An Esoteric vs. Exoteric Analysis of Liber OZ
From a previous post titled “Karma & the Ethics of Thelema” – “the nature of ethics lies firstly in the differentiation between acts and intentions, secondly in the evaluation of whether an act aligns with a society or culture, thirdly whether an act aligns with intent, and lastly whether an intention aligns with one’s Great Work.”
Using the Five Precepts/Virtues of Buddhism: No killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and the taking of intoxicants – Crowley’s essay, Pansil explains the invalidity and impossibility of avoiding these acts, and how the 5 Precepts are “sarcastic and biting criticisms on existence, illustrations of the First Noble Truth; reasons, as it were, for the apotheosis of annihilation.” I would add that although they are just that, the Law of Thelema, being Do What Thou Wilt – adds the perfect “ethical” intention to the degrees of doing these things.
Compare the 5 Precepts with the 5 Points in Liber OZ, which would mean the same thing, if not for Liber OZ’s emphasis on Will:
- No killing vs (5). “Man has the right to kill those who would thwart these rights.”
- No stealing vs (1). “Man has the right to live by his own law.”
- No sexual misconduct vs (4). “Man has the right to love as he will.”
- No lying vs (3). “Man has the right to think what he will.”
- No taking of intoxicants vs (2). “Man has the right to eat what he will.”
The intentions, that one might have for performing any of these acts, however, must always be in accordance with one’s True Will. Therefore,
(1) “Man has the right to live by his own law,” allows him to take what he needs according to his Will, since there are no such things as “thieves” to the universe.
THE SECOND PRECEPT
The Second Precept is directed against theft. Theft is the appropriation to one’s own use of that to which another has a right. Let us see therefore whether or no the Buddha was a thief. The answer is of course in the affirmative. For to issue a command is to attempt to deprive another of his most precious possession—the right to do as he will; that is, unless, with the predestinarians, we hold that action is determined absolutely, in which case, of course, a command is as absurd as it is unavoidable. Excluding this folly, therefore, we may conclude that if the command be obeyed—and those of Buddha have gained a far larger share of obedience that those of any other teacher—the Enlightened One was not only a potential but an actual thief. Further, all voluntary action limits in some degree, however minute, the volition of others. If I breathe, I diminish the stock of oxygen available on the planet. In those far distant ages when Earth shall be as dead as the moon is to-day, my breathing now will have robbed some being then living of the dearest necessity of life.
That the theft is minute, incalculably trifling, is no answer to the moralist, to whom degree is not known; nor to the scientist, who sees the chain of nature miss no link.
If, on the other hand, the store of energy in the universe be indeed constant (whether inﬁnite or no), if personality be indeed delusion, then theft becomes impossible, and to forbid it is absurd. We may argue that even so temporary theft may exist; and that this is so is to my mind no doubt the case. All theft is temporary, since even a millionaire must die; also it is universal, since even a Buddha must breathe.
(2) “Man has the right to eat what he will,” allows him to be intoxicated according to his Will, since there is no such thing as not being aﬀected by the universe.
THE FIFTH PRECEPT
At last we arrive at the end of our weary journey—surely in this weather we may have a drink! East of Suez,† Trombone Macaulay (as I may surely say, when Browning writes Banjo-Byron‡) tells us, a man may raise a Thirst. No, shrieks the Blessed One, the Perfected One, the Enlightened One, do not drink! It is like the streets of Paris when they were placarded with rival posters—
Ne buvez pas de l’Alcool!
L’Alcool est un poison!
and Buvez de l’Alcool!
L’Alcool est un aliment!
We know now that alcohol is a food up to a certain amount; the precept, good enough for a rough rule as it stands, will not bear close inspection. What Buddha really commands with that grim humour of his, is: Avoid Intoxication.
But what is intoxication? unless it be the loss of power to use perfectly a truth-telling set of faculties. If I walk unsteadily it is owing to nervous lies—and so for all the phenomena of drunkenness. But a lie involves the assumption of some true standard, and this can nowhere be found. A doctor would tell you, moreover, that all food intoxicates: all, here as in all the universe, of every subject and in every predicate, is a maer of degree.
Our faculties never tell us true; our eyes say ﬂat when our ﬁngers say round; our tongue sends a set of impressions to our brain which our hearing declares non-existent—and so on.
What is this delusion of personality but a profound and centrally-seating intoxication of the consciousness ? I am intoxicated as I address these words; you are drunk—beastly drunk !—as you read them; Buddha was as drunk as a British oﬃcer when he uered his besoed command. There, my dear children, is the conclusion to which we are brought if you insist that he was serious!
I answer No ! Alone among men then living, the Buddha was sober, and saw Truth. He, who was freed from the coils of the reat serpent Theli coiled round the universe, he knew how deep the slaver of that snake had entered into us, infecting us, roing our very bones with poisonous drunkenness. And so his cuing irony—drink no intoxicating drinks!
* Quoted in “Science and Buddhism”, s. IV., note.
† “Ship me somewhere East of Suez, where a man can raise a thirst.”—R. KIPLING.
‡ “While as for Quilp Hop o’ my Thumb there Banjo-Byron that twangs the strum-strum there.” — BROWNING, Pachiaroo (said of A. Austin)
(3) “Man has the right to think what he will,” allows him to express his thoughts according to his Will, since the very construct from which he thinks with, is a lie of the ego to his ego, to begin with.
THE FOURTH PRECEPT
Here we come to what in a way is the fundamental joke of these precepts. A command is not a lie, of course; possibly cannot be; yet surely an allegorical order is one in essence, and I have no longer a shadow of a doubt that these so-called “precepts” are a species of savage practical joke.
Apart from this there can hardly be much doubt, when critical exegesis has done its damnedest on the Logia of our Lord, that Buddha did at some time commit himself to some statement. “(Something called) Consciousness exists” is, said Huxley, the irreducible minimum of the pseudo-syllogism, false even for an enthymeme, “Cogito, ergo sum !” This proposition he bolsters up by stating that whoso should pretend to doubt it, would thereby but conﬁrm it. Yet might it not be said “(Something called) Consciousness appears to itself to exist,” since Consciousness is itself the only witness to that conﬁrmation?
Not that even now we can deny some kind of existence to consciousness, but that it should be a more real existence than that of a reﬂection is doubtful, incredible, even inconceivable. If by consciousness we mean the normal consciousness, it is deﬁnitely untrue, since the Dhyanic consciousness includes it and denies it. No doubt “something called” acts as a kind of caveat to the would-be sceptic, though the phrase is bad, implying a “calling.” But we can guess what Huxley means.
No doubt Buddha’s scepticism does not openly go quite so far as mine—it must be remembered that “scepticism” is merely the indication of a possible aitude, not a belief, as so many good fool folk thing; but Buddha not only denies “Cogito, ergo sum”; but “Cogito, ergo non sum.” See Sabbasava Sua, par. 10. ( Quoted in “Science and Buddhism”, s. IV., note.)
At any rate, Sakkyadihi, the delusion of personality, is in the very forefront of his doctrines; and it is this delusion that is constantly and inevitably affirmed in all normal consciousness. That Dhyanic thought avoids it is doubtful; even so, Buddha is here represented as giving precepts to ordinary people. And if personality be delusion, a lie is involved in the command of one to another. In short, we all lie all the time; we are compelled to it by the nature of things themselves—paradoxical as that seems—and the Buddha knew it!
(4) “Man has the right to love as he will,” allows him to give his love freely according to his Will, since love has no restrictions, all being one – to violate oneself is not love, but the withholding of.
THE THIRD PRECEPT
This precept, against adultery, I shall touch but lightly. Not that I consider the subject unpleasant—far from it!—but since the English section of my readers, having unclean minds, will otherwise find a fulcrum therein for their favourite game of slander. Let it suffice if I say that the Buddha—in spite of the ridiculous membrane legend (Membrum virile illius in membrana inclusum esse aiunt, ne copulare posset) one of those foul follies which idiot devotees invent only too freely— was a confirmed and habitual adulterer. It would be easy to argue with Hegel-Huxley that he who thinks of an act commits it (cf. Jesus also in this connection, though he only knows the creative value of desire), and that since A and not-A are mutually limiting, therefore interdependent, therefore identical, he who forbids an act commits it; but I feel that this is no place for metaphysical hairsplitting; let us prove what we have to prove in the plainest way.
I would premise in the ﬁrst place that to commit adultery in the Divorce Court sense is not here in question.
It assumes too much proprietary right of a man over a woman, that root of all abomination!—the whole machinery of inheritance, property, and all the labyrinth of law. We may more readily assume that the Buddha was (apparently at least) condemning incontinence.
We know that Buddha had abandoned his home ; true, but Nature has to be reckoned with. Volition is no necessary condition of offence. “I didn’t mean to” is a poor excuse for an officer failing to obey an order.
Enough of this—in any case a minor question; since even on the lowest moral grounds— and we, I trust, soar higher!—the error in question may be resolved into a mixture of murder, theft and intoxication. (We consider the last under the Fifth Precept.)
(5) “Man has the right to kill those who would thwart these rights,” allows him to sever the eﬀorts according to his Will, which no longer serve his Will; or in fact seek to disrupt it.
THE FIRST PRECEPT
This forbids the taking of life in any form.* What we have to note is the impossibility of performing this; if we can prove it to be so, either Buddha was a fool, or his command was rhetorical, like those of Yahweh to Job, or of Tannhäuser to himself—
“Go! seek the stars and count them and explore!
Go! sift the sands beyond a starless sea!”
Let us consider what the words can mean. The “taking of life” can only mean the reduction of living protoplasm to dead maer: or, in a truer and more psychological sense, the destruction of personality.
Now, in the chemical changes involved in Buddha’s speaking this command, living protoplasm was changed into dead matter. Or, on the other horn, the fact (insisted upon most strongly by the Buddha himself, the central and cardinal point of his doctrine, the shrine of that Metaphysic which isolates it absolutely from all other religious metaphysic, which allies it with Agnostic Metaphysis) that the Buddha who had spoken this command was not the same as the Buddha before he had spoken it, lies the proof that the Buddha, by speaking this command, violated it. More, not only did he slay himself; he breathed in millions of living organisms and slew them. He could nor eat nor drink nor breathe without murder implicit in each act. Huxley cites the “pitiless microscopist” who showed a drop of water to the Brahmin who boasted himself “Ahimsa” harmless. So among the “rights” of a Bhikkhu is medicine. He who takes quinine does so with the deliberate intention of destroying innumerable living beings; whether this is done by stimulating the phagocytes, or directly, is morally indifferent.
How such a ﬁend incarnate, my dear brother Ananda Maitriya, can call him “cruel and cowardly” who only kills a tiger, is a study in the philosophy of the mote and the beam!†
Far be it from me to suggest that this is a defence of breathing, eating and drinking. By no means; in all these ways we bring suffering and death to others, as to ourselves. But since these are inevitable acts, since suicide would be a still more cruel alternative (especially in case something should subsist below mere Rupa), the command is not to achieve the impossible, the already violated in the act of commanding, but a bier commentary on the foul evil of this aimless, hopeless universe, this compact of misery, meanness, and cruelty. Let us pass on.
* Fielding, in “The Soul of a People,” has reluctantly to confess that he can ﬁnd no trace of this idea in Buddha’s own work, and called the superstition the “echo of an older Faith.”—A.C. † The argument that the “animals are our brothers” is merely intended to mislead one who has never been in a Buddhist country. The average Buddhist would, of course, kill his brother for ﬁve rupees, or less.— A. C.
The exoteric analysis of the tenets in Liber OZ is simpler, and aims to avoid the acquisition of negative Karma for all that follow the 5 Precepts simply, at face value. “[…] before we know our Wills, we can only escape Karma by means of a strict regimen like this system, or that of the Noble 8-Fold Path. This helps us not step oﬀ the path and spiral down into negativity.”
EXCERPT FROM THE THREE CHARACTERISTICS.
“But, Lord,” said the Five Hundred Thousand and One Arahats in a breath, “thou art then guilty of six violent deaths!
Nay, thou hast hounded one soul from death to death through all these incarnations ! What of this First Precept (2) of yours ?”
“Children,” answered the Glorious One, “do not be so foolish as to think that death is necessarily an evil. I have not come to found a Hundred Years Club, and to include mosquitoes in the membership. In this case to have kept Perdu’ R Abu alive was to have played into the hands of his enemies. My First Precept is merely a general rule. (3) In the bulk of cases one should certainly abstain from destroying life, that is, beings. If you knew as I do, the conditions of existence: struggle deadly and inevitable, every form of life the inherent and immitigable foe of every other form, with few, few exceptions, you would not only cease to talk of the wickedness of causing death, but you would perceive the First Noble Truth, that no existence can be free from sorrow ; the second, that the desire for existence only leads to sorrow ; that the ceasing from existence is the ceasing of sorrow (the third) ; and you would seek in the fourth the Way, the Noble Eightfold Path.
(2) – Here is the lile rift within the lute which alienated Crowley from active work on Buddhist lines; the orthodox failing to see his aitude.
(3) – A more likely idea that the brilliantly logical nonsense of “Pansil,” supra.
“I know, O Arahats, that you do not need this instruction : but my words will not stay here : they will go forth and illuminate the whole system of ten thousand worlds, where Arahats do not grow on every tree. Lile brothers, the night is fallen : it were well to sleep.”
By following the Noble 8-fold Path, we avoid the desire for existence, and therefore sorrow. But keep in mind, Liber AL II:
70. There is help & hope in other spells. Wisdom says: be strong! Then canst thou bear more joy. Be not animal; refine thy rapture! If thou drink, drink by the eight and ninety rules of art: if thou love, exceed by delicacy; and if thou do aught joyous, let there be subtlety therein!
71. But exceed! exceed!
72. Strive ever to more! and if thou art truly mine – and doubt it not, an if thou art ever joyous! – death is the crown of all.
73. ah! ah! Death! Death! thou shalt long for death. Death is forbidden, o man, unto thee.
74. The length of thy longing shall be the strength of its glory. He that lives long & desires death much is ever the King among the Kings.
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A Transvaluation of OZ