Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
“I give unimaginable joys on earth: certainty, not faith, while in life, upon death; peace unutterable, rest, ecstasy; nor do I demand aught in sacrifice.” Liber Al, I, 58.
Faith, like compassion, is a dirty word in Thelemic circles. Just mentioning it around some people brings instant accusations of the speaker being “white light,” or rooted in the Aeon of Osiris. This still being the season of gift-giving (just), I thought I’d offer such accusers something to snarl about.
The thing about certainty is that it’s a consequence, not a given. Follow a set of practices for long enough, especially as part of a full training system, and this sense or awareness of certainty grows. This isn’t the same thing at all as nailing down incontrovertible facts, unless we rate inner discoveries as factual. But it does come, and it diminishes or overcomes many of our fears and points of confusion.
Yet at any given point in the initiatory process, there’s an equal or (most probably) greater amount of controvertible information than what we feel is certain. The entire enterprise of the Path of Return is an immense undertaking, and almost all of the time, we are travelling in objective uncertainty. We’re taking it on faith that there is a safe haven down the road, along with a releasing vision to match the effort we put out.
This is the diametrical opposite of the Protestant maxim, “faith, not works.” For centuries, that was the rallying cry of true believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ: don’t act, but root yourself in prayerful faith. Occultists, being impatient and skeptical, invert these priorities – if nothing’s done, then nothing happens. If there is a God, it is us who are Its components, and we need to act accordingly.
The point I always come around to with this issue is that actual faith – functional, reasonable, emotionally on-target faith – is the same thing as certainty, but in embryo. You can’t join an occult fraternity, or set out to perform the Abramelin operation, or any similar process, without having a solid hunch or intuition that a successful outcome is possible. You already have a measure of faith when you embark on the task, and provided that is reinforced, not dissolved, by what ensues, then you progress.
One problem arising for us on the road to Adeptship and beyond is that of vocabulary. In our tradition, we conventionally borrow terms from Sanskrit or Buddhism, or their Twentieth Century English equivalents (mindfulness, in-timeness, bliss consciousness and so on). Yet Christian monasticism developed a subtle lexicon of such terminology, especially for when the process becomes more intimately individual. Faith is a concept and a word we could be constructively revisit, knowing that it refers to a foundational assumption, not a doctrinal formula or stricture, and still less an effort at perpetual self-denial. Constructively borrowing the vocabulary of past devotees saves us re-inventing terms for the basic concepts in our long journey to the ultimate Emptiness. And of them all, the emergence of established faith, which is certainty, is the first indicator of us being on the right track. Why not call it what it is?
Thelemites have had a natural reluctance to plunder that monastically based richness, but we could do worse than see how Carmelites or Carthusians verbalised their experiences over the centuries. Not doing so implies an irrational fear that their nastier friends might come back and get us, or catch us with ‘stolen’ goods. Yet the terms are owned by no-one, least of all those whose modus operandi is fast becoming irrelevant.
We approach the Ineffable in this Aeon through different means, and a more dynamic formula of attainment, than our spiritual forebears. We then employ our gains in new ways. That said, the Ineffable itself doesn’t change with the shifting Aeons. And since we’re bound to encounter western concepts and imagery as we progress, denying the usefulness of key terms only ends up alienating us from what we’re actually seeking.
Love is the law, love under will,