Thelema say: You can’t always get what you want, but you’ll get what you need. Ah yeah.
I consider myself a Thelemite. I’ve never been a member of the O.T.O. or any other magical fraternity, other than a two-week stint in the QBLH. Why? I’ve never been very talented at toeing the line, or at believing things just because someone else said they were true. Dogma is very much a part of Thelema, especially as dictated by magical orders, and I’ve seen many friends undergo dogmatic transformations upon joining a magical order. However, to me, Thelema is very much about blazing your own trail and declining to let others do your thinking for you (and spoon feed you the results). Aleister Crowley went to great lengths to weed out the chaff, the students too willing to swallow his instruction literally. Much like other great masters of philosophy and religion, he had no respect for those who couldn’t be bothered to do their own work. Somehow I don’t think he’d be all that friendly to the bulk of those claiming to be Thelemites today. They’re far too willing to denounce any practice of Thelema that doesn’t follow Crowley to the letter.
I’m going to have to disappoint you, if you are one of those “Crowleyites.” I’ve read appallingly little Crowley for a Thelemite. I tend to take him in small doses with long breaks between. But in my heart, I am a Thelemite. I have a great love for the philosophy as I understand it. It’s that understanding I’d like to share with you. I’m going to provide my view of a few Thelemic tenets, interspersed with my beliefs as a human being who has searched within, long and hard, to find her core. And while I feel I’ve found many concepts that represent core realities to me, I consciously strive to allow my views and my system of Thelema to evolve as new information and concepts arrive. Thelema is a living system, and it doesn’t deserve to be shoved into a hope chest for generations until Prince Charming (or the next leader of the next “real” O.T.O.) happens along.
Up until a few days ago, I’d never succinctly defined my beliefs. I think that’s because they’re complicated and involve a huge amount of nuance. I do prescribe to the tenets of True Will, the Abyss, and the Holy Guardian Angel, and I am a passionate proponent of Qabalah, which of course Thelema employs at length. However, unlike most ceremonial magicians, I am a mystic (and perhaps a shaman) in these ways:
- I work with spirits, and use this work to the best of my ability to aid others in my community.
- 90% of the work I do is internal or is processing the internal via external means.
- 90% of my current practice is completely self-originated. I am under-read, because I have read very little Crowley to date and don’t study the works of other magicians at any great length. What I do, I learned to do by doing it. I’m not taking someone else’s formula and mimicking it. As they like to say, “The map is not the territory,” and I left the map behind a long time ago. When I do read books on magick, I frequently recognize things I’ve done on my own that I never would have comprehended upon reading if I’d read the material in advance.
Regarding the tenets above, here’s my view:
While this and the HGA are covered in my above-linked article, I’ll provide a basic explanation of my views here, for those who’d rather not click. In a nutshell: The True Will that can be identified is not the True Will. I paraphrase the Tao Te Ching here, because it’s true. Thelemites like to speak of their True Will as if it gives them license to do whatever they damn well please. Or they’ll say, “I am turning on the light switch. Therefore, it is my True Will to turn on the light so that I may see better, bringing me closer to the manifestation of my purpose.” Blah blah blah.
While we may well have our individual callings, and discovering and working toward those callings (and fulfilling them) may put the winds of the Universe against our backs, this is the True Will that can be identified. Those callings are but stepping stones or way stations along the path to our true True Will — that of the Great Work of self-transformation. This earthly calling is something we can apply our real world effort towards, while we truly are evolving as spirits and as individuals, toward some incomprehensible whole that we will not discover until we cross the Abyss. (And I don’t care what Crowley said: Show me a human being who can convince me he’s crossed the Abyss while still alive, and I’ll kiss his ass live on CNN.)
(As an aside, I should mention that I don’t see Crowley as a human being worthy of emulation. But he was a brilliant magician, and he was an instrument in a higher message coming through. So yeah, he was the prophet. But that doesn’t make him a god.)
To further expound upon my view of True Will:
- I believe that it’s impossible to not follow your True Will, once you have made any effort to apply yourself to your personal evolution via a spiritual or magical path. We may be taking the long and circuitous route until we gain clarity, but the True Will is always keeping the end goal in sight. Even without conscious contact with the HGA, our desire to push forward toward that goal invites our HGA to take the reins. It gets easier, obviously, once that contact is made and we have a much clearer idea of what we’re meant to do. But the True Will is always there, in the background, issuing whatever nudges are necessary. To continue. . .
- I believe that wherever we are and whatever we’re experiencing, the Universe is always striving to put (and keep) us on the most direct path possible (at any given moment) to our destiny. Destiny, to me, is not as simple as having fate laid out for you. There are nuances to destiny — a higher destiny as well as a mundane one, as I described above — and we always have a choice. Meridjet likens this to a river. The river is the path to our higher destiny — evolution. But as we travel the river, we have an infinite array of choices about our experience along the way. We can take tributaries; hang out in lagoons; dock at a big, exciting distraction; take the rapids and do some whitewatering; use a canoe or a speedboat. But we’re all traveling the same course toward the same destination (which isn’t a destination at all).
Obstacles that arise in our lives occur to direct our course, to call our attention to things, and sometimes to issue one hell of a wake-up call. They also occur because there are things we need to learn that those experiences teach us — though sometimes we don’t comprehend those lessons until years later. If a lesson happens to be terminal (such as a fatal disease), then I’d surmise that we gain that understanding after death if not before, during our Abyss journey if nothing else.
- I believe that synchronicity and déjà vu are indicators that we are traveling along an optimal course. When you are making the most beneficial choices, the momentum of the Universe is behind you and things fall into place.
- I believe that, therefore, everything happens for a reason. Even trivial little mundane moments, when taken as filling the moments of your day that lead you to the Next Big Thing, have reasons for their occurrence. They provide influence not only on our timing but also on our psyches. We just don’t tend to notice those things until they accumulate enough to call our attention to them, and by then oftentimes the original moment of influence has been lost in a stew of trivial moments and will never be recognized. And by “trivial,” I don’t mean meaningless. I mean they are moments we take for granted and never give a second thought to.
I’ve had the benefit of a glimpse of this through Meridjet’s eyes, and what follows are his words (channeled):
Imagine entering a darkness, not only in your sight, but in your mind. All around you is foreign, emerging suddenly into your vision and receding with equal speed. You’re frightened, and you’re lost, and you have no idea how to correct either. You remember something from your past, and it gives you a moment of strength before it is stripped away, gone, as if it had never been.
Each issue of your lifetime — the happy, the sad, the guilt-ridden, the resentful, all of them — are faced and become your everything until you have made peace with them. Then they, too, are taken from you. The challenges of the Keeper at the Gates bear teeth, and they will rend you.
Everything you know, everything of your life or your history that gives you a sense of belonging, your place in the scheme of things — even your name, it’s all stripped away, layer by painful layer until you are naked. You have nothing — no sense of individuality, no sense of self; you are reduced to a point of consciousness in a vast dark (and occasionally screaming) nothing, unaware that you observe, unable to direct your focus. You are an infant in the vastness of the Universe, with no frame of reference to provide an awareness of your existence.
And there you float, lie, swim — pick your preference — until eventually it changes. It may be, in the measures of time on Earth, moments. It may be millennia. Typically, it is merely years. But eventually, there’s a glimmer, a tiny little glow at the center of your consciousness that is different from how it’s “always” been. There’s no explanation for this change except one: you are becoming. In spite of all that brought you here and all that would hold you, you are becoming and you will not be thwarted.
As the glimmering point of light that is love, self, God, All, everything and nothing, grows, you begin to . . . not re-form, but re-emerge, birth yourself from the emptiness that emanates from Kether and gives shape to all. You become not who you were, because that person or being is no more. You become who you are, who you were always meant to be underneath the baggage and the blinders and the endless rules of conformity that strain to contain each of us our entire lives. It’s almost like a deflated vinyl balloon, shapeless in the attic for 11 months, re-emerges as the beloved December snowman or nutcracker, brought to life once more for another holiday season.
As your consciousness expands from awareness of self to awareness of All to awareness of Self-as-All-As-Self, you regain the knowledge of your deeds and ideas, as well as their process of understanding. You have made it across the chasm of the lost and the damned, and you will walk away not only unscathed, not only healed, but whole in a way you have never imagined.
You Become. And the knowledge of that Becoming inspires a desire to find expression for your gratitude. So, if you’re like me, you go back to that special person you once had to leave, and you take up the mantle of Teacher. You begin to guide her to reach her own Becoming, with hope, love, and pure unadulterated joy.
Words are not the best tools for such rapture or for describing what happens to each of us, but know this: Becoming is not the end of the journey. It is the Beginning.
The Holy Guardian Angel
I’ve written on this topic before (see link above), but to put not too fine a shine on it: The HGA is the embodiment of our potential, a potential so great we can’t conceive of it. It takes the form of an autonomous spirit, insanely attractive, fully involved, and largely without mercy. It teaches us hard lessons and refuses to submit to any request for either coddling or consoling, until the lesson is past and there is no danger of sympathy causing us to falter. It tests your strength in ways you would swear were intolerable. And it facilitates your growth like nothing else can. Through it all, you never doubt that you are loved, in spite of the cruelty, the challenges, and whatever you may feel about yourself in your moments of weakness.
It will lead you to face things in yourself that you’ve denied your entire life. It will reveal bliss undreamed of. When a decade or more has passed, you will wonder how you became who you are now, out of who you used to be. With this in mind, I present my remaining beliefs (or those that come to mind):
- I believe that living consciously and mindfully should be a goal of every living person, so that we strive to be aware of our effect on other people and ourselves, and also strive to fill our waking moments with something more than automatic pilot. This is a difficult thing to do, rather like trying to maintain a meditative state throughout your entire active day. We must do our best to remind ourselves until it becomes a habit of living without habits or automatic responses. Have you ever walked into a dark room when the power was out, and flipped on the light switch expecting it to work? Most of our actions are of this nature. If we could feel as foolish every time we chose automatically, as we do when flipping that light switch without thinking, it would teach us to be more mindful.
- I believe to “Know thyself” is profoundly important and that most people don’t. See above. Lives lived completely based upon superficial concerns are a tragedy.
- I believe the rational mind is both a blessing and a curse. I believe that this world’s emphasis on facts (while calling them “truths”) and rationalism is unbalanced and therefore crippling, but without rational thought we would learn much, much more slowly. Abstract concepts are powerful things (and include true gnosis) and should always be included in any balanced person, but it’s not until an idea swims around in our deeper selves a while then percolates up into thought and realization via the intellect that we gain knowledge and understanding beyond instinctive response. Yet our skeptical insistence (and oh, I’m a skeptic) upon things being rational keeps us from understanding worlds that don’t fit that very firm mold. We are indeed crippled when it comes to astral projection to any world other than this one, and we insist on defining things that are beyond our experience. (For instance, any thought of parallel universes usually results in a person thinking of them as nearly identical to this one, if not in appearance or geography, at least in terms of the most basic things: Breathing, food, water, belongings, other creatures, etc. Any thought of a spirit world, conversely, usually involves the person visualizing an endless expanse of gray fog through which featureless and ethereal spirits float about. BOR-ing!)
- I believe that conventional religion is a means of control, offering the congregation (is there a better word?) salvation if they toe the line and give away their money, and offering the congregation true knowledge not at all. I believe magical orders are shaping up to do the same thing.
- I believe that politicians should be accountable for deception and any type of malicious manipulation of the people or their resources. I believe that corporations should be regulated and held accountable, particularly when acting out of greed at the expense of the environment, their workers, or the public. I believe in socialist medicine. I believe this world has a long way to go and that we might not survive as a species long enough to put away the war machine for good and start truly thinking of our fellow man.
- I believe in compassion, empathy, and honesty. I believe in cultivating gratitude and optimism. I try to practice them consciously. I’m not perfect, by any means, but I keep trying. “Compassion is the Vice of Kings.” This, to me, does not mean that compassion is a vice to be avoided. It means that compassion, feeling empathy and the desire to help, for our fellow living creatures and our planet, is something that as “kings” we must accept and utilize. It is an emotion that is addicting, because giving to or helping someone feels good, as does the power to create their happiness or gratitude. It becomes a vice due to that addiction, but as kings we must accept that vice in exchange for the power to help someone in need. And it is a lesson long overdue for those in power. Don’t shit where you eat. Be generous and compassionate toward those who can’t help themselves, and the whole universe gains.
I am a Thelemite. I am dedicated to the Great Work. I am a star, dancing in the heavens in celebration of my ability to experience this world, with its joys and tragedies. Would you care to dance?
©2010 by Sheta Kaey.
Sheta Kaey is a lifelong occultist and longtime spirit worker, as well as Editor in Chief of Rending the Veil. She counsels others with regard to spirit contact and astral work. She can be reached via her blog.