What the Great Work is.






“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.


About Inominandum

Author. Sorcerer. Consultant. I have 30 plus years of experience making magic a reality for myself, my clients, and my students. For a complete background go to www.strategicsorcery.net
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5 Responses to What the Great Work is.

  1. Lonnie says:

    Jason, it’s these posts that have kept me coming back for a very long time. I agree with you on all points above.

    I will never forget hearing a Physicist explain that it’s possible for all the air in a room to suddenly go to one small corner. It’s highly unlikely in probability, but it is possible. That realization has been a cornerstone to my magical thinking ever since. Magic, to me, is about increasing probabilities in my favor. I will take whatever tools I can get in a Universe that doesn’t seem to care much if I win the lotto or become ground zero for an asteroid impact.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  2. M.G. says:

    Good post. Jason, do you see the Great Work as largely synonymous with the emptying out of conditioning or karma (which I think is called kenosis in Christian mysticism)?

    • Inominandum says:

      No. I see that as part of the great work, not the entirety. In fact, I would hesitate to define the entirety completely based on where I am or based on where the people I have encountered who are several stages ahead of me are.

      Kenosis is followed by a filling – in Christian sense this is of the Holy Spirit. The emptying out of Buddhism opens the way (in Dzogchen anyway, which is the only version I give a crap about) for Rigpa and understanding how reality manifests as the play of awareness through dang, rolpa, and tsal.

      To my mind, The Great Work should never be about disconnecting from material existence or manifest reality, and unfortunately both Christianity and Buddhisms outer layer leads people in that direction. It for this reason that I think Sam is right, that the culture could use a good dose of Paganism. Also that Thelema is right, to seek the divine right in the immanent.

      It doesn’t have to start as that complicated though. Any act that leads you to less delusion and more clarity is an act of the great work. From walking the Planetary Gates, to Martial Arts, to Stoicism, to just sitting still and drinking in light for the length of a song through your head phones. These approaches certainly do not do the same thing, which is actually the reason that they can be useful in conjunction with one another.

      One project that I am still working on, Zero Point Process, is focused on deliberately NOT running to established systems that have been debated and re-interpreted and claim to represent the truth as such. That however is still in the lab, so I don’t want to talk much about it yet.

  3. Paul says:

    The idea of “emptying out” in Christianity is tied to exoteric teachings about giving, love, and charity as well as the “three theological virtues” of faith, hope, and love. In my experience the process of the Great Work is one where you’re given more and more from God (what you’re being given is God’s own nature, i.e. referred to in Christianity as grace) and typically, whenever you learn to give away freely whatever new form that grace is currently manifesting in your life is when you “advance” to the next “level,” so to speak.

    Christianity, i.e. Catholicism, is not divorced from manifest existence at all. What sets it apart from other versions of Christianity is in fact its focus on the body and the Church’s activity in the world. And in the context of what I said above, simply being a “good Christian,” living in actual virtue (faith, hope, love, prudence, justic, fortitude, temperence) will activate all of the growth-oriented or “evolutionary” mechanisms of the Great Work, if that is what will bring “glory” or Shekinah to the Church or Assembly.

  4. Adam Madgett says:

    Well, we are the creator gods of our own lives, but we suffer from partial omnipotence. Not quite everything we wish for is possible. But much is, and it is up to us to find those limits.

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