April 21, 2014 TOLS

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

One of the problematic areas of Thelema can be its optimism. Both Christians and thoughtful unbelievers see the world falling into environmental chaos, species depletion and a generally catastrophic outcome. If it isn’t external events that trouble them, it’s the thought that the Matrix is very close at hand, and independence of thought will soon become a legend out of history. Watch a streetcar full of people compulsively texting, such people tell us, and you can see the grim future unfolding. We shall become unthinking slaves to digital acronyms and contractions.

J has a slightly different take on it. As someone trained in Chogyam Trungpa’s school of Tibetan Buddhism, he tells me that Samsara, the world of illusion, is continuous, and there will always be a need for new Bodhisattvas. The mass of beings just won’t grasp the need to awaken, let alone find the discipline to develop awareness of higher consciousness.

The notion of things falling apart is hardly foreign to Thelema. The Third Chapter of the Book of the Law indicates devastation and revolution (“Now let it be first understood that I am a god of War and of Vengeance. I shall deal hardly with them.,” III, 3; “I have crushed an Universe; & naught remains” III, 72), even if it promises Light to the strong: (I will bring you to victory & joy: I will be at your arms in battle & ye shall delight to slay.” III, 46).

In the face of that, the general exhaustion, and the differently accented Christian apocalypticism many Thelemites produce from the Holy Books, predicting a positive future for humanity takes on a fluffy-bunny, New Age aura. Let’s get with the program and die our fiery death, seems to be the expressed aim. Crowley was a Bad Man (or so said his critics) and we should be like him.

Yet our Book is optimistic throughout. If it’s genuinely predictive, why would it exist at all if extinction was the sole choice on the menu? “There is success,” says Cap III, 69, and that I fully affirm.

J won’t buy it, and in a long discussion with him today I was only partly persuasive. Yes, I see profound developments in consciousness happening in the recent past, and more in the future. But being truly convincing about a positive future, when the zeitgeist holds that we’re soon in for a fast trip over a high cliff, isn’t a task I find easy. Any time I’ve spoken on this topic publicly, I notice the skeptics politely keeping their doubting mouths shut, or asking tactful questions after about my deluded positive outlook. So many people have bought into a sense of helplessness, an end-of-the-empire mood, that it corrodes the ability to seek for the opposite.

One factor in my own difficulty here is that for decades, I did believe we were heading for the above-mentioned high cliff. It was only after the dire date of the millennium had come and passed that I finally accepted we’re heading through chaos and rubble, not into it. The apocalypse has been going on since before I was born. There are truly very few people who have the desire to persist and bear the Light through this, but they exist, and I’m happy to be associated with them. Stepping outside all the noise and pain, which makes so many of us simply dive deeper into our distractions and longings, requires the warrior mind Trungpa wrote about. But with the elements of that acquired, the world starts taking on a far less disastrous character. Or as Trungpa said in The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation, “Just fully being skillful involves total lack of inhibition. We are not afraid to be. We are not afraid to live. We must accept ourselves as being warriors. If we acknowledge ourselves as warriors, then there is a way in, because a warrior dares to be, like a tiger in the jungle

To which I can only reply ‘Amen.’ Or, if you prefer, AUM.

Love is the law, love under will,

Edward Mason

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