by Frater Zephyros
AL I.37: “Also the mantras and spells; the obeah and the wanga; the work of the wand and the work of the sword; these he shall learn and teach.”
Thelema has two principal mantras; “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” and “Love is the law, love under will.” The fact that ‘Old English’ terms are used in these mantras becomes even more interesting when we consider the fact that the term ‘Thelema’ itself is an ‘Old Greek’ term. 'Thou' clearly indicates 'Not-I' to which we can easily attribute Nuit. And yet, through the medium of Aiwass, it is Nuit who is speaking to us. Together, there is a certain dualism; she is indicating that it is our will and by pronouncing the mantra, we are asserting it is her will. This is particularly poignant in light of the fact that she is the one that shall be known and not Hadit. And the Probationer of the A.’.A.’. is taught to affix an adoration unto Nuit in all that he or she does.
It is also interesting that the translation of the ancient Greek word 'Thelema' means 'Will or Will of God'. In this sense, we certainly have a reflection of the Christian/Gnostic axiom: "Not mine, but thy will be done." Yet again, it is Nuit, speaking to us through the prophet, so we can then again, turn this around. Nuit is ‘Not’ as her will is that of each of us, especially in that her joy is to see each our individual joys as the Universe manifests itself through us. Further, the future-tense verb 'shall be' gives us the idea of something that is not (you can use this as a pun as well) at present. In which case, this is a prophecy… "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law." The ‘above’ and the ‘below’ then become a symbiotic reflection of each other. And we have a description of a fluid Universe in the act of becoming.
Interestingly enough, Crowley writes that the Aeon of Ma'at or Aeon of Truth and Justice will produce an environment where all of humanity will be able to pursue each their own individual wills without interference (Cf. Tower Atu) and the present Aeon is one of war and bloodshed in order to clear the way or purify humanity by fire, for this eventuality. And in his lecture on the Tower Atu, which he indicates should correctly be titled 'War', he indicates that war is of the nature of Love though it is an understanding that humanity does not have at present. This is reminiscent of a quote from the holy book, Liber Cheth: "This Path is beyond Life and Death; it is also beyond Love; but that ye know not, for ye know not Love."
Note also, as per the Christian/Gnostic statement above, that we are in the Aeon of Horus, which is the second of three successive, mundane Aeons belonging to the ninth Manifestation of Sagittarius and the Piscean Aeon. Though we have to purge the dross of the previous Aeon in regards to the present, there is that which we must draw on from the past. The second half of the Thelemic mantra then contrasts with the first in that it involves a present-tense verb: "Love is the law, love under will." This is what exists at this time in the present.
Regarding spells, Crowley’s notes that these are methods of communicating the will to other beings. As per his commentary to follow, he also notes in Magick in Theory and Practice that every act is a magickal act. In other words, every action we perform is its own spell.
Now one more point about the obeah and the wanga, the deed and the word of magick. Magick the art of causing change in existing phenomena. This definition includes raising the dead, bewitching cattle, making rain, acquiring goods, fascinating judges, and all the rest of the program. God: but it also includes every act whatsoever? Yes; I meant it to do so. It is not possible to utter word or do deed without producing the exact effect proper and necessary thereto. Thus magick is the art of life itself.
This brings us to the focus of this essay. What is the Obeah and the Wanga? And why is this important? Well, first, the Obeah is the magickal power within oneself. The word itself translates from the Yoruban language to mean ‘mystery’. Crowley refers to the Obeah as the ‘Secret Light’, which he says bears a special reference to ‘the acts’. Immediately, the Secret Light seems a reference to Levi’s ‘Ether’. The root of the word is OB, which can be transliterated into Hebrew as AVB, equaling nine and attributable to Yesod. This plane would be consistent with Levi’s Ether.
So in order to learn the way of the Obeah, one has to obtain magickal power. In Vodun, this is accomplished by devotion and working with spirit entities called the ‘Loa’, perhaps attributable to the entities found in Liber CCXXXI. Special attention is given to appealing to the Loa called ‘Legba’ who is the most powerful of these spirits and acts as the guardian of the gate between the spiritual and material planes and perhaps corresponding with Choronzon. Legba’s symbol is a black cross, which should be especially noted for the Zelator practicing the first part of Liber HHH, Section MMM.
Yoruban mythology also includes a chief god, ‘Olorun’ who is remote and unknowable as is the Pleroma of the ancient Gnostics. This god appoints ‘Obatala’ to create the earth in parallel fashion to the demiurge of Gnostic mythology. A fight then ensues between these two gods, which leads to the temporary banishment of Obatala. And of course, this is quite similar to the Luciferian myth in the Gnostic corpus and the whole of Manichaen cosmogony. Note also that the root of the word Obatala is the same as the root of the word Obeah. This provides for us the idea of the creative principle being involved in obtaining magickal power.
Naturally then, we are led to the Wanga, which is the physical manifestation and/or magickal link with the Obeah. This is traditionally presented in the form of a talisman, which in the history of magickal practice, takes on many forms. The magickal power then comes to fruition on the material plane as it takes its physical form in the article created. This bears special significance for the Aspirant of the A.’.A.’. in that the magickal power is the power of Attainment, the exaltation of consciousness.
And it is for this reason that the ‘Magickal Record’ is paramount and for that matter, the archives of the research and work of Our Order. Without it, there is no physical manifestation and the work itself would result in nothing but chaotic frenzy. Crowley notes that the Wanga is the verbal or mental correspondence of the acts. In other words, we even get beyond the record as the Wanga is necessarily the manifestation of full Attainment in human consciousness.
Finally, as Crowley notes in his commentary to the verse we are examining here in Liber AL, the work of the Wand and Sword bear special meaning; indicated by the fact that these can’t be the elemental weapons or this would be the only part of Liber AL that is not in balance. And as per all the passages in this ‘Wanga’, this holy book, this verse contains multiple layers of meaning. On the one hand, the Wand and Sword are equated by Crowley to the Atus of the Fool and Adjustment. The Hebrew letter correspondences of these Atus spell out the ‘key’ to the work; AL. Additionally, they are the symbols of Love and War giving us a recursion in the verse and text when we consider the mantras discussed above. The Wand is additionally, as Crowley notes, the will to create with the Sword as a weapon of Mars, being the empowerment of that will.