Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a series of posts for this blog on the Visions of the Tree of Life, looking at the experience of the different sephiroth up as far as Tiphereth. Today I might expand on them if I rewrote them, but I’m comfortable still that they say something about how our self-concepts develop over time on the initiated path.
The word ‘vision’ is an intriguing one, because it refers to what we have seen or intuited without having deliberately envisaged it, or attained it. For example, any Hermetic system of initiation and training starts with, or soon moves into, Malkuth, the bottom sephirah on the Tree. The traditionally ascribed vision here is that of the Holy Guardian Angel: or what we might call the totality and immensity of possible human experience. Thus, there could be an actual moment of vision when the mental clouds part, the mind stills, and a rising spiral of Kundalini flings into our rapidly deepening perception a symbolic representation of all that we are, or could be. More usually, the vision is one of a steadily growing appreciation of these things, as the cumulative, alchemical nature of the work of the grade or degree begins to shift long-held attitudes.
But there is nothing ‘constructed’ here. It exists separate from any volition on our part.
Because Crowley wrote so much on the totality of Qabalistic and mystical experience, any serious student of the Thelemic mysteries has read something about Binah and the Supernal Triangle of the Tree, as well as the En Soph, the Limitlessness that we also call Nuit, the goddess of infinite space. But if our progress is going to be authentic, our conceptions of such things, which are intellectual, need to be distinguished from authentic intimations or direct experiences of them. Our underlying vision, which when seen is found to summarise our current deepest understanding, is functionally central. Our ideas, on the other hand, are relatively superficial, and even antithetical to this vision, which is bound to be disruptive when it manifests for us.
For anyone who’s not an Adept of Tiphereth (or beyond) in some form, the Vision of Beauty found in Tiphereth is the limit of affective (emotional or feeling-based) appreciation that we can reach. Thelemites use Liber Resh, the four-times-daily worship of the Sun, as a formal means of enhancing this, and of stretching how we can envision it, but the exercise won’t transcend it.
Tiphereth itself is usually translated as ‘beauty,’ though it can also be rendered as ‘splendour.’ But it’s entirely possible to have a sustaining inner vision of Nuit and the stars of the night sky, for example, or of some more fiery or destructive imagery, that still essentially conforms to our most private conception of beauty. The sephirah we’re actually working with at any given time will be a determining factor, but Tiphereth is going to set the limits of our heart’s yearning. Why? Because in Binah, to cite the most usual other ‘target’ there is no more I-and-not-I, at least not as we now experience it. If we imagine being in Binah and looking out across the infinite Sea of Marah, or the Chalice of the Infinite, or into the Night of Pan, then we aren’t effectively further along than being in one version, or on one level, of our Tipheric vision. Such a meditation can be very instructive, but in it we remain as a selfhood looking into an otherness while we visit or contemplate it.
This shifts, and sometimes quite quickly, for anyone who passes through the portal of initiation to Tiphereth. The newly opening vision at this point, which is extraordinarily hard to describe, is about unknowing; about relinquishing or giving over control; about the impossible, even about a journey through ‘hell’ to reach something we don’t necessarily trust. Yet in time we’ll come to an acceptance of an Otherness that’s simultaneously more intimately ourselves than any of the characteristics we usually associate with our own identity.
This is when and where True Will becomes ‘truly’ True. But this vision can’t and won’t be wished or desired into existence, only discovered. It can involve a loss of intellectual certainty; or maybe we should say, an abandonment of it. It thus becomes a seemingly negative or passive vision, as opposed to the affirmative, luminous vision that prevails up to Tiphereth.
Naturally, every aspirant experiences all this differently. Crowley evoked the process via the Holy Books and poetic phrasing, not academic analysis, which would just have dropped us back into the pre-Tipheric way of viewing of things. There are times when we’ll feel we need such an intellectualisation to hold it all together, but once we connect with the initiatory current once more, we can drop that. Nor will we want to hang onto it once we are reconnected.
The point to be made here is twofold. Firstly, whatever vision we’re actually operating from is usually quite different from our ideals and conscious goals, and getting to know what it really is centres us in our own work. Secondly, and related to this, the vision is an aspect or image of True Will itself, and knowing that Will is going to move us closer to Knowledge & Conversation faster than any other knowledge we can acquire.
I’m often fascinated as well as appalled by how much time we all waste trying to fit ourselves into concepts and aims that appear, on the surface, to help us attain our ultimate spiritual goals. Beginners in Thelema, feeling freed by the idea of affirming will, will sometimes swagger and exult, and decline to examine the degree to which this reinforces mundane egoic ideas. Others come in too carefully, and try to exclude the wilder sides of their nature as being obstructions or hazards in the quest for the Light of Gnosis.
Knowing what the deeper guiding vision of our lives is, at any given time, and avoiding becoming entrapped in notions that belong to stages beyond (or prior to) our current grasp, are key factors in truly opening up our human and magical potential. “He that is righteous shall be righteous still; he that is filthy shall be filthy still,” says Liber AL (II, 57), a verse that has a lot of meaning in this context, guiding us not to reject what we think is unworthy or irrelevant in ourselves. Our core vision is foundational to what we’re truly trying to achieve, and allowing ourselves to see it without bias or recoil is a critical step on the way to the Ineffable.
Love is the law, love under will.