TO RICHARD WAGNER.
O MASTER of the ring of love, O lord
Of all desires, and king of all the stars,
O strong magician, who with locks and bars
Dost seal that kingdom silent and abhorred
That stretches out and binds with iron cord
The hopes and lives of men, and makes
O thou thrice noble for the deadly scars
That answered vainly thy victorious sword !
Wagner ! creator of a world of light
As beautiful as God’s, bend down to me,
And whisper me the secrets of thy
That I may follow and dispel the night,
And fight life through, a comrade unto
Under Love’s banner with the sword of
– Poem by Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley’s famous line oft-repeated is his definition of Magick, which is that it is the “Science and Art of causing change in conformity with Will”. Thelema of course being the Greek word of Will, as to distinguish “Higher Will”, and his definition of a “magical act” being any intentional act.
The Art Card in the Thelemic Qabalah’s Thoth Tarot represents the path of Samekh (which connects Tipharet the Heart/Sun, to the foundation Yesod which is the Moon), and Liber Samekh being a ritual called “The Invocation of the Bornless One”, which is also known as “the Invocation of the Heart Girt with a Serpent”, and Crowley designated it to be the ritual for attaining “Knowledge and Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel”, which is simply a fancy long-winded way to say that one achieves “Union” as in Yogacara, to a non-dual attainment, which is known as “enlightenment” in Buddhist traditions. It is a connection to one’s intuition and bliss in their being, it brings contentedness and authenticity, which brings with it the ability to act spontaneously and truthfully. [Read this post for more information on this.]
The description Crowley provided for the Art card is quite long, but a snippet relevant to this post is:
“This card represents the Consummation of the Royal Marriage which took place in Atu VI. The black and white personages are now united in a single androgyne figure. Even the Bees and the Serpents on their robes have made an alliance. The Red Lion has become white, and increased in size and importance, while the White Eagle, similarly expanded, has become red. He has exchanged his red blood for her white gluten. (It is impossible to explain these terms to any but advanced students of alchemy.)”
The black and white being the two pillars of the Qabalistic Tree of Life, the force of destruction and the force of creation, and the single androgyne figure is the androgynous Mercury, which is the Alchemical Spirit, usually represented by the Baphomet which represents Pan – Pan being All.
The Royal Marriage referred to is the “chemical wedding” of the Rosicrucians, the Rosy Cross being the printed design on the back-side of the Book of Thoth Tarot cards. (I’ll be going over the Qabalistic significance of the Rosy Cross in a future post). The Royal Marriage taking place in Atu VI is the card known as The Lovers (also known as The Brothers) which connects Qabalistically the sphere of Binah (which is Understanding) with Tipharet (the Sun).
The purpose of Thelema being the normalization of “enlightenment”, of cultivating self-awareness and realization. Crowley felt this was utmost urgent given the time we’re in. In 1903 he published his essay Buddhism and Science, trying to explain the Dharma to Western minds. Then, he would dedicate himself to expounding the dharma through the formula of the Universal Qabalah (which was realized in his completion of the Book of Thoth, Crowley then in his 70’s). He wrote as a young man in 1904 the Book of the Law and had remarked on the importance of the text:
“Above us today hangs a danger never yet paralleled in history. We suppress the individual in more and more ways. We think in terms of the herd. War no longer kills soldiers; it kills all indiscriminately. Every new measure of the most democratic and autocratic governments is Communistic in essence. It is always restriction. We are all treated as imbecile children. Dora, the Shops Act, the Motoring Laws, Sunday suffocation, the Censorship— they won’t trust us to cross the roads at will. Fascism is like Communism, and dishonest into the bargain. The dictators suppress all art, literature, theatre, music, news, that does not meet their requirements; yet the world only moves by the light of genius. The herd will be destroyed in mass. The establishment of the Law of Thelema is the only way to preserve individual liberty and to assure the future of the race. In the words of the famous paradox of the Comte de Fénix— The absolute rule of the state shall be a function of the absolute liberty of each individual will. All men and women are invited to cooperate with the Master Therion in this, the Great Work.”
These words echo strongly today. The Great Work is to realize Union, this is done through the practice of Yoga (Yoga means Union). There are various maps which one can use to aid in understanding this non-dual consciousness, such as the Five Wisdom Tathagathas of Vajrayana/Bon/Zen Buddhism which draws upon the Yogacara’s Eight Limbs of Yoga. To get a good understanding of Crowley’s writings one should preferably use the Qabalistic Tree of Life, as Crowley states that the Qabalah alone avails in one’s mind consciously. (See Crowley’s Book of Lies chapter Wheel and Woa!, this text being most significant, even being provided as the first page confronting readers when they open the Book of Thoth).
This Art, our Art, our Magick, is our inherent treasure, our individuality. Every Man and Every Woman is a Star the Law [Dharma] of Thelema declares, and Love is the Law. We are to realize this nature and through alchemy transmute the led into gold. (To purify ourselves and recognize our inherently pure nature), and to uphold appreciating and cultivating self-expression and self-attainment.
Above I had mentioned the Lovers’ card, which in its description, Crowley highlights that the Ape of Thoth (which, pardon the detour, but Thoth has two forms; there’s the Higher form where Thoth/Tahuti is the Ibis-headed God of Wisdom, Science, Magic, Writing, and then there’s the lesser, the Babboon-headed Ape of Thoth, which is the monkey-minded version rather than the exalted Air-attributed one), the Ape of Thoth is but a shadow in the Lovers’ card as the card is about overcoming the duality (awareness of division, which is awareness of duality, which is to be in samsara – aware of suffering, and awareness of seperateness). The Ape of Thoth is a symbol for a distortion of our words. As taught in Zen Buddhism, there’s truth which transcends words and which words cannot explain, and as per Thelemic Qabalah, words spoken go through interpretation when they are received, they “cross the abyss” and lose their meaning, they require a putting-together by the listening party as to receive the true meaning of the words spoken, and even such an understanding is falsehood. Crowley describes this in Liber B Vel Magi by saying, “By a Magus is this writing made known through the mind of a Magister. The one uttereth clearly, and the other understandeth; yet the Word is falsehood, and the Understanding darkness. And this saying is Of All Truth.” Zen Koans are esoteric texts designed to play with this idea, when one spends time with the koan eventually a whole new meaning is revealed, yet the words never changed, just how one perceived them to be due to falling into the trappings of the duality of language. The Zen Master’s writings being made to intentionally trap the uninitiated as they’re assigned to students to meditate upon.
The Lovers Card is also described in the Book of Thoth, that the cards essence is one of simplicity. “Atu VI refers to Gemini, ruled by Mercury. It means The Twins. The Hebrew letter corresponding is Zain, which means a Sword, and the framework of the card is therefore the Arch of Swords, beneath which the Royal Marriage takes place.”
I have written elsewhere that to me a succinct way to think of this magical art, is by thinking in terms of Magick being the Art, and Hypnosis being the appreciation of the Art. Right Eye (Chokmah) is Creation, Left Eye (Binah) is Absorption. As Crowley put in the Book of Thoth, “With thy Right eye create all for thyself, with the Left accept all that be created otherwise.” I’ve repeated this ad naseum as well, but put it here for coherence alone in this post, that Chokmah is thinking in words, whilst Binah can be known as “Thought In Statu Nascendi” which is Latin for “Being born”, or “just emerging”, and in Chemistry it refers to the form of a chemical element (or sometimes compound) in the instance of their liberation or formation… (which is fitting as a metaphor for the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone, which the Book of Thoth provides the alchemical formula for). Thought In Statu Nascendi is also known as “Feeling Thought”, as it is felt-thought and is received as impressions/images that are sensed as it is what is there before it is formulated into words.
Richard Wagner wrote that in drama, we must become knowers through feeling. In his book A Communication To My Friends, Wagner wrote, “The artist addresses himself to feeling, not to [intellectual] understanding: if he is answered in terms of [intellectual] understanding, it means that he has not been [instinctively] understood.”
I wish to focus on Wagner’s view of Individuality and the importance of knowing our true nature and being an expression of that, and the threat growing against sanity and the individual. .
The red text below is Richard Wagner from his writing ‘Opera and Drama‘.
An individual without society is to us completely unthinkable… for only through intercourse with other individuals do we find out how we differ from them, and are particularly ourselves… No one can portray an individual without the environment which conditions him as such; and if the environment were a natural one, providing air and space for the individual to develop in – and freely, instinctively, elastically shaping itself anew through contact with the individual – then this environment could be appropriately and accurately portrayed in the simplest of outlines… The state, however, is no such elastic and flexible environment, but a dogmatically rigid, fettering, domineering force, which decides in advance for the individual ‘Thus shall you think and act!’ The state has set itself up as the educator of the individual; it takes possession of him in his mother’s womb, by predetermining him an unequal share in the means towards social self-sufficiency; it takes away from him, by forcing upon him its system of morals, his intuitive spontaneity; and to him, as its own property, it assigns the attitude that he shall take towards his environment. The state-citizen has the state to thank for his individuality; but that is nothing more than his foreordained attitude towards the state, in which his purely-human individuality is annihilated as regards his actions, and at the most, is confined to what he quite silently thinks to himself.
Remarking on this writing in I Saw The World End, Deryck Cooke remarks on it that “[…]the result is that civilization tends to stagnate; the laws which predetermine how the individual is to behave become fixed and prevent anything new from emerging, as Wagner indicates in an earlier passage in Opera and Drama: The life impulse of the individual expresses itself ever newly and immediately, but the essence of society [sc. state-society] is custom, and its view a mediated one. The view of society therefore, so long as it does not fully grasp the essence of the individual, and its origin in the essence, is a limiting and hindering one… And the effect of these hindering laws and customs is that man’s natural instinctive need of mutual love and fellowship is left unsatisfied.
This view is put forth in another passage in Opera and Drama:
The true, reasonable love of age for youth establishes itself in this: that it does not make its own experiences the measure for the actions of youth, but directs youth towards experiencing things for itself . . . for the characteristic and convincing thing about an experience is its individuality, its particularity, its intelligibility, which it acquires from having been gained through the spontaneous act of this one particular in this one particular case . . . the barrier which the egotistic vanity of experience, in the form of prejudice, has erected against the spontaneity of the individual’s actions . . . at present takes the place that naturally belongs to love, and is, by its essence, lovelessness…
Deryck Cooke continues his comments, “Wagner’s whole argument can be summed up as follows. The first primitive societies arose naturally, out of humanity’s need for mutual love and fellowship, as free communities which satisfied that instinctive need; but later, authoritarian states arose unnaturally, out of none of humanity’s instinctive needs, being imposed by the few on the many, as despotic communities which, sustained by a system of arbitrary, brain-spun laws and dogmas, do not satisfy humanity’s instinctive need for mutual love and fellowship. In short, the authoritarian state is a crime against human nature, and therefore against nature itself.”
Crowley worked to establish Thelema to prevent this stagnation and indoctrination into this rigid, and dying system. He shook men and women by the shoulders and said “wake up!”. It’s up to the individual however, to wield their sword of art.
In Crowley’s Book of the Law, the third chapter Ra-Hoor-Khuit instructs in his famous lines, “Also the mantras and spells; the obeah and the wanga; the work of the wand and the work of the sword; these he shall learn and teach”, and the mercurial spirit declared that in the Aeon of Truth and Laughter, that women shall be girt with a sword. For every man and every woman is a star, and Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law, love is the law, love under Will.