true will

Top 10 Myths about True Will

Top 10 Myths about True Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4) True Will is a single, unchanging thing.

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

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

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

6) True Will requires a mystical experience.

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

7) It is everyone’s Will to attain.

A generally pervasive belief among Thelemites is that there is a certain kind of “true Thelemite” or “ideal Thelemite.” Another essay more fully explains why this is a misconception but, in short, it relies on having preconceptions as to what is “right” and “wrong” for others’ Wills when the entire foundation of Thelema rests on the notion that each individual is unique. One manifestation of this preconception about what is “right” is the notion that everyone should be striving to “attain,” meaning achieve some kind of mystic gnosis or enlightenment. In fact, The Book of the Law says in the same line as its central maxim: “Who calls us Thelemites will do no wrong, if he look but close into the word. For there are therein Three Grades, the Hermit, and the Lover, and the man of Earth. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” (AL I:40).This is further explained in The Vision and the Voice when it is said, “The man of earth is the adherent. The lover giveth his life unto the work among men. The hermit goeth solitary, and giveth only of his light unto men.” It is not inherently everyone’s Will to become a hermit and attain the heights of spiritual illumination – it may very well be someone’s Will to live their lives without concern for these things. More clearly, it says in The Book of the Law that “the Law is for all” (AL I:34). This insistence that everyone must “attain” can easily devolve into a form of spiritual self-superiority that is contrary to the spirit of Liberty that permeates the Law.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love is the law, love under will.

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Thelemic Mysticism

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

Thelemic Mysticism

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


2) The Lover: Communion with the Holy Guardian Angel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Nature of the Second Stage:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The are various secondary characteristics of this Illumination:

“Then the adept was rapt away in bliss, and the beyond of bliss, and exceeded the excess of excess. Also his body shook and staggered with the burden of that bliss and that excess and that ultimate nameless.”
Liber LXV, II:45-46

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“In this Light naught exists, for It is homogeneous: and therefore have men called it Silence, and Darkness, and Nothing. But in this, as in all other effort to name it, is the root of every falsity and misapprehension, since all words imply some duality. Therefore, though I call it Light, it is not Light, nor absence of Light. Many also have sought to describe it by contradictions, since through transcendent negation of all speech it may by some natures be attained. Also by images and symbols have men striven to express it: but always in vain.”
Liber CL: De Lege Libellum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thelemic Mysticism

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

Thelemic Mysticism

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


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

The Conceptualizations of the Mystic Path

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

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

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

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

“Little by little, as your eyes grow stronger, will we unveil to you the ineffable glory of the Path of the Adepts, and its nameless goal… The many change and pass; the one remains. Even as wood and coal and iron burn up together in one great flame, if only that furnace be of transcendent heat; so in the alembic of this spiritual alchemy, if only the zelator blow sufficiently upon his furnace all the systems of earth are consumed in the One Knowledge. Nevertheless, as a fire cannot be started with iron alone, in the beginning one system may be suited for one seeker, another for another. We therefore who are without the chains of ignorance, look closely into the heart of the seeker and lead him by the path which is best suited to his nature unto the ultimate end of all things, the supreme realization, the Life which abideth in Light, yea, the Life which abideth in Light.”
Liber Porta Lucis, lines 14, 20-22

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

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

The Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Transmutation

• “There is none that shall be cast down or lifted up: all is ever as it was.”
-Liber AL vel Legis sub figura CCXX, II:58
• “We are not to regard ourselves as base beings, without whose sphere is Light or ‘God.’ Our minds and bodies are veils of the Light within. The uninitiate is a ‘Dark Star,’ and the Great Work for him is to make his veils transparent by ‘purifying’ them.”
New Comment to Liber AL, I:8
• “The prophet cried against the mountain; come thou hither, that I may speak with thee! The mountain stirred not. Therefore went the prophet unto the mountain, and spake unto it. But the feet of the prophet were weary, and the mountain heard not his voice. But I have called unto Thee, and I have journeyed unto Thee, and it availed me not. I waited patiently, and Thou wast with me from the beginning.”
Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV, II:57-60
• “Initiation means the Journey Inwards: nothing is changed or can be changed; but all is trulier understood with every step.”
Little Essays Towards Truth, “Mastery”

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

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

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

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

The Stages or “Grades” of the Path

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thou then, who hast trials and troubles, rejoice because of them, for in them is Strength, and by their means is a pathway opened unto that Light. How should it be otherwise, O man, whose life is but a day in Eternity, a drop in the Ocean of time; how, were thy trials not many, couldst thou purge thy soul from the dross of earth? …Rejoice therefore, O Initiate, for the greater thy trial the greater thy Triumph.”
Liber Librae sub figura XXX

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psychology of Liber AL – pt.5: Individuation and the True Will

Psychology of Liber AL

Individuation and the True Will

In the previous section of this essay, it was seen how the mind inhibits the full expression of the Will. The “factor infinite & unknown” is the “Subconscious Will,” and therefore, if we can clear away the thought-complexes that prevent this Will from manifesting, we will come to know our Will. This process by which we come to know and do our Will is called in some places “the Great Work.” Crowley explains this Great Work of coming to know one’s True Will concisely when he writes,

We are not to regard ourselves as base beings, without whose sphere is Light or ‘God.’ Our minds and bodies are veils of the Light within. The uninitiate is a ‘Dark Star,’ and the Great Work for him is to make his veils transparent by ‘purifying’ them. This ‘purification’ is really ‘simplification’; it is not that the veil is dirty, but that the complexity of its folds makes it opaque. The Great Work therefore consists principally in the solution of complexes. Everything in itself is perfect, but when things are muddled, they become ‘evil.’”1

This process of the Great Work that “consists principally in the solution of complexes” is also coterminous with a phrase Crowley often used: Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. He asserts this identity as clearly as possible when he writes, “this Great Work is the Attainment of the Knowledge and Conversation of thine Holy Guardian Angel.”2

The process by which we come to know and do our Will is the solution of complexes inhibiting the free and natural flow of the Will. The Great Work is simply a clearing away of the inhibitions of the conscious self to allow the true Self, which contains both conscious and subconscious elements, free reign to do as it Wills. The theory is that if we are only able to “cleanse the doors of perception” (as William Blake says), we will be allowed to manifest our pure Wills effectively. Crowley writes, “Our own Silent Self, helpless and witless, hidden within us, will spring forth, if we have craft to loose him to the Light, spring lustily forward with his cry of Battle, the Word of our True Wills. This is the Task of the Adept, to have the Knowledge and Conversation of His Holy Guardian Angel, to become aware of his nature and his purpose, fulfilling them.”3 Here Crowley not only makes Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel analogous to becoming aware of and fulfilling one’s nature and purpose, but he admits that all we need is the “craft to loose” this “Silent Self” and then naturally the “Word of our True Wills” will “spring lustily forward.”

The various forms of Horus found in Liber AL vel Legis (Ra-Hoor-Khuit, Hoor-paar-kraat, Heru-pa-kraath, Heru-ra-ha, etc.)4 represent a symbolic expression of the “Silent” or “True Self” and so also a symbol of the Holy Guardian Angel. Horus is therefore an archetypal expression of the Self to which all aspire to unite or identify with in “the Great Work.” This is spoken of in Liber AL when Horus, the speaker of the third chapter, says, “To Me do ye reverence! to me come ye through tribulation of ordeal, which is bliss.”5 Crowley explains:

We have seen that Ra-Hoor-Khuit is in one sense the Silent Self in a man, a Name of his Khabs, not so impersonal as Hadit, but the first and least untrue formulation of the Ego. We are to revere this self in us, then, not to suppress it and subordinate it. Nor are we to evade it, but to come to it. This is done ‘through tribulation of ordeal.’ This tribulation is that experienced in the process called Psychoanalysis, now that official science has adopted — so far as its inferior intelligence permits — the methods of the magus. But the ‘ordeal’ is ‘bliss’; the solution of each complex by ‘tribulation’ …is the spasm of joy which is the physiological and psychological accompaniment of any relief from strain and congestion.”6

Crowley identifies Horus as a symbolic expression of the Self whose Will must not be suppressed, subordinated, or evaded. The more surprising of the statements by Crowley is that he claims the “tribulation of ordeal” of the Great Work is coterminous with Psychoanalysis, a direct connection again between psychology and Thelema. With this we can see that the process of psychoanalysis is analogous to “the Great Work” and “Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel”: it is a realization of the true Self.

Carl Jung deemed this same process “individuation.” He defines individuation as:

becoming an ‘in-dividual,’ and in so far as ‘individuality’ embraces our innermost, last, and incomparable uniqueness, it also implies becoming one’s own self. We could therefore translate individuation as ‘coming to selfhood’ or ‘self-realization…’ Egotists are called ‘selfish,’ but this, naturally, has nothing to do with the concept of ‘self’ as I am using it here… Individuation, therefore, can only mean a process of psychological development that fulfils the individual qualities given; in other words, it is a process by which a man becomes the definite, unique being he in fact is. In so doing he does not become ‘selfish’ in the ordinary sense of the word, but is merely fulfilling the peculiarity of his nature, and this… is vastly different from egotism or individualism.”7

Jung here asserts that individuation is a “self-realization,” but makes sure to qualify this statement by saying this does not mean a strengthening of the ego-self. This Self that is realized is beyond the normal egocentric notion of “self.” Instead, this Self contains both the conscious (where the ego resides) and the unconscious factors. Jung explains that, “conscious and unconscious are not necessarily in opposition to one another, but complement on another to form a totality, which is the self.”8 This is the Self that one comes to “through tribulation of ordeal.” Horus is a symbol of that Self in Liber AL vel Legis, and in other places the Holy Guardian Angel is mentioned as that symbol. Crowley writes, “the Angel [is] the True Self of his subconscious self, the hidden Life of his physical life” and “his Angel is the Unity which expresses the sum of the Elements of that Self,”9 an almost exact parallel of Jung’s definition of the “Self.”10

As asserted before by Crowley, this process of individuation or “The Great Work… consists principally in the solution of complexes,” and is simply the becoming aware of and fulfilling of one’s nature. Through this Great Work of individuation, one comes to identify with this Self. In Thelema, one does such under the figure of Horus.11 One comes to know that “he [or she] is Harpocrates, the Child Horus… that is, he is in Unity with his own Secret Nature.”12

One might even assert that the Great Work is a natural process of the human psyche. Carl Jung says, “the driving force [of the unconscious], so far as it is possible for us to grasp it, seems to be in essence only an urge towards self-realization.”13 In this sense, all humans are participating in the drama of the “Great Work,” each striving, consciously or unconsciously, toward that union of subconscious and conscious natures into the Self so that they may more fully accomplish their Wills.

>>PART 6>>

1 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is for All, I:8.

2 Crowley, Aleister. Liber Aleph, “De Gradibus ad Magnum Opus.”

3 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is for All, I:7.

4 It is interesting to note that Crowley says in his commentary to Liber AL, “The Fool is also the Great Fool, Bacchus Diphues, Harpocrates, the Dwarf-Self, the Holy Guardian Angel, and so forth,” essentially equating all the symbols. Further, he writes in his comment to Liber AL II:8, “Harpocrates is… the Dwarf-Soul, the Secret Self of every man, the Serpent with the Lion’s Head.” If this is true, and if according to Liber AL I:8 “Hoor-paar-kraat” (a name for Harpocrates) is taken to be the source of Liber AL vel Legis as the book itself proclaims, then Liber AL was indeed a manifestation of Crowley’s unconscious. The fact is that the unconscious contains “both knowledge and power” greater than the conscious mind, and therefore it is quite possible that Liber AL vel Legis is a manifestation thereof.

5 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, III:62.

6 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is for All, III:62.

7 Jung, Carl. “The Function of the Unconscious” from The Collected Works of C.G. Jung vol.7, par.266-267.

8 Jung, Carl. “The Function of the Unconscious” from The Collected Works of C.G. Jung vol.7, par.274.

9 Crowley, Aleister. “Liber Samekh,” Point II, Section G.

10 From these considerations it will be seen that the Holy Guardian Angel is most certainly not an external being as some in the Thelemic community maintain. This is due most likely to one statement made by Crowley in Magick Without Tears, a treatise intended for complete beginners. One must understand that the subconscious can and does appear as autonomous to the conscious mind. Therefore, one can speak of the Angel as “outside” of oneself insofar as it seems to function autonomously from the conscious ego, but ultimately one comes to see that the Angel is in fact the summation of both the subconscious and conscious natures that make up the self.

11 In an endnote to chapter 90 of Confessions of Aleister Crowley, Symonds writes about a statement Crowley made to a disciple Frank Bennett, “’I want to explain to you fully, and in a few words, what initiation means, and what is meant when we talk of the Real Self, and what the Real Self is.’ And there and then Crowley told him that it was all a matter of getting the subconscious mind to work; and when this subconscious mind was allowed full sway, without interference from the conscious mind, then illumination could be said to have begin; for the subconscious mind was our Holy Guardian Angel. Crowley illustrated the point thus: everything is experienced in the subconscious mind, and it (the subconscious) is constantly urging its will on consciousness, and when the inner desires are restricted or suppressed, evil of all kinds is the result.” Although this directly supports our conclusions we include it only in a footnote because it is a third-hand account.

12 Crowley, Aleister. Liber Aleph, “De Gramine Sanctissimo Arabico.”

13 Jung, Carl. “The Function of the Unconscious” from The Collected Works of C.G. Jung vol.7, par.291.

>>PART 6>>

Psychology of Liber AL – pt.4: Curse against Reason

Psychology of Liber AL

Curse against Reason

Aside from the Will being beyond rest, purpose, attachment to results, and morality, it also transcends reason and the mind in general in an important sense. In the normal functioning of daily life, the mind and reason often play integral parts: Thelema does not deny the usefulness of the mind and reason but seeks to put it in its right place. In the West, reason has held a central position in philosophy at least since Socrates. Reason was thought to be the only way to ascertain truth, and at times reason was often equated with God himself.1 The first major check to the dominance of reason in the Western mind came from Kant when he published his Critique of Pure Reason and demonstrated its various limits. This sort of check to the dominance of reason over one’s actions is echoed in Liber AL vel Legis. Essentially, the dominance and control of the mind, especially the reason, over the individual’s Will is brought into question. Liber AL vel Legis itself says,

“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.”2

Once again we must emphasize that Thelema is not denying the practical necessity of reason, but it attempts to delineate reason’s boundaries for the most effective functioning of the Will. On this Crowley writes, “We must not suppose for an instant that the Book of the Law is opposed to reason. On the contrary, its own claim to authority rests upon reason, and nothing else. It disdains the arts of the orator. It makes reason the autocrat of the mind. But that very fact emphasizes that the mind should attend to its own business. It should not transgress its limits. It should be a perfect machine, an apparatus for representing the universe accurately and impartially to its master. The Self, its Will, and its Apprehension, should be utterly beyond it.”3

First, “Because,” “Reason,” and “Why,” are all attacked under the form of a cursing by the speaker of the Book. If one asks “why” one should will something or if it is because of something, it cripples the Will and makes “Power weakness.” It was seen in an earlier segment of this essay that, if Will is considered to be “perfect in every way,” it must continue going or working without regard to purpose. In this way, the Will will be “unassuaged.” Crowley writes, “There is no ‘reason’ why a Star should continue in its orbit. Let her rip!”4 and also, “It is ridiculous to ask a dog why it barks. One must fulfill one’s true Nature, one must do one’s Will. To question this is to destroy confidence, and so to create an inhibition.”5 These considerations of purpose are understood now to cause the “Will to stop & do nought,” essentially making it impotent. Therefore, the very nature of our actions is not decided by conscious reason but is to be decided by the Will. “Reason is a lie” because of a “factor infinite & unknown,” which Crowley clearly states “is the subconscious Will.”6 The subconscious naturally cannot be completely understood by the conscious mind, the sphere of reason, so therefore reason’s “words are skew-wise.” It can never delineate the true Will in words because of the subconscious Will, a factor that is by definition “unknown” or below the conscious level of perception. The Will therefore can certainly not be coterminous with “will power” or “volition,” for the Will must encompass the subconscious aspect of one’s self as well as the conscious.

Crowley affirms this doctrine when he writes, “every time the conscious acts, it interferes with the Subconscious… It is the voice of Man, and not of a God. Any man who ‘listens to reason’ ceases to be a revolutionary.”7 Here Crowley makes the subconscious analogous to “the voice of… a God,” for the depths of the unconscious contents contain latent potencies that seem God-like when awakened and assimilated. Crowley explains Liber AL’s position on reason succinctly:

We now come to a challenge which is in some ways even more daring than any yet made. Before, the moral sense of men was outraged. He now turns to attack the Reason itself. He looks on reason as a soulless machine. Its proper function is to express the Will in terms of conscious thought, the will being the need of the inmost self to express itself by causing some Event.”8

This is the summary of Liber AL vel Legis’ point-of-view of the correct use of reason. Here we see that reason is “a soulless machine” in that the actual self or soul is not in reason, but the Will merely utilizes reason and the mind in general as a machine for expression. Essentially, the proper function of reason is to express the Will in terms of conscious thought but not dictate its actions, for that would cause the Will to “stop & do nought.” The idea behind this is that reason cannot fully comprehend and execute the demands of the Will because “This will (as such) is not conscious. We can only become aware of it, and thus enjoy and learn from the Event, by making an Image of it. Reason is the machine whose function it is to do this. When reason usurps the higher functions of the mind, when it presumes to dictate to the Will what its desires ought to be, it wrecks the entire structure of the star. The Self should set the Will in motion, that is, the Will should only take its orders from within and above.”9 Jung echoes this exact sentiment when he says, “The intellect does indeed do harm to the soul when it dares to possess itself of the heritage of the spirit. It is in no way fitted to do this, for spirit is something higher than intellect since it embraces the latter and includes the feelings as well.”10 The Self that Jung equates with “spirit” in this quotation includes both conscious and unconscious contents and therefore its actions should not be delineated by reason, a construct of merely the conscious aspect of his being.

The overuse of reason has caused a split in modern man’s psyche, detaching him/her from the subconscious sphere of the psyche. Carl Jung defines nervous disorders as “consist[ing] primarily in an alienation from one’s instincts, a splitting off of consciousness from certain basic facts of the psyche.” This over-extension of reason’s boundaries in our Western society has caused “a splitting off of consciousness” from the basic facts of the subconscious. Jung continues, “Rationalistic opinions come unexpectedly close to neurotic symptoms. Like these, they consist of distorted thinking, which takes the place of psychologically correct thinking. The latter kind of thinking always retains its connection with the heart, with the depths of the psyche, the tap-root.”11 Here he identifies “psychologically correct thinking” as that “kind of thinking [which] always retains its connection… with the depths of the psyche, tap-root.” This “psychologically correct thinking” is exactly the same notion that is implied in Liber AL’s curses against the intellect and reason. The thinking which takes its directives from the Will is “psychologically correct” whereas reason delineating boundaries itself will cause the Will to “fall into the pit called Because” and become impotent.

While commenting on one of Jung’s works, Stephan Hoeller writes, “Thinking, the function of reason, has many commendable uses and cannot be eliminated, but it also builds barriers between the personality and its unconscious matrix. In order to reach the necessary transformative self-knowledge, one needs to keep the thinking function subservient to the inspiration proceeding from the Self.”12 Once again the same doctrine is expounded. “The inspiration proceeding from the Self,” which contains both the conscious and unconscious, is the Will of the individual and therefore to this the thinking function must remain subservient. If it does not, it will “build barriers between the personality [conscious self] and its unconscious matrix,” to do so would create a conflict in the Will and it will “perish with the dogs of Reason.”

“If the Sun and Moon should ever doubt, they’d immediately go out.”
William Blake

>>PART 5>>

1 The logos of the Gospel of John ch.1 refers to the Word of God but is sometimes translated as “Reason.”

2 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, II:27-32.

3 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, II:28.

4 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, II:30.

5 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, II:31.

6 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, II:30.

7 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, II:30.

8 Crowley, Aleister. “Djeridensis Working,” II:28-31.

9 Crowley, Aleister. “Djeridensis Working,” II:28-31.

10 Jung, Carl. “Psychological Commentary on The Secret of the Golden Flower” par.7.

11 Jung, Carl. “The Soul and Death” from Collected Works of C.G. Jung, volume 8: The Struture and Dynamics of the Psyche, par. 808.

12 Hoeller, Stephan. The Gnostic Jung, p.76.

>>PART 5>>

Psychology of Liber AL – pt.3: The Notion of Sin Abolished

Psychology of Liber AL

The Notion of Sin Abolished

“The formula of this law is: Do what thou wilt. Its moral aspect is simple enough in theory. 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 a priori that a given action is “wrong.” Each man has the right – and an absolute right – to accomplish his True Will.
—Aleister Crowley, “The Method of Thelema”

In Thelema, one is enjoined to “Do what thou wilt,” and we have seen that this Will, if it is to be considered as “pure” and “perfect,” must be performed with tireless energy, without regard to purpose, and without lusting after results. One other diversion or veil from the “pure will” is conventional morality and especially notion of “sin.”

In Judeo-Christian-Islamic terms, the world is generally viewed in terms of good and evil, with “good” actions being those that adhere to the specific laws set forth in whatever book is held holy and “evil” being the turning away from such laws. Thelema is a philosophy or a point-of-view that Nietzsche would have termed to be “beyond good and evil.” The only restriction in Thelema is to restrict or be diverted from one’s Will. In fact, the line right after the aphorism “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” is this:

The word of Sin is Restriction.”1

Crowley explains this succinctly, saying that this “is a general statement or definition of Sin or Error. Anything soever that binds the will, hinders it, or diverts it, is Sin.”2 Here is a completely new view of ethics wherein the only “evil” is to divert from oneself, or more accurately, from one’s Will.

Psychologically, when one deviates from one’s true inner promptings, a conflict arises which is generally known as “neurosis.” Carl Jung defines nervous disorders a “consist[ing] primarily in an alienation from one’s instincts, a splitting off of consciousness from certain basic facts of the psyche.”3 Generally, when a action, thought, or tendency arises within someone that is contrary to their society’s (or religion’s) current view of what is “right” (Freud’s “superego”), the psyche tends to suppress and prevent those unlikable aspects from appearing to the conscious mind. Although these thoughts (e.g. to a Christian, the thought of performing a homosexual act) may not appear consciously to the person as much, the same exact tendency still lies within the subconscious and still exerts its influence. This suppression of a natural tendency to bring it into line with societal expectations of conduct is the basis of psychological “repression.”

In Thelema, these repressions are understood for what they are: repressions of the natural inclinations of an individual. Therefore, if the sole law is to do one’s will, artificially repressing aspects of oneself leads to a disastrous split in one’s psyche, and hence, one’s Will. One is deviating from one’s Will when one is creating a fundamental split in oneself – creating ‘multiple wills’ that diverge and conflict – which is fundamentally a split of the conscious (with its many arbitrary notions of “right and wrong”) from the unconscious and instinctual. Thelema recognizes that all deviations from this unique Will, including all repressions of the natural instinct to conform to artificial notions of moral conduct, will lead to repression, which leads inevitably to neurosis. Crowley wrote, “Thelemites are ‘thrice-born;’4 we accept everything for what it is, without ‘lust of result,’ without insisting upon things conforming with a priori ideals, or regretting their failure to do so. We can therefore ‘enjoy’ all things of sense and rapture’ according to their true nature.5

One of the most evident applications of this dictum that “the word of Sin is Restriction” is in relation to sex morality. Every religion has undoubtedly had innumerable restrictions upon sexual life, especially for women. Liber AL vel Legis proclaims that, not only is “every man and every woman… a star,”6 showing their essential equality, but further, it is written to “take your fill and will of love as ye will, when, where and with whom ye will!”7 This line is strangely prophetic of the Sexual Revolution that took place in the late 1960s, over half a century after the writing of Liber AL vel Legis, and also the groundbreaking research on sex by Alfred Kinsey in the 1940s. There are no restrictions even as to relationships of love that may be considered to be expressions of homosexuality, masochism, or sodomy, for, from the point-of-view of the Thelemite, a thing is “wrong” only insofar as it has brought one to deviate from one’s own Will. As Crowley says, “We have no right to interfere with any type of manifestation of the sexual impulse on a priori grounds.”8

Crowley writes, “‘Love under will’ is the Law. We refuse to regard love as shameful and degrading, as a peril to body and soul. We refuse to accept it as the surrender of the divine to the animal; to us it is the means by which the animal may be made the Winged Sphinx which shall bear man aloft to the House of the Gods.”9 The sexual instinct was repressed without mercy in the religions of the past and was often decried as animalistic or sinful. Thelema turns this idea on its head by saying not only is sex not shameful or degrading, it is the natural function of a human and if it is in accordance with their own will they should express it (not in accordance with some a priori rule-set).

Crowley summarizes all these sentiments when he proclaims, “It should be abundantly clear from the foregoing remarks that each individual has an absolute and indefeasible right to use his sexual vehicle in accordance with its own proper character, and that he is responsible only to himself.”10 Psychologically, this is a healthy route to take, for “Sex-repression leads to neurosis, and is the cause of social unrest.”11 Alfred Kinsey found in his research on sexuality that “Sexual desire is a basic, biological urge, drive, or instinct which demands satisfaction… if the (male) sexual drive is denied legitimate outlets, it will find satisfaction in illegitimate ones” (i.e. rape, sexual abuse of children, etc.), “repression of sexual desire may lead to physical or mental illness, especially ‘neurosis’ in women …[and] the need for sex is as basic as the need for food.”12 In this light, it seems Thelema has given us an adequate framework to act without fear of “physical or mental illness” because of our sexual inclinations.

Essentially, by proclaiming “the word of Sin is Restriction,” Liber AL vel Legis says that all restriction or repression of the Will is the only “evil” or “sin.”13 We know that “Repression of the natural satisfaction may result in addition to secret and dangerous vices which destroy their victim because they are artificial and unnatural aberrations.”14 The idea of restriction extends obviously beyond that of sex morality, but it has clear and obvious repercussions upon it and therefore it was necessary to go into this specific aspect in detail.

Truly, the dictums of “Do what thou wilt” and “the word of Sin is Restriction” apply to all morality in general. The quotation that begins this chapter succinctly explains this in simple terms that “it is no longer possible to say a priori that a given action is ‘wrong.’ Each man has the right-and an absolute right-to accomplish his True Will.” Crowley further writes that, “There are no ‘standards of Right’. Ethics is balderdash. Each Star must go on its own orbit. To hell with ‘moral principle’; there is no such thing.”15 In this sense, Thelema has shown there is no such thing as an absolute standard of right and wrong; there is only a relative standard of right and wrong in relation with each person’s unique nature and circumstance – their unique Will.

In reality, good and evil are not different from each other. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ are merely conventional terms. Depending on how it is used, the same thing can be ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Take, for example, this lamplight. Because of its burning we are able to see and do various works of utility; this is one mode of using the light. Now, if you put your fingers in it, they will be burnt; that is another mode of using the same light. So it is clear that a thing becomes good or bad according to the way we use it. The same is the case with virtue and vice. Broadly speaking, the proper use of any of the faculties of our mind and body is virtue, and their improper use is vice.”
—Swami Vivekananda

>>PART 4>>

1 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:41.

2 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, I:41.

3 Jung, Carl. “The Soul and Death” from Collected Works of C.G. Jung, volume 8: The Struture and Dynamics of the Psyche, par. 808.

4 A reference to the Thelemite’s transcending of the categories of ‘once-born’ and ‘twice-born’ as elucidated by William James in his book The Varieties of Religious Experience.

5 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, II:22.

6 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:3.

7 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:51.

8 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, I:51.

9 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, I:51.

10 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, I:51.

11 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, I:52.

12 Cablan, Pat & Caplan, Patricia. The Cultural Construction of Sexuality, p.72.

13 Though, it should be noted that in Thelema, the notion of “sin” can never nearly approach that of the Christian or Muslim’s for there is no notion of Original Sin nor of an eternal Judge of our actions.

14 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, I:51.

15 Crowley, Aleister. The Law is For All, II:28.

16 Vivekananda, Swami. Conversation: Saturday, January 23, 1898. Recorded in Bengali by Surendra Nath Sen in his private diary. Complete Works, vol.5: 337.

>>PART 4>>

Psychology of Liber AL – pt.2: Each person as a Star with a Will

Psychology of Liber AL

Each person as a Star with a Will

“The really valuable thing in the pageant of human life seems to me not the State but the creative, sentient individual, the personality; it alone creates the noble and the sublime, while the herd as such remains dull in thought and dull in feeling.”
-Albert Einstein, Mein Weltbild (1931)

After the proclamations of Nuit and Hadit, there comes one of the most important statements to Thelema in the third line of Liber AL:

Every man and every woman is a star.”1

By this is meant that “we are all free, all independent, all shining gloriously, each one a radiant world”2 and further that “the Individual is the Autarch.”3 In the same sense that the sun, as a star, is center of the solar system in the physical macrocosm, every man and every woman is understood to be a sort of microcosmic star and center of his or her own system. “A star is an individual identity; it radiates energy, it goes, it is a point of view. Its object is to become the whole by establishing relations with other stars. Each such relation is an Event: it is an act of Love under Will”4 – Each individual is “an aggregate of such experiences, constantly changing with each fresh event, which affects him or her either consciously or subconsciously.”5

Certainly, from a psychological standpoint, it can be easily understood that we are all centers of our own universe6 and also ‘aggregates of experience’ as our own memories show. Further, stars are self-luminous implying that we derive power and strength from within ourselves and not an outside source (explained in depth later), and also stars are constantly in motion interacting with the gravitational pulls of the infinite other stars and systems.

Thelema posits that Hadit is “the flame that burns in every heart of man, and in the core of every star.”7 Crowley writes “He is then your own inmost divine self; it is you, and not another, who are lost in the constant rapture of the embraces of Infinite Beauty.”8 In fact, Nuit tells us “Be thou Hadit, my secret centre, my heart & my tongue!”9 showing that we are intimately interconnected with divinity, mirroring the general Eastern sentiment of the soul’s link to God and the sentiment seen in the West in mystics like Meister Eckhart and Miguel de Molinos:

“Thou art to know, that thy Soul is the Center, Habitation, and the Kingdom of God.”10

In a word, by saying “every man and every woman is a star,” we assert both the individual’s sovereignty and their divinity. Just as physical stars each have their unique course in the span of space, each individual is understood to have their own unique Will. In fact, “Thelema” itself means “Will” and this is the foundation of the entire philosophy of Thelema. It is said:

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”11

There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.”12

These two statements clearly establish that everything in Thelema revolves around the dictum of “do what thou wilt.” As Crowley often noted, this does not mean, “do what you like” but is a command to perform one’s “true” or “pure will” and nothing else. Liber AL proclaims, “Thou hast no right but to do thy will. Do that, and no other shall say nay.”13

Now we can see the general point-of-view of existence formulated in Thelema: each individual is considered as a “star” whose sole right or duty is to perform their Will. In the core of this star is Hadit and about the star are the infinite space & possibilities of Nuit. We have established that each individual is at the center of his or her own universe, a “secret centre, heart, & tongue”14 of the divine, each performing their unique Will amidst Nuit, Infinite Space.

Since the Will is considered absolutely paramount in Thelema, we must understand how a Thelemite is supposed to “Will” things. Liber AL asserts something distinguished as “pure will” and explains its conditions:

For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.”15

Therefore, for will to be considered “pure” and “every way perfect” by the conditions set forth in Liber AL, it must be

1) “unassuaged of purpose” and

2) “delivered from the lust of result”

The first consideration, “unassuaged of purpose,” has two meanings to be considered. The first is the more obvious, which is that will is impeded or weakened by “purpose” and it is meant to go on its way unrestricted by these notions of “purpose.” The mind and reason are generally an obstacle to the full expression of a person’s Will in many ways and this idea is treated in a later section more fully. The next consideration is simply that it means “with purpose unassuaged” or “with tireless energy.”

Secondly, to be “delivered from the lust of result” means to be unaffected by or unattached to the results of one’s actions. This doctrine is a central tenet to the Eastern system of karma yoga where it is generally called “non-attachment to the fruits of action.” It might also be said that it is known to the West under the aphorism of “Art for art’s sake.” The Bhagavad Gita succinctly describes this doctrine of being “delivered from the lust of result” when it says,

Those whose consciousness is unified abandon all attachment to the results of action and attain supreme peace. But those whose desires are fragmented, who are selfishly attached to the results of their work, are bound in everything they do. Those who renounce attachment in all their deeds live content in the ‘city of nine gates,’ the body, as its master.”16

Essentially, this line from Liber AL vel Legis means that to perform our “pure will” which “is every way perfect,” we must do our will with tireless energy, without regard to purpose, and without concern for results. Crowley wrote, “Thou must (1) Find out what is thy Will. (2) Do that Will with a) one-pointedness, (b) detachment, (c) peace. Then, and then only, art thou in harmony with the Movement of Things, thy will part of, and therefore equal to, the Will of God. And since the will is but the dynamic aspect of the self, and since two different selves could not possess identical wills; then, if thy will be God’s will, Thou art That.”17

In Liber AL vel Legis, Nuit declares, “Invoke me under my stars! Love is the law, love under will.”18 Crowley explains that this means “while Will is the Law, the nature of that Will is Love. But this Love is as it were a by-product of that Will; it does not contradict or supersede that Will; and if apparent contradiction should arise in any crisis, it is the Will that will guide us aright.” Therefore the method or modus operandi of Thelema is “love under will,” which means the assimilation of experience in accordance with one’s Will.19

It must be recognized that “Love” in the context of Thelema and Liber AL vel Legis is understood in a very universal way. It is not what most would consider the emotion of love or kindheartedness. Crowley writes, “Lo, while in The Book of the Law is much of Love, there is no word of Sentimentality. Hate itself is almost like Love!”20 for even hate is an experience worthy of our assimilation and integration. Instead, it essentially refers to all acts whatsoever, any “Change in conformity with Will,” for all actions are lawful and necessary. Crowley explains “Every event is a uniting of some one monad with one of the experiences possible to it,”21 and further that “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.”22 Therefore, while “love” may refer specifically to acts of “union” (in the sense that sex is union on the physical plane, and samadhi23 is union on the mental plane) all experiences are understood as acts of “love” in the more universal sense that “every event is a uniting of some one monad with one of the experiences possible to it,” including acts of what may be perceived to be acts of “division.”

Now we can understand that “there is no law beyond Do what thou wilt,”24 and “love under will” is essentially the assimilation of experience in accordance with the nature of the individual. The conception mirrors Carl Roger’s propositions which are the assertions underlying his system of “client-centered therapy.” He writes as his sixth proposition,

The organism has one basic tendency and striving – to actualize, maintain and enhance the experiencing organism.”25

These acts of “actualiz[ing], maintain[ing] and enhanc[ing] the experiencing organism” are what Thelema terms acts of “love.” The one condition that is important from the standpoint of Liber AL vel Legis is that acts of “love” must be done “under will,” or in accordance with the nature of the particular circumstance and the individual (or the “organism” if we are to use Rogerian terminology). An act of “love under will” performed properly is what Carl Rogers would term “psychological adjustment” as opposed to “psychological maladjustment.” Rogers writes as his fourteenth and fifteenth propositions:

Psychological adjustment exists when the concept of the self is such that all the sensory and visceral experiences of the organism are, or may be, assimilated on a symbolic level into a consistent relationship with the concept of self.

Psychological maladjustment exists when the organism denies awareness of significant sensory and visceral experiences, which consequently are not symbolized and organized into the gestalt of the self structure. When this situation exists, there is a basic or potential psychological tension.”26

Psychological adjustment” consists in proper “assimilation” of experiences being equivalent to the “love under will” method of Thelema, whereas “psychological maladjustment” consists of the improper “assimilation” of experience, which creates “psychological tension.” Essentially, we can see that Thelema coincides with, and in a certain fashion anticipated, the Rogerian “propositions” that form the basis of his “client-centered therapy.”

“All love is expansion, all selfisihness is contraction. Love is therefore the only law of life. He who loves lives, he who is selfish is dying. Therefore love for love’s sake, because it is law of life, just as you breathe to live.” –Swami Vivekananda

>>PART 3>>

1 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:3.

2 Crowley, Aleister. “Liber DCCCXXXVII: The Law of Liberty” from Equinox III(1).

3 Crowley, Aleister. Magick Without Tears, ch.48.

4 Crowley, Aleister. “The Antecedents of Thelema” from The Revival of Magick.

5 Crowley, Aleister. Introduction to Liber AL vel Legis, part II.

6 This also attests to the universal import of mandala-like art pieces across cultures, for they are all expressions of that central point of consciousness and the apparent unfolding and expression of the psyche & universe around it. This was a subject of study for Carl Jung.

7 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, II:6.

8 Crowley, Aleister. “The Law of Liberty.”

9 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:6.

10 de Molinos, Miguel. Spiritual Guide of Miguel de Molinos (1685), ch.1, verse 1.

11 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:40.

12 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, III:60.

13 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:42-43.

14 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:6.

15 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:44.

16 Bhagavad Gita (trans. By E. Easwaran), chapter 5, verse 12-13.

17 Crowley, Aleister. “Liber II: Message of the Master Therion” from Equinox III(1).

18 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:57.

19 This harkens back to the Christian mystic Meister Eckhart who wrote, “The place where love has its being is only in the will; the person who has more will, also has more love. But no one knows about anyone else, whether one has more of it; that lies hidden in the soul, so long as God lies hidden in the soul’s ground. This love lies wholly in the will; whoever has more will, also has more love.” -Meister Eckhart, Counsels on Discernment (Counsel 10).

20 Crowley, Aleister. “The Message of the Master Therion” from Equinox III(1).

21 Crowley, Aleister. Introduction to Liber AL vel Legis, part II.

22 Crowley, Aleister. Introduction to Liber AL vel Legis, part III.

23 “Samadhi” is the Hindu term used n the practice of yoga for the psychological phenomenon of the disappearance (or ‘union’ or ‘cessation’) of subject and object known in various forms under different names in various cultures. This subject is too extensive to go into depth in this essay.

24 Crowley, Aleister. Liber AL vel Legis, I:22.

25 Rogers, Carl. Client-Centred Therapy, ch.11.

26 Rogers, Carl. Client-Centred Therapy, ch.11.

>>PART 3>>

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.

IAO131 on Patreon

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

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

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


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.


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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


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”


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


With-ness, Interdependence

Nuit, ch.1

“Bind nothing!”

Agape, Love


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”


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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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.”

Thelemic Thought-experiments

Thought-experiments in Thelema

Here are a couple of thought-experiments to ponder the intricacies of what many people take to be simple on the face of things… There is no “right” answer to any of these (although I definitely have my own answers) but are meant to bring some subtle complications to light

1) Addiction:
a) Suppose that someone is addicted to a substance or some behavior. Does this mean that they are
a priori NOT doing their Will?
b) If you answer yes: Suppose that this person conquers their addiction and therefore learns more about themselves – they learn about their limitations and the extent of their willpower. Now are they doing their Will?
c) Is the person doing their Will ‘better’ or ‘more completely’ because of this ordeal? If yes, then wouldn’t this imply that going through addiction is beneficial to the development of Will?

2) The problem of other Wills:
a) Suppose that person A does not enjoy what person B is doing. Does person A have a right to say that person B is not doing their Will?
b) Suppose that person A feels he is being infringed upon by what person B is doing, but person B feels she is doing their Will. Does person A have a right to say that person B is not doing their Will?
c) Suppose person A thinks person B is being irrational. Does person A have a right to say that person B is not doing their Will? Can person B point to the doctrines of Reason, Why, and Because being hindrances to assert her their position?
d) Is there any circumstance where person A can be sure about their right to tell person B that they are not doing their Will?
e) Is there any circumstance where person B can prove to person A that they are doing their Will?

3) Lust of result:
a) Suppose Person A wants circumstance X to come about (for example, getting an A on a test, retrieving groceries, getting a paycheck, wooing some person, etc.). Does this mean this person A suffers from ‘lust of result’? If so, should all desires for anything be destroyed?
b) Suppose Person A does not achieve circumstance X. Is Person A’s lamentation of this fact ‘lust of result’? Conversely: Suppose Person A does achieve circumstance X. Is Person A’s celebration of this fact ‘lust of result?’

4) Pure will & duality:
a) Suppose Person A has not attained to a Trance of Non-Duality/Unity. Is Person A
a priori not doing their Will? Not doing their Will to the full extent? Are there different extents of doing one’s Will or is it simply Doing your Will & Not doing your Will?
b) Suppose Person A has attained to a Trance of Non-Duality/Unity but has “come down” from it – back to duality. Is Person A not doing their Will while in duality? Does the Trance of Non-Duality/Unity help this person to do their Will ‘better’ or ‘more completely’?
c) Suppose Person A enjoys a constant Trance of Non-Duality/Unity. Is this person necessarily doing their Will?

5) Killing others:
a) Suppose Person A kills Person B. Was Person A
a priori not doing their Will?
b) Suppose Person A kills Person B out of self-defense. Was Person A not doing their Will?
c) Suppose Person A kills Person B because Person B is infringing on their rights (Liber OZ). Was Person A not doing their Will? Was Person B
a priori not doing their Will even if they think they are doing their Will?
d) Suppose Person A kills Person B because they BELIEVE Person B is infringing on their rights. Was Person A not doing their Will?
e) Suppose Person A kills Person B in a fit of ecstasy. Was Person A not doing their Will? Can Person A appeal to the ideas of Reason, Because, Why etc. being hindrances in justifying this act?
f) Suppose Person A decides to have an abortion. Was Person A not doing their Will? Suppose Person A knows that they do not have the means to support their baby. Was Person A not doing their Will in having an abortion?

6) A priori Will:
a) Is it possible to say
a priori that anyone else is not doing their Will in any circumstance? What circumstances?