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By Aleister Crowley

Chapter XXVI: Mental Processes—Two Only are Possible

Cara Soror,

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

“Occult” science is the most difficult of them all.  For one thing, its subject-matter includes the whole of philosophy, from ontology and metaphysics down to natural history.  More, the most rarefied and recondite of these has a direct bearing upon the conduct of life in its most material details, and the simplest study of such apparently earthbound matters as botany and mineralogy leads to the most abstruse calculations of the imponderables.

With what weapons, then, are we to attack so formidable a fortress?

The first essential is clear thinking.

In a previous letter I have dealt to some extent with this subject; but it is so important that you must forgive me if I return to it, and that at length, from the outset, and in detail.

Let us begin but having our own minds clear of all ambiguities, ignoring for the purpose of this argument all metaphysical subtleties.*  I want to confine it to the outlook of the “plain man.”

What do we do when we “think?”

There are two operations, and only two, possible to thought.  However complex a statement may appear, it can always be reduced to a series of one or other of these.  If not, it is a sham statement; nonsense masquerading as sense in the cloak of verbiage and verbosity.

Analysis, and Synthesis; or,

Subtraction, and Addition.

1. You can examine A, and find that it is composed of B and C.  A = B + C.

2. You can find out what happens to B when you add C to it.  B + C = A.

As you notice, the two are identical, after all; but the process is different.

Example: Raise Copper Oxide to a very high temperature; you obtain metallic copper and oxygen gas.  Heat copper in a stream of oxygen; you obtain copper oxide.

You can complicate such experiments indefinitely, as when one analyzes coal-tar, or synthesizes complex products like quinine from its elements; but one can always describe what happens as a series of simple operations, either of the analytical or the synthetic type.

(I wonder if you remember a delightful passage in Anatole France where he interprets an “exalted” mystical statement, first by giving the words their meaning as concrete images, when he gets a magnificent hymn, like a passage from the Rig-Veda; secondly, by digging down to the original meaning, with an effect comical and even a little ribald.  I fear I have no idea where to find it; in one of the “odds and ends” compilations most likely.  So please, look somebody; you won't have wasted your time!)


* I mean criticisms such as “Definition is impossible;”  “All arguments are circular;”  “All propositions are tautological.”  These are true, but one is obliged to ignore them in all practical discussions.


This has been put in a sort of text, because the first stumbling-block to study is the one never has any certainty as to what the author means, or thinks he means, or is trying to persuade one that he means.

Try something simple: “The soul is part of God.”  Now then, when he writes “soul” does he mean Atma, or Buddhi, or the Higher Manas, or Purusha, or Yechidah, or Neschamah, or Nepheshch, or Nous, or Psyche, or Phren, or Ba, or Khu, or Ka, or Animus, or Anima, or Seele, or what?

As everybody, will he nill he, creates “God” in his own image, it is perfectly useless to inquire what he may happen to mean by that.

But even this very plain word “part.”  Does he mean to imply a quantitative assertion, as when one says sixpence is part of a pound, or a factor indispensable, as when one says “A wheel is part of a motor-car”, or . . . (Part actually means “a share, that which is provided,” according to Skeat; and I am closer to the place where Moses was when the candle went out than I was before!)

The fact is that very few of us know what words mean; fewer still take the trouble to enquire.  We calmly, we carelessly assume that our minds are identical with that of the writer, at least on that point; and then we wonder that there should be misunderstandings!

The fact is (again!) that usually we don't really want to know; it is so very much easier to drift down the river of discourse, “lazily, lazily, drowsily, drowsily, In the noonday sun.”

Why is this so satisfactory?  Because although we may not know what a word means, most words have a pleasant or unpleasant connotation, each for himself, either because of the ideas or images thus begotten, of hopes or memories stirred up, or merely for the sound of the word itself.  (I have gone a month's journey out of my way to visit a town, just because I liked the sound of the name!)

Then there are devices: style—rhythm, cadence, rime, ornamentation of a thousand kinds.  I think one may take it that the good writer makes use of such artifice to make his meaning clear; the bad writer to obscure it, or to conceal the fact that he has none.

One of the best items of the education system at the Abbey in Cefal was the weekly Essay.  Everyone, including children of five or six, had to write on “The Housing Problem,” “Why Athens Decayed,” “The Marriage System,” “Buddhist Ethics” and the like; the subject didn't matter much; the point was that one had to discover, arrange and condense one's ideas about it, so as to present it in a given number of words, 93 or 156, or 418 as like as not, that number, neither more nor less.  A superb discipline for any writer.

I had a marvellous lesson myself some years earlier.  I had cut down a certain ritual of initiation to what I thought were the very barest bones, chiefly to make it easy to commit to memory.1  Then came a candidate who was deaf—not merely “a little hard of hearing;” his tympana were ruptured—and the question was How?

All right for most of it; one could show him the words typed on slips.  But during part of the ceremony he was hoodwinked; one was reduced to the deaf-and-dumb alphabet devised for such occasions.  I am as clumsy and stupid at that as I am at most things, and lazy, infernally lazy, on top of that.  Well, when it came to the point, the communication of the words became abominably, intolerably tedious.  And then!  Then I found that about two-thirds of my “absolutely essential” ritual was not necesasary at all!

That larned 'im.2

Love is the law, love under will.

Fraternally,

666


1: In accordance with my oaths I will not here comment on whether or not ritual officers in my experience have taken advantage of this – T.S.

2: Crowley has told this story already, in the letter on Noise – T.S.


© Ordo Templi Orientis.  Original key entry by W.E. Heidrick for O.T.O.  HTML coding by Frater T.S. for Nu Isis Working Group.

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