Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The beginner in Thelemic studies usually looks for a teacher who can clarify all the obscure or contradictory things in Qabalah, in The Book of the Law, and in Crowley’s own writings. The understandable aim is to get a firm handle on what he or she is doing, and how to progress through the grade or degree system.
The gradual process of coming to know the HGA is, of course, as much one of letting ourselves be guided as of mastering anything. It’s about aligning with the central Light (and Darkness) of our beings, which we’re going to encounter all about us as well as within ourselves.
A good teacher knows a serious student is constantly receiving bits and pieces of information, and that putting it all together as a solo effort is a virtually impossible task. In time, the student enters into the context of the knowledge that comes in; and when allowing this to happen becomes a common response to fresh ordeals or insights, the teacher becomes more effective in offering personal guidance. Until then, the best that can be done is to keep students’ noses to the grindstone of the traditional curriculum, which always yields some results.
Any decent teacher is a student. If somebody in a mystery school assumes he’s made it to the point where all he needs to do is to pass on advice, then he’s lost his way and is likely misleading the students. The Mysteries unveil themselves indefinitely, which is how they’re kept vital.
There’s a close parallel between the teacher-student relationship – including the Order-student one – and the HGA-human one. That is, the HGA’s prompts and the human teacher(s) are different manifestations of the same impulse. The HGA (we can assume, at least as a working hypothesis) has absolute knowledge but no real experiential comprehension, and needs ‘us’ to round out Its understanding by our passing through the messiness of a human existence until such time as living by our Will is an accepted necessity for all life-situations. Living teachers are essential for this.
Students show attentive teachers how to teach. While passing on some comprehension of the significance of Briatic consciousness over and above Yetziratic forces and symbolism is critical in any student’s growth, these very concepts often make little sense for newbies. It might be possible to nudge a student towards the next stage, but trying to drag one through a doorway when there’s still a lot that appears obscure or even forbidding on this side of the door is simply counter-productive. Students show their increasing connection to their own aspirations by indicating they’re beginning to grasp ‘big’ ideas; but everyone moves along a different track, at their own pace and in accordance with certain patterns that take time to show themselves. And since the HGA itself is manifesting through these patterns – habits, insistent longings, recurrent resistances or conflicts, and so on – no teacher should smother their emergence.
Since the teacher-student relationship does echo that between the HGA and the personality, it’s important to bear in mind that teaching doesn’t come through just one person. A senior instructor or Adept often has a very clear idea of what’s true for himself or herself, but this can actually begin to limit some students whose proclivities go in different directions. My own teachers have always come from both Adepti and the less senior people around me. They’re questors as much as I am, and have come up with their own provisional (or better) answers.
People at or close to our own level of unfoldment tend to share the doubts and skepticism that might have faded for senior practitioners, so the conversation with our own level easily draws out common concerns. The Adept in charge might, at some point, have to point out a broader perspective to look to: but maybe not while certain attitudes and assumptions still need to be explored and exhausted or faulted. There’s no firm rule on this, only the reality that esoteric education happens at its own moments, not just in formal classes.
Spiritual teachers are as human as their students. This is usually said apologetically, yet it’s a necessity. The dialogue needs to be human, and is far from the sort of thing found in bad movies where an emotionless source of wisdom speaks in didactic sentences and gives silent, knowing looks while instructing bemused disciples.
Any serious student, grasping that teaching comes from all over the place, accepts this. It doesn’t provide an excuse to do without a human initiator, because a self-initiated or self-taught occultist is like a lawyer who defends himself in a court-case: he has an idiot for a client. The two roles need to be differentiated in different minds and bodies, even if further instructional hints may come from chance comments, words in a TV program or novel, or conversations overhead on the subway, or the pattern of branches on a tree …
Having a go-to person or group remains a vital anchor amid the hubbub of signals. And always being open to more than one source of instruction prepares us for the day when the HGA begins intervening on a conscious level, and starts ‘speaking’ via the full gamut of its subtle means of instruction.
Love is the law, love under will,