Thelema And The Ordeals

Thelema And The Ordeals Image
If we consider the ordeals a form of ritualistic suffering or even of initiation then we can see that the entire Book is about the transformation of the gross to the subtle, the alchemical dross to gold. It is the ultimate goal of Magick, Alchemy and Rosicrucianism to achieve a level of enlightenment which is dissolution into Godhead. To disappear into the One of the universe. In order to do that we must evolve, we must be initiated, we must be tried.

Nuit puts it strongly and poetically when she says:

There is a word to say about the Hierophantic task. Behold! there are three ordeals in one, and it may be given in three ways. The gross must pass through fire; let the fine be tried in intellect, and the lofty chosen ones in the highest. Thus ye have star & star, system & system; let not one know well the other! (I:50)

The Hierophant refers to Key V of the Tarot and represents an enlightened individual or priest. The path to that enlightenment is one of tests and ordeals, of trials and rituals. There is no easy way to the top of the mountain.

But if these ordeals are forms of ritualistic suffering should we not have some clue as to what they are ahead of time? The above quote is the best we have, and that is only one step in the evolution of the Thelemite. I:40 tells us that there are three grades within the word of the Will, III:62-67 tell us that there are four greater ordeals and these are all separate from the Hierophantic task set out above. So what are the ordeals?

This question is asked in the first chapter and Nuit answers:

33. Then the priest fell into a deep trance or swoon, & said unto the Queen of Heaven; Write unto us the ordeals; write unto us the rituals; write unto us the law!
34. But she said: the ordeals I write not: the rituals shall be half known and half concealed: the Law is for all.
36. My scribe Ankh-af-na-khonsu...
38. He must teach; but he may make severe the ordeals.

The Law is for All in the commentary on I:34 we are told that the ordeals have manifested in a variety of ways and most of them appear unique to the individual. They are unlike normal ordeals which can be predicted but rather stem from subconscious need rather than the true wisdom of the physical teacher. Therefore did Nuit not give the ordeals, for they are hidden and each individual must discover them for themselves. They might even say that the Holy Guardian Angel was directly responsible for the choosing of the ordeals.

Ordeals, in general, are seen as a sort of gateway. If you consider the perceptions of the book as outlined at the end of book three. Ra-Hoor-Khuit says that the book may be strange or even repulsive until one has moved through the various ordeals. III:62-67 state that the book improves it’s character from nothing through silver, gold, stones of precious water and finally sparks of the intimate fire. Of course it is not the book that changes but the observer to whom the book is manifest from scratch each time it is read.

by Greg Wotton

Suggested ebooks:

Andrew Lang - The Witch And Other Stories
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Aleister Crowley - The Stratagem And Other Stories

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