Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Right glad am I to hear that you have been so thoroughly satisfied with my explanation of what Magick is, and on what its theories rest. It is good, too, hearing how much you were interested in the glimpse that you have had of some of its work in the world; more, that you grasped the fact that this apparently recondite and irrelevant information has an immediate bearing on your personal life of today. Still, I was not surprised that you should add: "But why should I make a special study of, and devote my time and energy to acquiring proficiency in, the Science and Art of Magick?
Ah, well then, perhaps you have not understood my remarks at one of our earliest interviews as perfectly as you suppose! For the crucial point of my exposition was that Magick is not a matter extraneous to the main current of your life, as music, gardening, or collection jade might be. No, every act of your life is a magical act; whenever from ignorance, carelessness, clumsiness or what not, you come short of perfect artistic success, you inevitably register failure, discomfort, frustration. Luckily for all of us, most of the acts essential to continued life are involuntary; the "unconscious" has become so used to doing its "True Will" that there is no need of interference; when such need arises, we call it disease, and seek to restore the machine to free spontaneous fulfillment of its function.
But this is only part of the story. As things are, we have all adventured into an Universe of immeasurable, of incalculable, possibilities, of situations never contemplated by the trend of Evolution. Man is a marine monster; when he decided that it would be better for him somehow to live on land, he had to grow lungs instead of gills. When we want to travel over soft snow, we have to invent ski; when we wish to exchange thoughts, we must arrange a conventional code of sounds, of knots in string, of carved or written characters—in a word—embark upon the boundless ocean of hieroglyphics or symbols of one sort or another. (Presently I shall have to explain the supreme importance of such systems; in fact, the Universe itself is not, and cannot be, anything but an arrangement of symbolic characters!)
Here we are, then, caught in a net of circumstances; if we are to do anything at all beyond automatic vegetative living, we must consciously apply ourselves to Magick, "the Science and Art" (let me remind you!) "of causing change to occur in conformity with the Will." Observe that the least slackness or error means that things happen which do not thus conform; when this is so despite our efforts, we are (temporarily) baffled; when it is our own ignorance of what we ought to will, or lack of skill in adapting our means to the right end, then we set up a conflict in our own Nature: our act is suicidal. Such interior struggle is at the base of nearly all neuroses, as Freud recently "discovered"—as if this had not been taught, and taught without his massed errors, by the great teachers of the past! The Taoist doctrine, in particular, is most precise and most emphatic on this point; indeed, it may seem to some of us to overshoot the mark; for nothing is permissible in that scheme but frictionless adjustment and adaptation to circumstance. "Benevolence and righteousness" are actually deprecated! That any such ideas should ever have existed (says Lao-tse) is merely evidence of the universal disorder.
Taoist sectaries appear to assume that Perfection consists in the absence of any disturbance of the Stream of Nescience; and this is very much like the Buddhist idea of Nibbana.
We who accept the Law of Thelema, even should we concur in this doctrine theoretically, cannot admit that in practice the plan would work out; our aim is that our Nothing, ideally perfect as it is in itself, should enjoy itself through realizing itself in the fulfillment of all possibilities. All such phenomena or "point-events" are equally "illusion"; Nothing is always Nothing; but the projection of Nothing on this screen of the phenomenal does not only explain, but constitutes, the Universe. It is the only system which reconciles all the contradictions inherent in Thought, and in Experience; for in it "Reality" is "Illusion", "Free-will" is "Destiny", the "Self" is the "Not-Self"; and so for every puzzle of Philosophy.
Not too bad an analogy is an endless piece of string. Like a driving band, you cannot tie a knot in it; all the complexities you can contrive are "Tom Fool" knots, and unravel at the proper touch. Always either Naught or Two! But every new re-arrangement throws further light on the possible tangles, that is, on the Nature of the String itself. It is always "Nothing" when you pull it out; but becomes "Everything" as you play about with it,* since there is no limit to the combinations that you can form from it, save only in your imagination (where the whole thing belongs!) and that grows mightily with Experience. It is accordingly well worth while to fulfill oneself in every conceivable manner.
It is then (you will say) impossible to "do wrong", since all phenomena are equally "Illusion" and the answer is always "Nothing." In theory one can hardly deny this proposition; but in practice—how shall I put it? "The state of Illusion which for convenience I call my present consciousness is such that the course of action A is more natural to me than the course of action B?"
Or: A is a shorter cut to Nothing; A is less likely to create internal conflict.
Will that serve?
Offer a dog a juicy bone, and a bundle of hay; he will naturally take the bone, whereas a horse would choose the hay. So, while you happen to imagine yourself to be a Fair Lady seeking the Hidden Wisdom, you come to me; if you thought you were a Nigger Minstrel, you would play the banjo, and sing songs calculated to attract current coin of the Realm from a discerning Public! The two actions are ultimately identical—see AL I, 22—and your perception of that fact would make you an Initiate of very high standing; but in the work-a-day world, you are "really" the Fair Lady, and leave the minstrel to grow infirm and old and hire an orphan boy to carry his banjo!
Now then, what bothers me it this: Have I or have I not explained this matter of "Magick"—"Why should I (who have only just heard of it, at least as a serious subject of study) acquire a knowledge of its principles, and of the powers conferred by its mastery?" Must I bribe you with promises of health, wealth, power over others, knowledge, thaumaturgical skill, success in every worldly ambition—as I could quite honestly do? I hope there is no such need—and yet, shall I confess it?—it was only because all the good things of life were suddenly seen of me to be worthless, that I took the first steps towards the attainment of that Wisdom which, while enjoying to the full the "Feast of Life," guarantees me against surfeit, poison or interruption by the knowledge that it is all a Dream, and gives me the Power to turn that dream at will into any form that happens to appeal to my Inclination.
Let me sum up, very succinctly; as usual, my enthusiasm has lured me into embroidering my sage discourse with Poets' Imagery!
Why should you study and practice Magick? Because you can't help doing it, and you had better do it well than badly. You are on the links, whether you like it or not; why go on topping your drive, and slicing your brassie, and fluffing your niblick, and pulling your iron, and socketing your mashie and not being up with your putt—that's 6, and you are not allowed to pick up. It's a far cry to the Nineteenth, and the sky threatens storm before the imminent night.
Love is the law, love under will.
* N ± N = Two or Naught; one is the Magical, the other the mystical, process. You will hear a lot about this one day!