Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Crowley Demystified continued

O Thou molten ocean of stars, that art a crown for the forehead of day!
I adore Thee, Evoe!  I adore Thee, IAO!
-The Treasure House of Images
 
What some people refer to as Aleister Crowley's system I call a School.  Crowley created, and left as part of his legacy, a real School.  He based this school on the Golden Dawn, the turn of the  20th century magical order, or School, that Crowley joined and progressed through starting at the age of 22.  Most of  Crowley's instruction in written form resides in all the Equinox series of publications, Magick Book 4, The Book of Thoth and probably a few other books..

A real School, especially one based upon individual empowerment, leaves the degree of participation entirely up to the student.  It can range anywhere from  joining the groups AC left behind, the  A.'. A.'. or the O.T.O. and/or devoting much time to the practices and experiments to just casually studying or reading the material, and everything in between.  Participation is always voluntary.  Crowley's instructions for personal and world transformation exist as open source code.  Much of it lives in cyberspace as well.

This means that one can effectively be a part of or connected to this School without necessarily belonging to an external organization.  It seems perfect for autodidacts although some kind of external contact with more experienced practitioners also seems a good idea.  Staying skeptical helps guard against self-delusion and imagining a connection with a School that's actually tenuous or nonexistent. 

One way to tell if you're working with a Mystery School of any kind is the feeling you often get of being asked to do slightly more than you think you're capable of.  Like the military exercise where the sergeant tells the recruits to raise their arms as high as they can.  So they do, and then he says, "ok, now raise them higher" and everyone raises their arms higher.

Being asked to do slightly more than one feels capable of and succeeding can lead to reevaluation of one's True Will.  True Will may expand as progress moves forward. 

It should be mentioned that progress doesn't seem linear.  Setbacks as well as advances make up the course.  Setbacks can feel devastating in the moment but always remain temporary if perseverance to carry on stays high in the mix.  The cycle reverses and advances are made.  Progress happens in a spiral fashion of breakthroughs and setbacks and further breakthroughs etc.  Perhaps this helps explain one of Crowley's earliest magical mottos, Perdurabo, Latin for "I will endure to the end."

A School, at times, will create obstacles and challenges to overcome.  It will also provide help to get past them.  Many reasons seem possible for this.  One of them - to develop the student's "tree of (experiential) being" as well as their "tree of knowledge" as G.I. Gurdjieff put it to his School. In other words, it does no good to soak in information without translating the information into action, practice, experience, and function.  The function of being totally yourself on a planet of distraction and mayhem.

This experience can be arrived at by a wide variety of practices, they don't have to be the ones Crowley published.  Crowley articulated a new paradigm of human evolution in a particular way.  Other completely different articulations of this same paradigm exist.  We'll outline some later on.

Aleister Crowley's sinister and evil reputation presents the first obstacle to his school for many people.  I have no idea how much, if at all, Crowley intended this but it does have the effect of excluding people who may not be prepared to go the course. It does seem safe to say that Crowley contributed to his own bad boy image but nowhere near the extent that the tabloid press crucified him for as the "Wickedest Man in the World" in the early 1920s.

Regarding getting prepared for the path, Israel Regardie, an accomplished magician who practiced Reichian psychotherapy and worked with Crowley for a couple of years, advised potential candidates to get thoroughly analyzed before embarking upon a serious magical path.  While this couldn't hurt, I think there are other ways to acquire this inner observation and balance. 

A large part of my method of preparing had to do with studying and experimenting with the works of Robert Anton Wilson and Timothy Leary on Reality Tunnels, Belief Systems and their models of different modalities or levels of consciousness.  Explanations of some models of quantum physics also helped considerably. 

Another equally huge influence came from the system, the School, of G. I. Gurdjieff.  You can find the basics in The Fourth Way and In Search of the Miraculous by P.D. Ouspensky.  Gurdjieff and Crowley go hand in hand in piecing together the puzzle of the Great Work.  One school helps explain the other because they appear as different formulations of the same school.  Different articulations of the same new paradigm.

 Wilson and Leary discuss the congruence of Gurdjieff and Crowley in Cosmic Trigger I  as part of Leary's prison correspondence.  At a workshop I attended in the early 90's Wilson stated that he thought Crowley and Gurdjieff had the same system.  Experience has shown that they work amazingly well together.  Each system provides pieces of the puzzle for the other one.

The reason I suspect Crowley's evil façade serves as a School challenge derives in large part from an experience I had many years ago shortly after being introduced to this work. 

I first learned of AC from a friend, Bob Gregory, who worked as the lighting technician for the band whose sound I mixed.  Bob turned me on to his modest, but well-stocked occult library which he brought on the road with us.  He insisted that I read Cosmic Trigger by Robert Anton Wilson ( RAW) and that's where I initially encountered Crowley.  Bob also had some of Crowley's Equinox writings which I perused.  Wilson mentions Crowley's bad rep but finds it amusing more than anything.  He also notes his many accomplishments and seems to regard him highly.  All in all, my introduction to AC was very positive and I looked forward to learning more about him and what he was up to.

Not too long, maybe a couple of months, after discovering AC, I had a lucid dream in which I was flying about our apartment and as I was going back into my room I saw an image of Crowley's face hovering in the doorway between me and the room.  I got the strongest sense that this image was EXTREMELY EVIL.  This surprised and shocked me because I didn't know that the general mass opinion of people who knew of him considered AC an evil, black magician.  I paused for a second or two contemplating what to do then proceeded to go straight through the evil Crowley mask as it was the only way to get back into my room.  As soon as I entered the image it completely dissolved and I realized it as just an illusion. 
 
* * * * * *
 
Tom Jackson wrote a comment to the last post saying that he had a better understanding of Crowley's foremost slogan, "Do what thou wilt shall be the while of the Law."  Gary Accord replied to him that this phrase usually gets accompanied with "Love is the law, love under will."  I mentioned that  Crowley would start his correspondence with "Do what thou wilt shall be the while of the Law," and close it with, "Love is the law, love under will."  When RAW gave his online Crowley course he formatted many of his posts in this way.
 
Giving my housemate a lift the other day she mentioned never really grasping "Do what thou wilt..." ( she hadn't read my last blog yet).  I suggested that she consider it as a Zen koan in the sense that pondering it over time can lead to unexpected leaps or breakthroughs of insight. 
 
 A lot of these notions can seem like time bombs because you take in the information at one point but the full realization doesn't come until some time in the future, often unexpectedly due to the right set of circumstances falling into place.  These mini epiphanies are known as "Aha" moments, as in Aha!!! that's what they were talking about.  I had one such regarding the Taoist union of opposites while doing a magick exercise from the book Between Heaven and Hell by Laura Huxley and listening to the Rolling Stones play Midnight Rambler from the album Get Yer Ya Yas Out.  Who would have thought?
 
You won't see many people giving their interpretations of Crowley's two prime phrases for reasons I'll go into when writing on The Book of the Law.  Wilson or Shea does give a thoughtful rendering of "Do what thou wilt..." in Illuminatus!
 
"Love is the law," hardly sounds original in concept though this blatant expression of it seems new.  The idea of love cognate with the Highest appears in the New Testament.   "Love under will,"  suggests that love can get focused and directed according to will.  This implies that love exists as a tangible force or substance in the magician's arsenal.  A couple of earlier posts, HERE and HERE relate to practical application.
 
Gary brought up another excellent point when mentioning,  'Witchcraft has the adage "And it harm none, do what thou wilt."'  Everyone has the right to follow their True Will so long that it doesn't interfere with another.  Acceptance of this brings about total respect, or at least tolerance for everyone to find their unique way through life.  A lot personal judgment can get dropped with this awareness.  You basically grant the right for everyone to be who they are with the stipulation that it harm none.
 
* * * * * *
 
In the previous post I wrote:
 
 It seems that when Presence, Will, and Attention focus in the same direction the momentum of entire Scenario Universe is on your side
 
Presence, will and attention comprise three faculties that will strengthen considerably through exercise and daily use.  They seem like muscles that can get built up much more than their natural state thus increasing and potentizing magical effectiveness.

Attention can also be thought of as a substance that can get placed on or removed from an object.  It shares this similarity with "love under will."

Crowley had a major realization in his work when his mountain climber friend Oscar Eckenstein demonstrated to him his lack of attention and the inability to focus on one thing without intruding thoughts for more than a minute at a time.  He then began a rigorous and frequent discipline lasting several months of training his mind to concentrate attention on a simple object. 
 
 
Crowley used tattva symbols to train his attention.
 
The techniques he used for increasing attention can be found in the first book of practical experiment in Equinox Volume 1 Number 1 called Liber E. Vel Exercitiorvm Svb Figvra IX in section V Dharana - Control of Thought

Liber E.  describes a precise and scientifically oriented course of action for students looking for  A .'. A .'. practices and experiments. 
 
The first section frames the work and advises on how to proceed.  The sixth paragraph sets the tone for self-reliance and independence of approach by saying: 
 
 "The experimenter is encouraged to use his own intelligence, and not rely upon any other person or persons, however distinguished, even among ourselves."

The second section, Physical Clairvoyance, experiments with extra-sensory perception and also advises learning Qabalistic correspondences as part of it.  This interests me because it demonstrates a major feature of what Crowley called the new Aeon and what I've been labeling a new paradigm which is that humans can potentially develop new abilities and capabilities far beyond what conventional science and most people believe possible.

The next three sections comprise yoga practices - Asana, Pranayama, and Dharana ie control of posture, control of breath, and control of thought.  These practices noticeably increase attention, will and presence.

Section VI Physical Limitations examines how far the body can be pushed in different areas like how long can you go without food etc.  Common sense is always advised when stretching limits in this way.  It seems these experiments work directly with will power.

The seventh and final section lists A Course of Reading which includes classics from yoga, magick, taoism, qabala, and one contemporary research book, Varieties of Religious Experience by William James.

The end of this section carries another piece of stellar advice:

"6. During the whole of this elementary study and practice, he will do wisely to seek out, and attach himself to a master, one competent to correct him and advise him.  Nor should he be discouraged by the difficulty of finding such a person.

7. Let him further remember that he must in no wise rely upon, or believe in, that master.  He must rely entirely upon himself, and credit nothing whatever but that which lies within his own knowledge and experience."

Gurdjieff used to encourage people to formulate aims as a way to increase will power and connect with True Will.  He suggested formulating a whole series of aims from ones that look far off, like 'I aim to be a published writer' to ones close by that seem doable like ' I aim to write for at least one hour every day.'  By accomplishing an aim you receive energy resulting in increased will power to try the next aim.

Habits can also be used to leverage will power.  If you smoke cigarettes next time you want to light up, don't - stop yourself for a set period of time even if it's only five minutes then try to increase it next time.

These are general basic practices to train the body and mind.  Enough information is given in Crowley's short text about what they do such that the gist of what they're about can be approached and accomplished in a number of ways.  You don't necessarily have to master the postures Crowley gives to settle the body down.  Taking yoga classes will likely put you in the same ballpark.  Many martial art disciplines produce the same effect of focusing, concentrating, and harnessing the energies of the body and its brain.
 
A way to verify that your practice or experiment increases attention is to look at a piece of nice art before you start then look at the same piece right after and note the difference.  The same verification process works with music but goes quicker with art because light travels faster than sound.

 

4 comments:

  1. It is interesting to me that you don't mention Buddhism, although many of the practices you talk about sound like Buddhist practice -- e.g., learning to focus one's attention. I read in one book that a good exercise is to listen to music and to try to focus just on the music, without allowing the mind to wander.

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  2. It doesn't relate to this post per se, but when I recently read Ishmael Reed's "Mumbo Jumbo" I thought of you, because of your through knowledge of black music in its many forms. Reed writes a lot in the novel about black music such as jazz and ragtime and blues (the time period in the novel predates more modern forms) being a form of magick.

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  3. Tom, I'll have to read Mumbo Jumbo, thanks for the tip.

    Yes, Buddhism has a very strong influence on Crowley's product.
    An early essay of his called Science and Buddhism, found in his Collected Works, seems nothing short of brilliant.

    One of AC's most important magick teachers, Allan Bennett ended up getting ordained as a Buddhist Monk changing his name to Bikkhu Ananda Metteyya. Crowley studied and practiced yoga with him intensely after he became a monk and moved to Asia. Undoubtly he soaked up some of his Buddhist practices as well. Later Crowley published a couple of essays by Bennett on thoughts from the Buddhist point of view in the first series of The Equinox. I highly recommend those essays. I'll have to get the name of them and where exactly they were published.

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