Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Also reason is a lie; for there is a factor infinite & unknown ; & all their words are skew-wise. (Liber L, II, v. 32)
Thelemites, by definition, reach beyond reason. The verses preceding the one quoted above are those that curse ‘Because,’ which can lead us to perish with the dogs of Reason (capital R).
The problem, though, is: how do we abandon reason, with a capital R or otherwise? After all, it’s one of our barriers against drooling insanity. For example, the computer I’m using to input this wasn’t designed by people with disordered intellects. I’ve not died crossing the road because, reasonably, I check for oncoming traffic. And so on.
The answer the Book provides is clear: the “factor infinite & unknown.” But let’s walk round the block a bit before going in that doorway.
There are various ways to disrupt rational activity in the mind. There’s alcohol, and various vegetable or synthesised drugs and psychedelics. There is shamanic excitement, which might use the alcohol and drugs as well. More rarely, there’s the Austin Osman Spare type of reaching down into subconsciousness, and pulling out whatever Lovecraftian imagery or entities are found there. This is, in part, the basis of Chaos Magick.
Each of these practices opens up inner doors to the nephesh, the Qabalistic vital soul. It is solidly rooted in the desires and appetites, and it’s not to be denied. Our socialised selves do deny it – we’re taught how from birth – but that just means it has to find alternative routes to express itself. Much of the past century, in western countries, has been spent finding ways to let it do just that without disrupting the social fabric. Whether we’ve been successful is a large question, but at least we’re aware of the problem.
But the problem with being human is that we don’t have just one ‘self.’ We have a career-oriented or creative self; we have a sexual self; we have an inner dreamer, most of us; we have an angry or at least ambitious kid in there; we have … it goes on. These parts of our whole being may cooperate or they may compete, stealing psychic energy and the chance for expression away from each other.
As noted in this blog a dozen times, a major portion of occult work involves sorting out these differently motivated parts of our psyches and our body-mind constellations. Practical use of Qabalistic symbolism has the effect of drawing them to the surface.
But nobody could seriously say their competing claims are ‘rational,’ except from their own limited perspectives, and the conscious self easily finds them difficult or exhausting, or problematic in other ways.
Then, there’s the spiritual side of ourselves. I’ve never really found a good definition of the word ‘spiritual’ but in general terms it’s about the desire to transcend the physical world, and to find meaning in existence. That might be meaning in life, meaning in death or after death, or meaning in cosmic existence. But it’s going to be something that has little to do with survival on the mundane level.
The neshamah, the ‘supernal soul’ that’s involved with such material, is difficult to know, and many people deny its existence, or insist that it’s a fabrication of intellect. It rarely if ever produces anything close to objectively identifiable evidence of its existence, but for the serious enquirer, it provides plenty of internal data. It’s responsive to steady, determined enquiry, and provides much of the imagery and conceptual insights that formulate what we term our spiritual perspective or philosophy; as well as an understanding of the nature of the unifying True Will that eventually helps us make sense of the whole of our nature.
One fallacy in many spiritual systems or philosophies is their insistence that spirit trumps flesh, or that intellect is more important than appetite. Thelema’s prime claim to fame, and one which still scandalises people who like to be scandalised, is that it refuses to deny any form of human desire, insisting on the fulfillment of all the parts.
This is where we get back to lying reason. The Book of the Law leaves no doubt, with its “factor infinite & unknown,” that Something can overcome all the arguments, and the avoidance and defences that the various bits of ourselves will put up when their supremacy, or their social or psychological fiefdoms, are challenged.
This, I think, is where the real problem lies with reason (or Reason). I’ve met people who insist they are virtual Vulcans in their logical approach to living, yet lack the ability to laugh at the irony of such statements; for any decision we make is inevitably influenced by all the parts of our nature. It might be a fair assessment, a factually based observation or correction, but the words and approach taken will arise from a mish-mash of elements in the psyche, not from some disembodied intellect that’s able to float above the realms of instinct and individual meaning.
That’s where the lie comes in. By not acknowledging that all that we do and say comes from a goulash of impulses, we fib to ourselves. Thus, there’s always something to learn about what comes out of our mouths if we listen to ourselves as well as to others. Even, or especially, with the statements that are clearly skew-wise.
The ‘factor,’ being infinite, is the eternal aspiration, the Chiah or True Will, always hunting for the next horizon. By definition, therefore, it can’t be ‘known’ in the sense of being defined or held within comprehensible limits. While we can know the formula of our True Will, and Crowley encouraged people to define it in a few words, its goal is inconceivable, and its operation, passing through all the phases and levels of our nature, is unknowable.
Perhaps the real paradox in all this is that, when the HGA begins to kick in, “lightening the girders of the soul” (Liber L, III, v. 61), then life becomes more reasonable, at least in making more sense to us. But to get to this point, we do need to loosen a great deal of the elements of our nature; and, above all, learn to listen within.
Love is the law, love under will,