The last post looked at the trance of Samadhi, and featured a quote of Arthur Waley from his book Zen Buddhism and its Relation to Art where he described Zen as “complete self-hypnosis”. I placed the quote given that we looked at the definition of Samadhi which called it a “trance”, and we were looking at Crowley’s idea of Samadhi. I mentioned this linking of ‘hypnosis’ to ‘trance’ was controversial, as I’ve written previously that Thelema is self-hypnosis, and that all ritual is hypnosis, and that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis to much outrage from “Thelemites”. I intend for this post to look at this matter more in depth to explain why I say these “outlandish” things, which abundant evidence can be found within the work of Crowley and his contemporaries.
Placing focus upon the quote from the last article, Crowley said of Samadhi that it is a third kind of consciousness arising from its parents (referring to duality in the parents and non-duality arising from it), the non-duality is the trance of samadhi, and of course the original nature of everything is non-dual, but in its manifestation it becomes a duality. (“For I am divided for love’s sake”). This samadhi is stated in other terms in his Little Essays Towards Truth, where he has a chapter dedicated to trance which reads in part, “[…]it may be said that the Universe is a constant issue into Trance; and in fact the proper understanding of any Event by means of the suitable Contemplation should produce the type of Trance appropriate to the complex Event-Individual in the case.”
My whole body of frustrated work on this site thus far was essentially saying “Binah/Understanding is ‘Hypnosis’, in that one ’empties’ themselves, and becomes ‘Nothing’ so that they are able to be in the appropriate ‘trance’ to deal with the situation before them, writing repeatedly that we’re always going through various levels of trance, what matters is that we’re in the appropriate trance for dealing appropriately to the situation we are in (as a star in its path of orbit). Crowley in Magick Without Tears to paraphrase says we’re to be like empty space, in love, giving ourselves over to our experience, so that we are both changed in the experience itself, and so that we change the experience in our natural expression as a part of it. This natural expression and remaining in “love” requires equilibrium. The model of this equilibrium is the Tree of Life where its ten sephiroths are to represent ‘trances’, taking Tipharet for example which is Beauty/Sorrow, and Geburah is Severity/Strength whereas Chesed is Mercy/Justice. One wouldn’t be in the ‘trance of Geburah’, or using Geburic energy to deal with speaking calmly to an elderly person (there’d be an excess of energy, or one would be fired up where tranquility and a certain finesse were required), and one wouldn’t act with abundant Chesedic mercy to someone who is defiant, unwilling to listen to reason, who is only looking to cause pain and suffering – one would need to apply the adequate ‘severity’, would need to draw upon the influence of ‘Mars’, rather than using Chesed’s ‘Jupiter’ and would deliver a wrist slap rather than an embrace. The Tree of Life as a whole is a representation of the equilibrium of these forces, so that one can become ‘Nothing’, the Qabalistic Zero, so that one’s “empty void” can be filled with the ‘Infinite Light’ (Ain Soph Aur).
Crowley’s Thelema axiom is “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law, love is the law, love under Will”, so how does this relate to hypnosis? Quoting Eliphas Levi, who Crowley purported to have been a reincarnation of, or at least had seen himself as continuing the work of, “True love, natural love, is the miracle of magnetism.” Eliphas Levi’s The Great Secret: or Occultism Unveiled looks at magnetism in-depth, stating, “These strange but incontestable facts lead us to the necessary conclusion that there is a common life shared by all souls; or at least a common mirror for every imagination and every memory, in which it is possible for us to gaze at one another like a crowd of people standing before a glass. This reflector is the odic light of Baron Reichenbach, which we call the astral light, and is the great agency of life termed od, ob and aour by the Hebrews. The magnetism controlled by the will of the operator is Od; that of passive clairvoyance is Ob: the pythonesses of antiquity were clairvoyantes intoxicated with the passive astral light. This light is called the spirit of Python in our holy books, because in Greek mythology the serpent Python is its allegorical representative.” For fullness of understanding, I’d recommend reading the entire text which is available online, though I will highlight a few additional remarks. Levi states: “The whole secret of magnetism lies here: to rule the fatality of the ob by intelligence and the power of the od so as to create the perfect balance of aour.”
In Buddhism there are the Five Dhyani Buddhas as mentioned in a number of posts (see here), where the fire element is assigned to the dhyani Buddha Amida (whose name means “infinite light/life”) and represents the means of “magnetizing” and is attributed to the Pure Lands (which are a loose parallel to a western Heaven concept, though through work and deeds Pure Land Buddhists manifest it upon earth). Henry Olcott’s Buddhist Catechism speaks of a “light” particular to Arhats (a term meaning “one who is worthy” or a “perfected person”), and through the Arhat’s will, they project this light and influence others. The Catechism speaks of this light, linking it to the ‘human aura’, and then says of the influence of it, “Q. What is this process now called? A. Hypnotic suggestion. Q. Could any third party have also seen these illusionary figures? A. That would depend on the will of the Arhat or hypnotiser.”
I was conveying a message in my post on Curses and the Power of Words that our words, as per Crowley’s teaching in Liber B Vel Magi “enslave the soul of men”, that we influence others through our words and I brought up placebo and nocebo (“I will please, and I will harm”) to demonstrate, so that we’re mindful of the effects of our words and actions. I also mentioned elsewhere when speaking of Thelemic Qabalah, that the path between Binah (Understanding) and Tipharet (the heart) is the path of the Lovers/Brothers, and mentioned a woman offering the most powerful “spell” she knew, which was to tell a friend or spouse calmly and in sincerity, “speak to me as if I’m someone you love” to bring the person out of their state and back into self-realization. This goes back most appropriately to magnetism, as we influence through our words, and words which come from the fiery love to influence others will ‘magnetize’ them, its influence will modify the individual, whereas there’s a colder form of hypnosis, such as influencing through a threat, which is mere fascination. We can be unconscious of our fascinating others due to unintended actions, (Crowley taught that every intended act is a ‘magical act’). Eliphas Levi wrote, “When an unbalanced magnetizer, who has been made the slave of fate by the passions that master him, tries to operate on the light of fate, he is like a blindfolded man on a blind horse, endeavouring to spur it into a gallop in a forest full of winding tracks and cliff-edges.” Levi offers a warning, “The two magnetic lights may be called one the living light and the other the dead light, one the astral fluid and the other the spectral phosphorus, one the torch of discourse and the other the smoke of dreams. To magnetize without danger, it is essential to have within oneself the light of life, that is to say it is necessary to be wise and righteous. The man who is a slave to his passions does not magnetize, he fascinates; but in radiating his fascination he enlarges the giddy circle around him; he multiplies his spells and saps his will power more and more. He is like a spider which wears itself out and is finally caught in its own web.”
Despite people within Thelema wanting to distance the topic of hypnotism from magick (I don’t know why they look to do this, or why there’s such entrenched ignorance about the topic), Aleister Crowley had a reputation as being a hypnotist. Bernard Bromage, who wrote The Occult Arts of Ancient Egypt and The Secret Rites of Tibetan Yoga had detailed an encounter with Crowley in a letter, “I listened politely while Crowley walked around me studying me from all angles. Among other antics he did a breathing exercise down the back of my neck. The way he did this testified to some knowledge of the Tantric hypnotic system with which I happen to be more familiar than most; more familiar, in fact, than was Crowley. So I was able to counter this move with a little astral dexterity of my own devising; and the Master retreated to the curtained window!”
In Aleister Crowley and Dion Fortune: The Logos of the Aeon and the Shakti of the Age, Alan Richardson published an account of Viola Bankes, who said of the man, “He had neither the powerful compelling features of a magician nor the strong and nervous hands of a poet. His hands were unusually small and well-kept, and reminded me of a delicate bird’s claws; rapacious, perhaps, but not masterful. His voice, which I had imagined would be sonorous, was light and rather high for a man. In his eyes, however, lay the answer to the riddle. There was no doubt that this man, with his colossal will-power and deep occult knowledge, could dominate a weaker and untrained will to the extent that is called magnetism, and could, if he wished, obtain absolute mastery over the mind and body of his subject . . . . In repose, the eyes held the sleepy reserve of the Oriental, but when he opened them wide and deliberately fastened them on another person, that person could scarcely fail to feel the thrill of magnetism that emanated from their green depths.”
This view of Crowley as a hypnotist extended into popular fiction, from Dion Fortune’s novel The Winged Bull, which fictionalized Crowley as a man named ‘Astley’, to Somerset Maugham’s take on Crowley as Oliver Haddo in The Magician. Here’s a snippet from Fortune’s novel where characters are discussing dealing with Astley: “Astley knows more about the rarer aspects of hypnosis than any man in Europe. I know a good deal about it, but I can’t hold a candle to Astley.”
Tying this back into ritual, of course ritual is hypnosis, be it to others, or to self. Art is hypnosis, and ritual is nothing but performance art. Crowley had found significant synchronicity with this connection of ritual and magnetism, as recounted in Aleister Crowley in America: Art, Espionage, and Sex Magick in the New World by Tobias Churton: “Quite without thinking–the ideal magical state it would seem–he picked up Magnetism by Jules Denis, Baron du Potet (1796-1881), a gift from the late John Yarker. Yarker had introduced Crowley to the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Freemasonry and, thereby, to the Ordo Templi Orientis. […] What fascinated Crowley was simply the link between rite and the phenomenon of the book coming to hand.”
Hypnosis and what are considered more “rational” practices, such as psychotherapy, have as their roots and origins the Sleep Temples of antiquity, sleep temples being a topic we’ve discussed at great length on this site, having that as the main thing I’ve tried stressing to bring back combined with meditation centres, if Thelema is to move beyond the age of stupidity and squander, and enter the ‘New Aeon’. Though this article series is ‘Killing Thelema’ to move beyond the confines of the system, and future posts will be discussing Boulema which will be our open-source mystical system where we’re free to experiment, learn, and grow rather than be restricted by the silliness, superstition and hidden agendas which have Thelema destined for obscurity, or a public scapegoat of perversity for the mainstream rather than a mystical system of truth and light. Thelema may fascinate, but I fear its lamp has gone out, its light is dead! Boulema is here all aglow and with new light, and it looks to magnetize! Come look into the fire with me in future posts.
Ending with some wise words of Crowley from his Trance essay once more,
“The essence of the idea of Trance is indeed contained in that of Magick, which is pre-eminently the transcendental Science and Art. Its method is, in one chief sense, Love, the very key of Trance; and, in another, the passing beyond normal conditions. The verbs to transcend, to transmit, to transcribe, and their like, are all of cardinal virtue in Magick. Hence “Love is the law, love under will” is the supreme epitome of Magical doctrine, and its universal Formula. For need any man fear to state boldly that every Magical Operation soever is only complete when it is characterised (in one sense or another) by the occurrence of Trance. It was ill done to restrict the use of the word to the supersession of dualistic human consciousness by the impersonal and monistic state of Samadhi. Fast bubbles the fountain of Error from the morass of Ignorance when distinction is forcibly drawn “between any one thing and any other thing.” Yea, verily, and Amen! it is the first necessity as it is the last attainment of Trance to abolish every form and every order of dividuality so fast as it presents itself. By this ray may ye read in the Book of your own Magical Record the authentic stigma of your own success.”