Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Reflecting further on the previous post on the deities of the dark side, it occurs to me that a key issue in Thelema is our understanding of the Aeons. For if we’re focusing our reverence on the Adversary of the Aeon of Osiris as our “visible object of worship,” we might have found an alternative to Christian ideas, but it’s less likely that we’ve transcended them in ourselves.
The idea of eras in human development was well known to Crowley from his reading of the first edition of Sir James Frazer’s study of mythological patterns, The Golden Bough. This gave a cultural perspective on the whole concept of the dying god, as opposed to a theological one, and when he set out to interpret the Book of the Law, Crowley leaned heavily on Frazer’s analysis and speculations to describe the Aeon of Osiris.
There is no specific reference to the Aeon of Isis in the Book. But since there is clear reference in Chapter III (Cap III, v. 34) to the future Aeon of Ma’at, then assuming at least one prior Aeon, that of Isis, wasn’t a big leap. And it was one that Frazer’s work supported.
Grasping how these Aeons represent evolutionary steps isn’t easy, especially in relation to the Aeon of Horus, the current one. Not only are we still growing into this, but our whole frame of reference is shaped by the values of the previous one, the Aeon of Osiris. The entire work of a mystery school, in fact, is (on one level) about reviewing and rehabilitating Osirian consciousness, so it’s worth stepping back at times and taking the long view of things.
The Aeon of Isis may or may not have been the dawn of human consciousness, and there are different theories that discuss that. It underlay a pre-urban, pre-literate world. Humanity’s relationships centred on the clan or tribe – possibly in some cases, kingdoms (or queendoms) – and on the natural world, including the heavens.
Magick then was aimed at fertility, good harvests, order among the community, healing of illness, and correct relations with the forces of nature that were personified as gods. The techniques involved raising as much energy as possible, through dance, music and sacrifice, to ensure that desirable things occurred.
Writing was invented in this Aeon, but apart from kings and a few other major people, we get very little specific written or carved information on individuals. The people existed for the mass-mind, and the purpose of their lives was defined by their relation to the whole.
The Aeon of Osiris, which commenced at some point during the last millennium before the reported birth of Christ, represented a shift away from this. In India, early Vedanta and Buddhism emphasised the development of individual consciousness; a few Greeks began employing pure intellect to analyse the human situation; and later, Christianity’s stress on the afterlife and personal salvation replaced the general code of society laid down in the commandments of Judaism. Islam extended this idea, eliminating a formal priesthood entirely in Sunni philosophy, in favour of a direct personal relationship with Allah, without reference to social station or birth. While there were still courts and judges, the idea that judgement was ultimately a matter between the person and the Divine replaced the social sanction of earlier times.
In examining all this, we need to remember that in its earliest phase, Christianity was held to be scandalous precisely because it stressed the individual’s relationship to God over his or her responsibilities to the state or kingdom, which included the worship of state-sanctioned deities. Many Romans believed Christianity would destroy the foundations of their Empire, and as it turned out, they were right. Rome’s dominance turned out to be a transitional cradle for the development of Osirian consciousness, with its highly charged duality of God-and-man.
Resolving that duality required death, since it was held (in the west) that the soul could not fuse with the Divine, except through dying, either physically or metaphorically. This in turn put limits on the development possible for a single person, who was held to be ultimately powerless without Divine intervention, or salvation. On the other side of the world, Buddhism was taking apart ego structures entirely in order to free the energy trapped in a chain of human incarnations: but the emphasis was firmly on the individual and his unique trajectory through existence.
The Aeon of Osiris in its later stages led to such development of individual character that it became possible to un-think the notion of God. Atheism became possible, as well as no longer subject to direct legal persecution. The value of one human’s perspective was enshrined and protected in such documents as the Constitution of the U.S., and increasing numbers of laws in other nations.
When the Aeon of Horus was launched just over a century ago, it was time to move on to a new stage. No Aeon perfectly completes its own project, but enough had been done by the more advanced thinkers and seekers, who in turn had influenced their world, that this next stage was conceivable.
Crowley came to define his own True Will as “to teach the next step,” which was the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. This is the evolutionary paradigm for the Aeon of Horus, even if some advanced practitioners will go beyond it. Finally, individuated human consciousness is to be brought into direct and intimate relation with the specific spiritual guidance, direction and roots of its own existence, regardless of Popes and bishops, state cults, official disapproval, or over-argued disbelief.
In this phase, as the Book of the Law indicates, there is no exclusion of the natural world or the mass consciousness we call Nuit. Nor is there a rejection of the vital need for independence of mind and thought, the uniquely personal point of view which we call Hadit. The developing aspirant comes to appreciate both the Nuit perspective – I am part of the All; and the Hadit perspective – I exist as a unique entity.
Crowley was at pains to disparage pure mysticism, seeing a reversion to an Isian point of view in that. We don’t need to re-experience the first Aeon. At the same time, emphasising uniqueness and selfhood cuts us off from the roots of our being in the natural universe. This Aeon, that of Horus, adopts a viewpoint that both includes and transcends these.
Only through full self-realisation can Nuit be perceived, as opposed to engulfing us in a womb of near-unconsciousness of our selfhood. And only through appreciation that the individual Hadit-self is defined and realised in relation to the totality (narcissism being not a spiritual attainment, but a spiritual failure) can we really be ready for that ‘next step’ Crowley was trying to teach. The person who attains to this balanced condition (within the context of his or her overall nature), and who comprehends the scope and significance of the interplay, is poised to realise the Knowledge and Conversation.
Love is the law, love under will,