Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
When I lived in Mexico, I noticed something about getting older. The people thought that – provided we were polite and reasonably cheerful – we oldies were really cool. That I avoided boarding the micro-bus in the village, and walked halfway into town each day to stay fit, was looked on as an endearing eccentricity.
One of the shocks of returning to Canada was that while I might be tolerated in a friendly manner, being 66 years old wasn’t cool but mildly embarrassing. People make allowances for me, but I don’t feel welcomed with the same enthusiasm. The Mexican waitresses in the cafe where I hung out would sometimes flirt with us older guys for harmless mutual entertainment, while in Toronto the narrative is: an old fart is a possible pervert, or at least potentially unhygienic. Smiling at little kids, as I would have done when I took the micro-bus back in my old village, can draw sour expressions from protective young mothers.
I did a post some weeks ago where I looked at the actual accomplishments magick offers. I thought about writing one about age as a follow-up but, frankly, felt it would seem like confessing to a bad habit that required a self-help group, where I could attend meetings and mumble, “My name is Edward, and sometimes I forget where I put my glasses.”
The article here, which finally prompted this post, observes that “Dementia is the newest form of identity politics which has remade how we think of race, sexuality, gender and disability.” Yikes – thanks for the warning. Now, I’m some distance yet from dementia (and I’ve had tests to prove it). But I’m at the point of keeping a running tally of deteriorations. Hearing aid needed? Not yet. Vision? Need new bifocals. Heart and lungs okay? So far, excellent. Intestinal tract? … Maybe that’d be too much information for a public blog post.
To console myself, I did some online research on Thelemic heavies. Bill Breeze, I note, is 60, Jim Eshelman is 61, and Lon Milo Duquette is 67, as is James Wasserman. Bill Heidrick is 72. Even Rodney Orpheus is now 55. Only David Shoemaker is under 50.
There’s a question to be answered about age and the Thelemic mysteries. “It is a lie, this folly against self, ” says the Book of the Law (II, v. 22). Really? My head tells me otherwise about the three glasses of wine I drank at last night’s post-Solstice celebration.
The sex drive persists but diminishes, just as endurance in all things physical declines. And at a certain point, the ambition that drives a lot of our spiritual aspiration declines as well – which might not be a bad thing, provided we stay open-minded. Yet open-mindedness is a discipline, too: impatience comes easily as we move ever further past the mid-point. Thelema, as it’s usually explained and described, seems to work much better if you’re under forty.
So, what use are we when we’re past our best-before date, beyond passing on advice that people will probably ignore? Here we go back to basics – what aspects of True Will am I expressing in getting old?
Life is about change, and True Will applies to all levels and all stages of it. There’s nothing intrinsically superior about expressing it when your legs can spend an hour in an awkward asana, as compared with expressing it, a few decades later, by listening for a while to a worried person or sharing a few life-hacks. Yes, you did a kick-ass ritual last week because you’re 32. Have you learned to dwell in the presence of your Angel, though? Maybe you have: how far does your sense of that presence extend? Does your mind still itself of its own accord at such times?
Serenity and senility are two words that share six of their eight of their letters as well as other outward similarities. Assuming senility is encroaching on us in only minor doses, serenity – the sense that the Universe is taking care of itself, and the latest Threat to Democracy and our Way of Life will soon yield to another – is really kinda cool.
A Crowley quote from Liber Aleph comes to mind: “Know firmly, o my son, that the true Will cannot err; for this is thine appointed course in Heaven, in whose order is Perfection.” A lot of our seeking is actual about solving problems we’ve created in order to have problems to solve. This isn’t ‘wrong,’ because it’s how we discover the True Will: encounter difficulties, deal with them for good or ill, and notice what it is that we were trying to obtain or cause to happen. If we’ve done this reasonably diligently, we can allow TW to pursue its course with less effort than we once had to make.
I’ve spent a couple of hours drafting and deleting other benefits of hitting the twilight zone, which indicates the difficulty of generalising on it. I think the issue is, so much of what happens in the final quarter of life is very internal, and really does reach beyond what we’ve always deemed to be rational. Gerontologists and care-givers have long noted the fact that the elderly enter into odd depressed or angry states. But much of that comes from internal realignment, happening well beyond the reach of medical investigation, where we are progressively more oriented to the spiritual world. And that is never, in my experience, an easy process at any age, nor does it lend itself to cogent verbalisations. It’s … That, the Not-ness, the What-Isn’t-Yet-Is. And you don’t mention ideas like that a lot; certainly not to conventional doctors. The essence of the whole business is a growing encounter with Nil, which all the entities we’ve invoked along the way subtly or overtly pointed towards. When embraced that can be marvellous, and when it’s resisted, or simply arises in an unintelligible way, it produces fear, confusion or sadness; for it really is about up-ending our self-concept, which will go entirely when we go from our bodies. At such times any earlier training we’ve done really pays off, allowing us to go with the emotion, use favourite ritual safety-valves, and seek to retain fixed gaze on the one star in sight.
Jung was twenty years older than I am now when he wrote the following, a whole developmental life-stage further along than me, but it seems apposite to quote it. It’s from the very end of Memories, Dreams, Reflections:
“The more uncertain I have felt about myself, the more there has grown up in me a feeling of kinship with all things. In fact it seems to me as if that alienation which so long separated me from the world has become transferred into my own inner world, and has revealed to me an unexpected unfamiliarity with myself.”
Love is the law, love under will,