by Erica Johnson

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. —AL I:40

Though it might not seem so when you first enter it, the A.A. path is one of service to all humanity. This can prove inconvenient or even dangerous—especially if you venture beyond the man-of-Earth Qabalistic spheres, Malkuth-10 and Yesod-9. We offer this essay to give fair warning. Really! Walking a spiritual path sounds like such a nice idea, but it can have its price. Remember, you can remain a good person and not give up your ordinary life. If you feel any hesitation about losing control of your life to a higher Will, it’s best not to take initiation. There is no free lunch.

Although I’ll be talking in this essay about Aleister Crowley’s vertical school, A.A., the same considerations apply to undergoing the chakra-opening rituals of Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), Crowley’s horizontal order. Some people who do so experience no problems, whether because they were ready or because the rituals didn’t work. However, no one should consider the ceremonies “safe”, despite the casual way in which they are sometimes encouraged. Don’t get me wrong—I cherish the OTO rites as they were originally intended. They are brilliant and powerful. But even without the reprehensible Oaths of personal loyalty with which they have been adulterated, they can wreck marriages, careers, and health. It all depends on how far out of alignment you are with the Will when you effectively invite the Universe to take corrective action.

Many people have heard of the “ordeals” of the magickal path. In short, every time you take a serious step on the vertical path, Nature tries to drag you down again. It’s just the nature of duality: every action is compensated by an equally powerful reaction. Some of the most seductive ordeals are pleasant: new love, a juicy job-offer, an unexpected chance to travel the world, etc. The worst they can do is negate your intent and land you back at square one. They don’t harm you other than by enmeshing you more deeply in the world-illusion, and they may even make your life feel richer. Unfortunately, the ordeals just as often take unpleasant forms—a break-up, death in the family, personal illness or injury, excommunication, social abandonment, financial stagnation, job loss, reputation damage, family problems—and the list goes on. I make this list easily by casting my mind back over what I’ve either experienced or witnessed. The general thrust of this natural compensatory movement: anything to distract you from the Path.

The further up the Tree of Life you climb, the trickier the challenges and the more serious the consequences if you fail. After fasting for 40 days and nights in the desert, Jesus Christ is said to have been offered the whole world by Satan. The only way to have the fortitude to turn down such an offer is to see clearly how hollow and transitory are its supposed benefits.

The more responsibility you assume to help humanity by offering your lifetime as a pure vehicle of the Will, the higher the stakes. The basic trajectory is to realize progressively that all ideas of personal benefit enmesh their bearer in soul-destroying illusions. Pure Joy consists in the realization of Unity in the No-Self. Unfortunately, it is always possible to pervert the Power of Universal Will toward the ever-lurking egoic delusion. The aspirant must develop the necessary safeguards against tragedy: discipline, purity, patience, devotion, self-awareness, a bullshit meter, among others. I will write of the specifics for each magickal Grade in a separate essay. Here I simply intend to warn the would-be aspirant, especially those who are fond of their ordinary life: if you don’t want to be disillusioned, don’t come here. Personally, I love this life and wouldn’t trade it. But I won’t lie to you: to get here I’ve had to spend years in hell overcoming my own demons. To some degree or other, no one can avoid such things. But if you take initiation, you hasten the process. We just thought you should know.

Love is the law, love under will. —AL I:57