Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law
From the outside, an occult order looks like a secretive club. Inside, it’s a workplace.
While the form of the work performed may remain the same, or very similar, over the decades, the systems orders use tend to develop constantly. Occultism is not a dogma or group of dogmas, so much as an ever-evolving methodology. As external circumstances in the world – political liberty, social attitudes, the psychological sophistication of seekers – becomes different, so do the teachings shift.
Speaking in Toronto recently, I was struck by the fact that there is a generation of younger magicians who already know the basics and the psycho-spiritual underpinnings of the system in a way unknown even a dozen years ago. Crowley’s more difficult writings are read increasingly widely; as are those of psychologists such as Jung, Assagioli or James Hillman. In each case, we already get the idea, or ideas. Today’s practising magicians are comfortable with the idea that much of magick consists of psychological constructs, even if the core realities that underlie it are rooted well beyond the personal psyche of the practitioner.
That said, the job of establishing the Aeon of Horus is still under way, and may well be at a critical phase. There is still a widely prevalent ‘talking shop’ approach to Thelema, which often sees The Book of the Law as presenting us solely with a Darwinian or neo-Nietzschean struggle for supremacy, leading one fine day to an ideal Thelemic society as the strong triumph over the not-so-strong. Yes, this is part of it all, but the practical success of Thelema is marked by a transformation in consciousness, not a winners-and-losers scenario. The strength Crowley sought and taught was that of transformed and illuminated people, and while an independent mental attitude is critical, there are almost always some complexes or limiting compulsions to be resolved in any aspirant.
Occultism is not psychotherapy, but it can and should be psychotherapeutic. Let’s remember that the original meaning of ‘psyche,’ was closer to ‘life’ or ‘spirit’ than to ‘mind’ as we know it today. An occult order’s primary aim is the rehabilitation of consciousness on multiple levels, and that includes highlighting areas where neuroses and anxieties are active. The actual job of resolving these may call for formal psychotherapy of some kind, but a benefit of working a degree-based system that it makes it progressively harder for the aspirant to ignore problem areas.
After an introductory degree, our system has its members working an Earth degree, looking at the actual circumstances of their lives. They then work an Air degree, examining the general and specific tendencies of the personal mind, with its biases, imbalances and no-go zones.
The Water and Fire degrees that follow open up subtler levels, bringing the practitioner into actual magical practice and some of the energies, presences or beings that it involves. But always woven into the process is a growing interaction with the state or level of beingness or comprehension we call the Holy Guardian Angel, along with an emerging sense of the unique True Will that shapes and informs the life of each individual. And that ‘Angel’ cannot be known without prior experience of knowing the mundane self with its twists and turns, hidden corners, dusty basements: and also its towers of ambition and peaceful gardens.
Love is the law, love under will,