April 23, 2020 TOLS

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law

Where I live in Mexico, we’re still self-quarantining on a voluntary basis. As a result, while I keep myself alone at home most of the time, I do meet one or two friends for safely distanced walks or conversations every few days.

I had such a walk yesterday afternoon, where we got onto the topic of loneliness. Obviously that’s on our minds a lot, given how we’re all cut off from physical encounters, but for esoterically minded people, the isolation intensifies. I’ve always felt drawn to fraternities after finding that working alone led me into headspaces of dark greys and browns, and diminished aspiration, and I miss that companionship.

Crowley was no stranger to this experience, though he seems to have dealt with it decisively, at least by his own accounts. In his Confessions, he three times refers to himself as “Alastor, the wanderer in the wilderness, the Spirit of Solitude.” And often, in his inspired writings, the theme of being alone arises. Take this example from The Heart of the Master:

“Alas for me who am too much alive with the horrible and hopeless ache for sleep of one half-drugged! Dazed, stupefied—I know not who I am—I know not whence I came—I know not whither I go. Vaguely I say within my dull heart: I must not sleep because I am a soldier. But of what captain, in what war? I cannot guess. There is but a dim shape as of some disaster long, oh! very long ago—the dusty memory of some leader who failed, some plan that broke its spine—I am sure of this: that all discipline is done, all courage quashed, all purpose perished.”

Yes, he soon rises again, but he is clearly reporting on a personal experience, from the safety of a renewed vigour. Specifically, it reflects how he was feeling after his expulsion from Sicily in 1923.

We require human contact to stay focused on our aims and values. Thelema is a philosophy based on conviviality; the shared jug of wine and the shared meal, as well as the shared ritual. When that’s taken away, as it’s been taken from most of us this month, we’re dealing with an energy-limiting situation. A well-founded daily practice helps get us through, but at times we’re bound to feel a little lost.

My friend, who’s had some deep experiences that she seldom shares with others, has felt this intensely, as I have at various points in my life. And I suspect that most people who come into Thelemic work have undergone prolonged trials while thinking alienating thoughts, seeing strange visions, or gaining uncomfortable insights. Often, I’ve had students in our Temple sit quietly for a year or two before finally admitting how they’ve always been the family oddball, or were rejected by friends who couldn’t handle the realisations they described.

“Dost thou fail? Art thou sorry? Is fear in thine heart?  Where I am these are not,” says the Book of the Law, (II, vv 46 and 47). But feeling “sorry” can’t always be expelled right away. It likely needs to be acknowledged, accepted, understood, before that happens. The quoted text, a little further down, even anticipates that the Prophet will appear sorry. “But I will hide thee in a mask of sorrow: they that see thee shall fear thou art fallen: but I lift thee up.” (V 53).

To recover Will, it’s necessary to connect again with Hadit, the observing point of view that’s speaking in this verse. If you’re transparent to all your own feelings and emotions, this might be easy. If you’ve ever found them difficult to accept in yourself, you’ll first have to work with observing the sorrow, or the loneliness. That means feeling it, and maybe tracing it to its source in yourself.

If loneliness is dragging you off centre, and away from your essential desires in life, it’s silly to ignore it. Perhaps you can remedy it by banishing, or meditation. Or, simply finding a friend and venting. But it is going to be a problem for many people right now, and having Thelemic credentials doesn’t mean you’ll avoid it.

There is some concept or image, some feeling or idea, some ritual or other exercise that gets us out of a slump. But this might, in a time of intense stress and mass anxiety, not come easily when bidden. We might need to pass through this sense of being absurd or pointless, or an object of pity, before we come back to at least the vicinity of True Will.

In the past week, I’ve wrangled with several people who “know” that “X” is engineering the current situation for specific purposes that make no sense to me. I eventually gave up combatting this folk folly, but it left me feeling isolated. Didn’t anyone else find it plausible that nature could simply have evolved a killer disease, unaided by mendacious government agencies or supervillain billionaires? It’s done so hundreds of times before. But no, imagining criminal cabals engineering a killer virus made some people feel … what? Empowered? Smart, when they obviously can’t think critically? I don’t know, and it isn’t my task to.

On the other side, one man whom I thought I was helping to calm down, messaged a mutual friend that I’d become suicidal, because I wasn’t panicking and avoiding all human contact like he was. Clearly, I wanted to die.

Yes, these were passing nuisances, not things that gave me lasting pain or dismay. But they hung around for a while, making me consider how people (me included) behave under stress, and how simple self-discipline is sometimes viewed as having made us compliant slaves rather than masters of our selves.

Loneliness isn’t fun, but it does teach.

Love is the law, love under will,

Edward Mason

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