By Frater S.C.F.V.
Q: I would like to ask you a question. I have been studying some great Golden Dawn based books and I have noticed there seems to be a lot of attention on the will. Personally, having studied the teachings of Buddhism and Advaita Vedants, I tend not to believe in “free will.”
To me, the world does not make much sense when I would accept the existence of a free will. The belief in free will also has a lot of troublesome consequences, concerning morality, a soul/mind seperate from the brain of the body which can result in many what I would call “ego based illusions” which hinder my spiritual life more then they do any good. What are your views on this subject?
A: This is a fantastic question. Your concerns resonate with some of the same ones I had when I began studying the Golden Dawn since, somewhat like you, I had trained in Zen Buddhism and was initiated into Advaita Vedanta.
The Buddhist approach and the Advaita approach both negate the personal I and deconstruct the sense of personal self that in the Qabalah, corresponds to the Ruach.
Advaita mainly proceeds by negating all aspects of our being and simply abiding as the so-called “Higher” Self, Atman-Brahman, or the Awareness of the Yechidah. When the Advaita sage Nisargadatta Maharaj talks about holding on to the pure and simple sense of being, which he calls the “sense I Am,” that is ultimately consonant with the G.D. system since the Divine Name of Keter (כתר) is Eheieh (אהיה – I Am).
Beyond Keter (כתר) is the limitless light of pure Awareness (אין סוף אור – Ain Soph Aur), beyond which is the Ain Soph (אֵין סוֹף – Limitlessness) and Ain (אֵין – No-thingness), which is beyond all concepts altogether — that is Nisargadatta’s Absolute.
It is also related to the Sunyata or emptiness of Buddhism, which is beyond even Oneness. When Zen masters say “all things return to the One, but to where does this One return?” They are pointing to the Absolute or Ground of Dzogchen or Christian mystical Godhead that is prior to both duality and nonduality, beyond phenomenological twoness and even Oneness itself.
The Qabalah’s approach as used in the G.D. is different from Advaita in the sense that it doesn’t proceed by fixating on the Yechidah or constantly negating the Ruach, although part of the 5=6 teachings concern the humbling of the personal I in surrender to the Divine.
That is, instead of fixating on constantly denying and deconstructing the personal I and clinging to the Higher Self, the Golden Dawn system simply places both in balanced context. In the Outer Order Grades, the aspirant works on building up the confidence, balance, and balance of elements within their being to train them for the magical and inner work to come.
In the Adeptus Minor, as the system is meant to be worked, one integrates what one has learned and yet humbles oneself in surrender to our Divine Nature, the Inner and the Outer, about which the Qur’an writes, “wheresoever you turn, there is the Face of God!”
In the following passage from his What You Should Know About the Golden Dawn/My Rosicrucian Adventure, Golden Dawn Adept Israel Regardie speaks to the Hermetic approach to seeing through the ego’s illusions and our more fundamental craving impulses and how magic works to bring them into balance rather than ignoring/negating them to fixate on the higher Self, which sets them up to unconsciously wreak havoc on our lives.
This tendency towards imbalance is unfortunately what I often sadly observed in the Advaita community — that many in the community talked all day about awareness and non-self, but their lives were a mess of narcissism, anxiety, depression, nihilism, solipsism, often abusing other people and rationalizing it and so on. This was not true for the majority of students, but certainly the case for many. I observed it among some of my Zen brothers and sisters as well. These are the pitfalls of a mystical Way without Balance, as Regardie points out:
“Let me quote a few especially appropriate lines from Jung in connection with this Fall, when the fundamental basis of the Ruach has been attracted to the kingdom of shells, and when Malkuth has been completely cut off from the other Sephirot:
“Consciousness thus torn from its roots and no longer able to appeal to the authority of the primordial images, [the archetypes], possesses a Promethean freedom, it is true, but it also partakes of the nature of a godless hubris or arrogance. It soars above the earth, even above mankind, but the danger of capsizing is there, not for every individual to be sure, but collectively for the weak members of such a society, who again Promethean-like, are bound by the unconscious to the Caucasus.”
It will not do, then, for the Adept to be cut off from his roots, but he must unite and integrate his entire Tree, and train and develop the titanic forces of the unconscious so that they become as a powerful but docile beast whereon he may ride
Thus, as we work towards bringing the dimensions of our being into alignment and Qabalistic balance, we aim for harmonization between our body (G’uph), its basic sensory and impression-receptive functions (Nephesh), a human personality and astral energetic body (Ruach), but also a deeper Self, an Awareness-I, and a sense of Willing (Yechidah, Chiah, Neshamah).
None of these dimensions absolutely or separately exists, as Buddhism points out; they, and everything else in the Universe, inter-are. The sense of Will also interdependently arises like all other manifest phenomena in the universe.
However, while Absolutely, no Will exists, relatively, it does, and is a force of Mind with which we can work. This is how I understand the work we do in Magic and the Golden Dawn path of the Great Work; we’re operating, not as an isolated separate entity, but as the Whole working on and with itself as reflected through the prism of our human consciousness and unique body-mind conditions.
This is particularly true in the selfless magic in the 6=5 Grade and the work of mystical service as the All serving the All in the 7=4 Grade, which is akin to the Path of the Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism.
The practical key to the work at all of these levels and layers is to bring all of the Qabalistic aspects of our being into alignment and work towards the Greater Good or Summum Bonum of the individual, family, community, society, and commonwealth of all beings.
In this way, we aim to avoid falling into either the imperious self-centeredness of a Ruach fallen into self-centered egotism or the trap of dissociated total disconnection from our humble humanness into which many Buddhists and Advaitins fall into by clinging to the Yechidah/Buddha Nature/Self.
In the Path of the Adept, we similarly aim to train ourselves to avoid living slavishly at the mercy of our basic desires and G’uph and Nephesh-based cravings, which as the Buddha points out, can serve us in the short term, but also give rise to suffering. As I see it, the Way of the Adept is in the final assessment, much like the Way of a Buddha, Arhant, Maharaj, or Bodhisattva, in that it is a Way of Balance.
This teaching is evident in the Golden Dawn system from the role of the Hegemon in the Neophyte Grade Ceremony up through the Mysteries of Tipharet in the Adeptus Minor Grade and the Middle Pillar of Balanced Power between the Pillar of Severity/Strength and the Pillar of Mercy/Lovingkindness on the Qabalistic Tree of Life.
To quote the wise words of the Hiereus to this effect in the 0=0 Grade Initiation Ceremony, the task of the Initiate is to
“Study well that Great Arcanum, the proper equilibrium of mercy and severity, for either unbalanced is not good; unbalanced severity is cruelty and oppression; unbalanced mercy is but weakness and would permit evil to exist unchecked, thus making itself as it were the accomplice of that evil.”
Or, in short, the task of the Adept is to aim for balance, even in studying and working with the dynamics of polarity and the yin-yang of duality, the Mystery of nonduality, and the Absolute beyond both…
Light in Extension,
Day of the Sun, February 25, 2018