thelema

True Will symbols and language

The Will in Thelema: The Symbolic Lessons of Life

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

All individuals are united by sharing a single task: finding and doing their True Will. “Thou hast no right but to do thy will” (Liber AL, I:42). The sole right and duty of every individual is encapsulated in the Word of the Law of this Aeon: THELEMA.

Though everyone shares this same goal, each individual’s Path is unique. Thelema is universal insofar as it recognizes the same goal of all individuals (True Will) while acknowledging the unique nature of that goal for each person. Therefore, no real universal guidance can be given beyond “find your Will and do it.” As it is has been written, “There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt” (Liber AL, III:60).

Though there is no written guidance especially suited to us as unique individuals with unique Paths, there is still guidance to be found in the world: everyone’s own life provides the necessary language and symbols to guide one on one’s particular path to the accomplishment of one’s True Will… provided only that one is open and attentive enough to read the writing of this language. The intuition of the soul, the “Neshamah,” the promptings of the Holy Guardian Angel, the wisdom of the unconscious – regardless of what we choose to name it, it will speak to the mind in terms of the symbols in which the individual is immersed. This intuition simply requires the openness and attentiveness to these symbols, and lessons suited to one’s own particular Path will naturally emerge. For example, a chemist may use the language of atoms and chemical compounds, an actor the language of directing and acting, a mason the language of building tools, a musician the language of instruments and composing, and so on and so forth. Again, the question becomes: Are you open enough to the symbols and attentive enough to the messages they speak to you?

There are an infinite number of examples because of the limitless amount of symbolic languages of Nature and the endless amount of potential messages within each of these languages. Here are but a few examples to illustrate the point:

  • A mason worked with tools to construct a building. He picked up a rough stone that he needed to chisel into the right shape so that it could be used in the building of the structure. The mason was open and attentive to the symbols of his trade that spoke to him, and they said, “You are this rough stone. By the chisel of virtue, you are shaped into a perfected man, even as the stone is formed into the proper shape. The building is your community which will crumble from its ill-fitting parts if you don’t undertake the work of chiseling away the scrap from your self.”
  • A musician desired to learn guitar that he might eventually play in a band, so he practiced endlessly. He was open and attentive to the symbols of his trade and they said to him, “Each string is an aspect of oneself – each needs to be perfectly tuned, neither too loose nor too taut, and only then will all work to create harmony. This is just as one must tune the various aspects of oneself, always striving toward perfect equilibrium so that one’s life is joyful and harmonious like a chord played on your guitar. The discipline you show in playing scales and finger exercises repeatedly may seem monotonous and tiresome but this allows, when the time comes to perform, that one plays effortlessly. Even so, the disciplines of magick and meditation may seem monotonous and tiresome at times, but they prepare the soul for those times when it may leap forward with full intensity to consummate itself with its goal in rapturous ecstasy.”
  • An alchemist devoted his life to the task of turning lead into gold. He bought many instruments and spent endless hours watching the flame of the athanor slowly heat the metals inside. Because he was open and attentive to the symbols of this language, he heard them say, “The purification of these metals is like the purification of your soul. The slow heat removes the dross to reveal the underlying gold, just as one’s slow but constant practice of meditation is the heat that burns away the dross of your self to reveal the pure gold of the Soul.”

In this age, many of us do not have a single career or trade to which we devote ourselves exclusively for our whole lives. This only means we have the responsibility and the privilege to learn several “languages.” We may be a teacher, musician, magician, cook, and bicyclist simultaneously, and each of these has its own symbolic “language” and lessons… provided that one is open and attentive to them.

Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131Now the question becomes, “What are your trades or passions?” To what do you devote your time and energy? If you are open and attentive to these trades or passions or skills or hobbies or whatever else, then you must ask “What lessons are they writing to me toward the end of accomplishing my True Will?” Since only you  can answer these questions for yourself, it’s now your responsibility to listen for the answers and to never stop listening.

Other articles in the series ‘The Will in Thelema’:

Love is the law, love under will.

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Visions and Trances on the Path of Initiation (pt.2)

Qabalistic Map of Initiation

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

← Part 1  | → Part 3 → ]

Interlude: Visions of the Three Orders

The Three Orders on the Tree of Life

The Three Orders on the Tree of Life

The Tree of Life is often split into three different portions that correspond loosely (although not exactly) with the three Orders of systems like Golden Dawn and A∴A∴, the Hebrew parts of the Soul, and Tetragrammaton (YHVH):

  • The 3rd Order is in Malkuth (the 10th Sephirah). It corresponds with the Nephesh, or “Animal Soul,” in terms of the parts of the Soul, and it corresponds with the Final Heh of YHVH.
  • The 2nd Order is centered in Tiphareth (the 6th Sephirah) and encompasses the surrounding Sephiroth (Chesed, Geburah, Netzach, Hod, and Yesod). It corresponds with the Ruach, or the mind with its many faculties (e.g. memory, volition, reason, etc.), and it also corresponds with the Vav of YHVH.
  • The 1st Order includes the Supernal Triad of Kether, Chokmah, and Binah (the first three Sephiroth). It corresponds with the triad of the immortal Soul including Jechidah (the Individuality of Kether), the Chiah (the Life-Force of Chokmah), and the Neshamah (the Intuition of Binah). It also corresponds with the Yod and Heh of YHVH.

Each of the three Orders has a Trance that is characteristic of it: the 3rd Order has the Trance of Sorrow mentioned previously. The 2nd Order has Knowledge & Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel in Tiphareth. The 1st Order has the successful crossing of the Abyss.

One could say that each of these Orders and their characteristic Trances is distinguished by a certain view of life while upon the Path of initiation:

  • 3rd Order: Man versus World. The world is seen as a force to be overcome, and it is full of sorrow, disappointment, stress, and failure. This is the Grade of Man of Earth, and it corresponds to the Trance of Sorrow.
  • 2nd Order: Man and World. The world is seen as harmonious where one is united constantly with various elements thereof, and it is full of beauty and a constant source of joy. This is the Grade of Lover, and it corresponds to Knowledge & Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.
  • 1st Order: Man is World. The duality or distinction between “self” & “not-self” or “ego” & “environment” or “subject” & “object” is completely dissolved: the union has become so full that there is no difference between self and other so all that is, is Unity. This is the Grade of Hermit, and it corresponds to the successful crossing of the Abyss.

Second Order Visions

There are Visions within each of the three Orders, but the Second Order has a series of Visions corresponding with each Sephirah that are all highly interrelated. These 2nd Order Visions are all centered around Tiphareth, and they all have to do with certain insights into the nature of the Cosmos. These Visions are:

  • Yesod: The Vision of the Machinery of the Universe
  • Hod: The Vision of Splendour
  • Netzach: The Vision of Beauty Triumphant
  • Tiphareth: The Vision of the Harmony of Things
  • Geburah: The Vision of Power
  • Chesed: The Vision of Love

We will go into each of these in more depth in the following sections.

2) Yesod (2°=9: Luna)

The Vision of the Machinery of the Universe

In 777, we can see that “The Vision of the Machinery of the Universe” is attributed to Yesod, the 9th Sephirah on the Tree of Life. It may also be called “The Vision of Change” or “The Vision of Stability in Change.” It is the first of several Visions that involves noetic insight into the nature of the Universe (the only previous Vision, the Vision of Adonai, deals with one’s personal pursuit of the Great Work rather than being an insight into the nature of the world).

First, some esoteric symbolism: The 9th Sephirah is called Yesod, which literally means “Foundation.” This term implies stability. Nonetheless, the Moon (also known as “Luna”) is attributed to Yesod and is characterized by its constant waxing and waning along with its effect on the constant ebb and flow of the tides: therefore, this implies constant flux or change. This Sephirah therefore contains both the ideas of stability and change. This is an esoteric way of pointing to the paradox which is often phrased as something like “Stability is Change and Change Stability” (Liber CL: De Lege Libellum). The final resolution of this antinomy or paradox is said to come in the 2nd Sephirah of Chokmah, which shows how Yesod is a reflection of Chokmah “on a lower scale,” so to speak. Esoterically, this can be seen in that the grade attributed to Yesod is 2°=9☐  and the grade attributed to Chokmah is 9°=2. This paradox has many levels of truth, but one of the most basic forms, appropriate to the “lower” sphere of Yesod, is the idea that “The Stability of the Universe is Change” (The Heart of the Master). Crowley writes further concerning this idea:

“Of all important doctrines concerning equilibrium, this is the easiest to understand, that change is stability; that stability is guaranteed by change; that if anything should stop changing for the fraction of a split second, it would go to pieces. It is the intense energy of the primal elements of Nature, call them electrons, atoms, anything you will, it makes no difference; change guarantees the order of Nature. This is why, in learning to ride a bicycle, one falls in an extremely awkward and ridiculous manner. Balance is made difficult by not going fast enough. So also, one cannot draw a straight line if one’s hand shakes.”
—Aleister Crowley, The Book of Thoth, “Small Cards”

Yesod: The Vision of the Machinery of the Universe

Yesod: The Vision of the Machinery of the Universe

With this in mind, the Vision of the Stability in Change is characterized by the perception that the Universe is a constant change or flux of all things. It is therefore equatable to understanding one of the Three Characteristics of Buddhism, that of anicca, the impermanence of everything. The self – considered as one’s mind and body – is an intertwined, constantly changing, and inseparable part of the whole. This is related to the Trance of Sorrow insofar as sorrow or dukkha stems from the fact that all things are subject to impermanence or anicca and therefore are ultimately insubstantial or unsatisfactory, yet this Vision differs from the Trance of Sorrow insofar as its focus is upon mutability, change, flux, and motion (anicca) rather than on sorrow and dissatisfaction (dukkha). As Crowley says above, this idea that everything is in flux is fairly easy to understand but, yet again, the intellectual comprehension of this idea is not the same as the Vision itself, where the fact of the impermanence of all things is known or felt or understood in the core of one’s being.

One meditation that resembles such a Vision is through the contemplation of the world as constituted by atoms: consider how everything you perceive, including your own body, is composed of atoms – the machinery of the universe, in a sense – that are swirling around at incomprehensible speeds. All the objects around you with their apparently motionless solidity are actually, when considered at the atomic level, in constant, unstoppable motion. Extend this idea to yourself, the objects around you, everything on earth, and everything in the universe. Consider how all of this perpetual flux interacts and intertwines with itself in such a perfect fashion as to create what we know as the Universe, from the most basic rock to the most elaborate technology, from the most basic amoeba to the most complex pattern of neuronal firings and structure of the human brain. In this way, we come to peer into the Machinery of the Universe, perceiving that “The Universe is Change” (The Heart of the Master) and that the structure of the Universe is a result of it.

3) Hod (3°=8: Mercury)

The Vision of Splendor

In 777, we can see that “The Vision of Splendour” is attributed to Hod, the 8th Sephirah on the Tree of Life. The planet Mercury is attributed to this sphere, and Mercury is generally associated with things like communication, language, knowledge, and intellect.

Hod: The Vision of Splendor

Hod: The Vision of Splendor

In a way, the Vision of the Machinery of the Universe in Yesod is the foundation (pun intended) of the next few visions that all developments or even reactions to it. In perceiving the Universe as constant flux, one is struct by the wonder and glory that things are constituted in this way. The mind boggles in amazement at the sheer complexity, intricacy, and even strangeness that the world works. It is, in a way, a Vision of intellectual awe. The Vision of Splendor is characterized by the mind becoming awe-stricken and enraptured by the sheer wonder and splendor of the Nature of the Universe.

Just as a scientific contemplation was used in the previous section to attempt to approximate the nature of the Vision, various scientists have spontaneously or naturally attained the Vision of Splendor – or some form thereof – through their understanding and contemplation of the Universe. A classic example is the well-known scientist Carl Sagan who was famous for instilling a sense of awe and wonder about the Universe. He wrote in Pale Blue Dot, “How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant?’ Instead they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.’ A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.” Other examples include the biologist Richard Dawkins who wrote in Unweaving the Rainbow, “The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable.” Another example is the astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson who has said, among other things, “I know that the molecules in my body are traceable to phenomena in the cosmos. That makes me want to grab people on the street and say: ‘Have you HEARD THIS?'” These are, in a way, all expressions of the Vision of Splendor.

In this, we can see that the Vision of Splendor is like what Crowley calls “The Trance of Wonder,” at least on a “lower scale.” In speaking about this Trance of Wonder, Crowley writes:

“In all Trances of importance, and most especially in this, the Postulant should have acquired the greatest possible knowledge and Understanding of the Universe properly so called. His rational mind should have been trained thoroughly in intellectual apprehension: that is, he should be familiar with all Science. This is evidently impossible on the face of it; but he should aspire to the closest approximation to perfect Adeptship in this matter. The method most possible is to make a detached study of some chosen branch of Science, and a general study of epistemology. Then by analogy, fortified by contemplation, a certain inner apprehension of the Unity of Nature may grow up in the mind, one which will not be unduly presumptuous and misleading.”
—Aleister Crowley, Little Essays Toward Truth, “Wonder”

Crowley himself therefore saw the importance of an understanding of Science and its relationship to aiding in the attainment of Trances or Visions. This Vision of Splendor corresponding to Hod – the sphere of intellect, science, communication, mathematics, et cetera – shows that this Vision corresponds to a somewhat intellectual nature insofar as the mind is stricken with wonder and awe at the composition, patterns, and flux of the Universe. It is, in a way, the intellectual complement to the Vision of Beauty in Netzach that is similar but of the nature of aesthetics or emotion.

4) Netzach (4°=7: Venus)

The Vision of Beauty

Netzach: The Vision of Beauty

Netzach: The Vision of Beauty

In 777, we can see that “The Vision of Beauty” or “The Vision of Beauty Triumphant” is attributed to Netzach, the 7th Sephirah on the Tree of Life. The planet Venus is attributed to this sphere, and Venus is generally associated with things like sensuality, physical beauty, aesthetics, love, and devotion.

This Vision of Beauty must be distinguished from the “Beatific Vision” that is attributed to Tiphareth, for “beatific” implies holy bliss rather than the aesthetic beauty that is characteristic of this Vision of Beauty in Netzach. Just as the Vision of Splendor mentioned previously is an appreciation of the Nature of the Universe in terms of intellectual awe and wonder, the Vision of Beauty is characterized by the aesthetic appreciation and emotional rapture that results from a contemplation of the Nature of the world.

Specifically, this Beauty is not limited to what we normally consider as “beautiful” as opposed to “ugly,” but – instead – this rapture or Vision of Beauty includes absolutely all things in the cosmos from the smallest to largest, the lowest to the highest, the most peaceful to the most turbulent, the ugliest to the most beautiful. Crowley writes of this very idea when writes, “The New Aeon proclaims Man as Immortal God, eternally active to do His Will. All’s Joy, all’s Beauty; this Will we celebrate” (New Comment to Liber AL, II:35). Or: “All is a never ending Play of Love wherein our Lady Nuit and Her Lord Hadit rejoice; and every Part of the Play is Play. All pain is but sharp Sauce to the Dish of Pleasure; for it is the Nature of the Universe that hath devised this everlasting Banquet of Joy” (Liber Aleph). Or when he writes:

“The artist is he who can discover Beauty in all things, for nothing is common or unclean; and by unvarying determination to discover beauty man comes to the heaven of the artist. By beauty, moreover, We mean not any conventional type of sensuous beauty: it lies in the dwarfs of Velasquez and the monsters of Rabelais as in the women of Titian and the heroes of Homer; nor shall one brother do otherwise than lament if he be so limited in vision that he cannot see beauty in that which enchants another.”
—Aleister Crowley, Liber CXXIV: Of Eden and the Sacred Oak

This Vision of Beauty is therefore where we enraptured with beauty, “perceiving Beauty in the Harmony of the Diverse” (Liber Aleph), which is the emotional-aesthetic complement to the mental-intellectual Vision of Splendor that is based on the mind being bewildered by awe and wonder from contemplating the Universe.

[← Part 1  | → Part 3 →]

Love is the law, love under will.

Visions and Trances on the Path of Initiation (pt.1)

Qabalistic Map of Initiation

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

0) Introduction

In the Western tradition, the path of initiation (also known as “the Great Work”) is often laid out symbolically as “climbing” the Tree of Life from the bottom back to the top. While the map is not (nor can ever be) the territory, this map of the Tree of Life can be very useful to help elucidate the stages of the Path. The different “grades” of the Path are attributed to the different spheres or “Sephiroth” of the Tree of Life and can be characterized, to a certain extent, by the Qabalistic attributions of that Sephirah.

The Importance of Trances

If one is truly walking on the Path, one will not simply be able to pass simple tests of physical ability and mental knowledge. While these things are assuredly part of the Path and necessary thereto, real progress on this Path can be seen in changes of consciousness or the acquisition of new perspectives. Therefore, one of the indicators of having “achieved” a grade in an informal sense (i.e. outside of the rules of attaining a grade in any particular formal organization such as Golden Dawn or A∴A∴) is the attainment of a Vision and/or Trance characteristic of that grade. The importance of these Trances is stated clearly by Aleister Crowley:

“The word Trance implies a passing beyond: scil., the conditions which oppress. The whole and sole object of all true Magical and Mystical training is to become free from every kind of limitation… every Magical Operation soever is only complete when it is characterised (in one sense or another) by the occurrence of Trance.”
—Aleister Crowley, Little Essays Toward Truth, “Trance”

Definitions of Trance and Vision

Trance: A Trance is therefore an event within consciousness where one transcends the normal state of awareness, often in a “quasispasmodic” manner – that is, Trances are often (though not always) entered somewhat suddenly and the entering into Trance often comes at an unknown time. Samadhi can be seen as a special form or type of Trance characterized by “the supersession of dualistic human consciousness by the impersonal and monistic state” (Little Essays Toward Truth, “Trance”). A Trance is not necessarily in line with – and often in contradiction to – rational thinking: Samadhi is a characteristic example where whenever someone speaks about its nature they speak in paradox and contradiction. Trances are also characterized by their noetic nature – that is, they grant a felt sense of interior certainty regarding the truth of its content.

Vision: A Vision might be defined as a lesser form of Trance, where the acquisition of a new point-of-view or perspective does not necessarily require entering into a different state of consciousness, but it is still characterized by being noetic (i.e. granting a sense of interior certitude). Therefore, this distinguishes this definition of Vision from “astral visions,” which are not necessarily noetic in nature but may contain instances of Trance or Vision within them. It must also be stated that, although the term “Vision” implies sight, it really refers more to a particular type of experience or insight rather than being a series of visual sights, whether physical or mental (or astral). It is similar to the term “visualization” in occultism, which is often taken to mean focusing on visual images in the imagination but actually, in practice, refers to imagining things pertaining to all senses. Trances and Visions can therefore be distinguished from mere intellectual apprehension, for something can be intellectually grasped but not truly understood and felt as a certainty. To move beyond intellectual apprehension, one usually needs to have an experience for oneself that confirms the original idea but grants it a subject sense of truly “grasping” the idea or truly understanding it. As an illustration: a child might be told “you need to listen more carefully to others!” and grasp the idea intellectually, but not truly understand it. It requires the child having an experience – e.g., missing something important because of not listening carefully – to move from intellectual comprehension to real, certain understanding.

These definitions are not absolute, and there are blurry areas. People – including Crowley – often use these terms interchangeably. The main point is that Trance and Vision are states of consciousness that differ from normal, waking awareness and are characterized by (a) being noetic (felt sense of interior certitude) and (b) attaining a new point-of-view or perspective. This distinguishes them from both “astral visions” (both waking and dreaming) as well as from mere intellectual comprehension. The very fact of having attained a Trance or Vision inherently shows progress upon the Path insofar as they, by definition, imply a change within the individual – a shift of perspective or consciousness – whereas having an astral vision or intellectually grasping something do not necessarily imply any kind of real change in the individual at all.

We can now start to look at the various Trances or Visions in the context of the Tree of Life. Although the metaphor of “climbing the Tree of Life” implies that these steps are sequential, I believe that most of these Trances or Visions may happen at any time (depending on the right circumstances and intent), some may happen before others, some may even at the same time as others, and some may occur multiple times. There is no real test as to whether another person has attained any of these Trances or Visions, as tests must inherently be physical or intellectual, and I believe we all know that anyone can enter into a Yogic asana (physical) or say they are a Master (intellectual) but not actually be a Master at all. Therefore, this essay is intended to serve as a map for oneself – a kind of periodic table of Visions and Trances – both to show the possibilities of these Trances or Visions as well as to help understand various experiences that one may have had in the past or will have in the future (or perhaps presently if the reading of this essay somehow sends one spasmodically into a Trance – I wouldn’t exclude the possibility a priori!)

1) Malkuth (1°=10: Earth)

The Trance of Sorrow

The first Sephirah we encounter when “climbing the Tree of Life” is the 10th Sephirah that is called “Malkuth” (literally, “Kingdom”). We may attribute the Trance of Sorrow to Malkuth. The Trance of Sorrow may be defined as the Trance wherein one perceives that any and every endeavor, accomplishment, joy, connection, et cetera are ultimately insubstantial and will therefore eventually dissolve or end; essentially the Trance of Sorrow is where one realizes that nothing whatsoever lasts.

We may understand “Sorrow” as being a translation the Buddhist term dukkha, which is often translated as “suffering” (or “sorrow,” “misery,” “discontent,” “stress,” “dissatisfaction,” “anxiety,” etc.). In this way, the Trance of Sorrow represents an experiential understanding and appreciation of the First Noble Truth, which can be stated in many ways but ultimately means that “All things contain or are subject to suffering.”

The Trance of Sorrow helps to illustrate two points mentioned previously. Firstly, the “Trance of Sorrow” is called such by Crowley throughout his works, yet it is called the “Vision of Sorrow” in 777 and the “Vision of Universal Sorrow” elsewhere. This illustrates the point that “Trance” and “Vision” are terms that are often used interchangeably: one should not get too caught up in the words. Secondly, the Trance of Sorrow is a good example of how Trance is different from mere intellectual comprehension. One may intellectually grasp what has been said above – one may have previously encountered the First Noble Truth of Buddhism and grasped the idea being conveyed – yet the Trance of Sorrow goes beyond mere comprehension to a felt sense at the core of one’s being. The Trance involves an encompassing and even overwhelming sense of sorrow, dread, and even hopelessness. Although one can reach the Trance through intellectual contemplation, the Trance itself shows when this felt sense of certitude kicks in and one truly experiences the idea not merely as an idea but as an inescapable truth. A certain poetic explanation of this state can be found in Crowley’s “One Star in Sight” which begins with the lines, “Thy feet in mire, thine head in murk, / O man, how piteous thy plight, / The doubts that daunt, the ills that irk, / Thou hast nor wit nor will to fight— / How hope in heart, or worth in work? / No star in sight!”

To go further into the nature of the Trance of Sorrow: Nothing whatsoever lasts. You will inevitably die. Your family will die, your loved ones will die, your friends will die, your enemies will die, and all the people you’ve never known will all die: everyone will die. Every place you have been will change and pass away. The cycle of Life never stops; the Wheel of Samsara will never stop turning. Everything you know will eventually transform and perish.  The greatest joy and happiness you ever will achieve will eventually pass. No food, drink, idea, love, or anything else will ever truly satisfy you. Everything that you are striving for – all of your hopes, goals, and ambitions – will either remain unaccomplished or will be accomplished but will not last for long. No job lasts forever, no art piece lasts forever, no political change lasts forever, et cetera. Even if you were to become the most powerful and famous person on Earth, your memory will be distorted throughout time and eventually forgotten. If not within a few years, then it will happen in a few centuries; if not in a few centuries, it will happen when the human race no longer exists. While we may already know this to some extent and while one may grasp this idea while reading this essay, the Trance of Sorrow begins when it is truly felt and understood on a deep level that shakes the core of one’s very being.

In a sense, this Trance is one of the most crucial of all, for it is the Trance that leads one to tread the Path of the Great Work in the first place. Striving to attain the Light requires the acknowledgment that one is in Darkness. If one is completely content with oneself and one’s surroundings, there is no need to change anything or attain anything: this is the inertia of ignorance. Thus it has been said by Aleister Crowley that, “The Aspiration to become a Master is rooted in the Trance of Sorrow” (Little Essays Toward Truth, “Sorrow”) and also, “It is the Trance of sorrow that has determined one to undertake the task of emancipation. This is the energising force of Law; it is the rigidity of the fact that everything is sorrow which moves one to the task, and keeps one on the Path” (Eight Lectures on Yoga, “Niyama”). It is when one enters into this Trance that one determines to find a way to transcend it: one seeks to be liberated from the Wheel of Samsara in terms of Eastern phraseology; one seeks to find one’s immortal soul that is not subject to change, death, and sorrow in terms of Western phraseology. As Crowley once put it, one determines to enter upon the Path of “the Great Work, understanding thereby the Work of becoming a Spiritual Being, free from the constraints, accidents, and deceptions of material existence” (Magick in Theory & Practice, “Introduction and Theorems”).

As somewhat of a sidenote: In 777, the “Vision of Sorrow” is attributed to the 3rd Sephirah, Binah, and not the 10th, Malkuth. There is, in many ways, a resonance or harmony between Binah and Malkuth: they are both attributed to Heh’s in YHVH (the first Heh is attributed to Binah, the Mother, and the second or final Heh is attributed to Malkuth), and Malkuth is called the Daughter that is uplifted to the throne of Binah, the Mother (As in the 4th Aethyr of The Vision and the Voice, “And this is that which is written: Malkuth shall be uplifted and set upon the throne of Binah”). This shows that, although they are not the same, the Trance of Sorrow of Malkuth is related or harmonious with a Trance or Vision that is characteristic of Binah. In a sense, it is the Trance of Sorrow in Malkuth that gives one the impetus or motive to tread the Path of the Great Work that leads eventually to “crossing the Abyss” and landing in Binah as a Master of the Temple. To make the distinction clear, the Trance of Sorrow in Malkuth involves perceiving the insubstantiality or unsatisfactoriness of all phenomena and is therefore within the realm of duality; Binah is above the Abyss and therefore beyond duality and so not subject to “facts” or “rules” of the realm of duality. To distinguish between the two, the Trance related to Malkuth is called the “Trance of Sorrow” whereas that related to Binah is the “Trance of Compassion.” We should not get too far ahead of ourselves, though. The Path is tread step by step, and one should always seek to take the Next Step: first things first.

The Vision of Adonai / The Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel

The other Trance or Vision is called “The Vision of Adonai” or “The Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel.” Adonai is a name for God or the Lord that comes from Hebrew, and The Holy Guardian Angel is often called Adonai (for example, it is repeatedly named “Adonai” in Liber LXV, a Holy Book of Thelema). Again, it is not useful to get caught up in names: the point is that “The Vision of Adonai” and “The Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel” are two names for the same Vision.

Malkuth: The Trance of Sorrow & The Vision of Adonai

Malkuth: The Trance of Sorrow & The Vision of Adonai

The Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel is characterized by a certain awareness or perception of the Goal of the Path of the Great Work. One may get a glimpse of a certain state of consciousness that transcends the sorrow of duality, or one may even meet an aspect or form of Adonai in an astral vision or dream. Within the world of Darkness and sorrow, one catches sight of a Star that gives direction and hope: there is now “one star in sight.” In a way, the Vision of Adonai is a sort of answer to the Trance of Sorrow. Although one does not transcend the Trance of Sorrow, this Vision gives one the hope or notion of the possibility of transcending it. The Trance of Sorrow is the gravity that pulls one onto the Path that starts at Malkuth and the Vision of Adonai is the force that propels one forward to begin the climb upwards (so to speak).

To be clear: The Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel that is attributed to Malkuth is different from Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, which is attributed to Tiphareth (the 6th Sephirah). An analogy from the Golden Dawn may be useful to help explain. In the first initiation of the Hermetic Order of Golden Dawn, the “Neophyte” ritual, one is blindfolded to symbolize the darkness of ignorance. Eventually, the blindfold is removed and one is met with the sight of the Hierophant who symbolizes the Higher or True Self of the candidate. Crowley wrote:

“[The Adept] acclaims his Angel as ‘Himself Made Perfect’; adding that this Individuality is inscrutable and inviolable. In the Neophyte Ritual of G[olden] D[awn] the Hierophant is the perfected Osiris, who brings the candidate, the natural Osiris, to identity with himself. But in the new Aeon the Hierophant is Horus, therefore the Candidate will be Horus too.”
—Aleister Crowley, Liber Samekh, Point II, Part A, line 5

That is, one is given a glimpse of the goal – the True Self with whom one must become united and identified – but one has not yet attained thereto. As it is said, “the End of the ‘Path of the Wise’ is identity with Him” (“Temple of Solomon the King” in Equinox I:1). This shows how Malkuth reflects Kether in a sense (just as the grade 1°=10 has both the number of Kether,1, and Malkuth, 10), for the Goal can be grasped at the beginning of the Path, although one’s understanding of it is inherently limited by ignorance and misconception. One therefore sets upon the path to reach the Sun (the Sun or Sol is attributed to Tiphareth, the sphere where Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel is attained, which is Kether “on a lower scale,” so to speak): the star is in sight and one is determined to reach it. When one has experienced the Trance of Sorrow and been granted the Vision of Adonai, one may truly be called a “neophyte,” a newly planted seed that may one day, if cultivated carefully and consistently, grow into a Flower of Truth.

→ Part 2 → ]

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Liber LXV parables

The Parables and Lessons of Liber LXV (part 6)

Liber LXV: The Heart Girt with a Serpent

The Parable of the Dolphin and the Harper

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

Liber LXV, II:37-44

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

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

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

Liber LXV Parable of the Dolphin and the Harper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1The Vision and the Voice, 20th Aethyr.

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

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

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

5Commentary to Liber LXV, II:37.

6Commentary to Liber LXV, II:37.

7Commentary to Liber LXV, II:37.

8Commentary to Liber LXV, II:37.

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

10Commentary to Liber LXV, II:38.

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

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

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

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

15Commentary to Liber LXV, II:39.

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

17Commentary to Liber LXV, II:40.

18Liber Tzaddi, lines 33-40.

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

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

21Commentary to Liber LXV, II:42.

22Commentary to Liber LXV, II:42.

23Commentary to Liber LXV, II:43.

24Commentary to Liber LXV, II:43.

25Commentary to Liber LXV, II:43.

26Commentary to Liber LXV, II:43.

27Commentary to Liber LXV, II:43.

28From this particular line of Liber LXV.

29Commentary to Liber LXV, II:43.

30Commentary to Liber LXV, II:43.

31Commentary to Liber LXV, II:43.

32Commentary to Liber LXV, II:44.

33Commentary to Liber LXV, II:44.

34Commentary to Liber LXV, II:44.

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

Liber LXV parables

The Parables and Lessons of Liber LXV (part 4)

Liber LXV: The Heart Girt with a Serpent

The Parable of the Reaper and the Wise Man

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

Liber LXV, I:50-56

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1Commentary to Liber LXV, I:51.

2Commentary to Liber LXV, I:52.

3Commentary to Liber LXV, I:53.

4Commentary to Liber LXV, I:53.

5Commentary to Liber LXV, I:54.

6Commentary to Liber LXV, I:54.

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

8Liber AL vel Legis, III:42.

9Commentary to Liber LXV, I:56.

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

Liber LXV parables

The Parables and Lessons of Liber LXV (part 3)

Liber LXV: The Heart Girt with a Serpent

The Parable of the Maiden and Hades

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

Liber LXV, I:47-49

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liber LXV parables

The Parables and Lessons of Liber LXV (part 2)

Liber LXV: The Heart Girt with a Serpent

The Parable of the Petal of Amaranth

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

Liber LXV, I:34-38

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2Commentary to Liber LXV, I:37.

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

4Liber AL vel Legis, II:25.

5Commentary to Liber LXV, I:38.

6Commentary to Liber LXV, I:60.

7Commentary to Liber LXV, I:60.

8Liber Porta Lucis sub figura X, line 15.

Liber LXV parables

The Parables and Lessons of Liber LXV (part 1)

Liber LXV: The Heart Girt with a Serpent

Introduction

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

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

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

The Parable of the Light and Colors

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

Liber LXV, I:2-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1The Vision and the Voice, 28th Aethyr.

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

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

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

5Liber LXI vel Causae, line 5.

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

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

Why Thelema Kicks Ass

Why Thelema Kicks Ass

Why Thelema Kicks Ass

One question that I have heard from friends and that I have often asked myself is, “Why Thelema?” Why not identify with any of the other religions or philosophies? I want to explain why I believe in the power of Thelema as a rule of life, and consequently why I believe that Thelema will continue to grow.

I. Do what thou wilt

The most fundamental point is that we have a certain Law under which everything else is subsumed: Do what thou wilt. It is the simple sublimity of this spiritual infrastructure that differentiates Thelema both from the various New Age religions (or “spiritualities”) that are characterized by the amorphous and cherrypicking nature of their beliefs as well as from the Old Aeon religions that are characterized by their rigid dogmatism and sectarianism. The Law of Liberty is so far-reaching that it has implications in all facets of life including metaphysics (as a philosophy), ethics (as a way of life), and theology (as a religion) yet it is so elegant that can be summed up in a single word, Thelema.

II. Tolerance

The fundamental Law of Thelema is “Do what thou wilt” which is a radical exhortation for each individual to explore and express their true nature, whatever that may be. Fundamentally, we as Thelemites uphold everyone’s right to be who they are. This involves a revolutionary form of tolerance or acceptance of diversity. Thelema itself is partially the result of a syncretism of many religions and philosophies. It says in The Book of the Law, “Aum! All words are sacred and all prophets true; save only that they understand a little.” We can also find reference to Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Egyptian, Greek, Hermetic, Buddhist, and Hindu ideas within The Book of the Law itself, let alone the other Holy Books and writings by Aleister Crowley. This speaks to Thelema’s ability to appreciate the truths that are held by the various ideologies across the globe and throughout history.

Our eclectic syncretism is not arbitrary though insofar as everything revolves around the core of “Do what thou wilt”: threads are gathered from all corners of human existence to be woven together through the harmony expressed in the word of the Law that is Thelema. The tolerant acceptance of different points-of-view is what distinguishes Thelema from virtually every other religion that has come about in human history. This can be seen very explicitly in the declaration of the rights of man in “Liber OZ,” wherein it is written, “Man has the right to live by his own law—to live in the way that he wills to do.”

We are radical in our acceptance of others as they are, however they may think, speak, or act, yet we also take up arms against dogmatism, prejudice, and superstition that impede the full expression of humanity’s liberty. This is encapsulated in a quotation where Crowley writes, “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.”

III. Scientific Religion

Thelema is wholly against superstition and dogmatism that are so obviously a part of the various religions and philosophies of the past. We do not argue about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin, which color clothing generates bad karma on a certain day, how many times a mantra should be said to please a god, or what actions will be favorably judged by the Almighty Gaseous God-in-the-clouds.

This has implications in terms of action (morally) and thought (philosophically). Morally, we say, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”; this places the responsibility on the individual to find what is right for them without reference to any theological threats of the shame and guilt of sin, the eternal hellfire of damnation, an unfavorable response from a god, or even having a reincarnation in an insect. Philosophically, we do not assert anything that is blatantly contradictory to the knowledge-base of humanity, especially in terms of modern science. There are plenty of cases of people willfully denying the evidence of things as fundamental as evolution or germ theory. For example, it is not difficult to find instances in America of thinly-veiled theology being pushed in schools in the pseudo-scientific guise of “intelligent design.” Stories of people – even children – dying because their parents do not believe in medical care are not unheard of. In contrast, Thelema is a “scientific religion” that speaks to the vicissitudes of human experience that we often call “religion” or “spirituality” while remaining true to the progress of human knowledge that we often call “science.” A great article was recently written on how Aleister Crowley envisioned Thelema as a scientific religion that I recommend if you would like to know more about this particular aspect of the Law of Liberty.

Further, Thelema is a humanized religion: we place the goal of our aspiration within ourselves and we accept others for who they are. As I have written elsewhere: In the Aeon of Isis the focus was Nature, in the Aeon of Osiris the focus was God, and now in the Aeon of Horus the focus is Man, the individual. Our Goal is the fullest expression of ourselves in the True Will, our Path is towards the deepest totality of our selves, and our Community are neither in a “here-after” of Heaven nor gods or demi-gods in some plane “beyond” the world but rather the men and women here on Earth. This ideal is encapsulated in that powerful phrase, “There is no god but man.”

IV. Embracing the world while transcending materialism

Thelema embraces the world insofar as we do not believe sensual pleasures are evil or bad, and we do not believe that existence or incarnation or awareness is something to be annihilated or transcended or left behind. This attitude is encapsulated in The Book of the Law where it is written, “Be strong, o man! lust, enjoy all things of sense and rapture: fear not that any God shall deny thee for this.” As I have said elsewhere: The Earth is not a prison, but a Temple where the sacrament of Life may be enacted; the body is not corrupt, but a pulsing and thriving vessel for the expression of Energy; sex is not sinful, but a mysterious conduit of pleasure and power as well as an image of the ecstatic nature of all Experience.

While we embrace the world, we do not fall into the trap of petty materialism. This is seen in our distinguishing between want – our conscious desires, wishes, and whims that constantly come and go – and True Will. We embrace the world not to have more and bigger and shinier things but as an expression of our nature and a celebration of the joy of existence. This idea was treated in more depth in another recent essay, which can be read if you would like to know more about this particular subject.

V. Sexuality

In line with what was said before about tolerance and acceptance, Thelema specifically embraces all forms of sexual identity, orientation, exploration, and expression that is in line with the Will of the individual. Thelema is a way of life that very explicitly encourages people to be what they are sexually, not to live up to some standard whether dictated by religion or society. We do not view any particular gender identity or sexual orientation as more natural or as superior in any way. The best identity is the one that most clearly and fully is an expression of your nature. We see this encapsulated in The Book of the Law where it is written, “take your fill and will of love as ye will, when, where and with whom ye will!”

Crowley was very far ahead of his time in this way; for example, he wrote in the beginning of the 20th century, “The Beast 666 ordains by His authority that every man, and every woman, and every intermediately-sexed individual, shall be absolutely free to interpret and communicate Self by means of any sexual practices soever, whether direct or indirect, rational or symbolic, physiologically, legally, ethically, or religiously approved or no, provided only that all parties to any act are fully aware of all implications and responsibilities thereof, and heartily agree thereto.” We must remember that – as one very small example – it was more than half a century later before the American Psychological Association stopped labeling homosexuality as a form of mental illness. We as Thelemites take up the banner of acceptance of people as they are, no matter how they may choose to define and express themselves sexually.

VI. Drugs

Thelemites do not shy away from the use of alcohol and drugs based on philosophical, moral, or theological grounds. Thelema has no prohibitions against drugs (or anything, really) so long as what you are doing is in line with your Will. This requires people to take responsibility for their choices. I often think that it helps to say, “Do what thou wilt… and suffer the consequences” because saying “There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt” does not somehow absolve you of the consequences of your action; the Law of Thelema did not somehow abrogate the law of cause and effect. Abusing a substance will still lead to addiction, misusing a substance can still lead to mental imbalance, and rightly using a substance can lead to immense leaps in self-exploration and self-understanding. It is up to every individual to be informed about the use of drugs and to do them responsibly with an intent of finding, exploring, and expressing their true natures.

In a time where the use of psychedelics has only really been explored for their therapeutic potential in the past 5-10 years, this is also a radical approach to drugs. We have Crowley’s own addictions, the history of excess and abuse of drugs as can stereotypically be seen in the late 1960s, and possibly experiences of our own and those around us to warn us about the abuse of drugs. Conversely, we have Crowley’s own successes, a long history of the successful experimentation with drugs, as well as the experiences of our own and those around us to remind us of the distinct potential of using drugs in harmony with our Wills. Click here to read more about Thelema’s approach to drugs.

VII. Aleister Crowley

I believe that Aleister Crowley is exactly the prophet we need in this day and age for one fundamental reason: he was a human being. He was a genius, but he was a human being (despite his attempts to be remembered as a solar myth!). Crowley pushed the boundaries in virtually every category of life and so we may admire him in this way, but we also see things that challenge us. Crowley played with virtually every taboo he could find and in this way he challenges us to confront our own demons and find our own beliefs about how we should live. Our reaction to Crowley can be seen as a microcosm of our own reaction to taboos in general. This is a valuable task in which each individual can engage: what did Crowley do that particularly offends our sentiments? What things are “too far” or “too much,” and – more importantly – examine why it is that you believe he went too far. In this way, in studying our reaction to the prophet of Thelema we can learn more about our own blind spots, limits, and boundaries.

Crowley’s sometimes outrageous behavior also reminds us that we are not supposed to imitate Crowley in any way; we are supposed to find our own Way. That is what Thelema is about. Thelemites are united in a mutual respect and reverence for Crowley, and we are united in a mutual quest to find our Selves. We are not all trying to be Crowley like Christians try to be like Christ or Buddhists like Buddha; we are all trying to be who we really are and that is what sets us apart.

VIII. Rejoice!

Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131In a document that I believe every Thelemite should read for its clarity and incisiveness, Crowley wrote that one of our duties is to “Rejoice!” Thelema is a religion of joy and beauty. Humor is our armor and laughter our weapon. No longer do we look upon solemnity and self-effacement as synonymous with spirituality. Thelema is a law of Liberty that holds the keys to unlock the innate potential of every individual, to release ourselves from the burden of sorrow and fear, and to allow ourselves to be ourselves and rejoice therein. As it says in The Book of the Law, “Remember all ye that existence is pure joy.” With this knowledge, we can consciously and willfully engage in that ultimate Sacrament we know as existence. I therefore say with Crowley, “Look, brother, we are free! Rejoice with me, sister, there is no law beyond Do what thou wilt!”

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Thelema True Will Radical Reorientation towards Becoming Who We Are

True Will: The Radical Re-orientation Towards Becoming Who We Are (pt.4)

IAO131 True Will

NOTE: Read part 1 and part 2 and part 3 before continuing on to this part.

With-ness / Interdependence

 Just as Alone-ness is an inextricable fact of our existence, so too is the inescapable fact of our being constantly with other people – the other side of the coin of our Alone-ness is our With-ness. This is not something of which we can simply opt in or opt out because it is a necessary and fundamental fact of our existing in the world. If With-ness/Interdependence is an inescapable fact, we might as well do it well, i.e. authentically rather than inauthentically. The fact of our Interdependence is, I believe, one of the most overlooked aspects of the development of the True Will and of Thelema as a whole. We can no longer take a view of the development of the individual as complete that does not take into account the fact that we are embedded, interwoven, and interacting with others.

The fact of our With-ness is actually exemplified throughout the literary corpus of Thelema. Nuit declares “the unveiling of the company of heaven”1 and that “every man and every woman is a star.”2 Crowley writes, “The ‘company of heaven’ is Mankind, and its ‘unveiling’ is the assertion of the independent godhead of every man and every woman!”3 Each of us is a star inherent in the “Heaven”4 of “Infinite Space.”5 This is the unavoidable reality of our Interdependence that co-exists simultaneously with our Independence. We are “one Star in the Company of Stars”6 and every thought we have, word we speak, and deed we do establishes us in relation to other stars and the world as a whole. Just as we are independent beings in our Alone-ness, we are interdependent beings in our With-ness. Crowley writes, “Every individual is essentially sufficient to himself. But he is unsatisfactory to himself until he has established himself in his right relation with the universe”7 and “It is surely obvious, even intellectually, that all phenomena are interdependent, and therefore involve each other.”8

Just as there is an authentic and inauthentic way to actualize one’s Independence or Alone-ness, so too is there an authentic and inauthentic way to actualize one’s Interdependence or With-ness. We saw that inauthentic Alone-ness expresses itself in the constant but fruitless searching outside of oneself to assuage one’s discontent, emptiness, and suffering. Conversely, inauthentic With-ness expresses itself in the obsessional absorption in an attitude of selfishness. Authentic Alone-ness is thwarted by misguided extroversion and authentic With-ness is thwarted by misguided introversion. Calling selfishness inauthentic may at first seem to contradict the Thelemic doctrine that enjoins us that pursuit of our own Will is the sole duty, right, and Law. That is, one might think that our one right and duty being to find and do our individual and unique True Wills is inherently selfish, yet this is not so as it neglects the fundamental With-ness or Interdependence of our existence. I believe this is precisely the reason that our With-ness is such an overlooked aspect of the development of our True Wills. The fact of our With-ness therefore deserves special attention and clarification.

As already stated, inauthentic With-ness expresses itself in the absorption in an attitude of selfishness. In doing this, we become overly introverted and concerned only for ourselves (or what we perceive to be our “selves”), and the end result is the objectification of other people. That is, when we are in a state of inauthentic With-ness, our interpersonal relations are reduced to objects, and their only value and meaning are in using them for our own concern and welfare. Once again we are immersed in the mode of want characterized by “having” – other people are simply “it’s” or objects to be used and possessed. In an inauthentic actualization of our With-ness, our Interpersonal mode becomes I-It. In reducing the other to an object, a mere “it,” we are failing to see that “every man and every woman is a star.”9 We deny that they are conscious beings of suffering and joy, confusion and clarity, just like we are; we deny that they, too, have a True Will that has an equal right and duty to be expressed as our own. In this way our mode is “having” in the form of manipulation, just as we would do with lifeless objects. We no longer authentically and genuinely encounter another living being but instead a mere role in our own drama, a piece of our world rather than a star that is sovereign in his or her own universe.

In contrast to the inauthentic I-It, an authentic actualization of our With-ness expresses itself in a Interpersonal mode of I-Thou.10 To see the other as a “Thou” and not an “it” is a distinguishing characteristic of the authentic actualization of our Interdependence. When we see others as a “Thou,” we acknowledge they are stars, co-equal with ourselves. This genuine encounter is acknowledged when we greet others with the Law – that is, we say, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” It is stated in a second-person affirmation of the True Will of the individual to which we are speaking. This fact is sometimes lost when we reduce our greeting to “93,” but the same meaning can be lost in saying the whole phrase. Whether saying the whole phrase or the simple 93, what is required is a conscious, intentional act of acknowledging the other as a Thou, a star like ourselves, not a mere object. This attitude is what we as Thelemites call “Agape” or “Love.” We know that “Love is the law, love under will”11 and that “There is no bond that can unite the divided but love: all else is a curse.”12 This Love is often identified with the Greek word “Agape,” which in contrast to the erotic love of Eros and the brotherly love of Philia, refers to Divine Love or Unconditional Love. In the Old Aeon, this word meant the Love of God, and this is still true in the New Aeon except that we assert, “There is no god but man.”13 Our Love of God is therefore the Love of one another unconditionally. This is a Love that strikes at the heart of Being, both of oneself and the other, because it is an acceptance of the other as they are; it is the acknowledgment of the other as a Thou, as a star, as a God engaged in the process of knowing and enacting his or her True Will just as you are. Crowley writes, “We are all inevitably allies, even identical in our variety; to ‘love one another with burning hearts’ is one of our essential qualities”14 and we are to “respect the equal kingship of others. We are to love our brother kings with eager passion.”15

Two modes of actualizing With-ness

1) want / having →

inauthentic →

I-It →

Manipulation: seeing others as objects or “it’s” that are to be used/possessed

2)
Will / Being →

authentic →

I-Thou →

Love: Seeing and accepting others as they are

What gets in the way of having an authentic and genuine encounter with the other as a Thou rather than an “it”? How do we move from a mode of want, dominated by our own selfishness and characterized by seeing and treating others as objects, to a mode of Will, characterized by a genuine encounter and appreciation of the other as another Being with a Will? First, we need to clear away notions of the other that thwart our genuine acknowledgment of the other and then we need to foster an attitude of authentic Love for the other – that is, we need a purification and a consecration.

In order to purify ourselves of conceptions that get in the way of the authentic actualization of our With-ness, we must take into account the ways in which we perceive people in accordance with our likes, dislikes, and indifference. We each habitually react to others in a way conditioned by our like, dislike, or indifference to the other. In our like of the other we are drawn toward them, in our dislike of the other we are pushed away, and in our indifference we remain apathetic to them. Each of these represent an imbalance that must be purified, so to speak, before we can authentically encounter the other. At the bottom of these three imbalances – like, dislike, and indifference – is the fact that we act towards people and expect others to act in accordance with our preconceptions of them. Even before we actually meet people we start forming opinions as to their characteristics, whether we will like or dislike them, and how they might act toward us. As we get to know people, the tendency to form conceptions of the other becomes even more pronounced. These preconceptions of the other are a limitation, both of them and of oneself. To have a conception or an image of the other is to see our own distorted version of them and not the other as they are. These conceptions are a form of “lust of result” from which we must be “delivered.”16 Crowley comments that being delivered from the lust of result “Recommends ‘non-attachment.’”17 We must not become attached to our notions of how people might be or are. In this way, we make a limit around the person, a box, that is static and unfair to both people involved. In being attached to a notion of how people are (or should be), we become upset and agitated when they do not conform to our pre-held beliefs of them. Also, in being attached to a notion of the other, we do not allow them the freedom to be the dynamic being that they are – we do not allow them to change, and we know that “The Universe is Change.”18 To not acknowledge this fundamental characteristic of the universe and everything and everyone within it is to live in a distorted fantasy that will bring consistent annoyance and suffering. As Crowley writes, “To resist change is to ask for pain.”19 To resist change is to ask for suffering because we find that things do not match up to how we expected them to be, and it is also to thwart the Will of the other in the dynamic expression of their Being. Conversely, to accept change is to accept Love – Crowley writes, “The Universe is Change; every Change is the effect of an Act of Love; all Acts of Love contain Pure Joy.”20 Further, he writes, “We have accepted Love as the meaning of Change, Change being the Life of all Matter soever in the Universe. And we have accepted Love as the mode of Motion of the Will to Change. To us every act, as implying Change, is an act of Love. Life is a dance of delight, its rhythm an infinite rapture that never can weary or stale.”21 This is an intimation into the nature of authentic With-ness, of the expression of Love rather than selfishness.

In recognizing the fundamental equality of the self and other, we purify ourselves of the distorted conceptions that thwart us from a genuine actualization of our With-ness. This clears away misconceptions and lays the groundwork for the counterpart to purification – that is, we have wiped away what is preventing our authentic With-ness and now we must consecrate ourselves in the strengthening of those qualities that encourage and facilitate an authentic With-ness. If the inauthentic actualization of our With-ness is characterized by an absorption in self-concern, the authentic actualization of our With-ness is characterized by concern for others. This has been called many things such as “compassion” and “charity,” but – as Thelemites – we call this quality Love. It is not something that must be carefully cultivated against all odds, but it is the fundamental nature of our authentic With-ness. We need only to purify ourselves from that which prevents this and cultivate that which facilitates this, and then Love will spring naturally, spontaneously, and joyfully from the depths of our Being. That is, we come to know Love not as an option or as a good idea but as the inherent nature of our True Will.

We have seen the first step toward the authentic actualization of our Interdependence is to see people as they are, not as we wish or think them to be in conformity with our like, dislike, or indifference of them. We have purified our Love, now we must consecrate it. One very practical way to begin this process is to see the equality of oneself and the other. This is done through the act of “putting yourself in the other’s shoes,” as it is often called. This method is spoken to in “Liber Librae” where it is written, “Be not hasty to condemn others; how knowest thou that in their place, thou couldest have resisted the temptation? And even were it so, why shouldst thou despise one who is weaker than thyself?”22 At the bottom of this is the recognition that the other is a Being just like yourself: loving and hating, crying and rejoicing, frustrated and excited, struggling and succeeding. The other, like you, is a star trying to fulfill his or her Will and you are both engaged in the same struggle, the same Great Work. When we pierce the veils that we habitually construct around the other, purifying the dross that covers the gold, we may begin to approach a genuine, authentic encounter with the other as a Thou and not an “it.” This attitude is reinforced every time we greet another by saying, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”23 We acknowledge the star within them, the Being that is striving to become itself fully. We must treat our fellow beings as stars, as royalty would greet royalty (i.e. with great respect and admiration) and as children would greet children (i.e. with great openness and vitality). This is the authentic expression of With-ness, the formula of the Crowned and Conquering Child on the Interpersonal plane, so to speak. This is what Crowley is speaking to when he writes, “Find thou thyself in every Star.”24 We must acknowledge the other as a Thou, not an “it” conditioned by our preconceptions of them in line with our like, dislike, or indifference; we must open ourselves to the unique and powerful presence of the other, not as an object but as a Being equal to our ourselves, i.e. as a “you” or a “Thou” and not simply a “he,” “she,” or “it.” In this way, we come to a fundamental existential insight into the nature of our Being, that we are in “the company of heaven”25 – we are with other people. Though the authentic expression of Love is spontaneous and natural, it is constantly threatened with relapses into the inauthentic distortion of selfishness. We must be ever-vigilant and gird ourselves with the method of seeing ourselves in every star, in the recognition of the other as a “Thou” and not an “it,” in the appreciation of the other as a Being equal to ourselves.

This experiential encounter, not some piece of knowledge, is what fuels the joy of participating in the world as a star among stars; it is the true foundation of Universal Brother-and-Sisterhood wherein we acknowledge the true Divinity of the other and cultivate our Love for them. When we truly are able to see and acknowledge in the depths of our being that, “every man and every woman is a star, and that every one’s will is the will of God,”26 then we have begun the authentic actualization of our With-ness. With this, we may also find that we aspire not only to the optimum and authentic actualization of our own potential but also to see other people actualize their own potential. We want them to come to the knowledge and expression of their True Wills. The genuine welfare of humanity as a whole is achieved through the authentic actualization of the potential of every Being. True Love is expressed in acknowledging the Being of the other and in the hopeful realization of their True Will.

We can now see that True Will as the Goal of our Path encompasses both our authentic Alone-ness and our authentic With-ness. We seek both our own True Will as well as to move beyond our distorted self-concern to a Love of others expressed in an encouragement of the authentic fulfillment of their potential, i.e. the accomplishment of their True Wills. Only in an authentic expression of both our Alone-ness and our With-ness can we come to a complete, total actualization of the totality of our Being, our True Wills, “the Great Work, the Summum Bonum, True Wisdom and Perfect Happiness.”27

Love and let love. Rejoice in every shape of love,
and get thy rapture and thy nourishment thereof.”
-Aleister Crowley, The Heart of the Master

Conclusion

Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131It should be apparent that this entire framework requires neither supernatural doctrines nor speculative metaphysics. We were driven by the Question arising from our own being and the Answer comes therefrom. Thelema represents not only a scientific religion but a humanized religion. In the Aeon of Isis the focus was Nature, in the Aeon of Osiris the focus was God, and now in the Aeon of Horus the focus is Man, the individual. Our Goal is the fullest expression of ourselves in the True Will, our Path is towards the deepest totality of our selves, and our Community are neither in a “here-after” of Heaven nor gods or demi-gods in some plane “beyond” the world but rather the men and women here on Earth. Our authentic Alone-ness is expressed in our True Will and our authentic With-ness is expressed in our Love, or Agape, wherein we see the other as a “Thou” and not an “it,” an object to be possessed or used – we experience and unite the two complementary facts of existence in every instant. Only thereby can we truly undergo a radical re-orientation from a mode of want to a mode of Will.

I am grateful to all who have made it this far through the essay. I hope you will take to heart, remember, and truly engage with what has been described throughout this text and when we say to one another:

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will.

References

IAO131 on Patreon

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1 Liber AL vel Legis I:2.

2 Liber AL vel Legis I:3.

3 New Comment to Liber AL vel Legis I:2.

4 Liber AL vel Legis I:21.

5 Liber AL vel Legis I:22.

6 “Liber XV: Ecclesiæ Gnosticæ Catholicæ Canon Missæ” also known as “The Gnostic Mass.”

7 Magick in Theory & Practice, Introduction.

8 New Comment to Liber AL vel Legis II:22.

9 Liber AL vel Legis I:3.

10 See Martin Buber’s I and Thou for a deeper discussion of I-It versus I-Thou.

11 Liber AL vel Legis I:57.

12 Liber AL vel Legis I:41.

13 “OZ: Liber LXXVII.”

14 New Comment to Liber AL vel Legis II:24.

15 “The Comment Called D,” II:24.

16 Liber AL vel Legis I:44.

17 New Comment to Liber AL vel Legis I:44.

18 The Heart of the Master.

19 The Magical Record of the Beast 666, 6/2/1920, page 146.

20 The Heart of the Master.

21 New Comment to Liber AL vel Legis I:52.

22 “Liber Librae sub figura XXX,” line 6.

23 Liber AL vel Legis I:40.

24 The Heart of the Master.

25 Liber AL vel Legis I:2.

26 The Equinox III:1 (The Blue Equinox), “The Tank.”

27 “Liber XV: Ecclesiæ Gnosticæ Catholicæ Canon Missæ” also known as “The Gnostic Mass.”


Thelema True Will Radical Reorientation towards Becoming Who We Are

True Will: The Radical Re-orientation Towards Becoming Who We Are (pt.3)

IAO131 True Will

NOTE: Read part 1 and part 2 before continuing on to this part.

Alone-ness / Independence

Our essential Alone-ness is disclosed to us by that fact that we are born into this world alone and we die alone. As we live, our awareness – our very consciousness – is always only our own. We never will totally or completely be in another’s perspective; the closest we can get is sympathy and empathy. This is nicely described by Irvin Yalom, an existential psychologist, when he writes that, beyond interpersonal isolation (isolation from others) and intrapersonal isolation (isolation from parts of oneself), “[there is] a fundamental isolation – an isolation both from creatures and the world – which cuts beneath other isolation. No matter how close each us becomes to another, there remains a final, unbridgeable gap; each of us enters existence alone and must depart from it alone.”1 This Alone-ness is a fundamental and inescapable existential fact of being in the world.

Anxiety arises in the face of our mortality, our isolation, and the apparent meaninglessness of having been thrown into a world over whose conditions we seem to have little control. We typically seek to avoid or console ourselves about this fact through wanting things. We think that, by possessing things, especially other people, we can transcend our essential Alone-ness. We seek outside of ourselves for something to have that will squelch this underlying anxiety. In our inauthentic striving to cope with our Alone-ness we unfortunately perpetuate the same discontent and misery that led us to seek distractions and coping mechanisms in the first place. For example, in having a significant other we are necessarily vigilant against any and all signs that we will be left to our Alone-ness by them, and then we consequently act out of inauthentic anxiety rather than authentic relationship based in the mode of Being. Even in “having” a significant other, we seek to possess someone as a symbolic statement that we are in fact not alone. We cannot truly feel authentic in our Alone-ness until we understand, come to terms, and accept our Alone-ness; we consequently cannot truly be with others in an authentic way until we eliminate the anxiety that naturally results from being in the mode of “wanting” and “having” and that inevitably leads to inauthentic relationships with others.

At the core of each of us, the gnawing sense of discontent produces a question in ourselves. The question is not a mental, rational, verbal question, but it arises from the ground of our being – that is, the question arises before any articulation. Our very being poses this question and articulation comes only after the fact. When the question is articulated, it takes form such as “What is the meaning of my existence?” or “What is the purpose of life?” or “To what end?” The question will never be answered by a verbal, rational utterance in the form of “the meaning of life is this or that.” The question sprung from the depths of our being and the answer must come from the same level as the question. The answer is not stated, it is lived. The answer is True Will – but those are just words. Hearing and comprehending these words doesn’t give the answer, it merely points to it. The answer is a profound reorientation of our existence from want to Will, from the mode of having to the mode of Being, from inauthentic and limited actualization of our potential to the authentic and full actualization of our potential. The answer to our question is in our Will; that is, you must, as Crowley wrote, “know Thyself through Thy Way.”2 What we need is not something else to have, some other possession whether internal (such as knowledge) or external (such as wealth or other people). We need a radical reorientation of our very way of being in the world towards the authentic actualization of our own potential, from wanting to Willing.

Conversely, no amount of knowledge in itself can ever bring us to this Will. Knowledge is simply the accumulation or “having” of more and more facts unless the knowledge is itself is understood as a pointer towards the mode of Willing, of Being authentically. Being a Thelemite doesn’t mean constructing a vast super-structure of static knowledge and data. Rather, being a Thelemite involves the transformation of life itself from a state of discontent and limit – i.e. confusion, disorder, and anxiety – into a state of wholeness and purposefulness – i.e. harmony, strength, and joy – that is understood to be the process of coming to know and do your True Will. Our knowledge should, ideally, be pointers toward this end of transformation and reminders of it. In response to the profound need or question of our being, the objects of our endeavors must be optimal reflections of that need or question. As 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.”3 To lose sight of this, to aim at something other than the actualization of our full potential, the fulfillment of the totality of our being, is to cut ourselves off from the vital impulse that drove us to this path in the first place. This is what Crowley speaks to when he writes, “The whole and sole object of all true Magical and Mystical training is to become free from every kind of limitation.”4 Insofar as we forget the profound existential question at the heart of our endeavor of our meaning and purpose, we are liable to fall into a mode of absorption in the dogmas and intellectual structures for their own sakes. That is, we are liable to seek knowledge to be knowledgeable rather than seeking knowledge a means to the end of knowing and Being ourselves. We become stagnant and dogmatic because we seek knowledge for knowledge’s sake rather than as a means to our coming to the fullest and most authentic actualization of the potential of our being. This is what is spoken to in the Qabalistic notion of “knowledge” being a “false Sephirah” on the Tree of Life, i.e. knowledge is the crown of the Ruach or mind that cannot reach above the Abyss to the Supernals wherein reside the Understanding, Neshamah, and the Will, Chiah.

We become so overwhelmed with our sense of isolation and dissatisfaction, as well as with the complexity of the world, that we retreat into the illusory security in “having” something that we think will assuage our gnawing discontent. Whether we are seeking security externally in owning material possessions, having fame or titles of authority, or in having a significant other or whether we are seeking security internally in a structure of knowledge, the same principle is at work. This is the basic characteristic of inauthentic Alone-ness. So long as we look outside of ourselves for the solution to the problem of isolation and anxiety, we will remain in perpetual bondage to this cycle of feeling lack, seeking to rectify this lack by having something we want, and being dissatisfied with our possessions’ inabilities to address the real issue. The Question sprang from within; so, too, must the Answer. Again, the answer is not given to us, it is lived by us – it is the reorientation of our way of being in the world from that of want to that of True Will.

Two ways of actualizing the potential of our Alone-ness

wanting/ having →

Inauthentic →

The actualization of limited potential in striving to possess material objects, social standing, relationships, or knowledge

Willing/ Being →

Authentic →

The actualization of our full potential in the discovery and expression of the True Will

In our reorientation from wanting to Willing, from having to Being, we need to be constantly on guard against tendencies to slip back into the attitudes of having. We must find the island of Being within ourselves – the island of authentic Alone-ness – and, as it is written in The Book of the Law, “Fortify it!”5 How might we fortify ourselves against these tendencies? It is useful to bring in a concept from Buddhism, though it will be reinterpreted in light of the New Aeon. This concept is that of the Three Jewels of refuge, or the Three Refuges.

It is necessary to understand that the concept of “taking refuge” in no way implies an act of retreat or hiding. To take refuge is to remind oneself, to reorient oneself from what is truly unimportant to what is truly important – one could easily call them the Three Reorientations or Three Reminders if you will. In Buddhism, one would take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. These can be literally interpreted as Buddha as the person who became enlightened and promulgated Buddhism, Dharma as the teachings of Buddha, and the Sangha as the monastic community of Buddhists committed to Dharma. Buddha is, more generally, the state of being enlightened, an awakened one. Dharma is, more generally, the path taken to achieve Buddhahood. Sangha is, more generally, the community who agrees upon Buddhahood as the goal and Dharma as the path to get there. We may therefore see that in taking the Three Refuges, we are reorienting our attention towards the Goal, the Path, and the Community. In Thelema, the Goal is the authentic actualization of our full potential, the totality of our being; the Path has been called Initiation and the Great Work, the progressive shift to a mode of Being; the Community is the “company of heaven”6 of Thelemites, or one’s particular community such as O.T.O., composed of those who are committed to the Goal of True Will through the Path of Initiation. The three refuges are to help remind us to reorient the focus of our Alone-ness from an inauthentic obsession over “having” to an authentic focus on the Goal of Being through the Path we tread with our Community. I will go through each of these in further detail and explain how they can be understood in light of the New Aeon.

The Goal of True Will – In Thelema, our Goal is the achievement of an authentic actualization of the totality of the self. The attainment of the optimum mode of being that is the deepest and most complete expression of our potential is the authentic actualization of our Independence and our Dependence. We call this Goal the True Will.

This is interesting to compare to the goal of Buddhahood. It might be said that the two are identical goals when the veil of language conditioned by temporal and cultural conditions is lifted, yet there are important differences. Firstly, we understand that the expression of the True Will is unique to each person – that is, the Will won’t look the same as expressed in different people. We hold no absolute standards as to how we might expect someone to behave when doing their True Wills; some may be harsh and exuberant whereas others may be gentle and introverted, and some may both at different times. The unique and individual nature of the True Will further shows our Alone-ness; the Goal of True Will and the expression thereof can only be our own. No one can truly know or find this Goal except ourselves. Secondly, Buddhahood is a state and we may be liable to see it as a static object or goal. True Will, on the other hand, is dynamic; it is a process rather than an object, a verb rather than a noun. Crowley writes that the Thelemite understands herself “not as a fixed being of wrath but as the ‘the flying spark of light’ – a pure dynamic vibration. This conception, first formulated in Liber CCXX, and explained already in this Comment, is in fact the first condition of what the Buddhists call Samma Dithi – right views. So long as a man thinks of himself as a being rather than as an energy he attributes to himself not, as the profane suppose, stability, but stagnation, which is death.7 He also writes, “This True Self thus ultimately includes all things soever: its discovery is Initiation (the travelling inwards) and as its Nature is to move continually, it must be understood not as static, but as dynamic, not as a Noun but as a Verb.”8 The nature of True Will is a continual state of the authentic actualization of potential; the nature of Being is perpetual becoming.

This Goal is not something to obtained, yet another thing to “have” and possess. It is also not some distant, elusive, or beyond-human goal. The Goal is an authentic sense of being, the deepest and fullest expression of who we truly are. The Path is therefore the path inward towards that optimum mode of Being that we call True Will, or as Crowley writes “the true Motion of thine inmost Being”9 and “the true purpose of the totality of your Being.”10 We seek nothing other than our True Selves, the most complete expression of our nature. Crowley confirms this when he writes, “What is the meaning of Initiation? It is the Path to the realisation of your Self as the sole, the supreme, the absolute of all Truth, Beauty, Purity, Perfection!”11 and also when he writes, “Initiation means the Journey Inwards: nothing is changed or can be changed; but all is trulier understood with every step.”12 True Will is, in this sense, the most near and most human Goal of all.

The Path of Initiation – The Path is called Initiation and simply refers to the process of finding and actualizing our potential in the most authentic and complete way; it is the process of approaching the Goal. On this Crowley writes, “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. 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. Every man must overcome his own obstacles, expose his own illusions.”13 This does not mean the progressive initiation into the ascending grades of some temporal organization. These “outer” initiations can, even in their ideal state, be mere reflections of that inner process of moving from a mode of wanting to a mode of Willing.

This Path is called the Great Work because embarking upon and treading it involves coming to face our deepest anxieties, doubts, and fears as well as those parts of ourselves that we neglect, distort, or deny completely. This is no easy task, and as a fact of our Alone-ness, “every man must overcome his own obstacles [and] expose his own illusions.” Though others can point the way, no one can do it for you. As Morpheus says to Neo in The Matrix, “I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.” Our “shadow,” as Carl Jung would call it, encompasses all those parts of ourselves that we do not want to face, so our exposure and integration of them is necessarily a very Great Work. Our primary tools for treading this Path have been grouped under the two main categories of Magick and Yoga.

The Community of Thelemites – The Community involves all those who have accepted the Goal of True Will as the only satisfactory solution to human existence, a reoriented mode of being rather than constantly and frustratingly striving after the manifold and often contradictory objects of our conscious wishes, desires, and ideals. This Community includes all Thelemites in the sense that they have accepted the Goal and the Path to that Goal. They all are gathered into one fold in order to “bring the glory of the stars into the hearts of men.”14 It is also useful to think of one’s actual local community, perhaps that of O.T.O. for some readers, in this light. Those members are all bound together and united in their acceptance of the Law of Thelema, the Goal of True Will, and the Path of Initiation. Remembering this helps keep our perspective, not letting us fall so easily into the petty interpersonal drama and organizational politics that inevitably arise; instead, we reorient ourselves to remember our real Goal and the Path thereto, embracing and rejoicing in the fact that we have a Community of individuals devoted to this very ideal.

The Three Jewels or Refuges of the New Aeon

1) The Goal

True Will

2) The Path

Initiation, the Great Work

3) The Community

Thelemites

We can now see that, in the New Aeon, we may take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, but these are understood as True Will, Initiation, and the Community of Thelemites. We take refuge in the Will, the Way, and the Brotherhood of Stars. To take these three refuges is to reorient one’s attitude and focus, shifting away from the inauthentic actualization of our Alone-ness in the mode of wanting characterized by striving after possessing and towards the authentic actualization of our Alone-ness in the mode of Willing characterized by the personal growth towards the fullest expression of Being, the actualization of the totality of one’s potential. Again, to take refuge is not to run away or hide from anything; on the contrary, we are reorienting ourselves to very directly confront the reality of our situations. To take refuge is nothing other than reminding oneself of and reorienting oneself to hopeful process of actualizing an the authentic mode of Being, of True Will. In this way, the Three Jewels help fortify us in our Alone-ness against the ever-present possibility of slipping back into the inauthentic mode of wanting and having.

Buddhists often take refuge in the form of a short prayer such as, “I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.” As Thelemites, we may recite a short prayer of “I take refuge in the True Will, in the Great Work, and the Community of Thelemites” or “I guide myself in remembering the Goal of Will, the Path of Initiation thereto, and the Community dedicated to walking this Path with me” or any other form that speaks to you in a way that feels genuine for yourself. This can be repeated as a meditation in itself, as a prayer before and after a regimen of Yoga and/or Magick, or done at certain times of day. Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131The important point is not to form a rigid sense of exactly when this should be done or exactly how it should be said. The underlying meaning needs to be firmly in mind, that of a radical reorientation from a mode of wanting/having to a mode of Willing/Being so that we may authentically and fully actualize our potential. With freedom comes responsibility, and the responsibility falls on you to find a way that this works most effectively. No one can truly force you to do this nor can anyone do it for you. Only you can move from an inauthentic to an authentic expression of the fact of your Alone-ness. It is only through the radical reorientation of ourselves to accept what we are and the commitment to the Path that leads to the expression of the totality of our Being that we may transcend and finally overcome the anxiety that has resulted from being absorbed in the “wants” or desires that have provided no true solace or joy.

Keep pure your highest ideal; strive ever toward it without allowing aught to stop you or turn you aside, even as a star sweeps upon its incalculable and infinite course of glory, and all is Love. The Law of your being becomes Light, Life, Love and Liberty. All is peace, all is harmony and beauty, all is joy.”
-Aleister Crowley, “The Law of Liberty”

References

1 Yalom, Irvin. Existential Psychotherapy.

2 The Heart of the Master.

3 Magick Without Tears, chapter 8.

4 Little Essays Towards Truth, “Trance.”

5 Liber AL vel Legis III:5.

6 Liber AL vel Legis II:2.

7 Commentary to “Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV,” chapter V, line 2.

8 “Duty,” section A, part 2.

9 Liber Aleph, chapter 9.

10 “Duty,” Section A, part 5.

11 Magick Without Tears, chapter 71.

12 Little Essays Towards Truth, “Mastery.”

13 “Liber LXI vel Causae,” lines 2-4.

14Liber AL vel Legis I:15.


Thelema True Will Radical Reorientation towards Becoming Who We Are

True Will: The Radical Re-orientation Towards Becoming Who We Are (pt.2)

IAO131 True Will

NOTE: Read part 1 before continuing on to this part.

The Paradox of Human Existence:
Our Simultaneous Independence and Interdependence

 It has already been stated that there are two fundamental modes of existing in the world, (1) wanting, characterized by an attitude of “having” and (2) Willing, characterized by an attitude of “Being.” Wanting and having is inauthentic and the source and cause of perpetuation of anxiety. Willing and Being is authentic and the source of fulfillment. By “authentic” I mean that being in the mode of Willing is a state or process that is true to the totality one’s self, the actualization of one’s full potential. Conversely, “inauthentic” means we are limited in some way, as illustrated in the iceberg metaphor of the psyche mentioned previously where the the conscious ego is split from the unconscious potencies. To be inauthentic is therefore to avoid or limit the actualization of the full range of one’s possibilities; as it is written, “The word of Sin is Restriction.”1

These are two modes of existing in the world, but I want to turn our attention to the nature of our existence in the world. It is here that we encounter the paradox of human existence: we are always alone in the world and we are always with others in the world. There is a both an “Alone-ness” and “With-ness” that simultaneously characterize our existence in the world. We are simultaneously Independent beings and Interdependent beings; we are immersed in Alone-ness and With-ness at the same time. Though they are opposite in a way, they represent the two sides of the coin of life and are the two strands weaved together seamlessly in an inseparable unity; they are separated for convenience of explanation. Each of us is synchronously isolated in Alone-ness and immersed in With-ness. I will use Independence and Alone-ness interchangeably as well as Interdependence and With-ness interchangeably; the terms Alone-ness and With-ness emphasize that these are facts of our Being and not simply abstract or impersonal principles. Crowley speaks to the paradoxicality and inseparability of our simultaneous Independence and Interdependence when he writes, “It is not true to say either that we are separate Stars, or One Star. Each Star is individual, yet each is bound to the others by Law.”2

This dualistic unity is paralleled in the first two chapters of The Book of the Law and, by extension, in the symbols of Hadit and Nuit. Hadit characterizes the quintessence of Alone-ness and even states “I am alone.”3 Nuit characterizes the quintessence of With-ness. She discloses that we are all stars in “the company of heaven”4 and counsels us to “Bind nothing! Let there be no difference made among you between any one thing & any other thing; for thereby there cometh hurt.”5 The ultimate unity between Alone-ness and With-ness is paralleled by the identification of Nuit with Hadit.6 The Independence/ Interdependence duality can also be seen reflected in the two primary statements of our Law. “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” is a statement of Alone-ness or Independence, i.e. that we each have an individual Will that is unique from all others. “Love is the law, love under will” is a statement of With-ness or Interdependence, i.e. that in every thought, word, and act we establish some kind of relation or union with the world. The ultimate unity between Alone-ness and With-ness is also paralleled by the identification of Will and Love.7 Finally, Alone-ness and With-ness are reflected into the two main categories of practices in which we engage as Thelemites, Yoga and Magick. Once more, they are ultimately two facets of the same method.8

2 Elements of Existence

Hadit and Nuit

Liber AL

Will and Love

Magick and Yoga

Alone-ness, Independence

Hadit, ch.2

“I am alone”

Thelema, Will

Yoga

With-ness, Interdependence

Nuit, ch.1

“Bind nothing!”

Agape, Love

Magick

Since we are constantly immersed in simultaneous Alone-ness and With-ness, we bring to these facts of existence our mode of being. Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131That is, in both Alone-ness and With-ness, we act either in a mode of “want” characterized by having or we act in a mode of “Will” characterized by Being. Now we will examine Alone-ness and With-ness in turn to understand their nature, how an inauthentic approach of wanting looks in each case, and how an authentic approach of Willing looks in each case.

Contemplate your own Nature. Consider every element thereof both separately and in relation to all the rest as to judge accurately the true purpose of the totality of your Being.”
-Aleister Crowley, “Duty”

References

1 Liber AL vel Legis I:41.

2 New Comment to Liber AL vel Legis I:52.

3 Liber AL vel Legis II:23.

4 Liber AL vel Legis I:2.

5 Liber AL vel Legis I:22.

6 “The Perfect and the Perfect are one Perfect and not two; nay, are none!” –Liber AL vel Legis I:45.

7 Will = Thelema = Qelhma = 93; Love = Agape = Agaph = 93. Therefore, we see that Will = Love in the number of 93.

8 On this Crowley writes, “My system can be divided into two parts. Apparently diametrically opposed, but at the end converging, the one helping the other until the final method of progress partakes equally of both elements. For convenience I shall call the first method Magick, and the second method Yoga. The opposition between these is very plain for the direction of Magick is wholly outward, that of Yoga wholly inward.” –Magick Without Tears, chapter 83.

Thelema True Will Radical Reorientation towards Becoming Who We Are

True Will: The Radical Re-orientation Towards Becoming Who We Are (pt.1)

IAO131 True Will

Wanting versus Willing

To Will and to want. These are not simply two ideas. To Will and to want are two fundamental ways of existing in the world. Our Law as Thelemites is “Do what thou wilt”; it is our sole duty and right to find and do this Will. Aleister Crowley often distinguished Will – often called True Will – from want. For example, he wrote that the purpose of each individual is “the discovery of his True Will (as opposed to his conscious ideals or wishes) by each individual”1; “It should be clear that ‘Do what thou wilt’ does not mean ‘Do what you like.’ It is the apotheosis of Freedom; but it is also the strictest possible bond.”2;“Do what thou wilt does not mean Do as you please, although it implies this degree of emancipation, that it is no longer possible to say à priori that a given action is ‘wrong.’ Each man has the right—and an absolute right—to accomplish his True Will.”3; “It will be seen that the formula – ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law’ has nothing to do with ‘Do as you please.’ It is much more difficult to comply with the Law of Thelema than to follow out slavishly a set of dead regulations.”4

To Will and to want are two modes of existence. They are paralleled in the contrast between “to Be” and “to have.”5 In ordinary life, we are dominated by the mode of wanting or having at the expense of losing touch with Will or Being. This ordinary mode of existence, wanting and having, can be likened to a horizontal line: we are always trying to achieve our desires, to have more things. This is everyone’s natural, “un-initiated” state of constant striving after possessing more and more. Society bombards us from all directions with the message that fulfillment is found through possessing more. Our wants are endless – there is always more to amass. We see this most evidently in the frenzy over the accumulation of wealth and material objects; we want the latest gadgets, the fastest cars, and the fanciest clothes. It can also be seen in wanting social status or authority, so we seek to have labels and titles that reflect our authority… “I am a CEO,” “I have a PhD,” “I am a 7th degree,” or “I am a High Priest.” The attitude of wanting extends into relationships: the more friends on Facebook, the better! Our possessiveness shows itself in our intimate relationships – it is even embedded in the language we use such as, “I have a boyfriend” or “I have a wife.” Wanting/having can be seen more subtly in the accumulation of knowledge. We want to have wisdom, so we accumulate facts – the person who can list the most correspondences of the Tree of Life is surely the wisest! Even our spirituality is not protected from this nefarious mode of existence. We amass (and occasionally read) shelves of books that could easily crush us under their combined weights, we strive to get the most ornate and beautiful ritual implements for our temples, we accumulate a giant encyclopedia of knowledge of rituals and spiritual dogmas… we even speak of the goal of religion as a possession! They are the ultimate “wants”: We seek to obtain the Holy Grail or to find the Philosopher’s Stone, and we say that we “have” a True Will. Our absorption in this horizontal dimension of existence knows no bounds in terms of the unfathomable plethora of “wants.”

The modern age of technology has provided us the means to get more and more of what we want – friends through social networking sites, information through search engines, and all the food we could ever want at a supermarket (et cetera ad infinitum). In spite of this, a fundamental characteristic of our modern era is widespread dissatisfaction and disenchantment. We have houses with heating and plumbing that kings could only wish for in past epochs, yet we are not content. We have 500 friends on Facebook, yet we are lonely. We sail through the air in metal contraptions at unfathomable speeds, yet we are impatient. When we get down to it, what do we all hope to gain from this relentless pursuit of wants and accumulation of possessions? It stems from this deep, underlying sense that there is something lacking in our lives despite all the things we have. There is a hole and this hole is filled with stuff, whether material objects or knowledge or whatever else. We are looking for a sense of true fulfillment but the pursuit of our wants has left us no closer to our goal. In fact, all of our striving towards “having” makes us more dissatisfied: for everything we have, we also gain a fear of losing it. We have everything backwards: our very preoccupation with wanting is the source of our lack. It is the source of our anxiety, our loneliness, our emptiness, our meaninglessness, and our sense of inauthenticity that we strove to extinguish by obtaining the objects of our desires. We want to be truly and authentically alive, yet – paradoxically – we have our hands so full with our “wants” and “haves” that we are left completely empty-handed.

In the face of this delirious engrossment in the mode of wanting, it may seem that there is no other possible way of existing in the world. In contrast to this horizontal mode of preoccupation with wants, there is the vertical dimension of True Will, of Being. It is of note that the word “being” in Greek is “to on,” giving us the word “ontology” (the study of being), and an ancient name of the sun was “On,” as is mentioned in the Gnostic Mass.6 The effulgent glory of Solar light is an apt symbol of the way of Being or True Will in contrast to the confused groping-in-the-darkness of the way of wanting. To find a sense of self that is not empty and inauthentic, we do not need more desires and more possessions nor do we need more beliefs or knowledge. We need a radical re-orientation of our way of being in the world, one where we become who we are. This is what we of Thelema call the True Will. It is also of note, at least to occultists and Masons, that the word “reorient” means to get one’s bearings and etymologically means “to face the East,” i.e. to re-orient. We reorient ourselves to the East, the place of the rising Sun, which is a symbolic way of saying we reorient ourselves towards the way of Being or of True Will, remembering our starry nature, so to speak.

This vertical mode of being shows us symbolically that we are not simply striving towards more and more as in the horizontal mode of wanting. Instead, we extend upwards towards a loftier expression of ourselves and downwards towards a deeper understanding of ourselves. In our Holy Books it is written, “My adepts stand upright; their head above the heavens, their feet below the hells.”7 Instead of seeking after abundance through wanting and having things, we seek abundance in Being ourselves more fully, our True Selves. When we operate in this vertical dimension of True Will, religion is not something we adopt or “have,” our entire Being is religious. To be present in the vertical dimension of True Will is to be authentically religious.

The fatuousness of our attempts to gain satisfaction through the pursuit of our conscious desires is illustrated by the Freudian model of the psyche as an iceberg. Above the water there is the tip of the iceberg: our sense of self or ego and our conscious desires. Beneath the water lies the immensity of the rest of our psyches, the unconscious. In our engrossment with our conscious wants, we let the mere tip of ourselves dictate our direction. The majority of the self that lies underwater, the unconscious, is left unheeded and unsatisfied. To reorient ourselves to Will instead of want, Being instead of having, is to seek to encompass and express the totality of the self. It is to actualize the vast power and potential that lies dormant and untapped as long as we remain on the horizontal dimension of want and have. In fact, Crowley himself likened the Holy Guardian Angel8 and the True Will9 to the unconscious. He wrote, “Good sense is in reality common to all men: it is the property of the Unconscious whose Omniscience matches its Omnipotence. The trouble is that in practically every particular case the Intellect insists on interfering… Remember that the Ego is not really the centre and crown of the individual; indeed the whole trouble arises from its false claim to be so.”10 It might be said that, psychologically, the mode of wanting or having keeps us in a perpetual state of conflict between the ego/conscious and the unconscious. The mode of Willing or Being involves a harmonious alignment between conscious and unconscious. Crowley writes, “A Man whose conscious will is at odds with his True Will is wasting his strength. He cannot hope to influence his environment efficiently. A Man who is doing his True Will has the inertia of the Universe to assist him.”11

Aleister Crowley’s own life serves as an archetypal template of this radical reorientation from a mode of wanting and having to that of Willing and Being. This occurred in his “Vision of Sorrow” in 1897 of which he writes in his Confessions,

The occasion was an attack of illness. It was nothing very serious and I had long been accustomed to expect to die before I came of age. But for some reason or other I found myself forced to meditate upon the fact of mortality. It was impressed upon me that I hadn’t a moment to lose. There was no fear of death or of a possible ‘hereafter’; but I was appalled by the idea of the futility of all human endeavour. Suppose, I said to myself, that I make a great success in diplomacy and become ambassador to Paris. There was no good in that — I could not so much as remember the name of the ambassador a hundred years ago. Again, I wanted to be a great poet. Well, here I was in one of the two places in England that made a specialty of poets, yet only an insignificant fraction of the three thousand men in residence knew anything about so great a man as Aeschylus. I was not sufficiently enlightened to understand that the fame of the man had little or nothing to do with his real success, that the proof of his prowess lay in the invisible influence with he had had upon generations of men. My imagination went a step further. Suppose I did more than Caesar or Napoleon in one line, or than Homer and Shakespeare in the other — my work would be automatically cancelled when the globe became uninhabitable for man. I did not go into a definite trance in this meditations; but a spiritual consciousness was born in me corresponding to that which characterizes the Vision of the Universal Sorrow, as I learnt to call it later on. In Buddhist phraesology, I perceived the First Noble Truth – Sabbé Pi Dukkham – everything is sorrow. But this perception was confined to the planes familiar to the normal human consciousness. The fatuity of any work based upon physical continuity was evident. But I had at this time no reason for supposing that the same criticism applied to any transcendental universe. I formulated my will somewhat as follows: ‘I must find a material in which to work which is immune from the forces of change.’ I suppose that I still accepted Christian metaphysics in some sense or another. I had been satisfied to escape from religion to the world. I now found that there was no satisfaction here. I was not content to be annihilated. Spiritual facts were the only things worth while. Brain and body were valueless except as the instruments of the soul.”

We see that Crowley wanted to become a great poet, a great diplomat, a great chess master… yet all of these things were found wanting, so to speak. He turned his eyes away from the possession of these titles and towards spiritual attainment, and the rest is history. In embarking upon the vertical path, he was led to the discovery of his True Will. A parallel can be found in the life of Siddhartha Gautama who – upon seeing an old man, a sick man, a dead man, and then a yogi – renounced the possibility of being a king and having all the material comforts of the world and turned his attention toward becoming awakened. He found the answer to his gnawing dissatisfaction with the suffering of the world in enlightenment, in the vertical dimension of becoming who he really was, an awakened one, a Buddha. These two particularly good examples because they were men – not transcendent gods or demi-gods or mythical heroes – who represent the possibilities the actualization of potential that is available to all of us as men and women. William Blake described this attitude concisely when he wrote, “All deities reside in the human breast,”12 and, as it says at the top of our declaration of the rights of man, “There is no god but man.”13

Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131To summarize, there is a horizontal dimension of being of “want” that is characterized by preoccupation with “having” or possessing, whether material objects, knowledge, or other people. We strive to assuage our anxiety about our sense of emptiness through pursuing our “wants,” which ironically leaves us feeling more empty and inauthentic. To transcend this condition, we do not need more “wants” or a new and specific “want,” but instead we need a radical reorientation of our very being towards the vertical dimension of “Will” (or True Will) that is characterized by a focus on “Being” rather than having. The process of shifting from want to Will, having to Being, horizontal to vertical, is shown symbolically or archetypally in the life of Aleister Crowley, specifically his experience of the “Vision of Sorrow.”

“It all depends on your own acceptance of this new law, and you are not asked to believe anything, to accept a string of foolish fables beneath the intellectual level of a Bushman and the moral level of a drug-fiend. All you have to do is to be yourself, to do your will, and to rejoice.”
-Aleister Crowley, “The Law of Liberty”

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References

1 “The Constitution of the Order of Thelemites.”

2 “Liber II: The Message of the Master Therion.”

3 “The Method of Thelema.”

4 Eight Lectures on Yoga, “Yama.”

5 See Erich Fromm’s To Have or to Be?

6 “…our Lord and Father the Sun that travelleth over the Heavens in his name ΟΝ.”

7 “Liber Tzaddi vel Hamus Hermeticus,” line 40.

8 “The Holy Guardian Angel is the Unconscious Creature Self – the Spiritual Phallus.” -Liber Samekh.

9 “The Kingdom of Malkuth, the Virgin Bride, and the Child is the Dwarf-Self, the Phallic consciousness, which is the true life of Man, beyond his ‘veils’ of incarnation. We have to thank Freud — and especially Jung — for stating this part of the Magical Doctrine so plainly, as also for their development of the connexion of the Will of this ‘child’ with the True or Unconscious Will, and so for clarifying our doctrine of the ‘Silent Self’ or ‘Holy Guardian Angel’. They are of course totally ignorant of magical phenomena, and could hardly explain even such terms as ‘Augoeides’; and they are seriously to blame for not stating more openly that this True Will is not to be daunted or suppressed; but within their limits they have done excellent work.” -New Comment to Liber AL vel Legis III:22

10 Commentary to “Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV.”

11 Magick in Theory & Practice, “Introduction,” part III, Theorems 8-9.

12 William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.
13 “OZ: Liber LXXVII.”

Death in Thelema

Death in Thelema

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

Thelema is an all-encompassing paradigm, and therefore it deals with all aspects of life. A universal experience of all people – and all living things – is death. What then is the view of death and the afterlife in Thelema?

We may examine this question first by understanding what Thelemites do not believe. Thelema does not have a conception of death like that of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). There is no notion of a heaven or hell that is beyond this world. There is no notion of Judgment for our moral actions or beliefs. This much is clear to anyone who has performed even a cursory review of the Thelemic literary corpus.

Thelema also does not have a conception of death like that of the Dharmic religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism). There is no notion of a desire to escape Samsara, the wheel of birth, death, and rebirth. There is also no notion of reincarnating in order to perfect the soul or achieve enlightenment throughout several lifetimes. This topic has been treated in a previous essay entitled “New Aeon Initiation” and Crowley has written, “The idea of incarnations ‘perfecting’ a thing originally perfect by definition is imbecile.” Thelemites see life and the world of duality as providing the opportunity for the “chance of union” (Liber AL I:29), to experience the joy of “love under will.”

Several questions still remain: Does Thelema hold the belief that we have only one life (like Abrahamic religions) or that we have many lives (like Dharmic religions)? Is there anything that survives death? If there are many lives, is there something that travels from life to life or are they all distinct in some way?

The first difficulty in figuring out Thelema’s approach to death is that the term “death” is used in at least two ways: firstly, it refers to the physical death of the body and, secondly, it refers to the spiritual experience of the death of the sense of self which is called “Crossing the Abyss” in this system. We may see the distinction in many places, and Crowley himself often differentiates the two ideas such as when he writes, “The death of the individual is his awakening to the impersonal immortality of Hadit. This applies less to physical death than to the Crossing of the Abyss.”

The “soul” in Thelema is understood to be something that is eternal and without quality – it is something beyond space and beyond time and identical with God or Godhead Itself. In the above quotation, Crowley explains that the death of the individual – what is often called the ego-self – causes an identity with Hadit which is “impersonal” – that is, not having anything to do with what we might ascribe to the personality or any personal qualities whatsoever – and “immortal” – that is, it does not ever die. What Crowley is describing is “the Crossing of the Abyss” which is an experience that one has while physically alive. Initiation or the process of “spiritual progress” essentially involves coming to conscious awareness and identity with this Self or Soul. When describing this Soul in a Three-in-One fashion, composed of Jechidah, Chiah, and Neshamah, Crowley writes, “It is the work of Initiation to journey inwards to them” (emphasis in the original).

This is a very basic understanding of the “death” that is involved in the Crossing of the Abyss. But what of the death of the physical body? Again, it is difficult to determine which references to death and dying are speaking about physical or spiritual death. There are many mentions of death in the Holy Books of Thelema, but there is one clear mention of the death of the body in The Book of the Law: “Think not, o king, upon that lie: That Thou Must Die: verily thou shalt not die, but live. Now let it be understood: If the body of the King dissolve, he shall remain in pure ecstasy for ever” (Liber AL II:21). The line itself, specifically “If the body of the King dissolve, he shall remain in pure ecstasy for ever”, is not particularly clear. Does this mean that when the body dies, we enter into an eternal ecstasy rather than incarnating ever again? Does it mean that we enter into the ecstasy that is beyond time (so to speak) and then enter back into space and time with every new incarnation? Is it simply a metaphor for the Crossing of the Abyss that happens to use the image of the body? Crowley comments on this line,

“One’s ‘immortal soul’ is a different kind of thing altogether from one’s mortal vesture. This Soul is a particular Star, with its own peculiar qualities, of course; but these qualities are all ‘eternal,’ and part of the nature of the Soul. This Soul being a monistic consciousness, it is unable to appreciate itself and its qualities, as explained in a previous entry; so it realizes itself by the device of duality, with the limitations of time, space and causality.”

Here we see the clear understanding that the immortal soul is not the same as the “mortal vesture,” which presumably refers to the mind (including the personality) and body of the individual. Also, Crowley contrasts the “eternal” Soul or Star with duality, which includes “time, space, and causality.” This re-affirms the notion that the Soul is beyond these things.

In his “Djeridensis Comment” (or “The Comment Called D”), Crowley writes on this line:

“The root of all such error is the belief of Kings that they are mortal. This is confuse their essence with that basis of a certain class of events which refers to the kind of life which includes death. Aiwass insists that if the body dissolve its King remains in timeless rapture. For his events have ceased; and he stands in a single state of joy as made one with Nuit. Should he wish further knowledge of himself, he must choose some other means by which to measure it, by which to set in motion a fresh series of events.”

Here we have a little more information. The idea that the Soul is eternal and the true essence and identity of everyone is re-affirmed, and it is once again contrasted with impermanent things (“a certain class of events which refers to the kind of life which includes death”) such as the “mortal vesture” mentioned previously. More importantly, we have a clarification to the line “If the body of the King dissolve, he shall remain in pure ecstasy for ever.” After death, “events have ceased” and the Soul is in ecstasy or joy. If the Soul desires “further knowledge of himself” (which we know to mean experience in the world of duality), there needs to be “some other means” to “set in motion a fresh series of events” – that is, a new incarnation.

We now have the basic conception of death in Thelema. The true essence and identity of every person, the Soul or Star, is perfect and beyond space, time, and causality. It is essentially a “monistic consciousess” (the Zero/0 of the Thelemic ontology) so it has to incarnate into a specific mind and body in order to have experience (the Two/2 of the Thelemic ontology). When the person’s body dies, the Soul remains in formless, timeless ecstasy or joy when not incarnated.

This is a consistent and satisfactory answer to the question of death, yet some questions remain unanswered. Specifically, is there any thread temporally tying together the lives of a Soul? That is, is there any notion of reincarnation or metempsychosis (transmigration of the soul)? After all, didn’t Crowley himself claim to have “past lives”? It is indeed logically possible that we may not believe in the notion of escaping Samsara or perfecting our souls yet still believe in some form of connection between lives.

If we look, the official website of U.S. Grand Lodge O.T.O. explicitly states a belief in metempsychosis. That being said, on this website it is said that the “Body of Light” is subject to metempsychosis and not necessarily the Soul of which we have been speaking. Let’s look at what Crowley himself said about the idea of metempsychosis.

In a chapter in Liber Aleph entitled “De Morte” (“On Death”), Crowley begins with this sentence, “Thou hast made Question of me concerning Death, and this is my Opinion, of which I say not: this is the Truth.” This disclaimer is not given for any other chapter, nor is it typical of his writing on Thelema to write in such a skeptical or reticent fashion. Interestingly, he begins his short treatise “Liber ThIShARB” (a document that details the practice of going backwards in one’s memory including back to past lives) in a similar way. He starts the document with these words, “May be. It has not been possible to construct this book on a basis of pure Scepticism. This matters less, as the practice leads to Scepticism, and it may be through it.” In “Liber ThIShARB,” Crowley is extremely explicit about the validity of these “memories,” saying repeatedly that they must be viewed skeptically and be checked with facts to ascertain if they are valid. He writes, “But let him not trust his memory to assert its conclusions as fact, and act thereupon, without most adequate confirmation.” It should be clear that Crowley treated this subject of the afterlife with great caution and critical thinking.

Coming back to the chapter “De Morte” from Liber Aleph, keeping Crowley’s disclaimer in mind, we can continue to examine the rest of what he says. Crowley then explains the idea of the Soul incarnating into a mind and body. He writes that the soul “inhabiteth a Tabernacle of Illusion, a Body and Mind. And this Tabernacle is Subject to the Law of Change, for it is complex, and diffuse reacting to every Stimulus or Impression.” This affirms the previously mentioned idea that the mind and body are impermanent vehicles of the immortal Soul. He continues:

“If then the mind be attached constantly to the Body, Death hath no Power to decompose it wholly, but a decaying Shell of the dead Man, his Mind holding together for a little his Body of Light, haunteth the Earth, seeking a new Tabernacle (in its Error that feareth Change) in some other Body. These Shells are broken away utterly from the Star that did enlighten them, and they are Vampires, obsessing them that adventure themselves into the Astral World without Magical Protection, or invoke them, as do the Spiritists. For by Death is Man released only from the Gross Body, at the first, and is complete otherwise upon the Astral Plane, as he was in his Life. But this Wholeness suffereth Stress, and its Girders are loosened, the weaker first and after that the stronger.”

Here is one possibility that Crowley expounds: if your mind is attached to the body, the mind will hold together and “haunt the Earth” but it has “broken away utterly from the Star.” The idea being that the mind can, in some way, persist beyond death but it is no longer connected to the Star or Soul. These “Shells” can account for some of what is seen in the “astral world,” what Spiritists communicate with, and potentially for other phenomena such as ghosts. Crowley then continues in the next chapter, contrasting this notion with what happens to Adepts after death (I apologize for the long quotation but it is all pertinent):

“Consider now in this Light what shall come to the Adept, to him that hath aspired constantly and firmly to his Star, attuning the Mind unto the Musick of its Will. In him, if his Mind be knit perfectly together is itself, and conjoined with the Star, is so strong a Confection that it breaketh away easily not only from the Gross Body, but the fine. It is this Fine Body which bindeth it to the Astral, as did the Gross to the Material World so then it accomplisheth willingly the Sacrament of a second Death and leaveth the Body of Light. But the Mind, cleaveth closely, by Right of its Harmony, and Might of its Love, to its Star, resisteth the Ministers of Disruption, for a Season, according to its Strength. Now, if this Star be of those that are bound by the Great Oath, incarnating without Remission because of Delight in the Cosmic Sacrament, it seeketh a new Vehicle in the appointed Way, and indwelleth the Fœtus of a Child, and quickeneth it. And if at this Time the mind of its Former Tabernacle yet cling to it, then is there Continuity of Character, and it may be Memory, between the two Vehicles. This is, briefly and without Elaboration, is the Way of Asar in Amennti, according to mine Opinion, of which I say not: This is the Truth.”

The basic idea is that Adepts spend their lives attuning their minds to the Will and so the mind can “cleave closely… to its Star” and incarnate into a new body. This allows for “Continuity of Character, and it may be Memory, between the two Vehicles,” which is the basic understanding of reincarnation and the basis for the belief in past lives. It is interesting, though, that Crowley appears to believe the continuity between lives is only possible for Adepts who have trained their minds thoroughly. Also of note is that Crowley, in ending this chapter on death, says once again “according to mine Opinion, of which I say not: This is the Truth.”

We can see that Crowley did indeed entertain a notion of metempsychosis, but one that is limited in a way to Adepts. We can also see that Crowley was especially careful to be skeptical and encourage skepticism around this issue. No other chapter in Liber Aleph contains such a disclaimer, let alone one both at the beginning and end of the discussion. The Holy Books themselves are not explicitly clear about this issue. Though there is an identification between Aleister Crowley and Ankh-af-na-khonsu in Liber AL (such as I:14 and I:36), it is not explicit whether this is a literal or symbolic statement (the latter of which Liber AL is clearly full of).

In conclusion, Thelema is a system where we believe each individual has a Soul or Star which is perfect, impersonal, and also beyond space, time, causality, and any form of duality. The Soul incarnates into the world of duality through a mind and body. When the physical body dies, and when not incarnated in general, the Soul remains in a timeless, formless ecstasy. All of this can be agreed upon, being that it is consistently affirmed and re-affirmed throughout Thelemic Holy Books as well as in Crowley’s commentaries to these texts. Beyond this, Crowley maintained that it is possible for the mind to “cleave” to a Star if one is an Adept, and this can lead to a “continuity of character” as well as the memory of past lives. That being said, Crowley had an atypical skepticism and cautiousness around this issue. This idea of some kind of continuity of character through lives remains to be explored by each Thelemite, confirmed or rejected based on experience, checking the facts, and utility.

Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131I want to end this essay by very briefly touching upon the last of the criteria just mentioned: utility. I encourage Thelemites – and magicians in general – to consider the usefulness of believing in past lives. Supposing for a moment that it is true that you have past lives, each life presents an entirely unique situation: you are born in a different place, with a different family, a different physiology (including genetic predispositions), possibly a different language, a different culture, a different experience being raised, a different peer group, exposure to different ideas at different times, etc. It is my personal opinion that, for example, the fact you are interested in trains as a child doesn’t mean you should be a train conductor or engineer as an adult. If one’s own childhood may not necessarily supply the necessary information to discover and accomplish your Will, how much less pertinent would information about a previous life? Further, we may so easily fall victim to that demon that appears to plague occultists of all stripes: the demon of Glamor. It is plain that there is a large possibility of an “ego trip” were one to think that you were Buddha, Caesar, or any figure of importance. There is a glamor in the claim to past lives, especially the glamor in possessing some kind of strange or powerful access to memories across lifetimes. Crowley himself warned about this in Magick Without Tears when he wrote,  “You ask if we, meaning, I suppose, the English, are now reincarnating the Egyptians. When I was a boy it was the Romans, while the French undertook the same thankless office for the Greeks.  I say ‘deadly poison’ because when you analyse you see at once that this is a device for flattering yourself.  You have a great reverence for the people who produced Luxor and the Pyramids; and it makes you feel nice and comfortable inside if you think that you were running around in those days as Rameses II or a high priest in Thebes or something equally congenial.” I am not discouraging the belief in or the practice of obtaining memories of past lives, but I encourage any readers of this essay to think very critically about the utility of memories of past lives. I hope that you seriously consider the possibility and consequences of falling prey to the glamor of the idea and remember that Crowley himself was very skeptical, repeating “this is my Opinion, of which I say not: this is the Truth.”

Love is the law, love under will.

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The Will in Thelema: Considered on Two Planes

The Will considered on two planes

The Will is completely central to Thelema. Liber AL vel Legis, the central text of Thelema states:

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. (I:40)
Thou hast no right but to do thy will. Do that, and no other shall say nay. (I:42-43)
There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt. (III:60)

There are two “planes” that one must consider the Will on for it to be understood completely. The first plane will be labeled the “theoretical/absolute” and the second will be labeled “practical/relative.” As Aleister Crowley warns in many places we are not to “confuse the planes” – that is, we must keep the considerations of each plane within its own sphere and not let the judgments that pertain to one be confused as pertaining to the other.

On the theoretical/absolute plane, everyone and everything is already doing its “true” or “pure” Will. 

“Know firmly, o my son, that the true Will cannot err; for this is thine appointed course in Heaven, in whose order is Perfection.”— Liber Aleph, “De Somniis”

“There are much deeper considerations in which it appears that ‘Everything that is, is right’. They are set forth elsewhere; we can only summarise them here by saying that the survival of the fittest is their upshot.” — Magick in Theory and Practice, Chapter I

“The uninitiate is a “Dark Star”, and the Great Work for him is to make his veils transparent by ‘purifying’ them. This ‘purification’ is really ‘simplification’; it is not that the veil is dirty, but that the complexity of its folds makes it opaque. The Great Work therefore consists principally in the solution of complexes. Everything in itself is perfect, but when things are muddled, they become ‘evil’.” –New Comment to AL I:8

“…Each of us stars is to move on our true orbit, as marked out by the nature of our position, the law of our growth, the impulse of our past experiences. All events are equally lawful – and every one necessary, in the long run – for all of us, in theory; but in practise, only one act is lawful for each one of us at any given moment. Therefore Duty consists in determining to experience the right event from one moment of consciousness to another.” –Intro to Liber AL, part III

This last quotation touches on the pertinent issue of this short essay: “All events are equally lawful – and every one necessary, in the long run – for all of us, in theory.” This is the Will perceived from the theoretical/absolute plane – Crowley himself uses the terminology of “in theory” to describe this aspect. In an “absolute” sense, or from an “absolute” perspective, “all events are equally lawful – and every one necessary.”

He then writes, “but in practise, only one act is lawful for each one of us at any given moment… Duty consists in determining to experience the right event from one moment of consciousness to another.” This is the Will perceived from the practical/relative plane. In a relative sense, there is discrimination needed.

The first and most common “confusion of the planes” occurs when one perceives the truth of the theoretical/absolute plane of Will. In this sense, all events are lawful and necessary and there is no “wrong” or “evil.” This means in the world that no actions are to be restricted whatsoever because all things “work out in the end,” you might say. This will literally be the death of you if one decides to adopt the theoretical/absolute perspective as a practical/relative philosophy. Although the Will is “perfect” and “necessary” on the theoretical/absolute plane, there is a “Duty” that is the practical necessity of determining the action that is “right.”

The theoretical/absolute plane of Will is virtually useless on a practical level, although knowledge of the fact that Will cannot truly ever err may give rise to a certain confidence, detachment, and carefree attitude. It is on the practical/relative plane of existence that we normally function on, therefore a practical/relative understanding of Will is needed.

In Thelema, the practical/relative application of this is stated as:

Love is the law, love under will. (I:57)

Fresh Fever From the Skies: The Collected Writings of IAO131Love is the modus operandi of the Thelemite, and it must be “under will.” “Each action or motion is an act of love, the uniting with one or another part of ‘Nuit’; each such act must be ‘under will,’ chosen so as to fulfill and not to thwart the true nature of the being concerned.” (Intro to Liber AL, part III)

Therefore, the Will of Thelema must be considered as simultaneously operating on two planes: the theoretical/absolute and the practical/relative. On the plane of the theoretical/absolute, all events are perfect, pure, & necessary; on the plane of the practical/relative, the Thelemite operates under the formula of “love under will,” assimilating experience in accordance with their unique nature.

See also in the series on Will in Thelema:

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