Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law,
This being the Aeon of the Child, the notion of spiritual maturity can seem like a paradox. “Mercy let be off; damn them who pity! Kill and torture; spare not; be upon them!” says the 18th verse of Cap III of The Book of the Law. On the surface, it’s hardly a prescription for ‘socially responsible’ attitudes.
Years ago, I concluded that Cap III is, on the most practical plane, describing an exalted form of yogic self-discipline and its results. It can’t be comprehended at all as mundane instructions, unless you really like building up horrible karma and also breaking the fundamental tenet of Thelema in regarding each person, each ‘star,’ as a vital facet of the immensity we call Nuit. I’m hardly alone in this perspective, even if different commentators produce differently nuanced interpretations.
Anyone who has tried to discipline a human mind and body is familiar with the ‘torture’ aspect of doing so. Crowley speaks in his Confessions (Cap 29) of learning Raja Yoga in Ceylon, and having to spend “five minutes’ acute agony to straighten my limbs at the end of the practice.” Or, there are his commentaries on Liber LXV, which I personally find the most helpful practical guide to illumination that he wrote. Of Cap III, v 43 of this text, he observes that this is about taming the vital soul, or Nephesh, and that “Her solidity can no longer resist the action of Purity; her complexes are invaded by the Universal Solvent. Her resistance is extreme torment.”
And further on in Cap V, there is verse 61, “They that drink thereof are smitten of disease; the abomination hath hold upon them, and their torment is like the thick black smoke of the evil abode.” Crowley observes of this:
“ ‘Smitten of disease’: the tribulation of ordeal, which is bliss. ‘The abomination’: the Law of Θελημα, or 666, or Heru-ra-ha Himself. ‘Thick black smoke of the evil abode:’ the Light of the so-called ‘Rosicrucians.’ Hell, the core of the star. Of course, all this is very disagreeable at first. Most fools do not persist in their folly, consequently.”
Accordingly, we can take the verse I quoted from The Book of the Law, plus others similar to it, as a literal instruction to go out and do mean things and violate the True Will of other beings in the process; or we can accept that it speaks of temporary restrictions to be accepted as a means of centring and empowering ourselves, and in particular becoming able to accept the effects on a physical human nervous system of an uprush of spiritual energy.
Children will torture: weaker siblings, stuffed toys, insects or small animals. It’s one way they probe the limits of living. But only a mature or maturing consciousness will accept such pain, physical, mental or even emotional, as a necessary stage in his or her own development. It’s a sign of emerging maturity that our sense of time and our larger goals mean we will endure “the tribulation of ordeal.”
The time-honoured process of working a system based on the sephiroth or spheres of the Tree of Life takes the aspirant through a graduated learning curve leading to intimations of what lies at the centre of our beings, which Crowley refers to provocatively yet discerningly as “Hell, the core of the star,” which is the true reality of each of us. This method involves a definable psychological reiteration of life, from Initiation, which corresponds to birth, through childhood and adolescence, and finally to the beginning of adulthood, represented by the second Initiation, into Tiphereth and the sphere of the Sun.
But as anyone knows who has gone this far, the very maturity that emerges at this point makes plain to us the distance yet to be travelled. And more than anything else, the newly empowered Adept is conscious that the journey ahead is about service to other aspirants as well as to humanity in the broader sense. What is conferred in this second Initiation is the empowering qualities of the ‘Child,’ who is about enthusiasm, freshness, and the positive expression of love. How those qualities are manifested by the spiritually maturing human consciousness is an utterly individual thing. But in all cases where this Initiation is conferred on a properly formed and guided aspiration, it conforms to what Crowley wrote in The Two and Twenty Secret Instructions of the Master, on the Tarot card called The Lovers:
“The Oracle of the Gods is the Child-Voice of Love in thine own Soul! Hear thou it! Heed not the Siren-Voice of Sense, or the Phantom-Voice of Reason: rest in Simplicity, and listen to the Silence!”
Always and forever, the maturing soul will discover its true nature in childlike wonder.
Love is the law, love under will.