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Yoga and Magick: The Cooperation of Lovers

Yoga and Magick: The Cooperation of Lovers

by Frater Aletheia

A Gestalt of the Goal of the Magical and Mystical Path

Yoga constitutes one of two central pillars in the system of practical and spiritual attainment encompassed by the Law of Thelema—the other pillar of course being Magick.  From his exposure to Yoga, Crowley took what he thought were its valuable and essential elements, simplifying them and linking then to his doctrine of Magick.  The two, Yoga and Magick, taken together, although apparently opposed in method, are intended to converge on the same final goal—Magick, in Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, and Yoga, in Samadhi; which, as we will see, Crowley saw as terms reflective of, if not the same, at least similar, mystical phenomena.[1]  Crowley writes,

“…[i]t will now be apparent that there is no distinction between Magick and Meditation except of the most arbitrary and accidental kind.  It is the co-operation of lovers; which is here a symbol of the fact (emphasis added)[2].

And further, notes,

…my system can be divided into two parts.  Apparently diametrically opposed, but at the end converging, the one helping the other until the final method of progress partakes equally of both elements.  For convenience I shall call the first method Magick, and the second method Yoga.  The opposition between these is very plain for the direction of Magick is wholly outward, that of Yoga wholly inward.[3]

The two methods of Yoga and Magick, although opposed in detail, walk hand in hand—the co-operation of lovers—a gestalt of the goal of the mystical and magical system encompassed by the Law of Thelema.

The HGA & Union with God

Crowley was unequivocal in his assertion that all magical operations were to be undertaken to achieve Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel; in its most general form, characterized as the contact of the aspirant with their personal Daemon, Genius, Augoeides, Unconscious or Secret Self, a kind of intelligence or order of being far superior to anything we know as human.[4]  Although magical operations could and can be undertaken for other goals, such as wealth, health or love, these kinds of operations were only to be undertaken to place the aspirant on firmer ground by which to attain Knowledge and Conversation.[5]  He writes:

“There is a single main definition of the object of all magical ritual.  It is the uniting of the Microcosm with Macrocosm.  The Supreme and complete Ritual is therefore the Invocation of the Holy Guardian Angel; or, in the language of Mysticism, Union with God.”[6]

The goal of Magick, in the broadest sense, is here conceived of as Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel; however, what is of interest to us is that Knowledge and Conversation is equated “in the language of mysticism” to “Union with God,” an attainment that Crowley clearly associates with the end result of Yoga; namely, Samadhi.  He writes, “In the first place, what is the meaning of the term?  Etymologically, sam is the Greek συν-, the English prefix syn- meaning ‘together with.’  Ādhi means ‘Lord,’ and a reasonable translation of the whole word would be ‘Union with God,’ the exact term used by Christian mystics to describe their attainment”.[7]  Thus, the goal of Magick is here equated with the goal of Yoga.

Magick: Conquering New Worlds

Yoga and Magick represent two distinct processes which each converge on the same goal; yet, in Yoga, the yogi traverses “inwards” achieving union with God through introspective and meditative means, whereas in Magick, the magician traverses “outward” achieving union through ritualistic and ceremonial means.  To begin with the latter, the practice of Magick culminates in the identification, or more broadly unification, of the magician with his or her HGA; and, if we take the magician to be a microcosm, then, according to the magical theory of the universe as understood by Crowley, every element that comprises the microcosm of the magician has its correlate on the macrocosmic scale of the universe.

It is the task of the magician to (a) discover and gain control over every element of their being, and (b) extend every element of their being “outward” to make proper contact with their respective correlates in the macrocosm.  As Crowley notes, “The aspiring Magician only analyses himself for the purposes of finding new worlds to conquer,”[8] and that Magic “…is the science and art of extending, first in oneself, one’s own faculties, secondly in external nature their hidden characteristics”.[9]

The magician willfully invokes, evokes or otherwise brings into manifest conscious awareness elements of the macrocosm through ceremonial means by creating a magical link between that element in the macrocosm they will to manifest and its appropriate correlate in the microcosm which they themselves contain.

The aim of Magick then is to extend the Microcosm “outwards” to such an extent that the interiority of the magician reveals itself as coextensive with the macrocosm, uniting self and cosmos, aspirant and HGA.  Much as in Yoga, through a progressive series of prescribed practices and ritual, the magician gradually unfolds the contents of their microcosmic universe merging those contents with the exterior universe in which they find themselves, instigating a gradually, and at the proper moment, complete, identification of self and cosmos.  Crowley writes:

“[t]he Microcosm is an exact image of the Macrocosm; the Great Work is the raising of the whole man in perfect balance to the power of infinity”.[10]

If the universe is indeed infinite, then, according to the magical theory of the universe, so too is the individual, given that the individual, the microcosm, “is an exact image of the macrocosm”.

The goal of the magician is to realize this truth in their own being, and to gradually make this identification complete.   The goal of Yoga comes to the same, the primary difference being that instead of moving “outwards” to unite with the macrocosm, the yogi travels “inwards,” discovering that the macrocosm is contained within themselves.  Thus, we can already begin to see the inseparable nature of Crowley’s Magick and Yoga.

Yoga: “a crystallization resplendent with interior light”

The practice of Yoga is too intended to culminate in the identification and unification of the Yogi with the fundamental nature of the universe – an identification with Nuit, the One, the All, the primordial Nothing, the infinity of the cosmos and of all-possibility.  In the language of Yoga we can call this identification with the unboundedness of the cosmos, samadhi, which Crowley defines as “the union of the subject and object of consciousness”[11]; and, as we have seen, as “Union with God”.

This conception of samadhi can be metaphorically explicated with the aid of the formula of Tetragrammaton (YHVH).  If we take Yod (Father) to represent the Yogi, the first Heh (Mother) to represent the object of meditation, Vau (Son), as the union of the Yogi with the object of meditation, and the final Heh (Daughter) as the ecstasy of union produced therefrom, what we have is the processes and results of yoga described in simple formulaic terms.  Crowley gives us a phenomenological description of this formula when he writes:

“The yod  will represent a swift and violent creative energy; following this will be a calmer and more reflective but even more powerful flow of Will, as it were the irresistible force of a mighty river [Heh].  This state of mind will be followed by an expansion of the consciousness; it will penetrate all space [Vau], and this will finally undergo a crystallization resplendent with interior light [Heh final]”.[12]

“When the entire system of the Universe is coterminous with your comprehension, ‘inward’ and ‘outward’ become identical”

Through a progressive series of prescribed practices, the Yogi traverses the sheaths of consciousness inwards towards his or her total self, and eventually towards naught, achieving samadhi; and, since the total self or primordial nothing is ultimately identical with the universe as such, this progressive journey inwards is also a progressive journey outwards towards union with the cosmos.  As Crowley remarks in Magick Without Tears:

“You ask whether these remarks do not conflict with my repeated definition of Initiation as the Way in.  Not at all; Inmost is identical with the All.  As you travel inward, you become able to perceive all the layers which surround the ‘self’ from within, thus enlarging the scope of your vision of the universe…When the entire system of the Universe is coterminous with your comprehension, ‘inward’ and ‘outward’ become identical”[13]

In Magick, the magician directs their efforts and power outwards, extending the domain of their consciousness to encompasses vaster regions of the hidden elements in the external universe, whereas in Yoga, the yogi makes this same journey, but inwards, through the sheaths of consciousness which conceal primordial nature and being.  The two paths of Magick and Yoga, running upon seemingly contrary trajectories and planes, eventually converge upon an identical point of intersection in which the individual self is united with the cosmos as a whole.

Yoga and Magick: Dual Function of the Child

For Crowley, both the methods of Yoga and Magick have as their end goal union with the ‘One,’ ‘All’ or ‘Naught’–Union with the Angel–which he variously describes as the creation or manifestation of the “Child”.  This “Child” can be viewed as the “primordial” or “precognitive” consciousness of the adept, “…the Dwarf-Self, the phallic consciousness which is the true Life of Man, beyond his ‘veils’ of incarnation…the True or Unconscious Will…the ‘Silent Self’ or ‘Holy Guardian Angel’”.[14]

This ‘Child’ has a dual function, or aspect, reflected in the twin nature of the Child of the Aeon–“Heru-ra-ha”–as both “Harpocrates” or “Hoor-Pa-Kraat” (“The Babe in the Egg of Blue” and “the God of Silence”) and Horus or Ra-Hoor-Khuit (“The Hawk-Headed Mystical Lord” and the “God of War and of Vengeance” ).  This dual function is a symbolic representation of the operation of the Child, of Speech and of Silence, or the magical manifestation of the Will amidst the conditions of duality (Magick) and the mystical absorption and annihilation of the ego in the Night of Pan (Yoga).

In The Book of the Law it is written:

“I am the secret Serpent coiled about to spring: in my coiling there is joy. If I lift up my head, I and my Nuit are one. If I droop down mine head, and shoot forth venom, then is rapture of the earth, and I and the earth are one”.[15]

Two distinct processes, which are ultimately one, are given voice to here.  On the one hand, the consciousness of the adept, the ‘Child,’ is born in Samadhi, in the dissolution into the body of Nuit.  On the other hand, this ‘Child’ consciousness is born into the world as a material manifestation, an extension of the microcosm into the macrocosm, the “rapture of the earth” and union with the material conditions of existence through the techniques and processes of Magick.  Thus, the two methods of Yoga and Magick can be said to be one; yet, given the nature of that union, and the processes involved in it, that union and the Child produced therefrom, will have a nature that is unique to the method used in its conception.

Yoga and Magick: The Cooperation of Lovers

Crowley’s Yoga and Magick can then be seen as complementary methods whereby the being of the individual is merged with the being of the cosmos.  The unification of the self and cosmos, of the subject and object of consciousness, of the microcosm and macrocosm, of the individual and God, is the Great Work that the methods of Yoga and Magick set out to achieve.

In Magick the journey is “outwards,” contact being made by the magician with wider spheres of the externalized cosmos; whereas in Yoga, the journey is made “inwards,” the yogi concentrating their awareness inwardly where the cosmos is discovered to be contained.  Yet, in this contraction the yogi achieves the expansion of Magick; and, in the expansion of Magick, the Magician achieves the contraction of Yoga.  Thus, each merges into the other.

Magick and Yoga address the same phenomena from different points along a phenomenological spectrum, each of which is integral to the system of practical and spiritual attainment encompassed by the Law of Thelema.  In what follows, the two master concepts of Thelema and Agape, or Will and Love, which facilitate this process of the Great Work will be addressed under the formulaic expression of the Will-to-Love.

This is Part Two of a series on Thelemic Yoga:


[1] A case could be made that Samadhi was a state Crowley associated more specially with the reward of the ordeal of the Crossing of the Abyss, of the state of consciousness attained by a Master of the Temple (8° = 3⸋); while, Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel he associated with the attainment of the Adeptus Minor (5° = 6⸋), Adeptus Major (6° = 5⸋), and Exempt Adept (7° = 4⸋) grades, to which the yogic state of Dhyana corresponded.  It may be useful to view the phenomenology of attainment here as existing on a continuum, with ordinary conscious awareness (if it can be called ordinary at all) on the one hand and complete mystic absorption on the other.  The degree to which these states differ is beyond the scope of this essay.

[2] Crowley, Aleister. Eight Lectures on Yoga, ed. Hymenaeus Beta.  New Falcon, 1991, pp. 111.

[3] Crowley, Aleister.  Magick Without Tears.  New Falcon, 1973, pp. 499

[4] Ibid, pp. 495-496.

[5] Notice that this construal of Magick somewhat departs from the canonical definition of Magick as “the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will” (Book 4—Part III, Magick in Theory and Practice, Introduction).  While this definition is not contradicted by the definitions of Magick proposed in this essay, I have found the present definitions to be more fruitful in comparing and contrasting Magick with Yoga.

[6] Crowley, Aleister.  Book 4—Part III, Magick in Theory and Practice.  Weiser Books, 1997, pp. 144.

[7] Ibid, pp. 37.

[8] Crowley, Aleister.  Magick Without Tears.  New Falcon, 1973, pp. 500.

[9] Ibid, pp. 502.

[10] Crowley, Aleister.  Book 4—Part III, Magick in Theory and Practice.  Weiser Books, 1997, pp. 139.

[11] Crowley, Aleister. Eight Lectures on Yoga.  New Falcon, 1991, pp. 16.

[12] Crowley, Aleister.  Book 4—Part III, Magick in Theory and Practice.  Weiser Books, 1997, pp. 154.

[13] Crowley, Aleister.  Magick Without Tears.  New Falcon, 1973, pp. 204

[14] Crowley, Aleister.  Magical and Philosophical Commentaries, III:23.

[15] Crowley, Aleister.  The Book of the Law, II:26.

Frater Aletheia is an Ordained Priest of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (E.G.C.) and a chartered initiator of Mysteria Mystica Maxima (M∴M∴M∴). He currently serves as the Treasurer of Blazing Star Oasis O.T.O in Oakland, California.

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