Thelema and Compassion

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Thelema and Compassion

Postby AllMyWill » Mon Jan 26, 2015 3:32 pm

I heard someone say recently that "the only thing Thelema is really missing is a compassion practice". I didn't really think of it much then but it's kind of interesting now that I think about it. It could be that he (nor I) have plunged deep enough to discover such but I would say I kind of agree with that.

What do you think?
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Re: Thelema and Compassion

Postby Jim Eshelman » Mon Jan 26, 2015 5:06 pm

Compassion is the vice of kings.

All of our vices are in Hadit's service.
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Re: Thelema and Compassion

Postby Takamba » Mon Jan 26, 2015 5:17 pm

Compassion and pity are not the same things. One shares, the other views from above.

Compassion is the vice of kings.
Pity not the fallen...

etc...

There's plenty of fraternity (brotherhood, agape, love) to be had - have it well.

Veil not your vices in virtuous words...

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Re: Thelema and Compassion

Postby Gnosomai Emauton » Mon Jan 26, 2015 7:15 pm

Etymologically, compassion means "to suffer with". As the aeon of the religions of suffering is over, to suffer with another is to validate the outmoded practice.

Love another, support another, hold hands in sisterhood but "suffer with"? I do my best to avoid it.
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Re: Thelema and Compassion

Postby Archaeus » Mon Jan 26, 2015 11:17 pm

Liber Nu is full of practices that fall under that category, and one title of a 5=6 is 'Lord of Compassion', i.e. a King as Jim mentioned.
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Re: Thelema and Compassion

Postby UK93 » Sun Feb 01, 2015 2:51 am

I actually think Thelema as a whole could be seen as a compassion practice. Granted, I'm still fairly new to it all but if the point of a practice is to develop a specific skill or mindset then Thelema has done a good job on the compassion side for me personally.
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Re: Thelema and Compassion

Postby gerry456 » Tue Feb 03, 2015 4:27 pm

Compassion is discussed in Liber Tzaddi.
2.19 They shall rejoice, our chosen: who sorroweth is not of us.

2.21 We have nothing with the outcast and the unfit: let them die in their misery. For they feel not. Compassion is the vice of kings: stamp down the wretched & the weak: this is the law of the strong: this is our law and the joy of the world.
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Re: Thelema and Compassion

Postby Tau Caelestius » Sun May 03, 2015 10:49 am

Liber AL tells us compassion is a vice, but it is also a "vice of kings". Kings, by their very nature, do what they wilt, so why are we debating this issue? If you are a king and a star as Liber AL exhorts you to be, exercise your right to partake in any vice you choose. If part of your Will is to be compassionate, do so.
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Re: Thelema and Compassion

Postby Heru » Sun May 03, 2015 12:51 pm

Jim Eshelman wrote:Compassion is the vice of kings.

All of our vices are in Hadit's service.

How do we interpret this Vice of Compassion in the light of stamping down the wretched and the weak? I've come across various interpretations that this 'stamping down' is an internal act. While I can accept this up to a certain point, I feel that this interpretation follows a common theme found in many interpretations (mine included) that I've read (with the exception of Crowley's.) Namely:

If the verse or passage in question is perceived as nice or good, then interpretation tends toward the literal and the passage is taken at face value.
But...
If the verse or passage in question is perceived as 'threatening', then interpretation tends toward the symbolic. This defuses the 'threat' and renders it 'safe' once more.

I've noticed my own personal interpretations following this pattern. Accept the good sh*t, try to 'explain away' the bad sh*t. But is this cherry-picking style of interpretation little more than a form of discrimination that panders to personal prejudice, while remaining firmly within the realms of safety and comfort.
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Re: Thelema and Compassion

Postby Starry Soul » Sun May 03, 2015 1:26 pm

(If I can jump in.) Stamping down the wretched and the weak doesn't contradict having compassion for them. I think I can see the implicit assumption that it does in your post, but it's not really there.
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Re: Thelema and Compassion

Postby Heru » Sun May 03, 2015 1:55 pm

Starry Soul wrote:(If I can jump in.) Stamping down the wretched and the weak doesn't contradict having compassion for them. I think I can see the implicit assumption that it does in your post, but it's not really there.

Doesn't that kind of restrict one's options though? If someone is perceived as wretched and weak the compassionate response is to simply stamp them down? But can't you try another approach? Sure. And the most common interpretation at this point is to toss in, what I call, a "Do what thou wilt neutralizer." Basically anything that is thought of as threatening in The Book of the Law can be dismissed and ignored with those four words. I've used this interpretive mechanism myself as a means of making the book safe. Just saying "Do what thou wilt" can give one license to ignore challenging and confronting passages. It's kind of like a 'get of jail free card' that can be played whenever the book presents something that threatens the security of the personal 'comfort zone.'
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Re: Thelema and Compassion

Postby Starry Soul » Sun May 03, 2015 2:03 pm

I don't say that's the compassionate response, or the only response. I'm just saying there's no contradiction.

I see what you mean with the "Do what thou wilt" neutralizer. (Funny! :D ) I think it is important to recognize that "There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt" as a starting point, or one of the starting points. But not as cop-out from anything in the Book. I particularly don't have problems with any part of the Book, even literally.

The prophet wrote:He must accept those orders in the Book of the Law that apply to himself as being necessarily in accordance with his own true will, and execute the same to the letter with all the energy, courage, and ability that he can command.
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Re: Thelema and Compassion

Postby Heru » Sun May 03, 2015 2:20 pm

Starry Soul wrote:I think it is important to recognize that "There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt" as a starting point, or one of the starting points.

But that's kind of like the Catch-22 of Thelema. Do what thou wilt presupposes that you already know your will. How can you consciously act in accordance with something that you're ignorant of? But that doesn't stop one 'ignorantly' parroting out those four words as a defence mechanism to neutralize anything that causes psychological discomfort.

One of my views on The Book of the Law is that it is meant to push your buttons. But what's the point if there's a glib catch phrase at the ready that can put out every fire before it even starts?
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Re: Thelema and Compassion

Postby Starry Soul » Sun May 03, 2015 2:31 pm

I see your point, and yeah, it does happen a lot.
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Re: Thelema and Compassion

Postby Takamba » Sun May 03, 2015 3:10 pm

"...shall be" the whole of the Law. This indicates to me no assumption that Will is currently known, but that it shall be continually learnt and acted for.
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Re: Thelema and Compassion

Postby Hermitas » Sun May 03, 2015 5:21 pm

Personally, I don't think the book makes a whole lot of practical sense until you do wake up all those voices in your unconscious mind.

Then it's all opinion and opinion and opinion and opinion fighting within yourself.

Then "Do what thou wilt" becomes much less of a catchy platitude and more of a survival guide for sanity. And, well really, the whole book for that matter.
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Re: Thelema and Compassion

Postby Heru » Mon May 04, 2015 2:30 am

The closest thing to Thelemic Compassion that I have seen is in the writings of the Chogyam Trungpa. In his book, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, he describes something called, Ruthless Compassion. He is very careful to differentiate it from conventional notions of compassion, what he refers to as "grandmother's love". But he also states that it is a dangerous practice for reasons that may shed light on why it is the "vice of kings".

Chogyam Trungpa wrote:To the conventional way of thinking, compassion simply means being kind and warm. This sort of compassion is described in the scriptures as "grandmother's love." You would expect the practitioner of this type of compassion to be extremely kind and gentle; he would not harm a flea. If you need another mask, another blanket to warm yourself, he will provide it. But true compassion is ruthless, from ego's point of view, because it does not consider ego's drive to maintain itself. It is "crazy wisdom". It is totally wise, but it is crazy as well, because it does not relate to ego's literal and simple minded attempts to secure it's own comfort.

The logical voice of ego advises us to be kind to other people, to be good boys and girls and lead innocent little lives. We work at our regular jobs and rent a cosy room or apartment for ourselves; we would like to continue in this way, but suddenly something happens which tears us out of our secure little nest. Either we become extremely depressed or something outrageously painful occurs. We begin to wonder why heaven has been so unkind. "Why should God punish me? I have been a good person, I have never hurt a soul." But there is something more to life than that.

What are we trying to secure? Why are we so concerned to protect ourselves? The sudden energy of ruthless compassion severs us from comforts and securities. If we were never to experience this kind of shock, we would not be able to grow. We have to be jarred out of our regular, repetitive and comfortable life styles. The point of meditation is not merely to be an honest or good person in the conventional sense, trying only to maintain our security. We must begin to become compassionate and wise in the fundamental sense, open and relating to the world as it is.
.........
Q: This ruthless compassion sounds cruel.

A: The conventional approach to love is like that of a father who is extremely naive and would like to help his children satisfy all their desires. He might give them everything: money, drink, weapons, food, anything to make them happy. However, there might be another kind of father who would not merely make his children happy, but who would work for their fundamental health.

Q: Why would a truly compassionate person have any concern with giving anything?

A: It is not exactly giving but opening, relating to other people. It is a matter of acknowledging the existence of other people as they are, rather than relating to people in terms of a fixed and preconceived idea of comfort or discomfort.
...........
Q: Isn't there a considerable danger of self-deception involved with the idea of ruthless compassion? A person might think he is being ruthlessly compassionate, when in fact he is only releasing aggressions?

A: Definitely, yes. It is because it is such a dangerous idea that I have waited until now to present it...

... At the stage of which I am speaking, if a student is to actually practice ruthless compassion, he must have already gone through a tremendous amount of work: meditation, study, cutting through, discovering self-deception and sense of humour, and so on. After a person has experienced this process, made this long and difficult journey, then the next discovery is that of compassion and prajna. Until a person has studied and meditated a great deal; it would be extremely dangerous for him to try to practice ruthless compassion.
Last edited by Heru on Mon May 04, 2015 4:00 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Thelema and Compassion

Postby Starry Soul » Mon May 04, 2015 2:47 am

Spot-on, I would say.
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Re: Thelema and Compassion

Postby Hermitas » Mon May 04, 2015 4:57 pm

And so all that makes me think this:

My vice of True Compassion will always be criticized by the other colors of the spectrum as the wrong kind of compassion. Well, ...duh. That's what you think of my spectrum of Compassion?

Right. Duh.

But where it is my color, it is also my True Will.

And so, you know. Shut the {****} up. I get it. I'm doin' this.

You question that? Okay. Duh.

Compassion is the vice of kings.
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Re: Thelema and Compassion

Postby Heru » Tue May 05, 2015 3:14 am

Sardonyx wrote:My vice of True Compassion will always be criticized by the other colors of the spectrum as the wrong kind of compassion. Well, ...duh. That's what you think of my spectrum of Compassion?

In the context of the Trungpa quote above I fail to see what you mean by a spectrum of compassion. Trungpa merely states that conventional notions of compassion are rooted in the ego, it's need for security, and an aversion to pain. Compassion of this sort is like a band aid applied to an infected wound that hasn't been cleaned out. The only thing that matters is that the pain and distress goes away, even if the infection still remains.

The ruthless compassion that he speaks of seems to me to be about doing what is necessary, even if that should cause more distress or pain. In my opinion this view seems to be consistent with the tone of AL II:22, and doesn't require the 'challenging aspects' of that particular verse to be downplayed, ignored, or vetoed.
Sardonyx wrote:And so, you know. Shut the {****} up.

Charming...
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Re: Thelema and Compassion

Postby Jim Eshelman » Tue May 05, 2015 4:40 am

Yes, compassion, in the Buddhist sense, surely means "giving to a being what it most needs" (what you nicely term necessity), and this is the sense in which I always have understood the word to apply in CCXX. AC was in his strong Buddhist phase when he received CCXX, and that is surely the sense in which the word is used in the Book.

I find it fascinating that some people feel better calling it "ruthless," that there is something more inherently Thelemic about it with that adjective. I find that strange in a philosophy founded on love. The equivalent would be insisting that only "tough love" is inherently Thelemic, whereas love per se, without need of the adjective, is at the very core of Thelema.
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Re: Thelema and Compassion

Postby Heru » Tue May 05, 2015 8:21 am

Jim Eshelman wrote:I find it fascinating that some people feel better calling it "ruthless," that there is something more inherently Thelemic about it with that adjective.

I can see your point, Jim, but the catchy name didn't swing it for me. The main selling point was that Trungpa defined his terms. He makes it very clear that he is not talking about compassion as ordinarily understood by most people. Once those core definitions are in place, and the reasons behind them, things make much more sense.

One area where I think the ruthless prefix might work for some people is in counteracting the view that compassion is in some ways linked with sentimentalism. Coming from that angle makes it kind of hard to square it with the tone of AL II:22. I struggled with that one myself for a while.
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Re: Thelema and Compassion

Postby Jim Eshelman » Tue May 05, 2015 9:08 am

Heru wrote:One area where I think the ruthless prefix might work for some people is in counteracting the view that compassion is in some ways linked with sentimentalism.

I see your point (and I especially like your point about definition). I think it better, though, to make sure people know what the word really means. :D

To me, the comparison like calling an automobile a "mobile automobile." Just because some cars currently don't run, and others will never run again, doesn't mean we need to call most cars "mobile." Or, even though there are "vegetarian burgers," we really don't want to start referring to the default as "meat hamburgers" (except, perhaps, in highly specialized and narrow situations like a vegans' convention).

My only active dislike of the adjective is that it would soon lose connection to its original usage (as I suspect you feel "compassion" has), and then it would give the impression that you were talking about "some special kind of compassion, not the ordinary kind." But you aren't. You're talking about what it has always meant in Buddhism.
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Re: Thelema and Compassion

Postby Heru » Tue May 05, 2015 11:15 am

Jim Eshelman wrote:I think it better, though, to make sure people know what the word really means. :D

I couldn't agree more. :D

But I think there are always going to be difficulties when common, everyday words with well established 'popular' meanings are used in a different context for another purpose. I mean how many times have you had to patiently explain what "Will" and "Love" mean within the context of Thelema?
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Re: Thelema and Compassion

Postby Hermitas » Tue May 05, 2015 11:38 am

You'll have to put up with the dramatic monologues.

"Ruthless Compassion" - Check. Got it.

But that's not the vice of a king. That's no vice here. So, the "compassion" of the verse must be referring to that weaker sort.

See, in my view, the book is written to be taken more than one way.

Regarding the bit about trying to limit oneself to doing one's Will before one even knows what that is... I think that's absolutely valid. The questions of the book are meant to be lived.

I was trying to make the point that there will always be criticism, but our vices are ultimately in Hadit's service. The king has a story to live and learn from. We live a little, and go back to the text, live a little, and go back to the text. And you find yourself living a conversation with it, questioning and receiving answers in daily experience. That too is the living out of one's Will.

I'm supposed to learn from what I cannot help but give. There's a whole love story going on there.

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