A common way of meditating on the Tarot is by looking at only the 22 Major Arcana. Of course these in Qabalah are associated with the 22 Paths that connect the 10 Sephirot on the Tree of Life which expands this meditation. However to start this discussion, I wish to point out that there is a layout where the Fool is often set aside from the other 21 cards. It is said that the Fool contains all the potential and possibilities of the other cards, and/or that each card reflects a different aspect or stage of the Fool’s journey. The number usually associated with the Fool is 0.
Aleister Crowley in Liber ת vel Kabbalae Trium Literarum showed how the cards of the Book relate to the different stages and levels of spiritual development. The Liber is Class A, so is not to be changed or interpreted, but doing neither and simply taking the figure at the head of the document, there’s an interesting thing to note: that the Tau (normally the World card in Tarot, but in Crowley’s Thoth Tarot it is the Universe) is serving the task of the Fool, while the Fool (as Aleph) is under its umbrella. Aleph represents the number one, and is the first card in the top row of seven, laid from right to left as in Hebrew, so the layout shows the 21 Major Arcana from 0-6, 7-13 & 14-20 in three rows.
I have recently acquired Oswald Wirth’s Tarot and have been reading Wirth’s writings on the Tarot, and I have come across an interesting layout for meditation where the Fool is separated from the other 21 cards, which are then placed in three hexagrams, and you lay the cards out according to the pattern of a hexagram. With the hexagram on the left, we can see that the top and bottom are 1+6, the bottom left and top right are 2+5, and the top left and bottom right are 4+3, all adding up to 7, which is placed in the middle, and similarly the cards themselves interact and communicate with each other and with us when they are placed in these layouts. Only three cards are ‘fixed’ in the 7th position of the three hexagrams, so for those who are intuitive there is certainly something to be gleaned there from that result.
Another two layouts that seemed immediately significant to me were provided by Wirth in his Tarot of the Magicians, where the cards are simply laid out from left to right in three rows of 7 (as Crowley had done in reverse in Liber Tau). This layout of the Three Septenaries is then compared to a layout of the Seven Ternaries, where the cards are laid out from top to bottom in seven groups of three (as Crowley had broken his down to distinguish the stages of the spiritual journey).
Inspired to play, I laid out the hexagrams using Crowley’s Book of Thoth with the Fool being in the 1st position, instead of the Magus, again, being under the influence of Liber Tau. Besides, this is made rather fitting with the Book of the Law saying: “My prophet is a fool with his one, one, one; are not they the Ox, and none by the Book?” (Aleph being derived from a Semitic word meaning “ox” and the origins of the letter are said to be an Egyptian hieroglyph depicting an ox’s head. The none by the Book may be the 0 attribution the Fool card in the Book of Thoth carries).
Anyways, when laid out in three Hexagrams, the the following configuration is produced:
The central cards ‘fixed’ to the seven position can give them additional meaning in meditation, but I don’t wish to use the space here to do that. The Lovers/Brothers, Death, and the Aeon… surely there would be much there to say. Yet, continuing onto the Wirth layout… or rather Crowley’s as shown Liber Tau, I laid the cards from right to left.
Three Septenaries, from right to left; three rows of seven.
But then, chose to lay them out into the Seven Ternaries as Wirth had done, and further, pulled the cards which appear in both layouts (emphasized in bold).
Seven Ternaries, from top to bottom, seven rows of three.
The discrepency of the numbers in the tables are since Crowley’s layout in Liber Tau simply laid out the Hebrew letters associated with the cards, this has a swapped “Tzaddi” (the Star) with the Emperor, since the Book of the Law reads: “All these old letters of my Book are aright; but [Tzaddi] is not the Star.” What I found promising is that the resulting 9 cards taken as they appear in both tables retain this Empress/Emperor pairing in the middle column because of the swap that has taken place.
I hope to peel back more layers of this and see what intuition or insight can be gained from configuring the Book of Thoth in this way. However, I wanted to share this in case anyone else is inspired to play around and dust off their cards of Art.
In Dogen’s Vast Perfect Knowing it is said that once Indra, the king of the shining ones, asked Venerable Subhuti: “O Worthy One, if those who are grounded in Openness and Vastness wish to learn this profound perfect knowing, how should it be done?” To which Subhuti replies, “If those who are grounded in Openness and Vastness wish to learn perfect knowledge, they should learn it to be as space”. So the study of perfect knowing is space and space is perfect knowing.
One of the key aspects of Zen Buddhism is the use of koans, or paradoxical stories and questions, designed to test and provoke the student’s mind, leading to a direct realisation of reality beyond words and concepts. Koans are not puzzles to be solved by logic or reason, but rather pointers to the true nature of reality, which can only be grasped through intuition and insight, and for some, an understanding of an esoteric structure or model. One of the most famous koans in Zen is that of a monk who asked Zhaozhou, “Does a dog have Buddha-nature? Zhaozhou replied, “Mu”. (Not have, no). What did he mean by that? This koan seems to contradict the basic teaching of Mahayana Buddhism, which is that all sentient beings have Buddha-nature, or the potential to attain enlightenment… So how can Zhaozhou say that a dog does not have Buddha nature?
To approach this koan, we need to understand the concept of non-obstruction between phenomena, or shishi wu’ai in Chinese. This term means that all phenomena in the universe are interpenetrating and interdependent, without hindering or obstructing each other. This concept is derived from the Avatamsaka Sutra (the Flower Garland Sutra), which describes the realm of reality as a web of jewels, known also as Indra’s Net. The Flower Garland is apparently meant to suggest the crowning glory of a Buddha’s profound understanding of ultimate reality.
The net of jewels is a metaphor with which we can visualise a vast web spanning the entire cosmos, with each vertex of the net holding a jewel. Each jewel is perfectly clear and reflects all the other jewels in the web. Each reflection also contains the reflections of all the other jewels, and so on ad infinitum. Thus each jewel contains the whole of the web, yet each jewel is distinct and does not obstruct the others. In place of a Jewel, which again is only metaphor, you can substitute it with a Thelemic one, with each individual being a star in the body of Nuit, as Crowley wrote: “if every man and every woman did his and her will—the true will—there would be no clashing. “Every man and every woman is a star,” and each star moves in an appointed path without interference.”
Crowley’s magical child Frater Achad in his work Crystal Vision Through Crystal Gazing touched upon this idea: “At the CENTRE of our Being is the Star of Unconquered Will, that is the True or Divine Will, the Will of the Universe. Each must discover this Star in his own being, and putting his personal will in line with Its Guidance, become an active and conscious cooperator in the Universal Plan. This Star is of Intense brilliance. It is the Diamond Soul, the only Veil about the Innermost Essential Self. It is thus the ULTIMATE CRYSTAL, of which it is written by Our Lady Nuit—Goddess of the Starry Heavens—Who represents INFINITE SPACE or the Universal Crystalline Sphere : “Worship then the Khabs (Star) and behold my light shed over you!” When we have discovered this Central Light of our Being, and learned to Concentrate the Mind thereon, we shall begin the Ultimate Practice of Crystal Gazing. We shall find the Star Rays from the Universal Sphere centered in us, and when the focus becomes perfect, shall discover, that this CENTRE is EVERYWHERE and THE CIRCUMFERENCE NOWHERE. Then all our conceptions of Crystalline Spheres will melt into That which is Without Limit, — PERFECT CRYSTALLINE VISION.”
With or without seeing these metaphors with perfect crystalline vision, they can help us to understand that all phenomena are non-obstructive. Phenomena are anything that can be experienced or observed, such as physical objects, mental events, sensations, emotions, thoughts, etc. According to Buddhism, all phenomena are empty of inherent existence, meaning that they do not have a fixed or independent nature. Rather, they arise and cease depending on causes and conditions, and they are interrelated with all other phenomena, which is called dependent origination, or Pratītyasamutpāda in Sanskrit. Therefore, phenomena are also like the jewels in the net, reflecting and being reflected by all other phenomena without any obstruction or separation. Each phenomena contains the whole universe, and yet each phenomena is unique and distinct. This is called the realm of reality, or Dharmadhatu in Sanskrit. (The non-conceptualising awareness of Sunyata).
The Buddhavatamsaka or Flower Garland Sutra was responsible for the birth of the Huayan school of Chinese Buddhism. There is a recorded conversation between a monk called Zhang Shangying and Zen Master Yuanwu Keqin (1063 – 1135), the Zen master who developed the collection of koans known as the Biyan lu (Blue Cliff Record) into what we know today. In discussing the Four Dharmadhatus, Zhang Shangying argued that “the Huayan philosophy is great. It clarifies the final stage of Chan”. But Yuanwu suggested, “Except for the first three realms. Only the realm of unobstructed phenomena has something in common with Chan (Zen). But none of them can approach the realm of truth as long as those conceptual categories exist. On the other hand, the realm of Chan is beyond all conceptualisation.” Yuanwu’s suggestion is that only after the four categories or realms have disappeared would the stage of Chan emerge, which is rooted in the realm of non-obstruction among phenomena..
Let us now return to the koan I gave at the beginning of this article. When Zhaozhou says that a dog does not have Buddha-nature, he is not denying the dog’s potential for enlightenment, nor is he contradicting the teaching of Mahayana Buddhism. Rather, he is pointing out the non-obstruction between phenomena and challenging the monk’s dualistic thinking. The monk asks a yes-or-no question, implying that there are only two possible answers: either a dog has Buddha-nature or it does not, and expects the master to put his mind at rest with an answer. This is a dualistic way of thinking, based on the assumption that phenomena have an inherent existence and can be divided into fixed and separate categories which creates conflict and suffering. It is written, in Liber Legis, The Book of the Law, “Now, therefore, I am known to ye by my name Nuit, and to him by a secret name which I will give him when at last he knoweth me. Since I am Infinite Space, and the Infinite Stars thereof, do ye also thus. Bind nothing! Let there be no difference made among you between any one thing & any other thing; for thereby there cometh hurt.”
So Zhaozhou’s answer of ‘not having’ is a way of attacking the monk’s dualistic way of thinking. Zhaozhou is saying that a dog does not have Buddha nature as a separate or inherent quality, but rather as a reflection and interpenetration of all other phenomena. Zhaozhou also says that Buddha-nature is not something that any phenomena can possess or lack, but rather something that is expressed and realised by all phenomena. In other words, Zhaozhou says that a dog is not a dog, and Buddha-nature is not Buddha-nature. I am reminded of Aleister Crowley’s observation that the letters C, A, T do not make a cat (which I heard recently on the Darkly Splendid Abodes podcast, check them out!).
This is the wisdom and meaning of the koan, and of the concept of non-obstruction between phenomena. It is a way of seeing reality as it is, beyond words and concepts, beyond dualism and discrimination, beyond attachment and aversion. It is a way of experiencing reality as a dynamic and harmonious whole, in which everything is connected, everything is empty, and everything is possible. This is the aim and method of Zen practice. By meditating on the koan, or any phenomena, the goal is to train the mind to see through our habitual patterns and projections and to perceive the non-obstruction between phenomena. In this way we can awaken to our true nature, which is not separate from the nature of reality. We can realise that we are not a self but a jewel in the net. We can realise that we have always been enlightened, and that enlightenment is nothing more than seeing reality as it is. (See this previous post on divine self-emptying, which compared Mu/Wu of Zen with Agape of Thelema, and which shows that in Buddhism the esoterics make Vairocana the Mind or Will).
Now that I’ve mentioned Yuanwu, let’s look at another koan from his Blue Cliff Record. This koan is about Yunmen, another Zen master, who was asked by a monk about the meaning of the Buddha’s teaching. The monk asked Yunmen, “What is the teaching of a whole lifetime?” Yunmen said, “An appropriate statement.”
How could Yunmen say that the teachings of a whole lifetime are just an “appropriate statement”? What did he mean by this answer? In order to understand this koan, we must again approach the concept of non-obstruction between phenomena (even though it is to err in approaching the unapproachable, and conceptualising the unconceptable, forgive me that words fail in this art). When Yunmen says that the teachings of a whole lifetime are just an appropriate statement, he is not belittling or simplifying the Buddha’s teaching. Rather, he is pointing to the non-obstruction between phenomena and expressing the essence of the Buddha’s teaching. (See, for example, the Flower Sermon in Zen, where the World Honoured One raised a flower to demonstrate his teaching). The monk speaking to Yunmen is asking a general and abstract question, implying that there is a fixed or definitive answer that can summarise the teachings of a lifetime, like the monk who asked Joshu if a dog has a Buddha-nature. This again is dualistic thinking and Yunmen’s answer of “an appropriate statement” is a way of negating this, because the teachings of a lifetime are not something that can be captured or defined by any statement, but rather something that can be expressed or realised by any statement as long as it is appropriate to the situation and context. Yunmen’s answer says that each statement is not something that has a separate or inherent meaning, but rather something that has a relative and dependent meaning depending on its relationship to other phenomena.
Follow me if you will a bit into the esoteric weeds… Dharmadhatu is the ‘dimension’, ‘realm’ or ‘sphere’ (dhātu) of the Dharma or Absolute Reality. When Buddha-nature is realised, dharmadhātu is also called the Dharmakāya, the body of Dharma Truth, which is also associated with Vairocana (whose name means ‘he who is like the sun’).
In The Transmission of the Lamp by Chang Chung-yuan: A monk asked, “What is the perfect symbol of Vairocana?” The Master replied, “Since I left my home in the early days to become a Buddhist, I have not been troubled by blurred vision. The monk persisted: “Then why don’t you help people to see?” The Master replied: “I want you to see the Vairocana yourself.”
Take Case 74 of the Blue Cliff Record for instance, where Engo provides the following introduction to the koan: “The Bakuya sword in hand, he cuts through all complications. The clear mirror hung high, he himself utters the words of Vairocana. In self-mastery he quetly puts on his clothes and takes his meal. In occult and playful samadhi, what will he do?”… So a Zen Master is taking the place of Vairocana…. Vairocana and the figure of the Five Dhyani Buddhas maps the qualities of Buddha — which is the samadhi shared by all enlightened beings, see the Brahmajhala Sutra where Vairocana was first introduced: “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 numberless Buddhas have Vairocana as their original body”.
Master Yunju said to an assembly, “People engaged in study need to attain the basis of enlightenment, discovering the ground of mind. If you realize the master of the reality body, then the whole earth, plants and trees, take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. If you realize the teacher of Vairocana, the realm of space takes refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. But tell me, what do you call the master of the reality body? What do you call the teacher of Vairocana? Do you want to understand directly? Radiate light in your eyes, manifesting auspicious signs; turn the great wheel of Dharma in your ears.”
Or as found in The Treatise on Perfect Illumination (Yuan-ming lun): “The essence of the Great World is originally Vairocana Buddha, the ingenious expedient means of the Bodhisattvas, the strength of their vows of great compassion, and samâdhi [itself]. Samâdhi takes space as its essence. Because space is without obstruction, it can generate the wisdom of unobstructed dharmadhâtus. Because the wisdom of the dharmadhâtus is unobstructed, it can generate the wisdom of unobstructed samâdhi. Because samâdhi is unobstructed, it can generate Vairocana Buddha, whose unobstructed and limitless body is offered to all sentient beings as the basis of their existence, so that their worlds are fundamentally unobstructed. Therefore, [it is said that the worlds] are unobstructed.”
As I’ve mentioned before, the Dharmakaya is one of the three bodies (where we have the Dharmakaya and the Sambhogakaya, which is the pleasure or bliss body, and the Nirmanakaya, which is the physical manifestation of a Buddha in time and space). We know that the three bodies unite with the four wisdoms (or prajnas) to produce the triple gem of true speech, true thought and true action. According to Wikipedia, “A core teaching of Chan/Zen Buddhism describes the transformation of the eight consciousnesses into the four wisdoms. In this teaching, the Buddhist practice is to turn the light of awareness from misconceptions about the nature of reality as external to kenshō, “seeing one’s own nature directly”. Thus the eighth consciousness is transformed into the Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom, the seventh consciousness into the Equality (Universal Nature) Wisdom, the sixth consciousness into the Profound Observing Wisdom, and the first to fifth consciousnesses into the All Performing (Perfection of Action) Wisdom.” (Compare Kenshō with Crowley, who says that initiation etymologically means to journey inward, where the highest degree of his system is the Ipsissimus, whose name means something like “innermost source or self”, and whose Understanding is Not).
Since I’ve invoked the four wisdoms and three bodies in the paragraph above, let’s allow Zen Master Huineng to guide us a little in our way. Huineng instructed: “If you deal with the four prajnas apart from the three bodies, there will be prajnas without bodies, in which case they would not be prajnas.” (Prajna translates as understanding or wisdom). He offered also then this stanza, “The mirrorlike wisdom is pure by nature. The equality wisdom frees the mind from impediments. The all-discerning wisdom sees things intuitively without going through the process of reasoning. The all-performing wisdom has the same characteristics as the mirror-like wisdom.”
Yongming Yanshou’s Records of the Source Mirror provides further illumination: “The vast sea of all-encompassing existence manifested by the Universal Mind is correctly explained in the Perfect Teaching. Throughout the eight consciousnesses, the light of wisdom illuminates the darkness to reveal wrong views. The mind-mirror actually refers to the spiritual abode of living beings and the implicit truth of the myriad dharmas. It is constantly changing in unpredictable ways, expanding and contracting with unimpeded spontaneity. It manifests traces as conditions warrant; names are formed according to what is manifested. When Buddhas realise the essence of mind, it is called full enlightenment…”
The Five Dhyani Buddhas map the wisdoms as summarized on Wikipedia: “Tathatā-jñāna, the wisdom of Suchness or Dharmadhatu, “the bare non-conceptualizing awareness” of Śūnyatā, the universal substrate of the other four jñāna; Ādarśa-jñāna, the wisdom of “Mirror-like Awareness”, “devoid of all dualistic thought and ever united with its ‘content’ as a mirror is with its reflections”; Samatā-jñāna, the wisdom of the “Awareness of Sameness”, which perceives the sameness, the commonality of dharmas or phenomena; Pratyavekṣaṇa-jñāna, the wisdom of “Investigative Awareness”, that perceives the specificity, the uniqueness of dharmas; Kṛty-anuṣṭhāna-jñāna, the wisdom of “Accomplishing Activities”, the awareness that “spontaneously carries out all that has to be done for the welfare of beings, manifesting itself in all directions”. These Five Wisdoms emerge through a transformation of the eight consciousnesses at the moment of enlightenment… Therefore the previously mentioned ‘mirrorlike wisdom’ is the wisdom Buddha Akshobhya, whose name means “mirrorlike wisdom”, and is the wisdom of reflection. The ‘equality wisdom’ is Ratnasambhava whose name means “jewel-born”. ‘All-discerning wisdom’ is Amida or Amitabha, whose name means infinite light/life, and often is “he who possesses light without bound, he whose splendor is infinite”, and lastly the ‘all-performing wisdom’ is Amoghasiddhi, whose name means “he whose accomplishment is not in vain”.
These four Wisdom Buddhas are associated with the four directions and the four elements of form, water, air, fire and earth, which then unlock the ‘three bodies’ encapsulated in the fifth Wisdom Buddha in the centre, Vairocana, who represents sunyata/cosmic space emptiness. (One could meditate here on Vairocana in the centre of the four elements and relate the symbol to the PENTAGRAMMATON of Hermetic philosophy).
Let our eyes open to take in more light. Illustrated in Zen Master Dahui’s Shobogenzo, Tong said, “May I hear about the meaning of the fourfold knowledge?” The patriarch said, “Once you understand the three bodies, you understand the fourfold knowledge—why ask further? If you speak of the fourfold knowledge apart from the three bodies, this is called having knowledge with no embodiment, so this having knowledge turns into having no knowledge. I will again utter a verse:
The great round mirror knowledge is purity of essence; The knowledge of equality is mind without illness. Observing knowledge sees, not as a result of effort; Knowledge for accomplishing tasks is the same as the round mirror. Five and eight, six and seven, effect and cause revolve; It’s just use of terminology, with no substantive nature. If you do not keep feelings on the revolving, Flourishing, you’ll always be in dragon concentration.”
Tong bowed in thanks and expressed praise in a verse:
“The three bodies are originally my being, The fourfold knowledge is clarity of the basic mind. Body and knowledge merge without hindrance, Responding to people, freely adapting. Initiating cultivation is all arbitrary action; Maintaining stasis is not true refinement. The subtle message understood through the teacher, Finally I’ve lost defiling terms.”
At one point in this phenomena of wordy, concept-laden info-dumping, there was a reference to the Flower Sermon, where the Buddha gave a sermon without words and held up a flower before the assembly. Only Mahākāśyapa smiled at the sight of this having Understanding. The Buddha said: “I possess the true Dharma-eye, the wonderful mind of Nirvana, the true form of the Formless, the subtle Dharma-gate, which is not based on words or letters, but is a special transmission outside the scriptures. I entrust this to Mahākāśyapa.”
I will end this article here with a most appropriate quote from Zen Master Yunmen… The Master once said, “Do you see?” To which he replied to himself, “I see.” He continued, “What do you see?” On behalf of everyone present, he replied, “A flower.”
I’ve almost finished my work on Oswald Wirth’s presentation of the Great Book of Nature, or the Philosophical and Hermetic Apocalypse, and will soon be publishing the first ever English translation, with an expansion from the SATE as The Hermetic Apocalypse.
Anyway, for the last few years there has been silence on the site (for the most part), and in the act of changing that, I wanted to compose a meditation on silence. Ironically, yet not at all, let’s call this ramble…
Silence is Golden.
The image above is taken from the book Symbolicarvm quaestionvm de vniverso genere qvas serio lvdebat libri qvinqve by Achille Bocchi (Achilles Bocchius) (1488 – 1562). Bocchi’s doctrine was that man is bound to the earth and to the contingencies of his life, but that with the help of divine grace his mind can reach the contemplation of God, provided with a “very syncerissima mente” (a very sincere, pure mind), without external practices and in the silence of solitude.
Before looking at the figure, it is worth noting that Bocchi commissioned the construction of Palazzo Bocchi, which he had placed two inscriptions on its façade: the first in Latin, taken from the first epistle of Horace: Rex eris, aiunt, si recte facies, or “You will be king, they say, if you act justly”, and the other in Hebrew, taken from Psalm 120: “Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.” The palace became the seat of the Hermathena Academy, which he had founded years earlier, its name a fusion of Hermes and Athena, alluding to the whole of human knowledge, both rational and hermetic.
Bocchi’s book Symbolicarvm quaestionvm de vniverso contains an image and then has a Latin verse and commentary to accompany the image. The one we are looking at now is the image I have placed at the top of this post, which is a Study for Harpocrates (Silentio Deum Cole, “Worship God in Silence”). It is symbol LXII which shows Hermes wearing a winged helmet, naked except for a cloak, making the sign of silence with his right hand, while his left hand holds up a seven-branched candelabra with seven burning flames — the central one, the sun, is the tallest, while the other six are divided, one on each side, into three descending branches. Above Hermes’ head is the sun as a circle of light in which is written: “MONAS MANET IN SE,” which has been translated by some as “trust only in yourself” and by others as “the good/the unity remains in itself”, the latter having the most correct weight in my opinion. Under the feet of Hermes we find a stone pedestal which reads: “ΛAΛHΣAΣ MEN POΛΛAKHΣ METENOHΣE ΣIΩPHΣAΣ ΔE OYΔEPOTE” (Speaking often you have regretted. Being silent you have never regretted).
I will give you the verse that accompanies the image in a moment, but first I want to examine the symbolism in the image more closely. Hermes represents Mercury, the alchemical Mercury. Mercury is a symbol of the Three in One, as in the name Hermes Trismegistus (a syncretic combination of Hermes and Thoth). Three in one, one in three, thrice great, Hermes Trismegistus comes from Ἑρμῆς ὁ Τρισμέγιστος, “Hermes the Thrice Greatest”; or in classical Latin: Mercurius ter Maximus. It is said that he was called Trismegistus because of his praise of the Trinity, saying that there is one divine nature in the Trinity. The caduceus is a symbol of Hermes, and the twin serpents entwined about the winged staff or wand are the basis of the astronomical symbol of Mercury ☿.
Now, just as we can look at another and see their depth, width and height, three aspects in one form, so one can look at oneself or another and see the composition of the alchemical Sulphur, Salt and Mercury. Here’s another figure that I discovered in the Hermetic Apocalypse, but in colour, as I had designed it to be presented on the cover of the book. It represents Sulphur, Salt and Mercury, or the Tria Prima of the alchemists, as well as the four elements and the seven alchemical planets/metals:
The candelabra held by Hermes shows the Sun in the centre and a balance between the salts of the metals in the Great Work. Another figure found in the Hermetic Apocalypse can show us what this illustrates, which Wirth labels the “Mystical Description of the Great Work”:
The explanation provided with this figure is, “that it is necessary to draw the salt, or the crystals of lead ♄, and unite them with those of silver ☽︎. Then take those of tin and unite them with those of quicksilver. Those of iron, unite them with those of copper. Of all these marriages another is made, and the Sun is in the centre.”
We will surely examine some of the images above, and make a post about VITRIOL and the AZOTH another time, though this is not the place to continue on here… Back to the Silentio Deum Cole, or the study of Harpocrates… It was mentioned earlier that there is a Latin text accompanying each image in Bocchi’s book of emblems. Beside the image of Hermes with his candelabra is the accompanying text and its rough translation:
SAEPE LOQVI NOCVIT, NVNQVAM NOCVIT TACVISSE.
Menti, Virtuti, & Fidei delubra dicamus: Esse sita in nobis cernimus illa tamen. Cur capitolina Tritonia Pallas in arce Sedem habuit? caput hæc vrbus, & orbis erat. Mens decus est hominis, divine mentis imago, Non vllis vnquam sensibus exposita. Noscere qui cupit hanc ipsum se noscat oportet In primis, pharium, & consulat Harpocratem.
REVOCANDA MENS A SENSIBVS, DIVINA CVI MENS OBTIGIT.
Reuocare mentem qui potest à sensibus, Et cogitationem ab afuetudine Abducere, facilé ille præstat omnibus: Nam mente viuit, atq viuit vt Deus, Qui corpore ac sensibus, brutum vt pecus. Hermetis hanc sententiam ter maximi Qui cords habebit, esse non potest miser.
OFTEN SPEAKING HAS HARMED, NEVER HAS SILENCE.
Let us dedicate temples to Mind, Virtue, and Faith: we see that they are situated in us, nevertheless. Why did Tritonian Pallas have her seat on the Capitoline hill? This city was the head of the world.
The mind is the glory of man, the image of the divine mind, never exposed to any senses. Whoever desires to know it must first know himself, and consult the Pharion god and Harpocrates.
THE MIND MUST BE WITHDRAWN FROM THE SENSES, TO WHOM THE DIVINE MIND HAS REACHED.
Whoever can withdraw his mind from the senses, and lead his thought away from habit, he easily surpasses all: for he lives with his mind, and lives as a god, who with his body and senses, lives as a brute beast. Whoever will have this sentence of thrice-greatest Hermes in his heart, he cannot be miserable.
Proverbs 17:28 says “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” Speech cannot be viewed so one-dimensionally, as Crowley writes in Liber B Vel Magi: “In the beginning doth the Magus speak Truth, and send forth Illusion and Falsehood to enslave the soul. Yet therein is the Mystery of Redemption. By His Wisdom made He the Worlds; the Word that is God is none other than He. How then shall He end His speech with Silence? For He is Speech.” (An appropriate reflection here could be on Heru-ra-ha, and its passive aspect in Hoor-pa-kraat — Harpocrates).
Aleister Crowley provides an alchemical poem that is the perfect way to put a bow on this post for now. This poem can be found in Liber Turris vel Domus Deo sub figurâ XVI (or Book of the Tower or House of God under figure XVI). The XVI, or sixteen, here represents the sixteenth card of the Tarot, called The Tower. (Éliphas Lévi had written that the tower represented on this card was probably the Tower of Babel – the meaning here is obvious, the destruction of the Tower of Babel resulted in the loss of the Universal Language). Crowley attributes the Tower card to the letter Peh, which means mouth, and the card bears the symbol of the planet Mars, and in his Qaballah is placed on the path connecting the sphere of Mercury in Hod and the sphere of Venus in Netzach. On Crowley’s design of the card, the Eye of Shiva or Horus is positioned at the top, while the jaws of Dīs belches flames at the bottom. (Dīs is Dīs Pater, associated with death and the underworld, as mineral wealth such as gems and precious metals came from underground. Dīs Pater is also known as Pluto, the god of the underworld).
The verse I wish to share here from in Liber Turris vel Domus Deo sub figurâ XVI by Crowley reads:
Sulphur, Salt, and Mercury: Which is master of the three? Salt is Lady of the Sea; Lord of Air is Mercury. Now by God’s grace here is salt Fixed beneath the violet vault. Now by God’s love purge it through With our right Hermetic dew. Now by God wherein we trust Be our sophic salt combust. Then at last the Eye shall see Three in One and One in Three, Sulphur, Salt, and Mercury, Crowned by Heavenly Alchemy! To the One who sent the Seven Glory in the Highest Heaven! To the Seven who are the Ten Glory on the Earth, Amen!
Let’s conclude this article with a few words from the wise Éliphas Lévi: “Everything is possible to him who wills only what is true! Rest in nature, study, know, then dare; dare to will, dare to act and be silent!
The SATE Presents: The Hermetic Apocalypse by Oswald Wirth, coming soon!
I have been reading archived French papers from the early to mid 1900s, and I came across an image of Aleister Crowley which hasn’t been seen by many. It doesn’t appear to have been isolated from the article and/or posted to the internet before, so I have corrected that by creating the following:
I have been working on a book for about 10 years now which I am never satisfied with, looking to prove to readers that Crowley was a hypnotist and more importantly, that magick is hypnosis. I’ve collated hundreds of proofs and have carved a unique path in studying occultism as a result. (The book is currently known as Magick Unveiled: Hypnotism and the Occult, and I hope to release it to the world in the coming years). A major part of the book is showing that Aleister Crowley was a hypnotist, which people often seem to deny and take most issue with when I bring up the subject.
Today I was reading French newspapers in digital archives when I came across a story that has not previously been republished anywhere, or cited in regards to modern works about Crowley. It is an account from Charlotte Chabrier who wrote in L’Intransigeant, published on the 18th of April, 1929, of her encounters with the Great Beast. I am going to publish the article in full in a different project I am working on for the SATE, however I wanted to put a portion of it here below:
“In gratitude for the fact that I had introduced him to the director of a major magazine, whose English correspondent greatly admired his [Crowley’s] sonnets, he graciously wanted to initiate me into occultism, and I remember a session at my home, when I was living in this Montparnasse district which seems hideous to me today, in which he pretended to prevent those present, by the mere force of his fluid, from counting out loud further than twenty.
Alas! I went without the slightest difficulty to thirty, and only stopped because I had had enough. But other ladies, more influential or more amiable, gave him the satisfaction which, as a good mistress of the house, I should have been the first to give him… He also said that he could see through the thickest walls, with a look full of rays which pierced all obstacles. I am quite sure of the opposite. For how many times I saw him cross the courtyard which preceded my flat and come and ring tirelessly at my door, behind which I stood without moving, not being disposed to talk about occultism when my housework was not done.
He had convinced those around him that he could dislodge himself from his body at will. Perhaps this would be the moment for him to use this rare faculty.” – Charlotte Chabrier
The “force of his fluid” is of course the “lebensmagnetismus“, the magnetic fluid, and this “occult session” held by Crowley was clearly a demonstration of hypnosis – though Charlotte Chabrier was not susceptible to the induction technique applied by Crowley in the theatrical performance, delivered as if by a stage hypnotist. (Or perhaps he was still working on his act?)
Some other instances, should you wish to investigate, are that Crowley claimed to have hypnotized a newspaper-man who wrote an unfavourable article about him, as referenced by Tobias Churton in Aleister Crowley in America. Dion Fortune basing a fictional character off Crowley named Astley who has hypnotic control over women and has more knowledge about hypnosis than any other man in Europe… Bernard Bromage (as accounted in Light magazine) writing about his encounter with Crowley where Crowley tried hypnotizing him without Bromage’s awareness, which he countered, having known about the techniques Crowley was attempting to utilize. Or from the horse’s mouth: Crowley’s unpublished diary entry from March 15th, 1902 which shows that astrologer, and geomancer Elahi Bux once arrived at Crowley’s door, and how he taught Crowley to obtain a deadly hypnotic power: “Look hard at a point on the wall unwinking for many days, gradually increasing time. You will thus obtain hypnotic power even to Deadly and Hostile Current of Will.”
There’s plenty more evidence, but that is for another place and time. I hope you enjoyed Chabrier’s humorous account of her interactions with Crowley. If anything, they gave me a chuckle.
More: Over 2 years ago we put some attention on Crowley and hypnosis in a podcast, you can find it on our Youtube channel HERE.
Oswald Wirth (1860-1943) is going to be big figure over the next year for us at the SATE, as we currently have some projects underway that focus on this lesser known figure in Western Occultism, despite his profound influence and his great work. This post is to offer some details on him and to get you acquainted.
At 13 years old Joseph Paul Oswald Wirth obtained a book on mesmerism, and found with some play that he could magnetise a classmate who had complained of a sore mosquito bite, and he found success in remedying their pain. As he matured he went to the Catholic college of Saint-Michel at Fribourg where he had found further opportunities to learn about Mesmerism. This interest would stay with him and lead him to joining the Societe magnetique de France, which was under the leadership of Baron Du Potet.  Career-wise, he would remain focused on Mesmeric healing, and found that by the study of occultism, he could enrich his understanding of Mesmer’s techniques.
From the preface of his book Tarot of the Magicians, Wirth offers an account in which a woman he was healing with hypnosis went into trance and spoke of a future significant event in his life:
“Indulging as I was in the practice of occultism and before studying its theories deeply, I was, at the beginning of 1887, applying my hypnotic skills on a sick woman who fell asleep under my influence. She was a lucid patient who informed me of the state of her organs and of the effect produced by my fluid. Her tendency to chatter came out in spontaneous revelations, quite unexpected, to which I only paid moderate heed.
One day however, I was struck by my clairvoyant’s tone of conviction, which seemed to perceive with more accuracy than usual as she said ‘You will receive a letter with a red seal of armorial bearings!’ This she exclaimed as if this fact were of particular importance.
‘Can you see who the letter will come from?’
‘It is written by a young fair-haired man with blue eyes who has heard of you and wishes to make your acquaintance. He will be very useful to you and you will get on extremely well together.’
I asked other questions, but the replies were confused; they merely embarrassed the lady to no purpose. She was floundering and finally said, ‘Wait for the letter; I can see it clearly with its red seal. It will reach you in a few days, before the end of next week.’”
A few weeks went by and Wirth had assumed this vision was his patient “surrendering to the suggestion of her wandering imagination, as was her wont as soon as her vision ceased to relate to herself and to the stages of her cure.” And he said that “In short, lucidity is dependent on the instinct which urges the sick animal to seek its health-restoring grass. In any case it is easier to see clearly within onself, than to draw true information from the outside.” Draw information from the outside she did, however as Wirth finally received this predicted letter with its red armorial seal.
The letter was from a young Stanislas de Guaita (who famously first drew the upside-down pentagram containing a goats head), and the two would study esotericism together. Eventually this relationship would result in the Wirth/de Guaita Tarot – the first occult, cartomantic, and initiatory deck!
Wirth’s first published work in 1889 was Le Livre de Thot comprenant les 22 arcanes du Tarot — with Le Livre de Thot of course translating as “The Book of Thoth” (a title Aleister Crowley would go on to give his symbolic guide to the Tarot). Wirth would write numerous works, write introductions to occult texts, and become a Grand Master of Freemasonry in France.
Interesting Notes:  – Aleister Crowley would come to understand ritual whilst in a synchronicty holding Baron Du Potet’s book Magnetism. Potet’s book Magnetism and Magic mentions that all magical working is done through magnetism, and that in magnetism is the presence of magic.
Further: The first scientific experiment reported in literature containing hypnotic analgesia featured Baron Du Potet as a hypnotist working alongside surgeon Récamier in 1820 at the Hotel Dieu Hospital.
Further: Baron Du Potet would be a major influence on Dr. John Elliotson who was blown away by the magic of hypnosis. In 1846 Elliotson delivered the Harveian Oration, where he prodded his peers that science was neglecting hypnosis and was so rampant in his position that he implored others to study the material and phenomenon, that is, if they cared for truth, their own dignity, and the good of mankind. Elliotson would start a publication called The Zoist which he used to propagate hypnosis, though he continued to be viewed as a pariah in his profession.
Off the back of a meditation on Charity wherein I had mentioned that despite having done a post on Agape already, I had more to discuss or elaborate upon. Today we will examine “Wu” of the Zen tradition, and dig deeper into Thelema and why the 93 Current represents not just Thelema, but also the oft overlooked Agape (love) component, as in Thelema’s credo: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law, love is the law, love under will”. Allow me to emphasize two matters here: 1. that Eliphas Levi said in his Key of the Mysteries, as translated by Aleister Crowley, that it is before charity that “faith prostrates itself, and conquered science bows. There is here evidently something greater than humanity; charity proves by its works that it is not a dream.” 2. The Greek word Agape would be translated into Latin as caritas, which is the etymological root for the word ‘charity.’ From Corinthians: Caritas patiens est, benigna est. Caritas non aemulatur, non agit perperam, non inflatur; non est ambitiosa, non quaerit quae sua sunt, non irritatur, non cogitat malum; non gaudet super iniquitate, congaudet autem veritati… or in English: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”
The Thelemic concept of True, or Pure Will is sadly too slippery for many who study Thelema or dabble in the occult and who happen upon the phrase and imagine it to be exalted circumstance or situation. “My true will is to be an actor, or a singer,” they claim, and believe that through “Magick” they shall manifest that end and thus attain a transcendence from the world by manifesting an ethereal dream upon earth. While artistic expression may be a part of one’s path, true will is about Samadhi and enlightened action (which is constant). Central to Buddhism there is the Law (translated as the “Dharma”) and if one is enlightened, they are considered to be One with the Dharma. In Zen, or Chan Buddhism, a Chinese Buddhist creation of sudden enlightenment which blended the native Confucianism, folk traditions and philosophy, so seeing the light behind the shapes of letters, it contained concepts such as being One with the Dao (or Way / Path), etc. Daoism has “Wu Wei” which is considered the heart of the Dao, and roughly translates as non-doing or ‘doing nothing’, implying no action being taken, and/or “effortless action”. It is to act without contrivances and unnaturalness… Or as Crowley put it, “For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.”
“Wu” means not-have, or emptiness, yet is more than that and represents the Cosmic Space element (a rough equivalent to Spirit), “Sunyata” (void), and is often represented by the symbol of Vairocana Buddha (whose name means “he who is like the Sun”). Vairocana is usually mapped as being in the center of the four classical elements. Enlightenment would be when one turns the light of awareness around, from seeking externally to seeing internally and realizing that one’s true nature is “No-nature”, known also as one’s Buddha-Nature. (This achieved is “Kensho” which translates as “seeing one’s true nature.”) Everyone is a Buddha, though they must take responsibility and come through direct understanding themselves, and then function IN seeing themselves. Zen has four statements to summarize the school’s teaching, which are that it is: 1. A special transmission outside the scriptures, 2. Not founded upon words and letters. 3. By pointing directly to [one’s] mind, 4. It lets one see into [one’s own true] nature and [thus] attain Buddhahood. (Buddha etymologically comes from बुद्ध and means “awake”, “enlightened”, etc.) When in “occult samadhi” according to the Zen teachings, one eats when hungry and sleeps when tired, and respond to situations freely and spontaneously – this is enlightenment, not something whimsical and unattainable. “Yea! deem not of change: ye shall be as ye are, & not other.”
There is a division of action, where one manoeuvres through life and situation in accordance with the Way, or in accordance to the Dharma/Law, as opposed to acting Adharmic (which is to act in and/or cause division, contrivances, confusion, discord, suffering, etc.). Compare to Magick, which Crowley states we are always doing and it is conditional where one can be performing it well, or poorly, and he redefined magick as the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with Will. Zen is about suddenly realizing the root of suffering, and to achieve liberation right here, right now and to then take actions from playful samadhi. A translator of Zen texts, Charles Luk once said that in the earliest traditions of Chan Buddhism there were no fixed methods or formulas for teaching meditation, and that all instructions were heuristic methods to point to the true nature of the mind. He used as an example the Flower Sermon and the act of raising the flower, and said of Zen that it was referred to as the “Mind Dharma”. This is represented by the characters 心数 where 数 means number or count. If you look up “心数” in the Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms: With Sanskrit and English by William Edward Soothill, and Lewis Hodous you will see beside it a note that: “The esoterics make Vairocana the Mind or Will.” (Let it also be known that the character 心 represents both heart, and the mind and implies Intuitive functioning). “Making Vairocana the Will” is to do “pure” or “true” Will. I will do a number of posts on enlightenment in Zen, the association of Vairocana Buddha and the use of its symbology, but for this discussion I wish to move us back to putting the light upon Wu and its relation to Agape.
Steve Odin’s The Social Self in Zen and American Pragmatism introduced me to the writing of Muto Kazuo who compared the Nothingness, Emptiness and Wu of Buddhism with the Christian concept of Agape. Muto uses as one example, how the New Testament says to “love your enemies as yourself,” but in order to “love your enemies as yourself” this paradoxically would mean that you must abandon the self. This indicates the operation of Nothingness that empties the self and transcends the self. Crowley, for example in the Book of Lies has a chapter on Samadhi titled The Stag Beetle, which contains the line: “In love the individuality is slain; who loves not love?” and to “love death therefore,” and to “die daily” (to which he leaves a note that by this he means to practice Samadhi every day.) Or we can look to the Book of the Law’s teaching of non-duality wherein Nuit says: “For I am divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union. This is the creation of the world, that the pain of division is as nothing, and the joy of dissolution all.”
Negative terms such as “self-sacrifice”, “self-negation”, “self-abandonment”, “self-emptying”, and “self-transcendence” describe Agape. Muto wrote: “Love must be the making empty and the negation of the self-centered ego. In other words, love must be to surrender body and mind to the function of nothingness (mu), which makes love be self-effacing. Love of one’s neighbour is the realization of the love of God as ‘Love-qua-Nothingness’ by turning the self toward others.” The work continues and is worth a read, though in brief summation designates a radical conversion from egocentric existence to that of an existence-for-others based on divine “self-emptying”.
Mahayana Buddhism has a Three-Body theory of Buddhahood (enlightenment) which are the Dharmakaya (truth body), Sambhogakaya (body of divine enjoyment; the bliss body) and the Nirmanakaya (body of transformation; physical manifestation). Vairocana represents the Dharmakaya, which according to Encyclopedia Britanica is a “body or collection of all the Buddha’s good qualities or dharmas, such as his wisdom, his compassion, his fortitude, his patience.” Vairocana represents each of us without the egoic-self, or having been stripped bare of the conditioned form. The Sambhogakaya, the bliss body, is when one has transformed the controlling five passions/poisons/desires, so that one can act without “binding” karma – to enjoy the pleasures of life in the Middle Way, without being hindered or without hindering others. When one has attained the Truth Body (selfless nature), the bliss body is employed in spreading the compassion and wisdom of Buddha (which is now one’s selfless-self) and is an impulse body to guide one’s actions in accordance with the Dharma.
Though Agape in Thelema, Wu in Zen, does not mean forced or contrived acts of charity or good doing. Zen Master Linji warned: “If you seek the buddha through karma-creating activities, Buddha becomes the great portent of birth-and-death.” (Suffering, samsara is implied by “birth-and-death” whereas Buddha is the transcendence of suffering, having realized its root. (At least in good health — though the decomposition of the elements is inevitable in life, which is why “dukkha” is the first of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, something that often is abused by outsiders as seeing Buddhism as a depressing system, not seeing the meaning of this, nor the functionality of the teaching.
I will take pause here as I feel the next post examining Vairocana and enlightenment in Zen with comparisons to Thelema will be more appropriate for a self-contained post, which will likely follow this one. To wrap up this discussion, let’s enjoy a poem from Zen Master Bankei (1622-1693): “If you think the mind That attains enlightenment Is mine Your thoughts will wrestle, one with the other These days I’m not bothering about Getting enlightenment all the time And the result is I wake up in the morning feeling fine! Praying for salvation in the world to come Praying for your own selfish ends Is only piling on more and more Self-centeredness and arrogance.”
I am writing this on the evening of Good Friday following some recent meditations on Charity, and having read some literature relevant for today’s date. This coming Sunday, my wife and I will be gathering for Easter over a ham dinner with relatives, including some members of my family which I had fallen out of contact with for nearly a decade now. Good Friday, Pig, and Communion of sorts are the themes of today’s post with a little light shed onto Charity.
Eliphas Levi in the Science of Spirits explained eloquently the symbolism of Communion. He had said that in Christ’s revealing the law of unity which is the law of love, armed with the power to overcome the selfishness of the flesh, which is division and death, had instituted a sign called Communion. He said of communion, that it was nothing other than charity represented by a common table, and as Christ had given up his flesh to pain and death in order to bequeath his faithful the fraternal bread to which he attached his preserving thought, he said to them: “Eat all of you, this is my flesh!” as he said of the wine of fraternity: “Drink, all of you, this is my blood, for I will pour it out in its entirety to assure you of the reality of this sign forever.” I wrote in my post ‘Meditating on Agape and Thelema’ of the Eucharist, the communion known as an “Agape Feast” which is a topic I will be touching upon soon, given that I had since read something interesting and relevant from the Zen tradition. I wish to do a follow-up post on the matter in the near future but must put a pin in that for now, so check back in the coming week for that discussion.
Back to Levi’s Science of Spirits, which includes a tale which I wish to paraphrase and present here today. It is a parable about charity, and it is illustrated by the ascetic Saint Spyridon (who had lived approximately c. 270-348.) It is said that it was a Good Friday following the Lent period (abstaining from meat for 40 days), and Spyridon’s food of the holy quarantine were exhausted, and as he was to spend this day and the next without consuming any food at all, he had nothing at home but a piece of pig’s flesh hanging from the smoke of the fireplace which he had reserved for an Easter feast. An unexpected knock happened upon his door, and he opened it to find a traveller exhausted with fatigue. The bishop received him with alacrity and surrounded him with paternal care; but he soon discovered that his guest was about to faint from starvation. It was too late to go elsewhere and the city was quite far away. Without hesitation, Spyridon cut a piece of salted meat, cooked it and presented it to the traveller who rejected it with astonishment and fear: “I am a Christian, Father” he said, “so how can you offer me flesh to eat today! Do you think I am capable of insulting the death of Christ, our master by my intemperance?”
“I am a Christian like you, my son,” Spyridon replied gently, “and what is more, I am a bishop, that is to say, a pastor and a doctor. It is as a doctor that I offer you this food, the only food I can offer you. You are exhausted, and tomorrow it may be too late to save your life, so eat this food which I bless, and live.” — “Never,” replied the traveller, “for you advise me what you would not do yourself.” — “What I would not do for myself perhaps,” said the old man, “but what I would certainly do for you, as you are going to do for me, who is begging you. Here, would you like me to put some of this meat in my mouth to encourage you to use it without scruples?” And so St. Spyridon took and ate some of the pork, to urge his guest to do the same; for charity, according to him, was a more imperative law than that of abstinence or fasting.
The traveller to deny sustenance, life, and charity would be a foolish person worthy of having a wheel broken over their head. For nothing is wiser, more harmonious, more moderate, more amiable than the spirit of charity. Charitas patiens est, benigna est. Charitas non aemulatur, non agit perperam, non inflatur; non est ambitiosa, non quaerit quae sua sunt, non irritatur, non cogitat malum; non gaudet super iniquitate, congaudet autem veritati.
Some fun: A foolish person was sometimes figuratively called a fish (ἰχθύς). This is fitting for today’s meditation as the sun is in Pisces (the fish). Moreso, ἰχθύς – ikhthús, is an alternate form of ΙΧΘΥΣ which is an acronym representing Ἰησοῦς Χριστός Θεοῦ Υἱός Σωτήρ. This acronym allows the letters to be traced within an eight spoked wheel (a symbol common to Sun worship – the Buddihst eightfold path, and a symbol of Christianity). The ichthys (fish) being a symbol of Jesus, known commonly as the Jesus fish.
Anyways… Aleister Crowley translated Eliphas Levi’s Key of the Mysteries in which we find the following: “Before charity, faith prostrates itself, and conquered science bows. There is here evidently something greater than humanity; charity proves by its works that it is not a dream.” – “Charity! word divine, sole word which makes God understood, word which contains a universal revelation!” It was on Good Friday that Jesus willingly suffered and died by crucifixion on the cross. The Key of the Mysteries also states: “It is by charity, finally, that the folly of the cross has become the wisdom of the nations, because every noble heart has understood that it is greater to believe with those who love and who devote themselves, than to doubt with the egoists and with the slaves of pleasure.”
I’ll wind down the post with that quote. It is an appropriate note to end on, and it will prepare us for our future discussion, as the next post will return our gaze upon the concept of Agape and will highlight how this is fitting for enlightenment within the Zen tradition, and how it parallels to Aleister Crowley’s Thelema.
Pisces is the last of the Signs, so represents the last stage of winter, or of night, and according to Crowley it may very well be called the Gateway of Resurrection. So as the sun sets as I write these words, I see no better way than to end this post than to say: Have a Good night.
The title of this post is a bit tongue-in-cheek where my intended meaning with the wording is ‘Help me about Louis Lingg’. How, or why is this the case, you ask? My intent behind doing so was to highlight how easy it is to obfuscate meaning, and to unveil it at the same time.
“Mayday, mayday!” It has been heard in movies no doubt, or is known for its use in emergency situations such as impending crashes. It’s a call of ‘help me, help me’. The use of the word mayday as a distress call was conceived in the early 1920’s by Frederick Stanley Mockford utilizing the French m’aidez (help me). Anyway, I wished to write this post about Louis Lingg. No, not the physical human being Louis Lingg of the May Day events. And no, not May Day as in the Pagan Beltane sabbat, or the celebration of the return of Spring. ThisLouis Lingg is in reference to the May Day that was designated in 1889 as the date for International Workers’ Day by the Socialists and Communists of the Second International to commemorate the Haymarket Affair in Chicago. We’ll get into what that is for context shortly. However, to clarify further on the title, this help about Louis Lingg is not for elucidation upon the actions of the individual, or their philosophical or political views, but is in fact referring to a particular writing of Aleister Crowley. That writing is chapter 81 in his Book of Lies, and that chapter is titled ‘Louis Lingg’.
I wish here to offer a lens for which we can view Louis Lingg in continuation of a response to an essay posted titled ‘Is Thelema Fascist?’ (I also responded to their criticism of Agape). Most of that essay ITF? continually called Crowley’s word, Thelema and its adherents, as fascist without much digging into the work’s meaning, even when explicit commentary is provided by the work’s author which explicitly demonstrates otherwise. In that piece which I glanced over with my initial response, there is another attack to Crowley which shoved him in the corner, and pierced him with a tag reading ‘feudalist’. This label was designated as appropriate as the words ‘I am […] for feudalism’ appear once in Crowley’s work.
Comedian George Carlin had famously remarked, ‘Anyone driving slower than you is an idiot; anyone driving faster than you is a maniac.’ I believe that line adequately sets the stage for reading Aleister Crowley’s chapter called Louis Lingg which contains the line ‘[…] in short, any man who falls far short of MYSELF — I am against Anarchy, and for Feudalism.’
This instance of the word feudalism appearing is pointed at, much like the other lines which were almost at random chosen and twisted to fit new meaning beyond what was intended by the author, at least according to their own records and notes. Though, I am not here endorsing the author or their positions, I’m utilizing this space for calling into question the logic of the questioner, or broadening discussion by highlighting other aspects which are being neglected almost as if intentionally.
To provide you with required context, here is the seemingly controversial writing in full below.
LOUIS LINGGby Aleister Crowley
I am not an Anarchist in your sense of the word: your brain is too dense for any known explosive to affect it.
I am not an Anarchist in your sense of the word: fancy a Policeman let loose on Society!
While there exists the burgess, the hunting man, or any man with ideals less than Shelley’s and self-discipline less than Loyola’s — in short, any man who falls far short of MYSELF — I am against Anarchy, and for Feudalism.
Every “emancipator” has enslaved the free.
This places Anarchy (Control for self) and Feudalism (Control for system) against one another, and says that every emancipator enslaves the free. So government, in governing, may restrict movements of those who would only do good with their freedom; growth; harmonious living in enlightenment. Yet they would need to compete with the chaos of those who would not look to contribute to building up, and establishing Order – there would be those looking to quicken entropy, to force outer worlds to match their inner confusion. One who may act out, like an anarchist demonstrator, is in their mind an emancipator, but they are imposing their ideals as they feel the system is imposed upon them. The authoritative force, in its emancipating movement and an attempt at order and law, is also enslaving the free.
The paradox is apparent, and Crowley’s rumination and text is quite clear in what it is saying with invoking feudalism – the author is not saying “hey feudalism is awesome”.
Though that was sufficient as a look at the piece by Crowley, we could break it down for further rumination to demonstrate the above is more fitting than an interpretation that was lopsidedly used as evidence of Crowley being a proponent of feudalism and fascism. Crowley starts the piece saying “I am not an Anarchist in your sense of the word”. This to me takes identity in being an anarchist, but not in how others may perceive one as an ‘Anarchist’ simply by projection that may manifest with receiving the input of that label ‘anarchist‘. Modern Crowley may have ironically used the hashtag “#notallAnarchists” should the Book of Lies been tweets instead of material published in 1912.
Crowley’s actions in life were often anarchic. Look at his pompous character parading, his ‘de-lewding’ public demonstrations, public ritual, his long history of emboldened acts which make his biography so fascinating, if they are all to be believed entirely. One instance that has had its validity questioned can be found in Crowley’s autobiographic Confessions where there’s a mention of Jacob Epstein’s statue which stood upon Oscar Wilde’s grave. The statue happened to bare a penis so authorities had it covered, and Crowley claims to be the one who had planned to, and then successfully did remove the covering on November 5th, and in doing so the happening received attention in the press. Epstein would say that “a band of artists and poets… made a raid upon the monument” and removed the cover, but Crowley takes sole responsibility. Whether he did this specific event or not doesn’t change too much with what I’m trying to highlight. Aleister Crowley acted wild, he was unconventional and consequently called names in the press, and was found swirled about in the mouths of the general populace. He had a reputation as a public figure, and he often wrote with awareness of who he was, and what he was perceived to be as. His writings utilized humour, paradox, shock, beauty, and prose.
“I am not an Anarchist in your sense of the word”, he starts. So, rather than having a sole takeaway at the end of reading the chapter along the lines of “he used the words ‘for feudalism’, so therefor he is a feudalist”, I would gleam deeper into the meaning. “I am not an Anarchist in your sense of the word: your brain is too dense for any known explosive to affect it.”
This now is where Crowley’s chosen title comes into play. Louis Lingg was an anarchist and bomb maker who had famously died in a prison cell, when he had placed a blasting cap in his mouth, blowing off his lower jaw and causing great damage to his face. He remained alive for 6 hours and reportedly spent some of it repeatedly writing “Hoch die anarchie!” (Hurrah for anarchy!) on the cell stones in his blood. The line by Crowley at one level of interpretation could be saying that the public who would label Crowley an Anarchist, in terms of an extreme view, to say that his ‘magick’ and acts were so terrible that he may pose danger, or act out in violence, that they are dense minded and that no known explosive, no matter how strong or capable it may be, nothing will penetrate or effect them as they are shielded in their ignorance. At the surface, it appears Crowley may be speaking on behalf of himself, but it’d be a line that could be stretched to universal application. He could be talking from the perspective of a mystic, a perceived mad-man, a mind of genius who may be questioned for their actions and independence in thought. Or even the everyday person who skirts rules, laws, and commands with their agency out of laziness, pride, or even with justified purpose. We all want to be anarchists and live without rule dictating our action, to live unimpeded by social or arbitrary structure imposed upon us by birth, but the reality and consequence of chaotic unstructured living would take away a lot of stability and safety we take for granted in our constructed reality tunnel-vision.
“I am not an Anarchist in your sense of the word: fancy a Policeman let loose on Society!” So here Crowley now associates a Policeman to the same behaviour of an Anarchist such as one Louis Lingg. The anarchists at the Haymarket Affair were distanced from by many who had previously supported the Anarchist’s movement. After the violence, lost lives, and chaos, they repudiated such violent tactics and considered the ends as self-defeating. The intention that drove the anarchists to such drastic and cruel means of act was misguided, though they may have been acting in what they perceived to be as good and just deeds. Just as a policeman who is generally upholding what is good and just may be corrupted in their power to act out of interest for maintaining and upholding the law. Or ‘law’ has usurped Law, and carriers of light are stomped out. Sadly many drawn to such a powerful position as a police officer may need strict guidelines and boundaries, observation and discipline to keep them reigned in, and to have them unable to be loosed upon society. Crowley’s end line mentioning the emancipator, or the liberator, does the Policeman wish to steer the society into freedom, away from vice and destructive behavior? Is there good motivation in their action as the Anarchist who rallies and demonstrates their want of agency? Are both sides viewing themselves as emancipators? Surely, I’d say.
Crowley’s Book of Lies chapters are all short, paradoxical, invoke thought, use contradictory language purposefully, as they are to be read and appreciated in Samadhi, or be used to cultivate Samadhi. Israel Regardie called the book’s writings koan-like for this reason (koans are Zen case studies that at times use similar multiple-meaning layered poetry, comedy and paradox). The study of hermeneutics can be applied fruitfully to Crowley’s writings, which have made them so striking and interesting to those who have devoted great time to their study and appreciation. These writings are to be read, meditated upon, placed down, then at another time, in a few more years even, returned to, and new insights appear and new meanings form. Though Crowley guides us a little and offers aid, as he provided commentary for much of his work. The Book of Lies being no exception, for half of the book is its commentary.
For a while the takeaway of this chapter for me personally, was the focus on the liberator or awakened one who returns to society after their awakening. Crowley wrote in Book 4 of enlightened men returning to society after a disappearance, from Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed, each of whom came back to preach a new law. Crowley basically pushed the idea forward that there is nothing special of those prophets, that each individual can come into their own law, as each can speak the universal truths with their own tongue. In fact, in Liber B Vel Magi, there is a curse upon the Grade for those who recognize themselves at it, and it states that they must always speak their law. “And woe, woe, woe, yea woe, and again woe, woe, woe unto seven times be His that preacheth not His law to men!” Louis Lingg to me is presenting the issue of spreading one’s law, while also accepting everyone else doing the same in kind. The Law must be love; a reception of other’s Law with acceptance and survival of your own. Sometimes one does not integrate back into the mundane world on their return to earth, and they wish to make their external vision look like the internal vision which may not have been fully universalized, and is specific to that individual. This could be the often good intentioned doer who has experienced samadhi, but has not realized samadhi. Is one looking to liberate and uplift, but is in reality harming and hindering progress and proper evolution.
Crowley established in Thelema that there is personal mystical responsibility, we all must realize our own Nature. In Zen it is called the Buddha Nature. This is an internally realized truth, it cannot be spoken and spread. Think as example, the person who looks to convert not, BoTL III:42 reads, ‘The ordeals thou shalt oversee thyself, save only the blind ones. Refuse none, but thou shalt know & destroy the traitors. I am Ra-Hoor-Khuit; and I am powerful to protect my servant. Success is thy proof: argue not; convert not; talk not over much! Them that seek to entrap thee, to overthrow thee, them attack without pity or quarter; & destroy them utterly. Swift as a trodden serpent turn and strike! Be thou yet deadlier than he! Drag down their souls to awful torment: laugh at their fear: spit upon them!’
Crowley established the Law as Love, Agape, and that it is the law required to establish Thelema (Will). We cannot be doing pure will without love; systems which oppress and restrict love need to be overturned for progress and evolution.
Anyways, back to Louis Lingg, Crowley’s comment says, “Paragraph 1 explains that Frater P. sees no use in the employment of such feeble implements as bombs. Nor does he agree even with the aim of the Anarchists, since, although Anarchists themselves need no restraint, not daring to drink cocoa, lest their animal passions should be aroused (as Olivia Haddon assures my favourite Chela), yet policemen, unless most severely repressed, would be dangerous wild beasts.“
Here Crowley says loudly that he isn’t an anarchist by label. If using the non-personal interpretation we can opt for an interpretation of this being that a mystic or magician does not cause change through drastic chaotic and uncontrolled outbursts like a bomb. The conversation of Louis Lingg quickly passes, was likely used for comedic effect and established the tone of the piece effectively by appearing in the title. Crowley’s writing often reminds me of a Rube Goldberg machine where associations build from Qabalah to Gematria, and each piece can trigger another and eventually you end up with a result. In this piece the balance act of Anarchist and Policeman are played with by Crowley, both being emphasized as stations with their capitalization in his writing. They may even be seen on one level as metaphor for the mystical balance of Geburah and Chesed. The matter could be interpreted through many layers, from making the switch of being about specific subject matter in (an individual) Louis Lingg, or Crowley being self-referential, to the idea of division of other, finding balance, moving from external subject matter. The forces of Gevurah and Chesed, severity and mercy, strength and lovingkindness… the balance of Gevurah and Chesed dictates how one deals with what they encounter in the external world.
Yet in the external representation, the police are needed for those who would be completely against the law, against any signs or calls for order. Yet what is order imposed, to Crowley, if it is not in accord with the Law of Thelema? Crowley looked to establish Order by uttering Truth and the Law: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law, love under will.” To the wild beast policeman inside all of us, should they not be repressed or constrained, we may wish to dictate what others are to say or do, or be prone to form judgments on how others choose to be or what they devote their time to, to condemn how they act. Yet, if they are abiding, and if you are abiding in the Law of Thelema, you must let them be and alter the limitation on your psyche that denies the experience of others, or what is not ‘you’.
“While there exists the burgess, the hunting man, or any man with ideals less than Shelley’s and self-discipline less than Loyola’s — in short, any man who falls far short of MYSELF — I am against Anarchy, and for Feudalism.” I believe that here Crowley is referencing Percy Bysshe Shelley, the English romantic poet whose work was mostly inspired by social justice and whose work is applauded worldwide, is held in great admiration and dressed in laurels. Loyola being mentioned is likely St. Ignatius of Loyola, who famously founded the Jesuits, and who devised the Spiritual Exercises which took a month to complete. They were composed with the intention of helping participants in religious retreats to discern the will of God in their lives, leading to a personal commitment to follow Jesus whatever the cost. These (Shelley and Loyola) are extremes of recognized genius and dedication.
So Crowley says there exists the wealthy and padded, the capable survivalist, and those who fall short of the genius of Shelley or the self-discipline of Loyola (and then jokes by saying those who do are those who who fall short of “MYSELF” (ie the Ego of Self — Crowley’s, but perhaps speaking here for mankind’s too). We often will view others as foolish, and have that sense that we know what is best or that we are distinct from the mass that is Other.
As an aside, imagine how the world would be if people all were to do Loyola’s meditations? Better yet, full on holy possession, what would their performance of Jesus look like? How dramatic would the need and urgency be for them to act to save this planet and the souls upon it? How drastic would their acts need to be to attract attention required to spread their message? What would be the essence of the message, beyond Love? What extreme forms can the lesson of ‘love’ take? The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and all that. Though if it were not just Jesus, there, isolated alone in that one body… what if there were a gathering, a group, a movement, or an entire world of Jesus? The dramatic acts and the need of them drop away and are replaced with sense of serenity, bliss and enjoyment… what labour beckons then? What creation then takes place?
This idealism; this projection on the planet and its residents; this demanding the animals cease eating each other, and that mankind is not to act mad… what is the solution? Crowley’s form of anarchy was to deviate off the path of normalcy, to study mystical mind states, traditions and practices, and then pushed his knowledge to the best of his ability into the collective so that others could pick up the wisdom offered and utilize it for their advancement on the path. His solution for mankind was Thelema, which is not fascism, or feudalism, but is pointing at the understanding of Samadhi. Thelema is summed up repeatedly as ‘do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law’, and that ‘love is the law’. Agape (gematric value of 93) is the love referred to, Agape being the Greco-Christian term referring to an unconditional love.
Others may look to more dramatic acts to stress their points, to demand for a universe of love. Crowley in Louis Lingg warns, “Every ’emancipator’ has enslaved the free.” Interestingly, emancipates’ etymological roots come from the latin ēmancipō which could mean as a verb ‘I emancipate’, but also could mean ‘I alienate‘. One shouldn’t alienate themselves and get lost internally in their quest to help others, to liberate mankind from its wrongs and to remove hate from the collective mind that festers in corners and sometimes marches in the street. Often a dramatic outburst or uncontrolled action will lead to repercussions which lessen the chance of similar activities happening in the future, which mean stricter controls and a more authoritarian approach are installed to garner better control of the masses. A self-defeating end for an Anarchist, indeed.
Reign yourself in, reign the ‘policeman’ in, maintain Law, understand that you are you, but that you exist within a society that needs to live under a shared law for harmony to exist. What else can you do, but use your voice to spread awareness of what that Law is to be and to produce art and song, movies and plays to raise the banner of that law for all to come to understand? Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law, love is the law, love under will. This was Aleister Crowley’s gift to the world, and he wouldn’t take it back if you shoved it back, refusing to receive it.
Don’t lose perspective on the daily life. Don’t lose sight of the mystical. When there’s no more distinguishing, what potential is there to be explored when everyone is doing their true will?
A Thelemic critic posted: ‘#Thelemites qualifying “love” as “it’s agape, which is not your normal idea of love” are the most ridiculous people. Αγάπη literally means “love.” The usual kind, between you and your (!) loved ones. Φιλία is friendship. Έρος is lust. Grow up, stop making excuses.’
I am not fond of having to fit responses into Twitter’s character-limited box, and if it is entertained, I find it has the gift to throw multiple responses out of order when writing so when the thread is read it is garbled and confusing. (At least a little more so than my normal writing!) Yet, I did chime in for a little, and figured I’d do a post here as it allows more space to breathe where I can offer a meditation on Agape, and what I feel is valuable information when it comes to interpreting what Aleister Crowley was pointing to with Thelema.
The critic seemed to be taking a jab at those who would bother to take the effort to clarify that the Love in Crowley’s ‘love is the law’ is the love of Agape. Essentially implying there should be no distinction made when we see or make use of the word love, because love is love, despite even the Book of the Law having cut the cat in two with line 57 in Chapter 1: ‘Invoke me under my stars! Love is the law, love under will. Nor let the fools mistake love; for there are love and love. There is the dove, and there is the serpent. Choose ye well! He, my prophet, hath chosen, knowing the law of the fortress, and the great mystery of the House of God.’
Now one could argue for countless interpretations of that verse, and that is so by design. Here, it may serve to us in the meditation of Agape. For context as to what the critic was commenting upon and about this connection of Agape and Thelema, if you are not fully up to speed, Thelema is tied to Agape due to sharing the gematric value of 93. Crowley wrote that just as an arhat understands the dharma, so too does a qabalist understand gematria. This, they do when an adept, and at that, one able to achieve samadhi. 93 is significant as it represents the value of Θελημα (Thelema) and Αγαπη (Agape). Agape etymologically derives from ἀγαπάω (Agapáō), to love.
The critic followed their tweet up with providing us a reason why we should lean into their authority, or why their stance is more valid than those who are studying and expounding upon Agape and Thelema. The critic did this by stating that they speak Greek natively. They said, ‘It literally, in no uncertain terms, translates as just “love.” This whole idea of “different types of love” is revisionist BS made up by people who never had first-hand exposure to the word in its native environment.’
I am not questioning the critic’s roots, however their specific developing environment isn’t all environments or circumstances. The word was well used historically and for a time with great reason for doing so. Agape does by one layer of definition mean love, affection, and esteem, yet it also has the Christian definition where it means God’s love for humanity, good will, and benevolence. The Greek Agape would be translated into Latin as caritas, which is the etymological root for the word ‘charity.’ Agape also has a few esoteric-leaning interpretations. We know now Agape means the Christian’s love or charity by one definition, and also it exists as part of what is known as an ‘Agape Feast‘, or the love feast of the early Christian Church.
Christian theologians themselves look to raise Agape, or distinguish it from a base or common conception of love. An example as found in A. S. Dewdney’s response to Nygren’s Agape and Eros, published in the Canadian Journal of Theology Vol 1. No. 1 where the meaning of Agape is given as ‘wholly determined by its presence in God. It is the unmotivated love of God, which is directed towards us, not because of any value or worth in ourselves, or because of any good which God is looking for in us, but because love in God is the spontaneous outflowing of Himself.’
In that piece Romans 5:8 is next quoted where it reads, “God revealeth His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” The essay says of this, ‘This text is the key to the meaning of Agape. Where natural man would think it immoral to give love and fellowship except on a basis of like to like, God’s love knows no such limitation. Its nature is revealed just in the fact that it has no such basis at all. Men naturally love their friends, those who do them good or from whom they expect some good. But men who are filled with Agape will love their enemies. Their love, like that of God, does not find its motive in the character or attitude or value of those loved. It is simply out-flowing, self-giving love which needs no other motive than that it loves. This Agape then, is the love of God flowing down to us. We cannot deserve it or win it or rise to it. It seeks us at our own level, in our sin, and gives us fellowship.’
This love is not something exclusionary from us and our experience. Just as one must learn to cultivate samadhi to enter into union, or the non-dual state which is available always, enlightenment is available for us if we’re ready to realize it; God’s agape is outpouring and we simply need to take ourselves out of conflict with it, or come to recognize and rest in it. If Agape and Thelema are linked through gematria (which again bares repeating, Crowley writes that it requires an adept qabalist to appreciate gematria in Samadhi, just as it takes a Buddhist Arhat to understand the Dharma).
Some view Thelema as exclusionary, this is the appearance of every religion on their surface and by their divisions, choice of rite, aesthetic, and representative class, scholars, devotees, etc. Thelema is inclusive, it is pointing at the truth behind all symbols. From Crowley’s Liber Porta Lucis or The Gate of Light, ‘To you who yet wander in the Court of the Profane we cannot yet reveal all; but you will easily understand that the religions of the world are but symbols and veils of the Absolute Truth. So also are the philosophies. To the adept, seeing all these things from above, there seems nothing to choose between Buddha and Mohammed, between Atheism and Theism.’
Crowley used Agape and forged from it a symbol to decorate Thelema. However to not go on a tangent, let’s for a second go back to examining the concept of Agape, as we didn’t focus enough on that last one I offered which was where it is a love feast. Love feasts aka agape feasts are symbolic or ritualistic meals that were held by early Christians in commemoration of the Eucharist. Yet that is not all there is to it. Etymology offers a lot of light, but we must make a temporary aside.
A Warning against Pride
What causes conflicts and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from the passions at war within you? You crave what you do not have; you kill and covet, but are unable to obtain it. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask. And when you do ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may squander it on your pleasures.
You adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever chooses to be a friend of the world renders himself an enemy of God. Or do you think the Scripture says without reason that the Spirit He caused to dwell in us yearns with envy? But He gives us more grace. This is why it says:
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
The word grace derives from the Latin grātia (“kindness, favour, esteem”), from grātus (“pleasing”), which ultimately traces to Proto-Indo-European*gʷerH- (“to praise; to welcome”) which is cognate with the Sanskrit गूर्ति (gūrtí) which means “praise, welcome, benediction”.
Welcome the HGA. Welcome Agape and Thelema. The HGA is a humbling concept, and if we open ourselves fully as to receive its presence and communication, as we’d receive God’s constant outpouring of love. Humble as a word originates approximately from its Latin root humi meaning ‘to the ground’. A Thelemite recognizes this, Crowley: ‘My adepts stand upright; their head above the heavens, their feet below the hells.’ While pride appears thematically in the Book of the Law, Crowley warned against spiritual pride, writing in Magick Without Tears: ‘On the Path of the Wise there is probably no danger more deadly, no poison more pernicious, no seduction more subtle than Spiritual Pride; it strikes, being solar, at the very heart of the Aspirant; more, it is an inflation and exacerbation of the Ego, so that its victim runs the peril of straying into a Black Lodge, and finding himself at home there.’
Anyways, Eucharist ultimately traces back to the Greek εὐχάριστος which means pleasant, agreeable, grateful, thankful, and is comprised of εὐ- (eu-, “good”) + χᾰ́ρῐς (kháris, “grace”) + -τος (-tos). To be thankful is to receive good grace. Agape consistently giving, am I humble enough to be thankful? The most significant Eucharist, perhaps the most renowned is the Last Supper, where we find Jesus offering bread and saying, “This is my body,” and with the wine, “This is my blood.”
That information was required like breadcrumbs leading us through the forest to where we end up now. Epiphanius of Salamis (C. 310-403), an early Church Father wrote in his Panarion (Πανάριον ‘bread basket’) translated into Latin as ‘Against Heresies‘, or Adversus Haereses. In this book Epiphanius wrote about the agape rite of the Gnostics. He detailed that a married couple would arrive at another couple’s dwelling, and would wiggle their finger in the palm of the other when shaking their hand to signal that they were of the same ilk. When they would recognize one another, the man would apparently tell his wife, ‘get up, perform the agape with the brother.’ Epiphanius then writes, ‘And when the wretched couple has made love—and I am truly ashamed to mention the vile things they do, for as the holy apostle says, “It is a shame even to speak” of what goes on among them. Still, I should not be ashamed to say what they are not ashamed to do, to arouse horror by every means in those who hear what obscenities they are prepared to perform.’
The obscenities they perform is after making love the man and woman stand with eyes raised heavenward, they lift their blasphemy up to heaven–the man’s emission on their hands–and they then clasp their hands in prayer and say ‘We offer thee this gift, the body of Christ.’ They then consume the fluid saying, ‘This is the body of Christ; and this is the Pascha, because of which our bodies suffer and are compelled to acknowledge the passion of Christ.’ Epiphanius continues, ‘And so with the woman’s emission when she happens to be having her period—they likewise take the unclean menstrual blood they gather from her, and eat it in common. And “This,” they say, “is the blood of Christ.” And so, when they read, “I saw a tree bearing twelve manner of fruits every year, and he said unto me, “This is the tree of life,” in apocryphal writings, they interpret this allegorically of the menstrual flux.’
There’s powerful exposition that could be offered on all of that, but we shall not divulge further on tangents! While this is interesting, this is not what Agape would be in Thelema, or even to Crowley himself. Would it? Surely however, with this brief time spent examining various aspects, one would see some value in putting Agape under a microscope. On discovering this essence of love as Agape is constantly outpouring, so too then must our True Will (Thelema) always be present. The importance is then placed upon the Act (or Magick). What teaching effectively sums all this up? Do what thou wilt.
What are you doing presently? Is it your true, or pure will? Those studying or practicing Thelema often speak about improving connection to the HGA, or wear their lengthy journey and struggles with how long it took to come into acceptance as a badge of honor. With truer understanding from the start, we’d not be waiting for clearer communication, or ever be disconnected from the HGA, as like Agape, it is arriving every second and it is us through love to uphold the marriage. Being accepting and giving thanks are as much a part of love as is giving or doing in the name of love.
Ephesians 2: “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Aleister Crowley did his good works to raise Magick in the mind of the collective all. This meant his magick was defined clearly as the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will. He then offered further clarifications that we are always doing magick, and it is our awareness of it that determines the outcome of our act. Are we performing magick well, or badly? We can’t help doing it. The mystic strives to act in samadhi, with wisdom, and intuition, manifesting truth and light. Just as in the system of Buddhism one must come into awareness of their every action and act in accordance with the dharma, rather than acting adharmic and spreading suffering.
The Book of the Law Chapter 1. verses 12-14: ‘
‘Come forth, o children, under the stars, & take your fill of love! I am above you and in you. My ecstasy is in yours. My joy is to see your joy.
Of course better Understanding of Agape would help us in our approach of ‘Love is the Law’, and would help us better understand Thelema (Will) itself through its shared qualities with Agape (which Crowley established through Gematria, and as we’ve reflected on already through this meditation).
Crowley wrote in the Book of Thoth: ‘On the Tree of Life, Daleth is the path leading from Chokmah to Binah, uniting the Father with the Mother. Daleth is one of the three paths which are altogether above the Abyss. There is further more the alchemical symbol of Venus, the only one of the planetary symbols which comprises all the Sephiroth of the Tree of Life. The doctrine implied is that the fundamental formula of the Universe is Love.’
If viewing the Tree of Life as a mapping of sorts, to attain to the non-dual, or to “cross the abyss”, to “attain Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel” would require the establishment of the connection with the Intuition, the Neschemah, the higher soul (beyond the intellectual-minded Ruach). The Alchemical Salt is assigned to the Path leading between the Mother sphere (Binah – Understanding) and the Father (Chokmah – Wisdom) and is attributed to the Empress card, and as seen from Crowley’s explanation of the design, we saw it also represents the letter Daleth, door or gate. The Empress tarot card is attributed to the Daleth path, the card designed by Crowley showing in the corner a pelican feeding its young with its blood, a common depiction of Jesus Christ.
In the tradition of Zen it can be found that one attains to the Non-Dual. They arrive at the No-Gate, attain Samadhi and from then on act the Will of Vairocana (‘he who is like the Sun’). The process to nurture this state requires growing the Intuitive Heart-Mind… one must remain aware of their Nature and remain in accordance with the Dharma (Law) and they will come to find sustenance in spontaneous playful samadhi.
Of the Eight Consciousnesses teaching, manas-vijnana (“mind knowledge”) is the seventh as taught in Yogacara and Zen Buddhism. Via Wikipedia, it says of the Seventh Consciousness that it is, ‘the higher consciousness or intuitive consciousness that on the one hand localizes experience through thinking and on the other hand universalizes experience through intuitive perception of the universal mind of alayavijnana.’ Alayavijnana is No-Mind, the state of Samadhi held as the height of enlightenment in Zen.
As an illustration, here’s an interaction between Zen Master Joshu and a monk:
A monk asked, “The right-in-front-of-the-eyes Buddha. What is it?”
Joshu said, “The Buddha statue in the main hall.”
The monk said, “That is a physical Buddha. What is Buddha?”
Joshu said, “It is mind.”
The monk said, “If you define it as mind, you limit it. What is Buddha?”
Joshu said, “It is no-mind.”
Da’ath (Knowledge) Qabalistically hangs on the door. Above the abyss are the celestial waters and cosmic Space. Beneath the abyss, the water is blood. Above the abyss is non-duality, beneath is form and duality. For a parallel model in Buddhism, see mediations on form (rupajhanas) and the formless meditations (arupajhanas) which appear in the Five Dhyani Buddhas which also map the eight consciousnesses and show their transformations into the Four Wisdoms which enable the enlightenment body; Vairocana.
So would thinking about, or obtaining knowledge of Agape change how one approaches enlightenment in Aleister Crowley’s Thelemic system? Would this alter how they perceive their quest of Knowledge and Conversation, or the attaining to their True Will? Of course it would.
Would the call of one’s demon draw them to indulge lesser magick and never see the spiritual side of Agape? Or maybe they may be led by the Beast into performing variations of their own Agape Feast? It is not so simple to see what is meant or implied by Crowley on surface levels. There is even confusion where he offers clarity. So is not the onus on us to raise the meaning of this work and to offer freely our interpretation? Do not fall for the dualistic trapping of language or form, and do not allow illusions and phantoms to lead astray… nor those who simply wish to shame people out of study, while holding their own pearls tight. “Talking about or promoting Thelema is fascist except for the libers I like – it’s only Crowley for me, but not for thee.”
Tell those critics to eat some humble pie, and maybe make a eucharist of it. Really love that feast!
The Book of the Law Ch. II: ’34. But ye, o my people, rise up & awake! 35. Let the rituals be rightly performed with joy & beauty! 36. There are rituals of the elements and feasts of the times. 37. A feast for the first night of the Prophet and his Bride! 38. A feast for the three days of the writing of the Book of the Law. 39. A feast for Tahuti and the child of the Prophet–secret, O Prophet! 40. A feast for the Supreme Ritual, and a feast for the Equinox of the Gods. 41. A feast for fire and a feast for water; a feast for life and a greater feast for death! 42. A feast every day in your hearts in the joy of my rapture! 43. A feast every night unto Nu, and the pleasure of uttermost delight! 44. Aye! feast! rejoice! there is no dread hereafter. There is the dissolution, and eternal ecstasy in the kisses of Nu.’
What is your true Will?… Heck, what even is Thelema? What is Love, what is Agape?
Asking these questions, sharing what one ponders, and showing what one discovers is not creating an excuse of any kind, nor does participating in such work require any growing up from. Despite having to face the detracting and insulting comments that may be lobbed at one who does such activities. It’s simply examining mystical works, contemplating the creator’s intent, finding understanding in the texts, and sharing discoveries. Nothing is wrong with offering information to spark thought and discussion, so why should one be criticized for this?
It makes sense that these critical types would choose to be persistently critical about a system and teaching that in summary could be offered as ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will.’