Originally, there was a serious danger of my essays becoming “Gnostic Movie Review Club”, but I’ll leave everyone else to watch The Fountain and draw their own conclusions in light of my response. I’ve spent enough time deliberating over this, so let’s get straight to your question:
I’ve always wondered if seeking The Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel seems like a good idea. The procedures for discovering it seem functionally indistinguishable from recipes for creating an obsession. It looks like a suspiciously monotheistic belief and thus a self-contradictory and limiting obsession with an ideal that has become effectively unattainable. You said that even with Crowley you follow the message not the man. Does the OTO acknowledge anyone as having ever attained it?
This has taken some time to pin down properly, and the meat of the matter is (as I said to one friend and colleague who is in the A∴A∴ this morning): “I don’t want to piss on the chips of the earnest Aspirant, but some other peoples’ bonfires really need pissing on.”
The answer to your question in itself was given by several commentators on the various cyber-fora, and in particular by Brother Adrian whom you met at the Occult Conference, when he said:
“What has the HGA got to do with OTO? Seeking Knowledge and Conversation of the HGA is the work of the Aspirant of A∴A∴. The concept of the HGA is absent entirely from the OTO system.”
That would not however make for a very good discussion piece, and I believe we are in the fortunate position of educating, or at least challenging, in our respective traditions. Now I need to clarify that, again, I am speaking for myself as an initiate of O.T.O., not for the Order – nor for the A∴A∴ as I am not a member – but I am hoping that I can separate some issues which are rife within the Thelemic community consisting of members of one, both, other, and no organisation(s) associated with the above.
Much like the misunderstanding I discussed in my previous post, there is a problem which runs to the core of Thelemic discourse: the mislabelling of the Higher Self as the Holy Guardian Angel. O.T.O. in part concerns itself with the candidate’s approach and knowledge of the Self, and the HGA is approached in the early work of an Aspirant of A∴A∴, as Brother Adrian stated. I am not here to try and tell people what the HGA is, because that has as many possible answers as Aspirants who work with one. What I want to state categorically is that people only need to focus on the HGA if that is their system, not start applying it to systems which do not need or want it. The system of O.T.O. does not require the concept of the HGA, and shoe-horning it in leads to confusion at best, and complete misapprehension and misapplication of the material at worst. This goes for many, many other systems as well.
I have always had a strong notion of my Self, and coming into contact with the concept of the HGA has only served to blur this notion, when in fact I should have been working towards refining my idea of who I am and what I am here to do. The HGA has a specific function for those who work the systems which rely on it, but these are not applicable to every system and downright unhelpful in others. Mathers’ great strength was in synthesising multiple streams of information, many of which he had translated into English for the first time, but this also led to an eclectic approach which could easily be called “pick’n’mix” and the hanging of everything on the Tree of Life had little historical precedent. His Abramelin was unlikely to be older than 17th C but he considered it to be a pure source of knowledge, and in so doing made this practice a bedrock for much of the Western Mystery Tradition (WMT).
Instead of enjoying a period of self-determination and personal responsibility, free from having to go through an interlocutor to determine the Will of God, the WMT seems to have drawn itself back into the same paradigms that Jesus Christ himself came to overthrow when he broke the barrier into the Holy of Holies by dying on the cross. Rather than a progression into full responsibility for one’s magick and accordingly one’s results, it seems many magicians are trying to put these back into the domain of a nebulous HGA in a clear dereliction of their own personal agency. The danger isn’t obsession with a spirit by lone practitioners, but obsession with an idea which is only applicable to a particular set of schools, by many practitioners all at once. Thelema is the Aeon of the Crowned and Conquering Child-King, and if we are to live as Kings and ruthlessly prosecute our Will, we must take whole and full responsibility for our lives and our destinies.
To sum up: The HGA is not the Self (Yechidah) or the Intuition (Neshamah), although some aspirants may see it as useful to view it as such along the way. In the O.T.O. system the HGA does not exist, and the nebulous misconception of the HGA outside of its proper framework is detrimental to modern systems of magick. It is a hangover from the Golden Dawn and Abramelin workings which Crowley incorporated into the A∴A∴ system for lower-grade work, and this is as far as it should go. Magicians drawn to finding and attaining Knowledge and Conversation with the HGA should work those systems and leave them there.
As a collective community, occultists need to drop the obsession with “the HGA” and concentrate on becoming the best that they can be and doing all in their power to do what they love, and make a difference in so doing. I agree that this is the only empirical value “Do what thou wilt” can have, and it is my hope that my impact and legacy on the occult and esoteric community will be viewed favourably by those who come after me.
Therefore, seeing as you were kind enough to discuss yourself, and as the EPOCH is now being read and digested across the world, my question to you is this: What do you hope for your work to enable, enact, or create? Would you enjoy seeing the Chaobala worked into an entire current, or would you fear for another Crowleyanity modelled on Pope Pete?
I hope you will also touch on this at the first Bristol Session when you and Matt Kaybryn present on the EPOCH, and thank you for coming on board with my aims for The Visible College to spread learning, discussion, and community in the occult world – much as your invitation to this discourse has done.
All the best,