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The Thelemic Salutations
by Bill Heidrick IX°
This document is an excerpt from the O.T.O. Newsletter vol. I, no. 2.
“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” – Liber AL, I:40
“Love is the law, love under will.” – Liber AL, I:57
These are the salutations of Thelemite to Thelemite. They begin and close letters. They are given in greeting and return. Many have pondered their meaning; and some, in open defiance of “The Book of the Law,” have seen fit to change them. The following is a consideration of the meaning of these statements from the view of one person. No authority is claimed, and none can be claimed. “Every man and every woman is a star.”
It is the stand taken by the Order under the Caliphate that no change be made in the text of “The Book of the Law.” Those who are initiated into O.T.O. are required to affirm this. Acceptance of “Liber AL” in whole or in part is another thing entirely; yet without the tradition of the veridical text, such an acceptance is impossible. To preserve the form of our Sacred Book, we must guard it against decay.
Many abuses have arisen of late, especially in the use of the salutations. A particularly common change is current among our kindred of the Wicca: “An it harm none, do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” A sound qualification in ordinary opinion, surely. Is this a case of common observation? No, this versicle is not a vague “hello, have care and be at ease”.
It's every bit as poignant as the greeting of the Christian monastics; “Remember, Brother, that thou must die!” – and far more positive. The “what” is the “why” you are alive. Even if doing that “what” in accord with your True Will threatens a nation, do it. There is nothing to fear. When you do what you have incarnated to do, no harm will come to any acting in their own Great Work.
Another alteration long in vogue is “Do as thou wilt …” Crowley himself objected to this. It's merely libertine slithering. To do as you please is not Thelema. Such a philosophy accomplishes nothing (small 'n' at that). There is no practical merit in it. “What” means some definite thing. That definite thing can be a deed, a role in life, a work of art or any tangible accomplishment. It may change its appearance from time to time, but it will remain true to its essence. That is the Law, the order of life in the Aeon of Horus. It is the whole of the Law; there are no vague exceptions or vague “outs”.
So, what do we do? Declare that the pet project of the day takes precedence over the needs of others? Nope. First find the nature of your True Will. The versicle doesn't say “… is the whole of the Law.” It says “ .. shall be the whole of the Law.” This passage cannot actively apply until you know what your True Will is in a given situation. Once you have caught the essence of your Will, the deed will take no more than an instant.
“This is my Will,” says the waster of time. “It was done quickly and in silence,” is the thought of an observer of Thelema in action. What do you do until the Angel comes? “Love is the law, love under will.” Follow the leanings of your heart; Agape and Thelema are both 93.
Too many would-be-Thelemites feel bound to be on top of their Wills all the time. It's far better to be a loving mortal half of the time than to be half divine king and half-ass. If you don't know what to do, always take the path of love. Love is the gentle sleep of Thelema, even as doing the Great Work is the wakeful labor.
The most common change in “Liber AL” is the alteration of Capital and small letters in the text. Changes of punctuation are also frequent. Some of this is understandable. Many parts of the manuscript are ambiguous. Crowley's handwriting was not his most shining perfection by any means. However, with regard to the salutations there is little doubt as to the correct form. These passages are relatively clear in the MS.
Where a capital letter begins a sentence, that may be considered simple grammar (in other words, the essential mystery may be the common one of the language). Where a capital letter appears in an unlikely place, look for a special meaning. “Law” is capitalized in the first versicle of the salutation, but not in the second. Active in the first and passive in the second, or emphatic in the first and then subtle – the gist of possible interpretation should be obvious.
To sprinkle capitals about at random is to muddy the water. Occasionally one may make a simple typo in using these salutations. Such errors may generally be ignored, but they can be revealing. In the first issue of this Newsletter, the opening salutation came out, “Do what thou will …” May one suppose an earnest grammarian at work? Could be, but I've noticed something about my own typo's. When I have a lover in the house, I have to fight against typing: “Love is the law, lover under will” on letters. Doubtless, a tendency to brag; but that's show biz, not Thelema.
“So what if there's a little looseness, that won't change the spelling of a book already printed.” – True up to a point, but books wear out and get reset and reprinted. For a Thelemite in O.T.O., it's not valid to let things take care of themselves and “Do as thou jolly well might,” about “The Book of the Law.” For some Thelemites, this is not a major concern. They are into their Wills and don't really read “Liber AL” anyway.
For those of use who pursue Thelema through Aleister Crowley's Ordo Templi Orientis, the instructive nature of the Order requires safeguarding of the “Book.” Any Thelemite with the Will to do a book knows that nothing can stop the appearance of that book in print.
Some have rewritten or augmented “Liber AL” with their own writings. Such things are fine for those people and their followers; but we have Crowley's version, and we are going to make sure that it remains accessible throughout the Aeon of Horus. That's simple. Writing this article is part of making it work. Calling attention to slips, slides, typos and deliberate changes is also part of making it work.
Carelessness in using these salutations sometimes stems from something in the understanding of the meaning. Those who substitute “Do as thou wilt” for “Do what thou wilt…” generally tend to understand that this passage means freedom from all restraint. That's true as far as it goes, but it doesn't even go as far as the skull.
When you are linked to your True Will consciously, you are indeed totally free to do your Will. The way you do it is not generally free at all. If you will to act as president of the country, you may be able to shoot the incumbent and take his place; but if you think you have a right to do that, you are sick. Circumstances may justify such an action, but very rarely.
At times, there may seem to be several ways to do your Will. Actually, there is only one – and “success is your proof”. If you don't met with success, you have tried to force the wrong way to your goal. The theory is infinitely complex, but the manifestation is always sublimely simple.
The worst possible use of these salutations comes dangerously close to their best outward use. Many of us are teachers. We are often in a place of power to dictate to others. When this power is used to tell someone what their Will is, that is Restriction and the Word of Sin. When this power is used to tell willing people what to do, that's all part of normal living. If they do it, fine. If they don't do it, it's not their Will. All this can be frustrating to someone who is trying to get a commune together.
Periodically, some test must be made to separate the subhuman sluggard from the Thelemite who doesn't do things the way the rest do. The basic trick is not to bluster and shout, but to simply tell the person to do something interestingly stupid. If this suggestion is ignored, fine. If the suggestion is followed, serious doubt is thrown on the Thelemic convictions of the person tested. For an example, consult “Liber Jugorum,” Section I, paragraph 2.
A second test may well consist of warning the person against a particular thing that is obviously pleasurable but probably harmful. If the thing is done anyway, with harmful result, evidence is strong against active awareness of the True Will.
Generally speaking, such tests are only rarely necessary. Their extensive use is cause to suspect the teacher of having a mildly sadistic sense of humor.
The salutations of Thelma have curious parallels in other traditions. Consider the four injunctions of the Sphinx:
"Do what --------------------------- to know thou wilt -------------------------- to will shall be the whole of the Law."
"Love ------------------------------ to dare is the law, love under will." ------------------ to keep silent.
When you know your Will, that knowledge is essentially of “what” to do. It is not a vague inclination that doesn't come to any active release. Neither is it a sense of the presence of the Angel. It's as pure and simple as a mechanic knowing what wrench to use to tighten a particular bolt. A magician in practice knows exactly what energy or entity is needed. The active Will you possess is not desire alone, for that may be frustrated in a number of ways. It is the mysterious force that moves the arm on command from the brain.
Will is a pressure and a direction – very much like the concept of a single vector of force as used in physics. The only difference is that the force is drawn, not from a discrete cause, but from the field of power that is your Genius. The presence of this Genius is not in itself the active Will, but that essence is prior to the manifestation of the Will.
Love is an ultimate act of daring. Love cannot effectively act within a person. It must be directed toward another. Inactive love, like the presence of Genius, is prior to outward love. Unless you love yourself, you cannot love another in any way. Once the inner love is established, it may be projected outward. This active form is a giving of energy without fear of loss or abuse. You simply add without condition to the life force of another in any way that can work. There is no forcing. The transfer of the life energy must flow according to the True Will of the Other – which is ultimately in harmony with your own. Sexual love making may be involved, or it may not.
The injunction to keep silent is quite profound. This means nothing so obvious as the deliberate concealment of one's secrets. This silence is the ultimate respect for Truth. If a thing is spoken or “written,” it is half a lie. Make no attempt to explain an act performed according to True Will. Inform if you will, should such information be a part of the act; but do not try to play at “because” when the source of your deed is the outpouring of your Will. There are other forms of legitimate silence, but this one is particularly important to Thelemites.
At some time or another, every Thelemite has to face the familiar question: “If you are so smart, why ain't you rich?” If such a question or its kindred troubles you, take a little time to meditate on the Thelemic salutations. If you are doing your Will and loving under will, you are rich. The perfection of these things is known only to one doing them.
All Thelemites display imperfection. At its best this is a defense mechanism to avoid the local equivalent of crucifixion. At worst this is only the part of the self that is not fully functioning. Let those who would take the Oath of the Abyss beware, for the entire mortal self cannot attain to perfect knowledge and remain alive in the lower world. Such an attunement to Will means an end to doing – there is no “what” left undone.
In the main flow of life expect confusion. Hide it only from the more stupid of your enemies. When a student asks for something that you cannot give, follow the manner of the fellow who said: “Expect an occasional snort; but I'm an addict, not a peddler.” Leave room for the other's doing and loving under will.
Contents Copyright (C) 1978, 1997 Bill Heidrick
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