Ashé Journal, Vol 3, Issue 1, Spring 2004.
Looking Into the Word: Some Observations
Who Calls Us Thelemites:
Who calls us Thelemites will do no wrong, if he look but close into the word. For there are therein Three Grades, the Hermit, and the Lover, and the man of Earth. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. The Book of the Law Chapter 1 V: 40
In considering the word Thelemites let us begin by referring to the Rabelaisian references to Thelema. It was Rabelais who first coined the term Thelemites and, for Crowley, this is certainly a literary reference, inferring the idea that this is where we may find the seed of the Thelemic tradition. Even though currently veiled primarily in academia, volumes have been written as to the influence Rabelais and his work have had on the development of Western thought and culture. This gives us a very definite orientation and tells its own tale throughout history. For example, when Sir Francis Dashwood renovated the Abbey at Medmenham in the 1750s, he had the motto of the Abbey of Theleme, FAY CE QUE VOUDRAS (Do what you please), painted over the eastern porch of the building. It was there that his gentlemans club, known to some as the infamous Hellfire Club would hold their events.
In particular, Rabelais described the Thelemites as the inhabitants of the Abbey of Theleme. The Thelemites composed a religious order contrary to all others. How well this resonates with a passage like ye are against the people o my chosen.
Rabelais then gives a sort of negative confession and states what the Abbey of Theleme COULD NOT be since it was to be contrary to all other orders: If all other Abbeys were walled, the Abbey of Theleme could not be. It was open because:
By virtue of Rabelais definition, Theleme did not embrace envy, and mutual conspiracy and its order could not have those qualities. Therefore the Abbey of Theleme was to be open and not encumbered by walls. This alludes to its universal nature, and the fact that the human will is not to be confined.
The tale continues by observing that all other religious orders treated women, especially women who are chaste and honest, as impure due solely to the fact that they are women. The very ground that they walked upon is swept less their impurity impeach the sanctity of the institution. Therefore when a member of one of THOSE religious orders (male or female) entered the Abbey of Thelema, every room that such a condescending hypocrite passed should be thoroughly scrubbed. Rabelais isnt content to merely sweep the ground after they pass, but the whole room must be scoured! This is a critical accusation Rabelais is making, by saying that the women who acquiesced in such a lot as given by a religious order had to take their portion of responsibility for the situation, and their reflection on the general value of women as members of the human race.
The Thelemites were to also do away clocks and other time mechanisms since one of the greatest wastes of time is to sit and count the hours. They were not to live on some pre-ordained schedule, but to follow the natural inclinations and sleep patterns of their own bodies.
Rabelais describes judgment and discretion as Thelemic values and then goes on to describe that the Thelemites were the beautiful people and that these beautiful people were expected to make love in the open, rather than by sneaking, and through intrigue, which are themselves the manifestation of fear and guilt; and they were permitted to celebrate their unions through marriage (as opposed to other religious orders at that time, which forbade marriage.)
These other items that describe a Thelemite in particular:
This admittance into freedom was bestowed upon the teenage years, which was, certainly, in Rabelais time, the very fruit of life itself, before a person was broken with constant sickness, old age and worn down with the weight of the world. It is a time when the human organism is open to experience, not completely conditioned with social programming, and developed enough to support its natural curiosity. This statement also let us know that a person wasnt expected to remain cloistered in an Abbey all their lives, but to develop and move on, and go out into the world, spreading the perimeter of the Abbey itself as they did so.
In short, Rabelais is describing an institution not unlike a combination preparatory school and liberal arts college.
The very centerpiece of being a Thelemite may be summarized by the following passage from Chapter 1.LVII. How the Thelemites were governed, and of their manner of living.
Therefore, we can say, by this definition, a Thelemite is a person who is free, well-born, well-bred and capable of interacting in honest company. A Thelemite has an inherent sense of honor and a sense of proportion and discretion. They have transcended the need for a battle of the sexes and dominance and affluence is not, among them, determined by sexual precedent but by a sense of partnership and linking rather than hierarchical ranking. Much of Crowleys work is an interpretation and extension of this simple summary.
In the passage that is currently under our consideration, the reference to Rabelais is two-fold: the reference to the Thelemites, and then the signature of passage Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law, echoing the quote above. In fact, in this sense, it almost seems as if Crowley is making a vow to make Rabelais Theleme manifest. This would have been an easy vow to keep since it was already manifest and had in every action contrary to church and crown and the other artificial restraints that bind sum humanitys genius and keeps it from the higher life to which it aspires.
Part II: The Lemes (The Lemites vs The Ophites)
Now, let us break apart this word, Theleme, so that it appears thus: The Leme. According to Websters Revised Unabridged Dictionary the word Leme refers to: \Leme\ (l[=e]m), n. [OE. leem, leme, leam, AS. le[o]ma light, brightness; akin to E. light, n. [root]122.] A ray or glimmer of light; a gleam. [Obs.] --Chaucer. \Leme\, v. i. To shine. [Obs.] --Piers Plowman.
So from the very beginning of this exploration we have, literally The light or The ray or The gleam. The final ite is a suffix denoting one of a party, a sympathizer with or adherent of, a person who is a native of a particular place.
By this reckoning, The Lemites translates as those who are adherents to or in sympathy with The Light; or as those who are natives of the Light. The Light is not to be confined, as light is in constant motion.
This word, lemes also conjures the idea of the individual sparks of light that make up a fire as alluded to in
Leme was an Old English word and its forms were used by Chaucer, who we know that Crowley expressed more than a fondness for, but considered him (and Shakespeare etc..) to be his family and links to the great men of the past. In regard to his 1901-1902 Wanderer in the Waste period, Crowley writes:
We can note the significance of his placing Chaucer first in this descriptive and also the fact that he found this descriptive considerable enough to devote space to in his Autobiography. We may also consider the expense being referred to, not to mention the additional burden of the transport and maintenance of his masterpieces.
for there are therein Three Grades, the Hermit, and the Lover, and the man of Earth.
Let us consider the idea of the three grades and the other references to a triadic structure within The Book of the Law itself. The first obvious consideration is the fact that the book is divided into three chapters, and it would be natural enough to establish a correspondence between a grade and a respective chapter. A grade is generally understood as a step in an overall process. The word grade comes to us through the French from the Latin gradus meaning step or pace, and this is further derived from gradi to step, go. The ideas of Coming (represented 19 times in The Book of the Law) and Going (represented 5 times in The Book of the Law) are recurring themes throughout. Both of these words denote movement, though it could be reasonably argued that going, to go etc.. denotes a sense of departure and leaving whereas come represents a sense of approaching and arrival.
In his commentaries, Crowley has described Nuit (the principle of the first chapter of The Book of the Law) as representing Space and Hadit (the principle of the second chapter of The Book of the Law) as representing Motion.
These ideas of impermanence and motion are further emphasized by the maxim of the phrase that the book proclaims as its cornerstone: Do what thou wilt SHALL BE the whole of the Law. There have been many debates, both on-line and off, in regard to the use of the words shall be. I hold that it denotes a situation, which has been devised and set into motion, but is not yet made manifest. Regardless of whether it is imperative or not, it implies a future state, that though having been conceived, has not yet manifest. This may be compared to the idea of personal revelation being a process rather than a destination, and helps to reassert the principle of going or development in a state of 3 discernable graduating steps.
The idea of impermanence and motion finds numerous analogues in the history of world religion. One analogue that I have always felt was of especial reference as regards Crowleys work is that of the three Gnostic sects: The Peratae (or Peratai), who have also been linked to the Ophites or serpent Gnostics and the Sethians.
In The Gnostics by Jacques Lacarriere, he writes of the Peratae
Now, what do the Peratae have to do with the three-fold graduation implied by The Book of the Law I: 40? According to Hippolytus V in his work: The Refutation of All Heresies, one of the greatest of heresies perpetrated by the Peratae is their Tritheism: These allege that the world is one, triply divided. And of the triple division with them, one portion is a certain single originating principle, just as it were a huge fountain, which can be divided mentally into infinite segments.
Now the first segment, and that which, according to them, is (a segment) in preference (to others), is a triad, and it is called a Perfect Good, (and) a Paternal Magnitude.
And the second portion of the triad of these is, as it were, a certain infinite crowd of potentialities that are generated from themselves, (while) the third is formal. And the first, which is good, is unbegotten, and the second is a self-producing good, and the third is created
As we can see by the above there is a fairly natural resonance between the idea of Chapter 1: Nuit being the principle of Unity and of space divided for the chance of union with the idea of an unbegotten, Chapter 2: Hadit, the principle of motion with that which is self-produced, the self-begotten. and Chapter 3: Ra-Hoor-Khuit corresponding to the created. The number three has been equated with the full course of manifestation in various religions throughout the world since the dawn of recorded history. Even the most superficial of surveys gives us the Christian interpretation of Father, Son, Holy Ghost and the Hindu rendering of Vishnu,
Brahma and Shiva. I suggest that The Book of the Law, including the symbolism of the numeration of its chapters follows a similar line of interpretation, and that the chapters 1 and 3 formulate two fundamentally different interpretations of manifestation. There is an antithesis posed between the attitudes that these two chapters convey, with the perspective given in the second chapter posing as a mediator between the two. This contrast is also evident in the way that the mediator itself is described or portrayed in the first and third chapters. Even Crowley claimed that at first he had trouble reconciling the descriptions portrayed by the first and the third chapters, but we feel that this is none-the-less an accurate portrayal of the full course of experience. Existence is a contradiction and light may only be known in the presence of shadow.
We suggest that a correspondence exists between Chapter 1 and The Hermit, Chapter 2 and The Lover, and Chapter 3 and the Man of Earth and will now investigate this consideration, but will do so in reverse.
It would seem natural enough to equate The Hermit and The Lover(s) to the Tarot trumps bearing those same names, and we are certainly not suggesting a divorce from this idea, but the use of the phrase Man of Earth, a term that finds no immediately similar corollary, encourages us to look a bit further, as does the singular Lover as opposed to Lovers which is the actual name of Atu VI. Therefore the term The Hermit is the only descriptive that finds an exact analogue in the Trumps of the Tarot.
Man of Earth:
I began my query by looking around at various significant usages of this term with the aim of establishing a stronger context for its presentation as one of the three grades this process of Thelemitism. The first thing I encountered was Flarmmarion in his work Sur la Pluralite des Mondes habites, a work quoted by Madame Blavatsky, where he says
Here he is evoking the idea of the purely terrestrial vehicle, referring to the physical shell of incarnation. His descriptive is saying that it is more likely that other life forms would have evolved to deal with the environment in which they have their being, and our consideration of aliens being bi-pedal etc may be fallacious. His comparison though is focused on the physical and the phrase Man of Earth is being used a descriptive for the physical form that was created by and must continually adapt to its environment.
Madame Blavatsky offers her own context for employing man of earth in her essay Occultism Versus The Occult Arts (Lucifer, May 1888) where she writes:
This passage reiterates the linking of three aspects into a unified state: the man of earth, being the absolutely physical organism and its blind passions, cravings and fettered to its desires; the mind (which she calls the only sufferer, that part which is caught between the grossest and the highest), and finally the Higher Self, which we may express as the consciousness of the continuity of existence.
M. Blavatsky also wrote in her article, Theories About Reincarnation And Spirits (Nov. 20th 1886):
This passage intimates a progressive series of evolution throughout numerous incarnations, and chooses the term man of earth to establish the state that these other temporal manifestations are superior to though they are also limited to effects of the process of manifestation.
In his Book of Lies Crowley compares the HIMOG (Holy Illuminated Man of God) to the INGLORIOUS man of earth:
Comment: how are we to tell whether a Holy Illuminated Man of God is really so, since we can see nothing of him but his imperfections. Book of Lies Chapter 40
One of the more poignant descriptions of the man of earth comes to us through Spencers story The Fairy Queen written at the height of the Elizabethan enlightenment. Speaking of this work, David Paul Clark writes in his essay Reaping what was sown: Spenser, Chaucer, and The Plowmans Tale:
This finds sympathy with Crowleys own commentary on The Book of the Law:
H. Rider Haggard, who wrote the Alex Quartermain series, referred to the Man of Earth in his 1886 piece entitled King Solomons Mines, and though perhaps not especially significant, at least casually, we non-the-less find a resonance striking enough to quote here:
As we have shown, if but briefly, The Book of the Laws employment of the phrase man of earth wasnt unique or unprecedented, and it is reasonable to assume that Crowley had run across this phrase in the course of his voracious reading habit. In fact, its use in The Book of the Law counts on the context, as a particular term in the magical-religio-philosophical idiom, to have meaning and to impart meaning to the other two terms used in its conjunction demarking the gradations of the Thelemic journey. Crowleys poem One Star In Sight defines this condition framed by the man of earth thus:
This condition is echoed by the descriptions given in the Third Chapter of The Book of the Law. This chapter conveys images of death, war, dispersal, sacrifice, idolatry, blood, fire, swords, treachery, destruction, blasphemy in short, the conditions that are everywhere manifest throughout the course of history. It is the world of men that is here described. It is a description of the base, vain chaotic, disheveled nature of the man of earth. This chapter begins and ends, so to speak with the Word Abrahadabra.
And one would think, by this, that it would be the final word of the book itself, but it isnt. The final two words of this book are: Aum. Ha. Ha formulates the beginning of the Book again with the opening word of the first chapter: Had, and this confirms the cyclic nature of manifestation, and compels a comparison between the three perspectives given in each of the three chapters with the tri-fold cosmology that recognizes manifestation as this ever changing process of Creation, Preservation and Destruction. The final Ha without the d (or the dit) also recalls to mind the first verse of the second chapter: Nu, the hiding of Hadit.
I would like to close this section on the man of earth by quoting, what I thought was a most powerful turn of this phrase from Nathaniel Hawthornes very revealing The Artist of The Beautiful.:
In the Thelemic process then, we have started with the raw material, the common stock the mud the moe. The next step towards the extreme individuation implied by the term The Hermit is that of devotion, and it is this that doth a Thelemite make: a commitment to individuation of learning who the very Self of the individual self is, and adapting life around this universal principle. The methodology for this process is love under will. This is what the Lover represents. It has been said enough to be considered worthy of emphasis: Do what thou wilt does not mean do what you like, although you should enjoy what you do. In order for there to be any real enjoyment and growth requires an attention to the development itself. This commitment to finding ones true nature, and unfolding a process of self-discovery requires both freedom, (the external freedom to be able to explore ones capacity), and the strictest of all bonds: which is itself Devotion.
This devotion can a take any number of forms but the commitment we are speaking manifests in both the inner and outer lives. As we free ourselves from our lot of superstition, prejudice, and hierarchical thinking, we begin to explore the interconnectivity and relationships between all things the consciousness of the continuity of existence expressed in Chapter 1 of The Book of the Law. This recognition is not a static solution, but a dynamic process. We begin with the man of earth, with our desires, but throughout the process we find that these desires cannot be suppressed or sated. We are creatures of experience, and it is experience that we crave. We simply have to know, which may be one of the more interesting aspects of desire. We cant stop or settle for a moment, and so we take the next step. This taking of the step represents a commitment, and it is from this action that devotion grows.
This aspect of love, as a commitment to ones aspiration is led by a thirst for knowing. Knowing is a means of delineating relationships between things, the more functional this delineation the more efficient the knowledge can be said to be. So we may only know ourselves through comprehending our relationships with others, the world around us, as well as our thought processes emotional predilections and bodily functions. Unity itself partakes of duality as is interpreted by the lines I am divided for loves sake for the chance of union.
In the 1970s, anthropologist Mary Douglas proposed a typological paradigm for comparing cultures and the sociological structures that supported them. This was originally called grid/group analysis, but is now more generally called cultural theory. Her model suggested that a persons perceptions, beliefs and general values are shaped, regulated and controlled by constraints that may be described by one of five basic archetypes:
When looking over studies in cultural theory, one will consistently find that most only treat of the first four classes, as cultural theory defines the hermit with non-participation. The fact that, within this model, the hermit is equated with autonomy AND non-participation is significant in understanding the process of development we have been attempting to describe. The man of earth and the lover are both participating figures in the cultural model whereas the Hermit giveth of his light only unto men.
In the first part of his book, Journey to Ixtlan, Castaneda spends a considerable effort describing techniques for battling self-importance which itself is but a necessary step for stopping the world. By this, he defines the world as a description that is pounded into us from the time that we are born.
Castaneda then goes on to define stopping the world as
As we can see, this idea is perfectly compatible with Crowleys own comment in Magick Without Tears: the Universe itself is not, and cannot be, anything but an arrangement of symbolic characters! (Crowley, Tears, p. 40)
In order for the continual information that informs the descriptive that we call the world to be alien to that flow, it must come from a source beyond the narrative flow it seeks to disrupt. This source would be the Hermit, and hence the equation between non-participation and autonomy. The autonomy to direct the pressure of a circle of activity comes from being outside of that circle and NOT through participation within it, which constrains the participants to the qualities and limitations that define the circle of activity itself. In his novel Moonchild, Crowleys character Simon Iff represents this quality and this type of active or intended non-action. Castaneda defines this quality of intended non-participation as not-doing and considers it to be a very formidable practice in the sorcerers world.
The hermit is a Gnani or Raja Yogi. He gives only of his light unto men. Those who understand what this means are either Hermits or on their way to becoming Hermits. Those who do not understand what it means are better off without further information. Should they seek it, however, let them study (Libri 156, 370 and 418.)
In the above passage Crowley gives us, not only a great deal of information as to the nature of the Hermit via the comparison to an established and measurable tradition of yoga, but into the nature of the unfolding process of the three graduations in the Thelemic process. We have already been given the correlation of the man of earth to karmic yoga, the lover to bhakti yoga, and the Hermit to BOTH Jnana and Raja Yoga.
Raja Yoga, which is the Royal Path, represents the Summum Bonum of the three forms illustrated: Karma, Bhakti, and Jnana. It is interdisciplinary and Jnana would represent the final of three distinguishable disciplines that create the field of total of possible action. Jnana yoga focuses on the idea of right action and is built on an understanding of the laws of existence and the awareness of a means to synchronize with them.
Therefore we can postulate that the Hermit is the interdisciplinary factor as well as the final realization or graduation in the Thelemic process. It represents a natural and organic progression that begins with our dealing with the material issues of existence as well as our neurological relationship with reality,. From this the aspiration is formulated as devotion or adherence to an unfolding natural, though individually unique, order of being and finalizes as a withdrawal from the field of direct interaction in favor of a contemplative non-action, which itself is the final definition of the periphery of a circle of action. If it is the final realization or unfoldment it is also present from the very beginning, presenting its form as Atu O (the Fool), The man of earth is embraced in the ideas of the The Fool The Magician, and The Emperor while the Lover is represented by the Hierophant. All of these qualities are participatory.
In 2nd Chapter of The Book of the Law (v.16) it states: I am the Empress & the Hierophant. Thus eleven, as my bride is eleven. In my opinion, this gives an astounding analogue to what we have described in this essay. The Hierophant corresponds to the Lover and hence the descriptive use of my bride.
In addition to being the word equivalent to 11, eleven may also signify the balance of god or the universal principle by being read el-even. This becomes even more significant when looking at the original manuscript of The Book of the Law.
The e of the first use of the word eleven is quite distinct, whereas in the second use of the word eleven it actually appears to be an a in which case the passage would read thus eleven as my bride is aleven. There is no doubt that the two Es are distinctly different in shape. It also suggests the correspondence between the early god signifiers el and al. The word even means: Equal or identical in degree, extent, or amount and also: Exactly divisible by 2 or Characterized or indicated by a number exactly divisible by 2. The Empress corresponds to the Hebrew letter Daleth which has a numerical value of 4 (or 2 X 2) and the Hierophant corresponds to the Hebrew letter Vau which has a numerical value of 6 (or 3 X 2.) The two added together produce 10 (which is 5 X 2 the Hierophant is Atu V). Perhaps of a deeper significance is the 10 being composed of the 1 which is the phallus and the active principle and the 0 which is the womb and the potentiality.
In the 2nd Chapter it is the perspective of Hadit that is given, and based on this descriptive the bride would be Nuit. [II: 2: I, Hadit, am the complement of Nu, my bride.]
The mystic marriage of motion and being which brings about the universe or manifest consciousness, as well as the process and nature of the manifestation of that consciousness is the constant theme of The Book of the Law, and the three delineations of the Thelemite site three possible levels of participation in that manifestation, two which are active levels of participation and the third which is active non-participation.
Blavatsky, Helena, Occultism Versus The Occult Arts, Lucifer, May 1888.
___, Theories About Reincarnation And Spirits, 20 November 1886.
Castaneda, Carlos, Journey to Ixtlan.
Clark, David Paul. Reaping what was sown: Spenser, Chaucer, and The Plowmans Tale
Crowley, Aleister, The Book of Lies.
___, The Book of the Law.
___, The Confessions.
___, One Star In Sight.
Chaucer, Geoffrey, The Canterbury Tales.
Flarmmarion, Sur la Pluralite des Mondes habites.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel, The Artist of The Beautiful.
Lacarriere, Jacques, The Gnostics.
May, Rollo, Love and Will.
Quartermain, Alex, King Solomons Mines, 1886.
Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel.
Alamantra is the Creative Mind of bobby shiflett or bobby shiflett is a creation of Alamantra. Free thinker, Writer, Musician, Songwriter, Artist and Chaos Wizard residing in the Magic City; he is a contributing member of Greater Thelema, and a lifetime member of Alchemical Workers Guild 31586 and the Antiquities of the Illuminati. He is currently performing with the band Alamantra.