New Aeon Initiation, Part 3
4) Self as Redeemer
“There is no god but man” — Liber Oz
One common attribute of the Old Aeon systems is their insistence on the baseness, sinfulness, and helplessness of humanity. In this view, mankind is naturally in a state spiritual blindness, deafness, and dumbness; we don’t know what is best for ourselves, and we’re aimless when left to our own devices. This often translates into the necessity of giving oneself up to a higher power outside of oneself: to the priest class, to the guru, to God, and (most recently) to the State. In the New Aeon, we place no faith on the grace of any god or guru; we assert no need to become Initiate beyond ourselves.
As was mentioned in the last section, each person must unite with both the “lower” (“the abyss of depth,” “that Blind Creature of the Slime”) and “higher” (“the abyss of height,” “the glittering Image”) Companion — those “Upright” and “Averse” aspects of themselves beyond the current awareness of the ego, which must be released, explored, and assimilated. A very important facet of this “great mystery” is that, “that Companion is Yourself. Ye can have no other Companion” (“Liber Tzaddi,” lines 34-35). Although we seek to unite with those abysses beyond our selves (insofar as “self” is here considered as the ego-self), those abysses are parts of yourself. In terms of psychology, they are the unconscious aspects of the human psyche, which isn’t just “below” the ego (i.e. “lower,” “animalistic” drives, the “Qliphothic” in Qabalistic terms; “that Blind Creature of the Slime”) but is also “above” (insofar as it contains the “higher,” “divine,” the “Neschamah” in Qabalistic terms; “the glittering Image”). We realize then that Initiation does not consist in “coming to God” or receiving “the grace of God” insofar as we consider a God separate or “above” ourselves, but rather, in the New Aeon, each person coming to a fuller, truer understanding of the Self is what constitutes Initiation. This is because “Initiation means the Journey Inwards” (Little Essays Toward Truth, “Mastery”), and the Godhead we seek is not something other than our True Selves. As Crowley writes, “Behold! the Kingdom of God is within you, even as the Sun standeth eternal in the heavens, equal at midnight and at noon. He riseth not: he setteth not: it is but the shadow of the earth which concealeth him, or the clouds upon her face” (De Lege Libellum). Again, we assert that this Self is always present, even at the beginning of the Great Work of coming to know it, although we normally function in and revert to the state of identifying with our minds and bodies (i.e., our normal ego-conception of the self).
This Work of coming to reveal and identify with the True Self does not require the blessing of priests, the empowerment of gurus, the presence of a “Master,” the grace of God, or the funding of the State. Each person must “Lift up thyself!” (Liber Al II:78). In one sense, it is only by the individual’s own courage, persistence, and hard work that the Great Work can ever be accomplished. In another sense, Truth — the realization of one’s True Self beyond dualities — cannot be communicated.
It is as futile to try to communicate the experience of Unity with All Things as it is describing red to a blind person. We can use metaphors or analogies but they will never actually understand until they have experienced it themselves. As Crowley says, “all real secrets are incommunicable” (Magick: in Theory and Practice, Chapter 9), and this is because “truth is supra-rational” and so it is therefore “incommunicable in the language of reason” (Postcards to Probationers). Therefore, if there is any “faith,” it is the confidence conferred by the “consciousness of the continuity of existence” (Liber Al I:26). This perception of Truth can only be partially communicated in poetics, metaphors, symbols, and analogies; it is the direct, individual experience of the True Self which brings real understanding of the Truth as that which is beyond dualities.
One can imagine the perception of Truth as a flower unfolding in the heart of every man and every woman: It is something inherent in the individual, which is revealed. Humanity is not sinful, degenerate, empty, or untrustworthy, but rather each individual is a Star, each a fountain of Godhead, and each inherently Divine. It is the work of the individual to realize this Divinity in him- or herself, coming to know themselves not as the ego but as the True Self which transcends all opposites: “ye [shall] look upon yourselves, and behold All Things that are in Truth One Thing only” (De Lege Libellum). This “consciousness of the continuity of existence” is no supernatural, extraterrestrial, supra-mundane, posthumous fantasy: Each person can attain to this awareness here on earth, during this life.
Every man must overcome his own obstacles, expose his own illusions” — Liber Causae, line 4
5) No Perfection of the Soul
“The soul is in its own nature, perfect purity, perfect calm, perfect silence… This soul can never be injured, never marred, never defiled” — Soul of the Desert
This idea is related strongly to the ideas in the last section of the Self as Redeemer. We assert there is no reliance on God, guru, priest, or any external authority, but it is a misnomer to say we “redeem” ourselves, for there is nothing to redeem. Crowley writes, “Redemption is a bad word; it implies a debt. For every star possesses boundless wealth; the only proper way to deal with the ignorant is to bring them to the knowledge of their starry heritage” (The Book of Thoth). The “soul” does not need to be redeemed for it is perfect and pure in itself; it only is because of ignorance of our own Divine Birthright that we think ourselves imperfect and transient. This “soul” isn’t the personality of the individual — the ego-self which identifies with the mind and body — but rather the Self which is coterminous with All Things.
The True Self never dies, as it is beyond all limitation, containing all things and relations within Itself. The body along with the mind surely will expire but it is only through the mysterious mechanisms of this mind and body that the Self, beyond all limits and opposites, may become self-aware and consciously experience the rapture of existence. This Self does not need to be redeemed or perfected: there is no Fall of Man to be rectified (Abrahamic religions) nor a Wheel of Suffering to be liberated from (Dharmic religions). There is no sense of the soul incarnating to attain to higher and higher “spiritual states” or towards “enlightenment.” In the New Aeon, the “starting point” is not a fallen, suffering, and sinful state. Rather, we are all Royal and Divine, Divinity made manifest, and “existence is pure joy” (Liber Al II:9) if it is seen with eyes that “Bind nothing!” (Liber Al I:22), i.e., eyes that see the unity underlying apparent dualities. As it is said, “Since all things are God, in all things thou seest just so much of God as thy capacity affordeth thee” (The Vision and the Voice, 17th Aethyr). The essential symbol-metaphor is that the Star of Unity is always shining, potentially conscious, but we identify with the ego-self and are therefore mired in duality and limitation. (Once you identify with the ego, you are immediately not the non-ego or the world and therefore the world becomes Two instead of One.) Crowley writes on this imagery in The Law Is For All:
“We are not to regard ourselves as base beings, without whose sphere is Light or ‘God.’ Our minds and bodies are veils of the Light within. The uninitiate is a ‘Dark Star,’ and the Great Work for him is to make his veils transparent by ‘purifying’ them. This ‘purification’ is really ‘simplification’; it is not that the veil is dirty, but that the complexity of its folds makes it opaque. The Great Work therefore consists principally in the solution of complexes. Everything in itself is perfect, but when things are muddled, they become ‘evil.'”
The important point is that “everything in itself is perfect” but our minds inevitably “muddle” the situation which ends with us identifying with the ego instead of the True Self. Because all things are perfect in themselves, we obviously do not need any kind of God or guru to bestow redemption, liberation, or initiation upon us; the aspirant need only clear away the cloud-veils of ignorance around her Star, and the True Self will leap up within her awareness and burn away all division and limitation. As Crowley explains in The Law Is For All,
“This ‘star’ or ‘Inmost Light’ is the original, individual, eternal essence . . . we are warned against the idea of a Pleroma, a flame of which we are Sparks, and to which we return when we ‘attain.’ That would indeed be to make the whole curse of separate existence ridiculous, a senseless and inexcusable folly. It would throw us back on the dilemma of Manichaeism. The idea of incarnations ‘perfecting’ a thing originally perfect by definition is imbecile. The only sane solution is as given previously, to suppose that the Perfect enjoys experience of (apparent) Imperfection.”
In the New Aeon, we go even further than one might expect: The “ignorance” of duality is not inherently evil or bad at all, either. In short, duality is “ignorance” for one who still identifies with the ego, but once one has dissolved the ego and identified with the True Self, one recognizes duality as the necessary means for self-awareness. For the individual mired in duality and identification with the ego, “coition-dissolution” is her formula, but one who has dissolved the ego and identified with the True Self has the formula of “creation-parturition” . . . and “The All, thus interwoven of These, is Bliss” (Book of Lies). The body, and the mind with its inherently dualistic concepts, are a prison of ignorance for the uninitiate and a temple for performing the Sacrament of Life for the initiate. It may take the experience of the dissolution of the ego to overcome the morbid fear of death and accept duality not as the condition of our suffering but as the opportunity for us to rejoice in the uniting of diverse elements (self and world in each experience, along with the Supreme Union of ego and non-ego/subject and object). The world is both “None… and two” (Liber Al I:28) . . . None, the continuous, is “divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union. This is the creation of the world, that the pain of division is as nothing, and the joy of dissolution all” (Liber Al I:29-30). In this conception, duality and the creation of the world as we know it (i.e., the normal, dualistic world which we commonly inhabit) is actually the condition of “the chance of union.” Only if two things are separate can they unite and have the possibility of “the joy of dissolution” wherein the self becomes “all.” Crowley explains, “Nuit shews the object of creating the Illusion of Duality. She said: The world exists as two, for only so can there be known the Joy of Love, whereby are Two made One. Aught that is One is alone, and has little pain in making itself two, that it may know itself, and love itself, and rejoice therein” (Djeridensis Working). Thereby does one embrace both unity and multiplicity (duality) in a higher Unity.
This perception of “the consciousness of the continuity of existence” (Liber Al I:22) is not something given by a god or a guru but a natural birthright of each individual. It is, as described in the first part, a natural step of growth towards psychological-spiritual maturity. And this also leads us to the final point: Even this is a step along the Path. It may be the “end” in one sense (the end of the dominance of the ego, for once thing) but it is also the beginning, for “death is life to come” (Book of Lies). One still has to live one’s life. One might say, “Before initiation: work, live, and play; after initiation: work, live, and play,” for coming to identify with the True Self doesn’t mean the end of one’s mind and body along with their normal needs. In fact, the mind and body — the ego-self — are not destroyed permanently but rather they are reborn with renewed energy, the veils of ignorance (of duality as well as the falsity of the doctrines of the Fall of Man and the inherent Suffering of the world) having been torn away. One does not suddenly obtain the earthly power of a king or have the intellectual power of Einstein, but the change is something largely “internal” or psychological, for in initiation, “nothing is changed or can be changed; but all is trulier [sic] understood with every step” (Little Essays Toward Truth, “Mastery”). It is this understanding of our True Selves, beyond the veils of mind and body, which we each strive to attain so that we may more effectively and joyfully manifest our wills in the world. The task is then simple yet difficult: Each individual must dissolve the ego and his identification with it to identify with the True Self, always shining though we are unaware, which is beyond dualities and all limitation. In the end, “All you have to do is to be yourself, to do your will, and to rejoice” (The Law of Liberty).
“No star can stray from its self-chosen course: for in the infinite soul of space all ways are endless, all-embracing: perfect.” — The Heart of the Master
- Death/Attainment as Non-cataclysmic
- “. . . There is that which remains.” — Liber Al vel Legis II:9
- Death (both of the ego and of the body) is no longer seen as cataclysmic in the New Aeon.
- The New Aeon views Death not as an end but as the possibility for new Life.
- Initiation (the myth-drama of each individual’s Path) is no longer portrayed as “The Man performing Self-Sacrifice” but as “The Child Growing to Maturity.”
- The Old Aeon views death as a cataclysmic event whereas the New Aeon views it as a necessary step in the progress of Growth.
- 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).
- “With courage conquering fear shall ye approach me: ye shall lay down your heads upon mine altar, expecting the sweep of the sword. But the first kiss of love shall be radiant on your lips; and all my darkness and terror shall turn to light and joy. Only those who fear shall fail.” — Liber Tzaddi, lines 16-18
- 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
- In the New Aeon we assert that the True Self contains (and thereby transcends) both Good and Evil.
- The method of Initiation in the New Aeon is therefore one of Union of Opposites and Equilibrium.
- Horus, the Sun, is a symbol of That which contains and transcends dualities, an image of our True Selves, identical in essence yet diverse in expression for each individual.
- “For Perfection abideth not in the Pinnacles, or in the Foundations, but in the ordered Harmony of one with all.” — Liber Causae, line 32
- Embrace of the World
- “Enjoy all things of sense and rapture . . .” — Liber Al vel Legis II:22
- Each star — each individual — is the center of self-awareness and expression of Heaven on Earth.
- 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.
- The Cosmological Picture of the New Aeon is that all Experiences are acts of Love between Infinite Forms (“Nuit”) and Infinite Forces (“Hadit”).
- 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.
- “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
- Self as Redeemer
- “There is no god but man” — “Liber Oz“
- In the New Aeon, we place no faith on the grace of any god or guru; we assert no need to become Initiate beyond oneself.
- We realize then that Initiation does not consist in “coming to God” or receiving “the grace of God” insofar as we consider a God separate or “above” ourselves, but rather, in the New Aeon, each person coming to a fuller, truer understanding of the Self is what constitutes Initiation.
- This perception of Truth can only be partially communicated in poetics, metaphors, symbols, and analogies: it is the direct, individual experience of the True Self which brings real understanding of the Truth as That which is beyond dualities.
- Every man must overcome his own obstacles, expose his own illusions” — Liber Causae, line 4
- No Perfection of the Soul
- “The soul is in its own nature, perfect purity, perfect calm, perfect silence… This soul can never be injured, never marred, never defiled” — Soul of the Desert
- The True Self never dies as it is beyond all limitation, containing all things and relations within Itself.
- The essential symbol-metaphor is that the Star of Unity is always shining, potentially conscious, but we identify with the ego-self and are therefore mired in duality and limitation (once you identify with the ego, you are immediately not the non-ego or the world and therefore the world becomes Two instead of One).
- Because all things are perfect in themselves, we obviously do not need any kind of God or guru to bestow redemption, liberation, or initiation upon us: the aspirant need only clear away the cloud-veils of ignorance around her Star, and the True Self will leap up within her awareness and burn away all division and limitation.
- The body and the mind, with its inherently dualistic conceptions, are a prison of ignorance for the uninitiate and a temple for performing the Sacrament of Life for the initiate.
- “No star can stray from its self-chosen course: for in the infinite soul of space all ways are endless, all-embracing: perfect.” — The Heart of the Master
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.