Both Zen and Thelemic writings have their central attainment as this “nothing”, which is not nothing, so I figured it was about time to get this piece out of the way as I’ve frequently drawn upon terms which may not be understood appropriately. For instance, the word Śūnyatā has been brought up in a large portion of my Zen articles and in a number of the Thelemic ones I usually offer that it means “Emptiness” (but in the context of Zen, Buddhism, and Thelema, it is not empty emptiness, but rather is referring to the Space element – the fifth element on top of the regular four which of course, are fire, earth, air, and water). Śūnya means “zero,” “nothing,” “empty” or “
The Book of the Law declares Crowley is the “chosen priest & apostle of infinite space”, why is that? This “nothing”, “emptiness”, and “void” are in Zen Buddhism referring to the inherent purity of what is called “Buddha-Nature”, or the Tao, or Cosmic Space. (Cosmic Space is represented by Vairocana in the center of the models of the Five Dhyani Buddhas and in Soto Buddhism’s Five Wheels). Now, before getting into what I wished to convey with this post, while I’m on this topic of this void nature, I wanted to share a passage from the writing of Zen Master Huangbo. This is from The Zen Teaching of Huang Po; On the transmission of Mind translated by Blofeld as it will help your understanding:
Q: But is there not a Sword of Truth within the Royal Treasury?
A: Another ram’s horn!
Q: Yet if there is no Sword of Truth why is it written: “The Prince seized the Sword of Truth from the Royal Treasury and set out upon his conquests? Why do you tell us nothing of it beyond denying its objective existence?
A: The prince who took the sword connotes a true spiritual son of the Tathagata; but, if you say that he carried it off, you imply that he DEPRIVED the Treasury of something. What nonsense is it to speak of carrying off a piece of that Void Nature which is the Source of all things! It would appear that, if you have got hold of anything at all, it may be called a collection of rams’ horns!* (*Rams’ horns symbolize passions and delusions.)
Zen Masters say to not seek truth, but only to cease to cherish one’s opinions and ones clinging to right and wrong. In the purity of non-dual systems, the truth is elusive and is reliant upon circumstance and events and how one reacts to them. This means the mystery in any mystery school is the mystery of ourselves, as we know with the stresses of “Know Thyself”. Case 74 of the Zen text the Blue Cliff Record offers “What is occult samadhi? There is nothing mysterious in this from the Zen point of view. The only mystery is that of one’s own being.” Occultist Aleister Crowley says in his Essays Toward Truth, in the essay titled ‘Truth’, that “[…] thus come ye to Sammasamadhi — thus are ye free for ever of all the bonds that bound your Godhead! […] Then shall ye understand what is Truth, for ye shall understand your Selves, and YE ARE TRUTH!”
A nice meditation can be had on this coming to the realization of truth, or Nothing, by reflecting on a number of Crowley’s writings on Samadhi. I titled this article after a modified line of a chapter of Aleister Crowley’s Book Of Lies which I wanted to highlight today. It’s presented below.
ΚΕΦΑΛΗ Ϝ – Caviar:
“The Word was uttered: The One exploded into one thousand million worlds.
Each world contained a thousand million spheres.
Each sphere contained a thousand million planes.
Each plane contained a thousand million stars.
Each star contained a many thousand million things.
Of these the reasoner took six, and, preening, said: This is the One and the All.
These six the Adept harmonised, and said; This is the Heart of the One and the All.
These six were destroyed by the Master of the Temple; and he spake not.
The Ash thereof was burnt up by the Magus into The Word
Of all this did the Ipsissimus know Nothing.”
Crowley offers some helpful notes (saving us from having to do any thinking for ourselves), I’d recommend reading them. He specifically notes: “The Ipsissimus, in the highest grade of the A⁂A⁂, is totally unconscious of this process, or, it might be better to say, he recognises it as Nothing, in that positive sense of the word, which is only intelligible in Samasamadhi.”
Ipse is compounded from Proto-Indo-European *éy and *swé. Ey is “the” and swe is “self”. Ipse means “himself, herself, itself, the very-, the actual-“, and Issimus means roughly “innermost, source, self”.
So the self is Emptiness. In Yogacara/Buddhism there is the model of the Eight Consciousnesses which have been touched upon in a number of posts such as the above linked one to the Five Dhyani Buddhas, where in Zen the Four Wisdoms are mapped on top of the four elements, and the Wisdom which is placed on top of the Water element is the Perfect Mirror Wisdom represented by the Buddha Akshobhya who is the embodiment of mirror-knowledge. (The mirror serves as the most frequent metaphor for mind, as seen for example when a monk is asked why he sits in meditation, he says he’s “polishing a tile to make a mirror”.)
“The perfect man employs his mind as a mirror; it grasps nothing, it refuses nothing, it receives, but does not keep.” – Chuang Tzu
Crowley in Liber B Vel Magi: “Now the grade of a Magister teacheth the Mystery of Sorrow, and the grade of a Magus the Mystery of Change, and the grade of Ipsissimus the Mystery of Selflessness, which is called also the Mystery of Pan.
Let the Magus then contemplate each in turn, raising it to the ultimate power of Infinity. Wherein Sorrow is Joy, and Change is Stability, and Selflessness is Self. For the interplay of the parts hath no action upon the whole. And this contemplation shall be performed not by simple meditation —how much less then by reason!— but by the method which shall have been given unto Him in His initiation to the Grade.
Following which method, it shall be easy for Him to combine that trinity from its elements, and further to combine Sat-Chit-Ananda, and Light, Love, Life, three by three into nine that are one, in which meditation success shall be That which was first adumbrated to Him in the grade of Practicus (which reflecteth Mercury into the lowest world) in Liber XXVII, “Here is Nothing under its three Forms.”
Etymology is most helpful, and as Crowley put in the essay on Truth mentioned earlier, “Now Initiation is, by etymology, the journeying inwards; it is the Voyage of Discovery (oh Wonder-World!) of one’s own Soul. And this is Truth that stands upon the prow, eternally alert; this is Truth that sits with one strong hand gripping the helm! Truth is our Path, and Truth is our Goal; ay! there shall come to all a moment of great Light when the Path is seen to be itself the Goal; and in that hour every one of us shall exclaim: ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life!'”
In Zen Buddhism ‘Initiation’ is not a term used, but rather the term ‘Kensho’ is which means “seeing nature”. This turning inwards can be seen in the Song of Meditation by Zen Master Hakuin:
“How much more he who turns within
And confirms directly his own nature,
That his own nature is no-nature –
Such has transcended vain words.
The gate opens, and cause and effect are one;
Straight runs the way – not two, not three.
Taking as form the form of no-form,
Going or returning, he is ever at home.
Taking as thought the thought of no-thought.
Singing and dancing, all is the voice of truth.
Wide is the heaven of boundless Samadhi,
Radiant the full moon of the fourfold wisdom.
What remains to be sought? Nirvana is clear before him,
This very place the Lotus paradise, this very body the Buddha”
That last line of Hakuin’s was referring to Vairocana. From Wikipedia: “Vairocana is a celestial buddha who is often interpreted, in texts like the Flower Garland Sutra, as the Dharma Body of the historical Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama). In Chinese, Korean, and Japanese Buddhism, Vairocana is also seen as the embodiment of the Buddhist concept of Emptiness. In the conception of the Five Wisdom Buddhas of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, Vairocana is at the centre and is considered a Primordial Buddha.”
Vairocana says in the Brahma Net Sutra: “Now, I, Vairocana Buddha am sitting atop a lotus pedestal; On a thousand flowers surrounding me are a thousand Sakyamuni Buddhas. Each flower supports a hundred million worlds; in each world a Sakyamuni Buddha appears. All are seated beneath a Bodhi-tree, all simultaneously attain Buddhahood. All these innumerable Buddhas have Vairocana as their original body.”
Well, thanks for reading! I presented all this to say Nothing! And ah, what a lovely Nothing it is!
“Having to talk destroys the symphony of silence.” – Aleister Crowley
I am the Silence, the eye of the storm, I am Nothing, I am All.