by Frater Achad Osher
This paper is adapted from series of lessons distributed in our branch of the A.’.A.’. titled The Magickal Essence of Aleister Crowley: Understanding the New Aeon through the teachings of the Great Beast.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. –AL I:40
This article will discuss the first and most important requirement often overlooked or taken lightly by the average would-be magician. If this practice is ignored one borders on very dangerous waters. This is no idle threat. I’m talking about the practice of keeping a Magickal Diary or Record. The latter implies the record of specific magickal working(s) while the diary is a personal overview of one’s life activities which may, in fact, include magickal records. Like every magickal exercise, the theory of this practice is based in simplicity but it is multilayered and includes intricate reasons for the advanced student. I find it tragic that some ‘self-help’ books reportedly published by serious students of magick don’t even bother to discuss the Magickal Diary, or they give it such a weak overview that it offers little help for the novice. Must I remind these authors that it was Aleister Crowley who said in Magick Without Tears that “The first and absolutely essential task for the Aspirant is to write his Magical Record.” (p.491) Shouldn’t these authors at least include something about this seemingly simplistic requirement? Although, in all honesty, I might point out that it was also Crowley who stated in the same book that the student “should do nothing … which he does not understand.” (p.377) Maybe this statement holds the clue as to why some authors avoid the topic while others have kept their statements very brief.
For those students who are serious about this obligation I suggest that they pick up a copy of Aleister Crowley’s novel The Diary of a Drug Fiend. At the age of 46 the Great Beast dictated this masterpiece to Leah Hirsig, his Scarlet Woman, while both were staying in a room at 31 Wellington Square in Chelsea. Reportedly it took him twenty-seven days, twelve and a half hours to complete it. For any magician it is a must to read. This is probably the best material Crowley has written on the theory behind the Magickal Record. As the title implies, the diary is central to the cure of two drug addicts. It is a complicated story and often misunderstood by babbling sensationalists who, having never read the book, believe it’s simply about the joy of drugs which is far from true. It is the story of a young couple who traveled throughout Europe in a madness of drug addiction only to end up at the Abbey of King Lamus, a Master Adept, who attempts to free them from their curse. The book is layered with useful hints and views spewed forth by King Lamus. He expounds upon keeping a record as an attempt to discover the reasons behind the couples’ problems with drug addiction, amongst other things. I think Sister Athena, a member of the Abbey, said it best when she turned to the couple, saying, “the Magical Record is always the first consideration in the Abbey,” (p.320) as it should be for everyone.
Crowley has further said in Magick Without Tears that although the “development of the Magical record is by far the most important of one’s weapons. How to use the Record is not easy to explain; but there is a sort of knack which comes to one suddenly.” (p.382) Before such a knack can be understood we must first ask ourselves, on a mundane level, what makes a Magickal Diary stand apart from some plain old daily diary. For starters, some of you may want to run out and buy one of those cute little blank books with a picture on the cover or purchase one of those ready-made spiral diaries which have the dates neatly printed at the top of each page. Please, don’t. These prefab diaries are limiting and extremely restrictive, remember Liber AL vel Legis warns us that the only sin is restriction. (AL I:41) Some days your entry may be a paragraph, other days you may want to write nothing at all, while some entries could run twenty pages. Don’t limit yourself into an unconscious mental block of a single page entry because of some preprinted pulp. In fact, you shouldn’t use any book which is already bound as loose paper is far better for the beginner.
Remember, you’re a scientist and although a note pad, bound or not, is always a good idea for immediate thoughts, it is not your final Magickal Diary. As for myself, during the course of every day I am continually jotting down what occurs on my note pad for convenience. Later, everything which I’ve written down is transferred into a final record. It is my suggestion that one uses a specific time of the day set aside for just such a task. I usually begin my day by writing out yesterday’s events from my notes while they are still fresh in my mind. This allows me to reflect upon yesterday in order to fulfill today. Occasionally, during the day itself, I am given the luxury of typing out my record but usually I limit such to events which require immediate attention due to a conversation, an event or, especially, the emotional mood of the moment. A computer can be used to keep an on-going log, day by day. This is far easier. However, be sure you have a back- up disk in case an ‘elemental’ tampers with the hard drive. You might laugh at this thought but, years back, when I was first beginning my workings, my own handwritten diary was messed with on a few occasions while being under lock and key. Things were drawn and scribbled across pages while some entries simply vanished all together.
Some people are curious about what structure is required for the Magickal Diary but there is no easy answer to this question. Can we tell a botanist to use the same format as that of a brain surgeon in labeling flowers and plants? Of course not. No two records will ever be the same because no two needs are alike. You must determine what is required for yourself. Still, there are a few mandatory things which must be entered in your record. For instance, a few things which should be included with each entry is the date, day of the week, the Sun sign and Moon sign. With time it will become apparent why these are important but such usually occurs only in one’s retrospect of a past period. Also include the exact time, place and who might have been present when you do any rituals, especially Liber Resh vel Helios. Any comments about how you felt or quirks which occurred while doing this ritual should also be included.
Leave nothing out and most importantly-be HONEST. Never tell unTruths in your Magickal Diary. If something went well, acknowledge it. If it didn’t and was a failure, tear your soul as to why and learn to correct it. Do not create phantoms in this book. Yes, the world is your playground to do with as you want in order for your spirit to gain experience. However, it is important to acknowledge that there is a time and place for everything. There must be some place where honesty prevails to the utmost. The Magickal Diary is this place. Although most beginners are unaware of how it works, the diary reflects a discourse which is being established between the mundane, your spirit and your Holy Guardian Angel. Only with time will you understand how it works. Do not take it lightly. Furthermore, nothing will lead to the destruction of a magician quicker, when reaching the threshold of the Abyss, than if he or she laid a Foundation based on deceit and lies. Such magician can not, I repeat, can not cross Abyss. They are destined either for madness or the Black Brotherhood and their actions shall reveal which path they have taken. Remember, what you write in your diary is merely words, which are earthed out onto the mundane plane in order to follow the magickal principles of birth, life and death. The next stage for these, or any words, is that they plant seeds deep in your unconsciousness for further growth. If you’re fabricating deceit in your Magickal Diary then what do you expect will come to bloom in order to fulfill such written aspirations? It’s quite simple — phantoms breed more phantoms, which are inevitably the food of Choronzon upon reaching the Abyss.
Anyway, I’ve discuss the ritual of Liber Resh vel Helios in-depth in another paper. For now, let me explain one way a beginner can use the Magickal Diary in relation to this ritual. Perform and record your doing Liber Resh, let’s say, for a required test period of a month. At the end of this period you should make a count of the exact number of times which you have done each adoration. If you’re normal there will always be one adoration which you do the most and one the least. With time and practice this unbalanced quality must be overcome by doing that which you have lacked the most. Liber Resh opens an internal door and I can’t stress enough that it is mandatory for a student to learn the proper proportions. The door should be of equal sides, not lop-sided. A distorted image draws down unbalanced qualities and, remember, any unbalanced quality in your psyche can become a very dangerous obsession. It is this reason that recording and reviewing the quantity of each Resh is very important. The door which opens is like a flower slowly blooming in the Muladhara Chakra. Its petals should be radiant and of equal size to enable the current or tides to flow unhampered within, regardless if a ritual you are planning taps into only one particular elemental tide. The purity of the overall current is mandatory even if you’re going to vitalize only part of it.
As an example, let’s reduce the number of times one could possibly do Liber Resh into a square. Let’s say each ten days reflects one inch. If the month had thirty days and you did the Air adoration a full 30 times, the Fire 20, the Water 25 and the Earth adoration only 10 you would only be able to draw a box 3″ x 2″ x 2 1/2″ x 1″ … hardly a balanced four-fold door in your psychic anatomy. Remember, the number four in Hebrew is Daleth. It rules the tarot card of The Empress which is the uniting path between the spheres of Chokmah (Father) and Binah (Mother) on the Tree of Life. In most renditions of this Tarot card there is a depiction of a flowing stream. This symbolizes not only the four-fold tides or Life-force, but also the basic stream of unconsciousness which is found in all of humanity. If the stream is unbalanced it cannot flow evenly. A blockage will occur in your psyche, obsession is easy at this point and it usually occurs in the direction of the strongest element or impression put into the stream. It is very important that we allow the stream to flow unhampered so that the impressions or images put there by an entity, like one’s own Holy Guardian Angel, can be clear and pure. Otherwise instead of being a vehicle for the communications, or descending Gnosis, we tend to interfere with such on an almost unconscious level, often becoming obsessed by the communicated imagery without even knowing it. Aleister Crowley warns us in The Book of Lies that “no impression must be allowed to dominate you, only to fructify you; just as the artist, seeing an object, does not worship it, but breeds a masterpiece from it. (p.19) I’d like to quote a chapter from Aleister Crowley’s The Book of Lies which refers to the mysteries of the Tarot card of The Empress, even if some of my critics state that it will go over the head of most of my readers.
Soft and hollow, how thou dost overcome the hard and full!
It dies, it gives itself; to Thee is the fruit!
Be thou the Bride; thou shalt be the Mother hereafter.
To all impressions thus. Let them not overcome thee;
yet let them breed within thee.
The least of the impressions, come to its perfection, is Pan.
Receive a thousand lovers; thou shalt bear but One Child.
This child shall be the heir of Fate the Father.
I’m not going into all the sexual innuendoes regarding how peaches refers to the vagina, “soft and hollow,” overcoming the ‘hard’ because this chapter in Lies might be far too difficult for the novice to understand but, never-the-less, I made the above reference for those few who might read between the lines and grasp further insight on all levels. The average person might simply be asking, “How can we avoid becoming dominated by an impression which flows through us?” I can only say that this is difficult to explain because, to the average reader, this might imply that one is manipulating the communications. This is not true. The ‘tampering’ usually takes place deep in the subconscious or within the flow of the tides. We must learn to keep these tides moving in a balanced order. By doing this we can rule out a person’s psyche effecting the impression. An unbalanced door symbolizes a stream moving in torrents, chaotically and uncontrolled through our system, while a four-fold door tells us the tides are moving perfectly in harmony. If everything is running smoothly the images placed into the waters by one’s HGA flow through us. It’s that simple. If you find that there is one tide which you perform or acknowledge more than the others then it reflects the widest opening by which a particular current can move in abundance. As an example, let us say it’s the Air tide. Even if the Air tide is what you have decided to utilize in a given elemental ritual there is great, great danger if you continue. You need the other three elemental qualities, in equal quantity, to flow through you to balance the Air impressions being received. Without them obsession is almost certainly guaranteed.
After writing the above paragraph I realize that I need to elaborate the last few lines because I can see some idiot’s mind grinding its wheels right now over the possibility that I’ve given them an easy way out. Let me explain clearly. If you’re doing a group ritual and you review the records of everyone who is going to be involved in an elemental or magickal working and find that, due to the lack of a specific adoration, none of them are completely compatible with the ritual you’re planning, do not rewrite it to fit the incompetence of the whole. You’re only asking for trouble. Discovering the ‘strongest’ tide is not the reason for reviewing the quantity of times that individuals do the adorations. You’re suppose to be looking for a balanced, even flow of elemental currents within the people who are involved in the ritual. Consider yourself a scientist. If you’ve set out to accomplish a specific goal and find that the staff around you is not qualified, you fire them and hire people who are. Friendship has no place in a temple, especially if they’re not committed to the ritual at hand by laying the appropriate foundation. Ideally the door, like the flower blooming in the Muladhara Chakra, should be perfectly balanced within each person in the ritual chamber, even those who are only there as witnesses. After all, this is not a spectator sport. Everyone present can and does effect the outcome of the ritual. If people aren’t committed enough to do Liber Resh then they shouldn’t be involved in one’s experiments.
Let us discuss more theory about keeping the Magickal Diary. An unpublished paper distributed within Aleister Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis states that “the greatest tool a Magician has to aid him in his noble quest for attainment is his own Magical Diaries.” (The Magical Diary, The Minerval Obligations, Lesson One (Connecticut: Brocken Mountain Lodge OTO, 1979), p. 1.) This is, of course, true. The paper continues to explain that all individuals who join the order by taking the first step of Minerval Initiation are obligated to begin keeping such a record. That was then. Today the fraternity has tragically dropped its magickal repertoire and no longer requires any obligations from one degree to another. Although, in all fairness, it hasn’t discouraged such practices. This same unpublished OTO paper acknowledges that to “understand why this Diary is important, think of it as an intricate chart which has the capability of guiding an Initiate in any direction, or path which he chooses. Without this guide most path-finders perish in the vast wilderness of their own minds. Thus the more in depth an Initiate goes is to his own benefit. For it will enable him to venture deeper in an understanding of his own inner being. A shallow Magical Diary with few entries symbolizes the same achievement in reality. It also symbolizes the depth which he has sunk in his efforts to penetrate the very core of his soul in his pursuits of his True Will.” (Ibid., p. 3.) What the author implies is that you must include as much data as possible, leaving very little out. Exactly what to include would be determined by the individual and the ritual itself, although the golden rule here is that more is always better than less.
For now, simply realize the importance of beginning a Magickal Diary. Remember, if scientists do not keep a record then their ‘alleged accomplishments’ are never taken seriously. This same attitude should be extended toward any Thelemite who likewise doesn’t keep a Magickal Diary. If they claim any lofty accomplishment, especially magickal degrees, and have no record to show for it, then take everything they say as being suspect of deceit. I have vivid memories of Grady McMurtry joking that those of the Black Brotherhood never keep records, nor commit into writing their accomplishment, out of fear that such would expose them for what they truly are. According to them, you’re simply suppose to ‘accept their Word’ as to their greatness. I agree with Crowley that this is one of the reasons why the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn failed. It embraced the Black Brotherhood and allowed its membership to claim degrees without accomplishing the simplest of obligations, as for example the Magickal Diary. For any real magician it is important to realize that you must lay an appropriate foundation. I can not stress it strongly enough, Aleister Crowley tells us that the first and absolutely essential task for all students is to keep a Magical Record. He gives no exceptions to this rule.
Besides the basic and obvious reasons for keeping a Magickal Diary, Aleister Crowley makes another important point. He warns the student in Book Four that “there are very great difficulties to be overcome in the training of the mind. Perhaps the greatest is forgetfulness, which is probably the worst form of what the Buddhists call ignorance. Special practices for training the memory may be of some use as a preliminary for persons whose memory is naturally poor. In any case the Magical Record … is useful and necessary.” (p. 71.) It is no secret that the average person lacks perfect recollection. Often past memories about a given incident fade into obscurity or change to help a newly fostering mythos. By writing a diary you begin to train yourself to continually dredge out of your mind daily events before they are forgotten. The entire key to this process of recollection is that it occurs on an unconscious level. You’re not aware of the subtle changes occurring over time. However, your recollection of events definitely becomes sharpened, and after awhile you realize that you can remember the most minute details. It is mandatory for a magician to have this thought process, especially if doing astral workings and ceremonial rituals. For this reason and this reason alone, training the mind to write out a Magickal Diary is a priceless tool.
I’d also like to remind you of something else to consider regarding the Magickal Diary. If you are truly a New Aeonic pathfinder who enjoys sailing off into uncharted waters, you will inevitably hear the terms “obsession and possession” being thrown around. Madness is real for anyone who plays in the astral waters of their mind. It should not be taken as an idle threat. However, on the most mundane level, if every early explorer listened to the fears of their times–that the Earth was flat, or that monsters lived in the deep who sought to devour their ships–we would still be living in the Dark Ages. Yes it is true, many early explorers lost their sanity and their lives as they forged their way into the unknown parts of our globe. However, those who followed used the maps and diaries of earlier explorers so that they might continue even further. This general statement is important to understand. No matter if you’re an explorer of Self or the invisible world all around you, you’re still a pathfinder into uncharted waters. Regarding these ‘maps and diaries’ Crowley wrote in Magick Without Tears, “Without this you are in the position of a navigator with neither chart nor log.” (p. 286.) If you did a one night stand in magick, a shabby record implies the lack of ability to determine the results of your venture. If you were to continue again and again, night after night, careful and intricate records are definitely required of your voyage to enable you to arrive at your destination. To continue forward you must reflect upon the past and the steps which you’ve already taken to get to where you’re now standing. If you do not study your own history, or reflect upon previous diary records, you’re doomed to repeat the same errors. If errors become apparent, study them and determine what is required to overcome these problems blocking Self. If things worked all too well then obviously you’ve planned things correctly. Therefore, duplicate your successes and go further. You are a scientist and magick is no child’s toy.
There are other reasons for keeping a Magickal Diary of which advanced students of Aleister Crowley’s teachings are well aware. I don’t feel the need to detail how to use your magical record to achieve this, except again quoting Crowley’s Magick Without Tears, “The construction of this Record … leads to the acquisition of the Magical Memory—the memory of your previous incarnations.” (p. 491.) The Beast has written much on this topic and students wishing to learn more can easily find further data if they look. As I’ve said, this practice is for the more advanced student who has kept damn good diaries for many years and who knows the correct way to ‘begin’. In this article we are not concerned with this type of ‘beginning’ because it requires more thought than the average person can handle and is usually something one starts after they have been keeping a Magickal Diary for awhile.
As you can plainly see, there is much more to a Magickal Diary than one might expect. I have given you only a brief over-view. The bottom line is that, regardless of one’s experiments, a shabby record offers little help if such is required. I can not stress enough the need of creating an accurate and in-depth record of any magickal working, especially into Self. In Magick in Theory & Practice it clearly states, “To do magick without a record is like trying to run a business without book-keeping.” (p. 141.) Throughout his books Crowley continually uses examples like this to explain why a diary is needed. He adds, “if you call in an auditor to investigate a business, and when he asks for the books you tell him that you have not thought it worth while to keep any, you need not be surprised if he thinks you every kind of an ass.” (Ibid) Burn that thought into your mind.
At the beginning of this article I mentioned that Aleister Crowley said that with time you’ll obtain a knack on how to use your Magical Diary. This knack becomes apparent in your relationship with your Holy Guardian Angel. If rituals like Liber Resh vel Helios, the Banishings and Will are performed over a period of time, your record will begin to speak to you in a fashion that only you will understand. This only occurs through the descent of Gnosis and requires the perfect recollection of thought. Remember, keeping your Magickal Diary trains you in this particular ability, even though you’ll probably be unaware of it when you begin. This process takes time. You can not start a diary today and expect results in a week. However, once you start obtaining Inner Knowledge you’ll become driven to pursue Self even further and your angel will guide you step by step, bringing you to the very threshold of your Star and the Laws of your True Will. If you haven’t bothered to keep a Magickal Diary there can be no serious reflection upon Self and without this it is virtually impossible for an angel to descend unless one lives an extremely pious lifestyle which seems impossible for Thelemites. So, if you haven’t started yet, begin to keep a Magickal Diary today.
Love is the law, love under will. –AL I:57
Copyright (C) Cornelius 2006