Another gonzo, unedited. Straight out of my head, post. Enjoy 🙂
I had an out-of-the-blue message the other day from someone who basically said, ‘I loved your book, but what have you got against Crowley?’
Well, I my initial response was obviously ‘let me count the ways’. 🙂 I have blogged about Crowley before but I am not sure I said much in the book. In any case, actually what springs to mind today is his reversal of the traditional understanding of the centrality of love.
Crowley’s famous dictum ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law’ is answered by the slightly less well known, ‘Love is the law, love under will’.
Various commentators have traced some influence from St Augustine, given here a little more fully than most magicians care to:
Once for all, then, a short precept is given thee: LOVE, AND DO WHAT THOU WILT: whether thou hold thy peace, through love hold thy peace; whether thou cry out, through love cry out; whether thou correct, through love correct; whether thou spare, through love do thou spare: let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good.
The centrality of love here is clear. Augustine is not innovating: this is a core Christian message – our will is to be immersed within, obedient to and in relationship with love, of whom the prime exemplar and teacher is Christ. Of course the same verity is found in all authentic traditions. It is even found in modern a-religious philosophies and practices like Deep Ecology.
In an interview with Deep Ecologist and activist John Seed, Ram Dass asks John, given the multitude of urgent pressures and possible ecological actions, how does he decide what to do next? John explains:
Well, I feel that I wouldn’t know how to evaluate or how to make a rational decision. What I do is I lie down in the forest and cover myself in leaves, and I say, “Mother, I surrender to you,” and I deliberately allow all of my energies to sink into the the Earth and to be aligned by the Earth. Then when I get up, whatever I want to do, that’s what I do.
John sinks into love and does what he wills.
Crowley on the other hand installs the human will as sovereign, placing it supreme over love. Now of course I know and have read about how this is the ‘higher will’ and all that. However, it is clear where the emphasis is and the simple fact of the matter is that most Thelemites and most Crowleyans have no clue what the ‘higher will’ is. They think they do and therefore the individual, small ego will is enshrined and becomes more important than love – which is actually the force that counters, clarifies and dissolves the will. No coincidence there.
And if the ‘higher will’ as a metaphysical principle is of any value it will be love anyway. The idea of all these developed Thelemites wandering around being ‘true individuals’ with unique, individual ‘higher wills’ makes no sense. Any depth spirituality has at root the base awareness of interdependence; we are not self-created beings. We are – in traditional Christian theology – created by the One, or are emanations of the One (Neoplatonism) or come into being through dependant origination (Buddhism) etc etc.
None of these theologies posit a self without relationship and at the root of that relationship is love. It is not the individual will.
It is quite clear why Crowley has reversed the traditional emphasis of love and will – this is what he was all about, setting himself and his philosophy up to counter traditional morality, religions, and aesthetic tastes. I explore this in a lecture I gave to the Perth SRIA.
The exaltation and refinement of the will can easily be a mask for the fear of the loss of will, the loss of self, of death. And again, this is where the traditional positioning of love and will makes sense and relieves these fears. This again is a core Christian message; through love death was conquered, which is often viewed esoterically as meaning the fear of the small self is overcome and transformed by the love of the greater self within the One: “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.”
Love, as de Chardin points out is ‘Love is the only force which can make things one without destroying them’. The will cannot do that. Thanks 🙂