and Its Methods
"Meditate you must, for it is not from without, but from the Hierophant within that your initiation shall come. You are a center of the inexhaustible treasure of the limitless substance of the presence of God." — Paul Foster Case
The general theory of meditation is that the True Self and its Will is obscured by the activity of that Self such that it is distracted from its own Truth. Meditation dissolves this distraction by disengaging the essential Self from identifying itSelf with its contingent modifications. Thereby, according to The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, "The Self rests in its own unmodified state." [Patanjali I: 3] Often, in dualistic or ascetic traditions of the previous two millennia this process of disengagement is seen as a destruction of the modifications. This is not the goal of Thelemic practice, which sees the modifications ultimately as an integral expression of the Self's True Will. The intention of Thelemic meditation, therefore, is to discover the root source of the Will towards modification and thereby to inform the various levels of the Self's manifestation as to their most efficient orientation with regard to that Will.
Some of Crowley's personal reflections of his concerning the purpose of these modifications of the infinite Self are contained in his comment on chapter one verse 8 of The Book of the Law, "The Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in the Khabs."
"We are not to regard ourselves as base beings, without whose sphere is Light or 'God'. Our minds and bodies are veils of the Light within. The uninitiated is a 'Dark Star', and the Great Work for him is to make his veils transparent by 'purifying' them. This 'purification' is really 'simplification'; it is not that the veils are dirty, but that the complexity of its folds makes it opaque. The Great Work therefore consists principally in the solution of complexes. Everything in itself is perfect, but when things are muddled, they become 'evil'.
"[…] This 'star' or 'Inmost Light' is the original, individual, eternal essence. The Khu is the magical garment which it weaves for itself, a 'form' for its Being Beyond Form, by use of which it can gain experience through self- consciousness … This Khu is the first veil, far subtler than mind or body, and truer; for its symbolic shape depends on the nature of its Star.
"Why are we told that the Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in the Khabs? Did we then suppose the converse? I think that we are warned against the idea of a pleroma, a flame of which we are Sparks, and to which we return when we 'attain'. That would indeed be to make the whole curse of separate existence ridiculous, a senseless and inexcusable folly. It would throw us back on the dilemma of Manichaeism. The idea of incarnations 'perfecting' a thing originally perfect by definition is imbecile. The only sane solution is … to suppose that the Perfect enjoys experience of (apparent) Imperfection."
There are many different kinds of meditation. From the perspective of both the Hindu and Thelemic traditions these can be classified into several broad categories. Meditation involving concentration of the mind and its will to achieve direct Gnosis of reality is Raja Yoga ('great yoga') which corresponds to the middle pillar and Tiphareth. Meditation involving devotion and love towards the divine is Bhakti Yoga, generally associated in its preliminary form to the Sephira Netzach and in its more developed forms to Chesed. Contemplation involving the reason or intellect is called Jnana Yoga and corresponds to Hod. In Thelema, this takes the form both of a radical Philosophical inquery as well as methods of Kabbalistic meditation. There is also a type of Shamanic or visionary practice undertaken in Thelema, associated with the Sephira Yesod, which has no precise analogue among the Hindu 'yogas'. Karma Yoga, or the yoga of duty will not be fully dealt with in this chapter. In Thelema, it is the active doing of one's True Will through submission to the grace of the Angel, and the energy this grants. It is associated most fully with Geburah.
The term yoga can refer to any kind of spiritual practice, but for the purposes of this essay will be used to connote the types of practices sketched above. Also, the above categories should not be considered exhaustive, even within the context of the Thelemic tradition.
One of the oldest and most canonical of meditation manuals is The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which has been traditionally interpreted in terms of a sequence of eight stages of meditative practice known as the eight limbs of yoga, or Ashtanga yoga. These constitute the classical stages of Raja Yoga. In Sanskrit they are:
These stages are a progressive sequence of nested practices which build on each other.
Yama and Niyama
Yama and Niyama are two aspects of the same practice. In the original Indian context these are various ethical practices considered prerequisite to the spiritual path. From a Thelemic perspective Yama and Niyama are not, however, to be confused with relative cultural customs and predjudices. Rather, they are broadly understood as attitudinal practices of so aligning one's life priorities and circumstances so as to be undistracted from one's spiritual practice. Gurdjieff calls this creating 'conditions of Work'. In ritual terminology, Yama is the purification and Niyama the consecration of the self to the Great Work. This is not to say that the original conception of Yama and Niyama as ethical is incorrect, but Thelema conceives of ethics as ultimately a call to be true to oneself, to one's True Will. Yama and Niyama are therefore both the first and last practices of Ashtanga yoga, as they are none other then the active doing of one's True Will.
Once the parameters for undertaking practice have been established one can undertake the actual practice of meditation itself. The first step of this is Asana, which simply means 'posture'. Patanjali says, "Asana is that which is firm and easy." [Patanjali, II:46] This is the most basic definition of Asana — a sitting posture for meditation which allows one to concentrate or perform other mental activities without distraction from the body. The three easiest postures and by far the best to start with are the god posture, the cross-legged posture and the dragon posture.
The 'God' posture is among the most basic and straightforward and is named after the characteristic seated posture of the Egyptian deities. One sits up straight in a straight backed chair with the head faced forward, the legs parallel and the feet planted flat on the floor. The palms are rested on the thighs.
The cross-legged posture is exactly that: sitting cross-legged on a pillow or cushion. Most people are already used to sitting this way and of thinking of it as a meditation posture, which can only enhance one's practice using it. It's a good idea to keep the back straight. Rolling the hips forward helps to prevent slumping.
There is also the half-lotus position which in Sanskrit is called Siddhasana. Many people are comfortable sitting in this position, many are not. It is possible to sit longer in the half-lotus before the legs fall asleep, and this is a better posture for that reason.
The full-lotus position, or Padmasana, is quite difficult to perform and is not recommended for beginners.
The dragon posture, or Virasana, involves kneeling on the ground and sitting back on one's legs with the palms resting on the thighs. This is one of the easiest postures to keep the back straight. It does, however, quickly cause the legs to fall asleep or cramp. This can be ameliorated by placing a blanket or pillow between the legs and thighs.
The back should, as a general rule, be kept straight in these postures because this position most clearly signals the mind to be attentive. Also, traditional theory and experience holds that the subtle energy of the body distributes better when the spine is in its natural position, though these energies are unlikely to be important or noticeable to the beginner.
There are a few other basic Asanas that Thelemic practictioners should be familiar with. One of them is the so called 'Corpse' posture called in Sanskrit Savasana. This posture is ideal for deep relaxation and also works particularly well during astral projection (described later in this chapter). To assume this posture lie flat on your back. The legs are held stretched out and the arms straight at one's side. The muscles are all relaxed and the eyes closed.
Also, there is the 'Wand' posture, called Tadasana in Sanskrit. This is just a fancy way of describing standing straight up attentively with the hands at the sides.
There is a Thelemic varient of this called 'Dieu Garde', and is made in the same manner as the Wand posture, but with the hands held loosely in front of the body with linked thumbs. Dieu Garde is French for 'God Protect' and is a Masonic term for the position the hands are placed in to take an oath upon the book of sacred law. Lon DuQuette has pointed out that the position of the hands over the genitals in this posture therefore signifies a sanctification of this portion of the body.
All of the signs of the grades discussed in previous chapters can be considered to be Asanas in a broad sense.
There are many more Asanas than these, the practice of which constitute Hatha Yoga, or yoga using the physical body as a tool for attainment. Hatha Yoga corresponds to the Sephirah Malkuth. Many of these postures have significant health benefts as well as effects on the energy of the subtle body. They are best learned from a trained instructor. Most basically, however, an Asana should at least be an easy, seated posture for mental concentration. It's important to work at not fidgeting or moving. If the body is kept unmoving for long enough it will become still of its own accord and the mind will no longer notice or be distracted by it. This constitutes the most basic level of success in Asana.
Upon achieving basic stilling and control of the body the breath is then addressed. The theory of Pranayama is that control of the breath will help to control the mind, because the two are linked together as aspects of the integral human existence of body, soul and spirit. The word Pranayama means 'control of Prana'. Prana is the physical breath, but it is also the subtle energy of the body and certain aspects of consciousness.
The simplest form of breath-work in the Thelemic tradition is called the four-fold breath. This is best done seated in one's chosen Asana and has a calming and concentrative effect. As it does not involve the physical exersion of more advanced forms of Pranayama it can be done for several minutes before other meditation or ceremonial work as a focusing exercise. Breathe in slowly and fully for a count of four. Hold that breath without straining for another count of four, then breathe out over a count of four. Wait for a count of four, then breathe in again as before. A very useful trick to avoid straining is to breathe using the chest muscles. Open the chest up while drawing air in and hold the chest open to retain the breath. Don't use the throat muscles to hold the breath in. At first, concentrate on the breath itself and the counting when doing this exercise. As proficiency increases, and the breath becomes automatic, it can be used while engaging with other meditative activities, particularly those of Dharana.
A more advanced Pranayama method is given by Crowley in section IV of Liber E, an important instructional paper on meditation.
"1. At rest in one of your positions, close the right nostril with the thumb of the right hand and breathe out slowly and completely through the left nostril, while your watch marks 20 seconds. Breathe in through the same nostril for 10 seconds. Changing hands, repeat with the other nostril. Let this be continuous for one hour.
"2. When this is quite easy to you, increase the periods to 30 and 15 seconds.
"3. When this is quite easy to you, but not before, breathe out for 15 seconds, in for 15 seconds, and hold the breath for 15 seconds.
"4. When you can do this with perfect ease and comfort for a whole hour, practice breathing out for 40, in for 20 seconds.
"5. This being attained, practice breathing out for 20, in for 10, holding the breath for 30 seconds.
When this has become perfectly easy to you, you may be admitted for examination, and should you pass, you will be instructed in more complex and difficult practices.
"6. You will find that the presence of food in the stomach, even in small quantities, makes the practices very difficult.
"7. Be very careful never to overstrain your powers; especially never to get so short of breath that you are compelled to breathe out jerkily or rapidly.
"8. Strive after depth, fullness, and regularity of breathing.
"9. Various remarkable phenomena will very probably occur during these practices. They must be carefully analysed and recorded."
This is the basic technique involving Khumbhaka, or retention of the breath. It involves significant physical exercise. Crowley gives much additional good instruction on Pranayama in Liber Ru vel Spiritus, not presented here. Also highly recommended is the book Light on Pranayama by B.K.S. Iyengar, which is authoritative on the subject. Many of these practices are advanced physical techniques beyond the scope of this book and are best learned under the guidance of a competent teacher.
Pratyahara is defined as the withdrawl of the senses from the sense objects, resulting in the intensification of the concentration of the self upon itself. It is meditation proper, though it designates more the general form than the actual method. Crowley says, "It means for our present purpose a process rather strategical than practical; it is introspection, a sort of general examination of the contents of the mind which we wish to control: Asana having been mastered, all immediate exciting causes have been removed, and we are free to think what we are thinking about."
Therefore, after selecting and getting comfortable with an Asana the next basic practice should be to just sit for about fifteen minutes to a half hour at a time and try to empty the mind while performing the 4 fold breath. Don't be immediately obsessive about it, but just note any thoughts that come up and set them aside. At first this will either be very difficult or simply unsuccessful. Eventually, if one is persistent, the mind will suddenly, seemingly of its own accord and at first for only a few seconds, stop and become fixed. Very interesting things will begin to happen at this point. These should be carefully recorded in the magical diary. This is an experience of a deepening of concentration, which is best concretely developed by the practice of Dharana.
If Pratyahara designates a general concept of concentration of the mind, Dharana is the specific method whereby this concentration is exercised and developed. This technique is a source of great magical power, as the ability of the magician to concentrate upon the object of their Magick is a key to its success. Ultimately, the focus of concentration will be upon the Holy Guardian Angel, and is one of the major methods taught by the A∴A∴ on the achievement of its Knowledge and Conversation.
Crowley's basic instructions on Dharana are in section V of Liber E.
"1. Constrain the mind to concentrate itself upon a single simple object imagined.
The five tatwas are useful for this purpose; they are: a black oval; a blue disk; a silver crescent; a yellow square; a red triangle.
"2. Proceed to combinations of simple objects: e.g., a black oval within a yellow square, and so on.
"3. Proceed to simple moving objects, such as a pendulum swinging, a wheel revolving, &c. Avoid living objects.
"4. Proceed to combinations of moving objects, e.g., a piston rising and falling while a pendulum is swinging. The relation between the two movements should be varied in different experiments.
"Or even a system of fly-wheels, eccentrics, and governor.
"5. During these practices the mind must be absolutely confined to the object determined upon; no other thought must be allowed to intrude upon the consciousness. The moving systems must be regular and harmonious.
"6. Note carefully the duration of the experiments, the number and nature of the intruding thoughts, the tendency of the object itself to depart from the course laid out for it, and any other phenomenon which may present themselves. Avoid overstrain. This is very important.
"7. Proceed to imagine living objects; as a man, preferably some man known to, and respected by, yourself.
"8. In the intervals of these experiments you may try to imagine the objects of the other senses, and to concentrate upon them.
"For example, try to imagine the taste of chocolate, the smell of roses, the feeling of velvet, the sound of a waterfall, or the ticking of a watch.
"9. Endeavour finally to shut out all objects of any of the senses, and prevent all thoughts arising in your mind. When you feel that you have attained some success in these practices, apply for examination, and should you pass, more complex and difficult practices will be prescribed for you."
Success in Dharana is the basis for the arising of Dhyana. The word Dhyana itself simply means 'meditation', because this is the point where real meditation, or the uncovering of the Self, begins. Dhyana is a breakthrough experience resulting from successful practice of Dharana. So far the mind has been working to fix its thought in concentration. That having occurred, something else is now free to emerge. This something else transcends everyday experience, so language, which is built up out of everyday experience, is inadequate to describe it. Up until this point, Raja Yoga may have been pursued for health or other mundane purposes but Dhyana is the beginning of a real Gnosis of something more.
Samadhi is the goal of Raja Yoga, and is defined differently in different traditional Hindu systems. For the purposes of this discussion, which is based upon Crowley's understanding and experience of the concept, Samadhi can be understood basically as an intensification of Dhyana. The 'something more' that first begins to be experienced in Dhyana is brought to its full disclosure in Samadhi. The exact distinction between Samadhi and Dhyana is vague beyond this and varies from system to system.
Traditional descriptions of Samadhi describe a dissolution of the subject/object distinction between the meditator and the object of Dharana. Vivekananda has some interesting things to say about this in his classic book Raja-Yoga:
"When the mind has been trained to remain fixed on a certain internal or external location, there comes to it the power of fowing in an unbroken current, as it were, towards that point. This state is called Dhyana. When one has so intensified the power of Dhyana as to be able to reject the external part of perception and remain meditating only on the internal part, the meaning, that state is called Samadhi. The three — Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi — together are called Samyama. That is, if the mind can first concentrate upon an object, and then is able to continue in that concentration for a length of time, and then, by continued concentration, to dwell only on the internal part of the perception of which the object was the effect, everything comes under the control of such a mind."
This is a description of an essentially Platonic, or noetic experience. Part of the 'something else' that is uncovered in Samadhi is the Briatic reality underlying the multiplicity of the particular. Briah, being of the Supernal reality, is essentially unity, and so is Samadhi.
Samadhi is often characterized as union with God. The phenomenon seems broader than this, however. Patanjali and other authorities describe different types of Samadhi depending on the different kinds of objects meditated upon. Samadhi upon a god would, however, involve union with that god. One interpretation of Crowley's Abramelin diary is that he is attempting to do exactly that with the highest possible god, the Holy Guardian Angel. Raja Yoga, therefore, in the Thelemic system, is a method for achieving the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.
To summarize: while stopping thought is not, in and of itself, the real goal of Raja Yoga, it is something that this kind of yoga does use to achieve its real goal. One way to look at the sequence of Ashtanga Yoga is to see it as a progressive peeling back of sheaths or layers of the self to reach that which is at the center. If the self abstracts away and disengages itself from all of its experiences, all that will be left is experience of that self in itself. If you take away everything, what's left? This is therefore an inwardly directed process of withdrawal and analysis. In the Thelemic system this introvertive practice of mysticism is combined with a balancing regimen of magical practice which is extrovertive and engaged with the exploration of the outer magical universe. The goal of this is to avoid the emasculating dualism congenital to certain purely mystical systems where there is a belief that this world is a fallen illusory distraction from some other perfect reality. The divine is both within and without and a superior, more integral practice should engage with both of these realities, as well as grapple with their eventual identification.
One possible pitfall of Thelemic practice can conversely be the overemphasis of magic over mysticism. Concretely, this can manifest as an exclusive pursuit of particularly aggressive and results oriented forms of ceremonial, such as Goetia, without a balancing practice of introspection and self-awareness. The result is often the exacerbation of ego-problems, usually projected onto others, and an abrogation of the kind of self-responsibility that is so essential to the Thelemic way of life. There are many ways to be mindful of and avoid this type of pitfall. One way is to have a meditation practice.
The stages of Ashtanga yoga can be roughly ascribed to the middle pillar of the Tree of Life. If this is done it also reveals the map of their relationship to the A∴A∴ sequence of work. Yama and Niyama are concerned with the exterior circumstances of the initiate, the Sephira Malkuth, and the work of the Probationer and Neophyte. Asana and Pranayama achieve control of the physical body and begin work with the more subtle Prana. These practices are therefore associated with Yesod and the Zelator grade. The beginning of success in Dhyana through the practice of Pratyahara and Dharana allows passage through the veil of Paroketh before Tiphareth. This work is the concern of the Practicus, Philosophus and Dominus Liminus. Preliminary experience of Samadhi gives full access to Tiphareth and corresponds to the grade of Adeptus Minor.
There are other methods of attainment than that of Raja Yoga. Three other major types of practice in the Thelemic tradition are Shamanic work with the active imagination associated with Yesod, Jnana Yoga related to Hod, and Bhakti Yoga corresponding to Netzach.
The assumption of God-forms is one such technique of Yesod related mysticism. Crowley describes this in Liber O as follows:
"The student, seated in the 'God' position or in the characteristic attitude of the God desired, should then imagine His image as coinciding with his own body, or as enveloping it. This must be practiced until mastery of the image is attained, and an identity with it and with the God experienced."
Visualization of oneself as a deity is a method of invocation, whereby one attempts to take on the mind, attributes and powers of that God. Use of this technique primarily with gods is therefore of value, as they are archetypal beings, easily invoked and providing the greatest store of Gnosis.
One model for understanding the process of this technique is the Egyptian. The Egyptians often worked with images of gods, and described the process of the indwelling of the presence of the god within their image as the descent of the Ka, or soul, of that deity. A similar process is at work with visualization, which is a type of image making. The Briatic archetypal essence of the god should descend and indwell the Yetziratic visualization. A very important aspect of this practice is that the magician visualizes themselves as the deity. The ultimate goal of Thelemic work with deity is not to worship it as an exterior entity, but to discover one's identity with the archetypes involved. Another use is in certain initiatory traditions, particularly that of the Golden Dawn, which call for officers in initiation rituals to assume various god- forms so as to manifest that magical energy upon the candidate.
Another meditative method is Astral projection. Much has been written about this heavily romanticized technique, but it is actually very easy and simple in its basic practice. Crowley's instructions are as follows:
"1. Let the student be at rest in one of his prescribed positions, having bathed and robed with the proper decorum. Let the Place of Working be free from all disturbance, and let the preliminary purifications, banishings and invocations be duly accomplished, and, lastly, let the incense be kindled.
"2. Let him imagine his own figure (preferably robed in the proper magical garments and armed with the proper magical weapons) as enveloping his physical body, or standing near to and in front of him.
"3. Let him then transfer the seat of his consciousness to that imagined figure; so that it may seem to him that he is seeing with its eyes, and hearing with its ears. This will usually be the great difficulty of the operation.
"4. Let him then cause that imagined figure to rise in the air to a great height above the earth.
"5. Let him then stop and look about him. (It is sometimes difficult to open the eyes.)
"6. Probably he will see figures approaching him, or become conscious of a landscape.
"Let him speak to such figures, and insist upon being answered, using the proper Pentagrams and signs, as previously taught.
"7. Let him travel about at will, either with or without guidance from such figure or figures.
"8. Let him further employ such special invocations as will cause to appear the particular places he may wish to visit.
"9. Let him beware of the thousand subtle attacks and deceptions that he will experience, carefully testing the truth of all with whom he speaks.
"Thus a hostile being may appear clothed with glory; the appropriate Pentagram will in such a case cause him to shrivel and decay.
"10. Practice will make the student infinitely wary in these matters.
"11. It is usually quite easy to return to the body, but should any difficulty arise, practice (again) will make the imagination fertile. For example, one may create in thought a chariot of fire with white horses, and command the charioteer to drive earthwards.
"It might be dangerous to go too far, or stay too long; for fatigue must be avoided.
"The danger spoken of is that of fainting, or of obsession, or of loss of memory or other mental faculty.
"12. Finally, let the student cause his imagined body in which he supposes himself to have been traveling to coincide with the physical, tightening his muscles, drawing in his breath, and putting his forefinger to his lips. Then let him 'awake' by a well-defined act of will, and soberly and accurately record his experiences.
"It may be added that this apparently complicated experiment is perfectly easy to perform. It is best to learn by 'traveling' with a person already experienced in the matter. Two or three experiments will suffice to render the student confident and even expert."
Quite simply, this is an exercise in what Jung called active imagination. At first, the connection between the Imaginal body or 'Body of Light' and the physical body will be strong. As practice deepens, the Body of Light will become more and more real and autonomous. Probably the biggest stumbling block for those beginning this type of exercise is to think that they're not doing it because of how easy it really is; that something as natural as consciously directed daydreaming could be the vaunted 'astral projection'. There is also the converse problem of giving too much credence to one's visionary experiences. A dream shouldn't be taken literally, and neither should visions, but both are meaningful and can inform one with regard to the True Will, provided the key to their interpretation is known. One of the goals of astral projection is to so build up the awareness and consciousness of the subtle Yetziratic sheaths of the self such that breakthrough occurs to the next deeper, Briatic, level of the self, which then infuses consciousness with divine Gnosis.
One powerful method for achieving this breakthrough is called Rising in the Planes and is described by Crowley as follows:
"1. The previous experiment [of astral projection] has little value, and leads to few results of importance, but is susceptible of a development which merges into a form of Dharana — concentration — and as such may lead to the very highest ends. The principle use of the practice in the last chapter is to familiarize the student with every kind of obstacle and every kind of delusion, so that he may be perfect master of every idea that may arise in his brain, to dismiss it, to transmute it, to cause it instantly to obey his will.
"2. Let him then begin exactly as before; but with the most intense solemnity and determination.
"3. Let him be very careful to cause his imaginary body to rise in a line exactly perpendicular to the earth's tangent at the point where his physical body is situated (or, to put it more simply, straight upwards).
"4. Instead of stopping, let him continue to rise until fatigue almost overcomes him. If he should find that he has stopped without willing to do so, and that figures appear, let him at all costs rise above them.
"Yea, though his very life tremble on his lips, let him force his way upward and onward!
"5. Let him continue in this so long as the breath of life is in him. Whatever threatens, whatever allures, though it were Typhon and all his hosts loosed from the pit and leagued against him, though it were from the very Throne of God Himself that a Voice issues bidding him stay and be content, let him struggle on, ever on.
"6. At last there must come a moment when his whole being is swallowed up in fatigue, overwhelmed by its own inertia. (This in case of failure. The results of success are so many and wonderful that no effort is here made to describe them.) Let him sink (when no longer can he strive, though his tongue be bitten through with the effort and the blood gush from his nostrils) into the blackness of unconsciousness; and then on coming to himself, let him write down soberly and accurately a record of all that hath occurred: yea, a record of all that hath occurred."
The Latin title of this practice is 'Sagitta trans Lunam', which means 'Arrow through the Moon'. This refers to the arrow of aspiration and concentration of the magician penetrating through the Imaginal realm of Yesod, upwards along the path of Samekh to Gnosis of the True Will in Tiphareth. The path of Samekh corresponds to Sagittarius, the archer.
It is also possible to have visionary experiences without separating the Body of Light from the physical body. This is called skrying and often involves the use of an image void media to direct attention toward, such as a crystal ball, black mirror etc. Some people posses a talent to see images in these visionary media. Even if this doesn't come easily at first it is still possible to skry. Just find the part of the brain where the vision is going on and pay attention to it. Don't worry if this seems forced and artificial at first. Just go with it and write down what you get in the record and see how your skill develops over time.
The meditative tradition corresponding to Hod is Jnana Yoga, or the yoga of knowledge. 'Jnana' in Sanskrit designates both intellectual, rational knowledge as well as intuitive wisdom and insight. The goal of this kind of yoga can be seen as the equilibration of these two related modes of knowing in a manner that allows for experience and understanding of the divine through them. In the West, this method is identical with the Classical understanding of Philosophy, particularly in the Platonic tradition. The very word Philosophy originally comes from the Greek 'Philo-Sophy', or 'love of wisdom'. Therefore, in Liber 13, Crowley defines Jnana Yoga for A∴A∴ purposes as 'Philosophical Meditation'. The Philosophical Meditation of the Thelemic Tradition is synonymous with Kabbalah, which is a system of organizing and relating all knowledge as an interaction of divine categories. The word Kabbalah means 'to receive', and this describes the correct attitude towards the practice of the various modes of Kabbalistic analysis. They should not be a merely mechanical, intellectual exercise, but rather an integration of the rational and intuitive, receptive faculties.
One powerful method of Jnana Yoga, which can be of beneft to both beginners as well as the most advanced Kabbalistic practicioners is meditation on the Tarot trumps. For beginners this can be an excellent way to become familiar with the basics of the otherwise daunting Kabbalistic system, and serves as a bridge to more advanced practices. One of the most articulate advocates of this method is Paul Foster Case. It forms the foundation of much of his technique. While Crowley's Thoth Tarot deck will be the most fruitful deck for meditation from a Thelemic perspective, Case's B.O.T.A. deck is a highly recommended supplement. Based very closely on the Rider Waite deck, they are sold black and white and are intended to be hand-colored with the provided directions. This is a great exercise, which I enthusiastically endorse.
The basic meditation practice is very simple. Spend one day on each card, rotating through the trumps in order, from the Fool to the Universe. Place the card in front of oneself and relax with a few minutes of the four-fold breath. Then contemplate the trump and the meaning of its symbolism. Think about the card, but remain receptive, with the intention that some insight or discovery will reveal itself to you. Keep the magical record at hand and record these reflections either during or after the meditation.
Case recommends that five minutes each day should be spent on this exercise. I have found that at least 15 minutes on a semi-regular basis can also work well. The point, as always, is to actually do the exercise. As one's practice deepens contemplate the connection of the card's symbolism with its associated correspondences. Attempt to increasingly deepen one's internal understanding of the spiritual bases for these ways of connecting ideas.
The writings of William Heidrick, particularly his magical autobiography The Road to the Sun, available in an online version, are highly recommended for good material relating to this style of practice.
The meditational methods appropriate to Netzach are those of Bhakti Yoga. Bhakti Yoga is broadly defined as union to the divine through the method of the love of that divine reality. Vivekananda, in his classic work Bhakti Yoga, distinguishes two stages of practice. The first is Gauni-Bhakti, or preparatory Bhakti. This is a practice involving aids such as images, prayer, rituals, myths and so forth. The second, more advanced type of Bhakti Yoga is Para-Bhakti, or supreme Bhakti. This is a kind of formless, direct engagement with God without need of the mediating tools of Gauni-Bhakti. In the A∴A∴ system these correspond to the work of the Philosophus and the Exempt Adept respectively.
Bhakti Yoga involves in many ways the easiest method of any of the four traditional types of yoga. It is among the most widely practiced forms of spirituality. Christianity, for example, is almost entirely Bhakti in its generally practiced form. However, despite, or perhaps because of, this ease it is also one of the most easily perverted modes of spirituality. 'Nishtha', or singleness of attachment to the loved object is essential in this practice, but this can lead directly to the worst kinds of ignorant fanaticism for those who are unable or unwilling to see that there are other possible objects of devotion beyond their own particular practice's forms. This danger is most acute in Gauni-Bhakti, but fades through the attainment of the more universal Para-Bhakti. To avoid this problem, an open and liberal attitude is necessary, but this should not be at the expense of intensity of focus towards one's particular chosen ideal, whatever this might be at the moment. A general balanced moderation in practice is always a good idea, with emphasis on the internal, not the external forms of Bhakti practice.
Both Jnana and Bhakti yoga arrive at the same 'Knowledge', though their method of achieving that knowledge is different. The ultimate goal of Bhakti Yoga in its Para-Bhakti phase is the constant remembering of that which is the object of meditation. In this case it is God, or as we would say in Thelema, the Holy Guardian Angel.
Gauni-Bhakti needs concrete aids — mythological, symbolic and ritual. These are essential and important in their place. All of the rituals in this book can be used in this manner. Additionally, in the A∴A∴ system Crowley's primary practical instruction in Gauni-Bhakti is Liber Astarte.
Indian Bhakti Yoga also has the important concept of what is called a 'Pratika'. A Pratika is a satisfactory stand in or substitute for the absolute. A Pratika is something like the absolute, but it is not itself the absolute. Through worship of a Pratika, however, one can be led through it to the absolute. Sankara says that the best four Pratikas are the mind, which is an internal Pratika, the Akasha, which is an external Pratika, the Sun and the divine Name. The first three of these correspond very closely to Hadit, Nuit and Ra-Hoor-Khuit in the Thelemic system. Also, worship of any particular concrete cultural deity as the absolute is to use that God-form as a Pratika. The problem area of this practice is where the limited aspects of the Pratika itself are taken as the absolute. If, however, the worshipper is clear to themselves that the Pratika is a substitute or suggestion of the real object of worship than this practice can lead to good result.
What we have discussed in this chapter has barely scratched the surface of the rich mystical practices of the Thelemic tradition. The various A∴A∴ instructional libri contain many more techniques, and I refer the reader to them for additional material.
Case, Paul Foster, The Life Power, unpublished, available online, 1922, pg. 9.
Author's own translation. See also Iyengar, B.K.S., Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Thorsons, London, 1996, pp. 48-49.
Crowley, Aleister, The Law is for All, pp. 32-33.
This interpretation follows Eshelman, James, The Mystical and Magical System of the A∴A∴ , pp. 142-144.
Authors own translation. For a different interpretation of the same verse see Iyengar, B.K.S., Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, pp. 149-150.
For additional discussion see Iyengar, B.K.S., Light on Yoga, Schocken Books, New York, New York, 1996, pp. 116-120.
Ibid, pp. 129-132.
Ibid, pp. 120-123.
Ibid, pp. 422-424.
Ibid, pp. 61-62.
Author's notes from a workshop on the Gnostic Mass, Portland, Oregon, 1998 e.v. Unpublished.
Crowley, Aleister, Magick: Book 4, pg. 609.
Crowley, Aleister, Magick: Book 4, pp. 638-642.
Iyengar, B.K.S., Light on Pranayama, Crossroad Publishing Company, New York, New York, 1998.
Crowley, Aleister, Magick: Book 4, pg. 24.
Ibid, pp. 609-610.
Vivekananda, Swami, Raja-Yoga, Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta, India, 1982, pg. 92.
Crowley, Aleister, Magick: Book 4, pg. 615.
Ibid, pp. 624-625.
Ibid, pp. 625-626.
Crowley, Aleister, Gems from the Equinox, pg. 48.
See in particular Case, Paul Foster, The Tarot, Builders of the Adytum, Los Angeles, California, 1947.
Ibid, pg. 201.
Heidrick, William, The Road to the Sun, Unpublished, Available online, 1973.
Vivekananda, Swami, Bhakti Yoga, Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta, India, 1998.
Ibid, pg. 47.