The same is true for the most sophisticated brand of the Isis faiths—Buddhism. It is not that these dying-god faiths have nothing to offer Thelemites. Their fundamental principles should in fact resonate with fundamental Thelemic principles, that is, the principles governing the relationship of human beings to a very long perspective of Cosmic existence and consciousness.
But the differences are in the calculation of the value and the potential of any individual consciousness. In Thelema, the latter is raised up, in life, to a status of the divine—at least potentially. Nirvana, Heaven, perfection and transcendence, are all possible attainments to a Thelemite—IN LIFE.
For Christians, on the other hand, the goal in life is to die, and to extinguish the distracting, sin-promoting, individual human consciousness. Life thus is a peculiar way station for a Christian, and for many of them it is an uncomfortable, and hateful purgatory.
Originally posted November 14, 2008, as "Different Brands of Good News (or Nooses)"
The Good News Of Christianity
That’s pretty much the good news.
On the other hand: any desire to be an individual, in any way, is a will to distance oneself from God, and this is sinful. Punishment for sin is to fulfill the alleged intent of the impiety—the sinner being cut off and away from the presence of God, even to the point of death (Hadit misapprehended), the ultimate extinguishing of a participation in the opportunities afforded to conscious (or spirit-infused and motivated) matter.
In Hell, there is a kind of twisted enabling of the logical premise of individualism and liberty (i.e., that seeking self and truth are identical or fundamentally sympathetic things)—with each soul trapped inside its own consciousness (i.e., with life's chief stumbling block glorified), infused with an unrelenting memory of what has been (producing floods of regret), but completely disabled from recognizing any reality of the future, or a redemptive possibility.
In a strange way, this is the creating of an anti-Hadit state, where consciousness is focused down to a terrible point—but it is utterly bereft of any motive impulse to save it (to push it outward to engage the Cosmos). It is truly a heartless torture, that only a demon could devise and inflict, especially upon those whose only crime is to look upon a vagabond carpenter and see but a man.
The Good News Of Thelema
One is then reborn as a conscious individual star, whose mission is to contribute to the collective Light of the Cosmos. I say “conscious individual star”, because in Thelema, there are many dark stars, whose light is incapable of moving out to engage the Cosmos. Unlike in Christianity, the expression of individuality and ego is not necessarily sinful, although just because you are being an individual, is not by itself sufficient to sanctify your course. Thus, just doing “what you want” is not "Do what thou wilt." Acting as an individual, in the righteous expression of one's true will (what THOU wilt), is the sanctification of one's course and life.
One may seem in this work to distance oneself from God or the idea of the divine as a guiding principle. But this is not a sinful thing. Thelemic gods are not jealous gods, in the Biblical sense. They are dreadfully exacting in their demands regarding what could be called Dharmic responsibility. You have a mission. Fail it, and you shall become nothing but grease for the Wheel. Even in that, there is mercy.
But Thelemic gods do not demand worship in the conventional sense. Indeed, as Hadit reminds us: "I am alone: there is no God where I am." Rather, Thelemic gods are sustained (worshipped) by the righteous living of devoted lives. Thus, a person who knows nothing of Nuit, Hadit, and Ra-Hoor-Khuit, could nevertheless be blessed by them, and walk in accord with unrecognized (but still righteous) paths to liberation.
And this is what these gods mean when they speak of "Love", which is not mundane affection, nor even carnal lust, but is the greater lust the Cosmos has for Life, as a possibility of immense potential, to engage in and accomplish the Great Work. Life is Magick. But only if you know how, or are naturally inclined, to do it.
The gods save you, in the beginning, by giving you your chance. The rest is up to you.
What’s the main difference between these systems, in practical terms of life?
Christians live in fear of death
This passion to resist the natural Cosmic impulse to change, can take truly bizarre forms. In the Mormon faith, for example, the model of the family (i.e., the heterosexual generative unit, with extended offspring, living very whitely in a 1950s American paradise) is revered as the archetype of Heavenly existence. However, Jesus plainly said that this archetype has nothing whatsoever to do with Heaven, since presumably the saved will "be like angels", and so devoted to missions for God, not spending eternity (for God's sake!) with the spouse and kids.
Generally, however, Christians aspire to something less clearly defined, but presumably a kind of opposite of their current existence, with cares and suffering all eliminated. Whatever their conception of the afterlife, Christians will give up everything, including ironically their lives, to achieve it. As Paul said: "That which thou sowest is not quickened [i.e., raised up, as a seed into crops], except it die."
Christian morality is decidedly Old Aeon, since it is communitarian, self-sacrificing, and quite literally inhuman—it demands the rejection of basic human drives (for love and power), and the surrender of the will to an allegedly greater one, whose only purpose, like the Borg, is the assimilation of zombie slaves into its Body.
Thelemites live in fear of failure
Of course that is the ideal. Thelemites do not wish for death, nor do they worship death, but neither are they afraid of it (at least they should not be), because they understand it to be merely the corporeal manifestation of the basic process of change in the Universe. Through this same Death comes also the ability to change towards a desired object, or to turn oneself (in)to Love, or to raise oneself up from the ashes of a defeat to seek again the victory of one’s life.
Ironically, this alleged selfish religion, is actually much more potentially empathetic, because fundamental to Thelema is an essential and unambiguous statement of equality: "Every man and every woman is a star." Of course, as is too often the case with clear, wise, insights, the human drafter of those words, Aleister Crowley, was not really comfortable with them. They did not suit his own prejudices, for example, and so he added allegedly secret interpretations to the verse, to conform with the ancient tradition of viewing the condition of womanhood as a curse.
Still, the words exist, in stark freedom from Crowley the man's limitations. And they speak, fundamentally, to a larger sense of liberation: which is to say in the human context, prejudice built upon the diversity derived from complication, is one of the most basic and natural things we encounter.
Crowley is saying, even at the binary level, symbolized by the gender duplex, prejudice has no rightful place, and no useful function, and will only blind you to the Cosmic Light that is the matrix of every being. If you can accept this, truly accept it and not merely as a ritual exercise of repeating what your teachers tell you is correct, Thelema has some chance to flourish in you, and you have some chance to flourish as a Thelemic instrument of Will.
So, there are these two fears, the Christian fear tends to diminish the will for life, in hopes of some eternal living which is actually an eternal death. Thelemic fear often tends to open one’s living up in a kind of experimental fashion, mainly because the determination of one’s true will (and how to do it) is not so obvious to most people. Thus, they are led to try a lot of ideas and methods; even Thelema itself might be seen as one of these, which interestingly believers may abandon in the course of living Thelemically.
Once a Thelemite has determined his true will, and forged himself or burnt himself into the appropriate Wand for the mission he has determined (which he has perceived is appropriate for his space and time and body-weapon), his experimenting towards a true will diminishes, but another kind may develop as he determines then the best way to achieve the mission or destiny of his life.
Note then, that much of the living of a Thelemite, is a search for a purpose and a way of realizing himself. In a sense, he loses himself in this search to find himself. And once encountered, this true self becomes a director and guide to map out the way to a successful life. At death, there is a release back to the Cosmos—thus the Christian form of salvation is going to be achieved anyway, so no need to abandon one’s life during the living of it, in hopes of getting a reward already naturally due to you.
Of course a Christian may object this is not how it is, and that he expects to walk in a glorious city of gold, and play harps all day long in brilliant and ecstatic choruses, blathering about the greatness of God. I would just say a Thelemite would rather shoot himself, or be damned to an eternity in Hell (amongst the sinful individuals), than to achieve such a horribly tortuous punishment as that notion of a Christian heaven.
A question then, what is the Thelemic ethic? If it extols the individual, and the individual path of seeking Light and purpose, then what communitarian standards does it care about? Any? Is basic human decency, which seems as natural as basic human greed and hostility, allowed in Thelema? Or encouraged? Can you feel a good and loving thought about another person in Thelema, without being thought a weak and deluded creature, or worse some version of a Christian?
Well, who are individual Thelemites after all to claim to know the vectors of destiny for all other stars? Maybe a Thelemite is properly placed even living or dying as a Christian. All the rules for life have to be examined and evaluated and appreciated in their contexts. This is the way of magick.
So, you do not have to toss out “thou shalt not kill”, because generally that rule is a pretty good one to follow, no matter whether you are religious or not. Of course, to a Thelemite “kill” has many meanings including “transmute”, which can simply mean to change an enemy’s course a bit so he is no threat. The skill of a magician is always measured according to the elegance of his spells, which is to say according to the amount of achievement he obtains for the least effort and expenditure of cosmic treasure.
The actual taking of a life, while common to many self-professed Christians, is a barbarism that denotes a low order of culture and intelligence. One should be able to adaptively glide through the environment, harming as little as possible. Nevertheless, “as possible” can include cataclysmic interventions, when required to move mountains and herds of people. Even there though, it may just be an idea which does the moving. The Sword does not need to draw blood, but merely effectively symbolize the power to do so.
More soon on the violent ethics of Thelema.
*—i.e., Jess Karlin, or Glenn F. Wright