☉︎ in 6° Cancer : ☽︎ in 26° Virgo : Anno Vvi

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

To my Beloved Companion: Greeting and health.

Death touches all things. It is one of those inevitable certainties of existence. So it is not with theological platitudes that I write you about death but with spiritual certainty and absolute joy that I come to you in order to provoke whatever spark of understanding I may be able to muster on the subject with you during dark times. For no matter what anyone, including our Prophet, may wish to say about Death, it is a dark moment in anyone’s experience to deal with the death of another that is loved dearly and missed so deeply.

Let’s push away for the moment all consideration that the mulish will snicker around the subject of death at the insistence that death and sex need to be intimately connected. Certainly within some circles, there is a link between them. Yawn. Boring. Overdone. Monotonous in the din of the enervated occult masses that feel everything needs to be related to obstreperous fucking—including the sanctity and joy at the end of life.

Dark, though it may be, it is as the Prophet said still joyous. It is necessarily so for those of us liberated under the Law of Thelema. And those we may “stamp down the poor and the wretched,” we may not be for the “poor and sad,” but knowing that each of those archetypes are of “the people” that we supposed to be against inside ourselves doesn’t make them just go away. It means that we recognize that each of these aspects of ourselves can rise up in rebellion against our Will on a regular basis again and again—and most assuredly will rise up against us during dark times when our Will is tested by grief and despair. It means that we have to be guarding the Temple of our own Soul against such an uprising of grief while we rejoice in the life that has been lived.

My friend, I absolutely do not claim to have cornered the market on this process. I struggle with grief and loss daily, and even as I write these words to you, my heart is heavy with the loss I feel over the death of my father. Anyone who tells you they are even a so-called Master and does not experience grief or loss over the death of a loved one is not a Master but a sociopath. They have not experienced enlightenment. They have experienced quite the opposite. If anything I write this letter as a reminder for myself that death is not some pagan transition to a better future-life like the Christians and Easterns and witches believe, but it is a transition from this life into the ground of being from whence we came, the source of our vitality in the first place. It is the embrace of Hadit by Nuit again. It is the union of Love under Will. It is the embrace of Love and Will.

In his epistle, Concerning Death, the Prophet said one of my favorite lines in all his writings, “For inasmuch as thou hast made the Law of Freedom thine, as thou hast lived in Light and Liberty and Love, thou hast become a Free-man of the City of the Stars.”[1] I think many times we take for granted this life we live, this City of Stars into which we have fought our way to the middle, sitting within the vastness of space and time, doing our Will as strong men and women of creation. We endeavor ever, from cradle to grave, for that singular purpose of fulfilling our Will even when we are unaware of that Will. We are drawn to it, burdened with it, charmed by it, horrified by the knowledge of it, and—in the darkness, as we sit silently in contemplation of our final moments shedding this mortal coil—illuminated by the simplicity of our Will.

 

I think we can look at death on three levels: (a) the experience of change from moment to moment, (b) the stagnation of engagement from experience, and (c) the ending of finitude. Crowley saw death in relation to sex.[2] That’s fine too, of course, but it’s not everything. If anything, it’s a narrowness of perspective that limits the way in which we continue to approach death. The entire focus on sex[3]—rather than creation and destruction—is what limits even our own community from being able to see the broader diversity of our worldview.

Ultimately death is about the lack of Motion. When we literally cease to engage the world of experience around us, we die—or, to be more precise here, we face the ending of finitude. I think it is as simple as that. As mortal creatures, we have to face death directly in the physical sense. We can conceptualize it all we want into metaphysical nonsense, but, ultimately, we all shed this mortal visage. If one is to talk about life, one needs to face death. But physical death—allow me to repeat myself—is the ending of finitude. It is not the ending of the infinite. It is the reconnecting with the infinite that occurs because, why?, we know that we do not die—in any metaphysical sense but only in a physical sense—yet our essential nature, that which is Hadit, will “remain in pure ecstasy for ever.”

How do we handle the subject of death when it strikes around us? It’s a very real event with very real consequences for us. Crowley’s attempt at approaching death through Thelema in Liber CVI seems sterile. Not that he’s wrong, but I think it falls flat in execution.

I’d like to say that I struggled through this with the death of my father, but that’s not actually truthful. I struggled with grief of the loss of his presence in my life but dealing with his actuality of physical death was the easy part. There was dealing with some information ambiguities surrounding his death that was difficult, of course, but that was still in the purview of factual issues, not theological issues. It took nearly two years to have closure on some of those issues due to family drama, and even now some of those issues don’t have closure. That said, it was my grounding as a Thelemite, my reliance on the sustenance and comfort of the Book of the Law, that brought peace in dealing with my father’s death.

The Book of the Law says, “certainty, not faith, while in life, upon death; peace unutterable, rest, ecstasy.” It goes on in the second chapter, again, “Think not, o king, upon that lie: That Thou Must Die: verily thou shalt not die, but live. Now let it be understood: If the body of the King dissolve, he shall remain in pure ecstasy for ever.” Whatever I may think of my dad’s beliefs, and he was certainly a man of the previous aeon, he was also a man doing his Will with certainty. He was a King by any definition that we would give ourselves. Since we know that “Every man and every woman is a star,” and there are no exceptions to that verse, then I know the essential nature of my father returned to the body of Nuit and “shall remain in pure ecstasy for ever.” The comfort there has been beyond words even through all the drama that has caused angst in other ways. When it comes to the reality and acknowledgment of my dad’s death, I am at peace because I have “certainty, not faith” that he fulfilled his time in this incarnation doing what he was supposed to be doing.

But death isn’t just about shedding this mortal coil, right? “Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”[4] Ah, Saint Anaïs. She is one of my favorite authors. She nails it, I think, in this quote. Yet this process of becoming, this “combination of states” of which she speaks, is that which we all have to go through in all areas of our existence, i.e., biological, emotional, intellectual, social, cultural, spiritual, and so on.

Of course, what is change but the death of one moment and the birth of the next moment, yes? That one moment no longer has anything left to offer and we move on to the next moment. We are the development of Matter (being or Nuit[5]) by the accumulation of experience (the development of the Khu[6] in conjunction with the Khabs, the “combination of states we have to go through” of Anaïs, or Ra-Hoor-Khut) through the Motion (Hadit) of becoming.[7] This development is the process of change, constant change, that which moves from moment to moment, over and over again, never ending until it does and –bam!– it stops. The ending of finitude itself and the engagement with the infinite. Yet another change, the final change, that is the dissolution into ecstasy.

While here, though, we are to engage every experience possible in this life. (I can’t help but come back to the discussion of life itself!) This is actually our mission here: joy and ecstasy, the chance of union with all things through love, make no difference “between any one thing & any other thing,” and all that. Crowley says “we are not to attach more importance to any one momentary appearance than to any other.”[8] That’s the key to understanding the upending of Stoic philosophy. We can be driven by all manner of desires, by the momentary appearances that are here and blink away; but, as Thelemites, as the ‘thrice-born,’ we are not contained by those desires, and we see through both the expectation and the disappointment of momentary appearances. “Die daily.” Die moment by moment to the expectations that any moment will be the same as the last moment. Embrace every moment as the experience of ecstasy.

 

The movie, Collateral Beauty, is one of those that makes it into my top ten of all time. It was visual comfort food after the loss of my father and I have continued to watch it yearly on the anniversary of his death. There is a line in it, though, in which Bridget who plays the role of Death says, “People write letters to the universe all the time … most don’t get a response.” I think that character is wrong—despite the fact that I write these letters constantly without any response at all. Hard cases make bad law, after all.

We, ourselves, are the letters to the universe that we write moment by moment and we absolutely get a response back all the time. We may not always notice it or see it in bold, flashing lights or the booming voice from the sky, but there is a response to everything that we do, every breath that we take, every action that we perform. We are the love letters to Nuit. And she responds though love in return. “I am above you and in you. My ecstasy is in yours. My joy is to see your joy.”

I think of the shuffling off of this mortal coil and think of Nuit as that consciousness of the continuity of existence. She is the ground of being. She is the totality of all that exists and doesn’t exist. It’s almost cruel to suggest that we don’t exist once we die. In one sense, we don’t. In another, we exist within all possibilities of existence. If anything, after death, we are never more alive than we could have been here on this little tiny rock in a little corner of one galaxy of the entire universe. What does the Christian Bible say? “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” Indeed, yes? Death has lost all victory over us. Death has no sting. And what of our own holy books? “Fall not into death, O my soul! Think that death is the bed into which you are falling!” Again, indeed. Death is a liberation from this existence of experience and a soft release back into the bosom of She who is All and Nothing. And She offers, in the words of our most holy text, “certainty, not faith, while in life, upon death; peace utterable, rest, ecstasy; nor do I demand aught in sacrifice.”

Death is nothing more than an expression of Love. The Prophet wrote in his commentaries to the Book of the Law, “We have accepted Love as the meaning of Change, Change being the Life of all Matter soever in the Universe. And we have accepted Love as the mode of Motion of the Will to Change.” Death is another experience of change, that is, of love. Again, what does Nuit express to us? “For I am divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union.” It is this union that we find in death.

You ask, though, what of those who remain? Yes, the loss and the grief are deep, are they not? I started this letter on the week of the anniversary of the death of my father. I am finishing it on the very day that I learned he was dead three years ago. It in hour of my own loss and grief that I write to you. The irony is not lost on me, I assure you. I write this as much for myself, to remind myself, as much as I write it for you. I know that you also have lost someone close. You understand the grief that I am talking about here.

Aside from the joyful encouragements I have offered above toward our own terminal condition, knowing those we love have united with Nuit through love in the ultimate expression of change in the universe, I would offer something more for ourselves who have been left in the wake of loss and grief.

Certainly we must rid ourselves of these ideas of the previous Aeon of heaven and hell, of predestined judgment, or the karmic samsara, of lifetimes of reincarnation. All that has to be tossed out the window as pleasant but fanciful carryovers from the past. In regard to this last aspect, Crowley writes in his commentaries to the Book of the Law, “The idea of incarnations ‘perfecting’ a thing originally perfect by definition is imbecile.” Each of us is already perfect in that inner quality that makes us part and parcel of the Body of Nuit. In death, we are merely returning to that ground of being.

This is not the place for more theology, but I think that we start by sloughing off these vestiges of the past that create such grief in the first place. Is my loved one in heaven? Are they in hell? Of course, most people tend to think the best of whomever is dead. But given their lack of knowledge, all they have is faith and that creates anxiety of not knowing. Here in the current Aeon, we can leave those anxieties behind. We have “certainly, not faith.” However, we must admit the bottomline here: even the Prophet didn’t know what exactly happens after death. He had no proof of reincarnation. He had no proof of a final dissolution. He said himself, in Magick Without Tears, “The plain fact is that I remember nothing at all of any Post Mortem experiences, and I have never known anyone else who does.” All we have is the word handed to us that “death is the crown of all” and that is the certainty by which we should approach it; that is, as a crowning, the final act of someone that has finished the race royally run, someone that has reached that pinnacle of their life.[9]

The Book of the Law talks quite a bit about the “sorrows of pain and regret” and again that “We are not for the poor and sad.” And yet again, “that all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass & are done.” But we must be careful not to mistake grief for sorrow. Grief is a genuine and authentic response to loss—of any kind, really, but to the death of a loved one, certainly. To conflate the two does a disservice both to the inner work of resolving the complexes of sorrow but also to those authentic feelings of grief when they are necessary.

It is important, I think, for those us that remain, to keep in mind that we are immortal. Not in some cartoonish Mount Olympia sense, but in an essential sense. Again, it’s not my intention to deep dive into theology here, but it is something that we must individually grasp for ourselves approaching death but also as we explore our feelings about the death of others. We have left this mortal coil. We have opened the door to a new experience. I look at many of Crowley’s writings and see some of the same hangups from the previous Aeon still running around his purple prose.

“’Death’ is, to the initiate,” Crowley wrote, “an inn by the wayside; it marks a stage accomplished; it offers refreshment, repose, and advice as to his plans for the morrow.” Please. That doesn’t even match up with what the Book of the Law offers up for us. Granted, he throws around that whole “to the initiate” bit a lot, forgetting that most people—including Thelemites—aren’t going to be initiates much less adepts.

Death is one more experience of existence itself. The Book of the Law tells us, “there is no dread hereafter. There is the dissolution, and eternal ecstasy in the kisses of Nu.” That, that right there, is the “peace unutterable, rest, ecstasy” of which Nuit speaks in the Book of the Law. This is the joy of which we have to grasp and to which we look forward in death. Understanding that loss is hard, yes. We miss them, yes. But would we deny them that peace, that rest, that ecstasy that is beyond the pale of this earth? Of course not.

If I could tell you one thing out of everything that I could say about death and grief, though, I would tell you that loss is the price of love. We love the sun, but it gives way to the moon (and vice versa). We love those that are given to us for a while by the circumstances of our life, but they give way to change of all kinds. Grief over that loss is natural, normal, and should never be estimated as improper to express. But it only because we have loved that loss is difficult. Is that going to make it easier? Probably not. We have to move through our loss and into the recognition of the fullness of nature in all its beauty, in its ebb and flow, to see the rhythms of life itself that run through all things. It’s not easy, and I’m not going to sit here and lie to you that it is.

What I will tell you, though, is that holding it in, not expressing that loss, yes, that is unnatural. Not allowing the usual and normal processes to fill you and flow through you is just another cause for the complexes of the psyche to build up around you, to clutter up the Khu itself and cause it to grow even more opaque. This hinders our ability to see clearly around us. It hinders our ability to discern the nature of what is best for us in our own path. If it takes tears and screaming at the universe for your loss, do it. Let it rip, I say!

Now before you try to catch me in a contradiction, and I know you will, you’ll ask why I said that we should get rid of the vestiges of the past that cause grief while saying, quite quickly after, that grief is a natural process. Yes, yes; and you would be right. That does sound like a contradiction. Allow me to explain.

Grief should not come from the idea of death. The death of a loved one should be approached as a joyous occasion.[10] The Prophet wrote, again in his commentaries, “It is of the utmost importance to make funerals merry, so as to train people to take the proper view of death. The fear of death is one of the great weapons of tyrants, as well as their scourge; and it distorts our whole outlook upon the Universe.” It is through the celebration of a life that we can see beyond that life, to see the ripples of one individual’s life on the universe around them. And, again, to be crystal clear, I do not mean to suggest some kind of “life after death” in heaven or the Great Beyond. Merely that we celebrate the union of one with the all and the none, the ultimate of expressions, the ultimate of experiences, the final dissolution into the bosom of Nuit, our ground of being itself.

I’ll stop here for the night. I think I’ve now spent most all of it writing. But I’ll leave you with this thought …

The supermodel Gia Carangi was portrayed by Angelina Jolie in the 1997 movie, Gia—one of my favorites and one to which I relate in many ways—and there is a quote that I find truly remarkable in relation to my own life. It’s a quote that I’ve listed as one I want offered up at my own wake someday.

Life & Death
energy & Peace
if I stop today
it was fun
Even the terrible pains that have burn me & scarred my soul it was worth it for having been allowed to walked where I’ve walked. Which was to hell on earth Heaven on earth back again, into, under, far in between, through it, in it over and above it.[11]

Love is the law, love under will.

B∴

[Excerpt from Vice of Kings]


[1] I should laugh with no sense of indelicacy that one of my favorite science fiction tribes is called the Fremen, shortened from “Free men.” I think Crowley would have been thrilled with that particular connection of a tribe of people, whose whole civilization revolved around desert travel and a mythos that involved a mysterious and poisonous Water of Life.

[2] Crowley saw everything as sex, hence why our greater community is in the mess it is today.

[3] And all that goes with that: gender, social constructs, identity, etc.

[4] Nin, D.H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study, 1932, 11 (emphasis in original).

[5] I honestly hate that Crowley equates Nuit with Matter, but for the moment, and in the heat of writing, I’m not going to quibble over terms.

[6] NC to AL 3.1. I find Crowley’s remarks on the Khu in reference to the Khut and Khuit of the god-name to be informative. He writes, “… who is Khu? He is the Magical Ego of a Star. Without the Yod or Iota, Khu-t, we get a human conception; the insertion of that letter makes the transmutation to Godhead.”

[7] As an aside to this, one of the things that interests me in exploring the Law of Thelema is storytelling (or lack thereof, to be frank) not only in how we offer up the narrative of Thelema but also in how we examine theological history from a Thelemic perspective. Every religion has a specific outlook as to the unfolding nature of history that is wrapped up in its eschatology. While many think of history as movement of time from which we have come, history is also about movement of time to where we are going (or that which we are becoming) when seen through a theological lens. To understand how eschatology (“the last things,” ta eschata) fits within a worldview, such as Thelema, that recognizes a cyclic or evolutionary theology of time, the question of what is evolving (us) and what these cycles teach us (the formulae of the aeons) comes into play. More importantly, though, changing the perspective of eschatology from some kind of fantastical macrocosmic point in the future (“end of days”) to the immediate moment (“die daily”) shifts our very perspective on a microcosmic scale to where our existential concern meets our essential nature.

[8] NC to AL 1.22.

[9] I will leave further talk of how to prepare for our own death for another letter. I don’t think it’s quite appropriate here.

[10] Certainly there are exceptions to this in which there is room for outrage at murder and shock at a sudden, unplanned death. But I’m writing from a general rule rather than the exceptions.

[11] Fried, Thing of Beauty: The Tragedy of Supermodel Gia Carangi, 344.