Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Devotion is generally seen as one of the later stages on the Thelemic path. First comes getting our philosophical attitudes up to speed (no sorrow or fear, please), followed by the practice of yoga and magick. Devotion, in the early stages, has the aura of a concession to Christian-type sentiments, even though Crowley included texts such as Liber Astarte v’el Berylli in the curriculum for A.A., and so much else in the Holy Books is couched in words of praise and longing.
Thelema draws many of us because of its promise of strength and wisdom. We already mistrust or dislike whatever seems weak or fallen in ourselves, and we want strength and light instead. Spiritual devotion, as it’s usually described, seems like a caving in, or an admission that we’ve failed in the quest.
In Crowley’s own writings, it’s clear that capitulation to a higher or deeper Will is required for the whole operation of the Thelemic path to reach its climax. Yet while he denies there is any bowing and scraping, but the Holy Books seem to contradict him. “Then saith the prophet and slave of the beauteous one…” “Ah! My Lord Adonai, that dalliest with the Magister in the Treasure-House of Pearls, let me listen to the echo of your kisses.” And so on.
Always, though, he is clear that this is a reciprocal relationship between lovers, not between penitent and Redeemer. Slavery in relation to Nuit, the beauteous one, is fulfillment on all levels, not some life-denying spiritual masochism. It is a willed surrender, a joyous plunging, and not a denial of anything but our fear of opening the heart.
The practices related to Netzach (whether on the G.D. or A.A. level) build up this attitude, like a plane gathering speed for lift-off on a runway. And all Thelemites become familiar early on with Liber Resh as a means of attuning to Horus-as-Sun, “the visible object of worship.” But what about aligning devotionally in more complete and complex ways? After all, the aim is explore and know all the by-ways of being so that ultimately, all that we are or have become can be cast into the Abyss.
One of my first teachers stressed that love required action sometimes, but awareness always. It’s always seemed to me this isn’t just our starting point, but also its continuation. Awareness that in some manner the Holy Guardian Angel is vitally functional in our lives comes well before we can trance out on high-level vibes.
For anybody serious about the Thelemic path, devotion begins with the simple act of commitment. For a long time we don’t know much beyond wanting to persist to find out what’s what. This is the foundation of devotional practice, since other than mostly second-hand ideas of True Will and Gnosis, taken from what others have said or written, we feel only this general desire to push further into the unknown. That it’s the HGA prompting us to do this seems, and maybe so for years, like a mere sentimental rationalisation.
Yet eventually, we begin to fret less about aligning ourselves with our own ultimate Truth, and we develop a sense that we are inescapably and constantly living within an ongoing process of expansion and completion. Our life-space is not restricted, but has potential for infinite expansion. At that point, devotion begins to take on a whole new level of significance, as we see the scope of our involvement with all we can be and know, as well as the intimacy it entails.
Like everything in Thelema, this is no culmination, but one more new beginning.
Love is the law, love under will,