What is an Aeon? Why must we understand all religion to have a clear understanding of Thelema? Are the old symbols dead, or do they still hold their meaning today? What if the meaning of a symbol is no longer valid, or even antithetical to a new paradigm?
Si Vales, Valeo
Thelemites, or anyone else that stumbles into some post-Christian paradigm tend to want to toss out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. I did too, way back when. This is perfectly valid, because let’s face it, new paradigms are created when the older ones no longer work. However, in the case of Esoteric Christianity, one cannot truthfully say that they have fairly evaluated it and found it wanting. The fact that Crowley considered Thelema to be the “true Christianity” does not sway anyone from a sort of clueless rebellion whereupon we undertake a new chapter in human evolution without having studied the chapter before it. Guilty as charged. I have done it myself to my own detriment.
Consider this: Where we are headed will largely depend on where we have been. So, the question of the succession of paradigms, and how they relate to one another is important.
I find it useful to view Thelema and Christianity as links in a very long chain of universal DNA. Had Christianity not happened at all, I suspect Thelema wouldn’t have either, at least not in the way that it revealed itself to Crowley. One cannot become a “scholar” or expert in any religious paradigm without first understanding where it came from because each will have been influenced by the one before it.
A better way of understanding the importance of this progression might be to view each “Aeon,” paradigm shift, or whatever you wish to call these changes in the relationship between ourselves and nature in the same way as the Asian religions view past-life regression. Religions like Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism all adhere to the idea that we can achieve perfection, or godhood through a series of incarnations. That would be the microcosmic view. The progressions of Aeons is in my mind the macrocosmic view of that process.
Now, understand that whether an Aeon exists as a measure of time is irrelevant, and probably doubtful… or at the very least confusing since these changes we attempt to measure using that term have no consistent schedule. It is a word to explain a metaphysical concept. Nothing more.
Each New Aeon demands a re-interpretation of the same archetypal symbols used by the previous one. Like Christianity, Judaism, or Zoroastrianism, et al., Thelema did not develop in a void. The task of the Magician is to reinterpret those archetypal symbols to make them relative during his own time.
So how do we redefine an archetype? Let’s take a word that most people agree smells of superstition, tyranny and willful ignorance: Faith. I can’t think of a better example of a loaded word and/or concept needing to be reinterpreted to make sense of a pre-Thelemic world. Let’s treat this word as a symbol, since that is what words are. And maybe we shall see that these terms are not hopelessly lost without the possibility of redemption and reinterpretation. And with that new interpretation we can go back to the text where it was used to make more sense of the past.
In Hebrews 11:6 we are told: “Without faith it is impossible to please [God], for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
Two points come to mind right away. First, is that faith is required because we are not able to see God. We must assume that he is there without any other proof. So, we can say faith is having complete trust or confidence in someone or something in the absence of proof. This is a classic definition of Gnosis. It is a kind of “knowing” which is understood without the usual tools we have fashioned to measure and evaluate reality as we understand it. This happens often in metaphysics.
The second point is that whether one is a Christian, Thelemite, or someone making their way through the Art and Science of magick, it seems important to believe in the existence of a God. Whether that god is within or without seems irrelevant for the topic at hand. Without that “faith” one is not likely to have the experience of godhood. Even for those of us for whom “deus est homo” is more than just a potential bumper sticker slogan. (Actually, Deus Est Humanitatus would be a more proper statement.)
People that don’t believe in miracles (or magick, if you’d like to split hairs) are not likely to notice them when they occur, even when they are the ones that have caused them. So to paraphrase, the concept of God seems to be important in both Christianity and Thelema. So, what about the cringe-worthy concept of faith? I think that we could define it as the certainty of one’s divinity. If one truly has “faith” or knowledge (Gnosis) then there is no need to doubt it or keep trying to prove it. This brings me to how I define the concept of faith. I see it as the absence of Lust of Result.
In my opinion, Faith is synonymous with Gnosis, and Gnosis is synonymous with Certainty. Knowledge and Faith are different sides of the same coin. There is the Dove, and there is the Serpent after all.
That’s my story, and I am sticking with it.
So glad to hear from you.