whether it aids in the accomplishment of their Wills in some manner.

Introduction

The Qabalah is undoubtedly a crucial branch of knowledge required to delve into the deeper layers of symbolism and meaning that are inherent in our rituals. While the Qabalah is an incredibly flexible and versatile system in theory, an unfortunate but all-too-common common tendency is to learn a certain “attribution scheme” and to stick with it. For example, it is common for individuals to interpret the Mass as an expression of the Tetragrammaton formula and nothing else.

This Eightfold Key represents a new way of understanding certain central symbols (such as Therion and Babalon) and certain of our rituals – specifically, Liber XXV (The Star Ruby), Liber XXXVI (The Star Sapphire), and Liber XV (The Gnostic Mass). This Eightfold Key does not follow the typical attribution schemes that one would be used to in virtually all material on Golden Dawn and Thelemic rituals. Nonetheless, the basis of this Eightfold Key is fundamentally in attributions and ideas related by Aleister Crowley himself: none of these attributions in themselves are my unique insights. I have not encountered this particular application of these symbols to understanding common Thelemic rituals, and my interpretation & synthesis of these symbolic applications have led to writing this essay.

On that note, it must be stated clearly and explicitly that nothing herein is “official doctrine”, neither of Thelema nor of OTO nor of any organization nor any individual other than myself. While I am confident that these ideas will be relevant and at least somewhat illuminating to many (otherwise I would not have bothered writing this explication), I am well-aware that this is not the end-all answer to all questions. Even further, believing this is the sole solution would fly in the face of my belief that symbolism is inherently multi-layered as well as inherently inexhaustible in terms of its potential meanings. This Eightfold Key is offered to hopefully allow another perspective to be taken, along with the many connections and insights that ideally follow therefrom.

Finally, it should be noted that the intended audience of this essay are those who are already somewhat experienced and/or knowledgeable practitioners of Thelemic magick. The point is not that this material is “secret” or “above your grade,” but that it assumes a fair degree of familiarity with certain terms and ideas in order to make the most of the concepts herein.

The Basis of the Eightfold Key

The fundamental symbolic basis of this Eightfold Key is the table “Appendix I” in 777 & other Qabalistic Writings by Aleister Crowley, where he discusses “The Trigrams of the Yi King.” In this table, he attributes the 8 Trigrams of the Yi King to various things, most importantly to the 4 directional quarters (North-South-East-West) and the 4 cross-quarters (Northeast-S.E.-N.W.-S.W.) and certain Hermetic ideas. All the attributions are taken from this table, so nothing in terms of attributions are original, only their interpretations.

Yi King Trigrams - 8 Directions

In this Eightfold Key, we do not require an extensive knowledge of the system of the Yi King along with its Trigrams, Hexagrams, and so on, nor do we need to know what their Chinese names mean. They form the fundamental basis of the Eightfold scheme, but their basic meanings can be understood by understanding the composition of Trigrams. Trigrams are all composed of 3 lines, hence the name “Trigram,” and each line is either “unbroken” or “broken.” Unbroken lines refer to yang, the masculine principle which corresponds with our Western notions of the Element of Fire, Yod of Tetragrammaton, Chokmah, and so on; the broken lines refer to yin, the feminine principle which corresponds with our Western notions of the Element of Water, Heh of Tetragrammaton, Binah, and so on.

Trigrams with more unbroken lines can be said to be “more yang” and, likewise, Trigrams with more broken lines can be said to be “more yin.” Since there are only two possibilities for each of the 3 lines, there are a total of 2(i.e. 8) possible permutations of yang and yin for a Trigram. We may start understanding these Trigrams and their attributions by focusing first on the 4 basic directions.

The 4 Quarters

To begin to explain this diagram, we may most effectively begin by looking at the 4 basic directions of the 4 quarters: North-South-East-West. This is the fundamental orientation of virtually every single Thelemic ritual, especially if we consider Boleskine to essentially be “spiritual East” (as opposed to literally East, as the direction toward it depends on where one is measuring from). Taking certain attributions from Crowley’s 777 table we get:

—East— —West— —South— —North—
Hindu Attribution Prana Akasha Lingam Yoni
Yetziratic Attribution + O

This helps us begin to see the basic attributions of the 4 quarters in the Eightfold Key: We can see that this forms essentially two Pairs of Opposites, or two dualities. Namely, there is the East-West duality of Sol (☉)-Luna (☾), and there is the South-North duality of Lingam (+)-Yoni (O).

Interestingly, Crowley does not use typical Elemental, Planetary, Zodiacal, or Alchemical symbols for South and North: He chooses to use a Cross (+) and a Circle (O). While crosses and circles are undoubtedly part of the Hermetic tradition, it is somewhat unorthodox to attribute them in this way (it does not occur anywhere else in 777 in nearly the same way). They are essentially equivalent to the Hindu notions of Lingam (+) and Yoni (O), of which the male penis and female womb represent the most physical symbols.

Also interesting is the attribution of Prana and Akasha to Sol and Luna, respectively. Prana is the Hindu word for “energy” or “power” or “force,” and it is understood to be the underlying energy that moves all things in the Universe including ourselves (hence, for example, the practice of pranayama, which literally means the control of energy). Akasha is the Hindu word for “Space,” and represents the underlying form or space that underlies all objects in the Universe. They are essentially the Verb (Prana) and Noun (Akasha) of Hindu cosmology, to make things patently simple. They correspond nicely to our modern notions of Energy and Matter.

In terms of dualities, for this particular context Lingam (+) and Yoni (O) are more “primary” or “primordial” or “abstract”: they are more fundamental or basic than that of Sol and Luna. This can be seen in their being simplistic or “pure” geometric figures, + & O.  Lingam and Yoni correspond to “The Lord” and “The Lady” in the Collects of Liber XV, and represent the ineffable infinities that underlie all things. Qabalistically, we express this notion of being “more fundamental” by the fact that Lingam and Yoni are attributed by Crowley (in this context) to Chokmah (the 2nd Sephirah) and Binah (the 3rd Sephirah), which lie above the Abyss. Sol and Luna (in this context) are attributed to spheres further down the Tree of Life, implying more complexity and concreteness to the ideas.

Interestingly, Sol and Luna in this context are attributed to Tiphareth (the 6th Sephirah) and Malkuth (the 10th Sephirah), corresponding traditionally to Sol and Earth (i.e. not Luna, which would be Yesod, the 9th Sephirah). This may not make sense initially, but when we take a look at the Gnostic Mass, we see that the fundamental duality expressed throughout the ritual is one of Sol and Earth, or simply Heaven and Earth (terms which correspond more closely to that of the Yi King’s cosmology). Our Creed testifies to the “One Star” of the Sun as well as to the “One Earth,” we partake in the Eucharist of the essence of “the life of the Sun” and the “joy of the Earth”: plentiful examples abound throughout the Gnostic Mass in many ways. For those who are interested, this essay goes into this particular idea of Sol and Earth in the Gnostic Mass in more depth.

This all comes together once we realize where the “deities” are placed in the quarters for the Star Ruby in particular. In the East we have Therion, and in the West we have Babalon. Therion corresponds to Sol and Prana/Energy, whereas Babalon corresponds to Luna and Akasha/Space: the Sun and the Earth, both of which are explicitly identified with their respective “deities” in the Creed of the Gnostic Mass.

For the other duality, that of Lingam and Yoni, we have Hadit in the South and Nuit in the North. Hadit in the South corresponds to the Lingam and the Cross (+), whereas Nuit in the North corresponds to the Yoni and the Circle (O). This corresponds exactly with what Crowley explains in his New Comment to Liber AL I:1, “Nu is connected with North, while Had is Sad, Set, Satan, Sat (equals ‘Being’ in Sanskrit), South…” They are both traditionally associated with 0/Naught based on Liber AL and Crowley’s attributions in 777 but, in this case, they correspond “on a lower plane” with Chokmah/yang/Lingam (Hadit) and Binah/yin/Yoni (Nuit). In terms of the Trigrams, they correspond with the only two Trigrams that are completely yang or yin. Hadit is all yang lines and Nuit is all yin lines, somewhat unsurprisingly. The Sol and Luna Trigrams are the only two Trigrams that contain both yang and yin lines yet remain vertically balanced in themselves (a yang on top is balanced by a yang on the bottom, etc).

—East— —West— —South— —North—
Hindu Attribution Prana Akasha Lingam Yoni
Yetziratic Attribution + O
Sephiroth 6 (Sol) 10 (Earth) 2 (Chokmah) 3 (Binah)
Trigrams Prana Akasha Lingam Yoni

In certain ways, this attribution scheme of two dualities (Lingam-Yoni, and Sol-Luna) is more satisfying than the traditional Elemental attributions. In terms of the 4 deities present in the Star Ruby (at least the later Magick in Theory & Practice version), the more traditional and typical Elemental attributions certainly fit as each of the 4 is attributed to a Kerub which together form the Sphinx. Hence, Therion “roars” (Fire/Lion) in the East, Nuit “says” (Air/Man) in the North, Babalon “whispers” (Water/Eagle) in the West, and Hadit “bellows” (Earth/Bull) in the South. Nonetheless, it seems there are aspects that do not seem to fit quite right in this typical Elemental attribution scheme.

Yi King - 4 QuartersWhen we take these new attributions, things seem to fall naturally into place: Lingam and Yoni, the universal or primordial duality, is attributed to Hadit and Nuit along the North-South axis (reflecting what Crowley writes about them in the aforementioned section of the New Comment). Sol and Luna, essentially the Lingam and Yoni “on a lower scale” are Sol and Luna, the macrocosmic duality. Although Luna here serves as a stand-in for Earth when contemplated in relation to the Tree of Life and other contexts (such as the Gnostic Mass), it is helpful to think of Sol and Luna in this case not as 2 planets among 7, but rather as a fundamental duality in itself, much how Alchemical symbolism often utilizes Sol and Luna to be the ultimate Masculine and Feminine symbols (respectively). This therefore means that, in this case, Sol includes other “masculine” ideas like Mars and Jupiter, and Luna includes the “feminine” ideas of Earth and Venus (as some examples).

The Hebrew letters used to designate these dualities is interesting as well: Hadit and Nuit somewhat unsurprisingly correspond to Yod and Heh, the first two letters of Tetragrammaton, representing Father/Fire/yang and Mother/Water/yin. Together, they create YH (“Jah”), a name of God, which enumerates to 15 – in a way, this simple combination of letters, Yod and Heh, to create 15 shows an underlying symbolic formula at work in the Gnostic Mass, which is designated “Liber 15.” We might then expect Sol to correspond to Vav and Luna to Heh Final, but they do not. Instead, Crowley attributes them to Resh and Gimel. The reason for these attributions is found in the Tarot Trump correspondences of the Planets: Sol corresponds to Atu XIX: The Sun to which is attributed the letter Resh, and Luna corresponds to Atu II: The Priestess to which is attributed the letter Gimel. In a way, this shows us that these attributions do not follow the typical “Tetragrammaton scheme” exactly. Perhaps a new and slightly different formula of Tetragrammaton might be derived from these letters.

Finally, we have Crowley’s traditional “Planetary Attribution” column in 777 which may initially be confusing, as it uses similar symbols to other previously mentioned attributions, but it is actually quite simple. We have considered the Lingam-Yoni, Sol-Luna dualities and it should be understood that this represents one way of slicing the pie, so to speak. The One can be divided in innumerable ways, and we might divide It into Lingam, Yoni, Sol, Luna. Another, more common way to divide It is with the 7 Planets. This means that Sol and Luna are no longer understood in the former context (similar to their Alchemical counterparts as representing the ultimate Masculine and Feminine ideas in the abstract), and now they will be understood in their context as being two of the 7 Planets. In short: Symbols can mean different things depending on their context. To further explain this idea: Consider the word “day.” How long is a day? Chances are your answer is “24 hours,” which is correct. Now how long is a night, then? 12 hours, or somewhere around there, is likely your answer. Then how long is a day? 12 hours, of course. How can “day” refer to both 12 hour periods as well as 24 hour periods? It is because of context: When “day” stands alone, it represents the entire cycle of 24 hours, but when “day” is juxtaposed with “night,” it represents half of the cycle of 12 hours. In this case, the new juxtaposition is with the other classical Planets, and therefore they take on slightly different meanings.

Crowley attributes Sol to Hadit and Luna to Nuit; he then attributes Jupiter to Therion and Saturn to Babalon. Sol and Luna, in the context of the 7 classical Planets, represent the primordial duality. They are essentially the equivalent of Lingam/+ and Yoni/O when reflected into this particular symbolic scheme. Therion and Babalon cannot then be attributed to Sol and Luna as they are in the previous formulation: They refer to Saturn and Jupiter. In a sense, Saturn and Jupiter are also the “primordial” duality insofar as they were considered the two most distant planets by the ancients. Traditionally, Saturn and Jupiter are opposites: they are the Great Malefic (Saturn) and the Great Benefic (Jupiter); they represent constriction (Saturn) and expansion (Jupiter); they represent severity and harshness (Saturn) and mercy and benevolence (Jupiter). Therefore, in terms of the 7 classical Planets, Hadit is Sol, Nuit is Luna, Therion is Jupiter, and Babalon is Saturn. Not to get too far ahead, but this leaves Mars for Elemental Fire, Venus for Elemental Water, Mercury for Elemental Air, and of course Earth for Elemental Earth.

To jump ahead slightly for a moment, we see that the 4 cross-quarters (those points halfway between the 4 quarters) are attributed to the 4 Elements, and that a general scheme is therefore formed by the Eightfold Key:

  • The Ineffable Duality: Hadit and Nuit, South and North, Lingam and Yoni
  • The Macrocosmic Duality: Therion and Babalon, East and West, Sol and Luna
  • The Microcosmic Quaternity: The 4 Elements (or the duality of “active” and “passive” Elements)

This mirrors the Officers of the Gnostic Mass: Priest & Priestess form the Ineffable Duality, the Deacon contains the Macrocosmic Duality in him/herself (note that the Deacon stands between the small altar and font, which symbolically represent Sol/Tiphareth & Luna/Yesod, respectively), and the Children form the Microcosmic Quaternity (the Positive Child holding the 2 “active” Elements while the Negative Child holds the 2 “passive” Elements).

For a final detour, consider briefly how the quarters are attributed in Resh: East is Sunrise, South is Noon, West is Sunset, and North is Midnight. In this sense, East-West is the horizontal plane, and South-North actually represents the vertical plane (Noon at the zenith, Midnight at the nadir). In this sense, we can see the Ineffable Duality in the top-down axis, the Macrocosmic Duality forming the forward-backward axis, and the 4 Elements fit into the diagonals. There are, of course, various permutations of these ideas (for example, Hadit-Nuit can be conceived as Inner-Outer, Therion-Babalon as Up-Down, and the 4 Elements covering the 4 directions, essentially covering all possible directions), but I will leave that up to your own imagination and ingenium.

The 4 Cross-Quarters

The 4 cross-quarters become clear once the previous attributions are understood. They pleasingly fit into their places in a fairly natural way. The cross-quarters are North-East, South-East, South-West, and North-West. They correspond respectively to Fire, Water, Air, and Earth according to Crowley’s attributions in 777. We might add the traditional Tetragrammaton correspondences to the Elements as well.

—N.E.— —S.E.— —S.W.— —N.W.—
Yetziratic Attribution Fire Water Air Earth
 Tetragrammaton Yod Heh Vav Heh final
Hindu Attribution Tejas Apas Vayu Prithivi

In this case, the Hindu attributions are exactly the same as our traditional, Western 4 Elements: Tejas means Fire, Apas means Water, Vayu means Air, and Prithivi means Earth.

In terms of Hebrew letters, the 3 primary Elements are attributed to the 3 Mother Letters: Fire is attributed to Shin (ש), Water to Mem (מ), Air to Aleph (א). Earth is attributed to the final letter in Hebrew, Tav (ת).

The Planetary attributions, as previously mentioned: Fire is attributed to Mars, Water to Venus, Air to Mercury, and Earth to Earth. Some of these attributions may seem somewhat strange, but if we keep the idea of 3 primary Elements with the additional (or “encompassing”) fourth Element of Earth it becomes clear. Mars & Venus are the same “primordial duality” as Sol & Luna (or Jupiter & Saturn) but “on a lower scale” – it is not an uncommon idea that masculine is “Mars-like” and feminine is “Venus-like.” Mercury performs the role of reconciler between these two complements/opposites, much like He often does in Alchemical imagery.  Planetary Earth unambiguously represents Elemental Earth.

Alchemical MercuryThese Planetary attributions to the Elements become especially illuminating in relation to their appearance in Liber XV, the Gnostic Mass. If we look at the creed, we see Chaos in the place of Yod/Fire, Babalon in that of Heh/Water, Baphomet in that of Vav/Air, and the Gnostic & Catholic Church in that of Heh Final/Earth. The duality of Chaos-Babalon as Mars-Venus is fairly straightforward, but the attribution of Mercury to Baphomet is especially appropriate. Mercury is the most common Alchemical symbol for the ultimate goal or result of the Great Work of Alchemy, the union of opposites. In Alchemical imagery, Mercury often stands between the dualities of Sol-Luna, Jupiter-Saturn, and Mars-Venus, reconciling the ineffable, macrocosmic, and microcosmic dualities into itself. In fact, there is a certain Mercury symbol which combines all the Planetary symbols into a single whole [see image to the right], and it looks remarkably like the traditional depiction Baphomet. Earth corresponds to the Church as the Church represents the physical manifestation of the Law. Interestingly, Baphomet therefore takes on the role that corresponds to the Old Aeon notion of Christ being the bridegroom of the Church: now we see Baphomet in the Christ-role of being bridegroom of our Church!

These attributions can be carried even farther if we look at the Collects as well. Consider the typical attribution of Tetragrammaton to the 4 Elements in this context. Sabazius X° attributes the Collects to Tetragrammaton as follows: “The Sun and The Lord = Yod; The Moon and The Lady = Heh; The Saints = Vav; The Earth and The Principles = Heh final”. With this in mind, we can see that Vav corresponds to the Element of Air, the Planet of Mercury, and the Collect of The Saints; Heh Final corresponds to the Element of Earth, the Planet of Earth, and the Collect of The Earth. These attributions from Crowley reinforce the attributions made by Sabazius to the Collects: Mercury/Saints & Earth form a duality of sorts, mirroring that of Baphomet and the Church from the Creed. The Saints are the transmitters of the Light of the Gnosis, and both knowledge and communication are traditional functions of Mercury. In this sense, the Saints may be understood as the Promethean light-bringers to Earth: they infuse the womb of Earth with the gnosis-fire of Wisdom.

These attributions to the Elements also elucidate the Officers of the Gnostic Mass: Fire/Mars corresponds to the Priest, Water/Venus to the Priestess, Air/Mercury to the Deacon, and Earth to the Children. Naturally, the Fire/Mars of the Priest is reflected in his scarlet robe, the Water of the Priestess in her wearing blue, and Air/Mercury in the Deacon wearing yellow; the Children represent Earth under the duality of black & white. Mercury is especially appropriate to be attributed to the Deacon as he is the leader of the People (Mercury as psychopomp) and bearer of the Book of the Law (Mercury as Logos/Word of God). Interestingly, the Trigrams attributed to the 4 Elements show that none of the Trigrams are entirely balanced in themselves: they are all somewhat lop-sided, and require each of the other three Trigrams in order to attain balance. In other words, it can be taken as a symbolic explanation of the necessity of Children in the Gnostic Mass: they are required for the balance of the Officers and the forces they represent.

Fire - Tejas - YodWater - Apas - HehEarth - Prithivi - Heh finalAir - Vayu - Vav

The Star Sapphire Detour

In order to further understand the depth of this Eightfold Key, especially in terms of the cross-quarters, it is necessary to look at Liber XXXVI, The Star Sapphire.

In the Star Sapphire ritual, we go through the 4 quarters and assert a unity between various aspects of Tetragrammaton. There is a unity of Y & H, of H & V, etc. This unity is represented by the phrase “unus deus Ararita” in the ritual, which is repeated in each of the 4 quarters. “Unus deus” is Latin for “one/single god”. The word “ARARITA” is actually a notariqon, or acronym, for a phrase which is translated in one of the Thelemic Holy Books as, “O my God! One is Thy Beginning! One is Thy Spirit, and Thy Permutation One!” (Liber ARARITA). It is essentially understood as a declaration of Unity of all things, especially between opposites. As it is written in another Holy Book, “Also he taught me the holy unutterable word Ararita, so that I melted the sixfold gold into a single invisible point, whereof naught may be spoken” (Liber LXV, V:15). ARARITA represents both the method (the uniting of opposites) and the result (the union thereof). Note that it is spelled “Ararita,” as if it were a word unto itself, in both the rubric of Liber XXXVI as well as in Liber LXV. Symbolically, this union is represented in each quarter by “mak[ing] the Holy Hexagram”. The Hexagram is, in this context, a symbol of the union of two opposites, represented by the two triangles which compose the Hexagram. Note that each of the quarters as one masculine aspect and one feminine aspect that unite with one another: each quarter has one upright triangle (masculine) and downward triangle (feminine) to form the Hexagram. When we proclaim “unus deus Ararita,” the Hexagram of two separate triangles symbolically becomes the unicursal Hexagram, where there is no separation between the two triangles anymore, i.e. there is “Unity uttermost showed” in 4 different permutations in the 4 different quarters. Note on the diagram at the beginning of this essay that “VNVS DEVS” forms a circle around the center. These 8 letters are to show that, ultimately, all these permutations are permutations of the One. And yet also remember “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!” (Liber AL, I:27).

In the Star Sapphire itself, we do some ritual signs and then advance to the East and say “Pater et Mater unus deus Ararita.” This literally means “Father and Mother are one god Ararita.”  In terms of Tetragrammaton, Yod and Heh are One.

We go round to the South and say: “Mater et Filius unus deus Ararita.” This literally means “Mother and Son are one god Ararita.” In terms of Tetragrammaton, Heh and Vav are One.

We go round to the West, make the Holy Hexagram and then say: “Filius et Filia unus deus Ararita.” This literally means “Son and Daughter are one god Ararita.” In terms of Tetragrammaton, Vav and Heh final are One.

We go round to the North, make the Holy Hexagram and then say: “Filia et Pater unus deus Ararita.” This literally means “Daughter and Father are one god Ararita.” In terms of Tetragrammaton, Heh final and Yod are One. The cycle has restarted, and it perpetuates itself unto eternity. As Crowley wrote, “This mystery of the Daughter awakening the eld of the all-Father and thus perpetuating Tetragrammaton is of great importance” (Comment to 4th Aethyr).

Star Sapphire TetragrammatonNotice that the 4 quarters do not correspond to a single letter of Tetragrammaton. Each quarter corresponds to a union of two different letters.

  • East = YH (Father-Mother)
  • South = HV (Mother-Son)
  • West = VH (Son-Daughter)
  • North = HY (Daughter-Father)

This arrangement shows that each letter of Tetragrammaton is in one of the cross-quarters: Father/Pater (Yod) in the North-East, Mother/Mater (Heh) in the South-East, Son/Filius (Vav) in the South-West, and Daughter/Filia (Heh final) in the North-West. NOX FormulaBy going around the circle, one has therefore formed the sigil of N.O.X., the cross-in-the-circle when the cross is tilted like an “X.” This sigil secretly contains all 3 letters of N.O.X. within it, just as the normal upright cross “☩” contains the letters L.V.X..

If we now take the attributions of Tetragrammaton to the cross-quarters derived from the Star Sapphire, and we add back in the attributions of the Trigrams from 777, we see that they match up flawlessly.

—N.E.— —S.E.— —S.W.— —N.W.—
Yetziratic Attribution Fire Water Air Earth
Hindu Attribution Tejas Apas Vayu Prithivi
 Tetragrammaton Yod Heh Vav Heh final
Star Sapphire Pater Mater Filius Filia
Trigrams Fire - Tejas - Yod Water - Apas - Heh Air - Vayu - Vav Earth - Prithivi - Heh final

After all this in the ritual of the Star Sapphire, we then “return to the Centre, and so to The Centre of All.” We are symbolically returning to the center of the Eightfold Key, the Unity (unus deus) underlying the eightfold permutations. We then “mak[e] the Rosy Cross,” which symbolically is essentially the union of opposites (Rose and Cross, similar to Circle/Yoni and Cross/Lingam). Eventually, the rubric states “Also shall Set appear in the Circle.” Set is a complex symbol in Thelema, but the basic meanings can be seen in his identity with Horus and by the Qabalistic spelling of his name as given by Crowley.

In this Aeon of Horus, Ra-Hoor-Khuit, or technically Heru-Ra-Ha (both of which, along with others, are essentially forms or aspects of Horus), represents the supreme Unity, often identified with the Sun or solar nature in some way. Traditionally, Set is the enemy of Horus; they are the archetypal night and day. Yet, in this new Aeon, Horus is a symbol that contains its opposite in itself. Whether it is understood as Set, or Apophis (the Greek name for Apep, the Egyptian serpent of destruction and darkness and therefore enemy of the Sun/light/day), this “anti-Christ” or “anti-Horus” is contained within itself, similar to how Heru-Ra-Ha contains both Ra-Hoor-Khuit and Hoor-paar-kraat. Crowley writes, “This child Horus is a twin, two in one. Horus and Harpocrates are one, and they are also one with Set or Apophis, the destroyer of Osiris” (Equinox of the Gods, ch.8). Set is therefore ultimately an identical symbol to that of Horus.

There are further considerations of the name “Set” itself being related to similar terms like Sat (“Being” in Sanskrit), Satan, Saturn, and the like. Set is indeed a symbol of Satan, insofar as Satan represents the eternal enemy of Christ, the darkness against the light yet again. We can also say Satan is a symbol of Set in the same way – in fact, Set showed up in writings a few millenia before Satan did.  The point is really moot, for this Satan would necessarily need to contain its own opposite to be an adequate symbol: just as Christ needs Anti-Christ, Anti-Christ needs Christ. All opposites are codependent and intertwined: this is a fundamental understanding of the new Aeon, the Aeon of the Crowned and Conquering Child, which is itself the union of the past Aeons of Mother and Father into a new synthesis. Whether we see it as Set, or as Horus, or as Heru-Ra-Ha, or as Hoor-Set, or Hoor-Apep, or both or neither, they all are symbols pointing to the conjunction of opposites in a single Unity, unus deus. 

So Set appears in the Circle while we are at its Centre. We just saw how Set is identified with Horus, and now we can look at the name “Set” itself. Crowley spells Set in a particular way: the Greek letter Sigma and the Greek letter Theta. The trick is that he uses certain archaic forms of both of these letters.  For the Sigma, instead of the typical “Σ”, Crowley used an earlier script where Sigma looks essentially identical to our modern “C”. Note that this letter resembles a lunar crescent. For Theta, instead of the typical “Θ”, which looks like a Circle with a short horizontal line through the middle, Crowley used the older form which was a circle with a dot in the middle, essentially identical with the typical Solar glyph “☉”. Combining these, we have something like “C☉” which forms a sort-of sideways “Sol & Luna conjoined” glyph. “Set” is therefore a name for Sol & Luna conjoined, which is itself simply one archetypal expression of the union of opposites, whether Lingam & Yoni, Sol & Luna, Father & Mother, Subject & Object, Cross & Circle, etc.

Note that the final Sign of this portion of the Star Sapphire is that of “Baphomet.” BAPHOMET is a name that represents the union of all opposites. It is a fitting name to symbolize the union of the 8 permutations of this Eightfold Key into the single unity. Like “UNUS DEUS,” BAPHOMET is 8 letters, as seen in a Holy Book of Thelema where it is written, “I am Baphomet, that is the Eightfold Word…” (Liber A’ash). 

Epilogue

And with that, one should (theoretically) be able to decipher the various aspects of the Eightfold Key. If you’ve made it this far in the essay, I give you my congratulations, and I hope that the journey allowed for some new connections and/or insights to occur. Again, I see this mainly as an extrapolation of ideas already inherent in Crowley’s own attributions and writings, but since I have been and am still unaware of any further elucidation of this particular scheme, I felt that creating this Key may be useful and interesting to some Thelemic magicians who are grappling with similar concepts. Lege. Judica. Tace. 

Unus Deus: The Eightfold Key to Thelemic Magick

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‘The Journal of Thelemic Studies: The Mysteries of the Gnostic Mass’ is now available

The Journal of Thelemic Studies: The Mysteries of the Gnostic MassThe Journal of Thelemic Studies: The Mysteries of the Gnostic Mass

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Description: ‘The Journal of Thelemic Studies: Volume III, Number 1 – The Mysteries of the Gnostic Mass’ is a special issue devoted exclusively to the central public and private rite of Ordo Templi Orientis, Liber XV: The Gnostic Mass. This issue has over 15 articles from a diverse group of Thelemites writing on a wide variety of topics from the Creed, to magical energy in the Mass, to preparation of Cakes of Light, to music in the Mass, and more.

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Fundamentals of Initiation in Thelema

Fundamentals of Initiation in Thelema

Fundamentals of Initiation in Thelema

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Initiation in General

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Now the Great Work is one, and the Initiation is one, and the Reward is one, however diverse are the symbols wherein the Unutterable is clothed.”

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

“To you who yet wander in the Court of the Profane we cannot yet reveal all; but you will easily understand that the religions of the world are but symbols and veils of the Absolute Truth. So also are the philosophies. To the adept, seeing all these things from above, there seems nothing to choose between Buddha and Mohammed, between Atheism and Theism” (Liber X). 

The Mysteries in the New Aeon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

Love is the law, love under will.

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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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Top 10 Myths about True Will

Top 10 Myths about True Will

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

The concept of “True Will”, or simply “Will”, is fundamental to the Law of Thelema since our central tenet is “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” (AL I:40), along with “Thou hast no right but to do thy will” (AL I:42) and “There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt” (AL III:60). Thelema, after all, means “Will.”

For Will being such a central concept in Thelema there are many misconceptions about it that limit our understanding as well as limit our potential for accomplishing or manifesting our Wills. Many of these myths or misconceptions are highly interrelated, but they are also different in their emphasis or approach; the list is not meant to be exhaustive or comprehensive but to hopefully lead to further thought and clarity about the notion of Will. Most fundamentally, this is a short list intended to challenge some common misconceptions about the Will in order that we may know and do our Wills more freely and joyously.

1) True Will is found at a certain point in time.

The first myth is that True Will is discovered during a discrete event, a certain point in history. This means that you don’t know your Will but in the future you might, upon having some kind of insight or experience, suddenly know it. In contrast, Crowley informs us that “The will is but the dynamic aspect of the self…” (Liber II). In this sense, the Will is simply the expression of our Nature. However poorly or incompletely, our Nature can’t help but be expressed in some way, which is to say: We are always doing our Wills to some extent, but we could also always do a little “better” in the sense of doing it more fully and with more awareness. Even if we do have sudden or life-altering insight into the nature of our Wills, this doesn’t mean that this understanding might not need to change or be revised in the future.

2) True Will is something to be found in the distant future.

Related to the first myth is the notion that True Will is not found in the present but at some point in the future. That is, one thinks “I don’t know my Will now but I will hopefully know it in the future.” Now, it is perfectly reasonable to believe that one’s knowledge or understanding of one’s Will may increase in the future, but – again – we are always doing our Wills to some extent. That is, the Will is not “found,” but our awareness and understanding of it may increase. Viewing Will as something found in the future forecloses on the potential for us working our best to do our Wills in the present moment. We may bemoan our circumstances, wishing that “if we only knew our Wills…” that everything would be alright, rather than working with ourselves in the present to be more fully aware and joyful with what is already occurring. That is, our very concepts of the Will as being something distant prevent us from seeing what is already here: we are all stars (AL I:3) and Hadit, the flame of our Wills, is always at the core of our Being (AL II:6). It is our job or duty to figure out how to work with ourselves and our environment in order to most fully manifest that inherent Truth within us.

3) You’re either doing your Will or you’re not doing it.

The language used around Will is often “digital” in the sense that we speak of it in “on or off” terms. I believe it is both more effective and more accurate to think of Will in “analog” terms, i.e. that we are always doing Will to some extent. The language of “True Will” implies this kind of digital dichotomy of true/false. In contrast, the idea of “pure will” is one of a matter of degrees. A totally “pure” Will is 100% Will with no admixture or contaminants, just like pure juice is 100% juice – there is no moral connotation whatsoever. We may (for the sake of explanation) say that we may not be currently doing 100% of our Will but we may be at 30% or 80% of our potential at any given moment. This puts the responsibility on ourselves to try to enact our Will in the fullest, most “pure” way possible. It also means that we don’t need to think of others in terms of them doing or not doing their Wills; rather, everyone is doing their Will to some extent or another, and we can all engage in more intentional effort to get closer to the ideal of “100% Will.”

4) True Will is a single, unchanging thing.

The language used around Will also often implies that Will is a single thing, i.e. “It is my Will to be a doctor.” In fact, the idea of Will being a certain career in particular is one of the most common examples of this misconception. One example Crowley speaking in this way is when he writes, “to each will come the knowledge of his finite will, whereby one is a poet, one prophet, one worker in steel, another in jade” (De Lege Libellum). The error comes in taking the idea of “Will = the right career” literally rather than metaphorically. That is, a career is a metaphor for what you do with your life, hopefully suited to your proclivities, talents, and aspirations. Obviously the Will is not confined to a single career – especially nowadays when most people on average have multiple careers throughout their lives – as is apparent with Crowley’s own life. It would not be correct to say it was Crowley’s Will to be a poet because it would neglect that he was a magician; it would not be correct to say it was Crowley’s Will to be a mountain climber because it would neglect that he was a chess player, etc. In fact, the Will is – as already mentioned – “the dynamic aspect of the self…” (Liber II). It is dynamic, meaning constantly in motion. Crowley reinforces this when he writes that the “True Self[‘s]… Nature is to move continually, it must be understood not as static, but as dynamic, not as a Noun but as a Verb” (Duty). This dynamic nature of Will is further implied in the language that describes it as “Motion” as when Crowley writes that the Will is “the true Motion of thine inmost Being” (Liber Aleph, chapter 9). 

5) True Will can be completely encapsulated in a phrase.

Connected to the previous misconception is the notion that Will can be completely encapsulated in a phrase. Since the Will is dynamic, its Nature being “to Go”, no phrase can ever completely encapsulate it. There are certainly benefits to being able to encapsulate one’s Will in a phrase such as having a consciously articulated standard by which one can judge if a certain course of action is expressive or inhibitive of the Will. For example, one might formulate the Will as “It is my Will for my body to be healthy,” which can act as a standard by which you determine that eating junk food is not part of your Will (for all practical purposes). That being said, there must be an understanding that the Will is ultimately beyond verbal articulation. As it is said, “Also reason is a lie; for there is a factor infinite & unknown; & all their words are skew-wise” (AL II:32). The Will is supra-rational insofar as it cannot be accurately described or completely described by the faculty of Reason and thought. As Crowley says, “[The mind] should be a perfect machine, an apparatus for representing the universe accurately and impartially to its master. The Self, its Will, and its Apprehension, should be utterly beyond it” (New Comment to AL II:28). The mind with its thoughts and Reason is simply a part of one’s Being; the Will is the Verb of our whole Being so naturally a small part can not entirely comprehend or encompass the Whole.

6) True Will requires a mystical experience.

In connection with Myth #2, there is a tendency to believe that knowledge of the Will only comes with some kind of mystical experience, whether one believes (or conceives of) it as Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, enlightenment, crossing the Abyss, or whatever else. While we might say that Knowledge and Conversation (or other mystic experiences) might help clarify the Will or get rid of some of its obstacles such as excessive egotism, the Will is both always present to some extent and can always be worked with to some extent. The notion of Will as only knowable through mystical experiences neglects the fact that there are very simple, straightforward, and even “mundane” ways in which we can work with ourselves to do our Wills better or more fully. For example, one could realize that a certain relationship is not working anymore: it causes constant turmoil, suffering, bitterness, and resentment. One could then realize that, in order to do one’s Will more fully, one needs to end the relationship. “O lover, if thou wilt, depart!” (AL I:41). There are many things in our lives that we know, on some level, can be changed to more fully enact our Wills such as getting rid of certain habits that are already known to be troublesome. Whether this is as simple as “watching less television” or as concrete as “quitting opiates” or more subtle like “being less attached to expectations” or more general like “becoming more mindful and less emotionally reactive”, there are many ways to work on ourselves that are available to everyone without the slightest experience of or inclination toward mystical experiences. Even more troubling, believing that only some mystical experience in the future can be used as an excuse or a “spiritual bypass” to avoid dealing with these more “mundane” issues such as unprocessed emotions or unwanted habits. 

7) It is everyone’s Will to attain.

A generally pervasive belief among Thelemites is that there is a certain kind of “true Thelemite” or “ideal Thelemite.” Another essay more fully explains why this is a misconception but, in short, it relies on having preconceptions as to what is “right” and “wrong” for others’ Wills when the entire foundation of Thelema rests on the notion that each individual is unique. One manifestation of this preconception about what is “right” is the notion that everyone should be striving to “attain,” meaning achieve some kind of mystic gnosis or enlightenment. In fact, The Book of the Law says in the same line as its central maxim: “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” (AL I:40).This is further explained in The Vision and the Voice when it is said, “The man of earth is the adherent. The lover giveth his life unto the work among men. The hermit goeth solitary, and giveth only of his light unto men.” It is not inherently everyone’s Will to become a hermit and attain the heights of spiritual illumination – it may very well be someone’s Will to live their lives without concern for these things. More clearly, it says in The Book of the Law that “the Law is for all” (AL I:34). This insistence that everyone must “attain” can easily devolve into a form of spiritual self-superiority that is contrary to the spirit of Liberty that permeates the Law.

8) Your Will has nothing to do with other people.

It is typical to conceive of the Will as something inherent in the individual that has nothing do with other people or their circumstances. I believe this is simply a fault of the language used to describe Will rather than a reality. We are all embedded in a complex interconnection of forces – we are all stars in the web of Infinite Space – and we both affect and are affected by everything around us: “his actions affect not only what he called himself, but also the whole universe” (Liber Librae). Seeing as how the Will is the dynamic aspect of our Nature, it must inherently adapt to the situation or circumstance in which it finds itself. Crowley speaks to this when he writes that the Will is “our true orbit, as marked out by the nature of our position, the law of our growth, the impulse of our past experiences.” (Introduction to Liber AL). Our “position” constantly changes and the Will is “marked out” in part by the nature of our position. Our “position” involves our environment and the people around us. Virtually any kind of articulation of the Will – however provisional or tentative – must include the environment or other people in some way. To say “It is my Will to eat less” involves the food in your environment; to say “It is my Will to be kind” involves your kindness toward other people; to say “It is my Will to promulgate the Law of Thelema” involves those to whom you are promulgating, etc. Even to say “It is my Will to attain Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel” necessarily requires that you create the properly conducive environment to attain that goal. In fact, some of the best lessons come from being attuned to one’s environment and those around you as opposed to ignoring its import or impact. If you are getting constant messages in the form of unnecessary difficulties of whatever type, it is perhaps a lesson to alter the way you are adapting to your environment rather than insisting more strongly on going about your way and just bulldozing over others.

9) True Will means you’ll be free from suffering.

The idea of True Will often leads to unrealistic utopian notions as to what Will looks like. The idea that doing one’s Will frees one from suffering is unrealistic on multiple levels. Firstly, suffering is inherent in existence in some form or another insofar as we all get sick, suffer loss, get old, sustain injury, and die. We will always encounter some form of resistance or difficulty in our lives. This should not be seen as some kind of mark of failure on your attempt to do your Will; rather, these inevitable occurrences of suffering, resistance, and difficulty are the means by which we learn and grow. As it is said, “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… the greater thy trial the greater thy Triumph” (Liber Librae). This idea that “doing your Will = no suffering” also depends on the notion that Will is either “on” or “off” as mentioned in Myth #3: even if we are in the mode of “100% Will” for a while, we all inevitably make missteps, encounter unforeseen difficulties, or simply “slip” and don’t do the best we can. Further, the very desire to be free from suffering is, in a sense, an Old Aeon idea: Thelemites do not seek to transcend the material world, exempt ourselves from Samsara, or even avoid suffering. We acknowledge reality as it is without insisting it conform to our a priori ideals as to “how the world should be.” We accept suffering and difficulty in life as “sharp Sauce to the Dish of Pleasure” (Liber Aleph, chapter 59). I believe it is more accurate to say that doing one’s Will means you’ll be free from a great deal of unnecessary suffering. A great deal of our suffering is indeed not inherent or necessary but we, through our various poor habits and misconceptions, subject ourselves to difficulty that can be avoided largely or entirely if we become more aware of and tuned into our Wills.

10) True Will means you’ll be free from conflict.

Connected to the previous myth is the notion that doing one’s True Will means we will be free from all conflict. This is usually based on the fact that The Book of the Law says “thou hast no right but to do thy will. Do that, and no other shall say nay” (AL I:42-43) and Crowley wrote that “[the Law] seems to imply a theory that if every man and every woman did his and her will— the true will— there would be no clashing” (Liber II). Realistically, there will always be people who “say nay,” regardless of the extent to which you are doing your Will, and there will always be “clashing.” The real issue comes from an understanding of “clashing”: If clashing means interpersonal conflict in the form of disagreement and argument, there will never be an end to this unless we all become unthinking, desire-less automatons which is certainly not the goal of the Law of Liberty. Similar to the previous myth, I believe it is more accurate to say that doing one’s Will means you will be free from a great deal of unnecessary conflict. Much of our conflict with others depends on our insistence on knowing what is “right” for others, our own expectations and standards placed upon others, insisting on maintaining a position based on our ego’s self-esteem and identity being tied up with our position, and many other missteps that often naturally fall away to the extent that one focuses on Will rather than arguing. Perhaps that is one reason we are taught to “argue not; convert not; talk not overmuch!” (AL III:42). Again, it is a somewhat Old Aeon fantasy for the world or one’s life to be conflict-free. I believe the acceptance of and involvement with conflict is a distinguishing mark of one who has a New Aeon mentality rather than an Old Aeon one. As Crowley wrote, “Combat stimulates the virile or creative energy” (Duty). Even the most trivial and mundane forms of conflict such as opposing teams in sports or opposing viewpoints in a debate allow for the fun of the game to occur in the first place. Rather than seeking to be free of conflict, we might do better to examine the conflicts in our lives and determine to what extent they are a result of our inability to fully actualize our Wills in order to live more fully and joyfully.

Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131What all 10 of these myths imply is a view of Will as something always present to some extent, always dynamic and changing, always able to be worked with and worked on regardless of having mystical experiences or not, embedded within the context of our surroundings and other individuals, and accepting of suffering and conflict as things inherent in existence and things to be worked with rather than avoided. This list is not comprehensive in any way, and there are obviously many nuances to the idea of Will and many ways to approach understanding it. Nonetheless, my hope is that challenging some of these ideas as myths or misconceptions can help free our thinking up in order to become aware of the great potential in every moment to enact and rejoice in our Wills.

Love is the law, love under will.

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On Contributing to the Greater Community in Thelema

IAO131 - On Serving the Greater Community in Thelema

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

Prologue

Before even beginning to discuss the extent that contributing to the greater community is part of Thelema, it should be acknowledged that the “alpha and omega” of Thelema is Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. There is no law beyond doing your Will and you have no right but to do It. The answer to any question that takes the form “Is X or Y part of Thelema” is always “if it is your Will, then yes; if it is not your Will, then no.” I am not saying anyone “should” or “should not” do anything, but I am presenting an argument why contributing to the greater community is justified within the philosophy of Thelema. With that in mind, we can take a look at what Thelema implies and Crowley said about contributing to the greater community.

A maturing view of True Will

I would argue that, at a less mature level, Thelema is understood to be an entirely selfish doctrine. (By “less mature,” I simply mean “not fully developed,” and no pejorative implication is meant by it). When first learning about Thelema, individuals often understand “Do what thou wilt” to essentially mean “I have the right to find my Will and do it, so my personal needs trump everyone else’s.” From a certain standpoint, this is true. Your needs certainly deserve to be fulfilled. The problem is that many people simply do not know yet what their true “personal needs” and desires are in the first place – hence the necessity to engage in the process to know one’s Will. Further, one in this mindset maintains a very dichotomous (i.e. dualistic, black-and-white) view of the “self” as distinct from “others.” 

Many people move to the next level of maturity when they join an organization or start applying Thelema at a broader scale. That is, one matures to realize that everyone else has the right to do their own Will just as much as oneself. It is the realization that, just as you are the center of your own universe, everyone around you is the center of their own universes. Not only this, but many come to realize that becoming aware of others’ needs and even helping to fulfill them actually makes one’s own Will much easier to accomplish. The dichotomous view of “my Will versus the world” begins to break down and we see that we are a Star in the company of Stars. We see that disagreement does not preclude a greater harmony or cooperation, and often we find that we can accomplish greater things if we work together with others. We may even begin see that the distinction between “self” and “other” is much more tenuous, fluid, and dynamic than previously supposed, perhaps gaining a glimmer of the meaning of “the union of opposites” being the Great Work. 

This all may sound very obvious to some, but this is where things generally start to “break down.” Thelemites may see the rationale to serve their own needs and the needs of their Brothers and Sisters, but many do not see a rationale for contributing to the greater community. By “the greater community” I simply mean “people who are not part of OTO” or even “people who are not self-identified Thelemites.” Why might this be?

Why should we contribute to the greater community?

I am defining contributing as “giving resources, including but not limited to time, energy, and money.” We should certainly make sure to dedicate our resources to ourselves, making sure that our needs are met so that we may accomplish our Wills. Many Thelemites naturally and intuitively understand that contributing to an organization like OTO – i.e. by giving their time, energy, and money – is a great way to not only aid others in accomplishing their Wills but to learn more about one’s own Will in the process. The struggle for freedom – and the freedom that one has won for oneself – is naturally desired to be shared with others, so we band together into communities in order to preserve and promulgate the Law of Life, Light, Love, and Liberty. Why should we stop at our local community of Thelemites? Is not the Law for all? Do we not acknowledge that every man and every woman is a star? Do we not want all individuals to have the freedom to do their Wills? 

The image that precedes this essay is a well surrounded by four palm trees. This comes from Crowley’s essay “Liber CXXIV: Of Eden and the Sacred Oak” with the subtitle “And of the Greater and Lesser Hospitality of the O.T.O.” The subject of the essay is about “Profess Houses” in OTO, but I believe many of the principles apply on a greater, more general scale. As it is said, “For, in True Things, all are but images one of another; man is but a map of the universe, and Society is but the same on a larger scale.” The import of the image is that the Thelemic community – represented by the Profess House, but it could be any group of Thelemites of any or no formal organization – is a source of nourishment and hospitality to everything around it. Crowley writes:

“The symbol of the Profess-House is therefore a great Oak from which flow streams of water to every quarter fertilising indeed the ground about the hill and fortifying with moisture the roots of the oak itself, but not eddying about it and sapping its foundations. And in the spread of this Eden shall many men rejoice, taking shelter beneath overspreading branches, and refreshing their weary limbs in the fresh waters of the fount celestial pure. Alternatively, the symbol may be that of a well in the desert, sheltered by four great palms.”

Although the idea of the paradise of Eden with 4 rivers is a bit utopian and hyperbolic, it is nonetheless an important symbol.IAO131 - On Serving the Greater Community in Thelema The idea is that the community (represented by the oak or the well) nourishes things around it (the four streams of water or the four palms); further, in the community’s nourishing of others, it also fortifies itself without losing its own foundations. I think this is a beautiful image: every Thelemic community is a beacon of Light to those who stumble in darkness, a well of Life for those who struggle to subsist. 

Crowley himself says clearly, “thou must by Law assure to every Man a Means of satisfying his bodily and his mental Needs, leaving him free to develop any Super-Structure in Accordance with his Will, and protecting him from any that may seek to deprive him of these vertebral Rights.” This is essentially the idea of Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” about 4 decades before the idea was described by Maslow: every individual needs the foundation of their basic needs – their “bodily and mental needs” – before the capstone of any kind of “Super-Structure” can be developed. Crowley reinforces this idea when he wrote to Lady Frieda Harris, “The whole world as I see it is at present lost in constipations of this kind; the real needs of humanity are what they have always been: food, shelter, love and freedom. That, roughly speaking, is the general true will of the species, and all devices, which are not subservient to this will, are errors.” If we have the means to, for example, satisfy the bodily needs of those who spend most of their energy concerned about food and shelter, does it not make sense to contribute to them if we are capable? That is, if we have the resources – the time, money, and/or energy – to aid others in by helping to satisfy their basic needs, are we not simply – in some some small way – allowing more and more individuals to do their Wills more fully? 

Crowley writes in Duty, “Pity, sympathy and like emotions are fundamentally insults to the Godhead of the person exciting them, and therefore also to your own. The distress of another may be relieved; but always with the positive and noble idea of making manifest the perfection of the Universe. Pity is the source of every mean, ignoble, cowardly vice; and the essential blasphemy against Truth.” Here we have a very good lesson from Crowley: if we are to help people, it is to manifest the perfection of every man and every woman being able to do their True Wills. It is to work towards the order and harmony of all the stars on Earth being as perfect as the order and harmony of all the stars in the Heavens. It is not done out of pity for distress or suffering, nor is it really done out of any emotion at all. This relief – this service of others – is done out of the desire to fulfill the Law of Liberty, to bring about a world where everyone has the capability and freedom to accomplish their True Wills. Perhaps this is one way that we can fulfill what is hoped for in OTO US Grand Lodge’s Vision Statement, “We will foster harmonious and constructive relationships with the academic, business, civil, and greater social communities within which we operate.”

We therefore have a very powerful but very simple view of contribution to the greater community: Contributing is done to help satisfy basic needs such as food and shelter which are common across all humanity that they may be able to more fully accomplish their True Wills. We do not impose any “Super-Structure” upon others but allow them to develop as they Will and make their own choices, and we do not contribute aid out of pity. This is done to “make manifest the perfection of the Universe.”

So why aren’t we doing this already?

Contributing to others is too Christian! The most obvious answer to why many Thelemites do not see contributing to the greater community as justified is that helping other people sounds like “charity,” a word that is inevitably tied up in many people’s minds with Christianity. Aside from the various arguments around charity itself, I think  we can acknowledge that rejecting an idea or behavior simply because it resembles some other belief system is not a good reason for rejecting it. Most Thelemites would think twice before rejecting Liber Resh as “too Muslim,” rejecting the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram as “too Jewish,” rejecting the Gnostic Mass as “too Christian,” or rejecting the use of a mantra as “too Hindu.” The reason to reject all these things should be determined by whether or not it is fulfilling or thwarting your individual Will, and that is always the only determining factor for everything. Perhaps some do not realize that “charity” comes from “caritas,” the Latin word used in the New Testament to translate the Greek word “agape which some Thelemites may be familiar with. With this, I would also add things like the argument that contributing to others is too “liberal,” “socialist,” “communist,” or whatever label associate with the general idea.

Contributing to others is too Humanitarian! Yes, Crowley said “An end to the humanitarian mawkishness which is destroying the human race by the deliberate artificial protection of the unfit.” He also lived off of a family inheritance and the generous donations of his friends and disciples. There is no need to even argue what “unfit” means in this context. I personally believe that we should concern ourselves with what is “fit” and “unfit” within ourselves to accomplish our own True Wills, and we acknowledge that every man and every woman is a star with an indefeasible right to accomplish their Wills as we do ours. Further, we have all benefited from others’ resources, from amniotic fluids to stimulating conversations to job promotions. While it is obvious that our own choices determine our destiny to a large extent, it would be a vain and short-sighted thing to believe we are entirely “self-made” in any way. As Liber Librae says, “A man is what he maketh himself within the limits fixed by his inherited destiny; he is a part of mankind; his actions affect not only what he calleth himself, but also the whole universe.” Aside from the fact that this means your acts (such as contributing to others) affect all of those around you, it  also means every single other individual’s actions affect your universe as well. A humble acknowledgment of this fact makes the idea of contributing to others seem quite natural.

We need to focus on our own! Yes, we do need to focus on “our own.” Our concern should begin with ourselves and emanate outward farther and farther. If, for example, an OTO body is struggling to even pay the rent, it would not make sense to devote money toward contributing to the general community. As Liber Librae says, “If thou thyself hast not a sure foundation, whereon wilt thou stand to direct the forces of Nature?” Of course you need a sure foundation, both individually and organizationally. That still doesn’t preclude the possibility of extending influence and resources beyond oneself once that sure foundation is secured.

Summary

Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. If it is your Will to contribute to the greater community, then that is fine; if it is not your Will, then that is fine as well. Nonetheless, there is a good rationale for engaging in contributing to the greater community. If we appreciate the freedom to know and do our Wills, we will naturally appreciate aiding others to achieve this freedom, even if it is in a small way. Crowley insisted that we are to assure the satisfaction of basic needs such as food and shelter so that individuals may have the capacity and freedom to develop their own unique proclivities. He also reminded us that this should be done out of making manifest the perfection of the Universe on Earth, of wanting every man and every woman to be able to accomplish their Wills, not out of pity or distress. If we have the resources to help others satisfy their basic needs so they may more fully know and do their Wills, why wouldn’t we contribute to the greater community?

Love is the law, love under will.

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Yama & Niyama of Thelema: What is the “ideal Thelemite”?

The Yama and Niyama of Thelema

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

What is the “ideal Thelemite”? In short: There is no such thing as an “ideal Thelemite.” The Law of Thelema is “Do what thou wilt,” which means that every individual is sovereign. Every man and every woman has their own individual Law, their own unique Will. As William Blake said, “One Law for the Lion and the Ox is Oppression.”

The fact that “There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt” (Liber AL, III:60) is precisely why there are no standard or universal ideals. Each individual has their own Will, and each Law must have its own, unique “ideal.” Regarding the fact that there are no standards or universal ideals, Crowley writes: 

“What is necessary is not to seek after some fantastic ideal, utterly unsuited to our real needs, but to discover the true nature of those needs, to fulfill them, and rejoice therein.” —Magick Without Tears, chapter 8

“Know then, o my Son, that all Laws, all Systems, all Customs, all Ideals and Standards which tend to produce Uniformity, being in direct Opposition to Nature’s Will to change and to develop through Variety, are accursèd.”  —Liber Aleph, chapter 31: ‘De Lege Motus’

“Each child must develop its own Individuality, and Will, disregarding alien Ideals. … Let children educate themselves to be themselves. Those who train them to standards cripple and deform them. Alien ideals impose parasitic perversions. … Standards of education, ideals of Right-and-Wrong, conventions, creeds, codes, stagnate Mankind.” —On the Education of Children

One might argue that Thelema is itself a “universal ideal.” Thelema is a universal Law insofar as “Do what thou wilt” states that each individual must find their own unique Will, their own particular Law. The universal ideal is therefore that there are no universal ideals: each must “discover the true nature of [one’s real] needs, to fulfill them, and rejoice therein.” The only absolute is that there are no absolutes; the only constant is change. 

In a way, then, we can say that the “ideal Thelemite” is one who does their own Will and lets others do their Wills. This “ideal Thelemite” follows their own Law and others follow their own, different Laws; there are no universal ideals of “what is best” or “what is absolutely Right and Wrong” beyond this. This is what is sometimes called the “Yama and Niyama of Thelema.”

We borrow the terms “Yama” and “Niyama” from the Hindu system of raja yoga as explained, among other places, in Patanjali’s classic treatise called the Yogasutras. Yama and Niyama are words that mean opposite things, similar to “Thou shalt not” (Yama) and “Thou shalt” (Niyama). Unfortunately, translating them  into English is not easy, but their real meaning in the context of Thelema becomes clear with just a little explication.

The Yama of Thelema is to have the self-discipline to find one’s own Will and to do that Will. As it is said, “Thou hast no right but to do thy will” (Liber AL, I:42). The Niyama of Thelema is to mind your own business or, in other words, to allow others to find and do their Wills. The Niyama is to extend the same absolute liberty to do your own Will that you rightfully claim to all other individuals. In short:

  • The Yama of Thelema: Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Thou hast no right but to do thy will.
  • The Niyama of Thelema: Mind your own business.

Yama: Crowley mentions that Yama means something similar to “control” or “the  word ‘inhibition’ as used by biologists.” Basically, Yama means the self-discipline to remain on the “track” or “path” of one’s True Will and not swerving from it. “Thou hast no right but to do thy will,” (Liber AL, I:42) which shows that you are by definition outside of your sole right when you deviate from your Path. This requires the self-discipline to remain true to one’s own Law. As Crowley writes, “What is true for every School is equally true for every individual. Success in life, on the basis of the Law of Thelema, implies severe self-discipline.” Crowley gives a succinct summary of the Yama of Thelema when he writes:

“I wish to thunder forth once more that no questions of right or wrong enter into our problems. But in the stratosphere it is ‘right’ for a man to be shut up in a pressure-resisting suit electrically heated, with an oxygen supply, whereas it would be ‘wrong’ for him to wear it if he were running the three miles in the summer sports in the Tanezrouft. This is the pit into which all the great religious teachers have hitherto fallen, and I am sure you are all looking hungrily at me in the hope of seeing me do likewise. But no! There is one principle which carries us through all conflicts concerning conduct, because it is perfectly rigid and perfectly elastic: — ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.’ That is Yama.” —Eight Lectures on Yoga, “Yama”

Niyama: There is no “opposite term” of Yama, or self-discipline, to adequately translate “Niyama.” We might say that the complementary term of “self-discipline” is, in this case, something like “other-discipline.” If Yama is the discipline we have toward ourselves in remaining true to our own Law, Niyama is the discipline we have toward others in allowing them to remain true to their own Laws. This “other-discipline” can be summarized as “Mind your own business.” Crowley says as much in several places:

“Mind your own business! is the sole sufficient rule.” —Magick Without Tears, chapter 15

“I will have thee to know, moreover, my dear Son, the right Art of Conduct with them whom I shall give thee for Initiation. And the Rule thereof is one Rule: Do that thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. See thou constantly to it that this be not broken; especially in the Section thereof (if I dare say so) which readeth Mind thine own Business. This is of Application equally to all, and the most dangerous Man (or Woman, as has occurred, or I err) is the Busy-body. Oh how ashamed are we, and moved to Indignation, seeing the Sins and Follies of our Neighbours!” —Liber Aleph, chapter 96: ‘De Discipulis Regendis’

“Every Star has its own Nature, which is ‘Right’ for it. We are not to be missionaries, with ideal standards of dress and morals, and such hard-ideas. We are to do what we will, and leave others to do what they will. We are infinitely tolerant, save of intolerance”. —New Comment to Liber AL, II:57

“It is necessary that we stop, once for all, this ignorant meddling with other people’s business. Each individual must be left free to follow his own path.” —New Comment to Liber AL, I:31

The name Crowley gives for someone who fails to uphold the Niyama of Thelema is a “busy-body.” A busy-body is someone who is concerned about what other people are doing, how other people are doing things, and why other people are doing things. A busy-body is concerned about someone else’s True Will rather than being concerned with their own. They are indignant about the “sins and follies” of their neighbors rather than focusing on themselves, and generally meddle in others’ affairs. A busy-body, in short, does not mind their own business.

We are all busy-bodies to some degree or another whenever we impose our standards, expectations, or ideals on others, whenever we think that “we know best” for anyone other than ourselves. This can be anything from the most mundane and concrete such as criticizing another’s choice in clothing to the more subtle such as expecting others to perform the same spiritual practices as oneself or insisting that people who believe something different from oneself must be “corrected.” 

When put into practice, we quickly see that the Niyama of Thelema – that of minding one’s own business and allowing others to do their Wills – is not simply a limp passivity. It is not “grinning and bearing it,” which implies that – deep down – you actually don’t want them to do their Wills (let alone that you obviously aren’t rejoicing in it!). The Niyama of Thelema is an active, positive thing: we actively affirm the right of each individual to know and do their True Will. When we greet one another, we look fearlessly into each others’ eyes and say, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” This is to say to everyone you meet, as Crowley writes, “Look, brother, we are free! Rejoice with me, sister, there is no law beyond Do what thou wilt!” 

Some might say that it takes strength to control everything, but it is a much greater strength to not need to control everything and everyone. It is a symptom of being unsure and anxious to feel the need to control people by insisting that it’s your way or the highway. That is: Being a busy-body is a symptom of weakness and fear, although it will inevitably mask itself in the “virtue” that essentially comes down to “knowing what is best” for someone else (let alone “all other Thelemites”!). That is where “compassion” and “altruism” and even “teaching” teeters into the realm of folly.

We will all inevitably hear (or probably have already heard) some self-avowed Thelemite question why others are not doing this or that, insisting they are complaining about others because they “really care” about Thelema. Many of us have fallen prey to this ourselves (“Oh no! Definitely not me!” … Yes, you especially!). This “care” – this “noble cause” of ours – is nothing but the demands of a busy-body cloaking itself in guise of “virtue.” We all should remember to “veil not your vices in virtuous words” (Liber AL, II:52). This “care” basically comes down to insisting that everyone else must have the same values as yourself, which is exactly opposite to affirming “Do what thou wilt.” If you ever find yourself asking, or hear someone else asking, something that amounts to “Why doesn’t this other person/these other people think that this is important?” The answer is most likely “Because it isn’t important to them, nor does it need to be”… or, more pointedly, “Mind your own business.” This is why there is no “ideal Thelemite.” This is why “One Law for the Lion and the Ox is Oppression.” Any insistence otherwise will quickly fall into the same trap that characterized the Old Aeon, the tyranny of a single standard or ideal for all people, rather than a multiplicity of Laws, each uniquely suited to the individual. 

Again: The Niyama of Thelema is not a limp, passive, “grin and bear it” quality. On the contrary: It takes an active, almost virile quality to say to every individual, “I don’t know what your Will is, I don’t know what your ‘good’ or ‘bad’ are, I don’t even know how your Will may interact with and effect mine, but I grant you the absolute right to do your Will and I claim the equally absolute right to do my Will.”  This is far from a passive “letting things happen”; the Niyama of Thelema is an active affirmation, an enthusiastic encouragement, a joyous battle-cry for each and every man and woman to discover their real needs, to fulfill them, and to rejoice therein. To believe otherwise is the essence of tyranny; to act otherwise is the essence of oppression. This requires the strength to stand in the midst of uncertainty and ambiguity, of accepting variety and difference of style and opinion, of not knowing “how everything should be” for everyone or anyone else. Any concern arising about others “not doing it the right way” should be a reminder to us all to re-focus on our own Will: this should be a reminder of the Yama of staying true to our own Path and the Niyama of affirming the right of others to be true to their Paths.

 This is the simplicity and the beauty of the Law of Thelema: There are no absolute standards or universal ideals. Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131Every man and every woman has the indefeasible right and duty to know and do his or her True Will. Each has their own standard, their own Law. Any occurrence of someone imposing their Law on another, or anyone accepting a Law imposed on them by another, is a distortion and deforming of a star’s true nature. It is our Yama to adhere to this Law of our own True Will, and it is our Niyama to affirm the right of every other individual to adhere to the Law of his or her own True Will. This is real Freedom, the perfect order on Earth as the stars move seamlessly in the perfect order in the Heavens; this why our Law of “Do what thou wilt” is the Law of Liberty itself.

Love is the law, love under will.

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Is Thelema a Religion or not?

Is Thelema Religion or Not?

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

One of the ever-present questions in the discourse about Thelema is whether or not it is a religion. I think this question is most poetically answered by someone – I believe the credit goes to Jake Stratton-Kent – who said:

“There is religion in Thelema for those that require it. There is also freedom from religion in Thelema, for those that require it.”

In short: Yes… and no. All I can attempt to do is elaborate on this position to make it a bit more clear.

Before going too far in depth, it should be said that – according to anthropologists, sociologists, theologists, and the like – Thelema would most definitely be classified as a “religion.” It has a “Bible” (Liber AL vel Legis), a moral code (Do what thou wilt), a Prophet (To Mega Therion), a set of practices (Magick), and even a “pantheon” (Nuit, Hadit, Ra-Hoor-Khuit, Hoor-paar-kraat, et cetera). Whether or not this is entirely an accurate designation is another question.

We might first look at why people wouldn’t want to call Thelema a “religion.” The answer is fairly obvious: “religion” in the 21st Century has become synonymous with superstition, tyranny, and oppression. There is no doubt about this: organized religion has, for millenia, been a force for all of these horrible things that stand against the spirit of Liberty. Many people who are most vocal about Thelema not being a religion are those who experienced this superstition, tyranny, and oppression first-hand in their childhood, and I personally do not find their reaction to be hard to understand. 

In this light, we can see that Crowley himself was wary of the use of the term “religion” to describe Thelema. In a letter found in Magick Without Tears, he writes:

“To sum up, our system is a religion just so far as a religion means an enthusiastic putting-together of a series of doctrines, no one of which must in any way clash with Science or Magick. Call it a new religion, then, if it so please your Gracious Majesty; but I confess that I fail to see what you will have gained by so doing, and I feel bound to add that you might easily cause a great deal of misunderstanding, and work a rather stupid kind of mischief.

We should note, firstly, that Crowley begins this quotation by saying that – according to a certain definition of religion as “an enthusiastic putting-together of a series of doctrines” – Thelema is, in fact, a religion. He then says that calling Thelema a “religion” may cause misunderstanding and mischief. He does not explain exactly why it would cause misunderstanding and mischief but we can guess that it is most likely for the aforementioned reasons: it associates it with the Old Aeon religions that are gleaming beacons of superstition, tyranny, and oppression, i.e. those exact things we are set to destroy with our Law of Liberty. People may also assume that we believe things that other religions do, especially the Judeo-Christian-Islamic type, such as the belief in a gaseous vertebrate breed of God, which is most certainly false. 

In short, we may refrain from calling Thelema a religion because it associates it with superstition, tyranny, and oppression which Thelema is firmly against in every way, being the Law of Liberty. Our Law is simultaneously more simple and more nuanced than a belief in a Judeo-Christian-Islamic Daddy-in-the-sky God. Keep in mind, though, that this implies that calling Thelema a religion may cause misunderstanding and mischief, but it does not imply that the designation is inaccurate in some fundamental way. 

Now we may turn to the reasons why Thelema is a religion. First of all, Crowley calls Thelema a religion repeatedly.

In his commentary on Liber AL, III:22, Crowley writes:

Our religion therefore, for the People, is the Cult of the Sun, who is our particular star of the Body of Nuit, from whom, in the strictest scientific sense, come this earth, a chilled spark of Him, and all our Light and Life.”

In this line, he very clearly calls Thelema a religion, although there is a caveat that it is “for the People,” by which we may assume he means “the masses” and not necessarily for the “Hermits” or “initiates” or “Adepts”  (although this is, admittedly, an assumption).

In The Constitution of the Order of Thelemites, Crowley writes this Order is against “All superstitious religion, as obstacles to the establishment of scientific religion.” Here he clearly calls Thelema a religion, but he opposes “superstitious religion” (those of the Old Aeon and many of those that have cropped up in the New Aeon as well) to “scientific religion.” We get a further clarification that Thelema, insofar as it is a religion, is not opposed to science. 

In the “Editorial” prefacing The Equinox III:1 (also known as The Blue Equinox), Crowley writes an important passage:

The world needs religion. Religion must represent Truth, and celebrate it. This truth is of two orders: one, concerning Nature external to Man; two, concerning Nature internal to Man.

Existing religions, especially Christianity, are based on primitive ignorance of the facts, particularly of external Nature. Celebrations must conform to the custom and nature of the people. Christianity has destroyed the joyful celebrations, characterized by music, dancing, feasting, and making love; and has kept only the melancholy.

The Law of Thelema offers a religion which fulfils all necessary conditions. The philosophy and metaphysics of Thelema are sound, and offer a solution of the deepest problems of humanity. The science of Thelema is orthodox; it has no false theories of Nature, no false fables of the origin of things. The psychology and ethics of Thelema are perfect. It has destroyed the damnable delusion of Original Sin, making every one unique, independent, supreme, and sufficient. The Law of Thelema is given in the Book of the Law.”

Here we have another instance of Crowley explicitly calling Thelema a religion. He insists again that it must “represent Truth, and celebrate it,” concurring with the aforementioned quotation that insists Thelema is a “scientific religion.”

From these quotations, it seems fairly clear that Crowley did – with the caveat that it represents and celebrates Truth and is “scientific” – consider Thelema a religion. There is a further point that, in my opinion, clarifies the entire matter: Thelema is a religion but it is more than just a religion. I have said several times that Thelema is an all-encompassing paradigm, and this is meant to imply that Thelema is a religion… and much more.

We have already seen inklings of this idea in the previous quotation where Crowley calls Thelema a religion while also mentioning the philosophy, metaphysics, science, psychology, and ethics of Thelema. In his Confessions, Crowley conveys this idea that Thelema is more than just a religion with great clarity when he writes:

Thelema implies not merely a new religion, but a new cosmology, a new philosophy, a new ethics. It co-ordinates the disconnected discoveries of science, from physics to psychology, into a coherent and consistent system. Its scope is so vast that it is impossible even to hint at the universality of its application.”

He says “Thelema implies not merely a new religion.” It also implies a new cosmology, philosophy, and ethics. Thelema is not limited to the small sphere of theology. This perspective is reflected in the fact that we, following Crowley, call Thelema a “Law.” This Law is given in The Book of the Law. Crowley also calls Thelema a “formula.” For example, in the essay “The Beginning of the New World” (which can be found in the recently-published The Revival of Magick), Crowley writes:

“The many religions of the world have all lost their power to guide chiefly because the development of means of transport and of international commerce have convinced the educated that any one religion is about as good or bad as another for the purposes of social discipline, and that none has any validity from the standpoint of actual fact, or historical or philosophical truth.

The remedy is evidently to be found only in one way. There must be found a formula based upon absolute common sense, without one trammel of theological theory or dogma, a formula to which no man of intelligence can refuse assent, and which at the same time affords an absolute sanction for all laws of conduct, social and political no less than individual, so that the right or wrong of any isolated or concerted action can be determined with mathematical accuracy by any trained observer, entirely irrespective of his personal idiosyncrasies. This formula is: Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”

When we consider Thelema as a “Law” or a “formula,” we are – first of all – using language that is in common with science (e.g. “the law of gravity” or “the formula for calculating velocity”). More importantly, we are using language that is universal insofar as this Law or formula applies to all aspects of life. 

Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131I believe the idea that Thelema is not just a religion but a new paradigm of cosmology, metaphysics, ethics, and psychology is the most accurate perspective on whether or not Thelema is a religion. Insofar as Thelema is a religion, it is a religion that is explicitly opposed to superstition, to “theological theory or dogma” (ideally!), and oppression. In the end, what’s in a name? Thelema’s Law is “Do what thou wilt” and people are free to call it a religion or not. Whether you choose to call it a religion or not is your own choice, and whether or not someone else chooses to call Thelema a religion is none of our business. The real question, the one that really matters, is: Are you living the Law of Thelema? Have you written “Do what thou wilt” in your heart and in your brain? Have you used the simplicity of the Key of the Law to unlock the complexities of philosophy, psychology, theology, and daily life? In short: are you doing your True Will or not? In light of this central consideration all other things, including what names and titles we give to things, are – at best – totally irrelevant and are – at worst – leading us to mischief and futility. As always: There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.

Love is the law, love under will.

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Promulgation of Thelema on the Internet

Promulgation of Thelema on the Internet

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

There are a few individuals who have qualms about promulgation of the Law of Thelema on the Internet, specifically through social media outlets such as Facebook. The basic argument against doing this is that promulgating on Facebook “dumbs down” the Law by just using a single quotation or image.

I understand this concern, and I agree to some extent. It would be better for people to read the source texts of Crowley’s writings rather than simply to click “Like” on an image on Facebook. That is a fairly unarguable point in itself, yet – within the context of the Internet – there are many reasons why this argument misses the point.

First of all, here are some relevant quotations from Crowley himself on promulgation:

  • Crowley wrote to Frater Achad in June of 1916: “Observe: the business before the meetings is this: How shall we put into effect the Law of Thelema. We have the Law already; I don’t see that we need any more knowledge; but we need very badly the power to administer it. I think I’ve been making a fool of myself, thinking and talking and writing. What I need is efficiency in promulgation.”
  • Crowley also wrote on August 28, 1936: “One thing I will say: that I do not expect anything to come of qabalistic speculations. I think that they may even be extremely mischievous in times like the present. Our sole business should be to use the Law to reconstruct the world from the chaos into which it is already half tumbled. That formula is a simple one, and requires no specialised training. The work requires the cooperation of tens of thousands of people who have never heard of the Qabalah, and they have to be addressed in language which they can understand.”
  • Crowley also wrote to Grady McMurtry (Hymenaeus Alpha) in August of 1945:It is necessary to broaden the scope of presentation of the Law of Thelema so that people of all types may be able to appreciate that particular part which they can understand. In this manner the thought processes of the majority will be so directed that all those who can Understand the Law will be given the opportunity to do so while at the same time providing a guide for those whose Understanding is incomplete.”

Sabazius X° has also written in Agape X:4, “While we have no duty to ‘convert,’ we do have a duty to disseminate the Law as widely as possible throughout human society, not just within specific sub-cultures, classes, and social groups.”

From these quotations, we can see that Crowley was interested in several things regarding promulgation of the Law:

  • Crowley wanted more power and efficiency in spreading the Law.
  • Crowley wanted the cooperation of tens of thousands of people who do not need to understand specialized things such as the Qabalah.
  • Crowley wanted the Law to be presented in a way that people of all types can appreciate the parts of the Law that they can understand.

Therefore, good promulgation requires (1) a powerful medium (or diverse media) to spread the Law, (2) the ability to reach thousands of people, and (3) presentation in a simple and straightforward way.

I personally believe that the Internet is a perfect medium to fulfill all 3 of these requisites for good promulgation. Facebook in particular is currently a medium that allows many people to not only see bits and pieces of the Law through quotations and images, but it also allows individuals to easily share these things to further promulgation. For example, the image that heads this essay was seen by over 10,000 different individuals in a single posting. It (1) used a powerful medium of Facebook that (2) reached over 10,000 people and (3) was a quotation that most people, even without any knowledge of Thelema or more technical subjects such as Magick or Qabalah, could appreciate. 

The potential reach of Facebook is actually fairly astonishing. To give an example, the “Aleister Crowley” Facebook page currently has an average weekly reach of around 45,000 individuals. That means that, in any given week, some post (whether text, link, video, or image) is seen on the News Feed of around 45,000 unique users. What other promulgation effort can reach 45,000 people every week? To continue with this example, any time that someone clicks “Like,” comments, or shares a post on the “Aleister Crowley” Facebook page, it can be seen by any of that person’s Facebook Friends. How many Friends of people who are “Fans” of this Facebook page are there? Over 24 million. Friends of these Fans can then click “Like,” comment, or share so the number of possible viewers is actually higher than 24 million. This is only a single Facebook Page (let alone all the others and people’s individual Facebook Profiles), and the numbers should, in my opinion, speak for themselves. Does it not say in The Book of the Law, “Success is your proof”? It is possible that this is, in fact, the largest and most widespread promulgation effort that Thelema has seen in its entire history. 

What do these efforts do that are beneficial toward the end of promulgating the Law?

  • Thousands of people will see content, whether a link to a full text or a quotation or whatever else, that they otherwise would not have seen or thought about.
  • Thousands of people who have never heard about Thelema or Aleister Crowley are given a chance to see a small bit of what the Law is about.
  • Thousands of people are given an opportunity to promulgate the Law themselves (who would often not do so otherwise) by spreading the content.
  • Everyone can choose whether to follow these Facebook pages, and they can choose to comment or share on them. It is, in a way, the pinnacle of promulgation as opposed to proselytization. No one is being forced to do or see or listen to anything.

Is this a replacement for people reading the source materials, engaging in their local communities, doing the practices of Yoga and Magick, and generally integrating the Law into their lives? Of course not. But neither is any other form of outreach, including the most beautifully bound and articulately written book. It is just as likely for someone to read an entire book on Magick and never perform a ritual as it is for someone to share a quotation on Facebook and not really integrate it into their lives.

We have no power to force Thelema on anyone: it is the Work of each individual to study, understand, and integrate it into their lives and no amount of work by other people can ever replace that. It never has and it never will. These Internet promulgation efforts simply give more and more opportunities for individuals to spread the Law to “people of all types” as Crowley wanted. It is, in a way, even more powerful than books because it is free, efficient, allows people to perpetuate the ideas with little to no effort, and can reach many individuals who would not otherwise have even heard of Crowley or the Law of Liberty. Also – although it may come as a shock or an insult to many Thelemites – not everyone is an intellectual who has time to read long, obtuse essays or books. Whether from lack of education, interest, or proclivity, there are many people – in fact, I would say most people – who are not bibliophile eggheads like myself (and many current Thelemites). “The Law is for all,” and that does not mean only bibliophile eggheads. 

Some people are concerned whether these Internet promulgation efforts have led to increased initiates at the local OTO body or even more Thelemites. At the core of this is a concern as to how much people are really integrating these ideas and putting them into practice. As I just said: it is the Work of each individual to study, understand, and integrate it into their lives and no amount of work by other people can ever replace that. More importantly, there is absolutely no way to ever know for sure. Aside from the fact that we don’t systematically ask every single new face at an event what specific things led to them showing up, there is also the fact that many people are not exactly sure, cannot remember, or do not even want to say (perhaps in part because of the chance of being met with sanctimoniousness!) There is also no way to know how these promulgation efforts affect existing members of organizations like OTO. I personally think that if some Facebook post got someone to think a little bit about Thelema that day, even if it is only for a few moments, then that is better than them not thinking about it. Perhaps they have never even encountered that particular link or quotation before. Further: Aside from organizations like OTO, there is absolutely no way to determine how this affects Thelemites (and non-Thelemites) who are not associated with any particular organization. 

In short, as I’ve already said, there is absolutely no way to ever know sure. What we do know is the incredible extent to which these Internet promulgation efforts have reached people in some way or another, Thelemite and non-Thelemite alike. It is a certain fact that “tens of thousands of people” (just as Crowley wanted) are seeing this content when they otherwise would not have seen it. The Book of the Law says, “and to each man and woman that thou meetest, were it but to dine or to drink at them, it is the Law to give. Then they shall chance to abide in this bliss or no; it is no odds.” Really, should we be concerned about whether or not other people are truly engaging with the material anyhow? Are we not affording individuals a “chance to abide in this bliss or no” and, whether or not they do anything at all with it, “it is no odds”? Isn’t the insistence that individuals do a certain thing or act in a particular way a fundamental breach of acknowledging “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”? 

The Book of the Law says, “Success is thy proof: argue not; convert not; talk not overmuch!” Let’s engage in a little thought experiment: Consider the difference between (a) an individual who, for example, creates an image with a quotation about the Law and spreads it on Facebook versus (b) an individual who criticizes this effort. Person A is creating an opportunity or chance for someone to hear about the Law, think about the Law, and share the Law without any attempt to convert anyone (“Success is thy proof”). Person B is, first of all, reactive – they are setting the causal principle of their actions outside of themselves by re-acting instead of acting. Person B is arguing rather than spreading the Law (“argue not”), trying to enforce and impose their standard of how to behave as “a real Thelemite” on others (“convert not”), and are spending time and energy chastising others (“talk not overmuch”) instead creating their own material that would, obviously, be so much better. If 10,000 people see something about Thelema because of the posting of an image, how many people are really being reached through criticizing it? 

Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131While constructive criticism is always beneficial to honing the efficiency of an approach, there is a lot of criticism that is simply emotional and reactive (i.e. not constructive). There seem to be some people who, whether consciously or not, want to keep Thelema as a cloistered, elitist, and tiny clique. That is their prerogative – Do what thou wilt, of course – but I believe that I, along with tens of thousands of other people, are doing a lot of substantial work to spread the Law of Thelema to the rest of the world in accordance with the attitude of the Prophet (as seen in the quotations above). “The Law is for all” after all, and I say: If we truly believe that Thelema is the Law of Liberty – the Key to our evolution as individuals and a species – we should give as many people as possible the “chance to abide in this bliss or no.”

Love is the law, love under will.

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