Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
For a change, this is a piece by someone other than me. Darren White, the Praemonstrator of our Temple, produced these reflections on Liber Resh recently, and I felt they were worth sharing with a broader audience. As someone with years of experience in this ritual, he has some interesting perpectives to offer.
Love is the law, love under will,
Liber Resh & Daily Ritual:
What do you get out of it?
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.
I was asked a question recently by someone who has been trying to persist in the practice of Liber Resh, Crowley’s Adoration of the Sun, which is to be performed at Dawn, Noon, Sundown and Midnight each day. “What do you get out of it?”
This is one of those questions that definitely comes up eventually for everyone. Liber Resh, like many daily rituals, has the potential to yield as many layers as an onion, or to be as shallow as paying lip-service.
“Ritual” is of course something done repeatedly, “ritualistically,” and anything of that sort is going to fall into a funk sooner or later, where it feels like simply going through the motions. For this type of thing, see Magick in Theory and Practice for Crowley’s description of the Formula of IAO (under the chapter of the same name).
But more to the point, any Ritual should be considered in terms of the underlying intention in performing it. A quasi-religious ritual like Liber Resh is one example of what I have always felt requires you to bring an intention into it which is going to be pretty general and non-specific at first, at least insofar as your own rational interpretation of it goes. With Resh, the intention is of attuning oneself to the energies of the Sun (which is a pretty vague statement). Initially this simply means doing the ritual so consistently that it becomes more or less automatic to recognize and react to the phases of the Sun, and thereby to have aligned some small aspect of daily life to its phases. Thelema is a Solar cult, and an important and indispensable component of it is the experience called the Knowledge & Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, an ecstatic union that takes place at Tiphareth, the Sephirah attributed to the Sun on the Tree of Life. Our overriding goal from the outset should be this Solar-attributed attainment, and thus it will serve us well to keep this goal firmly in mind.
The admonition to sit in meditation after performing Resh is the portion most often omitted, I suppose simply because with daily life being what it is, who has the time? Often the performance of Resh falls at times when we’re otherwise engaged in something, and just getting the Adoration itself in may be enough of a challenge. But at the very least, this admonition to meditate should give an indication as to what kind of deeper results we’re looking for. As with any religious or quasi-religious practice, one simple purpose behind it is simply mindfulness. Anything that is persistently displayed to consciousness (and more importantly, to the subconscious/unconscious) becomes increasingly ingrained in the “environment” of consciousness. Ritual practices are controlled examples of this. Living circumstances are another example of this, as you can imagine by comparing the effects of being surrounded daily by griminess and drug addicts on the one extreme, or clean, opulent living at the other; working outside on a daily basis, or being stuck in front of a computer in a tight, dark space all day; having a bedroom with tons of décor that inspires you, or having bare walls and a mattress on the floor. Surroundings become inadvertently a sort of daily mantra, as do daily habits.
One thing I’ve always found helpful to fight against stagnation and complacency is to consciously push even just 10 percent more with each performance. (The natural tendency is to become more lax over time, so just aiming to push by 10 percent each time makes progress easier and aids in stopping-down the focus on the task at hand.) Yes, but pushing at what exactly? You can get creative about it. It’s very common for people to include various visualizations in Resh, picturing grandiose images to go with the words and elaborating a little more on each performance. It seems that different people have different strengths in this respect: some people easily go on imaginative tangents that can sound as elaborate as a dream or an Astral vision; others have a very difficult time visualizing even simple images. If you find yourself amongst the latter group, then regular practice of Resh is the perfect way to exercise your visualization faculties. Start simple, be consistent with some basic visualizations, and elaborate as you feel ready to. If you sense disinterest and stagnation setting in, change things up and try to make it interesting and engaging for yourself.
Visualizations can be creatively inspired from the text, such as picturing the gods mentioned therein. Sometimes such imagery isn’t enough, however, to stave off disinterest. I personally feel it’s much more effective to be focused on the feelings involved: the sense of becoming unified with the god or goddess during the first portion of Resh, and attempting to treat it as a true Invocation, really investing feeling in having become that entity; focusing the mind totally on the absolute reliance on the Sun of every form of life on Earth for existing in the first place, and for continued existence, and taking the time to acknowledge the fact that all the current concerns and stresses of daily life are at some level trivial (shadows that shall pass and be done); focusing on inward reactions to the inner meanings of the gods and principles described throughout; etc.
When I began doing Resh, it was exciting to engage in the challenge of memorizing the words and attempting to get it in at all of the appointed times. Later, it felt foreign: the Egyptian deities were strange and distant to me, and the Christian culture of my upbringing (which I had naively supposed myself to have shaken off by then) made me wonder what the hell I was even doing. Over time the practice would go through various phases: now a pleasurable process of self-alliance with the forces of the Universe; now a habit of going through the motions which, nevertheless, kept me moving on the self-appointed path of a Thelemite; now, an excuse to practice moving in the Body of Light whilst doing Resh in it, during a subway ride or waiting in a public place; now, something I could practice along with other Thelemites, reinforcing the sense of community and a joint cause.
The forgoing being all well and good, I feel that much of the result of such a practice as Resh is subtler and less obvious than might be expected. In Magick, mental focus amounts to much more and constitutes a much greater power than is generally supposed in the profane world. Even in mundane matters, it’s obvious how much power a focused mind has over an unfocused one; but in Magical philosophy there is great emphasis on the fact that this goes beyond the superficially obvious connections. By this philosophy, it appears that persistent mental focus of a given type will exert an attractive effect on certain phenomena, and a repulsive effect on others. This is one of those things that may appear to be a load of crap, but if one feels so inclined as to try it on for size by way of experimentation, it is necessary to become as invested as possible in the experiment, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, at least whilst the experiments are being undertaken — critical analysis of the results can, and should, take place afterwards. The mind is a complex thing — there is much more going on, and many conflicting and contradictory things happening simultaneously, than we are generally aware of at any given time. This is why preliminary attempts at mental focus can have very inconsistent results: at first, perhaps there may be some success, where opportunities inexplicably pop up, people of like-mind start suddenly coming around, and things just seem to fall into place; but very quickly this is often followed by a great deal of resistance, with any number of obstacles seeming to pop up out of nowhere, and the opposite of what was desired may even manifest. I would posit that this conflict is a reflection of the natural compulsion of parts of the mind, whether seen or unseen by the rational awareness, to “rebel” against the force of the intentional focus, reacting with equal and opposite force. Such contradictory inner forces have been set up and reinforced in countless ways through habit over a lifetime, and attempting to rein in all the levels of the mind, seen and unseen, under the disciplined guidance of a unified and intentional focus is no small task. Much of a Magician’s work involves training the mind gradually in just this manner.
Ritualistic exercises of mental focus (Liber Resh amongst them) are at their best when they help to discipline as much of the mind as possible, on as many of its levels as possible, to be focused towards the same intention, thereby unifying the mind to the extent possible. It is even good to go through the motions: doing so is better than not incorporating such a habitual practice at all, or than letting it fall by the wayside altogether. Adding visualizations is good: this engages more of the mental faculties. Adding emotional, intellectual and any other creative responses is good: this engages even more of the mind, which means more of the mind is unified in its focus. Also, any and all of these things, persistently reinforced by constant practice, create patterns of habit within the various levels of the mind, and consistently imprint upon the subconscious the intended focus. The theory has it that, over time, the outer world inevitably begins to reflect the habits and any tendency-of-focus of the inner world (as above, so below). There are certainly short-term effects this may produce, but the overriding effects are ongoing, cumulative, and have a habit of growing and changing right along with you.
Love is the law, love under will.