Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The goddess Nuit describes Herself in the Book of the Law as “Infinite Space and the Infinite Stars thereof.” (I, v. 22). The image is beautiful; yet I personally find, when reading about new discoveries in cosmology, that the immensity of cold, dark space is an idea that can feel alien and hostile. The direct perception of bright stars on a clear night – and they were wonderfully clear here last night – is a glorious thing, but the unknowable endlessness as a concept isn’t.
It occurred to me, craning back to see the best clusters between patches of clouds, that this sense of the inconceivable, the mind-boggling light-years stuff, is very similar to ideas of the Holy Guardian Angel. The experience of the HGA includes inconceivable factors, in terms of levels of awareness and understanding as well as of power. One Thelemic Qabalist I follow from time to time compared his encounter with the HGA to the nature of the Emperor Tarot card. The sense of both manifest and latent power, not to be contradicted, was immense for him.
Ron Hubbard, when he was still honing his craft as a writer of science fiction, produced a novella called Fear, that’s still admired by people who hold no brief for Scientology. The theme is the increasingly bad experiences that happen to a man who’s in a psychotic break after doing something horrendous. The story builds towards his devastating reconnection with his awareness of what that was. The Ruach, the reasoning mind, cannot tolerate some things.
My own first significant encounter with the HGA came when I was twenty, and went through an experience of being shown my own sense of futility and worthlessness (I stress the words “sense of” here, not the factual truth of the perception). It was appalling to me, and I was literally trembling with fear as it progressed.
The next morning, the experience broke into the opposite, a sense of walking in brightness and love. That day, I decided on a switcheroo in my life that set me on the path I still tread. But there is still, in memory, a parallel with what Hubbard wrote about: the knowledge that we often don’t have intimate contact with the truth because somehow or somewhen, we’ve blocked the knowledge of it. Reconnection with deep truth lookslike a traumatic occurrence, as it did to my spiritually uneducated twenty-year-old self, sitting in a group meditation in terror as his defences against knowledge of his own wayward immaturity collapsed.
Since all spiritual intimations are filtered through the mind, we easily muddle the two related ideas of fear and awe. A magician needs to appreciate this clearly. Awe is unfashionable today: we’ve even debased the adjective from it, ‘awesome,’ to mean simply “Oh wow, I like that.” While I find Jordan Peterson both muddled and unoriginal, I think I grasp why he’s popular. He sees something outside the mundane, and communicates this to a particular audience. He expresses a perception of awe, albeit often gauchely.
The mind’s translation of awe at the immense into fear of the unknown can be a stumbling block on the esoteric path. I’ve known many people to start on the initiatory path, and I’ve seen most of them step off it at some point. This can be from poor or formulaic teaching, or from personality clashes in a group. Others just aren’t ready for the necessary serious commitment to themselves. Often, though, I have the feeling people find a sense of awe is constellating, and it’s profoundly uncomfortable for them. We naturally fear fear itself, so we avoid encountering awe, its close relative. As a result, some people just stall (“Now’s not the time to do the assigned work, but I’ll get to it later”), or they quit.
I don’t mean to imply that occultists spend all their time in a state of anticipatory anxiety. Rather, most of us find life is more fun, and more meaningful. Being in a community of other oddballs, along with having a forward-looking trajectory, is very helpful, and eases us through the rough patches. But at some point, the assigned exercises do what they’re designed to do, which is trigger a spiritual crisis. There’s then the sense of something really good coming, sometimes mixed with fear at the scale or personal importance of what that is. The mind, unable to analyse this comfortably, faces awe, but perhaps on a pre-conscious level. This might be quite elusive or subtle, and not initially appear as fear on a conscious level.
Many writings on Thelema state or imply we should deal with all our problems, including the world’s scorn, with proud disdain. That can be a useful strategy. But in relation to the HGA, we have to admit ourselves forever outguessed, outsmarted, and in the end, out-waited. The relationship is, while partly parent-to-child, also that of a supernal presence overwhelming the personal sense of self. In other words, it can be scary, or it can seem like the way out is blocked.
Such intimations should be welcomed for that. Scary stuff is exciting, after all; and to pass through the night is to be brought to the brightness of dawn.
But we have to learn to welcome that sense of awe so that it doesn’t morph into simple anxiety, or (another common problem, which my own first experience mirrored) a sense of unworthiness. The mind has many tricks whereby it self-protectively masks or distorts what’s coming into it, and it distracts us from a core purpose based on love and desire. Initiatory oaths usually have wording warning us of this, but at times we need to remind ourselves of the Book of the Law‘s injunction (III, v. 46): “Success is your proof; courage is your armour; go on, go on, in my strength; & ye shall turn not back for any!”
Love is the law, love under will,