Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Some of us come to Thelema backwards. When I became involved twenty years ago, I wasn’t motivated by its advocacy of personal liberty. I was old enough that I felt I could do what I wanted anyway, income permitting, and I wasn’t looking for people with whom to party. What I was after was transformative methods – spiritual technology, if we can steal that awkward term from Scientology – and it looked to me like serious Thelemites offered the inside track for people not ready to endure a zendo or ashram, or the creeping faith-and-morals tendencies of Christian Qabalah.
Some people hear about the deities of the Thelemic pantheon, and jump right in with a whoop. But, just as the liberty issue didn’t stir me, for a long time I was baffled by the actuality of Ra-Hoor-Khuit. Like many people who tire-kick the fringes of the Thelemic world, I had a gap to bridge between a sense of there being power and mystery present in the system, and the fact that the Thelemic pantheon seemed too made-up to be digestible.
It was some while before I’d met enough committed practitioners to realise I was quite typical of a large percentage of aspirants in the tradition. While the public face of Thelema is one of Apollonian celebration, the private quest is always a unique one, and at times the questor has to accept the loneliness of it in order to attain to inner authenticity. Anybody I’ve met in Thelema who seems to have considered his or her path deeply has wandered into various byways, including mystical Christianity, Buddhism of various types, Sufism or the classic western philosophical schools, in order to find the road to the crux of their own mandala.
What I found was that in many ways I had to do the opposite of what the manual seemed to require. The Book of the Law is full of injunctions to be ruthless and celebratory, and unconcerned about the vectors of other people’s lives. Yet the first chapter centres on universal connection (“Let there be no difference made among you between any one thing & any other thing, for thereby there cometh hurt;” “the consciousness of the continuity of existence;” “There is no bond that can unite the divided but love: all else is a curse;” etc.), so any notion of blind individualism isn’t endorsed either. The Book, as I came to view it, is about consciousness, awareness, and living with the Fire shining from our eyes. Juggling this paradox, at least for me, was – is – a continuing task. Pure will, True Will, unadulterated intention, is spiritual, and comes out of the deepest centre of consciousness, not the autonomic nervous system or some deep inner web of private fears or anger. And the task of living a Thelemic life is a continuous one, and other than one or two senior Adepts (and various people of dubious emotional stability), I’ve never met anybody who thought they had it mastered. It’s work, and it forever heads away from conformity of any kind, even if it supports a community of seekers.
Nothing that I see in The Book of the Law or Crowley’s personal writings seems to address the topic of introversion versus extraversion; it wasn’t apparently part of his conceptual vocabulary. There is though, in all schools of applied occultism, an implicit acceptance of psychological types in the twelve signs of the Zodiac. And while Crowley himself praised fast-moving students, he had to accept that others (Jane Wolfe and perhaps Frank Bennett come to mind) were on a very extended journey to Adeptship. Since his time, and the arising of many of Thelemic Adepts of varying natures, the movement’s collective grasp of the range and nature of the private attainments that are possible has broadened immensely. Retroactively, we’ve had to apply psychology to the process, to help or rescue the stuck. But the absolute solitude and the personal crises of some phases of the process have to be stressed.
I personally had to deal with a significant early, quasi-Christian Gnostic experience. I had no problem accepting Ra-Hoor-Khuit as the manifest and necessary Thelemic ‘front man,’ or in adopting His power as a god-form in a ritual. But as for Him replacing that quiet inner voice I’d known for some years when I was younger … It never happened.
Finally, I more or less accepted it never would. I’m on a different kick.
This can be actually helpful for presiding over a diverse Temple, but baffles a few people. And I had to acknowledge that the non-comprehension I occasionally ran up against was simply a reflection of the doubt or discomfort I myself experienced over that whisper that was more than whisper, coming into my awareness out of its Silence, but wasn’t the roaring voice of the Hawk. If I’d lived life as a more extravert person, perhaps I’d never have worried about all this for a moment. But my private quest has involved an endless journey to the Centre where that toneless whisper speaks, and the experience of that solitary pilgrimage has become part of what I’m required to teach.
As I paused in writing this post – and I’ve been avoiding completing it all week – I wandered around the ’net and came across a couple of quotes from Alan Richardson’s new book, Letters of Light, that comprises letters William G. Gray wrote to him as a very young man. (http://www.amazon.com/Letters-Light-William-G-Gray/dp/1910098019) In one passage, Gray says:
“By the way, don’t attempt to ‘hear words’, ‘just get it by contact’. The contact will sort itself out into English via your mind in its own time. In fact it is silly to expect English or any other human language on that level, for no one speaks like that there. Once you have built up your symbolic translating machine via the ‘Letters,’ and so forth, the sense will ‘come English’ all right.”
And in the other, he writes:
“It [the contact] will only answer you from the information you have ‘banked’ with yourself, but the way the information comes out and the new knowledge you gain from this should have come from [the contact].”
The ‘Letters’ mentioned in the first quote aren’t just the Hebrew alphabet, but the whole system of symbology built around it – Tarot, gematria, Names of Power – in which students in mystery schools are trained. Although it’s secondary to what I’m trying to say in this post, I pulled this quote because anyone who’s been involved with channeling or trance-work often has a goofy idea of what occultists are up to. In the mystery schools, we actually deflect our students from actively looking for inner inspiration until the ‘Letters’ are well rooted and have assumed multiple meanings. This means that any emerging English phrasing won’t be hopelessly restrictive, and the student can find more than one significance in it.
The second quote is the more interesting to me. We don’t get ‘messages’ unrelated to what we have accumulated in the way of knowledge, or of wisdom oriented toward that knowledge, however buried it might be, or however alien to the conscious mind. Several critics, for example, have tried to take apart The Book of the Law, pointing to paraphrases from Shakespeare, the King James Bible and various ancient and modern philosophers with whom Crowley would have been familiar. What they miss is that no-one could have combined all that material, even a voracious reader and writer like 666, into the concisely coded and multi-leveled form in which it appears in the Book. But to deny that Crowley’s broad, elastic and well-stocked mind was a primary ‘lens’ for delivery of the text would be equally dishonest.
Similarly, what comes from the inner-plane contact will work through the mind of the magician, the ‘bank’ to which Gray refers; but how it comes through seems highly original when the message is a valid one. Over the years, I’ve had messages of as little as two or three words that have been stunning when I considered their significance, just as I’ve had periods of months when there was nothing coherent or helpful that came to me. The magician can be the enemy of his or her own truth here, anticipating or ‘working out’ what is expected or what is so, to the detriment of aligning with the True Will and being open to a fresh level of insight. Which, as I’ve written, I spent considerable effort doing to my own contact’s effort to ‘talk’ to me on its own terms.
At the end of the day, we’re stuck with who we are. Hoor-pa-kraat, the ‘silent partner’ of the twin god Heru-Ra-Ha, is not quite the voice I have for myself, despite my having tried for some time to make it fit. And, as stated, neither is Ra-Hoor-Khuit, the “Supreme and terrible God who makest the gods and death to tremble before thee.” Yet The Book of the Law enjoins me to adhere to my own Will without exceptions, and wrestling against what I ‘hear’ on this basis has probably wasted more of my time than any other error I’ve made.
To the extent I’ve found resolution, or the road towards it, it lay in the vision of the nemyss which ‘shrouds the night-blue sky,” (III. V. 70) wherein the liberty I never thought I was seeking awaited. Yet sensibly stating what that means is a task beyond my own words, or maybe just too intimate a process to write about. I’ll leave it to readers to ponder.
But if you are one of the wary lurkers on the Thelemic threshold, do consider that the aim of all this isn’t convergence on one collective viewpoint and a more or less standardised spiritual perspective. It’s about getting with your own program – whatever the Program is that comes to whisper to you out of the still of your own quieted mind.
“Yet to all it shall seem beautiful. Its enemies who say not so, are mere liars.” (III, v. 68).
Love is the law, love under will,