NOTOCON XII KEYNOTE ADDRESS
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Our theme this year is “Fear Not At All,” taken from the Book of the Law, Chapter III, verse 17:
“Fear not at all; fear neither men nor Fates, nor gods, nor anything. Money fear not, nor laughter of the folk folly, nor any other power in heaven or upon the earth or under the earth. Nu is your refuge as Hadit your light; and I am the strength, force, vigour, of your arms.”
So, what’s wrong with fear, anyway? Why the hell shouldn’t we fear? There’s a lot of really scary stuff going on out there! Fear, not at all…are you nuts?
Fear is an extremely useful tool for us puny mortals as we scurry about on our dying planet, hurtling through the void to nowhere, trying to maximize our brief terms of consciousness, struggling to maintain our illusory autonomy, working to plant and nurture our little crops of DNA, striving to realize our fragile dreams, justify our Liliputian labors, and right our petty wrongs.
Fear is our ally in a turbulent world, it helps us to evade the real dangers and difficulties that can fall into our paths and cause us pain, frustration, humiliation, poverty, injury and death. Sometimes fear is our only safeguard against blundering into serious trouble.
Also, fear is an awesome rush and everybody loves it. Why else would we have roller coasters, and horror movies, and piano recitals, … and public speaking?
Oh, and if you’re a demagogue, or a rabble rouser, or a preacher, or…a deodorant peddler, then fear is unquestionably your key to success!
So what’s with all this anti-fear stuff?
“Fear is the mind-killer…”
“Fear is the path to the dark side…”
“Fear is failure, and the forerunner of failure.”
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”
Is fear really that scary?
In the Microcosm—from the perspective of sentient mold growing on a ball of rock—fear is a very useful thing. But, despite its primal, existential utility–or perhaps because of it–it can also obsess us, dominate us, paralyze us, restrict us from being truly free. It can hold us back from aspiring to anything beyond what we’ve been told is our lot in life.
So despite its obvious benefits, fear, like sugar, is one of those good things that we can easily have too much of. And a lot of the stuff we do that seems to be reveling in fear is probably more like an effort to conquer it, or at least defy it.
But, detaching for a moment from our mortal concerns: sub specie aeternitatis, from the perspective of the eternal, all is at it should be–as it must be. Fear is simply not a factor in the Macrocosm. It’s an artifact of mortality. The eternal gods have nothing to be afraid of.
And isn’t it the task and desire of the Mystic to ultimately realize a relationship, if not an identity, with these eternal principles?
“There is no part of me that is not of the gods.”
“I confess my life one, individual, and eternal, that was, and is, and is to come.”
Once we realize our true natures, who knows? Perhaps personal fear will no longer dominate and oppress us. Perhaps this path of Magick that we have chosen can eventually take us to such a peaceful place.
But setting sail on the seas of Magick presents a number of challenges, doesn’t it? Many of which center on our fears. From the very outset.
The desire to embark on this voyage often stems from a deep sensation of unease. We are not satisfied with the clouded mirror of our limited perceptions, or with the common coin of life and death we have been given. We know there must be more–we can smell it–and we want to find it and make it ours. We have to face the unknown. And our fear.
Setting forth on this journey requires courage–just to get started, we have to confront and overcome many fears–but we also start off with an innate sense of imbalance, which poses another, possibly greater challenge. Will progress on the journey restore balance to us? Or will it exacerbate that imbalance?
Joseph Campbell said, “The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight.”
When we push off from our familiar shore, we, of course, aim to succeed in our voyage; but aren’t we always a little afraid that we’re not really up to the task? We aim to attain real power and understanding; but aren’t we always a little afraid we will be thwarted? As we learn, we aim to be heard; but aren’t we always a little afraid we will be ignored? As we grow, we aim to be respected, but aren’t we always a little afraid we will be laughed at? Will we master these fears, or will they end up unfolding into paranoia and mastering us?
Fear is in fact, our constant (and rather annoying) companion on this little voyage, and it will only go its own way once the boat has actually reached the other shore. To deny this is not courage, but mere wishful thinking. As we travel, we need to give our Wild-Eyed Stow-Away a comfortable place to sit, and listen politely and patiently to what it has to say. But we can never allow it to distract us; to manipulate us into rash reactions that will capsize our little boat, or into steering our craft into the doldrums of delusion. We have to keep our eye on the horizon and our hand steady on the tiller, despite the screaming. This is courage.
Even so, I personally find a bit of comfort in being mindful that, even if our little boat does sink in the microcosmic sea, and we sink with it, the celestial gods will go about their slow and inscrutable business as ever; and all stories, great as well as small, are recorded beyond the grasp of time in their supreme, transcendent archive of Existence. Even in failure there is success, if the effort was made with courage, sincerity, and heart.
Aye! feast! rejoice! there is no dread hereafter. There is the dissolution, and eternal ecstasy in the kisses of Nu! (AL II:44)
And with that I’d like to offer a similar simple toast as that offered by Soror Helena last night: To Nuit! To courage! To freedom! To joy!
U.S. National Grand Master General, Sabazius X*