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I AM A THELEMITE. SINCE 1975 E.V., I HAVE BEEN actively involved with magical societies that embrace the Law of Thelema and the teachings of its prophet Aleister Crowley. In this book, however, I am not acting as a spokesperson for any association, nor should the material contained herein be considered indicative of the teaching methods or procedures of any organization. However, as this work focuses in part on the spiritual worldview of scientific illuminism developed by Crowley for the great magical order he called the it is incumbent upon me at the outset to make myself clear about my relationship (or lack of relationship) to this fraternity. For the reader who may be unfamiliar with the and its work I quote briefly from The Magick of Thelema.
The [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] was founded in 1907 by Crowley and George Cecil Jones. Based upon the classic Rosicrucian grade system of the Golden Dawn, the requires the Magician to actually achieve the states of consciousness and powers embodied in each of the ten Sephiroth (i.e., the Magician is only an Adeptus Minor when he or she has actually achieved the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel).
The [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is not a lodge system, and is entirely secret. It is a testing order, not a teaching order. The aspirant officially knows only one person in the Order—his or her superior. Each Magician is, for the most part, left alone to do the work as he or she sees fit. Ideally, contact with the superior is brief and infrequent, and can be characterized as being suggestive rather than instructive. Advancement to the next grade is simply a seal upon attainment.
Today there remain a number of individuals who had a formal [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] relationship with Crowley, or one of several of Crowley's students. Some of these individuals have chosen to continue to take on students, who in turn have taken on students, etc., etc. As the nature of these relationships is secret, there is no way, short of affiliation, to gauge the quality of the magical work done.
As noted above, the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] would ideally operate through an unbroken chain of teachers, each of whom is one grade in advance of his or her student; the Probationer is supervised by a Neophyte who, in turn, is supervised by a Zelator, who is supervised by a Practicus, who is supervised by a Philosophus, who is supervised by a Dominus Liminis, who is the student of an Adeptus Minor, etc., all the way up to Ipsissimus, and all the way back to Aleister Crowley. For those whose faith in the efficacy and legitimacy of the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] hinges upon the existence of a group of adepts who make up such an unbroken chain, I must sadly report that I have discovered no evidence to suggest that it exists. To my knowledge, even the strongest [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] pedigrees are built upon the mentorship of individuals who can/could exhibit only Probationer or Neophyte paperwork from Crowley, or who have various other breaks or irregularities in their chain. Knowing this is the case, the sincere seeker must decide whether or not this magical paper chase is really important to the work at hand.
The traditional mythos maintains that the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] has existed since the dawn of consciousness, and is both the catalyst and vehicle of the spiritual evolution of humanity. The great avatars and spiritual figures of the past, including Fu-Hsi, Lao-Tze, Gautama, Zerdusht, Pythagoras, Dionysus, Osiris, Apollon, Plotinus, Mohammed, and others are identified by Crowley as emissaries and representatives of the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] Even Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, who never (to my knowledge) had any signed [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] paperwork acknowledging her as such, was considered by Crowley to be an 8° = 3[??], a Master of the Temple in the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Keeping this in mind, isn't it a little naive to believe that such a powerful cosmic varsity squad could be limited to the activities of a handful of individuals who can display a document proving that they are bona fide students of a bona fide student of Aleister Crowley?
What then constitutes [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] affiliation? We are all entitled to our opinions, but I am firm in my belief that no one should presume to answer that question for another. I am aware of (what I believe to be) formal and serious [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] work being carried on today all over the world. I am also aware of the activities of so-called Lodges and individuals and organizations hinting they are the doorway to the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Predictably, some of these groups are led by self-appointed "Chancellors" or other such hierophants who have convinced themselves that their level of spiritual omniscience is sufficiently exalted to enable them to evaluate precisely where an aspirant stands on the initiatory ladder. Interviews with members (and former members) of such groups often paint a picture of a leadership frightfully preoccupied with enforcing unquestioned obedience to the hierarchy. Conformity of thought (coupled with an emphasis upon degree snobbery and a testing program that demands standardized answers to standardized questions) effectively ensures that most students will never become sufficiently illuminated to discover what pompous and deluded asses are running the show. In my opinion, such activities do not represent the fundamental principals of the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and are unquestionably the antithesis of the Thelemic formulae.
But, it does not matter what my opinion is! Ironically, the nature of magick being what it is, both of the above categories are capable of turning out adepts, morons, or monsters. Caveat emptor is as true in the spiritual marketplace as it is on the used car lot. But even in cases of obvious misrepresentation it is not for me, you, or anyone else to judge whether or not the Great Work of the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is being carried out. True contact with the Order takes place in the heart of the aspirant. If this link is genuine, then it does not matter if the flesh and blood contact is a saint or a scoundrel. In a way, this level of profound ambiguity places the post-Crowley [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] on a most subtle and mystical plane—a place where no one (if they expect to be taken seriously) is in a position to challenge the legitimacy of anyone else's [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] claims.
When I felt compelled to affiliate with the Order I had no idea if I would ever meet an authentic contact, so I simply typed out the Probationer's Oath, read it aloud, and signed it. Then, like a good Martinist, I ceremonially burned it. It was the only way I knew to consign it to eternity—to a place where my signature could never be effaced. I was convinced that such a sincere oblation could not possibly go unnoticed by the Secret Chiefs.
It was only a few months later when I discovered an individual who had once been a Probationer of a Probationer of Crowley and a one-time resident of his (in)famous Abbey of Thelema in Cefalu, Sicily. This charming woman was intelligent and extremely knowledgeable about the magick of Thelema, and had personally known many of the colorful characters, who, in the past, were stars of the magical firmament. I had no problem with the fact that she had never been officially recognized as a Neophyte (and therefore technically unqualified to take on a Probationer) and, as it seemed unlikely that I would ever find a more qualified link to the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], I persuaded her to sign my Probationer's paperwork.
Inspired by the vision of being a link in such a rare and holy chain, I set to work with the zeal and seriousness of novice monk. I mapped out and religiously adhered to a strict regimen of daily practices which included pre-dawn rituals, yoga, meditation, pranayama, evening rituals, and devotions. These I recorded and commented upon in a formal diary which I periodically sent to my superior for comments. My wife and young son were very understanding (or at least tolerant) of Papa's new life style and strange robes.
One year after I privately signed and burned the Oath of a Probationer, I repeated the ceremony with the Oath of a Neophyte. A few months later I traveled to my superior's home, turned over my latest diary, and recited from memory the required chapter from Liber LXV. I recited the Task of a Neophyte, observed all the necessary formalities, then, as she did for my Probationer document, she unceremoniously signed the Neophyte paperwork and we sat down to. a quiet dinner. This document is the highest formal [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] credential I possess.
I carried on with my disciplines under her supervision for nearly four more years, during which time financial difficulties and health problems presented painful distractions. Then, after a disagreement over the honesty and character of another student (in which I was given the "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] task" to meditate until I agreed with her on the subject), we silently and mutually suspended our formal relationship. We still have a cordial friendship (I never fail to call her each year to remind her she has again forgotten my birthday) and both of us seem happy to keep it that way.
In reviewing my diaries and our letters, it is clear that perhaps we both were expecting too much from each other. At the time she was just as inexperienced as a magical instructor as I was as a magical student. When I think about it, she was the perfect teacher, for from her I learned the first and most important magical lesson—I must learn my lessons myself.
To this day, I continue my magical work and do not feel that my affiliation, responsibilities, or labors have been interrupted in any way. I have come to the realization that the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is a profoundly greater order than I ever dreamed possible. I still believe that it is very important to seek out and find a flesh-and-blood personal magical mentor, and I urge anyone who is serious about the work to tenaciously pursue the quest. The psychological edge of knowing you are part of a serious and illustrious spiritual brotherhood is often the only momentum you will have to get you through the inevitable dark nights of the soul. It is well to keep in mind, however, that no individual, no matter how enlightened, can project power or illumination upon you. More often than not, you will learn your greatest lessons in spite of your teacher's efforts, and not because of them.
It will be easily discerned by all who believe they can judge such matters that I reside conspicuously low on the Tree of Life. It is of little relevance that I have spent the last thirty years in pursuit of spiritual enlightenment because for every hour I have meandered toward the light, I have squandered months running away from myself and the Great Work.
Why then does a person possessed of such dubious and delinquent credentials presume to write with the pretense of authority on such important subjects? The answer is simple, and I share it with you without pride or embarrassment. It is because somewhere along the magical trail, without me realizing exactly how, when, or why, I have gained (what I would have called in my spiritually militant youth) a modest measure of enlightened happiness. Furthermore, after reviewing my spiritual diaries, I have come to giddy realization that the litany of failures and the comedy of errors that chronicle my magical career represent as much of a success story as any I have ever encountered.
Of course you are free to pity me as a hopelessly deluded fool. After all, some believe that happiness is what you experience when you don't have a clue as to what your real situation is. But please don't let my Pollyannaish attitude discourage you. The simple truth underlying this sweet mystery is truly universal, and sooner or later, if you have taken even one step upon the magical path, you also will embrace this revelation like an old friend. Like it or not, dear magician, the litany of failures and the comedy of errors that will chronicle your magical career will be as much of a success story as any you will ever encounter.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Love is the law, love under will.
I GUESS YOU COULD SAY I AM AS WESTERN AS they come. I was born in Long Beach, California, in 1948, to parents of mixed European and Native American ancestry, nourished on white bread, meat and potatoes, and raised to manhood on the fertile plains of eastern Nebraska, where I was anesthetized by the ambiguous tenets of Methodism. I was in my late teens before I ever met a Jew, an atheist, or a person of color. I married my high-school sweetheart at age 18, just in time to "turn on, tune in, and drop out" to the sylvan glades of southern Oregon.
As did so many others of my generation, I found myself in unqualified rebellion against the institutions and philosophies that I believed to be both the source and the perpetuators of the world's ills. I embraced political radicalism and vegetarianism with equal zeal, and casually discarded the faith of my fathers without debate, regret, or hesitation. With youthful abandon I wiped my slate clean, and naively challenged providence to ruthlessly suckle me upon pure truth.
It was inevitable that something would fill this spiritual void, and paradoxical as it may sound, my rejection of all things old and obsolete did not discourage me in the least from exploring all things extremely old and extremely obsolete. I was strongly attracted to Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism with their scientific, analretentive approach to self-illumination, but I was most taken with the profound simplicity of a little book of less than one hundred pages—Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching. This ageless classic of Chinese wisdom spoke to me of a nameless way of action by inaction, of being by not being, paradoxes of logic and behavior only achievable by one who has transcended all desires, ambitions, and ego. From the well of the Tao Te Ching, Confucius drank deep, clearly basing his marvelous commentaries on the I Ching on his interpretation of the text.
Up to a point Tao may be interpreted as "reason," or more accurately, the inscrutable components of thought which allow us to grasp the reality behind all we perceive. In a world of shifting illusionary forms, the singular reality is a certain "whatever-it-is" that obliges us to connect the menagerie of illusions which we mistakenly perceive as objective reality. The Tao is said to be unknowable because we cannot directly comprehend this "whatever-it-is," because the thinking process, itself, gets in the way.
Everything we think we know about anything results from our ability to observe its behavior through a series of consecutive movements. For this reason, the Tao is called the "way" and is said to reside in the motion, rather than that which is moved.
To apply the principles of the Tao to one's personal life is an extremely subtle task, and especially suited to the calm rationality and introspective temperament of the Oriental psyche. I apologize if this sounds patronizing. Human diversity should be celebrated, and no one's sensitivities should be bruised when I observe that the approaches to spiritual enlightenment that characterize the spiritual sciences of the East encourages the individual to turn inward to discover the true nature of Self and God. Conversely, the Western tradition encourages the devotee to seek externally for the answers—in scripture, ritual, priestcrafts, and prayerful appeal to a God outside of one's self.
For many years I believed the Eastern approach to be superior, and I envisioned myself quietly gaining illumination while sitting by the koi pond, my legs locked in a flawless full lotus position, my eyes firmly fixed upon the ajna chakra in the center of my forehead, my shaved head gleaming in the leaf-filtered sunlight of my cool and tranquil Zen garden. The fact is I did spend a good deal of my time doing just that (well ... I never got my Zen garden) and, while I did not reach nirvana or mahasamadhi, I was able to log several classic and recognizable meditative landmarks in my diary. Still, I felt as though I was somehow going against the grain ... as if I were trying to run Eastern software on my Western hardware. I lamented the fact that there were not techniques and disciplines unique to the Western psyche ... Western yoga or Western Zen.
I was unable to find a document comparable to the Tao Te Ching, and everything that advertised itself as Western mysticism seemed so encumbered with Christian self-hate and guilt that I stopped looking in that direction altogether. I did not, however, give up my quest for a Western way, and eventually my quaint and curious studies brought me into contact with the traditions of esoteric Freemasonry, the Knights Templar, Rosicrucianism, and ceremonial magick.
Excerpted from Angels, Demons & Gods of the New Millennium by Lon Milo DuQuette. Copyright © 2013 Lon Milo DuQuette. Excerpted by permission of Samuel Weiser, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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List of Illustrations and Tables
Chapter I Confession
Chapter II Qabalah—Zen of the West (Is this Kosher?)
Chapter III The Emerald Tablet of Hermes and the Invocation of the Holy
Chapter IV The Precession of the Equinoxes and the Metamorphosis of the
Chapter V Passing the Pylons
Chapter VI Devil Be My God
Chapter VII Demons Are Our Friends
About the Author
Posted July 3, 2001
DuQuette does it again, where 'My Life with the Spirits' is an autobiographical account of his life, this work goes deeper into his practice and philosophy in a series of essays and articles bound together in one little volume. It's more informative and informational, less entertaining, but still with his unmistakable whimsical style that educates you through your giggles. The last chapter of the book is sincerely invaluable to the practicing Mage. Plus, finally a decent last word on the 'Are demons actual external entities, or internal psychological constructs of the human psyche' question. An outstanding work that is sure to be an Occult Classic deserving of a prominent place in EVERY magical bookshelf, regardless of your preferred magical/philosophical current.
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Posted March 5, 2010
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