Literal, or Poetic License

Dear Friend:

Si Valis, Valeo

Thank you for your question.

The Holy Books of Thelema are in the form of poetry, I therefore I believe that there is a danger in literalism.

All Holy Book are going to fall short in conveying the Divine because as I have already said, it cannot be limited to language. It must be experienced. Known. Poetry is necessary when plain words and intellect fail us, and good poetry is able to cause changes in ones thinking to guide us to the unconscious mind, the real of symbols. For a literal work, the mind tends to invoke critical thinking skills. In poetry the mind automagically allows for a suspension of belief. The more beautiful and profound, the quicker the mind surrenders itself to the beauty contained in words.

I am not trying to say that poetry is better than literalism or visa versa. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, after all. But we should at least understand that the term “Holy Book” implies a mystery, and that perhaps there are many ways to skin a cat. We are affected by our Holy Books in different planes, and this is why we must be careful to consider the pros and cons of how we implement reason and understanding. That is my opinion. Everyone is going to have a different approach and point of view. 

Speaking for myself, I will read any inspired text first without the intent of understanding a word of it. Sometimes I might read it three or four times, then give my brain some time to sort it out with the filing system I gave it so many years ago when I first began to study the Qabalah. Then I begin to look for mysteries. Especially in the absurd, because a reasonable person with a critical mind should be be able to tell themselves: “you know what? No. That is just nuts. In light of other things, the way this reads couldn't be literal.” It is a nice game. I love playing it.

Pax Profunda