Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Mailbag: Thelema and Zen

In the comments section of a recent post, I addressed a question about why I expound Thelema as opposed to Buddhism or esoteric Christianity. The unspoken assumption there is that Thelema (that is, the way I present Thelema, which is the way that Thelema actually is, as opposed to the fantasy weirdness that many others present it as) is awfully similar – or perhaps even essentially identical – to those other systems.

The assumption reminds me of a private exchange I had many moons ago about the differences between Thelema and Zen. My response illustrates Thelema’s unique characteristics by contrast.

My correspondent writes:

Hi Los,

I just read Shun-Ryu Suzuki's "Zen Mind: Beginners Mind". And I was wondering, in what ways, practically speaking, would you say Thelema differs from the Zen approach? Because really, they seem very similar to me. That is when we define Thelema in the way you and Erwin do, as being something other than the practices and dogmas which are often bundled with it.
To quote Suzuki, "Zazen practice is the direct expression of our true nature. Strictly speaking for a human being , there is no other practice than this practice; there is no other way of life than this way of life."
 Isn't that there the essence of Thelema, the true will, our "true nature" manifesting in the moment? Doesn't what is generally understood as Thelema lack for the simplicity of the Zen approach? Isn't much of it distractionary and even counter-productive? In short what does Thelema offer that Zen does not?

An excerpt from my response appears below the cut.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Value of Crowley

A reader posed a few questions last month in the comments section of this post, and it prompted an interesting and somewhat lengthy response from me. It’s worth reading the whole thing, but there was one piece of it in particular that I thought I would pull out and make its own post. It has to do with the question of why I spend my time explaining the works of Aleister Crowley and Thelema, as opposed to some other spiritual teacher or tradition that might equally be useful to communicate what I’m trying to say without the baggage.
Here’s how the commenter phrased it:

What is valuable enough to you about Crowley's perspective and the practices he developed that you think worth keeping despite both his own shortcomings and the additional shortcomings of his followers?

This is a really good question, as it allows me to reflect on the advantages of Aleister Crowley and his teachings specifically.
My answer to this part of the comment appears below the cut.