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Rabalais and Themela

To: alt.magick
From: (Tim Maroney)
Subject: Re: Rabalais and Themela (was Re: The Pact & the OTO)
Date: 499410xx

Quoting: |> Unknown

|>I have just read Rabalais "Gargantua and Pantagruel"  for a humanities
|>class.  Is the Thelemic Abbey set up by Gargantua Crowley's basis for
|>Thelema. Is this part of an older tradition, invented by Rabalais, or what?

It is not exactly the "basis," but it is one literary source from which
the tradition draws.  Unfortunately, like most of the literary
antecedents, it is little known by members of the tradition except by
indirect reference.  That's a shame, because to me everything
worthwhile about "Do what you will" can be derived from the inscription
above Father John's arch, together with the accompanying interpretive
text.  The grandiose and inconsistent philosophical edifice Crowley
erected around this psychological concept are to his discredit, and
their unquestioning acceptance reflects badly on the Crowleyan
tradition.  In essence he took the attributes of the God of the
Plymouth Brethren and grafted them forcefully onto the quieter and more
profound Rabelaisian ideas.  Among these attributes are pre-existence
of birth, survival of death, omnipotence, and transcendent moral

In the process he gave Crowleyan Thelema its own version of the
insoluble "problem of evil" that dogs traditional Christianity.  If
will is pre-existent and omnipotent, then how is it that there is such
a thing as restriction of the will?  If it wills its own restriction,
then why should we be concerned with will at all, since whether we
attend to it or not, it will be done?  If all these restrictions are
manifestations of will, then why is restriction referred to as
undesirable in various contexts?  If will is only a force which can run
afoul of other forces, then how can we assign it the attribute of
transcendent righteousness?

Crowley glosses over these issues in a quite unconvincing fashion,
together with similar objections that could be raised to both his idea
of will and to the traditional Christian God:  How do we know that it
exists?  What is the meaning of its attribute of righteousness?  Why
should we prefer it to other things?

It is primarily for these reasons that I have sometimes said that I am
a Rabelaisian Thelemite, but not a Crowleyan Thelemite.  The idea of
Rabelais is not beset by such difficulties.  That idea is that within
people who have cultivated virtue in themselves, there is an inner spur
or goad which impels their actions towards further virtue; and that
this faculty is a thing to which we can attend in order to better
ourselves.  It is not necessarily of a "spiritual" nature; no mention
is made of its extracorporeal existence.  It is not an omnipotent
force, but a psychological source of motivation, so of course it may be
restricted by other forces.  It is not transcendentally righteous or
necessarily unerring, but simply some part of ourselves which we are
enriched by knowing.  (There still remain some problems with assigning
it the moral label of "virtuous," but since the label is less extreme
and exagerrated than Crowley's, it comes in well under the bar for an
existentialist view of human judgment.)

It should be noted in passing that what I am referring to as the
Crowleyan idea is developed in his commentaries to Liber AL.  It is
highly questionable whether any of his questionable doctrines are
clearly present in the Book itself.  This makes little difference to
me, as I do not feel myself constrained to affirm the Book of the Law
as correct, but it may be of interest to AL-identified Thelemites. (Lupo LeBoucher) writes:
>Almost certainly invented by Rabalais, though I am certain there are
>conspiracy theories to the contrary. If I remember correctly, John Dee
>may have used the Thelemic motto before R. which probably generates all
>kinds of paranoid conspiracy theory. I think "Do As You Will" by Geoffry Ashe
>is a decent historical reference on the topic.

Yes, it's a shame that Ashe's very interesting book has been so long
out of print.  Given that the occult book mills are still grinding
out Crowleyan pap and apparently selling it well enough to stay in
business, I would think one of them would realize the benefits of
bringing this book back for a wider audience.  I keep seeing other
books by Geoffrey Ashe coming into print, but never this one.

Haven't heard of the Dee usage, though.  Since Dee was only seven or
eight years old when _Gargantua_ was published, it seems unlikely
that he could have used "Do what you will" first.
Tim Maroney, Communications and User Interface Engineer

"The Diabolonian position is new to the London playgoer of today, but not to
 lovers of serious literature.  From Prometheus to the Wagnerian Siegfried,
 some enemy of the gods, unterrified champion of those oppressed by them, has
 always towered among the heroes of the loftiest poetry."
    - Shaw, "On Diabolonian Ethics"

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