Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The thing I resent about Christmas is how it becomes inescapable. Stripping aside the sentimentality, the endless commercialism and – oh, you know the list – there is something about the season, in the northern hemisphere anyway, that is special and sacred. It might be the Solstice to some people, or Mithras’ birthday or any other specific thing you care to pin on the year’s shortest days. I’m personally fine with that business about the old carpenter who was cuckolded by the Holy Ghost and had to take his pregnant wife to Bethlehem to give birth, file some data with the tax authorities, and meet some senior Adepti and a bunch of sheep-minders. Whatever creates conditions for realisation is fine by me.
Where I run into difficulty is that it becomes harder to find the private moments of the season when we’re constantly being told to experience it. The last December I spent in Toronto, my favourite radio station was playing Christmas-themed music all day, every day, from the start of December. I felt like someone was beaming mellow vibes into my brain non-stop, and I wanted to go into an over- tinselled Shoppers Drug Mart and scream like a two-year-old denied his visit to a shopping mall Santa.
For many Thelemites, the season is problematic. Family goodwill can easily give way to the usual interpersonal dynamics and passive-aggressive digs. Some find the whole idea of participating in the festival of a rejected faith distasteful. Others, like me, have no problem with the mystical aspect of the season – the notion of celebrating the presence of the Divine manifested amid the mundane, and all its variant ideas and ramifications – while detesting the layers of materialistic kitsch larded on top of it.
Mexico, my home now for almost five years, isn’t as bad as Canada or the US regarding the commercialism, but Catholic piety means the religious aspect is laid on heavy. We’ve just had a week of inescapable celebration for the feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, including masses in the church at 5.00 am, with accompanying fireworks being let off. The celebrations of the country’s national saint are arguably a bigger festival than Christmas itself, but now the church is playing syrupy Christmas carols over its speaker system. At times like this, I regret that Semtex plastic explosive isn’t more widely available.
Part of the ordeal of any occult practice is learning to shut out distractions. But most of those are transient – noisy neighbours, or a song lyric or other idea in our heads that won’t shut up – while Christmas seems to settle in like an uninvited but threatening guest that stays and stays. The crucial point of it, the thing I assume the “Put Christ back in Christmas” people are on about, is finding the moment when there is a personal flash of gnosis, and we truly connect with the reborn Light. This then leads to the stronger communion with other people that’s a basic rationale for the celebrations.
I have no answer to my own problem beyond proclaiming the company-seeking misery that loves other resentful people. But I refuse to simply concede this magical time to the anti-Aeonic forces. So, without other options and in devotion to Hoor-Paar-Kraat, Lord of the truly Silent Night, I reproduce a poem that came to me last winter Solstice, almost entire, while gazing up at the stars over the mountains around my home:
The stars tonight are sharp over Amatlan,
Crisp lanterns in cloud-free blackness.
Twice a hundred generations gazed up from this valley,
Countless men and children wondering if gods
Truly strode the heavens, masked
As these crystal patterns of light.
The faiths came, and went, and others followed,
Serpent and eagle, Woman, warriors, murdered Son,
While secrets untold hid in folds of rocks
Above the village.
I hold no brief for the famous birth,
Its shepherds and Magi, donkey and cave,
Yet on this designated night, confess my wonder
At the peace upon these high cliffs,
And the silence that awes the very night itself,
As the stars bear wordless witness
To the endless Heaven.
Love is the law, love under will,