“You’ve heard of animals chewing off a leg to escape a trap? There’s an animal kind of trick. A human would remain in the trap, endure the pain, feigning death that he might kill the trapper and remove a threat to his kind.”
“Why are you doing this?”
“To determine if you’re human. Be silent.”
“But the pain—” he said.
“Pain,” she sniffed. “A human can override any nerve in the body.”
“We Bene Gesserit sift people to find the humans.”
– Frank Herberts Dune
In case you missed it over at Rufus Opus’s blog, we got deep into it over the nature of the Great Work and what that is. The Golden Dawn spoke about it in terms of being more than human. Others talk about oneness with divinity. Buddhists talk about awakening and all the superhuman stuff that comes with that.
One area that Rufus and I agree on, is that it is not helpful at this stage of the game to think in terms of a final result or an endgame. It can be inspirational I suppose to believe that Christ was enlightened enough to perform the ultimate party trick or that Buddha really did possess the 32 greater and 80 lesser marks of a Bollywood Leading Man, but that was a long time ago. The people that have made claims to be at that level since then, have been less than impressive. Rather than get caught up singing “I want to be Ipsissimus for Christmas“, perhaps we should just focus on just heading in the direction of awesomeness.
For me the work is not so much about becoming a Living God as it is about fully realizing what it is to be human.
Imagine if you will, that you drive home tonight and find that your living room window is broken. You would probably be pretty pissed off right? I would too. Now imagine that you just won 10 Million in the lottery, drove home and found the living room window broken. You probably would not give a crap. Neither would I. The lesson here is that the event is the same, the mind that experiences is different. As humans we have the capacity to experience life with clarity and experience it any way we want to. Like Paul Maudib setting aside his pain so that he can act according to his will, we too can experience the world with clarity. To me, this is not being a God, it is being fully human. It certainly might seem like godhood to most people who have almost zero experience of what it is like to not be caught up in mechanistic living, but it’s not.
When we talk magic, we need to talk about power. My old anthropology professor used to define power as the ability to get people to do things that they do not want to do. At first this seems like a particularly craven idea of power, but if we include ourselves among the people we are trying to influence it fits rather well. After all, most of the time we cannot even get ourselves to act according to our will. What power is there greater than the human being that knows himself fully and can make himself live according to that clarity? There are Gods who cannot do that. In fact, if mythology and religious history is any indication, there are lots of Gods that can’t do that.
Crowley once said “In my third year at Cambridge, I devoted myself consciously to the Great Work, understanding thereby the Work of becoming a Spiritual Being, free from the constraints, accidents, and deceptions of material existence.” This is a pretty good definition. Exploring the different layers of being, removing heuristic self deceptions, gaining control of thoughts and emotions, opening up the material and subtle bodies to release our full measure of bliss and gnosis; these things are steps that we take towards realizing what it is to be human, and than remaining so. It is this last bit about remaining so, that is the bulk of the actual work.
I don’t believe in the universe of The Secret, where we are all the ultimate source of our experience, creating reality with our thoughts. We are living in a chaotic and harsh universe. Magic gives us tools to influence that universe to an extent, but never to control it. We are not the creator gods of our lives. If however we have been lucky enough to have been born into a life where we hear about magic and the spiritual arts, we CAN experience our lives with clarity, with joy, and with freedom as Human Beings.