Monday, April 1, 2019

93_The Aleister Crowley Primer by J. Edward and Erica M Cornelius


Now there grows among all the rooms, replacing the night's old smoke, alcohol and sweat, the fragile, musaceous odor of Breakfast: flowery, permeating, surprising, more than the color of winter sunlight, taking over not so much through any brute pungency or volume as by the high intricacy to the weaving of its molecules, sharing the conjuror's secret by which - though it is not often Death is told so clearly to fuck off - the living genetic chains prove even labyrinthine enough to preserve some human face down ten or twenty generations.
 - Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow, p. 10

 93_The Aleister Crowley Primer  proves beyond all reasonable doubt that the tradition, known as Thelema, presented by Crowley and bequeathed to future generations is vitally ALIVE,  growing, evolving, and informing.  Death in this context means the death of Aleister Crowley's legacy by turning it into a dogmatic, sectarian orthodoxy. This Primer is the opposite of that and is critical of those who would take Crowley's legacy in that direction.  It is a scholarly book, quite clearly an authoritative work of those who practice what they preach.  The dyad Cornelius generously gives us their vision of Thelema in a way that gently challenges the willing reader to begin, continue or reinvigorate the labyrinthine journey to gnothi seauton (know thyself).  The 93 Primer gives much more than a data dump of information - though it has a wealth of that - it can also serve as a work book or lab manual.  93_ The Aleister Crowley Primer presents an encounter with a school.  In other words, it has much practical value alongside the study of Thelemic theory; a Primer in theory and practice.

The authors don't ask for the reader to agree with what they write and definitely aren't asking for anyone to believe anything.  Their intent seems a wish to guide, tease, coax and cajole readers into thinking for themselves. Much like Crowley, they implore the student not to automatically accept what they say, rather make the effort to verify everything  for yourself.

 After a brief history of Thelema including extensive biographical footnotes, The 93 Primer's format becomes an extensive series of questions and answers.  The authors say it can be read in a random order though there is some intentionality to the sequence .  This soon becomes apparent in the second question, What do the initials A.'. A.'. mean? wherein they give the two primary tasks or ordeals of this system abbreviated as The Angel and the Abyss.  Right off the top, anyone totally new to this ideology and ontology gets a clear and concise North Star to aim for.  This fact alone makes it worth the price of admission.

Arguably, the most valuable monkey wrench (to wrench the evolving spirit away from the monkey), absolutely indispensable to students new or grizzled, arrives in the very first question, What is a Bullshit Meter and do I need one?

The idea of a Bullshit Meter isn't new to popular culture nor even to the legacy of Thelema.  I'm not aware of its genesis, first heard of it in the first line of the song Garageland by The Clash, released in 1977.  To my knowledge, this concept made its Thelemic debut in the Introduction by Robert Anton Wilson  to a new edition of Israel Regardie's The Eye in the Triangle published in 1997.  Wilson mentions and advises its use right off the top without further explanation.  The 93 Primer is the first publication I am aware of to take this concept and run with it, expanding and explicating this notion into a practical working model.  However, this didn't mark the Meter's expanded debut.  One of the authors, Erica M Cornelius, recently wrote and published On Getting a Bullshit Meter or, If I Remember Lemuria, Will You Pay Me $100 a Year (2016).  I haven't had the opportunity to read it yet, it's on my list.

Writers who promote these metaphysical devices attempting to inspire independent thought in readers are known to intentionally introduce material for detection, i.e. bullshit, into their books as a test.  We see this in the title of Erica's study.  Obviously, remembering Lemuria is much more valuable than $100/year... at least twice as much I would think!  The seemingly non sequitur instances of the Bullshit Meter's recurrence in the 93 Primer suggests test material to evaluate.  For example, at the conclusion of  Who exactly is Choronozon?  out of nowhere comes the advice: "The sooner you pick up a proverbial "Bullshit Meter," the better off you'll be." (p. 156)

The Bullshit Meter has a much broader range of use than trying to determine whether the author is pulling your leg as you'll see in the Primer.  Also, check the following example from the book One Truth and One Spirit - Aleister Crowley's Spiritual Legacy by Keith Readdy. p. 255: "Cornelius' writing is best understood within the context of polemics aimed against the O.T.O."  A footnote gives the example of his 2018 publication: Memoirs of an A.'. A.'. Initiate: Being the True Story of the Struggles for Freedom in the 1990s Against the Restrictionists

On my personal Bullshit Meter, as shown above, that statement goes somewhere between Get A Shovel and Bullshit!!! On another Bullshit Meter the needle might point to True, particularly if the only writings by Cornelius that they've read is the book listed in the footnote.  I haven't read it, but could see it best understood as a polemic against the O.T.O. because that's pretty much stated in the title.  From reading the 93 Primer one infers that the Restrictionists = the O.T.O. and the branch of the A.'. A.'. connected to them.

The Primer does contain some criticism, not a lot, against perceived dogmatic attitudes and some restrictive policies and practices in official Thelemic orthodoxy (a paradox if ever I heard one) as promulgated by the O.T.O.  I find the Cornelius' arguments compelling in this regard and look forward to hearing from the other side which is why I picked up One Truth and One Spirit. Critical and existential examinations of how Thelema manifests in contemporary society seems one way that Crowley's legacy remains vitally alive.  I would characterize the two viewpoints as rhizome vs arborescent in the Deleuze and Guattari sense of those concepts.  To very roughly paraphrase: rhizome = it can sprout up anywhere and make connections to anything; multiple ways to manifest. Arborescent models must conform to a specific form; only one way to do it.  One can easily see this translated into a dialect of freedom vs restriction.

I find Cornelius' work best understood in the context of learning more about Thelema and how it can practically work.  Among other things, I have learned a great deal about the ON formula that Crowley placed great importance upon.  This partially explains its significance to me: O = Ayin = the path that connects Tiphareth 6 with Hod 8.  Anyone who follows this blog stream knows the importance I assign to 68.  I connect it with the discovery by Crowley in The Paris Working of the identity of Mercury and Christ, among other things.  I wrote about this in Thelema, Deleuze and 68; that post also has links to additional blogs on the subject.  As I discovered from a reference in the 93 Primer, Crowley writes of this path in The Book of Wisdom and Folly in the chapter Further on these Paths: Now the Path of Ayin is a Link between Mercury and the Sun and in the Zodiac importeth the Goat.  This Goat is called also Strength, and standeth in the Meridian at the Sunrise of Spring, and it is his nature to leap upon Mountains.  So therefore is he a Symbol of true Magick, and his name is Baphomet ... Therefore this Goat, making each leap with Fervour, yet at all Times secure in his own Element, is a true Hieroglyph of the Magician.  Mark also, this Path sheweth One continuous in his Exaltation upon a Throne, and so it is the formula of the Man, as the other was of the Woman.
I suggest that if you know what gets exalted then you have a good start toward understanding the ON formula.

The other path, the path of the Woman  = N = Nun = the path connecting Tiphareth 6 with Netzach 7 = Death in the Tarot Major Arcana.    In the chapter preceding the one just quoted, On The Keys of Death and The Devil, Arcana of the Tarot of the R.C. Brotherhood Crowley writes: "Nun joineth the Sun with Venus, and is referred to Scorpio in the Zodiac.  This Path is perilous, for it seeketh the Level, and may abase thee, except thou take Heed unto the Going.  Of its three Modes, the Scorpion destroyeth himself, as if it were a type of Animal Pleasure.  Next, the Serpent is proper to Works of Change, or Magick; yet is he poisonous also unless thou has wit to enchant him.  Lastly, the Eagle is subtlest in this Sort, so that this Path is proper to a Transcendental Labour.  Yet are all these in the Way of Death ..."
People who know me know of my strong interest in technology to handle Death in all aspects, literal and metaphorical.  I've been called obsessed with Death.  My real obsession is with Life, and the music it makes.  Death appears a gateway to a greater life.

This barely scratches the surface.  The Cornelius' dive much deeper into this formula with great clarity.

The 93 Primer has something for anyone with an interest in Thelema.  It can become an invaluable aid to those with little or no prior exposure to Thelemic philosophy.   It can do the same for anyone with experience ranging from moderate to extensive.  The potential for unlocking new keys, for pursuing new avenues of research in Thelemic study and practice seems just as unlimited and vast as unlocking new keys and gaining new insights to the human mind and nervous system.  This book rewards repeated rereading.  It's structured more like a map than a linear textbook.  You can jump in anywhere you wish to go.  Often, you'll see references and suggestions for other writings to investigate that will further elucidate a point or topic... like hypertext.  These ancillary references include the authors' previous publications, Crowley's writings (as would be expected), some of them obscure to me, along with what seems like unpublished material - excerpts from letters and diaries.  We also get suggested reading completely outside recognized Thelemic circles.  On the practical side, we see an excellent exercise for imprinting Qabalah on pages 43 - 44.  Elsewhere, the authors give their recommendation for how to get started, what practices to begin.

There is a plot element in the new season of the excellent Netflix science fiction series, The OA (Original Angel) where you have to solve a complex puzzle to unlock a corridor in an unusual house that leads to an Interdimensional Choice Point space (i.e. the bardo).  House = beth = The Magus. Crowley's magick has always appeared a complex puzzle to me and many others.  The 93 Primer goes a long way to putting those puzzle pieces into place.  Yet, this book too has a puzzle-like component to it.  To give a small example: On p. 82 they quote Crowley: "The man of earth is the adherent..."  At the conclusion of the book, immediately following a quote from Timothy Leary to "Question authority," they give the first step they teach (in large bold letters): "Learn what it means to be the AHERANT!"  At first reckoning this appears a rather substantial typo with the mispelling of adherant.  Or is it?  Qabalistic analysis of this "typo" reveals something interesting which wouldn't be expressed with the correct spelling.  Below this, in small letters we see: (all else is pendant to this).  This phrase is numerically equivalent (by the method of Notarikon - transposing and adding the initials) to a phrase that concludes What are the Fifty Gates in Qabalah? (p. 45).  This latter phrase recurs throughout the 93 Primer and represents a core concept in Thelemic theurgy.

Yes, this book is the real deal.  That doesn't necessarily mean you'll agree with everything, I don't.  In the introduction the authors state times where they don't agree with themselves.  They also reserve the right to change and revise their model with future information and gnosis.  Again, this is a living, growing, mutating tradition.  In terms of the lineage question, whether or not Grady McMurtry did the proper administrative dance to warrant the authority to establish a legitimate line of the A.'. A.'., whether all his eyes were dotted and tees crossed etc., the question itself seems counter-intuitive after reading the 93 Primer.   It documents McMurtry's intensive contact with Aleister Crowley as well as Crowley's trust in McMurtry to carry on his legacy.  It also documents the close relationship and mentoring between McMurtry and Jerry Cornelius.  Among other sources, the baraka passed from Crowley to McMurtry and then from McMurtry to Cornelius.  This baraka has been imprinted and passed through this book.  That doesn't make it infallible, if anything it makes it dangerous ... and real.  If you don't pick up on this energetic right away, keep reading and experimenting ... eventually you will.