September 15, 2012 TOLS

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Processing spiritual information is one of the minefields of occultism. There are endless numbers of people who claim to have received messages of some kind from angels, guides or gods, and the quality varies immensely. And every magician has to deal with verbalising the non-verbal as a part of the work.

Thelema is based around a revealed text delivered by a non-corporeal entity, Aiwass, along with a set of other material inspired through Crowley, presumably by the same being. Therefore, our strongest protests of empirical objectivity end up by bringing us back to the same point as other traditions.

Working from the four worlds model of Qabalah, we can assume that the two worlds in the middle, Briah (Creation) and Yetzirah (Formation) are the primary instruments of most if not all such channelled or received information. The world of Atziluth (Archetypal Origins) is simply too far beyond words to be involved, except, obviously, as the source-point. And the world of Assiah (Manifestation) is the world of the manifest, wherein we use conventional speech.

One of the more famous channelled or revealed texts outside of the Thelemic canon is Carl Jung’s Septem Sermones ad Mortuos: the Seven Sermons to the Dead. Jung produced this in 1916 as a consequence of an extended phase of visions and mystical revelation. It is an extraordinary piece of modern Gnostic writing, and worth extended study.

Jung once noted that he disliked the manner of speech of the Sermones, saying it “grated” on him. It is, he explained, the language of the archetypes which, in his system, relate to Briah rather than Atziluth. It is “the dead [who] came back from Jerusalem where they found not what they sought,” who initiate the sermons, mocking and berating Jung, and what we can fairly call his HGA, speaking presumably from Briah, addresses their concerns.

The key point here, and one that affects anything that is received from behind and beyond the conscious levels, is that verbal language is used only by outer consciousness. At its most spiritual, it is informed by Briatic consciousness, but in Briah there are no words. Even in Yetzirah, which includes the entirety of what we call the astral realm, words are subordinate or interwoven in all ways with symbols. There, words become symbols; thus a good poem uses words to evoke a mood that the literal meanings themselves cannot convey: it draws its potency from Yetzirah (or even deeper) and the realm of the symbolic.

Symbols, remember, are the units of ‘language’ for the subconscious and unconscious levels, and are more complete, with multiple implications and subtleties, than words can be. ‘Translating’ symbols into words strips them of nuance and depth, however essential it is. Except in very rare states of exaltation, such symbolic information passes to consciousness via Yetzirah, and there it takes on aspects of the personal mind of the recipient. Those aspects in turn will affect the selection of words and syntax to express it.

Yetzirah is a world of multiplicity and, often, forces in opposition. Briah, most familiar to Qabalistic students as the realm of the Archangels, is a state of unity. There is considerable differentiation there, for sure, but not in the sense of competition or conflict as we would understand it. This is one reason why neo-fundamentalist readings of the Book of the Law that interpret all of creation as a Darwinian struggle for supremacy are suspect. That applies on the material plane of Assiah, and in Yetzirah too; but, under the influence of an inertial force beyond comprehension, the totality of the Cosmos is moving through a creative evolutionary process, and is not merely some senseless battle of competing drives. Briah is where the “division hither homeward” of the Book (Cap III, v. 2) begins to reach resolution. And equally, Yetzirah is where things divide again into differentiated and seemingly opposed forces that then manifest on the material plane of Assiah.

The key point to make here is that as the quanta of ‘information’ pass down (or outwards) to a plane that we can comprehend and analyse, so they pass through this astral or mental level of Yetzirah, and take on characteristics from the personality that is rooted there. Jung speaks of the Sermones using the language of the archetypes, but their written style comes from all the things that had shaped him personally: his Swiss upbringing in a Protestant parsonage, his guarded admiration for Nietzsche (whom he described in Memories, Dreams, Reflections as “a blank page whirling about in the winds of the spirit”), and his broad reading in history and German literature. That is, the sermons’ language is shaped by the Yetziratic level of Jung’s psyche, where all these different influences were stored and interacted.

I often think Crowley was chosen for delivery of the Book of the Law because he was so flowery, so loquacious, in his prose and poetry. Its peculiar style is a quintessential extraction of that, and thus the diametrical opposite of his own style: the Book is terse and concentrated beyond anything he would have dared produce, or could have envisaged. Yet his rich vocabulary and immense grasp of language and its possibilities provided an excellent reservoir of phrasing, and the lens to focus it, for the Book’s reception.

An occultist under the spell of inspiration may produce prose-poetry beyond his or her  conventional abilities because it will be inspired by contact with the vastness of the Briatic level, or by a Yetziratic Intelligence that in certain areas has more extensive knowledge than his conscious mind. But magicians become accustomed to odd or clunky expressions and verbal constructions arising as consciousness tries to process ideas from the unconscious. For example, I have long used a particular method combining psychometry with free association, to interpret my dreams. From this I get grammatical sentences, even using colloquial expressions, but it is often elliptical and obtuse, and I end up having to reinterpret the interpretation to see clearly what the dream was telling me.

The key point here is that any inspired or revelatory information is essentially inexpressible in terms of the profound symbolism encountered in Briah. And if the mind of the recipient is not sufficiently flexible or imaginative, what results is banal and insipid; though even if the vividness of the original experience is lost, the process is essential for making a private record.

Comprehending symbols, which can be things as subtle as sensory representations of states of consciousness, is the real task. Learning to ‘read’ symbols is a long but inescapable task for a magician, because they are far more comprehensive than words can ever be. And habitually verbalising them not only dilutes some of their power, but allows the ego to intervene and steer matters in a direction of its own preference.

Love is the law, love under will.

Edward Mason

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