"[I]t is hard to deny that in the expression of the initiator is something mysterious, even sinister. He seems to be enjoying a very secret joke at somebody's expense."
-- from "The Hierophant," The Book of Thoth.
Once in a very long while somebody cuts right to the heart of things, posing simple and direct questions which can't be answered fully without spoiling the initiatory game, as it were. That's what usha93 has done, in a brief comment to a very long (and, alas, locked) thread on z111's page...and here I'm going to reward her precision of thought by ducking and weaving. Well, all for a good purpose, I insist, and one thing I won't do is deliberately mislead.
I actually use two-thirds of one of my books to drop Serious Hints on these subjects (the "Thelema" section of my Student Handbook), and I'm reluctant to get a whole lot more forthcoming than that in a small space on a public board. But let's see what we got, hyere....
I'd written: I'm certain there must be Just Plain Contradictions in AC's work; presumably nobody could express himself at such length for upwards of half a century without some contradictions creeping in. That said, a number of the apparent contradictions in his work are, IMO, there for an initiatory purpose.
Her full reply in the original thread is included here; I'll just take it up piece by piece.
I'm curious whether the initiatory "pseudo contradictory" stuff you're thinking of is all contained in the Holy Books, or whether you believe this occurs throughout AC's very large body of written work?
Not so much "pseudo-contradictory" (IMO) as written from different perspectives for the use of different readers (and despite their symbolic (and sometimes cryptic) quality, I mostly don't mean the Holy Books, either). The first analogy I thought of: one warns very young children never, ever to touch matches; advice would differ for a grownup trying to use a gas range. Better analogy, though, might be the distinction between the messages that display on a message board, and the command code that (we non-programmers assume) instructs those messages how to display on that board. The posters are only going to have to know how to post; the moderator has to know how to handle message traffic, and the webmaster has to know at least something of how the underlying program works.
When it comes to his interlocking initiatory systems, Crowley was writing the original code. Sometimes he needs you to see how he's doing it; not infrequently (particularly in his earliest post-attainment writings) he'll offer hints about same in passing; most often he does so only sparingly.
I remember Crowley himself making a distinction between the Therion writings and the rest of his work. It seems to me that Crowley himself was constantly coming to his own deeper understandings of his own work, at least the "revealed" Class A writings, and especially Liber AL itself.
I consider these inspired writings, as he did, particularly CCXX. He took auctorial credit for the other Holy Books in The Equinox, but not that one. He also constantly went back to a few books for further light -- especially that one, but also, say, The Vision and the Voice.
To my mind, inspired writings are in a class by themselves. I could wax Jungian and speak of the collective unconscious -- or even something like the evolving Will of humanity, or of the Cosmos itself -- but my basic point is this: inspired writings are neither entirely crafted by the conscious mind, nor entirely dictated from Beyond, such that anyone can "receive" them. Everyone who's ever tried to write poetry -- or taken deep comfort from a text (or music, or film) -- will know what I mean.
When he wasn't wearing his Therion hat, it seems AC considered himself "just a dude" [...]
If you mean "just an attained Thelemic King, Magus of the Aeon, Gnostic Saint and World-Teacher who, to his considerable literary, philosophical and religious skills, and intense spiritual commitment, brought a complexity of mind and love of puzzles which compelled him to -- "
You get the idea. ;) If we mean "AC was a nobody to whom the gods decided to speak," then we need to explain why they've chosen so few others to receive messages of similar value. If we add to that, "hence we can safely dismiss the vast majority of what he wrote," then I think we're just as seriously mistaken as, say, the person who takes AC himself as a personal exemplar of The Right Sort of Life.
[...] and applied varying degrees of importance and "correctness" to his own writings.
Unquestionably true -- not only from the grading of his books into "Classes" (A, B, etc.), but because different books have differing purposes. The trick is to focus in on which books "matter" the most. Some are obvious -- CCXX, Book Four, and the like; some less so (Vision and the Voice is one of the most forthcoming of them all, though in symbolic language), and some of the most important ones rather neglected today: "Eleusis" (!), Thien Tao (!!), AHA! (!!!), The Heart of the Master, "The Sword of Song," and on and on. Some of his poetry, in fact.
One should also watch for his use of the phrase "very obscure," which he tends to apply to passages which are Almost Too Plain. ;)
A second point I'm curious about is what you think the "Thelemic Fundamentals" are. Looking at the roots of Protestant Fundamentalism, I found this site: http://www.wfu.edu/~matthetl/perspectives/twentyone.html , where the "Fundamentals of Christianity" pamphlets were given -- as has been pointed out, the "Fundamentals" tracts don't necessarily bear any resemblance to the Jesus stuff actually contained in the gospels, but involves odd stuff like "the literal virgin birth," "the bodily assumption of Christ into heaven," and such. I realize it's way too much to get into here, but I'm curious about what you think the "Thelemic Fundamentals" are, or could/should be. The big obvious ones I'd guess, would be "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law," and "Love is the law, love under will."
Excellent question. Other than to heartily agree with your final point, I'm gonna sidestep this entirely, hiding behind the Class A Comment. :)
Or are you speaking in a broader sense about the study of as much of AC's oeuvre as possible....
Worked for me -- though I've tried to give some narrower specifics above.
or actually undergoing ritual initiations...
Not what I'm talking about here.
or both, neither, something else entirely?
Damned impressive questions, O King -- and damned incisive thinking, too. Thank you very, very much for sharing it. :D
93 93/93 -- AJ