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A Changing View of War


“FIRSTLY, let thine attention be directed to this planet, how the Aeon of Horus is made manifest by the Universal War. This is the first great and direct result of the Equinox of the Gods, and is the preparation of the hearts of men for the reception of the Law.”
–Liber CCC: Khabs am Pekht


In Aleister Crowley’s writings, he often refers to the glory and benefit of wars. Crowley writes on page 248 of Moonchild, “I pray daily for a great war that may root out the coward fear of death and poverty in the minds of these degenerate wretches. Death should be, as it used to be in the middle ages, even, and yet more in pagan times, the fit reward and climax of a life well spent in risking it for noble causes; and poverty should be a holy and blessed state, worthy of the highest minds and the happiest, and of them alone.”

The “holy and blessed state” of poverty could refer to the simple life of the Hermit or to a spiritual poverty, where all ego has been eliminated or crucified (“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it.’” - Matthew 16:24-25)

In regards to death, perhaps it should be recognized as the climax of life. Liber AL vel Legis, or the Book of the Law, says in Chapter II, line 41, “A feast for fire and a feast for water; a feast for life and a greater feast for death!” We are to regard death as an even greater occasion for celebration than birth in this New Aeon. Also, in Liber AL II:66 it is written, “Write, & find ecstasy in writing! Work, & be our bed in working! Thrill with the joy of life & death! Ah! thy death shall be lovely: whoso seeth it shall be glad. Thy death shall be the seal of the promise of our age long love. Come! lift up thine heart & rejoice! We are one; we are none.” We must thrill with the joy of both life and death. Here, Aiwass, speaking as Hadit, explains that death is “the seal of the promise of our age long love” just as Crowley says “Death should be… the fit reward and climax of a life well spent in risking it for noble causes…”

Also, death is to be seen as the necessary preliminary step before Rebirth. In the comment for Liber AL II:41 (“…a greater feast for death!”), Crowley writes “It is of the utmost importance to make funerals merry, so as to train people to take the proper view of death. The fear of death is one of the great weapons of tyrants, as well as their scourge; and it distorts our whole outlook upon the Universe.” In the Aeon of Horus, we identify ourselves with the ever-shining Sun (“Every man and every woman is a star.” –Liber AL I:3), knowing that the Sun does not die every night: it shines its Light & Love eternally while the Earth simply rotates. In this sense, all the trials we go through are not seen as catastrophic, as in the Aeon of Osiris where the Sun was thought to die, but as necessary steps to our spiritual evolution. No matter what happens, we are eternal (“…Think not, o king, upon that lie: That Thou Must Die: verily thou shalt not die, but live. Now let it be understood: If the body of the King dissolve, he shall remain in pure ecstasy for ever…” – Liber AL II:21). It is said in Liber Librae, in lines 2-4, “Thou then, who hast trials and troubles, rejoice because of them, for in them is Strength, and by their means is a pathway opened unto that Light. How should it be otherwise, O man, whose life is but a day in Eternity, a drop in the Ocean of time; how, were thy trials not many, couldst thou purge thy soul from the dross of earth? Is it but now that the Higher Life is beset with dangers and difficulties; hath it not ever been so with the Sages and Hierophants of the past? They have been persecuted and reviled, they have been tormented of men; yet through this also has their Glory increased. Rejoice therefore, O Initiate, for the greater thy trial the greater thy Triumph.”

Even if death should rightfully be recognized as the climax of life, is war the only way to make men respect death and understand it correctly? It must be realized that war in Crowley’s time of World War I, Russo-Japanese War, Mexican Revolution, Balkan Wars, etc. was much different than war is now in the last half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st. Clearly defined enemies marked in uniforms has changed into the guerrilla warfare of Vietnam, the insurgency of Iraq, and the ever-looming, ever-elusive “war on terrorism.” M. Brewster Smith, who was professor emeritus of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, the president of the American Psychological Assocation (APA) in 1978 and of its Division of Humanistic Psychology in 1984, wrote an essay entitled “Nationalism, Ethnocentrism, and the New World Order” in 1992. In it, he writes “[William] James made much of the romantic view of warfare, more prevalent before World War I, as evoker and test of heroism, as sustainer of the ‘manly virtues.’” William James lived in the same time period as Crowley, and his book Varieties of Religious Experience is recommended by Crowley for his order, the A.’.A.’..

William James himself writes, “We should get toughness without callousness, authority with as little criminal cruelty as possible, and painful work done cheerily because the duty is temporary, and threatens not, as now, to degrade the whole remainder of one’s life…” James speaks here of the careful equilibrium one must have. Line 12 of "Liber Librae" informs us of this delicate balance when it is said, “Remember that unbalanced force is evil; that unbalanced severity is but cruelty and oppression; but that also unbalanced mercy is but weakness which would allow and abet Evil...” James also mentions that “painful work” must be done knowing that the “duty” is merely temporary, and “threatens not, as now, to degrade the whole remainder of one’s life,” just like death, conflicts, or suffering are not seen as tragic events for the Star but as necessary events from which it can learn. William James goes on to say, “So far, war has been the only force that can discipline, a whole community, and until an equivalent discipline is organized, I believe that war must have its way.” James’ idea of discipline seems admirable but he is reluctant to accept any other force than war to discipline.

M. Brewster Smith tells of the changes in perspective of war, “…My generation’s experience of war – World War II and since – involved little heroism and much wretched slogging it out in grim necessity and loyalty to one’s buddies.” It seems that the machine guns of World War I have become the computer-guided missiles, spy satellites, and nuclear weapons of World War II, Vietnam, Korean War, Cold War, Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and every other conflict today. The detached and emotionless pushing of the missile launch button or dropping of bombs from hundreds of feet above has largely replaced the glory of fighting an enemy face to face on the battlefield. Smith continues, “…Since the defeat of the Axis powers of World War II, it has become uncommon in the world of Westernized nations to hear war idealized as an ennobling discipline: Now we cast our military adventures and our preparation for them in the guise of reluctant defense.” The romance of war has been utterly lost in the wake of the genocides committed constantly since World War II.

It must be understood that “Every man and every woman is a star.” Liber AL I:52 says: "If this be not aright; if ye confound the space-marks, saying: They are one; or saying, They are many; if the ritual be not ever unto me: then expect the direful judgments of Ra Hoor Khuit!" In the New Commentary for this line, Crowley writes, “It is not true to say either that we are separate Stars, or One Star. Each Star is individual, yet each is bound to the others by Law… The nature of man is individual. No two faces are identical, still less are two individuals. Unspeakable is the variety of form and immeasurable the diversity of beauty, but in all is the seal of unity, inasmuch as all cometh from the womb of Nuit -- to it returneth all. The apprehension of this sublimity is the mark of divinity. Knowing this, all is liberty; ignorant of this, all is bondage. As no two individuals are identical, so also, there can be no identity between the quintessential expressions of the will of any two persons; and the expression of each person, in the first instance, as his purely physical prerogative, is his sexual gesture.” In seeing this unity of people, we can all join together globally, universally; there would be no reason for war and no excuse that is for the discipline of humanity. We cannot maintain the dualities of in-groups and out-groups and propagate wars with a prima facie objective of perpetuating "peace" "freedom" or "democracy" with the real goal being monetary and political dominance. We should not tolerate immature prejudices, tyrannies, and superstitions that keep the world from progressing very far towards the Universal Brotherhood that is needed.

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