“The Perfection of Understanding Sutra” and its commentary forms the final portion of Thelema Sutras, a book I completed back in 2013. This Perfection of Understanding Sutra is a re-interpretation of the Heart Sutra, sometimes called the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajnaparamita).
It may be instructive to have an English translation of the Heart Sutra by your side (or open in your web browser) to compare, to see what has changed and what has remained the same. I recommend, after reading through the 35-line Sutra in its entirety initially, that you analyze each line individually with the aid of the following Commentary (Solve), and then re-read the Sutra again in its entirety once finished with the Commentary (Coagula).
A PDF version is available for your convenience.
Lege! Judica! Tace!
The Perfection of Understanding Sutra
The noble Master V.V.V.V.V.,
while practicing the deep practice of the Perfection of
conquered the Heavens and Earth by the power of Truth
and, seeing the Heavens and Earth were but as shadows,
said, “Ha! Child of Earth,
Two is None, None is Two;
None is not separate from Two, Two is not separate from None;
whatever is Two is None, whatever is None is Two;
The same holds for memory, volition, emotion, reason, instinct, consciousness and sense.
Even now and here, Child of Earth, absolutely all things are of the nature of None:
they are neither born nor die, neither pure nor impure, neither increasing nor diminishing.
Therefore, Child of Earth, in the None there is no Two,
no memory, no volition, no emotion, no reason, no instinct, no consciousness, nor sense;
No eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body and no mind;
No shape, no sound, no smell, no taste, no feeling and no thought;
No element of consciousness, from eye consciousness to conceptual consciousness;
No causal link, from ignorance to old age and death,
And no end of causal link, from ignorance to old age and death;
No Trance of Sorrow, no Knowledge and Conversation, no crossing of the Abyss, no Path;
No knowledge, no attainment, and no non-attainment.
Therefore, Child of Earth, without attainment,
Masters take refuge in the Perfection of Understanding
and live without space-marks.
Without space-marks and thus without fears,
They see through shadows and finally attainment.
All Masters past, present, and future
also take refuge in the Perfection of Understanding
and realize unsurpassed, perfect Understanding.
You should therefore know the great mantra of the Perfection of Understanding,
the mantra of great magick,
the unsurpassed mantra,
the mantra equal to that without equal,
which transcends all shadows and is True, not false,
the mantra in the Perfection of Understanding spoken thus:
‘Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond, hriliu ha.’ ”
A Commentary on The Perfection of Understanding Sutra
“I am identical with All and None.”
–Liber V vel Reguli
“The Perfection of Understanding Sutra” is based on the “Heart Sutra,” one of the most – if not the most – famous of the Mahayana Buddhist texts. Its full title is “The Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom” because it represents the “heart” or core of prajnaparamita, which is often translated as “the perfection of wisdom.”
In Sanskrit, there is a difference made by some Buddhists between jnana, knowledge, and prajna, wisdom. Jnana refers to conventional knowledge whereas prajna refers to transcendent knowledge or wisdom. The term “Understanding” is used here because it has the connotation of this transcendent knowledge in our tradition. In the Qabalah, we distinguish between Da’ath, knowledge, and Binah, understanding; Da’ath is seen as the crown of the mind, or ruach, whereas Binah is above the Abyss, beyond the realm of duality, and the place of neschamah, which can be translated in many ways but essentially refers to this transcendent understanding.1 The perfection of Understanding is therefore a perfection of this transcendent faculty or state.
This distinction between jnana and prajna – between ruach and neschamah, between knowledge and Understanding – is paralleled in the Two Truths doctrine of Buddhism that states there are two levels of truth: (1) the relative or conventional truth and (2) the absolute or ultimate Truth. For simplicity’s sake, we might say that knowledge is composed of conventional truths and Understanding is ultimate truth. One must “keep separate the planes” – Understanding does not negate knowledge, and knowledge does not negate Understanding. We might say in terms of Understanding that “there is no difference between any one thing and any other thing” while we might simultaneously say in terms of knowledge that, for example, “fire is not the same as water.” They are both true on their own “planes.”2
Binah, or Understanding, is the Sephirah on the Tree of Life that corresponds to the Great Mother, called Babalon in our tradition. In this way, “Perfection of Understanding” is simply a name for Babalon, and vice versa. Further, the grade of “Magister Templi” or “Master of the Temple” is attributed to this Sephirah, and one who attains to this grade is therefore identical with the Perfection of Understanding. One “becomes” a Master of the Temple by “crossing the Abyss” that separates the Supernal Triad from the rest of the Tree of Life; the process is only complete when one has drained all of one’s blood – individuality or ego – into the Cup of Babalon.3 One who has crossed is called “Nemo,”4 which means “no man,” because there is no ego, there is no “self” left. Only by a complete transcendence of the ruach, of the dualistic mind, can one come into the Womb of Babalon.
This Perfection of Understanding Sutra is, by its name, understood to be addressing the nature of Understanding. The aim is not to analyze, conceptualize, and categorize; the aim is to lead the mind of the aspirant to transcend itself, to abide in the Perfection of Understanding. In a way, the sutra is speaking “down” to the dualistic mind from the non-dual place of Understanding, and it may therefore seem to be paradoxical or even contradictory. As it is said, “And this is the great Mystery of the Supernals that are beyond the Abyss. For below the Abyss, contradiction is division; but above the Abyss, contradiction is Unity. And there could be nothing true except by virtue of the contradiction that is contained in itself.”5
This sutra is, in brief, a text that expounds upon the Truth in Thelema of what is known as “0=2.” It relates this Truth from the perspective of one who has attained to 0 or “None,” one who is known as a Master (of the Temple). Its purpose is to declare this doctrine both succinctly and thoroughly, giving its implications in terms of theory and ending with a mantra that is given for practice.
As we may see: nothing in this sutra is new. All of these teachings can be found implicitly and explicitly in the corpus of Thelemic texts. Thelema is a syncretic philosophy, synthesizing the many truths of different traditions but all in the light of the Law of Liberty. This sutra conveys that same Truth already found within other Thelemic texts, but it is short, succinct, and beautiful; it allows us to climb the mountain of Truth from the Eastern slope, appreciating the same Truth, but from another approach. By gaining another perspective or lens on the same Truth, we may obtain a clearer and fuller appreciation of it. It is another opportunity to allow you, the reader, to achieve this Perfection of Understanding, to become a Master in your turn, by studying it, repeating it, chanting it, practicing it, and living it. A feast of unbounded life and joy is offered openly with these 35 lines, that you may smell it, be drawn to it, be sustained and inspired by it. Let us partake of it:
1 The noble Master V.V.V.V.V.,
The term “noble” is used (arya in the original Heart Sutra), and it refers firstly to one who is a King in the way the term is used throughout The Book of the Law. A King is one who is aware of his True Nature, a bodhisattva, which has been translated as “champion of enlightenment.” Noble is a word that, etymologically, comes from the same root as gnosis, and therefore signifies one who has direct, experiential, transcendent knowledge, which is called Understanding within this text. As the Master Therion has said, “’the royal:’ these are the men whose nature is kingly, the men who ‘can.’ They know themselves born rulers, whether their halidom be Art, or Science, or aught else soever.”6
The term “Master” is used, and it has a technical sense of being the “Magister” or “Master of the Temple,” i.e. one who has attained to the Sphere of Binah on the Tree of Life, having crossed the Abyss by draining out every last drop of blood of self. Also, a “master” is one who has mastered or perfected something, and this Master is the Perfection of Understanding. Further, “master” implies someone who is a “chief,” and this Master is the “chief of all” of which the Master Therion has written “The chief, then, is he who has destroyed this sense of duality… it means that such an one is completely master of his universe.”7 The term “Master” is used here in place of bodhisattva that is used in the original text, which means “being or champion (sattva) of enlightenment (bodhi).” The essential meaning is identical to that implied by the term “Master.”
The name “V.V.V.V.V.” is now used, and this is the motto of the grade of Magister Templi, or Master of the Temple. It is thus proper to the nature of this text being the Perfection of Understanding. “V.V.V.V.V.” stands for “Vi Veri Vniversus Vivus Vici,” which translates to mean “By the power of Truth, I while living have conquered the Universe.” This name is therefore proper to this text and this grade because the “Truth” is here identical with Understanding; the conquering of the Universe is attained through the Perfection of Understanding and it reflects the fact that V.V.V.V.V. is called “Master.” This also shows that the name of this Master is also her nature. This is similar to the name used in the original text, “Avalokiteshvara,” which means “Master who looks down,” both a name and a description of the bodhisattva‘s nature. Whosoever has the power of the Perfection of Understanding is worthy of being called V.V.V.V.V. Whosoever has the power of the Perfection of Understanding is a Master and has triumphed by Truth; they are crowned and conquering.8
2 while practicing the deep practice of the Perfection of Understanding,
The Master is practicing the practice, walking the walk. The Master is not talking about the deep practice or analyzing, criticizing, debating, discussing, conceptualizing, questioning, considering, doubting, justifying, or arguing about the practice. The Master is practicing the practice. The Master is doing, just as the Law is “Do what thou wilt” and nothing else. This simple but crucial fact is what separates the armchair magicians from the actual magicians. One must rise up in order to awake.9 Not otherwise can one become a Master.
This practice is described as “deep” (gambhira in the original text). In one sense, this practice is deep as opposed to superficial. More importantly, the term “deep” (gambhira) is used in Sanskrit to describe the navel and the vagina. The navel is the place of the umbilical cord and symbolizes rebirth, just as the third penal sign of the Priest in the Gnostic Mass ends by touching this spot.10 The vagina also refers to rebirth, specifically from the Womb of Babalon from which one arises as a Master of the Temple, a bodhisattva. The “Diamond Sutra” says, “From this is born the unexcelled, perfect enlightenment of tathagatas, arhans, and fully enlightened ones. From this are born buddhas and bhagavans.” This is the the Womb of the Perfection of Understanding, the City of the Pyramids, and nothing could be “deeper” than the womb of this Mystery of Mystery; as it is said, She is the one womb wherein all men are begotten and wherein they shall rest.11 In a different, longer version of the original “Heart Sutra,” the Buddha’s samadhi is called gambhira avabhasan, which translates to “Manifestation of the Deep” and refers once again to the entry into the Womb of Babalon, the Perfection of Understanding, and one’s rebirth as a Master.
The “deep practice of the Perfection of Understanding” has no particular practice, though a mantra is given at the end of this text as a means to attain thereto. It is a deep samadhi, becoming Naught, yet these are merely words and do not clearly designate an accurate meaning. The Oath of becoming a Master includes swearing to understand all things, to love all things, to perform all things, to endure all things, to work without attachment, and to work in truth. A study of Liber Cheth vel Vallum Abiegnus is instructive in this matter,12 as well as – as always – a close study of The Book of the Law where certain hints are given as to the path and the reward, so to speak. When Masters practice the Perfection of Understanding, they do not think “I am practicing the Perfection of Understanding” nor do they think “I am not practicing the Perfection of Understanding” nor do they think “I am not not practicing the Perfection of Understanding.” And that is why they are Masters. Hath not the Master said, “It is not known if it be known”?13 At the end of the Path, Masters awaken to the understanding that there was no person who cultivates nor a path that is cultivated.
3 conquered the Heavens and Earth by the power of Truth while living,
In the original text, the line reads “looked upon the Five Skandhas” and, as “Avalokiteshvara” means “Master who looks down,” the bodhisattva practices the practices for which he was named. Likewise: the noble Master V.V.V.V.V. practices the practice for which the name “V.V.V.V.V.” is given. That is, the Master conquers the Universe by the power of Truth while living.
Rather than the “Five Skandhas,” which is a decidedly Buddhist teaching, the term “Heavens and Earth” are used. One could argue that the Five Elements are a parallel worth noting, but one could then believe that the Seven Planets were not included in the Master’s deep Perfection of Understanding, but this is not so. One could also argue that “body and mind” are an English substitute for the Five Skandhas, yet one could argue that this leaves out the “external world” and this is not so.
“Heavens” here includes the entire Macrocosm: the seven classical Planets as symbolizing the workings of everything in the celestial sphere. “Earth” here includes the entire Microcosm: the Four Elements, both externally and internally. This distinction between Heavens and Earth is, like all things, a conventional and therefore arbitrary distinction.
The point is absolutely everything that we consider to exist is penetrated and conquered by the Truth of the Master’s Perfection of Understanding. Nothing in the self or not-self, nothing in the ego or non-ego, nothing in the Microcosm or Macrocosm, nothing in the Heavens or Earth are exempt from this; they are equivalent to the entire Universe, every last particle of dust.14 This includes consciousness itself. This conquering is not of a stronger overpowering a weaker; it is a a mastery; it is a penetration like the Lance of the Priest piercing the Veil of the Abyss to reveal the Limitless Light of the Perfection of Understanding.15
4 and, seeing the Heavens and Earth were but as shadows,
The original text reads, “And seeing they were empty of self-existence.” This is the fundamental insight of the Heart Sutra: emptiness (shunyata). This is specifically the emptiness of self-existence, meaning that nothing in the Heavens and Earth – or the Five Skandhas to use the original text’s phrase – contain anything that is permanent, self-substantial, and independent. Nothing exists by itself or as itself, so everything is empty of self-existence. This is one of the Three Marks or Characteristics of all things, anatta in Pali or anatman in Sanskrit, which the Master Therion designated as the Word of Siddhartha the buddha as a Magus.16 This is not overlooked in the New Aeon; as it is written, “All words are sacred and all prophets true; save only that they understand a little.”17
“Seeing” refers to Understanding, as opposed to “not seeing” which is ignorance. When one’s eyes are closed, one is darkness and when one’s eyes are open, one sees the Light. These are simply metaphors to help point towards the import of this phrase, for – in another and exactly opposite sense – light can be seen as that which obscures or blinds (i.e. ignorance), being based on vibration or duality, and darkness (or “NOX”) is true Understanding. This “seeing” is of the Eye in the Triangle, not the two eyes of duality.18 Again: these are mere metaphors, signs pointing to the actual destination. As it has been said in our holiest Book, “There is great danger in me; for who doth not understand these runes shall make a great miss.”19
The Heavens and Earth are seen to be “but as shadows.” The reference is to Liber AL, II:9, “Remember all ye that existence is pure joy; that all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass & are done; but there is that which remains.” The statement that existence is pure joy flips the First Noble Truth of the Buddha on its head, though it does not negate the First Noble Truth. The First Noble Truth that “Existence is suffering” (as a poor translation) is still true for those looking up from below the Abyss, so to speak, and “existence is pure joy” is true for those looking down from above the Abyss.
The term “shadows” implies something ever-changing and unreal, an almost exact parallel of something being “empty of self-existence.” It is an illusion, like the shadows cast on the walls of Plato’s cave. Shadows are things that look like something real but are really nothing. The Master has said, “Sorrows, being thus errors of vision, not real in themselves, pass and are done as soon as the mind ceases to dwell on them.”20 This does not say that the Heavens and Earth do not exist at all, but the way in which we say they exist – the way in which we take them to be real – is a delusion.
The phrase “but as” implies that they are not literally shadows; it is, again, a metaphor. The injunction is not to knock away old beliefs and set up new beliefs in their place; the injunction is to practice the Perfection of Understanding. In short: Become a Master of the Temple! As the Master has said, “One must understand the Universe perfectly, and be utterly indifferent to its pressure. These are the virtues which constitute a Master of the Temple.”21
In a way, this can be seen as the core of this sutra. The un-initiate – the ordinary person – takes the shadows for reality, thinking that the self and the world is real and permanent. In this way, the ordinary person clings to illusions, which pass and are done. Therefore, as Chen-k’o says, “Thus, they hear about life and are pleased. They hear about death and are distressed.”22 The Master sees the hurt that comes from failing to “bind nothing,” and this Master knows there is also no one who suffers from these illusions, having eliminated the delusion of a separate self.23 Once one realizes that everything in the Heavens and on Earth are but as shadows, the Veil of duality is pierced and one knows naught but Limitless Light.
5 said, “Ha! Child of Earth,
The first thing said is, “Ha!” The original text has the word “here” instead, coming from the Sanskrit iha. This is the exclamation of enlightenment, the raised finger of Gu-tei, the uplifted flower of Buddha.24 The meaning of “here” also implies that enlightenment is available here and now. As it is written in our Holy Books, “This immortality is no vain hope beyond the grave: I offer you the certain consciousness of bliss. I offer it at once, on earth; before an hour hath struck upon the bell, ye shall be with Me in the Abodes that are beyond Decay.”25 “Ha!” is also an exclamation of joy, a spontaneous laugh, and therefore a proclamation of the Perfection of Understanding expressing itself in pure joy. It is also the final word of The Book of the Law and therefore implies a seal or consummation, a statement complete in itself. More esoterically, it is Heh-Aleph, enumerating to 6, the number of the Sun of enlightenment or illumination, the mystic number of Binah, the Womb of Babalon, the Perfection of Understanding Herself.26
The Master then addresses “Child of Earth.” The original text had “Shariputra,” which literally means “son of Shari,” after his mother. In this way, a parallel is drawn where the Master is addressing the “son or child of Earth,” with the Earth being his mother. And, of course, this Earth is Babalon, the Great Mother and the Perfection of Understanding, even as she is called the “one Earth, the mother of us all.”27 Further, the “Child of Earth” is a term used in the Golden Dawn Neophyte ceremony, symbolizing the early or material nature of natural man, one who comes from the darkness of Matter and strives toward the Light. This sutra is therefore addressed to anyone and everyone who is attempting to walk the Path to attain Truth.
6 Two is None, None is Two;
The original text has one of the most famous lines of Mahayana Buddhism: “form is emptiness, emptiness is form.” Re-translating this into terms used within the tradition of Thelema is no easy task. “Form” could be taken as anything seen as stable or permanent whereas “emptiness” could be seen as impermanence or change. Taken this way, it is then similar to the statement made by the Master, “And this understanding that Stability is Change, and Change Stability, that Being is Becoming, and Becoming Being, is the Key to the Golden Palace of this Law.”28 Yet this is not quite adequate, because “emptiness” implies emptiness of self-existence, as mentioned earlier. Something can, in theory, be constantly changing yet retain a fundamental self-existence, yet this is exactly what this line denies. “Form” is not merely stability, but includes all things that we think of as changing as well: it constitutes the entire Universe of which the ordinary person is aware and takes to be real; our “Two” or “All.” “Emptiness” is not mere change, but more of being devoid of any kind of self-existence or divisibility or separation. It therefore is more like our “None” or “Naught,” the non-dual continuum whereof nothing may be spoken.
In light of this, to say “Two is None” – or “All is Naught” – is essentially to say that all things in the realm of multiplicity are actually not existent in themselves but truly Naught. In other words, 2 is 0. Duality turns out to be, in reality, Nothing. 0 merely appears as 1 + -1 – as duality or 2 or multiplicity – to our deluded perception. This is a commonplace mystical truth across virtually all traditions: the world of duality or multiplicity is, in reality, a Unity which is called Naught in our tradition. As the Master has said, “By Light shall ye look upon yourselves, and behold All Things that are in Truth One Thing only, whose name hath been called No Thing… 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.”29 This truth is also seen in the Qabalistic “key” of The Book of the Law, insofar as the Hebrew word for God “AL” (Aleph-Lamed), implying “All” (or Two), is the same value as the word for nothing, “LA” (Lamed-Aleph), implying “None” (or Zero), and they are therefore identical from a certain perspective.30
Now, the real surprise comes, although it is logically implicit in the former statement: Naught is All. 2 is actually 0, and 0 is actually 2. With “Two is None” we recognize that the true nature of all things is actually “0,” an ineffable and unconditioned Naught, yet with “None is Two” we assert that this All or 2 is actually the true nature of reality as well: its fundamental nature is None, and None appears as and is Two. The first clause (Two is None) asserts illusion to be reality in actuality, it is a rebuff to the ordinary person who takes the realm of multiplicity or All to be real. The second clause (None is Two) asserts reality as illusion, a rebuff to the lop-sided mystic who asserts that Naught is the only truth without realizing that the Two is not separate from Naught: 2 is 0, and 0 is 2; samsara is nirvana, and nirvana is samsara. The world of “Two,” the realm of multiplicity, is empty of reality because nothing exists in itself, depending always on something, so we cannot claim the shadows of multiplicity do exist, yet we can not say that these shadows do not exist, because they exist as delusions, as expressions of Naught in Two. Everything is actually Naught, and Naught is actually Everything. 2=0 and 0=2. Neither do the shadows exist nor do they not exist.
In Thelema, we accept the appearance of the illusion of duality, the shadows that pass and are done, as a fact of reality, so to speak. We do not fall into the mystic trap of denying duality to achieve non-duality, calling the realm of Two – or multiplicity or All – mere evil or illusion; this “evil” of duality is merely a conventional truth. This would set up the unhealthy duality of None versus Two, non-duality versus duality. The Naught figures itself or is apprehended as Two to know and experience the possibilities of Itself, and this Two is nothing other than the Naught. The None is “divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union,”31 and yet this Two is ultimately None. The Naught does not create a Two separate from itself: the Two is Its very body. The true nature of Two is itself Naught and Naught is that Two. Inside 0 there is no 2, and outside 2 there is no 0. Bodhidharma said, “You might think you can find a buddha or enlightenment somewhere beyond the mind, but such a place doesn’t exist… Beyond this mind you’ll never see a buddha… The mind is the buddha, and buddha is the mind. Beyond the mind there’s no buddha, and beyond the buddha there’s no mind.”32 The doctrine is essentially equivalent. As Nagarjuna says, “Emptiness and form share the same nature” and Ching-chueh explains, “Hence, they are said to be ‘not separate.’”33 The Master has said, “Nuit is that which is equally 0 & 2. This Equation 0=2 the Master-Key of the Understanding of the Nature of the Universe.”34 Because words tend toward obscurity and misapprehension, the virtue of Silence is praised by virtually all mystics and is the proper attitude of a Master of the Temple.
7 None is not separate from Two, Two is not separate from None;
It is theoretically feasible that something can be something else at a certain point but not at others; they can overlap but not completely coincide. For example, salt is one with water in the ocean but it is possible to extract the salt therefrom in a separate form. Or, as an another example, we might say “Bob is happy,” but that doesn’t mean that Bob is always happy – the two terms “Bob” and “happy” coincide but are not necessarily identical. This line asserts that Naught and All, 0 and 2, are not only identical, they are not different in any kind or way or form; they are indistinguishable. There are no cases where Two is different or separate from None and there are no cases where None is different or separate from Two.
How silly it would be to set up a new duality between None and Two! A person in samsara, the world of Two – the world below the Abyss, of All, of multiplicity – strives to create the boat of Adeptship through Magick and Mysticism to arrive at the other shore, i.e. attain nirvana, the world of Naught – the world above the Abyss, of indivisibility, of non-duality. Yet, in crossing “to the other shore” one realizes that it is the same shore – there is no “other shore,” nor is there a boat, nor is there anyone who ever attained: these are all shadows. Thus it is said that nirvana is samsara, however displeasing that is to those still grasping after shadows.
8 whatever is Two is None, whatever is None is Two;
This reinforces the idea of the previous lines, asserting that 2 is 0 and 0 is 2; they are identical regardless of how either are conceived. The non-existence of Two is not denied (for Two is None), nor is it asserted (for None is Two); likewise, the existence of Two is not denied (for None is Two), nor is it asserted (for Two is None).
For one below the Abyss, their work is to realize that Two is None, uniting opposites in love under will to annihilate both and achieve the non-dual Silence. For one above the Abyss, their work is to realize that None is Two, expressing their non-duality in duality for the possibility of experience. For the former there is solve and for the latter there is coagula.35 As the Master has said, “I destroyed all things; they are reborn in other shapes. I gave up all for One; this One hath given up its Unity for all”36 and “The Many is as adorable to the One as the One is to the Many. This is the Love of These; creation-parturition is the Bliss of the One; coition-dissolution is the Bliss of the Many.”37 Ordinary people see Two but they don’t see None; mystics see None but they don’t see Two. The Master, practicing the Perfection of Understanding, knows that Two is None and None is Two, None is not separate from Two and Two is not separate from None, and that whatever is Two is None and whatever is None is Two.
9 The same holds for memory, volition, emotion, reason, instinct,
consciousness and sense.
The original text read “the same holds for sensation and perception, memory and consciousness,” an exposition of the four Skandhas other than form also being part of the same equation. Here, we have memory, volition, emotion, reason, instinct, consciousness, and sense. These are the seven Sephiroth below the Abyss: Chesed (memory), Geburah, (volition), Netzach (emotion), Hod (reason), instinct (Yesod), consciousness (Tiphareth), and sense (Malkuth). In this way, nothing in the realm of Two – of multiplicity, of everything below the Abyss – is excluded. All things within the Universe – the Heavens and Earth – are part of this equation of 0=2. Memory, volition, emotion, reason, instinct, and consciousness are specifically aspects of the mind, and sense is the material world including the body.
Everything that we think of as ourselves is, in fact, not our self – it is partial, co-dependent, ever-changing, having no substance or subsistence in itself. To use a phrase, our “True Self” cannot be found in any of these things. This includes “volition” – our so-called “willpower” – and consciousness or awareness itself. Yet, in another sense, our True Self can be found in all of these things. This Two is actually None, and the None is shown by this Two. None is not merely shown by Two, it is it. This is why the Master is able to claim, “I am clothed with the body of flesh” at the same time as he claims, “I am one with the Eternal and Omnipotent God.”38 This is why the Master is able to claim, “I am identical with All and None. I am in All and all in me; I am, apart from all and lord of all, and one with all.”39
Thus, those striving for something other than what is are deluded; in this way, there is no wisdom and there is no attainment. Our holiest Book says, “There is none that shall be cast down or lifted up: all is ever as it was”40 and the Master has said, “Initiation means the Journey Inwards: nothing is changed or can be changed; but all is trulier understood with every step.”41
10 Even now and here, Child of Earth, absolutely all things are of the nature of None,
“Even now and here” is a translation of iha, which means “here” and is translated as “Ha!” before, yet this time meaning would be lost if there was not the implication that, even at this moment in time and point in space, Two is None. Even as the Master has said, “Thou Child, holy Thy name and undefiled! Thy reign is come: Thy will is done. Here is the Bread; here is the Blood. Bring me through midnight to the Sun! Save me from Evil and from Good! That Thy one crown of all the Ten even now and here be mine. AMEN.” The reign is come, the will is done, and the one crown (Naught) of all the Ten (All) belongs to the Master even now and here. This is the same doctrine given in The Gospel of Thomas where it is written, “His disciples said to him: ‘On what day will the kingdom come?’ [Jesus said:] ‘It will not come when it is expected. No one will say: ‘See, it is here!’ or: ‘Look, it is there!’ but the Kingdom of the Father is spread over the earth and men do not see it.’” Even so, the Sun is always shining though we may not perceive It, and Hadit is always at the core of every person, though we may not know Him.42
“Absolutely all things” is used in place of “all dharmas.” “Dharmas” here essentially means anything whatsoever that is taken as real. The implication is that one might think that, beyond the Five Skandhas (or the Heavens and the Earth), there may dharmas that are not subject to this same emptiness of self-existence. This line shows that everything and all their sub-sets and categories and expressions are of the nature of None: indivisible, inseparable, ineffable.
To state that “absolutely all things are of the nature of None” is to say that all possible things, summarized by the term “All” or “Two,” are defined by their true nature being Naught. Fa-tsang says succinctly, “It means without duality.”43 This means there is no one who knows, there is nothing known, and there is no knowledge. There is no one who attains, there is nothing attained, and there is no attainment. Because there is no knowledge, there is likewise no ignorance; because there is no attainment, there is likewise no non-attainment. The mind reels at such statements, and this is why this is the Perfection of Understanding and not the Perfection of Knowledge.
11 they are neither born nor die, neither pure nor impure, neither increasing nor diminishing.
All things’ true nature is Naught or Nothingness. This Naught is neither born nor dies. Since nothing in the world of Two has self-existence in itself – there is no difference – then impermanence does not apply. It is for this reason that the pure soul is said to be “individual” – that is, it is not “dividual” or divided.44 This Naught neither enters into existence nor exits into non-existence, and therefore it is neither born nor does it die. Only from the perspective of Two is there anything in the category of time, yet, None being beyond this category, nothing begins or ends and therefore it is said to be of the nature of None. It is for this reason that the pure soul is said to be “eternal”45 and it is for this reason None is called the Bornless One.46
This Naught or 0 is neither pure nor defiled. There is no suffering nor joy in the ordinary sense of the terms.47 Suffering comes from taking the shadows of the world of Two to be real, i.e. comes from attachment (in Buddhist terminology) to these shadows since they inevitably pass and are done. For convenience’s sake, we say that ordinary man is defiled and must, through a series of steps or grades or degrees, remove these defilements or this ignorance to become pure. Nonetheless, everything’s true nature is Naught, our distinction between things being mere convention and illusion. Purity requires a notion of impurity, being defiled a notion of being undefiled, but all things are of the same nature, being ultimately None, and therefore purity and defilement are delusions. There is no one who suffers or enjoys, there is nothing suffered or enjoyed, and there is no suffering or enjoyment. With Hui-neng we may ask, “Where did you get this dust?” Or: Where did you get this suffering or enjoyment? Who is suffering or enjoying? Where did you get this question? Who is asking this question? These are, of course, rhetorical questions implying that the answer in all cases is “Nowhere” or “No one” or, simply, None.
There is nothing that is truly increasing or diminishing, for nothing in the realm of Two is self-sufficient or self-existent, always depending on everything else. Since all things are empty in this way, they are not “complete,” and since nothing in them can truly be distinguished as a part or a whole, they are not incomplete or deficient. The nature of an un-initiate (one with diminished knowledge) and initiate (one with increased knowledge) are ultimately the same, being of the nature of Nothingness; “I am perfect, being Not.”48 With this we do not merely claim that Malkuth is in Kether and Kether in Malkuth, we claim Malkuth is Kether and Kether is Malkuth. Though this may in one sense be revolutionary it is, in another sense, nothing new. All is ever as it was and ever as it will be. Bodhidharma says, “This mind, through endless aeons without beginning, has never varied. It has never lived or died, appeared or disappeared, increased or decreased. It is not pure or impure, good or evil, past or future. It is not true or false. It is not male or female. It does not appear as a monk or a layman, an elder or a novice, a sage or a fool, a buddha or a mortal. It strives for no realization and suffers no karma. It has no strength or form. It is like space. You cannot possess it and you cannot lose it.”49
What follows is essentially a list of “absolutely all things,” using various lists based on certain Buddhist categories – the Five Skandhas and the Eighteen Elements of Perception – in order to exhaust the possibility of thinking anything is exempt from being defined by Naught as its true nature.
12 Therefore, Child of Earth, in the None there is no Two,
13 no memory, no volition, no emotion, no reason, no instinct, no consciousness, nor sense;
The focus now becomes “in the None,” so we come to see the Zero-perspective, so to speak. The None is beyond duality, the Two, and therefore beyond all positive assertions and all categories insofar as these things distinguish one thing from another thing. Because there is no time, there is no start nor finish, no birth nor death. Because there is no space, there is no here nor there, no inside nor outside. Because there is no causality, there is no cause nor effect. The fundamental nature of Two is not birth or death, purity or impurity, increasing or diminishing, change or stability; the fundamental nature of all things is None, an indivisible continuity of which naught may be spoken.
In the None, no Two can be found, thus it says “no Two.” Likewise, no memory can be found, no volition, no emotion, no reason, no instinct, no consciousness, nor sense. The entire Tree of Life below the Abyss is seen to be nothing but a convenient fiction, yet it is a fiction that convinces most of its reality. They do not exist in themselves as discrete or self-subsisting entities, thus we say “in the None there is no Two.” In the Perfection of Understanding, there is no trace of any of these things: it is not that they do not exist nor that they are annihilated, both of which set up a duality of existence and non-existence; it is that their fundamental nature is Nothingness. As the Master has said, “That is not which is. The only Word is Silence. The only Meaning of that Word is not. Thoughts are false.”50
14 No eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body and no mind;
Just to make sure that nothing is excluded, various lists are given, all of which are denied reality or self-sufficiency in themselves in the light of the None. The Buddhist conception of the senses includes a sixth sense of mind that receives the impressions of thought just as the eye receives impressions of sight, the tongue receives impressions of taste, et cetera.
In the None, nothing exists in and by itself, for all divisions of things from each other is simply a delusion. Thus our holiest Book declares, “Bind nothing! Let there be no difference made among you between any one thing & any other thing; for thereby there cometh hurt.”51 To say we have no eye in the None is not to say that we have no eyes but that eyes are not ultimately or fundamentally real in themselves; they are but as shadows in themselves and their true nature is None. Hui-ching says, “Although the nature of the eye is empty, it is not the case that there is no eye. This is also true of the other senses.”52 All of these sense organs treated as distinct and discrete entities is merely a convenient fiction that we are accustomed to believing; we treat them as self-sufficient and real when they are truly but as shadows. One Saint of our Gnostic Church, Friedrich Nietzsche, has said, “We have arranged for ourselves a world in which we can live – by positing bodies, lines, planes, causes and effects, motion and rest, form and content; without these articles of faith nobody could now endure life. But that does not prove them. Life is no argument. The conditions of life might include error.”53 Even a Westerner with no formal training in Magick or Meditation may catch glimpses of this Perfection of Understanding!
15 No shape, no sound, no smell, no taste, no feeling and no thought;
Each of the sensory organs mentioned in the previous line has certain sensory functions or realms of sensing. The previous line deals with the aspects of the sensorium and this line deals with various stimuli. The eye perceives shape, the ear perceives sound, the nose perceives smell, the tongue perceives taste, the body perceives feeling, and the mind perceives thought.
Just as the organs have no self-existent reality in themselves, neither do their domains or objects of perception. Every organ and their objects of perception are fundamentally of the nature of Naught. If reality is seamless and indivisible, a continuous and unbroken fabric, then any distinction of one thing from another is delusion, a mere convenient fiction that we use to navigate the world of Two that has no ultimate reality in itself. This includes both the eye and any possible shapes, the nose and any possible smells, et cetera.
16 No element of consciousness, from eye consciousness to conceptual consciousness;
The Master has said, “Consciousness results from the conjunction of a mysterious stimulus with a mysterious sensorium.”54 The 14th line dealt with the six types of sensorium (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind) and the 15th line dealt with the six types of stimulus (shape, sound, smell, taste, feeling, and thought). Together, these things create six types of consciousness: eye consciousness, ear consciousness, nose consciousness, tongue consciousness, body consciousness, and mind consciousness or “conceptual consciousness” as it is described here. Although only the first and last of these are mentioned in this line, all six are implied. The six sense faculties (or internal bases), six sense objects (or external bases), and six sense consciousnesses are, all together, everything of which we can possibly be aware – they are sometimes called the “Eighteen Dhatus” or the “Eighteen Elements of Perception.”
When meditating upon these eighteen elements of perception in the Perfection of Understanding, all of them are seen to be empty of self-existence. They are all co-dependent and co-defined, and they are therefore not real in themselves. Their true nature, when penetrated, is Naught or Zero. No true self can be found in any of these elements separately or in conjunction, even though they compose the entire universe of which we are aware. One can say, for the sake of convenience, that the True Self is Naught, but this may lead easily into error for there is no distinction between anything self and anything not-self in this Truth. We may call it Truth, but this may lead easily into error for there is no distinction between truth and falsity in this None. We may call it None, but this may lead easily into error for there is no distinction between nothing and something. We may call it Silence, but this may lead easily into error for there is no distinction between silence and speech in this Nameless. We may call it Nameless, but this may lead easily into error for there is no distinction between nameless and named in This. We may call it This, but this may lead easily into error for there is no distinction between this and that in It. This is why speech is false, and this is why thought is false. Nonetheless, It is revealed in all speech and all thought, in all named and all nameless, in all speech and all silence, in all that is not and all that is, in all that is false and all that is true, in all that is self and all that is not-self, et cetera. That is why it is said Two is None and None is Two. Mystery of Mystery, indeed.
Lest we think this is a Truth of Buddhism and not of Thelema, the exact same Truth is spoken by our Master, identified with the None and speaking with the voice of the Child, crowned and conquering, immortal and sinless, free and unbounded: “I am light, and I am night, and I am that which is beyond them. I am speech, and I am silence, and I am that which is beyond them. I am life, and I am death, and I am that which is beyond them. I am war, and I am peace, and I am that which is beyond them. I am weakness, and I am strength, and I am that which is beyond them. Yet by none of these can man reach up to me. Yet by each of them must man reach up to me.”55
17 No causal link, from ignorance to old age and death,
18 And no end of causal link, from ignorance to old age and death;
These causal links are a referenc
e to the Twelve Links or Chains (nidanas) of Dependent Origination. These Twelve Links are ignorance that leads to mental formations that leads to consciousness that leads to name-and-form that leads to the six sense-gates that lead to contact that leads to feeling that leads to craving that leads to clinging that leads to becoming that leads to birth that leads to old age/death. Again, only the first (ignorance) and last (old age and death) are mentioned here for convenience but all are implied. It should be understood that the Twelve Links links do not simply go one way; they go back and forth and around and around, perpetuating our suffering in the delusion of samsara where we take the Two to be the only reality, grasping after shadows.
In the light of the Perfection of Understanding, causal links are, in truth, Naught. Philosophically, causation requires a cause separate from an effect. Seeing as how all Eighteen Elements of Perception were empty of reality and self-existence, all being intertwined and co-dependent, there is no true distinction between any one thing and any other thing. Cause and effect is therefore unreal as well except as a convenient fiction used to describe, explain, and function in the world. There is nothing in itself that is a cause nor anything in itself that is an effect, nor is there any self separate from any not-self that can be a cause or an effect.
Since these do not truly exist in the first place, there is no creation of causal links. Since these links are never created, there is no need to end – to destroy or dissolve – what never existed. All these things never began nor will they ever end; it is mere delusion that takes things as real and sees their beginning and their end. Because of true Nothingness, nothing can rise or fall, begin or end, be born or die. The Master does not confound the space-marks, nor does she confound the time-marks, nor does she confound the causality-marks, and thus is she worthy to be called Master.
19 No Trance of Sorrow, no Knowledge and Conversation, no crossing of the Abyss, no Path;
Now we pass to the subject of the Path of Attainment. The original text has the line “no suffering, no source, no relief, no path,” which refers to the Four Noble Truths. This is altered to be resonant with the language of the Path in the Thelemic tradition. Within this tradition, there is a Trance or Vision of Sorrow that impels people to the Path. It is essentially coterminous with the realization of the First Noble Truth of Buddhism that existence is suffering (again, a poor translation, but used for convenience). In this, we realize that nothing we can think, say, or do will remove us from the dualistic world of impermanence. There is nothing substantial that can or will last, and all is condemned to the grave. Having analyzed all of the Eighteen Elements of Perception, we realize that they have no subsistence in themselves nor is there any self therein.
If all of these things are None in their true nature, if nothing ever was born or died, then there is, in reality, no self that ever suffered or endured the Trance of Sorrow. There never was a self that may arise as an Adept and attains to Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. There never was a self that can be annihilated in the crossing of the Abyss. As Hui-ching says, “If there is someone who can practice, then there must be a path to practice. But there is no person and no path, for both individuals and dharmas [all things] are empty.”56 Bodhidharma said, “If you attain anything at all, it is conditional, it is subject to karma. It results in retribution. It turns the Wheel. And as long as you are subject to birth and death, you will never attain enlightenment. To attainment enlightenment you have to see your nature. Unless you see your nature, all this talk about cause and effect is nonsense. Buddhas don’t practice nonsense. A buddha is free of karma, free of cause and effect. To say he attains anything at all is to slander a buddha.”57
20 No knowledge, no attainment, and no non-attainment.
Knowledge requires a relation between two things; for example, “leaves are green” establishes a relation between “leaves” and “green.” Knowledge further requires a relation between a knower and a thing that is known. Since, in the light of None, all these things are seen to be unreal though convenient fictions, there is no knowledge. The Master has said, “Daäth—Knowledge—is not a Sephira. It is not on the Tree of Life: that is, there is in reality no such thing… the attempt to analyse the idea leads immediately to a muddle of the mind. But this is of the essence of the Occult Wisdom concerning Daäth. For Daäth is the crown of the Ruach, the Intellect; and its place is in the Abyss. That is, it breaks into pieces immediately when it is examined. There is no coherence below the Abyss, or in it; to obtain this, which is one of the chief canons of Truth, we must reach Neschamah.”58 Thus it is said there is “no knowledge.”
Since there is no self to be found in any of the Eighteen Elements of Perception, there is no one to attain, nor is there anyone to not attain. The Path is only a valid exposition to one who lives in the world of Two, and, upon attaining the Perfection of Understanding in None, will realize that Two is None and None is Two. Yet None is not a state to be attained, for that implies attainment and the possibility of non-attainment, which are denied. There was never a Path, nor was there knowledge, nor attainment, nor non-attainment. Two is None, always was, always is, and always will be. Ignorance of this is None, and Understanding of this is None. Thus it is said there is “no attainment” and “no non-attainment.”
None is the only true reality, and it is already perfect, already pure, already Truth. Bodhidharma says, “The Way is basically perfect. It does not require perfecting.”59 The Master has said, “The soul is, in its own nature, perfect purity, perfect calm, perfect silence… This soul can never be injured, never marred, never defiled”60 and “Nothing is changed or can be changed; but all is trulier understood with every step.”61 In this way, there is no cultivation of virtue nor accumulation of wisdom nor is there initiation. What is there to seek? Who is there to seek anything? In this way, there is no Path.
This line concludes the analysis of all parts of existence of which we are aware.
21 Therefore, Child of Earth, without attainment,
The previous nine lines outlined the nature and constituents of what we consider reality in the light of None. These next lines outline the career of a Master, so to speak.
In the traditional understanding, the Path ends with no “rebirth” insofar as the ego has been completely annihilated. In terms of Buddhism, the aspirant has escaped or been liberated from the Wheel of samsara. In contrast, the Path of the Master “ends” with no birth insofar as the Perfection of Understanding entails the realization that nothing ever came into existence in the first place and therefore nothing needs to be annihilated. Because nothing is annihilated, there is nothing impermanent about or for which we may suffer in the “realm of Two,” so to speak. Because there is no Two, there is no need of liberation from Two. Because there is no need of liberation from Two, all beings are already freed from Two. Because all beings are already freed from Two, the Master has already accomplished the task of liberating all beings, the vow of all bodhisattvas. Because the vow to liberate all beings is fulfilled, Masters are liberated from liberating all beings. Thus we see that the fulfillment of the vow to enter back into the realm of Two in order to “tend the garden” of disciples that they may attain is fulfilled when the Master is liberated from the concept of “beings” as distinct entities as well as being liberated from the notion of attainment itself. There are no separate beings in None and, having practiced the deep practice of the Perfection of Understanding, the Master has already fulfilled and been liberated from this task. It may be said that it takes trillions of aeons for all beings to be liberated, yet the Master asks, “What aeons? What liberation? What beings? Who said this? Who answers?” The Master is in a place where the terms attainment and non-attainment have lost all meaning.
The vow of a Master, or the bodhisattva vow, is to attain Understanding and to liberate all beings from their mis-understanding. Yet in becoming a Master, one could not possibly take this vow for there are no beings to liberate and the notion of attainment or liberation has lost all meaning. In achieving the vow, it is discarded as delusion. The Master therefore disavows all vows as a final vow.
22 Masters take refuge in the Perfection of Understanding
Buddhists traditionally take refuge in buddha, dharma, and sangha. That is, they take refuge in the teacher (Buddha), the teaching (dharma), and the community of those who follow this teaching (sangha). These are the Three Refuges, also known as the Three Jewels or Three Treasures. We see in this line, though, that the Masters take refuge only in the Perfection of Understanding. Masters know that all teachers are, in their true nature, Naught; Masters know that all teachings, even all things, are truly Naught; Masters know that there are no separate beings to be taught, their true nature all being Naught. Masters take refuge, therefore, in the Perfection of Understanding, abiding in the None as the undivided, seamless continuum of true reality.
Our holiest Book says, “Nu is your refuge.”62 This is simply another way to say that Masters take refuge in the Perfection of Understanding. The Master has said, “The infinite unity is our refuge, since if our consciousness by in that unity, we shall care nothing for the friction of its component parts.”63 And this “infinite unity” is exactly that None of which has been spoken yet of which nothing can truly be spoken. Does not our holiest Book also say, “O Nuit, continuous one of Heaven, let it be ever thus; that men speak not of Thee as One but as None; and let them speak not of thee at all, since thou art continuous!”64
23 and live without space-marks.
The original text has the line “and live without walls of the mind.” This is substituted out for “space-marks,” for it is written in our holiest Book, “Bind nothing! Let there be no difference made among you between any one thing & any other thing; for thereby there cometh hurt… If this be not aright; if ye confound the space-marks, saying: They are one; or saying, They are many… then expect the direful judgments of Ra Hoor Khuit!”65 There is no difference made, for all is None in the continuum we sometimes call Nu or Nuit.
Masters do not attribute reality to anything in combination as “one” or severally as “many.” The Master has said, “But distinctions must not be made before Nuit, either intellectually, morally, or personally. Metaphysics, too, is intellectual bondage; avoid it! Otherwise one falls back to the Law of Hoor [that of the war of duality] from the perfect emancipation of Nuit. This is a great mystery, only to be understood by those who have fully attained Nuit and her secret Initiation.”66 That is, it is only to be Understood in the Perfection of Understanding that is but a name of Nuit and one who abides in the understanding thereof. It can be described, for the sake of convenience, as an object without a subject or a subject without an object. As an object without a subject, it is Nuit; as a subject without an object, it is Hadit. As an object without a subject, a Yogi may call it Brahman; as a subject without an object, a Yogi may call it Atman. Even as Atman is Brahman and Thou art That, Hadit and Nuit are both Perfect, being None. As our holiest Book says, “The Perfect and the Perfect are one Perfect and not two; nay, are none!”67
24 Without space-marks and thus without fears,
To live without space-marks is to be liberated from all fear. If one lives without any distinction between any one thing and any other thing, what could possibly cause fear? Our holiest Book says, “Dost thou fail? Art thou sorry? Is fear in thine heart? Where I am these are not.”68 The Master has said, “This brings out what is a fact in psychology, the necessary connection between fear, sorrow, and failure… If one have a right apprehension of the Universe, if he know himself free, immortal, boundless, infinite force and fire, then may he will and dare. Fear, sorrow and failure are but phantoms. Hadit is everywhere; fear, sorrow, and failure are only ‘shadows.’”69
One might say that fear begins with and is only possible in Two and it therefore ends in None, which is true at the conventional level. Yet in the None, one sees that it never arose and therefore will never cease; there was never birth and never will there be death. It is seen as a shadow that was never real in the first place.
It is only by establishing “space-marks,” by asserting a reality in the difference between anything and anything else, that we have fear, sorrow, and failure. And does not our holiest Book say this clearly? “Bind nothing! Let there be no difference made among you between any one thing & any other thing; for thereby there cometh hurt.”70 The Master has said, “Nuit is Space beyond the idea of Limit or Measure; She is also All Points of View no less than All Vistas seen therefrom. Bind nothing, for all things alike pertain to her, and her Nature is to compose All in One and Naught. One thing is in the end like all the rest; the seeming not alike comes as a dream from choosing images after one’s own heart to worship them; thus each, though true as one of the All, is false if thought of as one apart from the rest.”71
Fear, sorrow, and failure can only be within the realm of Two. If one desires a certain outcome but expects there may be another, there will be fear. If the undesired outcome arrives, there will be failure. Once this undesired outcome comes to pass, there is sorrow over this failure. There is therefore, as the Master says, “a necessary connection between fear, sorrow, and failure” that characterizes the psychology of one stuck in the realm of Two. If one does not attribute solidity and reality to the ever-changing shadows of Two, where is the fear of criticism? Where is the fear of embarrassment? Where is the fear of living a bad life? Where is the fear of failure? Where is the fear of death itself? Without space-marks, one lives without fears. By the power of the Truth of the Perfection of Understanding, one conquers the Universe while living.
25 They see through shadows and finally attainment.
Masters “see through” shadows, meaning they understand their essentially illusory and unreal nature. Masters understand that the fundamental nature of all things is None.
The original text says “they see through delusions and finally nirvana.” The traditional approach of mystics is to transcend samsara, the world of Two, and seek nirvana, the world of None. They seek to transcend the impermanent and seek the permanent, they seek to transcend existence and seek non-existence, they seek to transcend the impure and seek the pure.
The bodhisattva overcomes the delusion of attainment of nirvana itself; the Master overcomes the attainment of the None itself. This None is not separate from Two; Two is None and None is Two, as has been said repeatedly. Attainment is what we strive for, and we walk the Path to achieve None, yet the final delusion is attainment itself. Masters conquer this final delusion. If we see None as permament or impermanent, we are not Masters; if we see None as eternal or temporal, we are not Masters; if we see None as perfect or imperfect, we are not Masters.
Transcending all space-marks, the None is neither this nor that and it is both this and that. None is not something attained, it is the fundamental nature of all things, it is the ground of Two. Masters have seen through the shadow of None itself, and that is why they are called Masters. This is why it is said there is “no attainment,” “no non-attainment,” and “no Path.”
26 All Masters past, present, and future
27 also take refuge in the Perfection of Understanding
Instead of the Three Refuges of dharma (teaching), buddha (teacher), and sangha (taught), instead of even taking refuge in the None as distinct from Two, Masters take refuge in the Perfection of Understanding. Because they live without space-marks, even between Two and None, they abide in the Perfection of Understanding.
All Masters past, present, and future take refuge in this Perfection of Understanding because it is beyond all beginning and ending and beyond all cause and effect. In this Perfection of Understanding, all Masters are eternally present and presently eternal.
28 and realize unsurpassed, perfect Understanding.
V.V.V.V.V. speaks with the language of conventional truth to explain the importance of the Perfection of Understanding. This is called “unsurpassed” because all other goals are seen as shadows beside the Perfection of Understanding. It is called “perfect” because all other goals are imperfect shadows beside it, and that is why it is the Perfection of Understanding. This Perfection of Understanding is beyond all striving and not-striving, it is beyond all goals and goal-lessness, it is beyond all attainment and non-attainment. Because it surpasses all of these conditions, we may only use dualistic language to point to it and call it “unsurpassed.” Because it is perfect in light of all these imperfect conditions, we may only use dualistic language to point to it and call it “perfect.”
29 You should therefore know the great mantra of the Perfection of Understanding,
We are told that we should “know” this great mantra, but this mantra is not an object of knowledge. This mantra involves no knowledge; if it is knowledge at all, it is the knowledge that leads beyond knowledge. In this way it is not knowledge. This is the only form of knowledge cultivated by a Master and the only knowledge worth knowing because it is not knowledge at all.
This is the great mantra of the Perfection of Understanding because it is the essential teaching of the Perfection of Understanding. Chanting this mantra does not bring power, it does not bring knowledge, it does not bring peace, it does not bring increase of anything at all. If one were to understand this mantra, one would be freed from all delusion, living without space-marks, and be rightfully called a Master. Yet, if one were to be a Master, one would not need a mantra to attain anything. It would be seen that there is nothing to be attained and nothing to not be attained. For those who do not have this sight, it is a lens to help focus one’s vision. Once one crosses a river with a raft, one does not need a raft, and once you understand the mantra, you do not need the mantra.
30 the mantra of great magick,
The original text reads, “the mantra of great magic,” and the addition of a “k” to the word “magic” brings new meaning in the light of Thelema. Magick is defined as the Science and Art of causing Change in conformity with Will, yet this is a special class of magick. Magick works through Will to cause change, and the nature of Will is Love, or union. All typical acts of Love or change simply lead to more acts of Love and change: they are still within Two, still within samsara. In this way, this is not mere magick to attain some end through change, but the magick of Love wherein all opposites are annihilated in perfect samadhi, perfect absorption or Love, so that That which transcends these opposites is seen: the Two is seen as None. In this way, it is a “change” only insofar as one moves beyond change and changelessness. Therefore it is not mere magick but “great magick.”
If magick in the normal sense “gives birth” to something new, a new circumstance or experience, this great magick gives birth to a Master. This mantra of great magick is therefore the Perfection of Understanding itself, the Great Mother Babalon who gives birth to a Master of the Temple. Yet to say “gives birth” implies a beginning, something before and after, and we know that Masters transcend all space-marks and all time-marks as delusory shadows. This mantra of great magick therefore gives birth to the birthless, it causes the causeless, and that is why it is “great magick” and not mere magick, even though words, as always, fail us in describing it.
31 the unsurpassed mantra,
32 the mantra equal to that without equal,
This mantra of great magick is “unsurpassed,” even as the Perfection of Understanding is unsurpassed. This mantra is unsurpassed because it goes beyond all categories. There is nothing surpassing it, there is nothing beyond it, and therefore it is the beyond, it is Nothing.
That without equal is the Perfection of Understanding, the Master herself. Because this mantra is identical with the Master, with the None, it is “equal to that without equal.” Absolutely nothing in any of the categories mentioned in previous lines reaches up to equal this None; there is nothing below, above, or beside it. This is why Hadit claims, “I am alone.”72
33 which transcends all shadows and is True, not false,
This mantra is given to them that still wander in the shadow-realm of Two, and it is therefore told to all aspirants that it “transcends all shadows.” Its very nature is None and therefore transcends all shadows even though a Master who abides in None knows that it is identical with Two. We are told to cross from the shore of samsara to the other shore of nirvana but upon reaching this other shore, we come to understand that it is the same shore; nirvana is samsara, None is Two.
We are told that it is “True, not false” because it transcends all falsity that encompasses all the true and false of conventional truth. All truth and falsity of which we are aware is false in the light of the Truth of the Perfection of Understanding, embodied in the Masters and the mantra of great magick.
34 the mantra in the Perfection of Understanding spoken thus:
35 ‘Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond, hriliu ha.’”
This mantra is “in” the Perfection of Understanding, even as the Master is in the Womb of Babalon, the None itself. If mothers sing lullabies to their children to lull them to sleep, the Perfection of Understanding sings this mantra of great magick that they may awake. This mantra is not directed at any goal or at any god, it is directed at the true nature of None itself; it is the true nature of None itself if it is understood.
The mantra itself has no meaning, for meaning belongs to the realm of knowledge, not Understanding. The meaning cannot be explained: it is incommunicable, as is all real Truth. The mantra is not there to be deciphered by the intellect, it is there to be silently repeated. The Master practices the deep practice, she does not talk about it or describe its meaning. Woe unto me for attempting such a misguided feat!
Nonetheless, if we were to look into the meaning of the mantra, for the sake of the hungry mind, we can find one, keeping in mind that the meaning is not itself the Perfection of Understanding.
The original text has the first word of the mantra as “gate,” which means “gone” and comes from the root that means “understood.” It is thus a direct translation in a way, and because it means “understood,” we can see that it refers to the nature of the Perfection of Understanding itself. The term “gone” means someone who has gone or crossed to the other shore from that of Two to that of None. It also refers to the fact that a Master of the Temple is “gone,” there is no one left after draining out every last drop of separation, of ego, of self. One can never attain the grade of becoming a Master because there is then no one there who can attain or fail to attain. As it says in our Holy Books, “Yet shalt thou not be therein, for thou shalt be forgotten, dust lost in dust.”73 Further, “gone” is formed of the two consonants “GN.” This “GN” forms the root of both “gnosis” and “generation.” As the Master has said, “the root GN signifies both knowledge and generation combined in a single idea, in an absolute form independent of personality.”74 It is “knowledge” in the sense that it refers to gnosis, which is simply another name for transcendent knowledge, the Perfection of Understanding itself. It is “generation” because it is identical with the ultimate Creative Force, that which creates and destroys yet is untouched by either. This is why it is called pangenetor, all-begetter, and panphage, all-destroyer, even as None creates, sustains, destroys, and ultimately transcends All. It passes from generation to generation unscathed and unchanged because its nature is beyond space, time, and causality though revealed therein. It is “independent of personality” because the Master has destroyed the personal in the Impersonal, being divested of all duality in the ultimate Naught beyond even the duality of None and Two. All of these ideas are simultaneously present in the word “gone.”
In the original text, the next word is paragate, which means “into the gone beyond” or “into the understanding beyond.” The next word after that is parasamgate, which means “in the gone completely beyond” or “into the understanding completely beyond.” The Master is gone beyond all things, having crossed the Abyss into the “beyond” of the Supernal Triad, the Womb of Understanding, the None. It is completely beyond all categories, completely beyond all language, completely beyond all things. Thus the mantra continues, “gone beyond, gone completely beyond.”
The mantra in the original text concludes with bodhi svaha. The first word, bodhi, means “enlightenment” and the second word, svaha, is an exclamation like “amen” or “hallelujah.” In place of bodhi, we have the word “hriliu,” which comes from The Vision and the Voice and is essentially the sound of orgasm. This is used because it refers to the nature of enlightenment itself, formless and timeless ecstasy. It has a further sexual connotation implying the complete union and consummation of two things in ecstasy, which is simply a metaphor for subject and object uniting in samadhi wherein Naught remains (in both senses of the word).
The term “ha” replaces that of svaha that occurs in the original text. This “ha” is identical with the “Ha!” that is said towards the beginning of this sutra, and it has the same meaning. Svaha is an exclamation similar to “hallelujah” and so is “ha.” Ha is a way to express ecstasy that is found in and an expression of enlightenment, of bodhi, of “hriliu.” It has the connotation of a laugh, and it is exclaimed with, as the Master has said, “the confident smile of the immortal Child.”75 “Ha” is also the final word of The Book of the Law, our holiest Book, and it therefore refers to a sealing or consecration of all that came before. It is an “end” insofar as there is an end to all separateness and therefore to all shadows. Qabalistically, it is composed of the letter Heh and Aleph. Heh refers to the Breath of Life that brings the None into the realm of manifestation, into Two. Aleph refers to the return of the Two to the None, even as it is attributed to the Tarot trump designated as “0.” Therefore, even Qabalistically, it refers to the absorption in the Womb of the Infinite, the Perfection of Understanding, the dissolution of all shadows to reveal the unblemished, unbound, and undivided None.
The meanings of this mantra of great magick are many, but they all refer to the None. The syllables of this mantra of great magick are many, but they are all None. The mantra works no magick at all through being analyzed, described, and explained; it works only through being worked, it does only through being done. Through this doing we may be undone to become None, to be gone, gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond, hriliu ha.
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1 For more on this doctrine concerning knowledge and Under-standing, ruach and neschamah, see Little Essays Towards Truth, especially the essays “Man,” “Knowledge,” and “Under-standing.”
2 The Master has said in Liber Aleph, “Keep therefore in just Balance the Relation of Illusion to Illusion in that Aspect of Illusion, neither confusing the Planes, nor confounding the Stars, nor denying the Laws of their Reaction, yet with Eagle’s Vision beholding the One Sun of the True Nature of the Whole.”
3 For the doctrine concerning Babalon and the draining of blood, see the 12th Aethyr of The Vision and the Voice. The Master also explains succinctly in Liber LXXIII: The Urn, “In The Vision and the Voice, the attainment of the grade of Master of the Temple was symbolized by the adept pouring every drop of his blood, that is his whole individual life, into the Cup of the Scarlet Woman, who represents Universal Impersonal Life.”
4 For the doctrine concerning Nemo, see the 13th Aethyr of The Vision and the Voice.
5 This phrase comes from the 5th Aethyr of The Vision and the Voice and contains an essential doctrine of Understanding.
6 New Comment to Liber AL, III:58.
7 “Chief of all” is a phrase that comes from Liber AL, I:23, and the quotation from the Master Therion comes from the Old and New Comments thereon.
8 Horus is described as the Crowned and Conquering Child, a designation implied by the name “the noble Master V.V.V.V.V.” The fact that these titles apply to things other than Horus is no shock to those whose viewpoint is from above the Abyss; only those below the Abyss would argue and quarrel over the “correct attribution” thereof.
9 This is a reference to Liber AL, II:34, “But ye, o my people, rise up & awake!” The entire doctrine of Liber AL, II:27-34, is relevant to this passage.
10 The third penal sign is given by Sabazius X° as, “Place your right hand level, with the thumb extended in a square towards the navel. Draw the hand across the center of the body to the right, drop it to the side, and raise it again to place the point of the thumb upon the navel.”
11 The Creed in the Gnostic Mass states, “And I believe in one Earth, the Mother of us all, and in one Womb wherein all men are begotten, and wherein they shall rest, Mystery of Mystery, in Her name BABALON.”
12 “Study” does not mean intellectual analysis; it means integrating the words of the text so pervasively into one’s being that they become as if they were truths spoken by you.
13 Liber Cheth vel Vallum Abiegni, line 21.
14 “Particle of dust” is a reference to Liber AL, I:61.
15 This is a reference to the Ceremony of the Opening of the Veil in the Gnostic Mass. This particular part of the Gnostic Mass can be seen as the Crossing of the Abyss to abide in the “deep practice” of the Womb of Babalon, the Perfection of Understanding, with the Lance symbolizing penetrating Wisdom or insight.
16 See Liber Aleph for a more detailed explanation of this Word as well as the Words of other Magi.
17 Liber AL, I:56.
18 The Eye in the Triangle refers Qabalistically to the Supernal Triangle, the Womb of Babalon, the sanctum sanctorum, the Perfection of Understanding.
19 Liber AL, II:27.
20 Commentary to Liber AL, II:9, in the “Comment Called D.”
21 New Comment to Liber AL, II:9.
22 Chen-k’o is a Chinese monk of the 16th century who wrote a commentary on the Heart Sutra.
23 The reference is to Liber AL, I:22, “Bind nothing! Let there be no difference made among you between any one thing & any other thing; for thereby there cometh hurt.”
24 The raised finger of Gu-tei is a reference to the 3rd Case in The Gateless Gate, a Zen classic, where it is said, “Whenever Gutei Oshõ was asked about Zen, he simply raised his finger. Once a visitor asked Gutei’s boy attendant, ‘What does your master teach?’ The boy too raised his finger. Hearing of this, Gutei cut off the boy’s finger with a knife. The boy, screaming with pain, began to run away. Gutei called to him, and when he turned around, Gutei raised his finger. The boy suddenly became enlightened.” The flower is a reference to Buddha’s so-called “Flower Sermon” that is seen as the beginning of the Zen tradition; one version comes from the 6th Case in The Gateless Gate where it is written, “When Shakyamuni Buddha was at Mount Grdhrakuta, he held out a flower to his listeners. Everyone was silent. Only Mahakashyapa broke into a broad smile. The Buddha said, ‘I have the True Dharma Eye, the Marvelous Mind of Nirvana, the True Form of the Formless, and the Subtle Dharma Gate, independent of words and transmitted beyond doctrine. This I have entrusted to Mahakashyapa.’”
25 Liber Tzaddi vel Hamus Hermeticus, lines 29-30.
26 The Mystic number of 3 is S(1-3) = 1+2+3 = 6.
27 This comes from the Creed of the Gnostic Mass.
28 De Lege Libellum sub figura CL.
29 De Lege Libellum sub figura CL.
30 The New Comment to The Book of the Law says, “’AL’ is the true name of the Book, for these letters, and their number 31, form the Master Key to its Mysteries.”
31 Liber AL, I:29.
32 Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk credited with bringing Zen to China who lived from the 5th and 6th centuries C.E.
33 Nagarjuna is the founder of the Madhyamaka school of Buddhism that asserts shunyata or emptiness as the fundamental or true nature of things. Ching-chueh was a Zen monk of the 7th and 8th centuries C.E..
34 The first quotation is a reference to Liber AL, I:28-30, “None… and two. For I am divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union. This is the creation of the world, that the pain of division is as nothing, and the joy of dissolution all.” Note that the “pain of division,” 2, “is as nothing,” 0; and”the joy of dissolution,” 0, is “all,” 2. 2 is 0 and 0 is 2, All is Naught and Naught is All. What strange Mysteries lie within this mighty and terrible Book!
35 “Solve et coagula” is an alchemical formula and, in this context, refers to the 2 becoming 0 (solve) and the 0 becoming 2 (coagula).
36 The Book of Lies, chapter 63.
37 The Book of Lies, chapter 3.
38 Liber LXV, I:53.
39 Liber V vel Reguli.
40 Liber AL, II:58.
41 Little Essays Towards Truth, “Mastery.”
42 Liber AL, II:6, “I am the flame that burns in every heart of man, and in the core of every star.”
43 Fa-tsang was a patriarch of a school of Chinese Buddhism in the 7th and 8th centuries C.E.
44 The reference is to the line of the Creed of the Gnostic Mass that states, “I confess my life one, individual, and eternal, that was, and is, and is to come.” This “life” is called the “pure soul” in Confessions, chapter 72.
45 Again, the reference is to the line of the Creed of the Gnostic Mass that states, “I confess my life one, individual, and eternal, that was, and is, and is to come.”
46 This phrase comes from the opening invocation of the Goetia that was later adapted by Crowley for use in Liber Samekh.
47 Consider this in light of the 2nd chapter of the Tao Te Ching.
48 Liber AL, II:15.
49 Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk credited with bringing Zen to China who lived from the 5th and 6th centuries C.E.
50 The Book of Lies, chapter 5.
51 Liber AL, I:22.
52 Hui-ching was a Chinese monk in the 6th and 7th centuries C.E.
53 From Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Gay Science.
54 Eight Lectures on Yoga, “Yoga for Yellowbellies,” First Lecture.
55 The Vision and the Voice, 1st Aethyr.
56 Hui-ching was a Chinese monk in the 6th and 7th centuries C.E.
57 Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk credited with bringing Zen to China who lived from the 5th and 6th centuries C.E.
58 Little Essays Towards Truth, “Knowledge.”
59 Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk credited with bringing Zen to China who lived from the 5th and 6th centuries C.E.
60 “The Soul of the Desert.”
61 Little Essays Towards Truth, “Mastery.”
62 Liber AL, III:17.
63 New Comment to Liber AL, III:17.
64 Liber AL, I:27.
65 Liber AL, I:22, I:52.
66 Old Comment to Liber AL, I:52.
67 Liber AL, I:45.
68 Liber AL, II:46-47.
69 New Comment to Liber AL, II:46-47.
70 Liber AL, I:22.
71 Djeridensis Comment on Liber AL, I:22.
72 Liber AL, II:23.
73 Liber Cheth vel Vallum Abiegni, line 15.
74 Magick in Theory and Practice, chapter 7.
75 Little Essays Towards Truth, “Laughter.”