Achieving Subtlety Therein
"Hold! Hold! Bear up in thy rapture; fall not in swoon of the excellent kisses!
Harder! Hold up thyself! Lift thine head! breathe not so deep -- die! Ah! Ah! What do I feel? Is the word exhausted? There
is help & hope in other spells. Wisdom says: be strong! Then canst thou bear more joy. Be not animal; refine thy rapture!
If thou drink, drink by the eight and ninety rules of art: if thou love, exceed by delicacy; and if thou do aught joyous,
let there be subtlety therein! But exceed! exceed!" Liber al vel Legis 2:67-71
Passion is a major element of human existence. That we are filled with the rapture of life and the
joy of our existence is not the complete picture. Events occur that can stir our passions, both in positive and negative ways.
We seethe with anger one moment, then find ourselves gritting our teeth, gripping our fists and considering revenge the next.
We experience the joy of discovery, lust for a woman and the mental pain of losing a loved one.
While the verses appear to be addressing a personal experience of rapture by Crowley during his
encounter with Hadit through Aiwass, they can apply to our lives. It is possible to be so overcome by our emotional response
to an event that we lose our ability to think clearly, to reason, and to react in an intelligent manner.
Thus the warning to "fall not in swoon of the excellent kisses" and draw
on our inner resources to control those emotions. Failure to do this could plunge us into a frenzy of events that we might
As the world becomes more populated, people tend to react to the complexities of daily contact with
more and more violence. The school shootings, road rage, fist fights and mob violence after athletic events are examples of
passions beyond control.
It also is possible to become so caught up in our passion, whether it is anger or joy or just the
excitement of anticipation, we burn up our energy. Thus in the end, we fail to achieve expectations of pleasure. "Ah!
Ah! What do I feel? Is the word exhausted? There is help & hope in other spells. Wisdom says: be strong! Then canst thou
bear more joy."
Good advice we suppose, but how do we achieve this inner strength?
The answer lies in the next lines: "Be not animal; refine thy rapture! If thou
drink, drink by the eight and ninety rules of art: if thou love, exceed by delicacy; and if thou do aught joyous, let there
be subtlety therein! But exceed! exceed!"
Never allow ourselves to submit to our animal natures, but refine our emotions. While we can enjoy
them to the fullest, we learn control.
Crowley was as confused by the term eight and ninety rules of art as am I. He suggested that since
90 refers to Tzaddi, or the Emperor Tarot, and the eighth card points to the Chariot, that the reference would be to kingly
majesty. Thus we achieve some form of grace and dignity, even while enjoying the fruits of alcoholic passion.
In all things we are to exceed "by delicacy," and even if the joy is
so great it seems overwhelming, we learn to retain "subtlety therein."
Yet even at that, we are directed to experience joy to excess. We must just learn to be dignified
about how we react to it.
Copyright - James Donahue