Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Periodically, I’m caught up in one of those online discussions where a skeptic (or self-styled skeptic) starts dismissing magick as a romantic fantasy that should have nothing to do with Thelema. The magical practitioners awkwardly defend their practice, usually on the basis of “Well, I got results after a certain period of time, and still do get them.” The skeptics argue the magick was irrelevant, or that the so-called results are simply a symptom of the initial delusion, and have little or nothing to do with realising the True Will or that dubious stuff about a hypothetical Holy Guardian Angel.
And of course, Aleister Crowley and “what he really meant” is dragged into the fray. It rarely ends well.
By temperament, my personality – my conscious self, that is – is entirely with the skeptics. I can find magick an embarrassing subject to discuss with non-magical friends, and I accept that the arguments of the skeptical side are often more coherent than those of the occultists. I can’t make objects levitate, or read minds at a distance, to ‘prove’ that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in skeptics’ philosophies.
Then comes the ‘but.’ And it’s a large but.
Most people who end up running esoteric orders are (or present themselves as) true believers in the metaphysical doctrines of Qabalah and Hermeticism. I, on the other hand, would be far more comfortable dismissing the entire subject as a mere epiphenomenon of some over-excited corner of my unconscious mind. Unfortunately, it’s never been that easy.
My first external initiation to the wonderful came at age 20, when a deeply shaking revelation overcame me, accompanied by the appearance, disappearance and re-appearance of a long, blonde hair from a girl’s head. It appeared as a kind of talisman from the sane world of smiles and human bodies as my inner self was rocked by an upheaval of its values and perceptions. I ended up in the next few weeks giving up my entire life (job, home, friends) and going off with a community of ardent seekers for two years that finally left me washed up and depressed, after an extraordinary series of synchronistic, self-revelatory and (I have to use the term) soul-opening events. It was an astounding ride. A bunch of people I met back then remain my longest-lasting friends.
Or, there was the time I was attempting a novel, and described in the opening sequence the protagonist looking thoughtfully and reverently at the body of his mother, who had just passed on. Less than 24 hours later, in an identical manner to my fictional character, I was looking at the corpse of a dearly loved one who had died shockingly and unexpectedly. The story is anecdotal, and (I concede) not statistically valid, but the subtle link seemed, at the time and even now, undeniable.
Or, in a lighter vein, my first fumbling experiment in Enochian magick, which produced almost no effects other than that I lay awake all night. Then the next day, as I completed painting the last of the four principal tablets, I found myself seeing odd little critters in the oddest places, and they created the oddest moods and responses in me. If Enochian is a crock of delusions, I thought, why this? I never see ‘stuff’ usually, and rely on less direct impressions at the fringe of consciousness. This was too strange and persistent for my stolid, critical self.
Again and again, unbidden, un-invoked and unexpectedly, things seemed to show up and violate the comfort-zone of my materialism. Sure, I was willing to engage with it all, since the attention seemed flattering, but I have expended far more effort on all this than the ‘evidence’ I’ve had would warrant.
Or apparently warrant. Because below the conscious self, I am deeply invested in the ‘paranormal’ (which to my subconscious self is the normal) and the sacred.
A lot of what passes for the supernatural, or the supra-natural (the next step or two up) is, I am convinced, simply the way my inner mind has of representing certain deep truths about human existence. It uses symbols as its means of communication with the outer me, and these symbols are intermediary messages about something that is both simple and shockingly primal.
Thelemic Qabalah is the best way I’ve found of organising these erratic communications. Buddhism might work too, but I took a sharp turn away from it in my early twenties, and never quite found my way back. The thing that commends my preferred system to me most highly is that it always ends up vaporising its own assumptions, allowing something more complete to appear in place of the previous information or assumptions.
So, despite the ever-nagging skeptic in me, I have not only remained with this path, this journey, this conundrum … I’ve ended up teaching a small but growing order that passes on the system I was taught over the course of almost two decades.
The skeptic is quite clear: he simply doesn’t believe I’ve done this. That attitude, I think, is what helps me keep him in his place.
He is important to have around, because sometimes he’s right. There are no Illuminati running the world’s banks (bankers do that just fine, unfortunately); the con-trails people keep reporting to me as being responsible for changing the weather, or as a means to selectively exterminate us, are just con-trails; and homeopathy is nonsense because treating your ailments with water is ridiculous, and I’ve never met anyone who satisfied me the treatments had had any lasting effect.
But the skeptic is not omnipotent, nor is he universally correct. At a certain point, his claims to perpetual objectivity fall flat, and he has only his insistent doubting to reinforce his opinions. The more complete and complex our experience is, the more the skeptical self has to fall back into silence.
The magical life, however, continues, ignoring its critic.
Love is the law, love under will,