Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Why are so few women attracted to Thelema? Or at least, to Thelemic fraternities? The topic is debated often, with little resolution. The following is offered from the stance of a man (male, androperson, testosteronically motivated human monad) writing on the topic of relations with women (the other lot). It does not pretend to rise beyond the perspective of gender duality.
Women are messy. They come at us from all over the place, because (in general) they have good links to the Nephesh, and (somewhat) easier access to the Neshamah than men. Men, as an equally broad generalisation, work more with the individual self, the Ruach, which works far more within the confines of reasoning processes.
The Nephesh is the Qabalistic term for the vital, instinctual self, and women in general simply relate to that multiplicity better than men. The Neshamah, the Qabalistic supernal self or supernal soul, is something many people think they understand, but few ever do. By definition, it operates beyond the confines of anything the conscious mind appreciates as rationality, and its workings can easily resemble those of the Nephesh. One key difference is that the Nephesh works essentially in response to immediate and short-term situations, while the Neshamah’s time-scale is almost inconceivable. As anyone knows who has done much dream-work, both these aspects of the psyche can come into play once ratiocentric ego-controls are relaxed. Dreams follow inherent, not expressed, rules: you can’t extract those rules from the dream, or impose some, (which is what the reasoning Ruach wants to do) because they’ll make no sense outside of the dream.
Men, being primarily Ruach-centred, want to order and organise everything; we don’t like messiness. Men will tell you what Crowley once said or did, or what Liber Whatsit states, in order to maintain the central, organising principles intact. At the extreme, there are even prominent bloggers who insist on a purely rational Thelema, in open defiance of what The Book of the Law has to say about reason. Try arguing with men who adopt such stances, and you’ll find yourself facing an immovable fundamentalism. You’ll hear how we have to maintain standards, principles, core concepts, essential precepts, and so on.
Men’s constant effort within Thelema has been to explain it to women who might already have discovered its essence intuitively. That intuition might need drawing out – the Ruach is at its best in that process – but in essence, it probably won’t need correcting. I’m not saying women will have realised True Will, or proposing some similar notion, but they may well have glimpsed the road to the Promised Land.
This is profoundly maddening to men still disputing over the map.
Now, I’m not arguing here about how men should “get in touch with their feminine side.” That side emerges automatically in any man who is working the path of the Mysteries, because the Tree of Life takes us into the opposing sides of our nature. Similarly, women aspirants discover more of their masculine side, as something that emerges equally naturally and integrates itself with minimal fuss. Men are not from Mars nor women from Venus, because we’re all much more complex than that. Self-conscious forcing of such things is silly at best; and the extreme manifestations of androphobic, goddess-pushing neo-paganism or pussy-whipped masculinity … well, they’re silly too. Such attitudinal overlays placed on top of what we are might earn us a few ‘likes’ on our Facebook pages, but they’re deviations from realising the True Will. Discovery is always far, far more important in the Mysteries than any philosophies we can adopt.
Men, I’d guess, developed the decimal design of the Tree of Life. Women, I’d equally guess, discovered or pioneered the connecting, subjective paths. Men might concede this, and simultaneously we’ll be irritated that it’s so.
I write none of this as a criticism, because criticism of the ‘wrongness’ of the other sex’s standpoint has been the bane of the sexual redefining process of recent decades. The only thing I make is a plea for clearer perception of the other side’s valid identification with certain aspects of the human psycho-spiritual structure, because in Thelema, those who ‘win the arguments’ seem to have consistently excluded many of those who never willingly signed on for a contest in the first place.
How often, for example, has it been argued that the arrangement of the Tarot trumps on the Tree is arbitrary, or subjective? That despite clear distinctions, they’re all variations on a couple of themes? On one level, that’s entirely the point. One trump easily blurs into another. The Empress, the Star, the Universe, Art; or the Hierophant, the Emperor and the Hanged Man; they have interchangeable facets, expressing the Cosmos on the one hand, and offering information on how to live in it on the other hand. At times their definitions are clear, and at others, the definitions are arguable or even somewhat irrelevant. The Trumps are permutations of each other, not eternally divided fields of activity.
Yet there are people who will cite The Book of Thoth and three other basic texts to insist on the contrary. And once they final begin to see the totality, not the components of it – finding some vision of Nuit beyond the atomisation of Hadit – someone else picks up the abandoned flag.
In an Order such as ours, we face a constant paradox. We need rational structure, rules and regulations; and we use fixed rituals. These have been updated to include passages about the Goddess and Her robe of flame and so forth; and rightly performed, with joy and beauty, they invoke Her. We need ritual discipline, and precision of language and gesture, to make our rituals sing.
We also need the Silent Song to be singing itself, and that Song is not rooted in the organising Ruach, however much it might permeate it. Magick requires a scientific approach, but it is not simply cause-and-effect based in its actual manifestation. It is a performance art, and like any kind of performance, its best shows transcend mere causality. They touch Divinity.
Which brings me back to the messiness I began with.
The key male task is to maintain our own truth while accepting, as widely and openly as possible, the profoundly different truth presented to us by a being with stronger roots in the Nephesh and Neshamah. I don’t think Thelema as a movement has often managed that. It’s still a boys’ club in its broad approach.
The actual watchword here should be that of the Magister Templi (a Grade based in Mother Binah, I point out): That we should treat every experience that comes our way as a particular dealing of God (or the Universe) with our souls. This is just as hard as it sounds, and wholly essential. Women, messy women, are a fact of life, of nature. Their contradictions are not necessarily things to correct, except when they’re causing clear distress and confusion to the women manifesting them. They are, rather, signs of a different perspective in operation, one that sees no reason to be confined to single-minded definitions. Reality – real, actual, honest, Cosmic and here-and-now reality – is forever multifaceted.
Theories and worldviews are useful but they are provisional. Every degree in our Temple’s system offers one, or maybe several. We use them and, one day, we find we’ve discarded them. Or, they’ve discarded us.
We are, after all, seekers of the Grail; and all our reasonable, skew-wise words are destined to end up being poured into that Cup.
Love is the law, love under will,