Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The practice of the Via Negativa is an old one in mystical schools. Whatever the idea, or precept, or proposition, the aspirant questions or denies it, moving every further away from a specific affirmation of belief. For people who insist that faith in a specific Being is essential to salvation, it can drive them crazy that some spiritual figures follow such a road to Illumination. For those seeking “certainty, not faith, while in life (Liber AL, I, v.58) it can be a critical approach.
Aleister Crowley did not truly practice a VN, in the sense that a Zen practitioner does, but his famous adjuration in The Book of Lies brings him into the zone: “Doubt. Doubt thyself. Doubt even if thou doubtest thyself. Doubt all. Doubt even if thou doubtest all.”
The practice of magick itself, understood as an initiatory path, leads us to abandon most of the ideas with which we begin. And, when we are finally ready, to dump them all in the so-called Abyss. The ascent of the Tree of Life is all about leaving ideas behind, not acquiring new ones.
I recently came across a quote from Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), where he suggested the mad project of compiling a list of every created thing that exists, or has existed. At the end of this monumental task, Aquinas pointed out, God would not be on the list, because S/He/It lies outside of Creation. Thus, arguments about “What created God?” are meaningless. We cannot measure the Uncreated, the Infinite, and insisting that It submit to our demands in that direction isn’t going to do much. The man understood where a VN might lead, even if his own approach was quite different.
I’m not arguing about the existence of a God here, and I will use the sainted Aquinas as my excuse: that discussion can go nowhere, except for people who can only deal with concrete things and clear ideas. And recently, the concrete and the clear have been scarce.
Throughout the Pandemic, I’ve found almost anything I’ve tried to write for this blog has seemed empty. I came up with absolutely no advice on how to deal with social isolation or other aspects of quarantine, and I abstained from offering counsel I didn’t find credible. (Mostly, living in rural Mexico, I had a lot more freedom than city-bound friends elsewhere). I’m not about to claim the past year-and-a-half has been an uplifting experience of a Via Negativa, but I have found, as have many other people, that a lot of ideas I’ve held onto have tended to dissolve.
This has been frustrating and not at all comfortable, and I can’t say I now have a special revelation or two to share with everybody. What I ‘see’ in place of a bunch of earlier assumptions defies any efforts to pin adjectives or nouns on it; nor am I looking at some luminous field of LVX that resolves all disputes or philosophical questions. It (and it’s not really even an ‘it’) is just there, like it always has been. It definitely isn’t personal property. It … well, I have go all VN in order to get anywhere with it. It is completely proof against any adjectives or nouns I want to hang on it.
Magick is an important tool in that it first demands focused personal will, as a preparation for working with True Will. But equally, I’m reminded that a kind of unwill, a letting go of insistence, produces the best effects in magical ceremonial. The magician doesn’t force things to appear, but works in a dynamic but cooperative manner with pre-selected energies or entities. Crowley’s concept was explicitly that any operation not ultimately aimed at the attainment of K&C was black magick – that is, a restriction of one’s power and knowledge. He also cautions in one or two places that there are often invocations that are unsuccessful for no discernible reason. The Lunar phase and other astrological aspects might be bang on, the magician might be in the right mood and so on, but … the forces to be invoked, perhaps, are not. Will is not simply a cold concept, but something intimately connected to various levels of feeling. The best results I’ve ever have usually (not always) came when I was fully interested in the rite, but not insistent on a desired outcome.
The un-thing or un-state I was talking about above, however, seems very peripherally related to any sort of outcome. Its age is unknowable, the intentions it harbours are also, and it might raise me up or simply end me at any point it decides. It appears at some stage during the initiatory process, soon or late, and is proof against both invocations and imprecations. Beyond that, like I said – no adjectives apply.
There are days, weeks even, when it is wholly absent, then moments when it almost seems close and real enough to accept a name of some kind. All I can actually say, though, is that it remains nameless, and … not much else.
Twenty-six years ago this past week, I took initiation in this tradition I have worked since then, and I am mildly disappointed that all I have to talk about today sounds more like a discarded bit of a George Lucas’ movie script discussing The Force. I have the impression, however, that the un-thing does somehow appreciate(?) persistence, even if five-sixths of mine has probably gone to misdirected effort. This Temple has definitely been sustained by its presence, or some aspect of it, over the past nine-plus years: we persisted, and we have continued in order to persist some more.
In regard to faith and certainty, returning to my Liber AL quote, I do note a curious thing. Essentially, any belief in a specific being ends up being ‘faith’ rather than certainty. The relationship shifts, and whatever aspects of our hidden selves that we project onto It, Him or Her, eventually decay or become conscious and thus have no further influence. Progressing through a series of paths and sephiroth does that to you: ideas, attitudes, devotional practices, drop away or cease to offer the kick they once did as we move up the Tree.
Paradoxically, however, certainty seems to come precisely because the un-thing that appears or is found in their place is so indefinite. It occupies, we might say, all the space between the spaces, as well as all the time between the hours. Since it affirms nothing specific or definable, constantly eroding the definitions we tend to put on it, it gradually becomes a thing (or un-thing) of certainty.
Love is the law, love under will,