by D.V. Gray
“I reveal unto you a great mystery. Ye stand between the abyss of height and the abyss of depth. In either awaits you a Companion; and that Companion is Yourself. Ye can have no other Companion. Many have arisen, being wise. They have said, ‘Seek out the glittering Image in the place ever golden, and unite yourselves with It.’ Many have arisen, being foolish. They have said, ‘Stoop down unto the darkly splendid world, and be wedded to that Blind Creature of the Slime.’ I who am beyond Wisdom and Folly, arise and say unto you: achieve both weddings! Unite yourselves with both!”
–from Liber Tzaddi vel Hamus Hermeticus sub figura XC, 33-38
Liber Tzaddi is one of a group of writings within the Holy Books of Thelema from Aleister Crowley – the same collection which holds the Book of the Law. Those familiar with Crowley very likely noted that I refrained from crediting him with the authorship of these writings; for those less familiar with the particulars, I shall explain (albeit briefly) that Crowley himself did not take credit for writing these books but rather for transcribing them. It is probably most accurate to say that they were written through him. Many people who have only a passing knowledge of Crowley or of magick in general have at least heard of the Book of the Law and most have at least some working knowledge of its precepts. “Do what thou wilt,” though often misunderstood, is a phrase familiar to even the novice. However, the other writings are less quoted, hence less recognized, and less understood when someone does happen across them for the first time. But there is much within them that can easily be understood with a bit of elucidation, and this is what I intend to do here.
Before I begin, I should like to point out that these writings are not really something that can be absorbed overnight. I have known people who have read various parts of these books off and on for years without getting much more than a glimmer of insight – and then suddenly upon the fourteenth reading or so, a sudden and brilliant realization comes in a flash like a bolt of lightning and forever changes one’s understanding. It seems, as well, that once one gains the initial insight, no matter how large or small it may seem, this opens the floodgates; one revelation follows upon another and there is really no limit to how far one could go with it. What I mean to convey is, if you “don’t get it” the first time you read it, don’t give up on it; read it again, put it away for a few weeks or months and then read it again. There are truly remarkable things within these books.
Liber Tzaddi is about Initiation. Crowley referred to this as “the Book of the Hermetic Fish-hook” and made mention of the biblical concept of being “fishers of men.” This book exhorts one to undertake the Great Work, and indicates what sort of individual is generally capable of accepting initiation into this Work. While I don’t intend to analyze the entire book in great detail here, I do want to touch briefly upon the main themes of initiation, balance, and the “eternal Companion.”
What is “initiation”? It is not merely a formal (or informal) ceremony; it is not a single rite which transforms one instantly into an all-powerful being. Initiation is a beginning. It is a revealing. It is the moment when, as the hymn so aptly states, “I once was blind but now I see.” It is like getting one’s first pair of eyeglasses; perhaps you didn’t even realize just how much you weren’t able to see before, until you put them on for the first time. And having put them on, one doesn’t merely sit and gaze complacently upon the immediate surroundings of the doctor’s waiting room – no, one is eager to go outside and see what there is to see.
“I reveal unto you a great mystery. Ye stand between the abyss of height and the abyss of depth.”
Upon the initial revelation of the first insight (whatever its nature – it varies with the individual), one then becomes aware of an entirely new dimension to things which was never glimpsed before now. If you thought you were standing with your feet firmly on flat ground, guess again – suddenly you realize that you are standing on nothing but your illusions, with the void of emptiness gaping beneath your feet and the overwhelming chaos of infinity above you. Will you fall into the void like Alice down the rabbit hole or fly into the sun like Icarus? On a more earthy level, I’m reminded of the old tales about standing at the crossroads, waiting to see if the devil will come and make a deal with you.
“In either awaits you a Companion; and that Companion is Yourself. Ye can have no other Companion.”
Ay, there’s the rub: you see, the devil is you. God? That’s you too. You don’t go beyond the first stages of initiation without a companion, a guide into this unexplored territory. But that guide is you – or at least a part of you. Ultimately, no one else can take you there; you have to go alone. And everyone is alone in this world; we are born, we live, we die, and we may surround ourselves with others along the way, but ultimately we are alone. You are responsible for your own spiritual evolution. Just as when you were a child learning to walk, you had things to lean on, people to lead you or catch you if you stumbled, in the same way you may need a bit of help now and then with your spiritual “walking lessons” – but no one can do the walking for you. When it comes to the spiritual and the metaphysical, you are at the same time entirely on your own, yet connected to everyone who has ever lived.
But how can you guide yourself through this unfamiliar territory? Listen to what your Companion has to say. Your Companion may be in the form of “the voice of conscience,” reminiscent of the cartoons where someone has an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, offering contrary opinions on the matter in question. (Or, for a more realistic adaptation, you sort of want to check out that book on meditation you got from the library, but you’d really rather just spend the rest of the afternoon getting drunk. Either path will eventually help you “still your mind,” one way or another!)
Your Companion may appear to you as an individual entirely separate from yourself, perhaps a “soulmate” or a “guardian angel,” if you are inclined to define things within that kind of framework. It doesn’t matter whether you see it as a “somehow better” part of yourself, or as another individual. The point is that you have a bond with this Companion, and this one takes precedence over any other. Due consideration of this should be held in mind when one is forming any sort of “mortal” relationship; one should choose (or accept) one’s friends and lovers with an eye to whether or not they are capable of understanding this priority. And some may feel that it would be unfair to ask a future spouse (for example) to take “second chair” to one’s eternal Companion; in fact, there are individuals who feel this strongly enough not to even venture into long-term relationships with anyone other than the eternal Companion. This, in my opinion, is not unreasonable; here, as in any other situation, it is a question of doing that which it is one’s Will to do.
But wait a minute – is there only one Companion? There is the abyss of height and the abyss of depth (not to mention a myriad number of other abysses) and “in either awaits you a Companion.” So it really matters not which route you take, as there is very likely a Companion for you in every abyss you could possibly wander into. And in due course, you will traverse every abyss. You will have more than one Companion, but ultimately they are all one and the same, and they are all a part of you as you are a part of them.
“Many have arisen, being wise. They have said, ‘Seek out the glittering Image in the place ever golden, and unite yourselves with It.’ Many have arisen, being foolish. They have said, ‘Stoop down unto the darkly splendid world, and be wedded to that Blind Creature of the Slime.'”
Many of the writings which come to us from Crowley may be interpreted on several different levels, and may be taken either quite literally or symbolically. I would not presume to define any particular interpretation as “the correct one” – I am only offering some possibilities for thought. And this passage is one which is particularly laden with many possible layers of meaning. Basically, it may be taken as a representation of the eternal dichotomy which most individuals use to understand the world: things are either good or bad, dark or light, the “right-hand path” or the “left-hand path,” yin and yang, etc. Those who work within these paradigms tend to espouse one as being preferable to the other in one’s search for enlightenment. The “wise” implore us to forsake our hedonistic ways, set our sights on that ephemeral City of Gold, and thus attain enlightenment. The “foolish” contradict this advice; you live in the earthly, mortal world, they remind you quite rationally – you may as well use that to your advantage and partake of the experiences offered therein, for does not knowledge arise from experience?
“I who am beyond Wisdom and Folly, arise and say unto you: achieve both weddings! Unite yourselves with both! Beware, beware, I say, lest ye seek after the one and lose the other!”
Balance, balance, balance! You cannot learn from being “virtuous” all the time any more than you can learn from always being “wicked.” Either path alone can offer only an incomplete understanding. It is true that you can take one path and follow it as far as it will lead you. And it is true that persistence is required; once a path is chosen, you will progress more quickly if you stick to it rather than detouring off onto every little side-road in search of a “short-cut.” However, in the larger picture, a balanced perspective is necessary. You will be better prepared for this if you realize that once the “stairway to heaven” has been ascended, you will very likely then be cast onto the “highway to hell,” or perhaps the order might be reversed. The references are somewhat tongue-in-cheek; I don’t mean them to be taken literally. This work is larger than any concept of heaven or hell; they are but shadows of the reality within which one is potentially capable of operating.
“My adepts stand upright; their head above the heavens, their feet below the hells. But since one is naturally more attracted to the Angel, another to the Demon, let the first strengthen the lower link, the last attach more firmly to the higher. Thus shall equilibrium become perfect.”
Most of us have our preferences about how we like things, what sort of people we enjoy for company, the kind of lifestyle we lead, etc. One person is naturally inclined toward a more ascetic way of life, another to sheer hedonism. This is particularly evidenced by the sorts of people we find attractive; one is drawn to innocence and youth, or persons considered to be “of good moral character” while another gravitates toward older, more experienced individuals, those who are more than capable of “leading one into temptation!” I believe that the kind of person one finds attractive (broadly speaking) is symbolic in some way of what one requires at that point in one’s spiritual evolution. Look at your own attractions; there is usually something that the individuals have in common, some pattern to it. Analyze, if you will, the reasons why you are drawn toward certain kinds of people. And bear in mind that many individuals seem to be drawn to one type of person not necessarily because they have a genuine affinity for that “type” but because they shy away from the opposite “type!”
This section is generally an injunction to examine your “natural inclinations,” and try to bring some balance to them. If you are naturally drawn to a particular sort of person, ask yourself why and thoroughly analyze whether there is anything about the opposite end of the spectrum that frightens/repulses you. For example, various expressions of sexuality are generally big stumbling blocks here; if you find yourself rigidly clinging to one or another, perhaps it would ease your progress to loosen up a little and consider why you are averse to one or the other. Whether you actively pursue it at this time or not, it will clear out much blockage just to contemplate the possibilities that could be open to you with a more balanced approach.
But this kind of thinking is not, of course, limited to sexual matters. Think of any area where you are a little rigid or extreme in your thinking. As the saying goes, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” This is, at first, alarming; one can easily feel that one’s grip on reality is slipping. The paradigms are beginning to shift; what was held up as the highest ideal of perfection a few weeks ago is now questionable, perhaps even seen as a pompous bit of dogma. One’s reality structure seems to be crumbling before one’s very eyes. Remember, at this point, that only a reality structure which is flawed can be entirely destroyed, and one cannot continue building onto a reality which is inherently flawed any more than one can keep adding onto a house which is situated on a fault line without expecting it to shift at least a little. Remember as well that out of the ruins of the reality you have just watched fall apart in front of your very eyes will arise your “new and improved” reality, your “new Jerusalem.” When you can enter easily into actions that you could not before, then you are progressing; you are achieving balance. Balance does not just mean “moderation” – it means being able to move easily among all extremities as well as the middle ground. And only through achieving balance can one experience the fullness of joy that is possible.
“They shall be masters of majesty and might;
they shall be beautiful and joyous;
they shall be clothed with victory and splendour;
they shall stand upon the firm foundation;
the kingdom shall be theirs;
yea, the kingdom shall be theirs.”
© Copyright 1999 by D.V. Gray. Revised and republished 2007, 2011, 2015.
[This article previously appeared in SKOPOS Vol. II No. 2, and is archived here in an updated form by permission of the author.]
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