War And Conflict

War And Conflict Cover
Liber AL vel Legis, as mentioned in earlier installments, is not merely a step into the future but is also a fulfillment of the wisdom of the past. In the past, war was respected and understood more clearly than in these days. Joseph Campbell explains about the cultures of the past that, “There is… the cruel fact to be recognized that killing is the precondition of all living whatsoever: life lives on life, eats life, and would otherwise not exist. To some this terrible necessity is fundamentally unacceptable, and such people have, at times, brought forth mythologies of a way to perpetual peace. However, those have not been the people generally who have survived in what Darwin termed the universal struggle for existence. Rather, it has been those who have been reconciled to the nature of life on this earth. Plainly and simply: it has been the nations, tribes, and peoples bred to mythologies of war that have survived to communicate their life-supporting mythic lore to descendants.”5 In this sense, war is understood to be a sort of symbol of the struggle of life and the necessary expression thereof.Those who affirm life and its struggle for existence are those who “have been reconciled to the nature of life on this earth,” and Thelema represents one of the most modern fulfillments of this life-affirming view of the universe.

Crowley explained his distaste for the motif of denying or distorting this life-affirming view when he said, “My primary objection to Christianity is 'gentle Jesus, meek and mild,' the pacifist, the conscientious objector, the Tolstoyan, the 'passive resister.'… 'Jesus' himself, in the legend, 'set his face as a flint to go to Jerusalem,' with the foreknowledge of his fate. But Christians have not emphasized that heroism since the Crusades. The sloppy sentimental Jesus of the Sunday-school is the only survivor; and the War killed him, thank Ares!”6 Here Crowley implies that the true image of Jesus should be one who ‘set his face as a flint to go to Jerusalem’ without fear or weakness, which brings back once again the images of Jesus bringing “not… peace, but a sword.”7 We see that a “mythology,” a symbolic understanding of the universe, which embraces war is one that acknowledges the inherent conflict in life but nonetheless affirms it all. Crowley emphatically declares, “All leaders of men are active, finding pleasure even in toil, hardship, and defeat: they accept every Event as proper to their chosen course of action, and conquer even when they are beaten down for the moment. They die at the crisis of the battle, with failure certain; yet they rejoice, having lived and loved and fought and done their will; those for whose cause they fought will reap at last where they have sowed” (emphasis added) This attitude of conquering all obstacles and, most importantly, rejoicing in both happiness and hardship is an important angle to interpret the use of “conquering” and “war” in the tradition of Thelema and the text of Liber AL vel Legis.

Further concerning war, Campbell explains, “Heraclitus declared war to be the creator of all great things; and in the words again of Spengler, ‘The one who lacks courage to be a hammer comes off in the role of the anvil.’ Many a sensitive mind, reacting to this unwelcome truth, has found nature intolerable, and has cried down all those best fit to live as ‘wicked,’ ‘evil,’ or ‘monstrous,’ setting up instead, as a counter-ideal, the model of him who turns the other cheek and whose kingdom is not of this world.”9 In this sense, the mythologies of “war” are understood to be “life-affirming” or “world-affirming” in contrast to those mythologies of “peace” which posit a perfect land in another world. Examples of this are abound in all cultures of the world. Christianity’s notion of heaven in the clouds is the most obvious reference, but there are also other traditions that attempt to escape this world including Pure Land Buddhism, or Amidism, which is a sect of Mahayana Buddhism that believes one is supposedly guaranteed rebirth into the pure land of enlightenment if one merely has devotion towards or prays to “Amitabha Buddha.” These are both views of religious traditions that cause the aspirant to look outside of him or herself for salvation, an attitude fundamentally rejected by Thelema.

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