Seekers After Knowledge

"Why should not you
Who know it all ring at his door, and speak
Just truth enough to show that his whole life
Will scarcely find for him a broken crust
Of all those truths that are your daily bread:
And when you have spoken take the roads again?"

W.B. Yeats

"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law."

   October 12, 2000, will mark the 125th anniversary of the birth of Aleister Crowley. Though a man of world-renown in his time, Crowley is now mostly forgotten. Those who are familiar with his name only remember that he was called "The Wickedest Man in the World," a name given to him by one of those remarkably reliable newsprint items called "tabloids."

   Although the labels "devil worshipper" and "drug addict" are easily recalled, the basis for those assumptions is nonexistent. Many people ingest these ideas without ever bothering to consider them. They look at Crowley with a tainted eye. When questioned as to the source of their opinions, it is obvious that they are not drawing objective conclusions. But how can a person form an opinion on a subject of which he or she has no knowledge? Crowley himself stated in The Confessions of Aleister Crowley: "I never cease to wonder at the persistence of malignant hostility on the part of people who have never met me or read a line of my writing."

   An adventurous soul and gentleman of Cambridge, Crowley hunted big game, traveled across China on foot and climbed K2 (the world's second highest peak) more than 50 years before Mt. Everest was conquered. But these achievements are quickly overshadowed by the light of his other explorations.

   Near the turn of the century, Crowley met Samuel Liddel MacGregor Mathers, who introduced him to the newly-formed Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The Golden Dawn was similar in many ways to societies such as the Masonic Lodges, the Knights Templar and the Rosicrucians. Many profound thinkers and poets belonged to this society, such as William Somerset Maugham, William Butler Yeats and Arthur Edward Waite.

   They were not Satanists gathering for the purpose of ritualistic human sacrifice; rather, they had a thirst for knowledge. Their studies included alchemy, astrology, astronomy, comparative religions, languages (especially Hebrew, thought to be the sacred language), Qabala and the Tarot. They also discovered (or invented) many connections between these fields of study.

   Maugham's novels, Yeats's poetry and Waite's Tarot deck hinted at the mystical secrets of the order, but revealing secret knowledge was strictly forbidden. Only within the past few years have the teachings of the Golden Dawn come to light with the publication of Israel Regardie's four volumes of The Golden Dawn. This book includes an informative introduction along with the entire lessons and papers available to members of the order. There is absolutely no mention of Satan in it.

   Crowley believed that Satan was invented by the Christian church and modeled after the ancient deity Pan for the purpose of converting pagans from his worship. Crowley studied all religions from Greek and Egyptian mythology to Buddhism and yoga. He believed that they are all connected by simple truths. Different names were given to similar legends and ideas. The ideas most frequently recurring he thought to have the most elements of truth.

   The first aeon of man, Crowley said, was influenced by matriarchy. Religions worshipped the Great Mother and lunar goddesses, givers of life in this largely agricultural time. With the advent of Christianity, man moved into the second aeon&emdash;the Age of Osiris, and of patriarchy. The religions became centered around father figures and the sun.

   We are now, according to Crowley, entering the aeon of the child. In The Book of the Law he states, "Consider the popularity of the cinema, the wireless, the football pools and guessing competitions, all devices for soothing fractious infants, no seed of purpose in them.

   "Consider sport, the babyish enthusiasms and rages which it excites, whole nations disturbed by disputes between boys. We are children."

   He added to this his hope that humanity would grow in enlightenment. The goal of his Great Work is Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel or, as psychologists call it, self-realization.

   "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law," was Crowley's motto. This has been misinterpreted as "Do whatever you want" by some. What Crowley meant to teach is that every person must discover their own true will&emdash;their purpose in life&emdash;and minimize the distractions on the path of their goal.

   "Every man and every woman is a star," he said. "Every man and every woman has a course, depending partly on the self, and partly on the environment which is natural and necessary for each. Anyone who is forced from his own course, either through not understanding himself, or through external opposition, comes into conflict with the order of the Universe, and suffers accordingly."

   Crowley explored the unconscious with the aid of every know stimulant and magical ritual. How does one know where to draw the line until one has crossed it? In order to gain knowledge beyond the ordinary, one must attempt the extraordinary. Such efforts are made by geniuses who are often thought to be madmen. Crowley was one of many, like Freud, who helped to tear down the false, hypocritical, self-righteous attitudes of the Victorian era.

   Besides his philosophy of life, Crowley is revered by students of esoteric knowledge for his achievements in Tarot and Qabala.

   Along with artist Lady Frieda Harris, Crowley reinterpreted and redesigned the 78-card Tarot deck. This deck of Thoth, so-called after the Egyptian god of hidden wisdom, expanded the symbolism of previous Tarot decks to include other systems such as the Hebrew alphabet and Scriptures.

   The Qabala is a system by which other systems can be harmonized. It includes the Tree of Life, a diagram which is a type of map of the universe and of man. The Tree of Life has also been compared to a filing system. The files are there, but the student needs to fill them with items from each field of study.

   For example, the principle that God created man in his own image: The name of the Hebrew God, Jehovah, is spelled with the four letters Yod, Hé, Vau and Hé. Written in their Hebrew form from top to bottom these letters form the shape of a human, with Yod as the head, Hé as the shoulders and arms, Vau as the torso and Hé as the pelvis and legs. And, according to the Hebrew Scriptures, the "Word" was a vital tool of the Creation (Gen. 1; John 1:1-3). Knowledge of the Qabala is a key to greater depth of understanding. But the more you know, the more there is to know.

   It's not hard to discover such symbolism wherever you look. The meaning behind it, though, is elusive. When one sees such correspondences, one can begin to learn the proper relations of man to himself, to others and to the universe.

"Love is the Law. Love under Will." (See Matthew 22:36-37)

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