|Israel Regardie at the time he met Aleister Crowley|
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
It’s difficult to say how many biographies have been written on Aleister Crowley. I did a Google search and came up with 19, yet I know of at least two more not on that list. Some of them appear quite negatively biased. The Eye in the Triangle still holds up as one of the best, in my opinion. Israel Regardie not only personally knew and worked for Crowley, he became an adept and teacher in the Golden Dawn System of Magic, a foundational basis of Thelema. He not only walked the walk, he talked the talk quite articulately. This is a point Robert Anton Wilson makes in his introduction to that tome. Similar attributes apply to Robert Anton Wilson: a very articulate writer (on any subject) who practiced what he preached. That seems a big part of his appeal and maybe explains why Falcon Press reached out to solicit his wise words for their third edition of Regardie’s biographical effort.
RAW explains several key Thelemic concepts in this relatively short introduction beginning with that invaluable tool of Skepticism called a bullshit detector. This concept initially gained currency in an interview Ernest Hemingway gave for the Paris Review on what makes a great writer originally calling it a “shit detector.” It was probably Hemingway himself who refined the term to a bullshit detector. The bullshit detector idea found its way into punk rock in the opening line of “Garageland” by The Clash from their eponymous first album. Wilson stays within Hemingway’s context of qualities needed for a good writer – adamantly advocating its necessity saying that without a bullshit detector, “they will never communicate efficiently.” Incidentally, nine more qualities Hemingway considers necessary for good writers can be found here:
https://glasstypewriter.wordpress.com/2014/04/05/10-qualties-of-good-writers-according-to-ernest-hemingway/ which was compiled from Ernest Hemingway on Writing.
The concept has evolved into becoming a “critical piece of one’s (magical) work” in the 2016 book On Getting A Bullshit Meter by Erica M Cornelius. She writes: “In essence, getting a Bullshit Meter is an internal process of tracing back, testing, and making a decision regarding each of one’s beliefs. Which ones are supported by objective evidence and which ones are not?” I would add that it also becomes part of one’s intuitive skeptical faculty particularly when objective evidence may or may not exist or appear readily available to support an assertion. A bullshit meter or detector seems critical to reading Crowley or Wilson, particularly the latter’s fiction which includes deliberately inserted nonsense under the guise of Guerilla Ontology or Operation Mindfuck. One purpose of this literary trickery: to get the reader to think for themselves; to not unquestioningly swallow or believe everything given. Guerilla Ontology, or shaking up our automatic and mechanical way of being, works by stating facts obviously true, statements obviously false, and statements uncertain in their veracity. That’s where the attentive reader intuitively decides how it reads or not on their bullshit meter. Though the b.s. needle will move on the meter at times in Lion of Light, there doesn’t appear to be a strong reading in Wilson’s introduction here unless, perhaps, you consider the byline: “Robert Anton Wilson, Ph.D.” One can estimate whether the suffix stands for “Doctor of Philosophy,” or as my father, who occasionally used the same suffix, thought: “Piled Higher and Deeper,” or something else. The question of the authenticity of Wilson’s Ph.D. gets covered in the forthcoming biography, Chapel Perilous, The Thought Crimes of Robert Anton Wilson by Gabriel Kennedy. It seems Wilson did not use that suffix later in his career. If you would like your own bullshit meter but don’t know where to get one, simply send me $66 and I’ll guarantee to get it out to you immediately.
In this piece, Wilson personally touches upon the foibles of the man Crowley, as opposed to saying what other critics think of him. This gets tempered with placing him among such giants as Einstein, Joyce, Pound, Frank Lloyd Wright and Picasso under the common theme of introducing Relativity into their various fields. I’m reminded of the equivocity (relativity) of language when Wilson refers to Crowley as “sometimes downright vicious.” I’ve heard the recent terrorist attacks by Hamas and subsequent ongoing retaliation by the Israeli military victimizing civilians in the vicinity of Hamas called vicious.
Getting outside of the ego/personality complex seems a basic requirement of Initiation. Sufis call this “waking up.” Please don’t confuse this with the recent popular, politically correct or incorrect expression, “woke”, which often appears its own kind of sleep. Wilson gives a simple Crowley exercise of keying a piece of jewelry to a different personality type. It’s presented as an example of how A.C. “learned to quantum-jump from one reality-tunnel to another” and “developed, out of traditional “magical” practices, his own techniques for making such jumps quick and efficient.” Improvising one’s own techniques, or modifying other people’s techniques to work in your situation becomes part and parcel of an initiatory skill set. These individualized techniques, aka “alarm clocks” joins the student’s bag of tricks for waking up. This looks very much related to the formula given in Chapter 23 from The Book of Lies: GET OUT.
One very gentle ego transcending exercise that could help save the world can be found in You Are Not the Target by Laura Huxley called (paraphrasing from memory) “Standing in Another’s Shoes.” The title pretty much says it all. You literally imagine yourself in someone else’s position. It has a side effect of increasing compassion.
The second complete paragraph on page 179 did register a little on my b.s. meter. Wilson has not only Crowley, but all mystics trying to abolish the ego which implies making it go away forever. Yes, as mentioned, Crowley had various techniques and strategies for transcending the ego. I don’t know, and don’t recall hearing that he hoped to disappear it forever. Wilson quite correctly adds, “The ego has a seemingly infinite phalanx of strategies for sneaking back each time it seems demolished.” The words “abolish” and “demolish” set off the meter. I’m not aware of Crowley or anyone writing about him describing stepping outside the ego in those absolute terms. I agree with Gurdjieff that the problem seems one of identification. It may appear impossible to demolish/abolish the ego; it seems relatively much easier to not identify with it completely all the time. The ego does have social and cultural uses. It’s been called a convenient fiction. I regard the ego as a representation or a mask able to expand or contract as desired. I compare it to the two conceptual poles of Thelemic ontology, Nuit – infinite expansion and Hadit – infinite contraction.
Discovering one’s True Will, one’s purpose in life, is another crucial subject given here. This again shows either the accidental or invocational continuity of Lion of Light, a collection of essays strung together like a rosary, as the last section in the previous article, “Do What Thou Wilt” is called THE TRUE WILL. Wilson unequivocally writes:
“To find the True Self and the True Will, beyond the historical accidents of social imprinting, is the goal of Crowley’s magick.”
If this discovery or realization was the only thing one got out of Lion of Light or any book about Crowley or Thelema, it would have served its purpose. In this piece, Wilson gives an excellent and concise outline of what this means using nomenclature from Physics and backing it up with a Sufi quote which starts:
“However unhappy a WoMan may be, the moment (s)he knows the purpose of hir life a switch is turned and the light is on …”
That’s exactly how it worked for me. Not long after getting into Crowley I started considering what my True Will might be. At the time, I worked for a rock-n-roll bar band as a soundman/roadie getting paid very little, but having a lot of fun. I recall reading something about “communication” in the Calgary Sun newspaper astrology column by Sydney Omarr and thought my True Will may have something to do with that: helping to communicate music to the world. This realization did feel like a light turned on. I remember loading these huge P.A. mid-range bins by JBL (called “45 – 60s” after their dimensions) into this ratty biker bar in Calgary called “The Airliner” feeling as high as a kite because I had some sense of my direction in life despite the unglamorous nature of that current situation.
In communicating the advantage of finding their True Will over the years, I’ve often discovered that many people have no idea what it might look like; often they have difficulties in even attempting to formulate the slightest idea of it. As Wilson implies, it doesn’t have to be something noble, altruistic or paradigm shifting, like curing cancer, bringing about world peace, or making sure bar patrons can hear the guitar solo in a cover version of Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever.” One also need not have a final definitive formulation of True Will to begin aligning in that direction. It gets refined along the way. You can start this search simply by considering what you like to do? What brings you joy? What makes you happy? Completely independent of Crowley, Joseph Campbell gives the instruction to “follow your bliss.” Be true to yourself appears another simple way to put it. You can ask, “why am I here?” Why have I landed into this incarnation? It’s said that the whole Universe will assist you when you align to yourTrue Will; serendipitous synchronicities will come into play. But even knowing, or having some notion of what your True Will looks like doesn’t necessarily make it easy to follow. A million distractions will pop up along with various pressures to conform to someone else’s idea of how you should spend your time; not to mention all the effort, time and attention involved with responding to the economic slavery facing the working class.
This essay gives a glimpse at RAW’s prodigious reading habits. He describes consuming The Eye in the Triangle entirely in one night, a book of roughly 500 pages. That’s far beyond my capacity despite it being one of the best Beast bios. He also said he’s read it several times since then, a time span of about 12 years; it’s not like he didn’t have other things on his mind and other things to do, like raising and financially supporting a family while trying to make ends meet as a free-lance writer.
Israel Regardie ranks as one of the most significant contributors to keeping Crowley’s legacy alive while expanding it on a much larger scale. He gives his reasons for writing The Eye in the Triangle in the “Foreward” to that book: “. . . the time has come now to raise my voice in the intertest of clarifying the record of Aleister Crowley. He was one of the greatest mystics of all time, although a very complicated and controversial person.” . . . “he has too long suffered from misrepresentation and vilification at the hands of uninformed biographers” . . . “John Symonds, his major biographer, evinces throughout his narrative a totally contemptuous attitude towards Crowley. This hostility altogether invalidates his attempt at biography.” . . . “His writing is cynical, showing no glimmer of insight, or even the slightest trace of sympathy.”
This effort is even more admirable considering the two had a contentious falling out some four or five years after parting ways. Regardie owns up that he mistakenly started this brief feud. He had sent Crowley one of his recent books along with a “warm note.” Crowley responded: “He both joked and reprimanded me, together with some anti-Semitic slur about the adoption of the name Francis and he faceitiously called me ‘Frank.’” Regardie acknowledges that he should have let it go. Instead, he wrote Crowley a nasty letter. Crowley didn’t directly reply; he anonymously wrote a letter detailing his former student’s character flaws as he perceived them and sent it to Regardie’s friends and correspondents. The student also publicly expressed disappointment in his former teacher. In his landmark textbook, The Tree of Life – A Study in Magic Regardie writes: “Dedicated with poignant memory of what might have been to MARSYAS.” This is the mythological character A.C identified with in his poem AHA, a dialogue between a teacher Marsyas and his student Olympas.
Looking over The Eye in the Triangle in preparation for this post has me wanting to reread it again. The book begins with the young Regardie on a train station in Paris waiting to meet Aleister Crowley for the first time. He gives a brief sketch of how he got there, this first meeting and what it was like to work for Crowley, including a few salient incidences. One of these outlined Crowley’s indirect, gentle way of criticizing his grooming habits. Regardie goes on to include the details of their falling out and publishes in full the short anonymous letter mentioned above. The remainder of the first chapter uses a defense against critics calling Crowley schizophrenic and neurotic as a jumping off point to give a brief and incomplete summary of the work A.C. accomplished. Coincidentally, or not, Regardie concludes this chapter with Liber Oz printed verbatim, but without the title. A facsimile of Liber Oz concludes the “Do What Thou Wilt” piece in Lion of Light, coming right before Wilson’s “Introduction to Israel Regardie’s Eye in the Triangle.” (I am aware of the typo, missing the “The.” One can always borrow this definite article from the very end of Finnegans Wake.)
Israel Regardie, through his books and cassette tapes, became a primary teacher of magic for me when I first got into this racket. I highly recommend anything written by him including: The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic, The Tree of Life, The Middle Pillar, Healing Energy Prayer and Relaxation, The Art of True Healing, A Garden of Pomegranates, The One Year Manual, and Foundations of Practical Magic. Some of the exercises appear in more than one of these titles, there are overlaps. Regardie also edited some very important Crowley titles that I also highly recommend including: Gems from the Equinox, The Law is for All, Magick Without Tears, The Vision & the Voice, and the aforementioned poem AHA.
The exercise most associated with Regardie is The Middle Pillar Ritual. He introduced this into the Golden Dawn though he found it somewhere, he didn’t originally formulate it. I find it very useful because you can do it anywhere you have a chance to relax. I used to do it on the plane. Also, in the moments waiting at the mixing board before the concert would start. One can find more elaborate versions, but here are the basic instructions:
The Middle Pillar
Visualize a sphere of scintillating white light about the size of a salad plate swirling and radiating just above the top of your head and touching your skull. From within the center of this sphere vibrate the holy name EHIEH (eh-hee-yeh) and imagine the sphere of light getting brighter and more radiant with each repetition. This can be done from 1 – 5 minutes or longer.
When you’re ready, imagine the white light descending through your head down into the throat area where it forms a sphere of lavender light. Vibrate YHVH ELOHIM (yeh-ho-veh el-ho-heem) for a similar period of time firmly establishing the visualization.
Then the energy descends through the upper chest until it gets to the heart center forming a sphere of golden light. Vibrate YHVH ELOAH VA DAATH (ya-ho-veh eh-lo-ah va-daath)
After that, the energy descends down through the solar plexus and stomach coming to rest at the base of genital area and forming a sphere of deep purple light. Vibrate SHADDAI EL CHAI (sha-di el hi)
The energy descends through both legs to form a rich black sphere of light at the base of the feet getting stronger and more radiant each time you vibrate ADONAI HA ARETZ (a-doh-ni ha a-retz).
Circulating the energy:
Now, visualize the energy starting from your feet rising through the center of your body changing colors along the way until it reaches the scintillating white light above your head. Breath in, then on the outbreath imagine the white light descending down and outside the left side of your body until it reaches your feet. Then, on an inbreath, visualize it crossing under your feet to ascend the right side. Do this at least 3 – 5 times or more until you distinctly feel the energy flowing.
The next circulation has the energy flowing down the front of the body on the outbreath then crossing over to flow up the back of the body on the inbreath. Continue until it feels right to move on.
For the final circulation, visualize the energy descending down the middle pillar inside your body from the top of the head to the feet. Then, on an inbreath, imagine the energy ascending the middle pillar from the feet until it bursts through the skull on the outbreath like a fountain of white light pouring around you in an egg shape until it reaches the feet then ascends again through the middle pillar on the inbreath and fountains out again. Repeat as necessary.
* * * * * *
Wilson concludes by giving the Beast credit for recognizing and symbolically admitting to his assholeness in Chapter 70 paragraph 6 of The Book of Lies though Wilson admits it could be interpreted in other ways too. He also teases that there’s a deeper alchemical joke there. Any guesses as to what that might be?
This week’s musical selection comes from a group I’ve worked with called MaMuse, though not this selection. It’s a live recording from the California World Fest. Unfortunately, the audio gets distorted in places but it feels like a much stronger invocation than the studio version. The audio sounds ok enough if not played too loud. They invite anyone to call in support for anyone they wish.
Love is the law, love under will.