Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The previous post provided a simple overview of symbols and symbolism, but the topic is, of course, a deep one. Where the psyche really hits the psychism lies in the iffy zone of what, in magick, is ‘real’ and what is ‘psychological.’
There is a minority of magicians who hold that the intelligences and types of consciousness they contact in their work have an objective existence of their own. That is, they’re not simple levels of their own mind, or collective phantasms, or types of psychological complexes split off from the waking awareness, but are actual beings that to a greater or lesser extent can be contacted through use of symbol and sign, magick and mantra. William Gray suggested this in the Netzach chapter of his classic Ladder of Lights, and Crowley drops numerous hints about seeing his spiritual contacts as discrete beings existing on their own plane. At the same time, he famously proclaimed himself an atheist.
I stay in the majority camp by saying, usually, that I see all of us humans as individual manifestations of one vast consciousness, and that anything purported – or purporting – to be a discarnate intelligence is another aspect of that inconceivable mind. While this notion still invokes an empirically unprovable idea – a super-consciousness appearing via countless myriads of shards – there are both spiritual traditions, such as Mahayana Buddhism, and scientific speculations of various kinds, that come close to it. If nothing else, there’s moral support for it from such quarters, whereas ideas of objectively existent beings-without-bodies fall under the category of traditional faith. Even magicians often smugly call such a perspective “magical thinking.”
But in the process of occult training, we increasingly find ourselves dealing with things – energies, spirits, Archangels, call them what we will – that are clearly not part of the contents of individual human consciousness. Yes, we might have ideas or images of such things in our conscious minds, but the transforming feeling, the affect, that comes with their invoked presence (or spontaneous appearance) is beyond what outer consciousness knows day-to-day.
This applies with the symbols emanating from the supernal soul, the Neshamah, that I wrote about last time. The very word ‘symbols’ can feel inadequate as these arise, because while the image or phrasing of the symbol is there as a buffer and a communication interface, the presence of the energy we feel is so other, so powerful in itself, that to claim it as some part or level of our own mind seems arrogant and self-defeating. Magicians are the big-game hunters of the forests of the sacred, and we are always hoping to experience things that are well past our ability to define, explain or encompass. And if we keep on long enough, we find ourselves in the presence of such powerful energies that we realise we are on track for that, even if the journey is taking years or decades longer than we expected.
I had been involved in Thelemic magick for about four years before an invocation I performed finally put me into a state beyond anything I’d conceived of previously. It was my first deep entry into the silence that we call Hoor paar kraat, or Harpocrates, and it was so total, so thought-stilling, I was scared witless. In time, such silence became more familiar to me, but gradually more aspects of it, more details, more openness to insight, came to me, and it became a first step in entering into the beyond. But it’s still rare enough in its full form that I treasure its appearances.
There are times, especially after a season of doubt and dryness, when some version of it comes with an intensity that takes me to the next gate, the next threshold. At such moments, the objective reality of That which lies ahead of and around me is inescapable. So, while I conventionally adhere to the psychological perspective for the sake of convenience, sanity and avoidance of too much ego-inflation, I find myself increasingly nudged towards the minority position I mentioned at the start. The symbol-world, the archetypes I’ve called on in my ceremony, all the hieratic gesturing and intoning, are left behind as I find myself looking into Something, that is well beyond anything I can call ‘me.’ I can, afterwards, rationalise all of it as a breaking through of a level or levels of the localised being I know as myself, with all his memories, experience and still unknown regions. Stimulated and summoned, felt or seen, and duly noted, these levels can and will be banished again at the end of the session.
But at the same time, as the Book of the Law says, There is that which remains.
Love is the law, love under will.