Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law
The disagreement I had with a friend last week stays with me. Her view was that very many people experience visions, or samadhic realisations, and not just people in mystery schools or who pursue one of the major mystical paths. I agreed, but insisted that that point wasn’t about receiving the experience, but being able to appreciate and understand what has happened. Without comprehension, it remains a one-off, or something that is attributed to a divine figure the person worships, and its effect is minimal.
In other words, illumination (as opposed to ‘having a vision’) is tied directly to how capable your mind is. I’m trying here to avoid words like ‘reason’ or ‘intellect,’ because visionary experiences transcend our powers of reason and rationality. They require a mind that can appreciate the experience on a more holistic level.
Genuine spiritual growth can be transformative not just for the recipient but for people in his or her circle, who might learn to look far beyond their current horizons. If there is some purpose to the collective human journey, it presumably involves an expansion and enrichment of consciousness, and a greater appreciation of the nature of reality.
Two historical figures have fascinated me recently, and they lived almost a millennium apart: Thomas Aquinas, the medieval Dominican monk (1225-1274), and Niels Bohr, the Danish physicist (1885-1962) who was a major figure in the development of quantum physics, and who was among the first to realise that an electron, for example, could be both a wave and a particle.
Aquinas’ major work was the Summa Theologiae, a compilation of Christian theology that is still worth reading for its philosophical depth and clarity. The man wrestled meaning from Christian ideas in ways that would make any fundamentalist Protestant’s hair stand on end. In particular, he grasped that God had to be beyond the usual confines of any descriptive terminology.
Where he most fascinates me, however, is in what befell him on December 6, 1273. He went into a prolonged ecstasy, and afterward, refused to continue work on his Summa. His scribe Reginald asked what was the problem, and received a famous reply: “Reginald, I cannot, because all I have written seems like straw to me.”
This sounds suspiciously like he came to Knowledge and Conversation, which transcends any beliefs or set of rational arguments. He had gone past intellectual appreciation of his subject, into direct experience. In time, the Adept (to use the standard Thelemic term) who attains to this state begins to appreciate what the experience is about, and what to teach to others from it, assuming teaching is a part of the True Will. Aquinas, though, died three months later, on March 7 1274, and did not do this, Probably it’s just as well, since he had already been accused of heresy by less imaginative churchmen, and no doubt he would have had immense grief for describing what he had seen and understood.
But to go back to my initial point, it took an immense amount of mental power for him to be able to go beyond what he had learned from studying Aristotle and the Church Fathers. Aquinas was a genius, so he had the necessary equipment to go past intellectual attainment.
The Aeon website recently carried an interesting article on Bohr and his influence. Quantum science is notorious for being beyond the lucid understanding of anybody. It is, though, an established field of study, and today we have quantum computers coming along, and fields of related study such as quantum biology. It’s fascinating, productive, and at the present state of things, inexplicable. We can appreciate what Nikolaus Copernicus or Isaac Newton meant, but 20th Century Physics went into areas that go beyond our ability to establish basic syllogisms about its primary field of study. Physicists continue to extend the applications of their discoveries, and to refine their research. But, as the Aeon article makes plain, it’s seen almost as distasteful to address the philosophical implications of the field.
“In April 2018, I was invited to talk about Quantum Reality (2020), a new popular book I was then working on about the interpretation of quantum mechanics, at a dinner hosted by the Royal Society in London,” writes the author, Jim Baggott. “After dinner, I was approached by a number of esteemed fellows who took the trouble to explain to me that ‘nobody cares about this’.”
The significance of this hostility to philosophical comprehension of quantum science, of which Baggott complains, limits new directions of research, if I understand his point. The physicists experiment without having much idea what their field might actually be all about. Aquinas’ breakthrough gave him the realisation of what lay (let us say) ‘within’ his theology. But most probably, it pushed him outside the general assumptions and outlook of the Aeon of Osiris.
No physicist, apparently, can provide a satisfactory explanation of how a particle can also and simultaneously be a wave, or how a wave is also a particle. I’m sure many people have tried, but no-one has yet managed it. And Baggott believes this limits the directions in which research in the field can go.
For such an explanation to come, assumptions will have to be dropped, adjusted or invented anew. Somebody, somehow, will have to understand something to push the frontiers, and also explain what is happening. Intellectual enquiry on its own has not yet illuminated the various riddles of what happens on quantum levels of our Universe, though a lot of science reporting often reads like it’s happened.
Can a human mind then solve the issue? Yes, provided it’s been prepared to use its full potential, and is open to what I can only lamely call ‘divine inspiration.’ Each aspirant in the Mysteries who comes to the point of K&C in their own development, or even to the general neighbourhood of it, can grasp the general notion. It has nothing at all to do with calculation or logical deduction: it comes when these things are silenced.
A number of people in the esoteric field claim to see parallels between nondual mystical states and quantum discoveries. Since my own grasp of quantum research is shaky, you’ll appreciate I don’t have a firm opinion on such views. However, I’ve not seen anything in the work of Deepak Chopra or other candidates that tells me “This is it.” Yet I retain an intuitive conviction that if and when the quantum paradoxes are finally resolved, or at least an approach to a solution emerges, it’s likely to be compatible with what the more brilliant and imaginative mystics around today are trying to explain to us. The Rinpoches who teach Vajrayana or Dzogchen, or perhaps a Qabalist might be among the first people to appreciate the significance.
If so, it would be an interesting reversal to Aquinas. He was the man who, to a great extent, reconciled Aristotelean science to medieval Christianity, a connection that held up well until less than two centuries ago. It would be interesting if the Aeon of Thelema was crowned by a new marriage of science and spirituality sustained and accepted by both fields.
Love is the law, love under will,