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The man who writes books on a Thelema that no beast shall divine. Founding member of Ordo Astri, Thelemic Magical Collegium. Member of Ordo Typhonis since 2000 e.v. More articles and essays are posted at https://ordoastri.org/ and https://tantrika.co.uk/

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Thelemic Magical Doctrine of the Afterlife

The Afterlife is a subject frequently ignored. It is generally assumed that the esotericist accepts the doctrine of reincarnation. The mutant version of metempsychosis, or reincarnation, became increasingly popular in the Western world from the time of Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society and onwards. The doctrine is relatively modern, appearing in the middle of the first millennium in both Greek and Hindu philosophy, Orphism and the Vedas. Greek scholars dispute that Plato, who wrote about it, understood reincarnation in the modern sense.

Astral Body and Ghost by Austin Osman Spare

Our notion of reincarnation owes to the classical interpretation of a doctrine shrouded in mystery. If we look at the context of the time in which such ideas emerged, then reincarnation becomes less mysterious. It coincided with the rise of ascetic patriarchal cults. The priestesses of the elder Gods were thrown out of the temples or forced into prostitution. Zealots and Pharisees demanded absolute obedience to religious law, and falsified biblical scriptures to suit political requirements. This time saw the decline of the ancient Egyptian civilisation, which prepared the way for the Hellenistic era and then oblivion. With the rise of asceticism, extreme yoga methods were created, aimed at physical purity. Two and a half thousand years ago the new nation states abolished ‘the old ways’, which included exceedingly antique magical practices such as divination and oracles.
[This essay is part of the collection, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs]
The thrust of classical reincarnation is that it works on a merit system. If you are good, you will achieve reincarnation in a higher life form. If you are evil, you will be reborn as a dog, a toad, a worm or a demon. This concept depends on a strictly hierarchical view of nature consisting of higher life forms and lower life forms, where man is assumed to be the pinnacle of creation. Spirit is seen as the opposer of nature—which should be made submissive to the superior might of man. Once we embrace the idea that the soul can be pure, we must then account for impurity and sin. Once we believe a soul can be rewarded in the afterlife, then we must believe the soul can be punished for iniquity. The (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL, II: 22, refutes all classical notions of purity and sin.
It is a lie, this folly against self. The exposure of innocence is a lie. Be strong, o man! lust, enjoy all things of sense and rapture: fear not that any God shall deny thee for this.
Liber AL makes the case against reincarnation and in favour of eternal transcendence perfectly clear.
II: 9 Remember all ye that existence is pure joy; that all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass and are done; but there is that which remains.
II: 21 Now let it be understood: If the body of the King dissolves he shall remain in pure ecstasy forever.
II: 44 Aye! feast! rejoice! there is no dread hereafter. There is the dissolution, and the eternal ecstasy in the kisses of Nu.
II: 49 I am not of the slaves that perish.
II: 66 Thy death shall be the seal of the promise of our agelong love.
II: 73 Death is forbidden, o man, unto thee.
If consciousness is extinguished with the death of the body then our lives are a bad joke; there is no meaning or purpose in anything. That which is encrypted in Liber AL does not include reincarnation. It is a doctrine of immortality. When the ‘body of the King’ dissolves, that is, the human ego or ahamkhara dissolves, there is ‘that which remains’—the immortal principle.

The popularity of classical reincarnation nonetheless continues unabated. After all, if we believe we are going to ‘come back’ over countless lifetimes, there is hardly any pressing need to do something called a Great Work.

Traditions far more ancient than metempsychosis supposed the dead to live on in an ancestral spirit or dream world, sometimes called the underworld. The ancestral spirits could then be contacted at particular times, or when there was a need. Such practices continue to this day in some parts of the world, in the cults of voudon, for example. The ancient Egyptians supported diverse schools of thought, included countless gods or neters, and many pantheons. The folk tradition was not too dissimilar from other folk traditions around the world. The vital Ka or spirit body of the deceased was presumed to live on in the underworld or duat, and offerings of food, drink and flowers were to be made regularly at the tomb to preserve the existence of the ancestors. If the offerings were not made then the Ka might become a vampire and seek sustenance from among the living.

The transcendence of the soul, the achievement of immortality, was an esoteric doctrine and not a folk tradition among the ancient Egyptians. It was preserved for pharaohs, high priests and other Initiates. Likewise with the Eastern tradition—which has it that Atman, the immortal principle, is able to reincarnate in countless different bodies and forms. The doctrine does not admit to the possibility of the soul being born again and again ‘as itself’. Hindu classical scholars are well aware of this, and are very careful when interpreting the Bhagavad Gita, for example, to point out that it is Atman that reincarnates, not the human ego—which has no essential substance or ground.

The Book of the Law may readily be understood as an imperative concerning spiritual life or death for those that would dare. The quest for the elixir of life, the immortal stone of the wise, is not to be confused with a quest for psychological self-improvement. In Liber AL, I: 34, Nuit replies to Crowley’s insistent demands.
But she said: the ordeals I write not: the rituals shall be half known and half concealed: the Law is for all.
The ‘rituals’, as with Egyptian hieroglyphs, are not known by the object of the symbol, but by the latency of the symbol. The symbol must be followed back to its source. The “Law is for all” does not mean, ‘for every single person in the world’. As in the context of other scriptures, ‘all’ frequently means ‘of all types and manner of persons’. The path of Esoteric Thelema requires ruthless discernment yet it does not exclude any man or woman by race, religion or culture. As the governing principle of magical initiation, the Law of Thelema secretly informs and directs human thought and activity, disrupting and destroying the accretions. However, the Thelemic transmission does not allow human reason to prevail against love. The Book of the Law unrelentingly declares war on causal determinism, the error termed the “word of Sin” in Liber AL, I: 41.

In AL, I: 38, it is given that the soul who endures the ordeals of the path of knowledge may enjoy spiritual ecstasy both during and after earthly existence.
I give unimaginable joys on earth: certainty, not faith, while in life, upon death; peace unutterable, rest, ecstasy; nor do I demand aught in sacrifice.
The spiritual pulse of Thelema is love, while its wisdom is only known through discernment—which is the essential discipline of the path of knowledge, as declared in AL, I: 57:
Love is the law, love under will. Nor let the fools mistake love; for there are love and love. There is the dove, and there is the serpent. Choose ye well!
Much of the wisdom conveyed by Aiwass addresses the question of the soul’s survival after physical death. The achievement of the soul depends on vital magical and spiritual factors that have profound import for every man and every woman that is a star. The choice for the soul is understood to be one of life on the one hand or annihilation on the other. Through the course of initiation the soul is to be led by Hadit, the esoteric will-force, through her own death and resurrection. This is done in order to open a portal or gateway through which others may pass to discover new worlds of beauty and truth.


Notes

© Oliver St. John 2015, 2018
This essay is part of the collection, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs.

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