Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Sometimes a blog piece or other online post re-emerges from the cyberswamps for fresh consideration. One recent example was originally written in 2010 by the Golden Dawn blogger who posts as Peregrin Wildoak:
“I do acknowledge the wonder, the beauty and the power the Pagan revival has within it – as a religion. Or as a social force also when we look at folk and traditions like the glorious Starhawk and Reclaiming. What I do question is the assumption and positioning of paganism as providing deep and transformative esoteric mystery traditions. The western esoteric tradition was and is Christian / Jewish based. The revival or recreation or creation or invention (depending on your view) of the pagan religious tradition in the west is very new and I doubt it yet has the interior traditions of mystery the older esoteric streams have. This is very obvious when we examine the public examples of the pagan/wiccan rituals and magic. They are still based on older western esoteric traditions.”
Thelema’s claim is that it puts us in contact with the primal or essential current of our times, and it is up to each aspirant to discover what that is using the numerous tools available. A specific deity figure doesn’t need to be predetermined. But Wildoak’s point is worth considering, even if Thelema is way deeper than the neo-pagan systems or revivals that are out there. Just as Zen practitioners can get anything between a joyous release and a profound realisation of reality from their work, so can Thelemites experience varying degrees of depth, complexity and completeness.
Crowley expected his students to become familiar with a broad range of spiritual traditions, so that they didn’t head off to become fanatics of whatever system had given them a preliminary opening. Wildoak suggests in the blog piece that deep Christian Gnosis goes beyond religion or creeds, and that ardent neo-pagans too easily fall into anti-Christian stances that throw the Divine Child (of any Aeon) out with the dirty bath-water. In a not dissimilar way, a Thelemite is looking to embrace all phenomena whatsoever, and not get caught up in a rejection of any one perspective in his or her practice, even if the exoteric religion and institutions arising from that perspective may be offensively restricting.
It’s important to remember that there is no ideological or philosophical content per se in the deeper experiences of the Thelemic path. It’s about direct experience of the Centre that is Everywhere, and while certain attitudes and a particular philosophical approach are important in this, there is no pre-determining what the experience is going to be like. It is what it is, and what it will be.
I followed a quasi-pagan path for some years in the 1990s, eventually deciding, rather similarly to Wildoak, that it was unable to take me to deeper levels of consciousness than the occasional exalted trance or sense of identification with an archetype. I’d previously abandoned Gnostic Christianity, somewhat reluctantly since it did seem to offer a route to deeper understanding. Projection of the HGA onto the Nazarene from two millennia ago was already seeming bogus or stretched before I started viewing the problem in such terms. But my pagan deities weren’t complete enough as archetypal figures to bring me to the deep truths-of-self.
As Wildoak’s community would presumably agree, the Christ is still the core and aim of traditional Golden Dawn magic. There is, arising from that span of 2,000 years, a deep deposit of Understanding to be reached via the symbol of Christ. Thelema is still establishing that deposit, that stratum, of universality.
It seems worthwhile, then, to consider what each of us can contribute to a deepening of “the transformative esoteric mystery” Wildoak references; and to look at our own quest for such transformation in progressively deeper waters (or brighter fires) rather than what might excite or titillate us, but not necessarily yield the fuller revelations.
Love is the law, love under will.