September 24th, 2006


Saying Yes, Saying No

Sol and Luna in Libra, Dies Solis
2 Libra CII / 24 September 2006 EV

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

So instead of starting Book Four, Chapter 2 of In The Nightmare Village (on page 643, and no, I can't believe it either) I decide to take a moment or two to listen to my new Kim Robertson CD, Wood, Fire & Gold, which just arrived from Schmamazon. Robertson plays Celtic harp and sings like she's moonlighting from the angelic host, and as I'd half-expected a number of the cuts are traditional: lovely, beautifully executed, but not what I bought the CD for. What I bought it for is the cuts she wrote (as well as performed) herself -- particularly "Anamchara" and "Alayi," both of which made me sob like a child the first time I heard them (on cable radio), and have prompted the deepest kind of spiritual response, and not infrequently tears, every time since.

No wonder so many of the ancients thought of music as a proof of God's (or the Gods') existence: no verbal communication involved, difficult to explain why it "works," and yet, pow, unexpectedly, here comes yearning and love and beauty and tears; here comes the human spirit through the ether, in all its divine glory. So instead I'm writing a brief Equinoctial meditation, here at the Autumnal Equinox, which we celebrate as the Season of Peace.*

At first I was struck, as I have been before, by the extent to which I identify "divine" qualities with defiance: an eternal No in the face of horror and oppression and lies: like that passage in Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow where Slothrop whispers "Fuck you," because "it's the only spell he knows." I toyed for an instant with the idea that all religions in the world could be divided into those that worship saying Yes versus those that worship saying No, into submission versus freedom...but at once I realized that's silly: every religion, every philosophy, every approach to survival on this planet is saying Yes to some things and No to others. But this led to bigger ideas I couldn't quite articulate: something about...?

It struck me, too, just how mysterious is our response to music. There's probably stuff that makes you cry like a kid, or resolute, or just happy, and the odds are that however eclectic our tastes (mine sure are), they often differ. Thanks to my wife (and a long-ago girlfriend of mine who was a concert violinist) I am better able than most to describe what, in technical terms, I respond to. I like complex and intricate patterns that unexpectedly repeat; I like counterpoint, key changes, strange chord progressions, and both augmented and diminished chords. I also love the human voice, singly or in chorus -- particularly though not exclusively in the upper octaves -- and I automatically sing intricate contrapunctal harmonies to whatever the hell happens to be playing, including, sometimes, advertising jingles. (I also automatically make up satirical, and not infrequently dirty filthy, alternative lyrics to songs. Go figure.)

But none of that explains why music works for people, or even for me. Why isn't it just random sound to our ears? Hell if I know. And then, suddenly, I had the thing I'd been trying to reach earlier: the reason that Yes-No dichotomy was insufficient:

Those who try to eradicate basic human qualities have always failed, and probably always will.

This is why I object so vehemently to those who insist on seeing current conflicts -- military, cultural, political, you name it -- solely as an us-and-them thing, rather than as a particularly noisy discussion being carried on by the entire human family, in ever larger circles, for as long as there have been humans. This is also why I believe so strongly that Thelema, or something very like it, is an inevitable necessity for the human race. It has the most comprehensive understanding of the divine, and respects as divine every individual expression of same. "The unveiling of the company of heaven": "Every man and every woman is a star."

The Church failed to keep the population of Europe because her vision of the divine was not big enough to encompass people's experience, and in a sense that's what has happened to all human mechanisms of control to date -- most recently communism, for failure to include incentive -- until only one is left. That one, corporate capitalism, will also fail, unless it stops putting the next quarter's bottom line, investor return and stock value ahead of human survival itself. I personally happen to think that corporate capitalism will wise up in time, is beginning to do so now...but if it doesn't, humanity will reject it and find something else.

Thelema will fail, too, if it doesn't stay as big as it actually is, if it doesn't make room for the full diversity of womankind, and mankind. Parochial Thelema, parochial anything, is doomed in advance...and always has been.

Whatever you do to them, people just keep on saying Yes, and saying No. It's the only spell most of them know. It's the main one any of us needs.

Love is the law, love under will.

Yours in Love and Freedom, THETA

* "We" being the original addressees of this encyclical. The designation comes from the old Golden Dawn Tarot assignments: 2 of Wands (1st decan of Aries, beginning of Spring, Noon, South), "Dominion"; 2 of Cups (1st decan of Cancer, beginning of Summer, Sunset, West), "Love"; 2 of Swords (1st decan of Libra, beginning of Autumn, Dawn, East), "Peace"; 2 of Pentacles or Disks (1st decan of Capricorn, beginning of Winter, Midnight, North), "Change." As might be expected, Thelemites don't think of "peace" as the absence of conflict; more like the proper attitude toward this goofy, horrific, divine cosmos we inhabit. This can make Thelemites pretty impressive warriors, btw: respecting their enemy even as they do their duty toward him.