New Aeon Initiation, Part 2
2) The True Self contains Good & Evil, Upright & Averse
“My adepts stand upright; their head above the heavens, their feet below the hells.” — Liber Tzaddi, line 40
Initiation in the New Aeon is “the Child Growing to Maturity” by the slaying of the ego-self whose “death is life to come” for the True Self. But what is the nature of that True Self? Essentially, the True Self transcends dualities. Specifically, the True Self transcends the moral duality of Good and Evil.
People have a common tendency to imagine their goal as their “Higher Self” which they imagine as Absolute Good, caring, benevolent, etc. In short, many people construct an ideal or an abstraction of their highest ideals and believe that to be the goal. Crowley asserts in Magick Without Tears, “He is not, let me say with emphasis, a mere abstraction from yourself; and that is why I have insisted rather heavily that the term ‘Higher Self’ implies a damnable heresy and a dangerous delusion.” The term “Higher Self” is a delusion because the aim of Initiation in the New Aeon is to bring the individual to identify with the “Total Self” or “All-Self,” not the “Higher Self” (or “Lower Self”). We must explore and conquer both the “good” and “evil” sides of ourselves: in terms of modern psychology, we cannot neglect our own Shadow. As Crowley advises, “Every magician must firmly extend his empire to the depth of hell” (Magick in Theory and Practice, Chapter 21). As Nietzsche says, “The great epochs of our life are the occasions when we gain the courage to rebaptize our evil qualities as our best qualities” (Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 116).
Much of Thelema’s imagery may be seen as “sinister.” Examples include the “Beast” and “Babalon” from the Book of Revelations (where they do not appear in a favorable light), the experience of divinity as “evil kisses corrupt[ing] the blood… as an acid eats into steel, as a cancer that utterly corrupts the body” (Liber LXV, I:13, 16) and “poison” (Liber LXV, III:39, IV: 24-25, V:52-53, 55-56), “the concealed” within oneself wherein “all things are in thine own Self” (Liber Aleph, “De Libidine Secreta”) is called Hell or Satan (who is identified with the Sun in Liber Samekh), etc. These could all be considered as attempts to bring the psyche of the individual to acceptance of both the upright and averse aspects of existence. One might even say it is the “darker” side of the self emerging because of its neglect in Old Aeon systems that focus on Good, Virtue, Grace, etc. and exclude their opposites. In the New Aeon we assert that the True Self contains (and thereby transcends) both Good and Evil. “Less than All cannot satisfy Man” (William Blake, There Is No Natural Religion).
This idea of the True Self as containing both Heaven and Hell, Good and Evil, Upright and Averse, is captured succinctly in Liber Tzaddi, lines 33-42:
“I reveal unto you a great mystery. Ye stand between the abyss of height and the abyss of depth. In either awaits you a Companion; and that Companion is Yourself. Ye can have no other Companion. Many have arisen, being wise. They have said ‘Seek out the glittering Image in the place ever golden, and unite yourselves with It.’ Many have arisen, being foolish. They have said, ‘Stoop down unto the darkly splendid world, and be wedded to that Blind Creature of the Slime.’ I who am beyond Wisdom and Folly, arise and say unto you: achieve both weddings! Unite yourselves with both! Beware, beware, I say, lest ye seek after the one and lose the other! My adepts stand upright; their head above the heavens, their feet below the hells… Thus shall equilibrium become perfect.”
As mentioned in the last section, the True Self transcends the duality of Life and Death. In this section we see that the True Self transcends the duality of Upright and Averse, Good and Evil. The True Self is even “beyond Wisdom and Folly.” We must unite both with the Upright, “the glittering Image in the place ever golden,” and with the Averse, “that Blind Creature of the Slime.” Only thereby may man come to knowledge of his true Self: otherwise the individual will have a lopsided perspective of the self. One must remember that it is only because of its roots deep into the dark ground that a tree is able to produce fruit. As the psychologist Abraham Maslow noted, “Man’s higher nature rests upon man’s lower nature, needing it as a foundation and collapsing without this foundation” (Toward a Psychology of Being, 1968).
The method of Initiation in the New Aeon is therefore one of Union of Opposites and Equilibrium. The equilibrium is not that of moderation, the Middle Path of Buddha (or the Doctrine of the Mean of Aristotle), where we seek to avoid extremes and remain in the center. The equilibrium of New Aeon Initiation is understood as the balance attained by pushing to both extremes of any duality. “Go thou unto the outermost places and subdue all things” (Liber LXV I:45). We don’t take the upright (“white light”) or averse (“satanic”) of the Upright/Averse duality and aim for that alone; we aim for both the heavens and the hells. One might say, symbolically, the Old Aeon is like a pole or a tree, where the vertical section is straight and narrow, avoiding extremes. The New Aeon is then like a large building or a pyramid where the base is expanded horizontally. This symbolically shows that, by pushing towards the extremes (expanding the base horizontally in this metaphor), we enlarge our foundations which thereby allow us to withstand the “winds” of experience better. As it says in The Book of the Law, “Wisdom says: be strong! Then canst thou bear more joy. Be not animal; refine thy rapture! …But exceed! exceed! Strive ever to more!” (II:70-72). William Blake also enigmatically stated, “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom” (“The Marriage of Heaven and Hell“).
Again, we can look again to Horus (with the Infinitely Contracted Core of Flame as His Heart and the Infinitely Expansive Space as His Body) as a symbol of That which transcends the dualities of Good and Evil, Upright and Averse. In uniting with both the “glittering Image” and the “Blind Creature of the Slime,” we come to know ourselves as the All which contains but transcends both: “For two things are done and a third thing is begun… Horus leaps up thrice armed from the womb of his mother” (Liber A’ash, line 8). As Horus says in The Vision and the Voice, “I am light, and I am night, and I am that which is beyond them. I am speech, and I am silence, and I am that which is beyond them. I am life, and I am death, and I am that which is beyond them.” We might add, “I am good, and I am evil, and I am that which is beyond them.” Horus, the Sun, is a symbol of That which contains & transcends dualities, an image of our True Selves, identical in essence yet diverse in expression for each individual; other cognate symbols include the point in the circle (the Solar glyph), the Rose-Cross, semen and menstrual fluid combined (two live, generative fluids combined into a third which “is one substance and not two, not living and not dead, neither liquid nor solid, neither hot nor cold, neither male nor female” — Magick in Theory and Practice, Chapter 20), the Heart Girt with the Serpent (see Liber LXV), the cross in the circle, the circle squared (Liber Al II:47), the Sun and the Moon conjoined (called “the Mark of the Beast” in Liber Reguli and “the secret sigil of the Beast” in the 1st Aethyr of The Vision and the Voice), the Lion and the Eagle, the word ABRAHADABRA, and infinite others. In a certain ritual were the individual comes to identify with Horus (Liber XLIV: The Mass of the Phoenix), we proclaim our transcendence of the moral duality: “There is no grace: there is no guilt: / This is the Law: DO WHAT THOU WILT!”
“For Perfection abideth not in the Pinnacles, or in the Foundations, but in the ordered Harmony of one with all.” — Liber Causae, line 32
3) Embrace of the World
“Enjoy all things of sense and rapture… —” Liber Al Vel Legis II:22
We found the True Self which we come to identify with in Initiation is beyond the duality of Life and Death (part 1) as well as the duality of Good and Evil (part 2). Now we unite yet another divide with an embrace of the physical, “mundane” world. Another common dichotomy (at least in the West) that has split the psyche of man is Spirit versus Matter, or Sacred versus Profane.
In the ancient and medieval world, the predominant conception of the universe was of an earth below and the heavens above. People conceived the law of the Heavens as perfect and the Earth as degraded. Isaac Newton was one of the main figures who helped bridge the gap between Heaven and Earth. He said that the same force which makes objects fall on earth is the same force which makes the celestial objects in heaven move in their orbits: gravity. Symbolically and literally, Newton said the heavens and earth do not have separate laws but abide by one law. Also, we now know that the heavens are not above us but surround us on all sides. There is no separation between the “mundane” Earth and the spiritual” Heavens: Earth is literally immersed in the Heavens.
In the New Aeon we assert that “Every man and every woman is a star” (Liber Al I:3). On the physical level, we are all literally made of star-stuff (or “stardust”), as Carl Sagan was fond of noting, but there is a more important meaning here. Nuit — who says of herself, “I am Heaven” (Liber Al I:21) — is a symbol of the Infinite Space in which we are all immersed. Each star — each individual — is the center of self-awareness and expression of Heaven on Earth. Crowley writes, “Know firmly, o my son, that the true Will cannot err; for this is thine appointed course in Heaven, in whose order is Perfection” (Liber Aleph, “De Somniis [delta]”). In an important sense, this asserts that we too are in a perfect course through Heaven just as the celestial stars are. In the New Aeon there is an “unveiling of the company of heaven” (Liber Al I:2): every man and every woman. We are each Gods, Stars going their unique Ways in Heaven. Crowley comments, “[The] Pantheism of AL: The Book of the Law shows forth all things as God” (“Djeridensis Comment”) and “The ‘company of heaven’ is Mankind, and its ‘unveiling’ is the assertion of the independent godhead of every man and every woman!” (The Law Is For All).
From all these considerations its easy to see that in the New Aeon, not only does the True Self transcend the duality of Heaven and Earth/Spiritual and Mundane, but there is essentially no distinction between them at all. The Earth is not a prison, but a Temple where the sacrament of Life may be enacted; the body is not corrupt, but a pulsing and thriving vessel for the expression of Energy; sex is not sinful, but a mysterious conduit of pleasure and power as well as an lmage of the ecstatic nature of all Experience.
In fact, the embrace of the world, and even an ecstatic embrace of the world, naturally comes from cosmological perspective of the New Aeon. “Existence is pure joy” (Liber Al II:9) in the New Aeon (and not pure sorrow as some old hypochondriac and many pessimists since have suggested). We are also told, “the Truth of the universe is delight” (The Vision and the Voice, 17th Aethyr). This is because the Cosmological Picture of the New Aeon is that all Experiences are acts of Love between Infinite Forms (“Nuit”) and Infinite Forces (“Hadit”).
“Hadit, who is the complement of Nuit [“the infinite in whom all we live and move and have our being”]… is eternal energy, the Infinite Motion of Things, the central core of all being. The manifested Universe comes from the marriage of Nuit and Hadit; without this could no thing be. This eternal, this perpetual marriage-feast is then the nature of things themselves; and therefore everything that is, is a crystallization of divine ecstasy.” —Liber DCCCXXXVII: The Law of Liberty
Therefore, in the New Aeon we see every experience as the joyful union between Form and Force, Infinite Space and Infinite Motion. The world itself is an expression of Divinity, and therefore there is no reason to retreat from it in New Aeon Initiation. Just as we must transcend the dualities of Life & Death and Good & Evil, we must transcend the duality of Heaven & Earth, Sacred & Profane. We are told in the 19th Aethyr of The Vision and the Voice, “Worship all things; for all things are alike necessary to the Being of the All.” This idea of worshipping all things, and not making a distinction between “spiritual” and “mundane,” leads to the Formula of the Scarlet Woman.
“The Formula of the Scarlet Woman” refers to a certain attitude to the world. The Scarlet Woman is traditionally associated with the image of a whore, who symbolically represents “that which allows anything and everything into itself.” The opposite image is that of a chaste woman who shuts herself up and does not allow any intimate contact with anything around herself. Crowley writes, “The Enemy is this Shutting up of things. Shutting the Door is preventing the Operation of Change, i.e. of Love… It is this ‘shutting up’ that is hideous, the image of death. It is the opposite of Going, which is God” (The Law Is For All). The whore is an image of Change and the embrace of all things without distinction, and the chaste woman is an image of Stagnation and the separation from all things. The chaste woman is also therefore an image of the ego which refuses to give up its claim to be “King of the Mountain” (the True Self is the rightful “King” and the ego its minister, but the ego insists on claiming this title). Just like a chaste woman will not “let herself go” to have intimate relations with others, the ego will not “let itself go” to dissolve in the non-ego, the rest of the world, so that the individual may become One (beyond dualities). As mentioned in part 1, the work of we mentioned that “the work of each person is the release of identification with the ego and the consequent identification with Horus, That which transcends Life and Death (and all dualities).” We are therefore a “chaste woman” if we refuse to release identification with the ego and insist on a world of division (i.e. a world of ego vs. world of non-ego). This is another example of the “averse” or “sinister” symbolism that is often used in the New Aeon: the symbol of stagnation is a chaste woman (chastity being a “virtue” in the Old Aeons) and the symbol of growth and change is a whore (promiscuity/sensuality being a “vice”/”sinful” in the Old Aeons). In summary: the Formula of the Scarlet Woman applies to every individual (not just females) and refers to the attitude of accepting all things into oneself, refusing nothing, and growing through their assimilation. Crowley writes, “[This is] a counsel to accept all impressions; it is the formula of the Scarlet woman; but no impression must be allowed to dominate you, only to fructify you; just as the artist, seeing an object, does not worship it, but breeds a masterpiece from it” (Book of Lies, Chapter 4). Therefore, we accept all things but we do not thereby become a passive, lifeless receptacle which is buffeted by external forces; instead we must allow all things “to fructify” us. We all accept all things but we also turn these things towards the accomplishment of our Wills.
Here is an illustration of this point: a musical composer does not neglect C# as “profane” or “not worthy” but accepts all notes as worthy and beautiful in themselves, yet that does not mean his song will consist of hitting all the keys at once. On the contrary, he selects among the possible notes, arranges them in accordance with his vision, and produces a particular composition. The same idea is true for the Scarlet Woman, for the Formula of the Scarlet Woman is the acceptance of all things no matter if they are “unclean” or “mundane.” Crowley insists, “I urge you to beware of the pride of the spirit, of the thought of anything as evil or unclean. Make all things serve you in your Magick [causing Change in conformity with Will] as weapons” (“Djeridensis Comment”).
In short, in the New Aeon we do not avoid the things of the world or the world itself in fear of it being “unspiritual,” “profane,” or “mundane.” On the contrary, each individual is immersed in Heaven itself, as a Star among Stars. In the New Aeon, each individual proclaims, “All things are sacred to me” (Liber A’ash, line 29), and enacts “the Formula of the Scarlet Woman,” refusing nothing and accepting all. Thereby does each individual come to embody the union between (and the fruit of) Heaven and Earth.
“Behold! these be grave mysteries; for there are also of my friends who be hermits. Now think not to find them in the forest or on the mountain; but in beds of purple, caressed by magnificent beasts of women with large limbs, and fire and light in their eyes, and masses of flaming hair about them; there shall ye find them. Ye shall see them at rule, at victorious armies, at all the joy; and there shall be in them a joy a million times greater than this.” — Liber Al Vel Legis, II:24
Editor’s Note: While many titles of the libers of Thelema are typically presented in quotation marks rather than italics, we have used italics to make the references in this article easier to find while scanning quickly.