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Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
A man can't be too careful in the choice of his enemies.
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| Six Principles of Magic
|1. Every magician has a beautiful vision for the world.
2. Every system of magic is a single artists tool, used to reshape reality.
3. If you believe, it shall exist.
4. When you call, they will answer.
5. Success and failure, is one and the same: ignorance and depression is the enemy.
6. Be like all equally, and you shall unite; refuse and separate.
| Mythology of THOTH
|Eight Lectures on Yoga Parts 1 and 2
By Aleister Crowley
THE EQUINOX VOLUME III, NUMBER FOUR EIGHT LECTURES ON YOGA
MAHATMA GURU SRI PARAMAHANSA SHIVAJI
BY ALEISTER CROWLEY
Aleister Crowley has achieved the reputation of being a master of the English language. This book which is as fresh and vibrant today as when it was penned over thirty years ago demonstrates this fact. It shows how impossible it is to categorize him as a particu- lar kind of stylist. At turns he can be satirical, poetical, sarcas- tic, rhetorical, philosophical or mystical, gliding so easily from one to the other that the average reader is hard put to determine whether or not to take him at face value. His description of mystical states of consciousness clarifies what tomes of more erudite writing fails to elucidate. It is in effect a continuation of Part I of Book 4 brought to maturity. Nearly three decades had elapsed between the writing of these two books, in which time his own inner development had soared ineffably. A great deal of what he has to say may seem prosaic at first sight, but do not be fooled by this. Other of his comments are profound beyond belief, requiring careful and long meditation if full value is to be derived from them. This is not a book to be read while standing or running. It is a high water mark of Crowley's literary career, incorporating all that we should expect from one who had experimented with and mastered most technical forms of spiritual growth. There is humor here, a great deal of sagacity, and much practical advice. This book cannot be dispensed with for the student for whom Yoga is 'the way.'
Israel Regardie March 21, 1969 Studio City, Calif.
YOGA FOR YAHOOS
First Lecture. First Principles. . . . . . Part 1
Second Lecture. Yama . . . . . . . . . . . .Part 2
Third Lecture. Niyama. . . . . . . . . . . . Part 3
Fourth Lecture. Asana and Pranayama. . . . . Part 4
YOGA FOR YELLOWBELLIES
First Lecture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Part 5
Second Lecture. . . . . . . . . . . . . Part 6
Third Lecture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. Part 7
Fourth Lecture. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. Part 8
YOGA FOR YAHOOS.
FIRST LECTURE. FIRST PRINCIPLES.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
It is my will to explain the subject of Yoga in clear language, without resort to jargon or the enunciation of fantastic hypotheses, in order that this great science may be thoroughly understood as of universal importance.
For, like all great things, it is simple; but, like all great things, it is masked by confused thinking; and, only too often, brought into contempt by the machinations of knavery. (1) There is more nonsense talked and written about Yoga than about anything else in the world. Most of this nonsense, which is fostered by charlatans, is based upon the idea that there is some- thing mysterious and Oriental about it. There isn't. Do not look to me for obelisks and odalisques, Rahat Loucoum, bul-buls, or any other tinsel imagery of the Yoga-mongers. I am neat but not gaudy. There is nothing mysterious or Oriental about anything, as everybody knows who has spent a little time intelligently in the continents of Asia and Africa. I propose to invoke the most remote and elusive of all Gods to throw clear light upon the subject -- the light of common sense.
(2) All phenomena of which we are aware take place in our own minds, and therefore the only thing we have to look at is the mind; which is a more constant quantity over all the species of humanity than is generally supposed. What appear to be radical differences, irreconcilable by argument, are usually found to be due to the obstinacy of habit produced by generations of systematic sectarian training.
(3) We must then begin the study of Yoga by looking at the meaning of the word. It means Union, from the same Sanskrit root as the Greek word Zeugma, the Latin word Jugum, and the English word yoke. (Yeug -- to join.)
When a dancing girl is dedicated to the service of a temple there is a Yoga of her relations to celebrate. Yoga, in short, may be translated 'tea fight,' which doubtless accounts for the fact that all the students of Yoga in England do nothing but gossip over endless libations of Lyons' 1s. 2d.
(4) Yoga means Union.
In what sense are we to consider this? How is the word Yoga to imply a system of religious training or a description of religious experience?
You may note incidentally that the word Religion is really identifiable with Yoga. It means a binding together. (5) Yoga means Union.
What are the elements which are united or to be united when this word is used in its common sense of a practice widely spread in Hindustan whose object is the emancipation of the individual who studies and practises it from the less pleasing features of his life on this planet?
I say Hindustan, but I really mean anywhere on the earth; for research has shown that similar methods producing similar results are to be found in every country. The details vary, but the general structure is the same. Because all bodies, and so all minds, have identical Forms.
(6) Yoga means Union.
In the mind of a pious person, the inferiority complex which accounts for his piety compels him to interpret this emancipation as union with the gaseous vertebrate whom he has invented and called God. On the cloudy vapour of his fears his imagination has thrown a vast distorted shadow of himself, and he is duly terrified; and the more he cringes before it, the more the spectre seems to stoop to crush him. People with these ideas will never get to anywhere but Lunatic Asylums and Churches.
It is because of this overwhelming miasma of fear that the whole subject of Yoga has become obscure. A perfectly simple problem has been complicated by the most abject ethical and superstitious non- sense. Yet all the time the truth is patent in the word itself.
(7) Yoga means Union.
We may now consider what Yoga really is. Let us go for a moment into the nature of consciousness with the tail of an eye on such sciences as mathematics, biology, and chemistry. In mathematics the expression 'a' plus 'b' plus 'c' is a trivi- ality. Write 'a' plus 'b' plus 'c' equals 0, and you obtain an equation from which the most glorious truths may be developed. In biology the cell divides endlessly, but never becomes any- thing different; but if we unite cells of opposite qualities, male and female, we lay the foundations of a structure whose summit is unattainably fixed in the heavens of imagination. Similar facts occur in chemistry. The atom by itself has few constant qualities, none of them particulary significant; but as soon as an element combines with the object of its hunger we get not only the ecstatic production of light, heat, and so forth, but a more complex structure having few or none of the qualities of its ele- ments, but capable of further combination into complexities of astonishing sublimity. All these combinations, these unions, are Yoga.
(8) Yoga means Union.
How are we to apply this word to the phenomena of mind? What is the first characteristic of everything in thought? How did it come to be a thought at all? Only by making a distinction between it and the rest of the world. The first proposition, the type of all propositions, is: S is P. There must be two things -- different things -- whose relation forms knowledge.
Yoga is first of all the union of the subject and the object of consciousness: of the seer with the thing seen. (9) Now, there is nothing strange of wonderful about all this. The study of the principles of Yoga is very useful to the average man, if only to make him think about the nature of the world as he supposes that he knows it.
Let us consider a piece of cheese. We say that this has certain qualities, shape, structure, colour, solidity, weight, taste, smell, consistency and the rest; but investigation has shown that this is all illusory. Where are these qualities? Not in the cheese, for different observers give quite different accounts of it. Not in ourselves, for we do not perceive them in the absence of the cheese. All 'material things,' all impressions, are phantoms. In reality the cheese is nothing but a series of electric charges. Even the most fundamental quality of all, mass, has been found not to exist. The same is true of the matter in our brains which is partly responsible for these perceptions. What then are these qualities of which we are all so sure? They would not exist without our brains; they would not exist without the cheese. They are the results of the union, that is of the Yoga, of the seer and the seen, of subject and object in consciousness as the philosophical phrase goes. They have no material existence; they are only names given to the ecstatic results of this particular form of Yoga. (10) I think that nothing can be more helpful to the student of Yoga than to get the above proposition firmly established in his subconscious mind. About nine-tenths of the trouble in understanding the subject is all this ballyhoo about Yoga being mysterious and Oriental. The principles of Yoga, and the spiritual results of Yoga, are demonstrated in every conscious and unconscious happening. This is that which is written in 'The Book of the Law' -- Love is the law, love under will -- for Love is the instinct to unite, and the act of uniting. But this cannot be done indiscriminately, it must be done 'under will,' that is, in accordance with the nature of the particu- lar units concerned. Hydrogen has no love for Hydrogen; it is not the nature, or the 'true Will' of Hydrogen to seek to unite with a molecule of its own kind. Add Hydrogen to Hydrogen: nothing happens to its quality: it is only its quantity that changes. It rather seeks to enlarge its experience of its possibilities by union with atoms of opposite character, such as Oxygen; with this it combines (with an explosion of light, heat, and sound) to form water. The result is entirely different from either of the component elements, and has another kind of 'true Will,' such as to unite (with similar disengagement of light and heat) with Potassium, while the resulting 'caustic Potash' has in its turn a totally new series of qualities, with still another 'true Will' of its own; that is, to unite explosively with acids. And so on.
(11) It may seem to some of you that these explanations have rather knocked the bottom out of Yoga; that I have reduced it to the category of common things. That was my object. There is no sense in being frightened of Yoga, awed by Yoga, muddled and mystified by Yoga, or enthusiastic over Yoga. If we are to make any progress in its study, we need clear heads and the impersonal scientific atti- tude. It is especially important not to bedevil ourselves with Oriental jargon. We may have to use a few Sanskrit words; but that is only because they have no English equivalents; and any attempt to translate them burdens us with the connotations of the existing English words which we employ. However, these words are very few; and, if the definitions which I propose to give you are carefully studied, they should present no difficulty.
(12) Having now understood that Yoga is the essence of all phenomena whatsoever, we may ask what is the special meaning of the word in respect of our proposed investigation, since the process and the results are familiar to every one of us; so familiar indeed that there is actually nothing else at all of which we have any knowledge. It *is* knowledge.
What is it we are going to study, and why should we study it? (13) The answer is very simple. All this Yoga that we know and practice, this Yoga that produced these ecstatic results that we call phenomena, includes among its spiritual emanations a good deal of unpleasantness. The more we study this universe produced by our Yoga, the more we collect and synthesize our experience, the nearer we get to a perception of what the Buddha declared to be characteristic of all component things: Sorrow, Change, and Absence of any permanent principle. We constant- ly approach his enunciation of the first two 'Noble Truths,' as he called them. 'Everything is Sorrow'; and 'The cause of Sorrow is Desire.' By the word 'Desire' he meant exactly what is meant by 'Love' in 'The Book of the Law' which I quoted a few moments ago. 'Desire' is the need of every unit to extend its experience by combining with its opposite.
(14) It is easy enough to construct the whole series of argu- ments which lead up to the first 'Noble Truth.' Every operation of Love is the satisfaction of a bitter hunger, but the appetite only grows fiercer by satisfaction; so that we can say with the Preacher: 'He that increaseth knowledge increaseth Sorrow.' The root of all this sorrow is in the sense of insufficien- cy; the need to unite, to lose oneself in the beloved object, is the manifest proof of this fact, and it is clear also that the satisfac- tion produces only a temporary relief, because the process expands indefinitely. The thirst increases with drinking. The only complete satisfaction conceivable would be the Yoga of the atom with the entire universe. This fact is easily perceived, and has been con- stantly expressed in the mystical philosophies of the West; the only goal is 'Union with God.' Of course, we only use the word 'God' because we have been brought up in superstition, and the higher philosophers both in the East and in the West have preferred to speak of union with the All or with the Absolute. More superstitions! (15) Very well, then, there is no difficulty at all; since every thought in our being, every cell in our bodies, every electron and proton of our atoms, is nothing but Yoga and the result of Yoga. All we have to do to obtain emancipation, satisfaction, everything we want is to perform this universal and inevitable operation upon the Absolute itself. Some of the more sophisticated members of my audience may possibly be thinking that there is a catch in it somewhere. They are perfectly right.
(16) The snag is simply this. Every element of which we are composed is indeed constantly occupied in the satisfaction of its particular needs by its own particular Yoga; but for that very reason it is completely obsessed by its own function, which it must natural- ly consider as the Be-All and End-All of its existence. For in- stance, if you take a glass tube open at both ends and put it over a bee on the windowpane it will continue beating against the window to the point of exhaustion and death, instead of escaping through the tube. We must not confuse the necessary automatic functioning of any of our elements with the true Will which is the proper orbit of any star. A human being only acts as a unit at all because of countless generations of training. Evolutionary processes have set up a higher order of Yogic action by which we have managed to subordinate what we consider particular interests to what we consider the general wel- fare. We are communities; and our well-being depends upon the wisdom of our Councils, and the discipline with which their decisions are enforced. The more complicated we are, the higher we are in the scale of evolution, the more complex and difficult is the task of legislation and of maintaining order.
(17) In highly civilised communities like our own (*loud laughter*), the individual is constantly being attacked by conflict- ing interests and necessities; his individuality is constantly being assailed by the impact of other people; and in a very large number of cases he is unable to stand up to the strain. 'Schizophrenia,' which is a lovely word, and may or may not be found in your dictionary, is an exceedingly common complaint. It means the splitting up of the mind. In extreme cases we get the phenomena of multiple personality, Jekyll and Hyde, only more so. At the best, when a man says 'I' he refers only to a transitory phenomenon. His 'I' changes as he utters the word. But -- philosophy apart -- it is rarer and rarer to find a man with a mind of his own and a will of his own, even in this modified sense.
(18) I want you therefore to see the nature of the obstacles to union with the Absolute. For one thing, the Yoga which we constantly practice has not invariable results; there is a question of atten- tion, of investigation, of reflexion. I propose to deal in a future instruction with the modifications of our perception thus caused, for they are of great importance to our science of Yoga. For example, the classical case of the two men lost in a thick wood at night. One says to the other: 'That dog barking is not a grasshopper; it is the creaking of a cart.' Or again, 'He thought he saw a banker's clerk descending from a bus. He looked again, and saw it was a hippopotamus.'
Everyone who has done any scientific investigation knows pain- fully how every observation must be corrected again and again. The need of Yoga is so bitter that it blinds us. We are constantly tempted to see and hear what we want to see and hear. (19) It is therefore incumbent upon us, if we wish to make the universal and final Yoga with the Absolute, to master every element of our being, to protect it against all civil and external war, to intensify every faculty to the utmost, to train outselves in know- ledge and power to the utmost; so that at the proper moment we may be in perfect condition to fling ourselves up into the furnace of ecstasy which flames from the abyss of annihilation. Love is the law, love under will.
SECOND LECTURE. YAMA.
Stars and placental amniotes! And ye inhabitants of the ten thousand worlds! The conclusion of our researches last week was that the ultimate Yoga which gives emancipation, which destroys the sense of separate- ness which is the root of Desire, is to be made by the concentration of every element of one's being, and annihilating it by intimate combustion with the universe itself.
I might here note, in parenthesis, that one of the difficulties of doing this is that all the elements of the Yogi increase in every way exactly as he progresses, and by reason of that progress. However, it is no use crossing our bridges until we come to them, and we shall find that by laying down serious scientific principles based on universal experience they will serve us faithfully through every stage of the journey.
2. When I first undertook the investigation of Yoga, I was fortunately equipped with a very sound training in the fundamental principles of modern science. I saw immediately that if we were to put any common sense into the business (science is nothing but instructed common sense), the first thing to do was to make a com- parative study of the different systems of mysticism. It was immedi- ately apparent that the results all over the world were identical. They were masked by sectarian theories. The methods all over the world were identical; this was masked by religious prejudice and local custom. But in their quiddity -- identical! This simple principle proved quite sufficient to disentangle the subject from the extraordinary complexities which have confused its expression.
3. When it came to the point of preparing a simple analysis of the matter, the question arose: what terms shall we use? The mysticisms of Europe are hopelessly muddled; the theories have entirely overlaid the methods. The Chinese system is perhaps the most sublime and the most simple; but, unless one is born a Chinese, the symbols are of really unclimbable difficulty. The Buddhist system is in some ways the most complete, but it is also the most recondite. The words are excessive in length and difficult to commit to memory; and generally speaking, one cannot see the wood for the trees. But from the Indian system, overloaded though it is by accretions of every kind, it is comparatively easy to extract a method which is free from unnecessary and undesirable implications, and to make an interpretation of it intelligible to, and acceptable by, European minds. It is this system, and this interpretation of it, which I propose to put before you.
4. The great classic of Sanskrit literature is the Aphorisms of Patanjali. He is at least mercifully brief, and not more than ninety or ninety-five percent of what he writes can be dismissed as the ravings of a disordered mind. What remains is twenty-four carat gold. I now proceed to bestow it.
5. It is said that Yoga has eight limbs. Why limbs I do not know. But I have found it convenient to accept this classification, and we can cover the ground very satisfactorily by classing our remarks under these eight headings.
6. These headings are: --
Any attempt to translate these words will mire us in a hopeless quag of misunderstanding. What we can do is to deal with each one in turn, giving at the outset some sort of definition or description which will enable us to get a fairly complete idea of what is meant. I shall accordingly begin with an account of Yama.
Attend! Perpend! Transcent!
7. Yama is the easiest of the eight limbs of Yoga to define, and corresponds pretty closely to our word 'control.' When I tell you that some have translated it 'morality,' you will shrink appalled and aghast at this revelation of the brainless baseness of humanity. The word 'control' is here not very different from the word 'inhibition' as used by biologists. A primary cell, such as the amoeba, is in one sense completely free, in another completely passive. All parts of it are alike. Any part of its surface can ingest its food. If you cut it in half, the only result is that you have two perfect amoebae instead of one. How far is this condition removed in the evolutionary scale from trunk murders!
Organisms developed by specialising their component structures have not achieved this so much by an acquisition of new powers, as by a restriction of part of the general powers. Thus, a Harley Street specialist is simply an ordinary doctor who says: 'I won't go out and attend to a sick person; I won't, I won't, I won't.' Now what is true of cells is true of all already potentially specialised organs. Muscular power is based upon the rigidity of bones, and upon the refusal of joints to allow any movement in any but the appointed directions. The more solid the fulcrum, the more efficient the lever. The same remark applies to moral issues. These issues are in themselves perfectly simple; but they have been com- pletely overlaid by the sinister activities of priests and lawyers. There is no question of right or wrong in any abstract sense about any of these problems. It is absurd to say that it is 'right' for chlorine to combine enthusiastically with hydrogen, and only in a very surly way with oxygen. It is not virtuous of a hydra to be hermaphrodite, or contumacious on the part of an elbow not to move freely in all directions. Anybody who knows what his job is has only one duty, which is to get that job done. Anyone who possesses a function has only one duty to that function, to arrange for its free fulfilment.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. 8. We shall not be surprised therefore if we find that the perfectly simple term Yama (or Control) has been bedevilled out of all sense by the mistaken and malignant ingenuity of the pious Hindu. He has interpreted the word 'control' as meaning compliance with certain fixed proscriptions. There are quite a lot of prohibitions grouped under the heading of Yama, which are perhaps quite necessary for the kind of people contemplated by the Teacher, but they have been senselessly elevated into universal rules. Everyone is familiar with the prohibition of pork as an article of diet by Jews and Mohammedans. This has nothing to do with Yama, or abstract right- eousness. It was due to the fact that pork in eastern countries was infected with the trichina; which killed people who ate pork impro- perly cooked. It was no good telling the savages that fact. Any way, they would only have broken the hygienic command when greed overcame them. The advice had to be made a universal rule, and supported with the authority of a religious sanction. They had not the brains to believe in trichinosis; but they were afraid of Jehovah and Jehannum. Just so, under the grouping of Yama we learn that the aspiring Yogi must become 'fixed in the non-receiving of gifts,' which means that if anyone offers you a cigarette or a drink of water, you must reject his insidious advances in the most Victorian manner. It is such nonsense as this which brings the science of Yoga into contempt. But it isn't nonsense if you consider the class of people for whom the injunction was promulgated; for, as we will be shown later, preliminary to the concentration of the mind is the control of the mind, which means the calm of the mind, and the Hindu mind is so constituted that if you offer a man the most trifling object, the incident is a landmark in his life. It upsets him completely for years.
In the East, an absolutely automatic and thoughtless act of kindness to a native is liable to attach him to you, body and soul, for the rest of his life. In other words, it is going to upset him; and as a budding Yogi he has got to refuse it. But even the refusal is going to upset him quite a lot; and therefore he has got to become 'fixed' in refusal; that is to say, he has got to erect by means of habitual refusal a psychological barrier so strong that he can really dismiss the temptation without a quiver, or a quaver, or even a demisemiquaver of thought. I am sure you will see that an absolute rule is necessary to obtain this result. It is obviously impossible for him to try to draw the line between what he may receive and what he may not; he is merely involved in a Socratic dilemma; whereas if he goes to the other end of the line and accepts everything, his mind is equally upset by the burden of the responsibility of dealing with the things he has accepted. However, all these considerations do not apply to the average European mind. If someone gives me 200,000 pounds sterling, I automatically fail to notice it. It is a normal circumstance of life. Test me!
9. There are a great many other injunctions, all of which have to be examined independently in order to find whether they apply to Yoga in general, and to the particular advantage of any given stu- dent. We are to exclude especially all those considerations based on fantastic theories of the universe, or on the accidents of race or climate. For instance, in the time of the late Maharajah of Kashmir, mahsir fishing was forbidden throughout his territory; because, when a child, he had been leaning over the parapet of a bridge over the Jhilam at Srinagar, and inadvertently opened his mouth, so that a mahsir was able to swallow his soul. It would never have done for a Sahib -- a Mlecha! -- to catch that mahsir. This story is really typical of 90% of the precepts usually enumerated under the heading Yama. The rest are for the most part based on local and climatic conditions, and they may or may not be applicable to your own case. And, on the other hand, there are all sorts of good rules which have never occurred to a teacher of Yoga; because those teachers never conceived the condition in which many people live today. It never occurred to the Buddha or Patanjali or Mansur el-Hallaj to advise his pupils not to practise in a flat with a wireless set next door. The result of all this is that all of you who are worth your salt will be absolutely delighted when I tell you to scrap all the rules and discover your own. Sir Richard Burton said: 'He noblest lives and noblest dies, who makes and keeps his self-made laws.' 10. This is, of course, what every man of science has to do in every experiment. This is what constitutes an experiment. The other kind of man has only bad habits. When you explore a new country, you don't know what the conditions are going to be; and you have to master those conditions by the method of trial and error. We start to penetrate the stratosphere; and we have to modify our machines in all sorts of ways which were not altogether foreseen. I wish to thunder forth once more that no questions of right or wrong enter into our problems. But in the stratosphere it is 'right' for a man to be shut up in a pressure-resisting suit electrically heated, with an oxygen supply, whereas it would be 'wrong' for him to wear it if he were running the three miles in the summer sports in the Tanezrouft.
This is the pit into which all the great religious teachers have hitherto fallen, and I am sure you are all looking hungrily at me in the hope of seeing me do likewise. But no! There is one principle which carries us through all conflicts concerning conduct, because it is perfectly rigid and perfectly elastic: -- 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.' So: it is not the least use to come and pester me about it. Perfect mastery of the violin in six easy lessons by correspondence! Should I have the heart to deny you? But Yama is different. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. *That* is Yama. Your object is to perform Yoga. Your True Will is to attain the consummation of marriage with the universe, and your ethical code must constantly be adapted precisely to the conditions of your experiment. Even when you have discovered what your code is, you will have to modify it as you progress; 'remould it nearer to the heart's desire' -- Omar Khayyam. Just so, in a Himalayan expedition your rule of daily life in the valleys of Sikkim or the Upper Indus will have to be changed when you get to the glacier. But it is possible to indicate (in general terms expressed with the greatest caution) the 'sort' of thing that is likely to be bad for you. Anything that weakens the body, that exhausts, disturbs or inflames the mind is deprecable. You are pretty sure to find as you progress that there are some conditions that cannot be eliminated at all in your particular circumstances; and then you have to find a way of dealing with these so that they make a minimum of trouble. And you will find that you cannot conquer the obstacle of Yama, and dismiss it from your mind once and for all. Conditions favourable for the beginner may become an intolerable nuisance to the adept, while, on the other hand, things which matter very little in the beginning become most serious obstacles later on.
Another point is that quite unsuspected problems arise in the course of the training. The whole question of the sub-conscious mind can be dismissed almost as a joke by the average man as he goes about his daily business; it becomes a very real trouble when you discover that the tranquillity of the mind is being disturbed by a type of thought whose existence had previously been unsuspected, and whose source is unimaginable. Then again there is no perfection of materials; there will always be errors and weaknesses, and the man who wins through is the man who manages to carry on with a defective engine. The actual strain of the work develops the defects; and it is a matter of great nicety of judgment to be able to deal with the changing conditions of life. It will be seen that the formula -- 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law' has nothing to do with 'Do as you please.' It is much more difficult to comply with the Law of Thelema than to follow out slavishly a set of dead regulations. Almost the only point of emancipation, in the sense of relief from a burden, is just the difference between Life and Death.
To obey a set of rules is to shift the whole responsibility of conduct on to some superannuated Bodhisattva, who would resent you bitterly if he could see you, and tick you off in no uncertain terms for being such a fool as to think you could dodge the difficulties of research by the aid of a set of conventions which have little or nothing to do with actual conditions. Formidable indeed are the obstacles we have created by the simple process of destroying our fetters. The analogy of the con- quest of the air holds excellently well. The things that worry the pedestrian worry us not at all; but to control a new element your Yama must be that biological principle of adaptation to the new conditions, adjustment of the faculties to those conditions, and consequent success in those conditions, which were enunciated in respect of planetary evolution by Herbert Spencer and now generalised to cover all modes of being by the Law of Thelema. But now let me begin to unleash my indignation. My job -- the establishment of the Law of Thelema -- is a most discouraging job. It is the rarest thing to find anyone who has any ideas at all on the subject of liberty. Because the Law of Thelema is the law of liber- ty, everybody's particular hair stands on end like the quills of the fretful porpentine; they scream like an uprooted mandrake, and flee in terror from the accursed spot. Because: the exercise of liberty means that you have to think for yourself, and the natural inertia of mankind wants religion and ethics ready-made. However ridiculous or shameful a theory or practice is, they would rather comply than examine it. Sometimes it is hook-swinging or Sati; sometimes consub- stantiation or supra-lapsarianism; they do not mind what they are brought up in, as long as they are well brought up. They do not want to be bothered about it. The Old School Tie wins through. They never suspect the meaning of the pattern on the tie: the Broad Arrow.
You remember Dr. Alexandre Manette in 'A Tale of Two Cities.' He had been imprisoned for many years in the Bastille, and to save himself from going mad had obtained permission to make shoes. When he was released, he disliked it. He had to be approached with the utmost precaution; he fell into an agony of fear if his door was left unlocked; he cobbled away in a frenzy of anxiety lest the shoes should not be finished in time -- the shoes that nobody wanted. Charles Dickens lived at a time and in a country such that this state of mind appeared abnormal and even deplorable, but today it is a characteristic of 95 per cent of the people of England. Subjects that were freely discussed under Queen Victoria are now absolutely taboo; because everyone knows subconsciously that to touch them, however gently, is to risk precipitating the catastrophe of their dry-rot.
There are not going to be many Yogis in England, because there will not be more than a very few indeed who will have the courage to tackle even this first of the eight limbs of Yoga: Yama. I do not think that anything will save the country: unless through war and revolution, when those who wish to survive will have to think and act for themselves according to their desperate needs, and not by some rotten yard-stick of convention. Why, even the skill of the workman has almost decayed within a generation! Forty years ago there were very few jobs that a man could not do with a jack- knife and a woman with a hair-pin; today you have to have a separate gadget for every trivial task. If you want to become Yogis, you will have to get a move on. Lege! Judica! Tace!
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