On Thelemic "Attainment"
This post assumes you've read the last one ("Do You Believe in Magick?"), preserved in the memories section of this journal.
For a lot of reasons, as important as it is to the future of Thelema (and, I'd argue, to human survival), I don't post much about the whole issue of "attainment" to Thelemic "Mastery." The two biggest of those reasons: (a) If you explain the method involved too plainly -- and too soon -- thereby alerting the conscious mind to it, the process ceases to work so effectively as it otherwise will; and (b) Too many people go absolutely batpudu crazy at the very suggestion that such a thing as "attainment" to Thelemic "Mastery" actually exists. In fact, that's not quite true: most people either couldn't care less, or are mildly interested to hear about it. What I really mean, I guess, is that too many students of magic, including (alas!) most especially Thelemites, flip out on the subject. "Attainment" or "enlightenment" or whateveryouwannacallit is all very well for Mysterious Asian Masters, or even some few westerners -- so long as they are very old, or (far preferably) safely dead -- but there seems a near-prohibition against advancing the notions that, e.g.:
+ "attainment" is a normal process human beings can and should undergo -- for their own peace of mind, if nothing else;
+ whatever his personal failings, and however much he strove to conceal some details*, Aleister Crowley was serious about this process, understood how it was managed, and took pains to leave instructions behind for others to follow in reaching it; and worst of all,
+ one has, oneself, completed this process, hence is in a position to help others to do so.
So, long story short, that's why I don't talk about it much: I don't want to spoil other people's initiatory journey, and I don't enjoy pissing people off. That said, I'm getting tired of the dog-in-the-manger effect: I don't think that the people who don't want to hear about Thelemic attainment should be allowed to keep the issue away from those who do. So, y'know, screw that.
A good short summary of method is (as I've noted here before) available in Crowley's "Liber Tzaddi"**, of which I was reminded today in reading a passage in the 14th? century Japanese "No" play, Chikubu-shima
:many are the Vows made to save sentient beings:
sometimes Enlightenment displays the form
of a Celestial Lady, to answer the prayers
of beings so attuned; and sometimes the form
is a Dragon God from the nether world,
bringing peace to the realm....
In brief, the method involves examination of one's self-contradictory nature and goals -- conscious and unconscious -- and reconciliation of same into a unified whole. As Crowley's "One Star in Sight" puts it, the aim is to free one's "Understanding" from "internal contradiction [and] external obscurity."
Of aim, it's almost harder to speak...but let's start with the one mentioned in passing above, an almost unutterable peace of mind. This is, I believe, what most drives folks crazy about "attained" people, inside or outside of magical studies: like some unattained****, but deeply sincere, religious folks, they're just so infuriatingly sure of themselves:
"You think you're better than everybody else!"
"Like hell I do. But I know who and what I am, and I've stopped caring about comparisons with others."*****
But wait (I hear you ask): if "attained" people didn't care about comparisons with others, why would they be forever trying to share the methods and aims of attainment with them?
Suppose that after a lifetime of agony you suddenly realized it had all been caused by a rock in your shoe; that after removing it, you were in a state of constant bliss; and that the first thing you noticed was that everyone else had the same rock in their shoe, and didn't know it. Might you have a motive other than self-aggrandizement for wanting to tip them off? To quote St. Bugs Bunny, "Yaaaaahhhh, could
Gee, this is sorta fun. Maybe I'll do more of it. :)
93 93/93 -- AJ
* AC had an exaggerated sense of how easy it was to figure out what he was up to (and hence spoil the initiatory game). When too many of his early students -- usually intensely well educated, and always with his own hints to assist them -- tumbled to it too quickly, he took pains to obscure his meaning...burying it, unfortunately, deeply enough that the average educated person today is likely to have some trouble getting there without a few pointers.
** See also AC's "Thien Tao"; the essay "Eleusis" in his Collected Works
; his poem "AHA!"; The Book of Lies
(falsely so-called); and most of the earliest volumes of The Equinox
. Among many other works.
in Japanese No Dramas
, trans. Royall Tyler.
**** Attainment involves the whole person; most religious "certainty" necessarily leaves at least some of the actual person out...as most religious people are, however secretly, well aware.
***** See Liber Legis
. It is, of course, futile to expect those entranced by an artificial basis for comparisons with others to comprehend this point.