“No spiritual development begins without that person having a mystical experience,” claimed my friend Hans in recent conversation. We had been discussing mysticism and he made a few points that made me pause. He continued, “Mystical experience connects a person to the higher states of being. Without this, no one make any serious progress on the spiritual path.” I thought this was a rather provocative statement and asked him to clarify. He said that only once someone has tasted the ultimate can they really begin to direct themselves and their actions towards it. Until then it is like trying to create a trail with no guide or point of reference in sight.
I must admit I was taken aback by such a frank assertion, one he was quite adamant was universal. Additionally, I take seriously Aleister Crowley’s warning about the ways mysticism can delude a person and have thus always been suspicious of it. I pointed out how Crowley noted that mysticism was all subjective and lacked any kind of objectivity. Hans countered that this is wrong and that all true mysticism connects to a universal higher reality to which all humans share access. Humans, he claimed, were “wired” for these mystical states. He then pointed to all the great religions and mystics and said they all went up different paths to the same mountain peak.
I asked then, why did each of these mystics have such different responses to the same experience. Why did Jesus appear as the sole son of God after his time in the desert while the Buddha, Mohammed, Theresa Avilla, and so many others had different responses? Continue reading
I have always liked the motto Crowley gave to his journal The Equinox: The Method of Science—The Aim of Religion. The first part in particular. Today science is something that many people connect with technology. In some sense, science and technology are inseparable. The beginning of the twentieth century was not without its technologies either. The Equinox began to be published in 1909 and by then, early versions of today’s ubiquitous technologies were emerging. The escalator, air conditioner, neon lights, gas-motor powered airplanes, vacuum diode, sonar, instant coffee, and even the theory of relativity all came to life in the first decade of the twentieth century. But when Crowley stated “The Method of Science…,” he was not talking about any of these technologies, nor ones to come. Instead he was referring to the way science is approached and practiced. Science has a method and at the centre of that method are questions.
When Crowley advanced the method of science it was, more than anything else, an attitude or an approach to reality. It is one of curiosity, open mindedness, and discovery. It was a method that elevates the question and only sees answers as doorways to other questions. Continue reading
The basis of Thelema is the Will (which is Thelema itself in Greek). The command “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” (Liber AL I:40) and “There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt” (Liber AL I:60) is often distinguished from the often misunderstood and mistranslated statement of “Do what you want.” Why is “Do what thou wilt” different from “Do what you want?” and is it similar in some respects? On this point, we may examine the positive and negative aspects of Thelema/Will insofar as positive means affirming and negative means denying. Continue reading
Ye Olde Morality
Most Westerns are familiar with the Ten Commandments that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai – the ten “thou shalt not”s. This system of ethics as set forth literally in stone by God and delivered through Moses is practically the perfect symbol of what I propose to call “old morality.” Old morality consists essentially in the belief that there is an absolute law of conduct, often rewarded with promises of heaven or some kind of pleasure and punished with verdicts of various types of suffering, even eternal suffering in a fiery “Hell.” This notion of absolute morality is most apparent in the Jewish religion, with its ten commandments (Judaism actually has 613 commandments in total), but it also appears in both Christianity and Islam (the “five pillars of Islam”). Both of these religions are characterized by their insistence on sin and the punishment of hell following sinful actions. These types of absolute morality are also apparent in many forms of Buddhism where they have “sila,” which consists usually of five “thou shalt not”s. In some forms of yoga, there are what is called “yama” and “niyama” which are essentially five “thou shalt”s and five “thou shalt not”s.
Now, this old morality being by definition founded on a notion of “absolute moral conduct,” is also necessarily quite inflexible. Not only did Moses invoke God as the source and authority of his commandments, but they were set in two gigantic tablets of stone.
In the course of history, one might say that these commandments, Jewish and otherwise, were necessary for that particular time. It can be agreed that many of these guidelines were (and still can be) effective if employed in the right circumstances, in the right cultures. For example, Continue reading
Subject: re: Uncle Al’s “Do what thou Wilt shall be the Whole of the Law”:
To: The zee-list
>>And you threw the Crowley quote as if to say it
>>means nothing more than, “do what ever you want to”.
>>In which case… if that was what it meant, that is
>>what it would read.
> >that is what it reads….i think..to me it is. anyone
>else care to suggest it means otherwise? i know there
>are some more qualified than me on this list on
Thelema is a Greek word meaning “Will”. The way that Crowley used the term, he meant *Will* as in a Path that one follows in Life. It has a kinda “higher” feel to it, in that one’s life should be spent discovering and then following their “True Will” (cf. *will*, as in a mere fleeting desire or want). Continue reading