Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Once long ago, when I was young and frightened, I ran off from the life I was then leading, and fled to Scotland. Trying to hitch-hike though a cold December pre-dawn along a deserted country road, I lamented my fears, other things I’d run from, and my inability to see clearly what I wanted. And into my sad, cold solitude came words from a calm, steady male voice that I didn’t know. No-one in my family spoke like that, though some of my recent friends came close. Given my belief system at the time, I called it Christ, and conversed with it.
The advice was simply practical and reassuring, but in my desolate, emotionally numbed state it was simultaneously profound and simply something I might simple hang onto, like a reassuring walking companion.
The voice stayed with me consistently for a couple of years, and didn’t entirely leave me for a dozen more. By then I appreciated it might be something less than the Saviour in person, and possibly conformed to some version of the Jungian archetype of the Self. My Christian-style faith by then had dwindled though not yet evaporated, and I felt able to converse with it at certain times.
A dark period of family deaths and personal crises came in the mid-1980s, and I turned urgently to the voice in my desperation. But it was silent: there was nothing there. I finally accepted that the voice and what you might term its personality were constructs of my own mind, forming inspiration from deep inside into concepts my conscious self could relate to. I had no possibility of hearing the voice when I was traumatised from top to bottom. It came back to some degree later on, but I couldn’t relate to it with the trust I’d once conferred.
Some years after that, I discovered magick, and found that the voice reconstituted as several beings that advised me. My girlfriend at the time was enthusiastic to pursue this, and I dug deep, probably too deep, into the possibilities. Channeling is an erratic business, and for every viable or correct answer, there were often several that were vague or simply wrong. Ironically, on October 11 1992, the one time I received a bang-on prediction, about an earthquake to happen next day to the south of Cairo, I thought the idea was so silly I was too embarrassed to put it in my diary.
Fast forward a few more years, and I was into Thelema, and the idea of Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. I had one or two people around me with direct experience, and no doubt their views coloured my later opinions.
“Speech” coming from a noncorporeal entity might be just that. Crowley writes in his Confessions of having a voice in his head, and many magicians receive verbal instruction directly. Paul Foster Case’ teacher, the Master R, is a well-known 20th century example, and Dion Fortune indicates in her various writings that she received clear verbal messages.
But often, inner communication is not like that. I know people who speak of simply having ideas come into their head that are unconnected to their current thought-trains. Other times, there’s a significant event that occurs.
When this Temple was being set up, I wondered how, as Warden, I could find essential guidance. I knew the system, but an order works through its inner plane contacts, not through somebody’s mere knowledge.
I repeatedly dismissed a memory of meditating on a particular angel some years before, thinking this was coming up simply in response to my focus on the problem. Finally, as I dismissed it yet again, the sanctuary lamp hanging in my private temple-space fell out of its secure wire harness onto the altar, making a tremendous crash as it shattered. It was so loud, with the altar acting like a drum, I thought something much larger had fallen onto concrete outside. The being I’d been recalling had spent a week trying to get my anxious attention, and finally realised I’d only “hear” a “shout.” In retropect it was funny, and also reassuring: our infant Temple had its own Guardian, who is with us still.
It’s extremely easy to ask yourself a question, and have the mind respond. Esoteric practices only magnify this, since subconsciousness tends to be an obedient echo-chamber:
“Yes, you should call yourself Supreme Magus by order of the Celestial Council.” “Yes, this recent run of bad luck means you are actually crossing the Abyss.” etc. Anything on that scale requires, I shouldn’t need to stress, a lot of external confirmation, not internal applause. And anything that tells you you’re useless and horrible, is most probably regurgitated bad upbringing.
Early occult training is designed to take us through our own psyches in order to spot their main tendencies. Some people denigrate this preliminary work as “psychologising magick,” a topic I wrote on some time ago.
But given that the Great Work is an essentially internal process, gaining knowledge of what is internal needs to be the lengthy preliminary phase of it. Going through this also guards against “messages” that too closely reflect our personal longings, concerns and fears.
What of the HGA itself, then? The same rules apply, though I should stress that we’re not speaking here of the kind of invocation done into the Triangle of Art. That kind of ceremonial work is done with beings of much more restricted scope.
Initial HGA contacts can be murmured or uttered, yet like a telepathic message whispered into the mind – or from it. In my own case, a crispness combined with a lack of affect has been an indicator of the genuineness, anything with more colour or urgency almost certainly being my own mind reacting to me. Relations with the HGA can be based on seeing it as a wholly external entity, with a special voice and mannerisms, including specific sensory clues: and equally they can be like something leaking from the internal chambers, wherein lie secrets we’ve never guessed at, nor touched.
People who have full K&C, I believe, have acquired a specific technique to contact the HGA. For the rest of us, it’s more difficult. I recommend, though, that if you seek specific information, being able to both still the mind while retaining a sense of aiming to know is critically helpful. “For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.” (Book of the Law, I,: 44).
And be prepared (a) for nothing to come back. It isn’t time to know, or you don’t need the answer as much as you think you do. Then, (b) be prepared for an answer that actually does address the problem, which may well show you this game is about more than you guessed it was.
I’ll finish with another anecdote here, from a short time after I began my years of study with the Temple of Thelema, in the fall of 1995. I was heading to downtown Toronto on a Saturday, to the Eaton Centre shopping mall. I got off the subway, and approached the range of glass doors that connected the Centre with the station.
Often, passing trains created suction that made opening the doors arduous. So, seeing a man go through a door, I veered from the one I was aiming for, and followed him. But having opened his door, he turned around, and looked at me.
“Why not go through your own door?” he asked in a soft accent that was German or maybe eastern European. I glared at him, noticing that in his black leather coat he was several inches shorter than me, and probably in his late fifties, or early sixties. I thought of shoving him out of the way. My response and, no doubt, my expression, were so hostile he flinched a little behind his glasses. I glared for a couple of seconds, but he held my gaze and didn’t move. Finally, I shrugged as if to say “Okay, jerk, I’ll let you win,” and moved to the next door over. He went on through his door, and walked off.
Perhaps he was just a grumpy, opinionated old guy with nothing better to do than annoy people. But once I’d had a few moments to consider this, it became obvious that even if he was, he was still making a valid point for my future growth in Thelema. Was he, I then wondered, one of these legendary Masters some Adepts claimed to run into, sent to deliver a specific message to me? (I’d been initiated for only a matter of weeks, and was still … enthusiastic).
If he was such a Master, it must have been a disappointing encounter for him, given my aggressive attitude and the shortness of our interaction. The important thing was that someone who kinda fit the template (as I imagined it) was the person in that doorway, and he did say something that became more important to my path. The HGA isn’t constrained to our own minds but can use any resources, including available grumpy old men, to express itself.
Love is the law, love under will,