This is an attempt to present some of the main elements of western esoterica with a particular focus on Aleister Crowley’s system of Thelema. It is only a topical overview and in no way constitutes a full discourse on the subject. Everything is open to interpretation and different schools may have different opinions of the specifics, but I’ve tried to stick to the authorities and canonical interpretations. For example, in Thelema the Oath of the Abyss has a very specific meaning within the context of the initiatory system of grades, even though it may be regarded as a common psychological motif present in many systems. Furthermore, the path I will outline is only one version of the universal path towards illumination presented throughout the world in diverse myths and rites. It is by no means the “right” path and, as with any path, should be made as personal and meaningful as possible even if this means altering its symbolism and conventions. Whatever works. Your mileage may vary.
The central aim of western esoterica is to unite the microcosmic with the macrocosmic by drawing spirit into matter. In Thelema this process is often understood as a holy marriage between a solar prince and an earthly princess, whose consecration sets them on the throne of their now-dead parents, exalting them as the new king and queen of creation. This formula proceeds by the spiritual union of opposites drawing the aspirant up the Tree of Life into the supernal realm of heaven, above and beyond duality. To better understand this formula, and to provide a general overview of some of the fundamental tenets of modern Thelema, it is helpful to examine the manifestation of reality as it is represented by the Hebrew Kabbalah and the Tree of Life.
Form the formless void of nothing, the Absolute focuses into a singular point of infinite density and no radius. Within this point lies the entirety of creation. It is the vast countenance of the Absolute, the hidden face of deity. It is the watcher on the threshold and the source of all. Shining with bright white rays of light, the crown of Kether sits atop Adam Kadmon, the great Tree of Life reflected both macro- and microcosmically (in the universe and in each of us). Within Kether there is no distinction, no duality. It is silent and motionless, without self-awareness. In order to reflect upon its majesty Kether divides and creates Chokmah, the active principle of Force, the supreme male, holding wisdom in it’s awareness of the crown of Kether. Chokmah sits atop the right pillar, the pillar of force, and provides the first motion of creation out of the godhead. This is Chaos, the Beast.
A pair is really three: the two pieces that add to make the pair, and the pair itself. In this manner Binah manifests from the union of Kether and Chokmah as the passive feminine principle of form. She is Babalon, the Whore. The mother womb that gives form to the fire of the father. The understanding of Binah is the bittersweet awareness of the path ahead - the descent into matter. Geometrically, Kether is a single point that extends a line to Chokmah, which then extends to Binah and back to Kether. Each of these lines - and every successive line - is a letter of the Hebrew alphabet as spoken by god. The result is a triangle sitting atop the Tree, the first element of idealized form contained in the potential of the mother. She is also poised on a threshold, between the supernal triumverate and the Abyss. In the mother gestates the template of creation, but it can only be realized by passing into duality and, hence, by crossing the Abyss. Indeed, the Abyss is often regarded as a prism through which the white light of the supernals is refracted into the rainbow of the lower tree.
Once the leap was made there was no turning back. Below the Abyss force & form couple to create greater and greater densities of spirit and matter, from the archetypes of love & law (Chesed & Geburah), the heart of Tiphareth - the Christos, the mental constructs of intellect and id embodied by Netzach & Hod, the seat of the aether and dreams in Yesod, and finally crystallizing into the solid matter of Malkuth, the kingdom. In Malkuth, just as in Kether, everything is. Silent and undifferentiated in the crown, ever flowing and evolving in the kingdom. As above, so below. [continue...]