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Thelemic Studies

From: "" 
Subject: Thelemic Studies (Bk Rvw, Curricula; was beginner book)
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 1999 21:55:19 -0800 (PST)

49991122 IVom

Book Review and Analysis of The Thelemic Path (Philosophic)

I picked up a wonderful beginner's book for Thelemites at a
library book sale in Mendocino, CA last weekend. it sets out
a quite reasonable progressive program for the Thelemite 
(philosophic rather than cultist; the author uses proper
English and is not a cult member, speaking of 'will' rather
than 'thelema'). to wit...

	...though man has acquired an impressive degree of 
	power over nature, his knowledge of and control
	over his inner being is very limited. [modern man]
	is largely ignorant of what is going on in the
	depths of his unconscious and is unable to reach
	up to the luminous superconscious levels, and to
	become aware of his true Self....

	...[the] wide gulf between man's external and
	inner powers is one of the most important and
	profound causes of the individual and collective
	evils which afflict our civilization and gravely
	menace its future. Man has had to pay dearly for
	his material achievements. His life has become
	richer, broader, and more stimulating, but at
	the same time more complicated and exhausting.
	Its rapidly increasing tempo, the opportunities
	it offers for gratifying his desires, and the
	intricate economic and social machinery in
	which it has enmeshed him make ever more
	insistent demands on his energy, his mental
	functions, his emotions, and his will....

	The individual often lacks the resources to cope
	with the difficulties and pitfalls of this kind
	of existence. His resistance may crumble in the
	face of the demands, the confusions, and the
	enticements it imposes. The ensuing disturbance
	leads to increasing discouragement and frustra-
	tion -- even to desperation.

	The remedy for these evils -- the narrowing and
	eventual closing of the fatal gap between man's
	external and his inner powers -- has been and
	should be sought in two directions: *the
	simplification of his outer life* and *the
	development of his inner powers*....
	"The Act of Will", by Roberto Assagioli, M.D.,
	 Penguin Books Inc., 1974; pp. 3-4.

Thelemic Studies

1 simplification

this is usually the step overlooked by the Thelemic student
or unfortunately delayed until too late. focus and attention
are the currencies of education. wasted time and energies on
tangental and cultic documents with merely social appeal is
to account for the great number of lost and flailing 

the simplification of outer life is dealt with exceedingly
well in "Voluntary Simplicity" by Elgan, another will-based 
reflection on individual orientation in a complex society,
and reflectively symbolized by writers like Thoreau, whose
"Walden" is mentioned by Assagioli as a valuable inspiration 
to the student. I would also recommend in moderation works
like "The Silent Life" by Thomas Merton and any number of
texts on the quietude of Zen Buddhism or Taoism.

supplementary studies on basic economics are covered by writers 
like Schumacher ("Small is Beautiful", especially the first 
few chapters in which he deconstructs 'economics' from its 
traditional dogmas) and relevant sociology is presented fairly 
by ecological anarchists like Edwarb Abbey, Murray Bookchin, 
Graham Purchase, and Jane Biehl, many of whose books are 
published by Black Rose Press.

these are but a smattering of modern writers whose texts
can be used by the enterprising student to form the core
of a Thelemic philosophical foundation in the application
toward simplification of the outer life and its orientation
to agapic norms.

for the intrepid Thelemic aspirant, then, there are abundant
sources for the purpose of life-simplification, and quite
a few which proceed from this to integrate compassion as a
function of lifestyle and agape as a standard (carefully
hewing to nonviolent and anarchistic ideals). these should
be considered essential beginning study for those pursuing 
a Thelemic life. all other subjects of study (such as text
by Crowley and other "Thelemites") are tangental or 
constitute advanced materials of dubious value reviewed in
Section 2 (power) below.

carrying such a study into practice may no doubt prove
difficult, as Assagioli makes clear:

	The evil does not lie in the technological powers
	themselves but in the *uses* to which man puts
	them in the fact that he has allowed them to
	overwhelm and enslave him. Resistance to the
	prevailing negative trends of modern life calls
	for much determination, much firmness and
	persistence, much clear-sightedness and wisdom.
	But these are precisely the *inner* qualities
	and powers in which modern man is sorely lacking.
	So we are led to the necessity of recourse to
	the second procedure.
	Ibid., pp. 5-6.

2 developing power

the latter portion of the equation -- "the development of 
...  inner powers" -- seems to be the objective of a great
many modern mystics, chief among them magicians in the "Tantric",
"Thelemic" and "Satanist" communities who portray the mystical 
journey as one of careful deprogramming from societal 
taboos that are of little to the individual beyond enabling 
Herd conformity. the development of inner power for such 
deprogramming or other objectives is another characterization
of the mystical journey, as is the achievement of some 
universal or true will.

unfortunately, few take the time to adequately cover the 
basics of the simplification of the outer life that allows 
unhampered volition to come to fruition in a magnified manner, 
thereby serving as the perfect First Work of the successful 
mage. for this reason a great many "Thelemites" are in fact 
run ragged by their interior turmoil or social obligations,
unfortunately grounding out whatever will they may have
the ability to generate, rather than applying this power 
toward orientational and directional objectives that 
could make the most efficient use of their energy.

no doubt books on "assertiveness training" or "carrying
projects through to completion" would be valuable beginning
texts for the aspiring Thelemite, and Assagioli provides in
his book a number of examples of exercises for the develop-
ment of a strong will, suggesting that the student 
simultaneously develop strength of will (power), skillful 
will (artistry), good will (ethics), transpersonal will 
(mysticism). I provide for the beginning student the section
from his book containing these exercises and recommend the
book very highly for its study value:


	I. Realizing the Value of the Will

	Settle yourself into a comfortable position with
	your muscles relaxed.

	A. Picture to yourself as vividly as possible
	the loss of opportunity, the damage, the pain
	to yourself and others which has actually occurred
	and which might again occur, as a result of the
	present lack of strength of your will. Examine
	these occasions, one by one, formulating them
	clearly; then *make a list of them in writing*.
	Allow the feelings which these recollections
	and forecasts arouse to affect you intensely.
	Then let them evoke in you a strong urge to
	change this condition.

	B. Picture to yourself as vividly as possible
	all the *advantages* that an effective will can
	bring to you; all the benefits, opportunities,
	and satisfactions which will come from it to
	yourself and others. Examine them carefully,
	one by one. Formulate them with clarity and
	*write them down*. Allow the feelings aroused
	by these anticipations to have full sway: the
	*joy* of the great possibilities that open up
	before you; the *intense desire* to realize
	them; the *strong urge* to begin at once.

	C. Picture yourself vividly as *being in
	possession* of a strong will; see yourself
	walking with a firm and determined step,
	acting in every situation with decision,
	focused intention, and persistence; see
	yourself successfully resisting any attempt
	at intimidation and enticement; visualize
	yourself as you will be when you have
	attained inner and outer mastery.

	[AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is the technique of the
	 "Ideal Model." The exercise as a whole is

	 based on the technique of visualization,
	 because of its value and effectiveness in
	 any creative process. See the discussion
	 of the Ideal Model and Visualization in
	 my "Psychosynthesis", pp. 166-77, and 145-51.]

	II. Evoking Feelings Toward the Will

	This exercise consists of using *reading
	material* particularly suited to the
	cultivation and reinforcement of the feelings
	and the determination aroused by the previous
	one. The material should be encouraging,
	positive, and dynamic in character, and apt
	to arouse self-reliance and to incite to action.
	Very suitable for this purpose are biographies
	of outstanding personalities who have possessed
	great will, and books and articles intended to
	awaken the inner energies. But in order to get
	full benefit from such a course of reading it
	must be performed in a special way. Read slowly,
	with undivided attention, marking the passages
	that impress you and copying those that are
	most striking or which seem specially adapted
	to your case. ...

	It is worth while to reread these passages
	several times, absorbing their full meaning.

	These exercises create the inner condition,
	produce the inner fervor needed for making the
	decision to devote the time, energy, and
	means necessary for the development of the

	A word of warning: do not talk about this
	matter with others, not even with the laudible
	intention of inducing them to follow your
	example. Talking tends to disperse the
	energies needed and accumulated for action.
	And if your purpose is made known to others,
	it may provoke skeptical or cynical remarks
	which may inject doubt and discouragement.
	*Work in silence*.

	This preparation lays the ground for the
	following exercises., which are aimed at the
	direct strengthening of the will.

	III. "Useless" Exercises

	The foundation of the method is simple. Every
	organ of our body and every function can be
	developed by exercise. Muscles become stronger
	by a series of contractions. In order to
	strengthen a specific muscle or group of 
	muscles, as in the case of a weakened limb,
	there are exercises arranged in such a way as
	to put into motion only that weak part of the 
	body. In a similar manner, in order to
	strengthen the will, it is best to exercise
	it independently of every other psychological
	function. This can be accomplished by 
	performing deliberate acts which have no other 
	purpose than the *training* of the will. The
	application of such seemingly "useless"
	exercises has been strongly advocated by
	William James.... [quote omitted for space -- 333]

	Later, Boyd Barret based a method of will
	training on exercises of this sort. It
	consists in carrying out a number of simple
	and easy little tasks, with precision,
	regularity, and persistence. These exercises
	can be easily performed by anyone, no special 
	conditions being required. It is enough to be
	alone and undisturbed for five or ten minutes
	every day. Each task or exercise has to be
	carried out for several days, usually a week,
	and then replaced by another in order to
	avoid monotony and the formation of a habit
	leading to automatic performance. Here is an
	exercise of this kind, quoted from Boyd
	Barrett's book "Strength of Will and How to
	Develop It":

		*Resolution* -- "Each day, for the
		next seven days, I will stand on a
		chair here in my room, for ten
		consecutive minutes, and I will
		try to do so contentedly." At the
		end of this ten minutes' task
		write down the sensations and the
		mental states you have experienced
		during that time. Do the same on
		each of the seven days....


	Boyd Barrett proposes several other exercises
	of the same kind:

		1. Repeat quietly and aloud: "I *will*
		do *this*," keeping time with rhythmic
		movements of a stick or ruler for five

		2. Walk to and fro in a room, touching
		in turn, say, a clock on the mantel-
		piece and a particular pan of glass for
		five minutes.

		3. Listen to the ticking of a clock or
		watch, making some definite movements
		at every fifth tick.

		4. Get up and down from a chair thirty

		5. Replace in a box, very slowly and
		deliberately, one hundred matches or
		bits of paper (an exercise particularly
		adapted to combat impulsiveness).

	Similar techniques can be invented ad libitum. The
	important thing is not the doing of this or that
	exercise, but *the manner* in which it is
	performed. It should be done willingly, with
	interest, with precision, with style. Try always
	to improve the quality of the work, the clearness
	of introspection, the fidelity of the written
	account, and above all to develop the awareness
	and the energy of the will. It is good to compete
	with oneself; in other words, to assume a
	"sporting attitude" in the best sense of the word.

	IV. Physical Exercises in the Strengthening of the Wills

	These constitute a very effective technique when
	used with the specific intention and purpose of
	*developing* the will. As the French writer
	Gillet has expressed it, "Gymnastics are the
	elementary school of will... and serve as a model
	for that of the mind." In reality, every physical
	movement is an act of will, a command given to
	the body, and the deliberate repetition of such
	acts -- with attention, effort, and endurance --
	exercise and invigorate the will. Organic
	sensations are thus aroused: all produce a sense
	of inner strength, of decision, of mastery that
	raises the tone of the will and develops its
	fullest benefit, it is necessary that they be
	performed with the exclusive aim, or at least
	with the principal objective, of training the

	Such exercises must be performed with measured
	precision and attention. They should not be too
	forceful or too fatiguing; but every single
	movement or group of movements must be executed
	with liveliness and decision. Exercises or
	sports best fitted for this purpose are not
	the ones of a violent and exciting nature, but
	rather those that call for endurance, calmness,
	dexterity, and courage, permitting interruption
	and variety of movement. Many outdoor sports --
	such as golf, tennis, skating, hiking, and
	climbing -- are particularly suitable for the
	training of the will; but where they are not
	possible, physical exercises can always be
	carried out in the privacy of one's room.
	There are many books or manuals dealing with
	the techniques of body movement.

	V. Exercises of the Will in Daily Life

	Daily life, with its many tasks and
	occupations, presents countless opportunities
	for developing the will. Most of our activities
	can be helpful in this way, because through our
	purpose, our inner attitude, and the way in
	which we accomplish them, they can become
	definite exercises of the will. For instance,
	the mere fact of rising in the morning at a
	definite time can be of value, if for that
	purpose we rise ten or fifteen minutes earlier
	than usual. Also, getting dressed in the
	morning can be such an opportunity, if we
	accomplish the various necessary movements
	with attention and precision, swiftly but
	not hurriedly: "calm rapidity" is a useful
	watchword. To make haste slowly is not easy,
	but it is possible; and it leads to greater
	effectiveness, enjoyment, and creativness
	without tension and without exhaustion. It
	is not easy because it requires a dual
	attitude and awareness: that of "the one who
	acts" and simultaneously that of the
	one who looks on as the observer.

	During the rest of the day one can do
	numerous exercises for the development of
	the will which at the same time enable one
	to unfold other useful qualities. For
	instance, remaining serene during one's
	daily work, no matter how tedious the task
	may be; or controlling acts of impatience
	when confronted with minor difficulties
	and annoyances, such as driving in heavy
	traffic, or being kept waiting, or noticing
	the mistakes or faults of a subordinate,
	or being unjustly treated by a superior.

	Again, when we return home, we have the
	opportunity for similar simple valuable
	exercises: controlling the impulse to give
	vent to our bad temper caused by various
	vexations, preoccupations, or business
	worries; dealing serenely with whatever
	comes our way; and trying to adjust dis-
	harmonies in the home. At the dinner table,
	an exercise no less useful for health as
	for the will is to control the desire or
	impulse to eat quickly while thinking of
	business, etc., training ourselves instead
	to chew well and to enjoy our meal with a
	relaxed and and calm mind. In the evening
	we have other occasions for training, such
	as when we want to resist the allurements
	of people or things that would make us
	waste time and energy.

	Whether away at business or in the home,
	we can resolutely case working when tired,
	controlling the hurry to get a job
	finished. We can give ourselves wise rest
	and recreation; a short rest taken in
	time, at the outset of fatigue, is of
	greater benefit than a long rest
	necessitated by exhaustion.

	During these rest periods, a few muscular
	exercises or relaxation for a few minutes
	with closed eyes will suffice. For mental
	fatigue, physical exercises are generally
	the most beneficial, and each individual
	can find out by practice what suits him
	best. One of the advantages of such short
	interruptions is that one does not lose
	interest in, or the impetus for, the work
	in hand, and at the same time one over-
	comes fatigue and nervous tension. An
	ordered *rhythm* in our activities gener-
	ates harmony in our being, and harmony
	is a universal law of life.

	One of the chief difficulties in developing
	a will which is weak is the lack of will
	with which to work! It is helpful in this
	situation to engage temporarily the
	cooperation of some of the personal drives,
	such as pride or ambition, which may
	provide a stronger incentive than the pure
	will. One of the best incentives is the
	instinct to play -- the sporting attitude
	of a contest with oneself creates a drive
	which, being interesting and amusing,	
	does not arouse the resistance and rebellion
	that would result from a forceful imposition
	of the will.

	A word of warning: it is not necessary, or
	even desirable, to do all of these exercises
	at once. It is, rather advisable, to begin
	with only a few, spread over the day,
	beginning with the easier ones. When success
	has been achieved with these, one can
	gradually increase their number, varying and
	alternating them, performing them cheerfully
	and with interest, scoring successes and
	failures, setting oneself records and trying
	to beat them in a competitive, sporting
	spirit. Thus the danger is avoided of making
	life too rigid and mechanical, rendering
	instead interesting and colorful what other-
	wise would be tiresome duties. All with whom
	we are associated can become our cooperators
	(without their knowing it!). For instance,
	a domineering superior or an exacting
	partner becomes, as it were, the mental
	parallel bars on which our will -- the will
	to right human relations -- can develop
	its force and proficiency. Delay in being
	served with a meal gives us the opportunity
	to exercise patience and serenity, as well
	as the chance to read a good book while
	waiting. Talkative friends or time-wasters
	give us the chance to control speech; they
	teach us the art of courteous but firm
	refusal to engage in unnecessary conver-
	sations. To be able to say "no" is a
	difficult but very useful discipline. So
	the Buddhist saying goes: "An enemy is as
	useful as a Buddha."
	Ibid., pp. 36-45.

having developed a strong will, it may be tempered and
applied toward any interest, inclusive of the perfection
of the transpersonal will (what some might call the
'Great Work' or 'True Will'). Assagioli's book contains
much material for those interested in developing this,
from the perspective of transpersonal psychology in the
line of Jung and Maslow, and with a number of Buddhist
twists and turns. this work, presumably along with his
previously book, "Psychosynthesis", which seems to be the
foundation upon which this later book builds, are 
strongly recommended to beginning Thelemites. (nigris (333))
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