Yes the mysterius word TRINC has puzzled me also, in fact when I first wrote to (Bill Heidrick, Grand Treasurer General of) the (C).O.T.O. to enquire about membership of that hallowed org way back in 1984, it was a question which I enquired of him in relation to Crowley’s usage of the phrase in The Book of Thoth, where he described it as the Ultimate Oracle. (Unfortunately he was unable to assist much there, although helpful in other ways at the time.)
Yes the mysterius word TRINC has puzzled me also, in fact when I first wrote to (Bill Heidrick, Grand Treasurer General of) the (C).O.T.O. to enquire about membership of that hallowed org way back in 1984, it was a question which I enquired of him in relation to Crowley’s usage of the phrase in The Book of Thoth, where he described it as the Ultimate Oracle. (Unfortunately he was unable to assist much there, although helpful in other ways at the time.)
Everything you ever wanted to know - and probably a lot you didn't - coming up!
I gave a sort of pre-emptive footnote to the upcoming post on this word in reply #33 above -
- just to provoke discussion. In the meantime, for OTO-specific ramifications, Heidrick did discuss it a bit more on alt.magick back in 1998, where somebody named AinSoph asked the question "who can Describe TRINC/TRINU in fine detail?"
Heidrick gave some of Crowley's quotes, and then at the end suggests: "As to further significance, consider the Star Saphire"
I'm also persuaded to suggest Chapter 69 of The Book of Lies (through Atu VII), and the OTO lamen. And also consider the Dionysian mode of the threefold path of ecstasy.
All very interesting – and also synchronistic! I do get the feeling there is something a bit more to this TRINC-TRINU business than initially meets the eye but don’t really have the time to delve deep into the potentially intriguing matter much at the present myself though thank you for providing some very potentially useful resources, bel! You are doing splendid work in formulating & fleshing out the previous connections & antecedents of Thelema here.
THELEMA, PANURGE, AND THE DIVINE BOTTLE
Or, How Panurge Discovered His True Will
(Translation of Per Nykrog (1925 – 2014) “Thélème, Panurge et la Dive Bouteille” (Revue d’Histoire Littéraire de la France, LXV (1965), no. 3 (Juillet-Septembre), pp. 385-397).
(Per Nykrog at his Harvard University biography page, with partial curriculum vitae -
Nykrog, born in Copenhagen in 1925, became a scholar of Romance languages, publishing principally on French and Spanish literature from the medieval through modern periods. Like Emile Telle, he wrote little on Rabelais specifically, but the article translated here was seminal, being the first to find a thread linking the themes of Thelema, Panurge’s dilemma, and the Oracle of La Dive bouteille – the Divine Bottle. Students of Crowley could happily subtitle it “How Panurge Discovered His True Will.” Nykrog was also the first, as he himself points out, to investigate the philosophic rationale behind Rabelais’ choice of the name Thélème for his Abbey, analyzing both the precedent classical and biblical usages of the word θέλημα, and bringing to notice a very important passage in Erasmus’ Annotations on the New Testament (1504-1505).
Nykrog assumes a lot of background on the part of his readers, quite beyond being familiar with the Rabelaisian cycle. I have reasearched and added this background information as summary endnotes for those who undoubtedly, like me, will not be current with many of Nykrog’s allusions.
The article is particularly relevant to Crowley’s outline of his Rabelais essay, since it deals in detail with two of the three “climaxes” of point 4 – the Abbey of Thelema (“93”), and the Oracle of the Bottle (“TRINC”). It also deals with another point Crowley intended to expand upon, written on the facing page of the diary edited by Skinner (p. 150):
Panurge = ☿[Mercury] problem how to fix ☿ [Mercury] (by marriage?)”
Thus it was Crowley’s intention to discuss Panurge’s dilemma – whether to marry or not – in an alchemical sense (note “the red and the white” in the ensign of the bottle, depicted below). He also intended to discuss both the aspects of Panurge’s various methods of divining the answer in the Third Book (e.g. Crowley told Mudd in his collection of notes on the topic “On Rabelais”, point 4: “Dramatis personae. The people Panurge consults… Panurge the Fool. The unconscious, complete innocence plus perfect devilment.”. This is the subject of another paper in preparation) as well as finding the answer in the Fifth Book (Trinc). Nykrog, dealing with the same theme, could almost be writing for Thelemites with passages like the following –
“Translated into Pantagruelian language, the θέλημα of Panurge induces him clearly to marry, but his reason cannot stop raising the fear of various risks which are attached to it. His first fault is that he wants to decide rationally, his second that he does not have the courage to surrender himself to his destiny.
… given Panurge’s attitude, the consultations continue: the last consulted is the Fool Triboullet (Chapters XLV-XLVI). It is he who offers the solution which they end up adopting: the penultimate word thus belongs to Stultitia, anti-reason. The search for Reason thus finishes with Unreason, which sends them to the Bottle, and Reason takes this solution as the good one.
…Do what thou wilt is neither an invitation to debauchery, nor to anarchy.
… For by wine is “denied all lies and all deceit”: drunkenness helps to clear out everything which bars him hearing his own truth and to realize himself. Wine liberates man of all that which is not his Me, and lets him hear the clear voice of his own θέλημα.
… This is, in fact, what we witness happen. He has barely touched the “wine” when, “elevated by Bacchic Enthusiasm”, he begins to sing the praises of marriage. He is at last capable of hearing this voice which had shouted this advice from the beginning. His “will”, understood as a θέλημα, finds itself liberated at last.
… At the same time, in the way that he frames the problem of Panurge, Rabelais has a certain similarity to so-called existentialist thought, as I have already intimated. For with the Third Book he sets himself to analyze a specific, agonizing, situation, where a character finds himself faced with a problem which he cannot resolve within the limits of what the Church considered as the “will, free and responsible”: he can accumulate knowledge, study the problem from all points of view, but he cannot escape the fundamental condition that the only way to solve his personal problem would be to realize himself. And he can realize himself only in listening to his θέλημα, the spontaneous, instinctive and immediate impulses which emanate from the depths of his Me. This is the truth to him, and he can find it in the fateful wine and spontaneous, bacchic drunkenness. Thus understood, his θέλημα is definitively the only guide that the Creator has given him to orient himself among the “perplexities of human judgment”.”
For the best comprehension, before reading this paper I urge readers to read (or re-read) the following chapters of Gargantua and Pantagruel, in any edition (Screech’s Penguin Classics edition sometimes numbers chapters differently, which are given in brackets):
1. Gargantua, chapters 52-58 (especially 52, 53 and 57), for the foundation and description of the Abbey of Thelema (50-56 in Screech)
2: Pantagruel, chapter 9, for the introduction to Panurge (this is the second Book in most editions, the first Book in Screech (it was published first))
3. the Third Book, chapter 9 for Panurge’s posing of the question, and chapters 37-48, for Panurge’s consultations with the Fool and the Judge.
4. the Fifth Book, chapters 33-47, especially chapters 33, 36, and 43-45, for the reception of the Oracle of the Bottle.
With these episodes fresh in the mind, and my hopefully helpful notes, everything else should be clear.
I want to express my deepest gratitude to William Peters (WilliamThirteen to LAShTALians) for generously helping me find the rare information that has found its way into endnote 6 below. More of this fascinating text and more on the Arabic and Hebrew words for “will” used here, إرادة (īrāda) and רצון[/font:1s0p6jzj] (ratzōn), will appear in a paper on the non-New Testament uses of the word θέλημα.
I have incorporated Nykrog’s three brief footnotes into the text, in parentheses, at the ends of the paragraphs in which he notes them, with the siglum “(PN)” (Per Nykrog); my own notes, far more numerous, are numbered sequentially in the text and appear at the end of the document. Because this translation is made in the context of understanding Crowley’s Rabelais, all quotes of Rabelais in English are from the Urquhart-Motteux translation, the one he is known to have used and favoured, and all quotes from the Bible are from the Authorized (“King James”) Version. The translation of Erasmus’ Latin is my own; as far as I know, the Adnotationes have never been translated. I have added the illustrations, from 18th and 19th century editions of Rabelais, along with their captions. As usual, the post will be divided into parts, this time six, numbered for convenience. – RGR Caldwell.
(translation of Per Nykrog, part 2)
(Plate from The works of Francis Rabelais, M.D., The Fourth Book (London, 1737), between pages 30-31; translation by Peter Motteux, edited by John Ozell.
- Pantagruel , crowned, sets sail aboard the Thalamege (1552 edition; in the 1548 edition she was called “Thelamane”) , with his companions Brother John, Epistemon (behind him), and Panurge to the far right: “All the Officers, Droggermen (Interpreters), Pilots, Captains, Mates, Boatswains, Mid-Shipmen, Quarter-masters, and Sallers, met in the Thalamege, Pantagruel’s principal Flag-Ship, which had in her Stern for her Ensign, a huge large Bottle, half silver, well polish’d, the other half Gold, enamel’d with Carnation, whereby it was easy to guess that white and red were the Colours of the noble Travellers, and that they went for the Word of the Bottle.” (p. 3))[/align:3tu9lq0d]
THELEMA, PANURGE, AND THE DIVINE BOTTLE
I. – Thelema
Everyone knows what Thelema is, and few people seem to be mistaken about the meaning of this creation of Rabelais, even if there can be various assessments of it. Equally, it is certain that this pleasant anti-monastery is an invention dear to Rabelais, and that any analysis which proposes to extract the famous “substantificial marrow” (substantificque mouelle) of Gargantua must pay very close attention to the rules imagined by Brother John for the life of the inhabitants of the Abbey.
The significance of the institution has been very well described by Jean Plattard, who devoted seven pages to it in the introduction to the monumental edition published by Abel Lefranc (1912)(1): “Indeed the concept of Thelema is not only the dream of a monk grown impatient with monastic discipline and traditions. It is based on the principles of that naturalistic philosophy which express the temperament of Rabelais and his sense of life. Do what thou wilt is a rule of conduct which he judged sufficient for honourable people. Left to itself, nature tends to virtue. It is restriction and servitude which pervert it. Rabelais, as usual, does not establish this philosophical principle at all by strict argumentation; he merely asserts it. It is an act of faith in the goodness of human nature” (vol. I, p. CIII).
However, it is surprising to observe how little attention erudite commentators have devoted to the name of this important institution. Yet it is a name unlike the others. The commentary that I just cited does not pause for a single instant at this name; the notes given in the text of the same edition only furnish such meager information as the following: “From the Greek θέλημα, will, desire. This name indicates the spirit of this Abbey which bears the motto: Do what thou wilt. (P). – It is possible that Rabelais had been inspired to the name Thelema by the nymph Thelemia, from the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili Cf. R.E.R., IV, 238 (C ).” (2) (vol. II, p. 399)(3). The notes of Jean Plattard in the Guillaume Budé edition are hardly more informative: “The word means will in Greek. Thelema is to be the Abbey of free will. Rabelais describes precisely where it will be situated” etc. (vol. I, p. 242)(4). Same attitude with Raoul Morçay: “The name of Thélème is clearly an invention of Rabelais, derived from the Greek word θέλημα, will. Moreover, one might suppose that Rabelais’ imagination had been turned towards this creation by the name of a small island which still exists, on the bank of the Loire, exactly beside the place where he placed his Abbey, the Ile de Thélot. The Ile de Thélot is, in reality, a stretch of land surrounded on one side by the Loire and on the other side by the mouth of the Indre, which flows here into the Loire. It is possible that this name took hold in the active imagination of Rabelais. It should be noted, however, that he never names this island, and that he placed Thelema a bit further to the east.” (5)
(Depiction of the main entrance of the Abbey of Thelema, with Fais Ce Que Vouldras high above the gate, as imagined by Arthur Heulhard, Rabelais: Ses Voyages en Italie, Son Exil à Metz (Paris, 1891), between pages 8-10)[/align:3tu9lq0d]
Nevertheless, this name deserves to be studied with care. With analysis, it reveals itself as one of the most significant of Rabelais’ inspirations. The meaning of the institution does not find itself altered, but it is enriched with resonances of the most profound importance. At the same time, the name of the Abbey shines a vibrant light on the important parts of the following volumes: the quest of Panurge in the Third Book, and his experiences with the Oracle of the Divine Bottle, present themselves thereby as realizations of the idea concentrated in this single word. But before drawing these conclusions, some excursions must be taken, which take us far from the Loire and the Picrocholine War.
The commentators who say that θέλημα is a Greek word which means “will” or “desire”, are telling the truth, certainly, but in a very cursory way. The word is derived from the verb θέλω, “I want to”, “I desire”, but it is extremely rare in classical Greek: the four sole examples which can be noted (PN note) are in Antiphon the Sophist (c. 425 b.c.), Aristotle, and Aeneas Tacticus (2 examples; c. 350 b.c.).
(PN: The Greek-English lexicon of Liddell and Scott knows two of these three authors, that of Bauer (the Greek of the New Testament) notes all three of them in most recent editions. It is always risky to say that something does not exist, but it is certain – on the authority of the specialist dictionaries which I have at my disposal – that the word is unknown in: Homer, Pindar, Hesiod, Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Sophocles, Euripides, Lysias, Isocrates, Plato, Herodotus, Thucydides, and Plutarch.)
For Aristotle (On Plants, I,1), it is a question of the “wonderful theory” (but somewhat erroneous) of Plato, according to which everything which takes nourishment desires (ἐπιθυμεῖ), experiencing pleasure (ἡδύνεται) when satisfied, and pain (λυπεῖται) when deprived. Some philosophers have said that even plants possess an intelligence and can acquire knowledge. “But let us put aside these theories as trivial and reason sensibly: Thus we hold that plants know neither desire (ἐπιθυμίαν) nor sensation (αἴσθησιν). For desire cannot exist without sensation, and ‘the accomplishment of our will’ (τὸ τοῦ ἡμετέρου δὲ θελήματος τέλος) depends on sensation.” (6)
The Loeb edition translates θελήματος “will”, but this word seems to fit the context poorly. Aristotle makes use of the word θέλημα as if a variant of ἐπιθυμία to designate a spontaneous appetite arising to the level of consciousness capable of registering as a sensation. From the text as a whole it is clear that this appetite, in order to be conscious, is in no way “willful” or “voluntary” in the modern sense of the word. Its domain is that of ἐπιθυμία: “desire”, “appetite”. (7)
Antiphon the Sophist (PN note) makes the following argument: If a man approaches another with malicious intent, but becomes fearful and hesitates, he is correct. “For often the intervening time deters the mind from what it wishes (ἀπέστρεψε τὸν νοῦν τῶν θελημάτων) and makes him change his mind.” A few lines later in the same fragment, the sophist returns to the same individual: no one is better able to judge such a manner of correcting oneself by reflection, than “he who has been able to block himself to the immediate pleasures of his heart, and is able to overcome and conquer himself.” The parallelism between the two formulas is clear. The sense of the former, which opposes νοῦς, “reason”, “conscience”, to θέλημα, moves the latter word into the psychological domain of instinct or tendency just as in Aristotle, and this impression is strengthened by the second formula, when it speaks of subjugating this first impulse through mastery of oneself. However, the word which may be read in the second passage in the place where the first one uses θέλημα is the celebrated word ἡδονή: ὅστις τοῦ θυμοῦ ταῖς παραχρῆμα ἡδοναῖς ἐμφράσσει. (8.)
(PN: Hermann Diels, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, Bonn, 1935 (5th ed.), vol. II, p. 363.)
As his name indicates, Aeneas Tacticus is concerned with military affairs, thus his use of the word is more concrete than that found in the two humanists (Aristotle and Antiphon). He uses it twice, and in both cases it seems that the best way to render the word into French (English) is “coup qu’on a en vue” (decision one is considering) , “coup qu’on prepare” (plan being prepared), “coup à faire” (decision to make). The sense is thus very near to that found in Antiphon. In the first example, Aeneas is giving advice on certain actions of a conqueror to take in the grip of a revolt of the vanquished. “In the same way in all other decisions (κατὰ τῶν ἄλλων παντῶν θελημάτων) one should consider the inherent objections to the prescribed rules, that one may not inadvisedly adopt another course” (II, 8.). One notes that here, like with Antiphon, it is recommended to change one’s θέλημα through rational reflection: the θέλημα is therefore spontaneous rather than considered. In the other example, it is a question of the signals adopted between a traitor and a besieger: if the betraying gatekeeper could open the gate to the enemy, he should give a certain signal, “but in case of failure to secure what he wished” (εἰ δʹ ἀπετύγχανεν ὁ πυλωρὸς τοῦ θελήματος) he would give a different signal (XVIII, 19).
These four collected examples neatly trace a semantic range: the word signifies “what someone desires”, “that for which he yearns or aims”, “what he has in mind”. That thing must be conscious (Aristotle), it might even be premeditated (second example in Aeneas Tacticus), but the word in itself does not insist on this quality. There is a very marked tendency to oppose θέλημα to rational reflection. We can see that we are far from what is called “will” in modern languages. Thus it is hardly astonishing to note that a good German-Greek dictionary like that of Pape does not include the word θέλημα among the dozen or so Greek words proposed as possible translations of Wille, “will”. (9)
(translation of Per Nykrog, part 3)
However, all of this information is of no more than academic interest, since everything leads us to believe that Rabelais knew none of the passages studied above. He may possibly have read the passage of Aristotle, it is impossible to know with certainty; as for Aeneas and above all for Antiphon, it is highly improbable that he knew them. The dictionary of Henri Estienne, which reflects a highly advanced state of knowledge of Greek authors, quotes none of our four passages, nor any other taken from a non-Christian author.
But far from making things more difficult, this fact, on the contrary, permits us to determine with great certainty from where Rabelais took his word: he found it in the New Testament, where it is used around 60 times, to designate the Will of God, and, much more rarely, to designate a certain aspect of human volition.
The first place is in the Lord’s Prayer: γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου : fiat voluntas tua (“thy will be done”; Matthew, 6:10), and we hear the same formula later in the mouth of Christ on the Mount of Olives: Pater mi, si non potest transire hic calix nisi bibam illum, fiat voluntas tua (“O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done”;Matthew 26:42). Outside of the Gospels, Saint Paul makes use of it, for example in the almost stereotypical formula by which he introduces a number of his Epistles: Παῦλος κλητὸς ἀπόστολος Ἰησοῦ Χρὶστοῦ, διὰ θελήματος Θεοῦ (“Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God”; 1 Corinthians 1:1; cf. 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, and Colossians). These several examples show already that it is an important keyword in the theology of the New Testament.
The word sometimes signifies the thing willed, sometimes the act of willing itself, and in both senses the word is used in respect of human beings. Among the usages that can clarify the nuance in the domain of human psychology, we stop first at The First Epistle to the Ephesians, where Saint Paul clearly makes θέλημα a synonym of ἐπιθυμία, just as in Aristotle: ἐν ταῖς ἐπιθυμίας τῆς σαρκὸς ἡμῶν, ποιοῦντες τὰ θελήματα τῆς σαρκὸς και τῶν διανοιῶν : in desideriis carnis nostrae, facientes voluntatem carnis et cogitationum (“in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind”; 2:3). This expression is very near to that of Saint John, who speaks of those “which were born, not of blood, nor of the “will” of the flesh, nor of the “will” of man, but of God” : Οἳ οὐκ ἐξ αἱμάτων, οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος σαρκὸς, οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος ἀνδρὸς, ἀλλʹ ἐκ Θεοῦ ἐγεννήθησαν : qui non ex sanguinibus, neque ex voluntate carnis, neque ex voluntate viri, sed ex Deo nati sunt (Gosple of John, 1:13). These formulae clearly refer to some “natural appetites”, and this impression is further strengthened by another expression of Saint Paul, who is speaking, in regards to sexual morality, of he who “hath power over his own will” : ἐξουσίαν δὲ ἔχει περἰ τοῦ ἰδίου θελήματος : potestatem autem habens suae voluntatis (I Corinthians, 7:37).
The way in which the Evangelists use the word shows that when speaking of man, they regard θέλημα as a spontaneous force, a “natural appetite”, the instinct or arbitrary nature (l’instinct ou l’arbitraire), a mental factor which might need to be mastered, and which therefore would clearly be the contrary of conscience and the mastery of oneself. This is also Saint Luke’s use of the word θέλημα when he tells how Christ was handed over to the decision (l’arbitraire) of the Jews: δὲ Ἰησοῦν παρέδωκε τῷ θελήματι αὐτῶν : Iesum vero tradidit voluntati eorum (“but he [Pilate] delivered Jesus to their will”; Gospel of Luke, 23:25).
We see that the word by which the Evangelists designate the Will of God is a word which sharply opposes this force or this Will to reasoned reflection, since the Will of God is an emanation of his Being, and is not the result of a reflection. In doing this, they follow the usage already established by the translators, authors of the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament (LXX), who had introduced the word to render essentially the two Hebrew words חפץ (“pleasure”, “desire” : 21 times) and רצון (“good pleasure”, “intention”, “desire” : 13 times). We see that there is a perfect agreement between the classical Greek word and the Hebraic notions which it serves to render in the Greek texts of the Bible.
(PN note: It should be said that voluntas serves equally, in the Vulgate, to translate other Greek words than θέλημα, for example in the blessing : Pax in terra hominibus bonae voluntatis : ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας (“on earth peace, good will toward men”; Luke, 2:14). εὐδοκίας corresponds most frequently in the Septuagint to an occurrence of רצון.)
However, there exists a certain disagreement between the semantic range of θέλημα and that assigned to the word voluntas in Latin and its cognates in modern languages. In French, the word “will” (volonté) signifies sometimes whim, fancy, or inclination (volonté-penchant; examples faire sa volonté, “does what he likes”- n’en faire qu’à sa volonté, “only does what he likes” – suivre sa volonté, “follows his heart” – à volonté, “at pleasure/will”), sometimes conscious will-power (strong will – weak will). Before this ambiguity, the Greek word only signifies one of two things: not the faculty of will-power, but the unconsidered inclination to do something. This evidently comes out in the texts of the Gospels themselves, and one notes that the expression “to do somebody’s will” or “to do his will” is the exact equivalent of the characteristic Biblical phrase ποῖειν τὸ θέλημα τινὸς.
Let us now return to Rabelais. What was the meaning that he attributed to the name of his Abbey? A primary meaning strikes us right away: the sense of “that which I willed.” Indeed, the Abbey is the realization of a fantasy of Brother John, just as the Creation is the “Will” of the Creator – in the concrete sense of “that which He willed.” In realizing the dream of the monk, Pantagruel has “done his will.”
Taken in this sense, the word is merely a bit of fun, bold, since it borders on sacrilege, but fairly innocent. But the word has another sense which is more interesting. The rule prescribed for the inhabitants of the anti-monastery is precisely to “follow their will”, understood as their instinctive impulses, their natural tendencies, their “appetites”. Consequently, there is a perfect accord between the name of the institution and the life style practised there. The commentary which translates Thélème as “will”, period, leaves no room to suppose so perfect an agreement. There it is no longer a question of sacrilege: it is that men, and every man, has his proper θελήματα (“things desired”, “things willed”, etc.). But even so it is significant that Rabelais chose the Biblical word which designates the Will of God, since in so doing he implies that, in accordance with his “naturalist” philosophy, he considers that people “well born”, and well-raised, if they follow their will - personal θέλημα, they will be in accord with the will of God: τὸ θέλημα Θεοῦ. The name of the Abbey, as it were, puts the institution under the term of the Will of God.
On this point, we can even go a little further. In the translation of the New Testament made by Erasmus, the Master so admired by Rabelais maintains the normal translation: θέλημα – voluntas, without otherwise making any remarks on this subject. But in the first place where the word appears, in the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew vi:10, one reads a curious annotation: “Fiat voluntas tua: A novel figure of speech, also noted by Augustine. That is, not that our words be done when that which we commanded has been accomplished, but at the very time when we command it. Nor is that speech accomplished which is fulfilled by the thing that was said, but by being said. Nor are our wishes done when what we wish comes to pass, but in the act of being wished. Thus our will is done when it is given to willing. In fact this form of speech is taken up by the Hebrews quite frequently in Holy Scripture, so that what is said cannot be changed once uttered. Otherwise said in better Latin, Do what you will on Earth, in the same way that it is done in the Heavens. (Fiat voluntas tua: Tropi novitatem annotavit et Augustinus. Non enim fiunt verba nostra, quum perficitur quod jussimus, sed quum jubemus. Nec facit sermonem, qui re praestat quod dictum est, sed qui loquitur. Nec fiunt vota nostra, quum contingit quod optamus, sed optando fiunt. Ita fit voluntas nostra, quum datur volendi facultas. Verum haec sermonis forma sumpta ab Hebraeis, adeo frequens est in Literis Sacris, ut mutanda non fuerit. Aloqui Latinius erat, fiat quod vis etiam in terra, quemadmodum fit in coelis.)
What is striking in this annotation for the reader of Rabelais, is that Erasmus here proposes to translate θέλημα not by voluntas, but by a relative: quod vis. One can see in this proposition, as the link which relinks the name of the Abbey of Thelema with the formula that is its motto: Fais ce que vouldras (i.e.,“quod vis” = “ce que vouldras”, whereas “voluntas tua”=”ta volonté”).
It might appear surprising at first: could this casual motto be a parody of the Lord’s Prayer and on the Mount of Olives? But without doubt this would be to interpret it wrongly: it is more that the meaning of the motto becomes slightly but surely altered, into a less casual sense. Because, if the relative “what thou wilt” is read as a literal translation of θέλημά σου, it must be read in a different way to that which occurs immediately to the modern reader. In order to rediscover the nuance, the substantive can be reintroduced: Do your will (Fais ta volonté) – Follow your inclination (Suis ton penchant) or, at the price of a paraphrase: Act freely and at will (Agis librement et à volonté). The nuance consists in this, that by saying “do what you wish” (fais ce que tu veux), one is more inclined to imagine individual actions, ultimately of little importance, - thus understood, the formula seems to translate into a certain casualness or carelessness from the one speaking, - whereas saying “do your will” (fais ta volonté) the expression places the individual action in the context of a general principle, - not to mention the fact that it suddenly acquires a biblical air, as we have seen. (10)
The meaning of the name of the Abbey of Thelema is thus a clear allusion to the Gospel and to the Will of God, with at the same time a very strong stress placed on the role given to spontaneous and impetuous impulses in the life of the Abbey: “Because men that are free, well-born, well-bred, and conversant in honest companies, have naturally an instinct and spur that prompteth them unto virtuous actions, and withdraws them from vice, which is called honour”…
II. – PANURGE
(Panurge, beside the Priestess Bacbuc, falls in astonishment when he receives the Oracle of the Bottle, “Trinch”. - Etching of Emile Boilvin, in Cinquième Livre de F. Rabelais, (Paris; Jouaust, 1877), plate for chapter XLV (between pp. 176-177))[/align:3izq981o]
Eleven years later, when Rabelais again took up his Gargantuan chronicle, it was with a book which, by its narrative structure, was completely different from the two first books. The former two being parallel, the three latter works form a whole, united in framework of the same narrative theme: the quest for a response to the problem of Panurge. This problem is stated in chapter VII of the Third Book, and from the moment when he has found his solution, in the penultimate chapter of the Fifth Book, the work is finished: the storyteller withdraws his characters with haste, and there is nothing more to say about them.
The Prologue of the Third Book, of extreme prolixity, towards the end, speaks in a much more attentive, and much more emotional, tone than that of Gargantua, of the message hidden in the “Barrel” of the author. It is no longer a nourishing “marrow”, it “hath a lively Spring and perpetual Current”, of joy and optimism: “good Hope remains there at the bottom.” The tone of this prologue makes one suppose that the Third Book, more still than Gargantua, is charged with an important message.
The Third Book apparently takes off from the point where Pantagruel had ended: recounting what happened in the aftermath of the war against the Dipsodes. But in fact it takes an entirely different course. Rabelais almost entirely abandons the projected continuation outlined in the last chapter of Pantagruel, except for two points: the Pantegruelists set forth on a long voyage, and Panurge will be married (and cuckolded the very same month of his wedding). We see the first point borne out; the second is merely a perspective, but it is, however, this perspective that dominates the last three books of the series.
Over the centuries the meaning and nature of the Third Book was profoundly misunderstood. It was not until 1957 that Verdun-Louis Saulnier righted this wrong in demonstrating, in his book Le dessein de Rabelais (“The Design of Rabelais”; it is untranslated - Ross), that it is neither a tapestry of fantasies nor a series of portraits of known people of the period. Very much to the contrary: the essence is the quest, the series of consultations undertaken with the view to get clarity for poor Panurge in his dilemma. As far as this quest is concerned, the problem around which it revolves is not merely a touching and humorous device which brings back to life, in the memory of the author, the recollection of Tiraqueau (11) and the debate about women (12). At least that is not the primary reason which prompted Rabelais to deal with the problem as he did. The primary reason, that which the heart of the book demands, is that the problem is an insolvable problem in the form that Panurge has presented it. Panurge’s problem is the kind we nowadays call an existential problem: it does not admit of a rational solution; everyone must solve it by a personal choice, thereby realizing his own being.
This fact largely explains the difference in tone that exists between the Third Book and the two earlier ones. The latter were soaked in an atmosphere of optimism, confidence and youthful exhuberance; the Third Book, despite its ever cheerful tone, has a background of conflict and anxiety, focused in the attitude of Panurge. The point of view of the author undergoes the same shift in accent: in the two earlier books, he gives voice to a simple and joyful “naturalism”; in the Third Book, the idea is made sharper, more clear, more precise and above all more modern by the fact that it takes the form of a concrete and personal problem which affects one of the characters, and which torments him. This likewise arouses other feelings in the reader, even when the affected character and his poignant problem are comical.
From the beginning, Rabelais contrasts Panurge and Pantagruel. The latter is indifferent to the problem; he will be happy with whatever Panurge decides: “Not marry then – Wedlock it then in the Name of God - Not marry then – Husband then be, in God’s Name” (Chapter IX). At the other end of the inquiry, Pantagruel openly declares that for his part that, in a decision so important, he will obey the will of his father Gargantua (Chapter XLVIII). Pantagruel, an ideal figure, has settled upon his course of action psychologically and intellectually, - without any difficulty whatsoever, there is the sense that he has no need to reflect on it, - he is at peace. But Panurge is in confusion, and he is there because he wants to see clearly through his dilemma and resolve it rationally. He wants to act, not according to his θέλημα, but according to a βουλὴ, sound advice or a rational decision. The entire series of subsequent consultations has the purpose of obtaining some sort of counsel which can resolve the problem for him.
As Saulnier saw very well, the Pantagruelists take counsel in every way imaginable from every kind of authority that was at their disposition: supernatural or scientific, rational or divinatory. But, faced with a problem like Panurge’s, all of these resources are futile.
But let’s look at why they are futile: in the first place, their responses are ambivalent,- and this is doubtless the principal reason for their futility. However, Panurge’s friends invariably find something in them to burden him further. He himself, on the other hand, persists in thinking everything is fine. To the reader, this clearly shows that Panurge is happy to be counseled to marry, and disappointed when advised to the contrary. If Panurge were not fundamentally attracted to marriage, all of these consultations would have ended when they had barely begun. Translated into Pantagruelian language, the θέλημα of Panurge induces him clearly to marry, but his reason cannot stop raising the fear of various risks which are attached to it. His first fault is that he wants to decide rationally, his second that he does not have the courage to surrender himself to his destiny.
The consultations of the Third Book thus pose, on excellent grounds, the problem of human judgment at the moment when a man is faced with the necessity of forging his destiny. The interior voice of Panurge cries that he should do it, but he has made himself deaf to this voice, solely preoccupied as he is by his vanity. Still he is blocked from heeding its call, out of moral cowardice: he does not dare assume his destiny and confront the possible (or real?) risks that it brings.
Towards the end of the inquiry, the Pantagruelists go to see Bridoye, an old Judge of outstanding reputation. His methods – “determinating of Suits of Law, by the meer Chance and Fortune of the Dice” – are shocking when he explains them, but Pantagruel the Wise defends him: “Truly, it seemeth unto me, that in the whole Series of Bridlegoose’s [Bridoye] Juridical Decrees, there hath been, I know not what, of extraordinary favouring of the unspeakable Benignity of God, that all those his preceding Sentences, Awards and Judgments, have been confirmed and approved of by yourselves, in this your own Venerable and Sovereign Court” (Chapter XLIII). Pantagruel then recounts “a strange History of the Perplexity of Humane Judgment”, and his point of view is somehow supported by Epistemon, who equally rises to the defense of Bridoye (Chapter XLIV).
Seeing that the current problem for the Pantagruelists can neither be decided in a hundred years, given its nature, nor resolved by a toss of the dice, given Panurge’s attitude, the consultations continue: the last consulted is the Fool Triboullet (Chapters XLV-XLVI). It is he who offers the solution which they end up adopting: the penultimate word thus belongs to Stultitia, anti-reason. The search for Reason thus finishes with Unreason, which sends them to the Bottle, and Reason takes this solution as the good one.
This is not, however, before establishing a limit: in a conversation where Gargantua appears (Chapter XLVIII), Rabelais recalls that a gentleman like Pantagruel may be given all kinds of advice, but that he should only follow those counsels which respect the limits posed by the wholesome laws of nature and decency. Therefore, without a doubt Pantagruel can well follow the impulses of his θέλημα, but only because these impulses do not go against the moral obligations that he has to his father. Do what thou wilt is neither an invitation to debauchery, nor to anarchy.
(translation of Per Nykrog, part 4)
III. – The Divine Bottle.
(Design by Emile Boilvin on the title pages of all five volumes of the Editions Jouaust edition of Les Cinq Livres de F. Rabelais (Paris, 1876-1877))[/align:18kkgtrx]
When at last the Pantagruelists arrive the Oracle of the Divine Bottle, first of all they visit the surroundings. The attention of the narrator is drawn to two inscriptions which show to what kind of intellectual domain we have come in this place: on a loadstone on the right of the gates, Ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt, which is translated as “Fate leads the Willing, and th’ Unwilling drags” (13), and “The following Sentence was neatly cut in the Loadstone that was on the Left: ALL THINGS TEND TO THEIR END” (Chapter XXXVII).
It is interesting to note that in classical Greek the opposition nolens volens (unwilling or willing) is said θέλεος ἀθέλεος , thus with a term based on the same root as θέλημα. The first inscription relates directly to the situation and attitude of Panurge, who stands precisely in nolens. The second inscription relates to the same complex of ideas, since the “ends” of “things” are the “ends” of Creation, thus of God, and this teleology is intimately linked to the Θέλημα of God and to the θελήματα of nature. We are ready once again to cross into the precincts of Thelema.
The “Epileny” that Bacbuc, the High Priestess of the Holy Bottle, sings, itself takes up this circle of ideas: she invites the Oracle to give forth the word “auquel pend mon coeur” (upon which my heart hangs), she exalts the “tant divine liqueur” (so divine a drink), which “tient toute vérité enclose” (holds all truth concealed inside). And she prays that the Oracle sound the lovely word “qui me doit oster de misère” (which would free me from misery).
What this is all about is clear: good Panurge is going to be made to drink, so that in his drunkenness he may find the personal solution to his personal problem. He is struggling with a problem that he is incapable of solving, his heart “hangs on the word” which would “take away his misery”. These expressions forcefully depict his anguish, and now he prepares himself to discover the truth, or better, his truth. For by wine is “denied all lies and all deceit”: drunkenness helps to clear out everything which bars him hearing his own truth and to realize himself. Wine liberates man of all that which is not his Me, and lets him hear the clear voice of his own θέλημα.
This is, in fact, what we witness happen. He has barely touched the “wine” when, “elevated by Bacchic Enthusiasm”, he begins to sing the praises of marriage. He is at last capable of hearing this voice which had shouted this advice from the beginning. His “will”, understood as a θέλημα, finds itself liberated at last.
But so that no one should misunderstand the meaning of this miracle, the others also drink, or they are at least seized by the same drunkenness. Pantagruel himself discovers no previously unknown thoughts; he becomes a poet and rhetorician, but nothing more. There is nothing astonishing in this: he was already an ideal man, and his nature has nothing to tell him that he had not known for a long time. Brother John, rising to the challenge of Panurge – we cannot tell clearly however if has tried the drink or not – absolutely refuses to join Panurge in his solution: he is a celibate without complaint who has already found the life that his nature orders (that which he had found perhaps in the Picrocholine War), and Panurge, unable to understand, can only curse him.
What will happen now? It is obvious: Pantagruel will marry according to his father’s wishes, Brother John will continue to live a celibate life, and Panurge will marry – at least if he doesn’t fall back into his anxiety – and will be, as Rabelais predicted, “made a cuckold within a month after his wedding” (Pantagruel (1534), Chapter XXXIV): Ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt!
IV. – Conclusion.
I have pointed out, in broaching the problem of Panurge, that beginning with the Third Book, Rabelais reveals, in the depths of his thought, a more specific and more concrete kind of thinking than that which animates the first two volumes. This comes out sharply when confronting his way of posing and of treating Panurge’s problem with the concept – dogmatic and philosophical – that the Church, Catholic or Protestant, has of human will.
Catholic conceptions of the will in practical psychology (that is to say morality), are intimately related to the notions of liberty and responsibility, and it is very characteristic that, for the psychology of Saint Thomas, human will is based on intelligence and clear-headedness: Nihil volitum nisi praecognitum (ignota nulla cupido) (Nothing is desired unless it is pre-known (the ignorant has no desire)). “Will is a sui generis faculty, capable of determining for itself, by a free choice, among many contradictory or merely divergent decisions”, says the great Dictionnaire de Théologie catholique (PN), and therein underlies precisely the necessity, from the point of view of the Church, not to explain the motive of human actions by “higher forms of desire” as Condillac did (14), or by some “affective tendencies”, as other, non-Christian thinkers did. “Neither desire nor the affective tendency, nor the influence of society […] can explain will itself” ibid..
(PN: Alfred Vacant, Eugène Mangenot and Emile Amann, article “Volonté humaine”, vol. XV/2, 1950, column 3387)
This teaching of the Church is no doubt clearer now than it was in Rabelais’ time - since this time the Church has had to face systems of thought much more aggressive than that of Gargantua and Pantagruel, - but at its core it goes back well beyond Saint Thomas. However, the fact that the responses given to Condillac, Wundt (15) and others, could also serve to answer Rabelais, show precisely where he must be placed: he has his place in the line of naturalist thinkers which goes from the Renaissance until the 18th century in France (Diderot, Rousseau) and, through there up to modern times. The endeavours which, in the 20th century, constellate around psycholanalysis (surrealism, spontaneism, etc.), push the cult of θέλημα on to heights undreamed of by the moralist Rabelais, but one may wonder if the gushing and unbounded exuberance of the artist Rabelais is made, like that of Bosch and Breughel, in the family likeness.
At the same time, in the way that he frames the problem of Panurge, Rabelais has a certain similarity to so-called existentialist thought, as I have already intimated. For with the Third Book he sets himself to analyze a specific, agonizing, situation, where a character finds himself faced with a problem which he cannot resolve within the limits of what the Church considered as the “will, free and responsible”: he can accumulate knowledge, study the problem from all points of view, but he cannot escape the fundamental condition that the only way to solve his personal problem would be to realize himself. And he can realize himself only in listening to his θέλημα, the spontaneous, instinctive and immediate impulses which emanate from the depths of his Me. This is the truth to him, and he can find it in the fateful wine and spontaneous, bacchic drunkenness. Thus understood, his θέλημα is definitively the only guide that the Creator has given him to orient himself among the “perplexities of human judgment”.
(Panurge receives the Word of the Bottle, in the (always riotous) engravings for Oeuvres de Maitre François Rabelais (Paris, An. VI (=1797)), volume 3, for chapter XLV (page 211))[/align:18kkgtrx]
For those who are able to drink this wine, it is liberty, joy and love of life: “All honest Tiplers, all honest gouty Men, all such as are a-dry, coming to this little Barrel of mine, need not drink thereof, if it please them not; but if they have a mind to it, and that the Wint prove agreeable to the Tastes of their worshipful Worships, let them drink frankly, freely and boldly, without paying any thing, and welcome. This is my Decree, my Statue and Ordinance; and let none fear there shall be any want of Wine as at the Marriage of Cana in Galilee; for how much soever you shall draw forth the Faucet, so much shall I tun in at the Bung. Thus shall the Barrel remain inexhaustible; it hath a lively Spring and perpetual Current (…) It is a true Cornu-copia of Merriment and Railery. If at any time it seem to you to be emptied to the very Lees, yet shall it not for all that be drawn wholly dry; good Hope remains there at the bottom, as in Pandora’s Box; and not despair, as in the leaky Tub of the Danaids” (The Author’s Prologue, The Third Book).
But not everyone is invited to this divine drinking-bout.
(translation Ross G.R. Caldwell, 2015.)
(translation of Per Nykrog, part 5)
(1) Abel Lefranc (1863-1952), historian of French literature, may be credited with instigating the modern study of Rabelais, founding the Société des Etudes Rabelaisiennes in 1903, and editing its short-lived but fruitful journal, the Revue des Etudes Rabelaisiennes (1903-1910; abbreviated R.E.R.) –
The critical edition of Rabelais prepared under his editorship appeared in six volumes from 1912-1955; Nykrog’s references may be found in the PDF volumes at Archive.org (listed in chronological order):
(2) “R.E.R.” refers to the journal Revue des Etudes Rabelaisiennes, noted and linked above. The article suggesting Colonna’s Nymph Thelemia as the source of Thélème is “Sur le Ve Livre”, by William Francis Smith –
(3) See now the edition and translation of Joscelyn Godwin, Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. The Strife of Love in a Dream (Thames & Hudson, 1999), pp. 122-141.
(4) Jean Plattard, ed., Oeuvres complètes de Rabelais (Paris : Les Belles Lettres, 1929 ; 5 volumes)
(5) L’Abbaye de Thélème, publiée par Raoul Morçay (Textes littéraires français ; 2e éd. 1949) , p. 35, note 1.
(6) Note that this text is wrongly attributed to Aristotle, a fact known since the 16th century (Drossaart Lulofs-Poortman, pp. 2-3). This is pointed out in the edition Nykrog uses, that of Walter Stanley Hett in the Harvard Loeb Classical Library series (Greek, volume 307), Aristotle, volume 14, Minor Works (1935). Hett himself writes in the introduction to “On Plants” (p. 141): “The two books included under this title present more than the usual difficulties. They were not written by Aristotle in their original form; moreover the text of Bekker* is very far removed from the original Greek. This was first translated into Arabic, and then into Latin. The present Greek text is a somewhat poor translation of the mediaeval Latin copy, which was itself an inferior translation of the Arabic. Still it has seemed best to translate the Greek text, as we have it, while admitting that it is often unsatisfactory, and sometimes unintelligible.” (* “Bekker”, i.e. Hett’s base text of De Plantis, that of Immanuel Bekker, Aristotelis Opera, volume VI (Oxford, 1837), pp. 60-100). Since Hett’s edition, the Syriac portions were discovered, so that we now know that the Greek text is a 13th century translation of the late 12th century Latin translation of the 9th century Arabic translation of a Syriac translation of the lost original Greek of about the 1st century b.c.e. It is perhaps disappointing that Nykrog did not take the inauthenticity of the Greek text into account (and which accounts for Liddell and Scott not including it in their lexicon), but it is very surprising to me that Gottlob Schrenk, the author of the entry for θέλημα in Gerhard Kittel, ed., Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Dritter Band: Θ-K (Stuttgart, 1938), pp. 43-63) also believed in the text’s Aristotelian authorship and antiquity (translated into English as Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (1965); see note (3) below for the relevant part of the entry).
See now the critical edition of the text, with all surviving evidence in Syriac, Arabic, Hebrew, Latin and Greek, H.J. Drossaart Lulofs and E. L. J. Poortman, Nicolaus Damascenus, De Plantis. Five Translations (Amsterdam : North-Holland Publishing Company, 1989). The line in question does not survive in Syriac, but the other versions are as follows, with the page numbers of Drossaart Lulofs and Poortman:
Arabic (p. 131)
ايس للنبات ولا شهوة لان الشهوة انما تكون بالحس ، ومنتهى إرادتها راجع اليه
lants have neither sensation nor desire, for desire can only go with sensation, and the aim of its pursuits depends on the latter.
The Arabic word translated “its pursuits” is إرادتها, from the word for “will”, إرادة, pronounced “irada”.
Hebrew (p. 408)
ונאמר שאין לצמח הרגש ולא תאוה לפי שהתאוה אמנם תהיה בהרגש[/font:8yaewbh4].
ותכלית כל רצון חוזר אל ההרגש[/font:8yaewbh4].
We say that plants have neither sensation nor desire, because desire only goes along with sensation and the aim of all volition falls back upon sensation.
Latin (p. 518)
Dico ergo quod plantae nec sensum habent nec desiderium: desiderium enim non est nisi ex sensu, et nostrae voluntatis finis ad sensum convertitur.
I assert, then, that plants have neither sensation nor desire: for desire can only proceed from sensation, and the end proposed by our volition changes in accordance with sensation.
(Translation Forster, “De Plantis”, The Works of Aristotle (Oxford, 1913), volume VI, 815b, ll. 16-22)
Greek (p. 592)
ἡ γὰρ ἐπιθυμία οὐκ ἔστιν εἰ μὴ ἐξ αἰσθήσεως, καὶ τὸ τοῦ ἡμετέρου δὲ θελήματος τέλος πρὸς τὴν αἴσθησιν άποστρέφεται
For desire does not exist apart from sensation, and the accomplishment of our will depends upon sensation.
(7) Nykrog’s analysis of the usage of θέλημα in the Greek translation of De plantis is nevertheless accurate; compare Gottlob Schrenk’s entry for Θέλημα in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (vol. III, pp. 52-62; my bold emphasis), which also resumes Nykrog’s two other examples (including, naively, Pseudo-Aristotle; my bold emphasis):
“Θέλημα occurs once in the Sophist Antiphon (5th cent. B.C.), Fr., 58 (II, 302, 27, Diels) in the sense of ‘purpose’ or ‘wish’ in the plur., in the 4th cent. in Aristot. De Plantis, I,1, p. 815b, 21, where, in contrast to plants which have neither ἐπιθυμία nor αἰσθησις, it is said of man that τὸ τοῦ ἡμετέρου θελήματος τέλος orientates itself πρὸς τὴν αἴσθησιν. Here ἐπιθυμία and θέλημα are interchangeable. The latter is used quite neutrally, with no moral implication, for the human impluse of desire. Cf. also Aen. Tact. (4th cent. B.C.), Poliocretica (ed. L.W. Hunter, S.A. Handford, 1927), 2, 8; 18, 19. This early use helps us to see why the term could also be used for sexual desire and specifically for the θέλησις of the male.”
Compare the translation from Leslie Whittaker Hunter and Stanley Alexander Handford, ΑΙΝΕΙΟΥ ΠΟΛΙΟΡΚΗΤΙΚΑ. Aeneas on Siegecraft (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1927); text at http://www.aeneastacticus.net/public_html/index.html :
1. “Similarly, when any other decision has to be made, factors which may tell against the rules laid down must be taken into account; for an unconsidered choice may lead to something very different from what was intended.” (II, 8-9)
2. “It had been arranged that Temenus should go to the place and pull the cord:  and if the sentinel had succeeded in making all ready, he was to have fastened to the cord a piece of wool and let it go; on seeing this, Temenus was to have made a rush for the gates. But the sentinel was unsuccessful in his enterprise, he let the cord go with nothing attached to it, so that Temenus had plenty of time to escape unobserved: they had, after all, noticed during the night in the city that the cord was there, and so it was impossible to proceed further.” (XVIII,18-19)
(8.) See now the edition of Gerard J. Pendrick, Antiphon the Sophist: The Fragments ((Cambridge Classlical Texts and Commentaries, 39), Cambridge UP, 2002), F(ragment)58 (pp. 202-205): “When going against another to do him harm, the man who fears that he will fail at what he wishes (θέλει) to do, and obtain what he does not wish, is more prudent. For while he fears, he hesitates; and while he hesitates, often the intervening time deters his mind from what it wishes (τῶν θελημάτων). Not-happening is impossible in the case of having-already-happened, but possible in the case of delaying. But whoever thinks that he will harm others while avoiding suffering himself is not prudent. Hopes are not in every case a good thing: such hopes have thrown many into irremediable misfortune; and it turned out that what they thought they would do to others, they suffered themselves instead. Temperance would be attributed to no one more correctly than to whoever blocks himself to the immediate pleasures (ταῖς ἡδοναῖς) of his heart, and is able to overcome and conquer himself. But whoever wishes to gratify his heart immediately, wishes what is worse instead of what is better.”
In the Commentary to F58 (p. 404) Pendrick notes: “ ἀπέστρεψε … θελημάτων:… θέλημα is common in the Septuagint and in Christian Greek, but in literature of the classical period seems to appear only here and in Aeneas Tacticus…” )
(9) While it is true that Wilhelm Pape (1807-1854) does not give θέλημα as a translation for “Wille” in the German-Greek part of his dictionary:
(Handwörterbuch der Griechischen Sprache (1849, 2nd ed.), volume 1, p. 775)
He does give “der Wille” as the unique translation for θέλημα in the Greek-German part:
(Handwörterbuch der Griechischen Sprache (1845),volume 4, p. 1080)
(10) In case Nykrog’s sense is not clear here, Florence Weinberg, in her study of Rabelais The Wine and the Will: Rabelais’s Bacchic Christianity (Wayne State University Press, 1972), summarizes his point succinctly (pp. 127-128): “Per Nykrog, in an excellent study, devotes himself to the etymology of Thélème and to its significance. Derived from thelēma this word appears very rarely in classical Greek, but is often used in New Testament Greek, to mean immediate impulse or desire. It turns up also in Matthew 6:10 in the Lord’s prayer: genēthētō to thelēma sou, ‘Thy will be done.’ The same phrasing is exactly repeated in Jesus’ prayer during His agony in Gethsamane: ‘My Father, if this [cup] cannot pass unless I drink it, Thy will be done’ (Matt. 26:42). Nykrog connects Fiat voluntas tua with the motto Fay ce que vouldras through Erasmus’ commentary on the New Testament, where Erasmus suggests that Fiat voluntas tua, ‘Thy will be don [on earth],’ should be translated as ‘Fiat quod vis etiam in terra,’ ‘Do thy will on earth,’ a translation which comes much closer to Rabelais’s own construction. With typical playful solemnity (serio ludere), Rabelais hides an almost literal translation of thelēma sou in his airy motto. If the Greek is read back as fais ta volonté, ‘do thy will,’, biblical echoes are instantly awakened, and the meaning of the name of Thélème reveals itself as a clear allusion to the Bible and to the Will of God.”
(11) André Tiraqueau (c. 1488-1558), French jurist, Rabelais’ contemporary and friend. As Screech remarks in his Introduction to Gargantua and Pantagruel (p. xxxii): “The framework of the book owes much to legal doctrines about how to deal with ‘perplex cases’ – legal cases where the law reaches an impasse. The advice of Roman Law is to follow two intertwining courses: to consult acknowledged experts and harmonize their opinions; and then, when (in the technical legal phrase) ‘there is no other way’, to seek counsel from dice, divination and lots. Rabelais runs through the gamut of methods of divination and of Renaissance wisdom and knowledge, all of which, as he expounds them, are wreathed in smiles or shot through with the sudden glory of laughter. It is all the more amusing in that a decision to marry or not should not be a ‘perplex case’ … Panuirge ought to make up his own mind about marriage.
“Rabelais is indebted throughout to both André Tiraqueau and Guillaum Budé, the summits of French judicial studies.”
(12) Nykrog alludes to the Querelle des femmes, the term for a centuries-long humanist debate on the nature and social role of women, carried on through “treatises, letters, sonnets, speeches and pamphlets openly praising or vilifying women” (Salvatore Di Maria, The Italian Tragedy in the Renaissance (Bucknell University Press, 2002), p. 105.)
It was, appropriately, started by a woman, Christine de Pizan, who in 1399 wrote a critique of the popular Roman de la Rose (Romance of the Rose), pointing out its general immorality and particularly its slanders of women. The debate is held to have ended with the French Revolution, in 1789 (this is according to a general consensus; I don’t know why it should be so, since women after the Revolution were still not fully equal to men). Many commentators have interpreted Rabelais’ depiction of females in the light of the Querelle des femmes.
(13) Or, put more directly for modern readers: “The Fates lead the willing, the unwilling they drag.”
(translation of Per Nykrog, part six and last)
(14) Etienne Bonnot de Condillac (1715-1780), a French philosopher and priest whose theory of the mind, developing upon the influential ideas of John Locke, came to be called “empirical sensualism”. His thinking helped the development of psychology as a field distinct from philosophy a century later (see Wundt in the next note). For those who may want to pursue his thinking further, here is a summary of what he thought about the Will, translated from Vincent Stanek, “La désir et la volonté : Maine de Biran lecteur des cartésiens”, in Revue philosophique de la France et de l’étranger, 2004/4 (Volume 129), pp. 423-442.
(Condillac, engraving by Martinet, 1776)
Will and desire in Condillac
Condillac, we know, intended to show that ideas arise entirely by a simple transformation of sensation, and, contra Locke, that the faculties included under the name of “understanding” (attention, comparison, judgment, reflection, imagination, reasoning) are themselves “enclosed within the faculty of sensation.” It is the same for the will. Thus “in considering our sensations as respresentative, we have seen arise in them all of our ideas, and all of the operations of understanding: if we consider them as agreeable or disagreeable, we will see arise from them all of the operations that are ascribed to the will.” In his Logique and his Treatise on Sensations, Condillac thus sets himself to show how what is called will is derivative of sensation (agreeable or disagreeable), as are also need, discomfort, disquiet, desire, the passions, and hope. Our point here is not to examine precisely each of these concepts and their mutual interactions, nor to take into account the subtle variations which occur among the three versions of the theory (that of the Treatise on Sensation, that of the Logic, and that of the Summary of the Treatise on Sensation). We will content ourselves here with underlining the points which interest us.
To begin with, Condillac carefully distinguishes among suffering, need, and desire: whereas suffering remains limited to the immediate feeling of want (which does not necessarily presuppose the knowledge of that of which one lacks), need, in which one suffers through privation, supposes a certain knowledge of the things of which one is lacking, along with the anticipation by the imagination of enjoyment. To need are linked discomfort and disquiet: the Logique distinguishes discomfort from disquiet as the feeling of a simple unease versus that which “urges us to move toward getting the thing of which we have need.” The Treatise on Sensation distinguishes them as the feeling which accompanies a weak gap between the present state and “the idea of something better”, versus that which accompanies the perception of a considerable difference.
It is from this disquiet that arises desire: under the influence of disquiet, “all of our faculties are directed… to the objects of which we feel the need; and this direction is properly that which we understand by desire. On this point, Condillac was happy to note his opposition to Locke: one must not say, like the author of the Essay Concerning Human Understanding, that disquiet is born from desire, but rather the reverse.
We come now to the relation between desire and will. Condillac distinguishes two possible meanings for the concept of will. In the technical sense, will, like hope, comes from a judgment on the possibility of attaining the object of our desire. If from this judgment we conclude that it is possible to atain this objective, then hope is born. Will, itself, is born of the habit of deciding on this possibility, “when experience has given us the habit of judging that we will find no obstacle to the attainment of our desires.” Will is thus nothing more than a kind of desire fortified by confidence, and it is in this sense that Condillac speaks of it as an “absolute desire”: I want to means: I desire and nothing can oppose my desire; everything must be in accord with it.” It must be noted that this will acquires the certainty of its power on the basis of a simple confidence arising out of habit, and that ignorance can favour it. It is the same for the famous statue (1): ignorant of the obstacles which oppose its desire, it can in the same way gain assurance of the power of its will.”
Such is the technical or strict sense of the concept of will. However, the Logique allows a more general sense, allegedly customary, according to which “by will is understood a faculty which includes all the habits born of need, desires, passions, hope, despair, fear, confidence, arrogance, and many others.”
(1) The “statue” metaphor or thought-experiment in Condillac’s Traité des sensations (Treatise on Sensation):
“The author imagines a statue organized inwardly like a man, animated by a soul which has never received an idea, into which no sense-impression has ever penetrated. He unlocks its senses one by one, beginning with smell, as the sense that contributes least to human knowledge. At its first experience of smell, the consciousness of the statue is entirely occupied by it; and this occupancy of consciousness is attention. The statue's smell-experience will produce pleasure or pain; and pleasure and pain will thenceforward be the master-principle which, determining all the operations of its mind, will raise it by degrees to all the knowledge of which it is capable. The next stage is memory, which is the lingering impression of the smell experience upon the attention: "memory is nothing more than a mode of feeling." From memory springs comparison: the statue experiences the smell, say, of a rose, while remembering that of a carnation; and "comparison is nothing more than giving one's attention to two things simultaneously." And "as soon as the statue has comparison it has judgment." Comparisons and judgments become habitual, are stored in the mind and formed into series, and thus arises the powerful principle of the association of ideas. From comparison of past and present experiences in respect of their pleasure-giving quality arises desire; it is desire that determines the operation of our faculties, stimulates the memory and imagination, and gives rise to the passions. The passions, also, are nothing but sensation transformed.”
(15) Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920), famously the first person to call himself a Psychologist, and one of the founders of the discipline of Psychology.
(Wundt lecturing, undated photograph)
Wundt on the will : unitary perception and self-consciousness
“…after the completion of the development of consciousness, the will appears as the only content of self-consciousness…”
-Wilhelm Wundt, Grundzüge der physiologischen Psychologie (1893), volume II, p. 564.
From the entry for Wundt by Alan Kim in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
I have removed all of the citations and notes, except for the last one.
Kim, Alan, "Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .
“It was … Wundt and his pioneering students who developed the empirical methodologies that first granted psychology a disciplinary identity distinct from philosophy. It is these philosophically germane aspects of his thought that this article describes.
“Psychology finds consciousness to be constituted of three major act-categories: representation, willing, and feeling; our discussion is limited to the first two. Now while Wundt is forced to speak of representations and representational acts as distinct, he is nevertheless clear that they are merely different aspects of a single flowing process. This is his so-called theory of actuality (Aktualitätstheorie). Representations are representational acts, never the “objects with constant properties” propounded by adherents of a so-called theory of substantiality (Substantialitätstheorie). This identity of representation and representational act typifies what we may call Wundt's “monistic perspectivism.” Everywhere he insists that the “psychic processes form a unitary flow of events [einheitliches Geschehen],” the constituents of which—“representing, feeling, willing, etc.”—are “only differentiated through psychological analysis and abstraction”. Keeping in mind the underlying active unity of the psychic, let us examine some of Wundt's “analyses and abstractions.”
“As discussed in the previous section, all consciousness originates in sensations. These, however, are never given to consciousness in a “pure” state as individual sensory atoms, but are always perceived as already compounded into representations (Vorstellungen), that is, into “images of an object or of a process in the external world”. Representations may be either perceptions (Wahrnehmungen) or intuitions (Anschauungen): the same representation is called a “perception” if considered as the presentation of objective reality, and an “intuition” if considered in terms of the accompanying conscious, subjective activity. If the representation's object is not real but merely thought, then it is a so-called reproduced representation.
“Now the formative process, by which sensations are connected into representations either through temporal sequencing or spatial ordering, constitutes a main aspect of the activity we call consciousness; the other is the “coming and going of [these] representations”. On the evidence of “innumerable psychological facts,” Wundt claims that all representations are formed through “psychological synthesis of sensations,” and that this synthesis accompanies everyrepresentational act. We are therefore entitled to take the act of representational synthesis as a “characteristic feature of consciousness itself”. Although consciousness consists in the formation of representations, on the one hand, and of the coming and going of such representations, on the other hand—i.e., although its contents are a continuous streaming of fusing and diffusing representations—yet it is not merely this. We are also aware within our consciousness of another activity operating upon our representations, namely of paying them attention.
“Attention may be understood in terms of the differing degrees to which representations are present (gegenwärtig) in consciousness. These varying degrees of presence correspond to the varying degrees to which consciousness is “turned towards [zugewandt]” them. Wundt appeals to an analogy:
‘This feature of consciousness can be clarified by that common image we use in calling consciousness an inner vision. If we say that the representations present [gegenwärtig] at a particular moment are in consciousness's field of vision [Blickfeld], then that part of the field upon which our attention is turned may be called the inner focal point of vision [Blickpunkt]. The entry of a representation into the field of inner vision we call “perception,” and its entry into the focal point of vision we call “apperception.”’
“Thus consciousness is a function of the scope of attention, which may be broader (as perception) or narrower (as apperception). Apperception, in turn, may either actively select and focus upon a perceived representation, or it may passively find certain representations suddenly thrusting themselves into the center of attention. There is no distinct boundary between the perceived and the apperceived, and Wundt's analogy may be misleading to the extent that it gives the impression of two separable forms of attention able in principle to subsist together simultaneously (that is, apperception focusing upon a point in the perceptual field while that field continues to be perceived). No: perceptive attention becomes apperceptive attention just as it focuses more strenuously, constricting the perceptive field. The more it contracts, the “brighter” the representation appears, now becoming the focal point of apperception as the fringes of the perceptual field retreat into “darkness”. For Wundt, the distinguishing feature of the apperceptive focus is that it “always forms a unitary representation,” so that a narrower focal point (or rather, the focal “field”) results in a correspondingly higher intensity of attention. Hence “the degree of apperception is not to be measured according to the strength of the external impression [i.e. physically or physiologically], but solely according to the subjective activity through which consciousness turns to a particular sense-stimulus”.
“Thus, apperception is closely akin to the will, indeed is a primordial expression of will: “the act of apperception in every case consists in an inner act of will [Willenshandlung]”. By contrast, Wundt argues that the processes by which the representations are themselves formed, fused, synthesized, and “delivered” into the perceptual field, are associative processes “independent of apperception”. Passive apperception may be characterized simply by saying that here the associative form of representational connection is predominant, whereas when “the active apperception successively raises representations into the focal field of consciousness,” this active passage of representations obeys the special laws of what Wundt calls “apperceptive connection”. He does not consider the types of association to be genuine psychological laws, i.e. laws governing the “succession of representations,” because they merely generate the possible kinds of representational compounds. It is apperception, in accordance with its own laws, that “decides” which of these possible connections are realized in consciousness. We see here the important role played by his so-called voluntarism: associationist psychologists, according to Wundt, cannot give an account of the (subjective) activity that immediately characterizes consciousness. Yet this is not to deny association of sensations altogether. Rather, it is to conceive of association as merely a subliminal process, the products of which, representations, then become the actual objects of consciousness. Thus the “apperceptive connections of representations presuppose the various types of association,” especially the associative fusion of sensations into representations.
“Because according to Wundt's principle of “actuality [Aktualität]” consciousness is purely an activity, it is impossible to render his theory in terms of “structures.” It consists in constantly interacting processes: on the one hand, there are associative processes that fuse sensations into elemental representations. These stream into and thereby constitute a fluctuating field of attention: flowing and broad, it is called “perception;” ebbing and concentrate, “apperception.” As an activity attention is an expression of will; since consciousness just is attention in its shifting forms, it is the activity of will manifested in the selection, combination, and separation of disposable representations. These representations are constantly “worked over” by apperception, which through its synthetic and diaeretic activity constructs them into ever “higher developmental forms of consciousness,” such that in the end their origins in sensation and perception might be completely erased. In other words, as the apperceptive activity becomes increasingly intense it seems as it were to rise above the field of perception, above the field of its own constructs, becoming aware of itself as pure activity, as pure self-consciousness: “rooted in the constant activity [Wirksamkeit] of apperception, [self-consciousness] … retreats completely into apperception alone, so that, after the completion of the development of consciousness, the will appears as the only content of self-consciousness…”. Thus the self as will appears to itself as independent from and opposed to an external world of both sensation and culture, though Wundt hastens to add that this is but an illusion; in reality, “the abstract self-consciousness maintains constantly the full sensible background of the empirical self-consciousness”.
“According to Wundt, the three features of logical thinking that set it apart from all other types of representational connection are its “spontaneity, evidence, and universal validity [Spontaneität, Evidenz, Allgemeingültigkeit]”. Let us briefly describe these. Wundt's notion of the spontaneity of logical thinking is perhaps the most psychologistic-sounding of the three. Because, as was described above, thinking is “experienced immediately as an inner activity, … we must regard it as an act of will [Willenshandlung], and accordingly regard the logical laws of thought [Denkgesetze] as laws of the will”. In other words, logical thinking is accompanied essentially by a feeling of the thinking subject's freedom in thinking. But while logical thinking may be accompanied by an especially strong self-awareness of the mind's own activity, this feeling is not unique to logical thinking, since active apperception more generally is also accompanied by the sense of subjective activity.”
(Kim’s note 61 to the last passage: “Nevertheless, Wundt resists collapsing will and consciousness. He writes: “[N]o matter how much the will and the representational contents of consciousness mutually condition each other, we will nevertheless be forced by that developmental process to assign both a different meaning. In the will, the subject immediately grasps its own inner action [Handlung]; in the representational contents, [by contrast,] a reality distinct from the subject is reflected. Yet the relations that obtain between these two express themselves in feelings and emotions [Gefühle und Gemüthsbewegungen].” (Grundzüge der physiologischen Psychologie II: 565)
Note for Jamie -
Although Nykrog's paper discusses "Trinc", this is not the dissertation on the word that I promised you. It will come.
To any readers who may have been confused, apologies for having to make the following correction to a reference in note (6) above:
Where I write at the end of the first paragraph "see note (3) below for the relevant entry", it should be "see note (7) below..."
I've tried to comb out all the tangles, but it has grown over the months, and such mistakes are inevitable. Anyone should feel free to point out other corrections, improvements, or elaborations.
I came across this thread while digging around on Crowley and Rabelais, although I have not read everything posted, I have gone through some of it, and the material from Levi about Rabelais is most interesting.
I would suggest that beyond the use of 'Thelema' and 'Do what thou wilt" from Rabelais, Crowley's interest in hashish was influenced by Pantagruelion, which of course is cannabis.
“The Life of Gargantua and Pantagruel by Francois Rabelais [(1494-1553)] is an esoteric work, a novel in cant. The good cure of Meudon reveals himself in it as a great initiate, as well as a first class cabalist” (Fulcanelli, 1926).
Rabelais’ Pantagruel, which is a hilarious parody of the Grail myth contains an account of a plant “pantagruelion”, which is clearly identifiable as hemp, and have been described in the Rabelais Encyclopedia as “mood-enhancing hashish (cannabis sativa), and the ‘philosopher’s stone’...” (Zegura, 2004). “Hashish may have been introduced by returning Crusaders, between the 11th and 13th centuries. Although the precise source and various uses of cannabis during this period are matters of historical conjecture, the Crusaders route may account for Rabelais familiarity with the various properties of cannabis, fictionalized as ‘the plant Pantagruelion’”(Rubin, 1975). Rabelais gives clear indications of the esoteric information worked into the story in an Introduction:
Following the dog’s example, you will have to be wise in sniffing, smelling and estimating these fine and meaty books; swiftness in the chase and boldness in the attack are what is called for; after which, by careful reading and frequent meditation, you should break the bone and suck the substantific marrow in the course of it you will find things of quite a different taste and a doctrine more abstruse which shall reveal to you most high “sacraments” and horrific mysteries in what concerns our religion… (Rabelais)
Despite Rabelais best efforts at concealing the esoteric references to cannabis incorporated into his work, they were eventually noted by the Authorities of the Church. “For long periods these chapters were banned by the church, and in many modern translations of Pantagruel they are omitted” (Price, 1989).
Rabelais gives a description of the plants uses:
...in the season of the great draught, when they were busiest gathering the said herb; to wit, at that time when Icarus’s dog, with his fiery balling and barking at the sun, maketh the whole world troglodytic and enforceth people everywhere to hide themselves in the dens and subterranean caves. It is likewise called Pantagruelion, because of the notable and singular qualities, virtues, and properties thereof; for as Pantagruel hath been the idea, pattern prototype and exemplar of all jovial perfection and accomplishment; so in this Pantagruelion have I found so much efficacy and energy, so much completeness and excellency, so much exquisiteness and rarity, and so many admirable effects and operations of a transcendent nature that if the worth and virtue therof had been known, when those trees, by the relation of the prophet, made election of a wooden king, to rule and govern over them, it without all doubt would have carried away from all the rest the plurality of votes and suffrages. (Rabelais)
We can be sure that Rabelais was referring to cannabis under the name pantagreulion in the above quote as besides also identifying the plant’s use as a fibre, he gives a clear botanical description of the plant.
"The leaves sprout out all round the stalk at equal distances, to the number of five or seven at each level; and it is by special favor of Nature that they are grouped in these two odd numbers, which are both divine and mysterious. The scent is strong, and unpleasant to delicate nostrils."
Although some have suggested that Rabelais was simply referring to the fibrous qualities of hemp, the use of the plant in the story clearly refers to uses beyond that. Rabelais has the hero of his tale, Pantagruel, a giant named after the said herb, load “confected” cannabis, along with dried green herbage for a voyage: “amongst other things, it was observed how he caused to be fraught and loaded with an herb of his called Pantagruelion, not only of the green and raw sort of it, but of the confected also.”
As a free thinker not willing to risk his cherished well-being in a society hostile to what went on in his head, Rabelais chose to keep his thoughts private, but not unshared. He shared them with rare individuals who, like himself, were undaunted by their own irreverence, and who were capable thereby of circumventing the rigid convention of literary and grammatical tradition. Through an early form of surrealism, he conveyed his message to those who were not too rigid in their perceptions to understand it." (Price, 1989)
Rabelais gives clear indications of the esoteric information worked into the story in an Introduction:
"Following the dog’s example, you will have to be wise in sniffing, smelling and estimating these fine and meaty books; swiftness in the chase and boldness in the attack are what is called for; after which, by careful reading and frequent meditation, you should break the bone and suck the substantific marrow in the course of it you will find things of quite a different taste and a doctrine more abstruse which shall reveal to you most high “sacraments” and horrific mysteries in what concerns our religion, as well as the state of our political and economic life." — Rabelais , Pantagruel
Despite Rabelais best efforts at concealing the esoteric references to cannabis incorporated into his work, they were eventually noted by the Authorities of the Church. “For long periods these chapters were banned by the church, and in many modern translations of Pantagruel they are omitted” (Price, 1989).
Rabelais was so enamoured with hemp that in his estimation it stood at the very pinnacle of plant life: “in this pantagruelion have I found so much efficacy and energy, so much completeness and excellency, so much exquisiteness and rarity, and so many admirable effects and operations of a transcendent nature....” It is interesting that Rabelais speaks of hemp’s transcendent nature as he ends one of the chapters devoted to the herb Pantagruelion with a Zoroastrian style celestial ascent:
Who knows but by his sons may be found out an herb of such another virtue and prodigious energy, as that by the aid thereof, in using it aright, according to their father’s skill, they may contrive a way for human kind to pierce into the high aërian clouds, get up into the spring head of the hail, take an inspection of the snowy sources…; then it is like they will set forward to invade the territories of the moon, whence passing thro’ both Mercury and Venus, the Sun will serve them for a torch, to show the way to Jupiter and Saturn. We shall not then be able to resist the impetuosity of their intrusion, nor put a stoppage to their entering whatever regions, domiciles, or mansions of the spangled firmament they shall have mind to see…all the celestial signs together with the constellations of the fixed stars, will jointly be at their devotion then…
Here Rabelais has repeated the planetary ascent in Mithraic and Gnostic initiations as well as an ascent through the Cabalistic Sephira, and different levels of consciousness. The medieval French Monk has the gods lament that should mankind succeed in this climb then they will surely: “drink of our nectar and ambrosia, and take to their own beds at night, for wives and concubines, our fairest goddesses, the only means whereby they can be deified.” The thematic of Zoroastrian inspired shamanic flight to the heavens has also been suggested for other European accounts, along with cannabis ingestion as the catalyst.
Rabelais, in his fifth and last book of the series reveals to us quite plainly: “the good Pantagruel ion which is hemp .” Rabelais states that he felt it was time to reveal more plainly his cryptic message, and get rid of the cipher that hid it: “Now, my friends, that you may put in for a share of this new wisdom, and shake off the antiquated folly this very moment, scratch me out of your scrolls, and quite discard the symbol of the old philosopher with the golden thigh, by which he has forbidden you to eat beans, that is, Pantagruelion books.” (Which of course contained replete references to the herb Pantagruelion, hemp ). In relation to Rabelais reference to “beans” it is important to note that the term was later used as a euphemism in reference to hemp in Europe, and in medieval Arabic literature “‘bean’ [‘fulah’] is also clearly used for hashish pills...” (Rosenthal, 1971).
Rabelais tells the reader that he had not revealed the secrets concerning cannabis earlier because he wanted to have the opportunity to enjoy it himself for a while, “for you may take it for a truth, granted among all professors in the science of good eating, that he enjoined you not to taste of them for the dunsical-dog leach was so selfish as to reserve them for his own dainty chops.”
Rabelais was quite an old man at the time the last of his volume of Pantagreul was published, and he knew it was time to reveal his secret to mankind more plainly, lest it be lost forever. He tells us that his great works (books) are finished. “Now though we have in our mother-tongue, several excellent works in verse and prose. I have made bold to choose to chirrup and warble my plain ditty, or as they say, to whistle like a goose among the swans, rather than be thought deaf among so many pretty poets and eloquent orators. And thus I am prouder of acting like a clown, or any other under part, among the many ingenious actors in this noble play, than of herding among the mutes, who, like so many shadows and cyphers, only serve to fill up the house and make up a number.”
Rabelais knew he would suffer the wrath of the Roman Catholic Church for debunking its heresies. “To the heathen philosopher succeeded a pack of capusions monks, who forbid us the use of beans that none but their nasty selves might have the stomach to eat it, though their liquorice chops watered never so much after it.”
He also had an idea of what his fate might be for exposing these forbidden secrets, as he states in the following comment, “Oh! they’ll cost me an estate in hempen collars. For I hereby promise to furnish them with twice enough as much as will do their business, on free cost, as often as they will take the pains to dance at ropes end, providently to save charges, to the small disappointment to the finisher of the law.” (He had given them enough rope to hang him.) And so Francois Rabelais disappeared from history.
Any clergy, whether secular or myth bound, will feel threatened by a perceptual tool which allows the common man to transcend conditioning and experience unmediated clarity. This is what Rabelais knew would happen to the Medieval priests if he openly discussed the remarkable qualities of the plant, Pantagruel. It is the same fear-ridden reaction we see gripping… conservatives and the beneficiaries of other perceptual pogroms when it comes to any frame of mind that they have not included in the “official” scenario of reality. Any transcendental short-cuts or non-prescription vehicles toward “feeling better” undermine the reality-mediating role of the authorities. (Price, 1989)
The above is excerpted from a work I have in progress, the following essay, was written about 15 years ago, and it discusses the tole of cannabis in Crowley's magic, and in reference to its potential use on the composition of the Book of the Law, a situation that has been commented on by other authors since I wrote this essay.
The Great and Wild Beast 666 and the Devil’s Weed
"The action of hashish is as varied as life itself and seems to be determined almost entirely by the will or mood of the "assassin" and that within the hedges of his mental and moral form. I can get fantastic visions, or power of mind - analysis, or spiritual exaltation, or sexual excitement of various kinds, or ravenous hunger, or vigor of imagination, whichever I please, absolutely at will, on a minute dose of the Parker Davis extract. This is simply because I have discovered the theory and perfected the practice of the instrument." (Aliester Crowley 1920).
Born at the height of the Victorian era in 1875, into the household of a strict religious sect of Plymouth brethren, the young Aliester Crowley was given little to read as a child besides the Holy Bible. Being a somewhat both a prodigious and rebellious lad, and having mastered the contents of the “Good Book”, he concluded at an early age that his mother’s references to him being a “beast”, indicated his identification with the “Beast, whose number is 666” of the New Testament’s book of Revelation. A horrendous role he strove to fulfill for much of his controversial life.
A world class mountain climber and master chess player, Crowley was both a fit and intellectual individual who took a scientific approach to the emotionally and imaginatively charged art of magic, (which he himself renamed magick, to differentiate it from the popularized entertainment form.) A pioneer of free-love and the mystical use of drugs, Crowley was amongst the weeds that broke the pavement of the stodgy and morally repressed Victorian era. Although like both forms of alternative sex and drugs, Crowley’s writings are often shadowed with taboos, it is often found that many of his harshest critics are unfamiliar with his writings. It should be noted that I myself, at one time, fell into this category, and only changed my mind when I forced myself to read through some of his books looking for a good cannabis quote well researching GREEN GOLD THE TREE OF LIFE; Marijuana in Magic and Religion. Upon actually reading what the man himself wrote, instead of that which was written about him, I was surprised to find the words of a witty and wise sage who had drawn many similar conclusions about the historical use of “drugs”, that I myself had through my earlier research.
Modern occult writer Francis King has speculated that Crowley may have been initiated into the magickal use of drugs, (possibly including the fly agaric mushroom), by chemist and student of pharmacology C.G.Jones, who also introduced the young Aliester Crowley into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. In relation to the Golden Dawn, a magical order whom Crowley would later find himself in a court battle with after publishing some of their secret writings, it is interesting to note that other famous Golden Dawn members can also be tied to the use of cannabis. The British poet W.B. Yeats experimented with cannabis as an aid in the development of psychic powers, and the writer Lewis Carroll incorporated a cannabis puffing caterpillar and a magical mushroom that turned the psychological effects of the amanita muscaria into physical ones, in his famous Alice in Wonderland.
In a 1907 Essay, The Psychology of Hashish Crowley wrote that in his extensive studies into the history of the occult he “found this one constant story. Stripped of its local chronological accidents, it usually came to this--the writer would tell of a young man, a seeker after hidden Wisdom, who, in one circumstance or another, meets an adept; who, after sundry ordeals, obtains from the said adept, for good or ill, a certain mysterious drug or potion, with the result (at least) of opening the gate of the other world. This potion was identified with the Elixir Vitae of the physical Alchemists, or one of their 'tinctures' most likely the 'white tincture' which transforms the base metal (normal perception of life) to silver (poetic conception)....”(Crowley 1907).
After “poisoning” himself with ”every drug in (and out of) the Pharmacopoeia” in search of the above preparation, Crowley came to believe that this substance was a “sublimated or purified preparation of Cannabis indica”. Preceding the theories of Gordon Wasson, Jonathan Ott, Terrence Mckenna and others by more than half a century, The “Beast” went so far as to speculate that “this ceremonial intoxication constitutes the supreme ritual of all religions”(Crowley 1907). He further hypothesized that this mysterious herb may in fact have been one of the prohibited trees in the Garden of Eden; “.... if not the Tree of Life, at least of that other Tree, double and sinister and deadly…” In question of Jehovah’s ancient taboos, the “Beast” retorted; “Nay! for I am of the Serpent's party; Knowledge is good, be the price what it may.”
In The Psychology of Hashish Crowley indicates a vast knowledge of the esoteric history of the herb, quoting the works of fellow hemp enthusiasts such as Zoroaster the medieval alchemists, the works of members of Paris’ Hashish Club and other 19th century literary figures. Unfortunately, he was forced into holding back much of this knowledge, due to his association with certain occult groups, who believed that secrets revealed equals power lost. 'In order to keep the paper within limits', he wrote, it would be necessary to keep the article to a scientific nature and use information that was already quite available to the public at large '...lest the austerity of such a Goddess be profaned by the least vestige of adornment.'(Crowley 1907).
Unable to openly discuss the esoteric history of the herb, Crowley decided to look at other areas of interest. Having spent some years practicing yoga, ceremonial magick and other techniques of exploring the workings of the mind, as well as studying scientific literature on the subject, Crowley felt confident in discussing the effects of cannabis on the psyche of man. Noting that “Yogis employed hashish… to obtain Samadhi, that oneness with the Universe”, Crowley focussed on cannabis’ ability to invoke different mental states, which he compared to similar states of consciousness associated with meditative and magickal practices.
The first of the Cannabis consciousness states, is termed by Crowley as “The volatile aromatic effect”, which he saw as being marked by an “absolutely perfect state of introspection… of an almost if not quite purely impersonal type”. The next state of consciousness attainable with cannabis, “The toxic hallucinative effect” which begins with thoughts and images passing “rapidly through the brain, at last vertiginously fast. They are no longer recognized as thoughts, but imagined as exterior…. The fear of being swept away in the tide of relentless image is a terrible experience.” Crowley felt the best combatant against this delusional and paranoid state was a meditatively attuned and magickaly trained mind, as both these techniques “lead the mind to immense power over its own imaginations”. In the third and final level of consciousness attainable from cannabis, “The Narcotic effect”, “One simply goes off to sleep”. Crowley noted that certain preparations of cannabis seemed to favorably elicit these different states of consciousness even more than dose size did, and believed that the effects themselves may be due “to three separate substances” in the plant, with differing strains having differing amounts of each.
In relation to his own work and psychological goals, Crowley saw the most desirable of these states of consciousness to lie in the introspective state produced by “The volatile aromatic effect””. Crowley, like other occultists of the time, saw this impersonal introspective state as ideal for the act of astral traveling, and offered instruction in his essay for its experimental practice. More importantly, Crowley saw cannabis as having the potential of aiding the mind in achieve the ultimate state of consciousness referred to by adepts of all ages in which “Ego and non-Ego unite”, and duality, or ego-bound consciousness is transcended and Samadhi is achieved.
“If hashish-analogy be able to assist us here, it is in that supreme state in which man has built himself up into God. One may doubt whether the drug alone ever does this. It is perhaps only the destined adept who, momentarily freed by the dissolving action of the drug…, obtains this knowledge which is his by right, totally inept as he may be to do so by any ordinary methods”.(Crowley 1907).
Utilizing cannabis, mescaline and a variety of other substances Crowley would create and perform mythologically imbued occult rituals, which were directed at bringing the devotees closer into contact with higher states of consciousness. He had hopes of perfecting a method, which would make the mystic frame of mind available to humanity at large. Far from seeing his work as something new and novel, Crowley rightfully saw such drug induced ritualistic initiation as being part of the ancient mystery schools which had been largely suppressed by the Catholic Church at the commencement of the Dark Ages. Considering that the Father of LSD has speculated that the ancient Eleusian rites may have utilized a sacrament containing an ergot which held LSD like alkaloids, it is interesting that Crowley put on a performance art style ritual the “Rites of Eleusis” which included mescaline and a variety of other substances administered in a “loving cup”. Crowley, probably not realizing what a strong influence it would have on a generation, is reputed to have introduced the young Aldous Huxley to mescal in a pre-Hitler Berlin Hotel room. (As well, the Beast is said to have turned the science fiction writer H.G.Wells on to the mysteries of hashish).
Considering the strong role it played in his magickal techniques, it is curious to note that after Crowley wrote The Psychology of Hashish there are only a few scattered direct references to cannabis in his writings. But, interestingly, there are some esoteric ones that have been little commented on. With a little cross-referencing it can be shown that cannabis use is at the core of many of this famed magician’s most celebrated occult texts, a fact that many modern Crowley enthusiasts are sadly unaware.
Undeniably, the most important of all of Crowley’s esoteric writings is his short and mysterious Book of the Law. Crowley produced the book in Cairo during 1904, well he was travelling with his first wife. He claimed the text was channeled by an unseen entity known as Aiwass… I claim that both he and his wife, who aided in the transmission, were stoned out of their gourds! First off in my blaspheming against the great Blasphemer, Crowley, as indications of the text being produced by Crowley himself under the inspiration of hashish, rather than being channeled it by a messenger of Egyptian deities, is the texts references to the word “Thelema”, and the Law of Thelema, “Do what Thou Wilt”. Unless Aiwass took time of his duties as messenger of the Egyptian gods during the 16th century to familiarize himself with the works of the mortal Francois Rabelais, from whence these terms originate and where Crowley himself learned them, then we can be sure that the work is the product of a poetically (and cannabis) inspired human hand. In relation to Rabelais, it is important to note that this medieval monk and bachelor of medicine was more than a little familiar with the use of hemp, in fact so much so he could reasonably be considered a sort of medieval Jack Herer. Chapters, which esoterically revealed his vast hempen knowledge in his humorous parody of the grail myth, Pantagreul, were for a long period banned by the church. Interestingly, as shall be discussed Crowley would find reason to esoterically refer to Rabelais in relation to cannabis in future writings.
Further evidence of cannabis reference can be found elsewhere in the text, including this request from the Queen of Heaven" if under the night-stars in the desert thou presently burnest my incense before me, invoking me with a pure heart, and the Serpent flame therein , thou shalt come a little to lie in my bosom...". Interestingly, in the numerology of the Cabala, which Crowley deeply adhered to, the value of the name of the angel which channeled the Book of the Law to Crowley, Aiwass, is 93, has the same value as the word “incense”, (see Crowley’s 777) and in Cabalistic logic, this indicates a correlation. The serpent symbolism, is likely used in reference to the serpent like kundalini energy, as the use of cannabis and other intoxicants as aids in raising the kundalini energy, are as old as the concept of kundalini itself. The serpent imagery is used again elsewhere in the text in reference to intoxicants; "I am the Snake that giveth Knowledge & Delight and bright glory and stir the hearts of men with drunkeness. To worship me take wine and strange drugs whereof I will tell my prophet, & be drunk thereof !...".
As well in the closing comment in the second of the Book of the Laws three small chapters, Crowley recorded the following curious comment "There is an end to the word of the God enthroned in Ra's seat, lightening the girders of the soul’’. A few short years after writing this comment Crowley speculated in his essay on hashish that ‘’Perhaps hashish is the drug which ’loosens the girders of the soul’.’’ This phrase is borrowed from the Persian mage Zoroaster, who used bhang (cannabis) in order to receive revelations from his god. Some years later in his exquisite Cabalistic treatise, little Essays Towards Truth Crowley would again make similar comments in relation to hemp ‘’... such drugs as Cannabis Indica and Anhalonium Lewini [mescaline] do actually ‘loosen the girders of the soul...’"
In Liber VII, The Book of Lapis Lazuli, another supposedly channeled work, Crowley again gives us esoteric references to cannabis and indications that this is the drug which ‘’loosens the girders of the soul’’; ‘’By the burning of the incense was the word revealed and by the distant drug.. These loosen the swathings of the corpse; these unbind the feet of Osiris...’’ Here from Crowley’s words we can decipher that he felt other intoxicants besides cannabis, could aid in the unbinding from the material world. The “distant drug” is likely an esoteric reference to mescal, which Crowley became familiar with well travelling in Mexico. Like hemp, mescaline came to play an important role in Crowley’s work, and as mentioned, he is said to have introduced the drug to the avante garde of Europe. On the other hand in the 19th and early twentieth century, various preparations of cannabis were used by occultists for astral travelling, so Crowley was far from alone in his use of this technique.
Elsewhere in Liber VII, The Book of Lapis Lazuli,, at the height of his cannabis induced voyages into the psychic realm and quite obviously indicative of his inspiration source, Crowley recorded ‘’I am Gargatuan great; yon galaxy is but the smoke-ring of mine incense, Burn Thou Strange Herbs, O God!’’ The reference to Gargantuan here can be seen as a tribute to Rabelais, and his first book Gargantua, as the term still in use, is derived from the name of the main character in Rabelais’ classic, the giant Gargantua. In fact Crowley uses this term again in a direct reference to cannabis’ ability to make one laugh at oneself; ’’Oh the huge contempt for the limiting self which springs from the sense of Gargantuan disproportion perceived in this Laughter! Truly it slays, with jolliest cannibal revels, that sour black-coated missionary the serious Ego, and plumps him into the pot. Te-he!--the Voice of Civilization---The Messenger of the white Man's God--bubble, bubble, bubble! Throw in another handful of sage, brother! And the sweet-smelling smoke rises and veils with exquisite shy seduction the shameless bodies of the Stars!"(Crowley 19
It was not until the twenties and the completion of his books THE BOOK OF WISDOM OR FOLLY and the Tarot of the Egyptian's, THE BOOK OF THOTH , that he again wrote at length on hashish. A piece entitled 'De Herbo Sanctisimo Aribico', 'The Most Holy Grass of the Arabs', appears in both these books. Again indicating the source of his inspiration, in The Book of Thoth, in a paragraph directly preceding this essay there appears the name Alcofribas Nasier, which rewritten spells Francois Rabelais an anagram used by the hemp lover Rabelais himself during his controversial lifetime. The following piece of esoterica, which we have taken from the beginning of The Most Holy Grass of the Arabs, is steeped with occult symbolism;
'Recall, O my Son the Fable of the Hebrews, which they brought from the city Babylon, how Nebuchadenezzar the great king, being afflicted in Spirit, did depart from among men for seven years space, eating grass as doth an Ox. Now this Ox is the letter Aleph, and is that Atu of Thoth whose number is Zero, and whose Name is Maat, Truth or Maut, the Vulture, the All-Mother, being an image of our lady Nuit, but also it is called the Fool, who is *Parsifal "der reine Thor", and so refereth to him that walketh in the way of the Tao. .Also he is Harpocrates, the child **Horus walking upon the Lion and the Dragon; that is ,he is in unity with his own secret nature..........
Here in a few brief words, Crowley gives us a taste of his knowledge and beliefs about his beloved hemp. Notably, Crowley refers to the Egyptian Goddess Maat, whose devottees were reputed to have partaken of a sacramental drink that was comparable to the Indian Soma. As well Crowley begins the essay with a reference to Biblical indications of hemp use by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, whom history has shown to have been a cannabis consumer through the Babylonian “sacred rites”, in which all kings partook and which utilized cannabis. The “Beast” further sees the Biblical analogy to the Ox in the story, as being a cabalistic reference to the Hebrew letter Aleph, which in fact is symbolic of an Ox and whose number is zero. Each of the twenty two glyphs of the Hebrew alphabet has both a number and a symbol attributed to it. Crowley’s comment is seemingly inconsequential to the uninitiated but to those familiar with the Qabala it is loaded with implications.
In Crowleyian view, the number zero, symbolized amongst other things, the number of the perfected initiate, who through rigorous work had undone his view of dualism and construct of personality, has achieved Samahdi and walks in the “Tao”. In the Tarot deck, such an individual is symbolized by the “Fool”, and thus the reference to the “Fool” in Crowley’s esoteric piece of cannabis lore, and its location under the heading of the “Fool”, in Crowley’s explanation of the Tarot, The Book of Thoth. Crowley further relates the cannabis initiate to Parsifal, the hero who restores the hero of the Grail myth, a story which was also connected to cannabis in Green Gold, and Horus, a key figure in the earlier Book of the Law, and who symbolizes the same state of unitive consciousness as the Fool, yet in the Book of the Law, Horus is also represented as the figurehead of our own age, when this state of consciousness becomes widespread throughout humanity, instead of achieved by a relatively few adepts. Again from the Book of the Law, we see cannabis in association with the Egyptian sky-goddess Nuit, who, as looked at earlier, commanded that her “incense” be burned in order to kindle “the serpent flame”.
The occult essay continues on with Crowley’s admission that” yester Eve came the Spirit upon me that I also should eat the Grass of the Arabians, and by the virtue of the Bewitchment thereof behold that which might be appointed for the Enlightenment of mine Eyes. Now then of this may I not speak, seeing that it involveth the Mystery of the Transcending of Time, so that in One hour of our Terrestrial Measure did I gather the Harvest of an Aeon, and in ten lives I could not declare it.” Despite the professed inability to adequately explain the contents of his vision, Crowley, goes on to describe seeing the “Sun of all being” surrounded by “little crosses”, which churned the Universe into the ‘’Quintessence of Light’’. I would suggest that what Crowley is here referring to is a transformational experience which he referred to elsewhere as the “Vision of the Star Sponge”, or the “Vision of Paequay”, in which Crowley had the experience of becoming a star in the heavens, and from which he took his axiom, “Every man and woman is a star”.
Crowley ended The Most Holy Grass of the Arabs with the comment that, 'a man must first be an Initiate, and established in our Law, before he may use this method'. Crowley is likely here referring to codes of initiation in one of the occult organizations to which he belonged, and this again is also apparent by the veiled nature of his text. As well, this comment indicates Crowley’s belief, stated earlier that drugs alone will not enable the devotee to reach the mystical goal, but also vigorous psychological preparation and study are needed.
In this last respect I agree whole heartedly with the Beast, and think that cannabis and drugs in general as tools for exploring the mind, are of far more positive cultural significance, than they are as drugs used by Cheech and Chong like stoners to meditate on Beevis and Buthead videos and computer games. Here at the dawn of the New Age, that Crowley and his like only dreamed of, as a whole new generation begins to explore the unconscious of humanity with cannabis and even more potent substances, they might do themselves well to read from the works of this turn of the twentieth century pioneering psychonaut and consider some of his advice and techniques in relation to their own travels in the “astral realm”. But, remember, as Crowley himself ended his essay on hashish, “…take my word for nothing: try all things; hold fast that which is good!”. Either way, we can be sure that with Crowley, as it is with many modern hempsters, cannabis was a key seed and indication of the dawning of a New Golden Age. Boom Shiva!
Crowley A. , 777 & Other Qabalistic Writings, (Weiser,1977)
Magick in Theory and Practice,
The Book of Lies, 1913
The Book of Wisdom and Folly, (1919, Samuel Wieser, 1962)
The Psychology of Hashish, 1908
The Book of the Law, 1904
Little Essays Towards the Truth,
The Holy Books of Thelema
Francis King, The Origins of Tantra, Drugs and Western Occultism, (Destiny Books; 1986)
another example of Crowley's use of hashish for magical purposes, missed when i wrote the above, occurred on April 20th 1918! One wonders if the magical impression made at that time had a lasting effect on that date?
[Saturday] April 20th, 1918 e.v.
Achitha says the Wizard has had his hair cut and beard trimmed, he looks much nicer this week.
10.45 Achitha, Therion and Arcteon take 1 cc of Hashish.
11.10 Achitha and Arcteon 1 cc Hashish.
11.30 Achitha and Arcteon 1 cc Hashish.
Rabelais, pantagruelion & utopia
by Pelto, Stewart Arthur, M.A., THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT CHAPEL HILL, 2009, 78 pages; 1472886
This thesis addresses the problems of intoxication and utopia in Gargantua and Le Tiers Livre,maintaining that progress towards a utopian future is made through the positive consequences of collective intoxication. Through a close examination of relevant episodes leading up to the foundation of the abbey of Thélème, this thesis argues that Rabelais's utopia is significantly dependent on the pacifying effects of the symposion. Next, a survey of sources contemporary to Rabelais demonstrates his knowledge of both cannabis intoxication and the plant's widespread use and exchange throughout the Mediterranean. Finally, an analysis of enigmatic imagery in the Pantagruélion episode illustrates Rabelais's attempt to improve diplomatic relations with his neighbors in the Middle East and India through an increase in maritime exploration, mercantile exchange, and collective intoxication. https://cdr.lib.unc.edu/indexablecontent/uuid:7fb64e0c-3c6e-49f6-abf7-8318568b0632
Belmurru, where did you get that translation of Levi's work on Rabelais from? Is the rest of it available in english?
hmm, I've been trying to post some material on cannabis infused wines being in use in France prior to this, in relation to the Holy Bottle of Bacbuc. but the board will not allow it to post.
13th century Portfolio
of Villard de Honnecourt
recipe for cannabis infused wine.
Retain that which I will tell you. Take leaves of red cabbage, and of avens—this is an herb which one calls “bastard cannabis.” Take an herb which one calls tansy and hemp—this is the seeds of cannabis. Crush these four herbs so that there is nothing more of one than of the other. Afterwards you take madder two times more than [any] one of the four herbs, then you crush it, then you put these five herbs in a pot. And you put white wine to infuse it, the best that you are able to have, [being] somewhat [with] care that the potions be not too thick, and that one is able to drink them. Do not drink too much of it. In a shell of an egg you will have enough provided that it be filled. Whatever injury you might have you will heal. Clean your injury with a little tow. Put on it a leaf of red cabbage, then drink of the potions at morning and at evening, two times a day. They work best infused by sweet must than by another wine, but only if it be good will the new wine ferment with the herbs. And if you infuse them with old wine, let them alone for two days before one drinks of them.
HERESY AND SCIENCE IN THE MIDDLE AGES
Prof. Camillo Di Cicco
"The Templars created a mixture with pulp of Aloe, pulp of Hemp and wine of Palm called “Elisir of Gerusalem" https://books.google.ca/books?id=hU2rBAAAQBAJ&pg=PA38&lpg=PA38&dq=templar+hemp+aloe+wine&source=bl&ots=MT_uonWIbv&sig=BwvRNyFONUQZGcJjoEDoCUGVQGs&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CCUQ6AEwAWoVChMI7fDGxa34yAIVzCqICh1TrQv8#v=onepage&q=templar%20hemp%20aloe%20wine&f=false
The Templar bring to mind the underlying theme of Pantagruel, the grail myth.
(excerpted from a work in progress)
The Cannabis Grail?
"All traditions allude to something that from a certain time become lost or hidden, such as the Soma of the Hindus and the Persian Haoma or ‘draught of immortality’, these latter having a very direct connection with the Grail, which was said to be the sacred chalice which contained the blood of Christ –another ‘draught of immortality’."
"....Returning to the Grail itself, we can easily see that its primary significance is basically the same as that of the sacred vase, wherever it is found, and which notably in the East, is that of the sacrificial vessel that originally held the Vedic Soma or Mazdean Haoma, the ‘draught of immortality’ that bestows upon or restores to those who take it with the requisite disposition, the ‘sense of eternity’." (Guenon & Fohr, 1927)
It has long been suggested that while on their sojourn to the Islamic controlled Holy Land, the European Knights Templar, who appear in medieval legends as the Guardians of the Grail, became associated with the use of hashish through a trade of goods and knowledge with the aforementioned Assassins and that the Templars brought back the occult use of the drug to Europe, (Bercovici, 1929; Wilson, 1973; Luck, 1985; Bennett, et. al., 1995; Pinkham, 2004). Georg Luck in Arcana Mundi, is amongst those who have has suggested the Grail legends may have originated with the Assassins
"The Alamut formula (for want of a better name) was a legendary brew containing hashish. It was prepared at [the mountain top fortress] Alamut... established in the eleventh century by Hassan Ibn Sabbah, the leader of the Assassins, a fanatical sect that had declared war on Crusaders and other Muslims. ‘Assassin’ originally meant “consumer of hashish”... members of the sect drank or smoked hashish in order to become immortal... the fortress was ransacked in 1256. It is said to have contained a large library, [and] an alchemical laboratory…"
"The idea behind... the Alamut formula (based on hashish) may give us a clue to the concept of the Holy Grail, which came into being during an era of transition between antiquity and the middle-ages. It was supposed to be a substance, or an object, sometimes associate with the body and blood of Christ, that vouchsafes happiness on earth and bliss in heaven to a chosen few... you can understand the Holy Grail both as a mystic (or magical) remedy and sacrament. " (Luck, 1985; 2006)
As George Andrews explained: “One reason why the Pope suddenly turned against them [the Templars] and had them exterminated almost overnight may have been that they were suspected of maintaining relations with the aristocratic military mystical secret societies that were their equivalent within the structure of Islam [i.e. the Assassins]. It seems possible that the paradise plant, hashish, could have been one of the elements in their secret ritual of communion” (Andrews, 1997).
Such speculation has gained increased credibility through the work of Dr. Camillo Di Cicco, who, in his paper The Medicine of the Templars, recorded that: “The Templars created a mixture with pulp of Aloe, pulp of Hemp and wine of palm, called Elisir of Jerusalem, with therapeutic and nourishing property...” (Di Cicco, 2006). As Soma and Haoma have long time associations with immortality, it is interesting to note that it has been said that one of the secrets of longevity of the Knights Templar resided in their hemp containing, ‘Elixir of Jerusalem’. Conceivably, a connection might be noted in the fact that ‘The Holy Jerusalem’ was one of the names used for Hashish by Sufi groups in medieval times, (Rosenthal, 1971).
Bump! Bump! Bump that thread.
We sure need the input around here, what with things being rather slow, but your efforts are more worthy of a blog than an interactive forum.
Glad you're interested, Chris.
The Levi is my own translation, as I believe I stated. It's an easy read, so if there were enough interest I might translate each of the novels. But there's not much in the way of magic or occultism in it.
Pantagruelion is a Rabelaisian invention, of course, it is not just the hemp plant. It stands for a product with infinite uses, that can transform the world with manifold technological and medicinal uses. I don't believe that Crowley knew that hemp was one of the plants Rabelais based Pantagruelion on. Crowley took it in its symbolic sense, explaining it in one place as the "elixir or stone"; as he explained to Norman Mudd in 1925, "“Pantagruelion is the material basis of the magical energies, the substance into which you can put any magical energy you desire and will cause the desired result to appear in matter."
That doesn't sound much like getting high.
I'm very busy with another project right now, but I will return to Crowley's Rabelais soon.
Actually, that sounds very much like "high" magick! And Rabelais himself identified pantagruelion with hemp, as have many others since, although he mythologized it. Cannabis in fact appears in a number of medieval alchemical texts, as well as European magical documents, dating back to at least the 13th century.
And as a medicine and industrial product, the good pantagruelion, cannabis/hemp is unparalleled. Some of the greatest medical break throughs right now are based around cannabis' effect on the endo-cannabibinoid system, and industrially, everything from batteries, fuel, building material, plastics, to cloth, paper, and the most digestible form of plant protein are coming through it. There is a whole revolution happening around it. cannabis, is saving lives,the environment and creating new wealth with a environmentally friendly plant, right now.
I'd love to see the translations, if they were ever made available.
Gee Shiva, I thought you of all Gods would be more interested!
"The Lord of Bhang is one of many titles given to the Hindu deity Shiva, and it's said that he discovered the amazing properties of cannabis while meditating amidst a stand of ganja plants. Of all the gods, Shiva is most frequently seen to enjoy cannabis in all its forms and many of his devotees imbibe hashish as a sacrament." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1q56zsqg8_8
Re - 'I don’t believe that Crowley knew that hemp was one of the plants Rabelais based Pantagruelion on. Crowley took it in its symbolic sense, explaining it in one place as the “elixir or stone”'
As Crowley noted of a search that culminated with hashish, he “found this one constant story. Stripped of its local chronological accidents, it usually came to this–the writer would tell of a young man, a seeker after hidden Wisdom, who, in one circumstance or another, meets an adept; who, after sundry ordeals, obtains from the said adept, for good or ill, a certain mysterious drug or potion, with the result (at least) of opening the gate of the other world. This potion was identified with the Elixir Vitae of the physical Alchemists, or one of their ‘tinctures’ most likely the ‘white tincture’ which transforms the base metal (normal perception of life) to silver (poetic conception)….”(Crowley 1907).
As well, in the Book of Thoth, just preceding the essay on Hahsish, De Herba Sanctissima Arabica (page 123), he refers to the Bottle of Bacbuc, and has Rabelais anagram Alcofrabias Nasier, so I would say, he knew.
I discuss Rabelais, Crowley, and a wide variety of other occultists, such as Blavatsky, Cahagnet, Paschal Beverly Randolph, and their use of cannabis in this lecture. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfolBkQpmc0
More on the alchemical and occult use of cannabis via Rabelais and others in this excerpt from my 1995 book, Green Gold the Tree of Life: Marijuana in Magic and Religion;
Bhang! Bhang! Bhang that thread!
There's all sorts of cannabis that Crowley might have got his hands on, plain ole bud, sticky black hash from the Himalayas, red perfumed hash from the Bekaa in Lebanon, fluffy green hash from the Rif in Morocco, dark charas from India, Nepalese temple balls, powerful flavoursome black hash coils from Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghan, sativas, indicas, crumbly sweet hash from Mustang.....
Pharmacologists say there are ingredients in the demon weed that dovetail precisely with reception areas in the brain, as if humans and the plant evolved together....obviously Rabelais liked a toke or two too....:}}
But I suspect that in spite of it's excellent medical uses, our Home Secretart will not be legalising it's use in the near future the UK, in spite of much evidence that it's less dangerous than sugar in tea or walking on the cracks in the pavement.
Well done Chris, I loved your Rabelais posts!
Noted drug historian Michael Horowitz who discusses Paris' mid 19th century Hashish Club, Aleister Crowley on hashish and meditation, Timothy Leary's 5th circuit and marijuana, Cannabis medicine with William O'Shaughnessy and for impotency with Dr. Frederick Hollick, and the marijuana fuelled jazz of Mezz Mezzrow.
“this ceremonial intoxication constitutes the supreme ritual of all religions”(Crowley 1907)
'Recall, O my Son the Fable of the Hebrews, which they brought from the city Babylon, how Nebuchadenezzar the great king, being afflicted in Spirit, did depart from among men for seven years space, eating grass as doth an Ox. - Liber Aleph
Kaneh Bosm: The Hidden Story of Cannabis in the Old Testament
The use of hashish by Rabelais, Le club des hashishin members, Crowley, Blavatsky and Paschal Beverly Randolph are discussed .
Martin Lee on Cannabis and Creativity in Literature, Song, and Culture
Anyone know where I might find a copy of the letter referred too? and responses? (not wanting to drop $90 for the copy on line!)
The Occult Review, Vol X, No. 3, September 1909 - Aleister Crowley contributes a letter to the editor.
Aleister Crowley, Franz Hartmann, John Cowper Powys, et al, Contributors. Ralph Shirley, Editor.
Published by William Rider, London, 1909
The Correspondence section includes a short letter from Aleister Crowley (written as by "The Editor of 'The Equinox'") in which he requests assistance from parties regarding his research into hashish.
Just as well you're not obsessed with cannabis, Chris.
I suppose it all boils down to what you do with your obsessions.... maybe you should try some, after all its the sacrament of the New Aeon 😉
“in this pantagruelion have I found so much efficacy and energy, so much completeness and excellency, so much exquisiteness and rarity, and so many admirable effects and operations of a transcendent nature....” Rabelais
"yester Eve came the Spirit upon me that I also should eat the Grass of the Arabians, and by the virtue of the Bewitchment thereof behold that which might be appointed for the Enlightenment of mine Eyes. Now then of this may I not speak, seeing that it involveth the Mystery of the Transcending of Time, so that in One hour of our Terrestrial Measure did I gather the Harvest of an Aeon, and in ten lives I could not declare it.” - Crowley
Bhang! Rant! Rave! Blog! Endlessly bhang that thread! Promote the Big Bhang theory?
Shiva, the Big Bhang is what I am all about 😉
I'd post some book links but I do not want to break the no advertising rule!
Cannabis and the Soma Solution (2010)
"It is a volume that must be read by every scholar who works in the field of biblical studies, world religions, psycho-spirituality, or the history of the paranormal as friend and familiar." —J. Harold Ellens, PhD, Institute for Antiquity and Christianity of the Claremont Graduate School
"A treasure trove of up-to-date ancient information on cannabis. Highly recommended to round out your library on religious uses of psychoactive drugs." —Julie Holland, M.D., editor, The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to Cannabis
"I have read Mr. Bennett’s several books on this subject and am in general agreement with what he states, especially about the extent to which the Vedic hallucinogen Soma was probably made from cannabis. Indeed, his research has changed my own thinking about this ancient conundrum (heretofore, the majority of scholars have suggested that Soma was prepared from psychotropic mushrooms) . . . . In short, I heartily recommend Bennett’s book to anyone seeking a better understanding of this well-nigh universal, albeit all too often misunderstood hallucinogen and its crucial role in the history of human spirituality." —C. Scott Littleton, Ph.D., Emeritus professor of Anthropology, Occidental College
"Chris Bennett assembles religious, historical, medical and poetic sources with immaculate ease, in order to construct what is sure to be an enduring examination of the global history of cannabis use by widely diverse human populations." —Dr. David C.A. Hillman, author, The Chemical Muse: Drug Use and the Roots of Western Civilization
"I’ve enjoyed this book immensely—a masterful investigation of religious intoxication cults from ancient India, Persia, Asia Minor, Scythia, and Europe. Refuting R. Gordon Wasson’s theory that Soma of the Vedas was Amanita muscaria mushrooms, Bennett shows that Soma was probably a mixture of cannabis, ephedra and poppy (confirmed by Sarianidi’s archaeological discoveries in Bactria), and he traces the uses of cannabis as a sacrament through many ancient cultures. This is a must-read for everyone interested in the ancient history of drugs." —Michael R. Aldrich Ph.D., author, Marijuana Myths and Folklore
"If you are interested in the history of the Indo-Europeans, the history and identification of soma / haoma, or the history of cannabis as a hallucinogen, you owe it to yourself to read Chris Bennett's substantial tome." —Victor H. Mair, Professor, Chinese Language and Literature, University of Pennsylvania
"With no left turn un-stoned, this wonderful book - so full of detail, passion and thorough historical exploration - describes the fascinating journey the humble weed has woven through human civilization to bring us it’s enlightenment, color and culture." —Dr. Ben Sessa, author, The Psychedelic Renaissance: Reassessing the Role of Psychedelic Drugs in 21st Century Psychiatry and Society and To Fathom Hell or Soar Angelic
"Cannabis and Soma Solution - without a doubt a masterwork on the subject if there ever was one. It should be standard reading material for any college class dealing with religions of the ancient world." - Thomas Hatsis, 'The Witches Ointment: The Secret History of Psychedelic Magic, Tom Hatsis is a historian of witchcraft, magic, Western religions, contemporary psychedelia, entheogens, and medieval pharmacopeia.
Sex, Drugs, violence and the Bible (2001)
"The book is fascinating! There can be little doubt about a role for Cannabis in Judaic religion... there is no way that so important a plant as a fiber source for textiles and nutritive oils and one so easy to grow would have gone unnoticed, and the mere harvesting of it would have induced an entheogenic reaction."
-Professor of Classical Mythology at Boston University and author, Carl P. Ruck
"Scholarly, hip, witty and extremely well documented... This book might cause a revolution in biblical studies!"
-Robert Anton Wilson, Philosopher, Author and Lecturer
"...SEX, DRUGS, VIOLENCE AND THE BIBLE is...excellent... especially in its detailing the early history... politics... [and] the... seamy sides of Christianity... Read Bennett before rereading the Bible!"
-Jonathon Ott, Entheobotanist, Author and Lecturer
"I love this information. Jesus used cannabis for healing and enlightenment!"
-Dana Larsen, Editor of Cannabis Culture Magazine
"The evidence this scholar presents will shake many deep-seated beliefs about the true nature of Judaism and Christianity"
- High Times Magazine
Did Jesus Use Cannabis?
Sunday Times, 12 Jan 2003
Cannabis linked to Biblical healing
BBC News, 6 Jan 2003
Jesus 'healed using cannabis'
The Guardian, 6 Jan 2003
Jesus Used Cannabis Oil, Writer Says
Washington Post, 2 Feb 2003
I am currently working on a book about Drugs and the Occult, with a focus on cannabis, with Tom Hatsis, author ofThe Witches Ointment: The Secret History of Psychedelic Magic. This will be an expansion of material from my 1995 book, Green Gold the Tree of Life: Marijuana in Magic and Religion. Crowley and Rabelais will both likely have their own chapters. I am here fishing for information. The information about Levi writing novels based on Rabelais, has been worth the price of admission alone! (Levi was not a hash enthusiast, like many of his contemporaries, but he did mention it).
Crowley liked mescaline too - it took him to the next level, after hash
I Just ordered 'The Drug' which is supposedly a fictionalized account of Crowley's first experience with mescaline. I think I read in a francis king book some years back, that there were rumours it was Crowley who turned on young Aldous Huxley to mescaline, in a ceremony meant to redress the Elusian mysteries held in a Berlin hotel room.
It should be remembered that in much of crowley's magical accounts of cannabis ingestion, it was not smoked cannabis used, but rather the ingestion of hashish or some potent extract. In this sort of dosage, cannabis can provide a decidedly shamanic experience.
I suppose it all boils down to what you do with your obsessions…. maybe you should try some, after all its the sacrament of the New Aeon 😉
I've used cannabis amongst other drugs in the past. I just don't bang on about it incessantly.
well, if you don't recognize the relevance of it in a discussion of rabelais and crowley, and the history of the occult scene in general, then I don't care who you are, and what you have written, but you have kind of missed the boat.
What I think is interesting is, considering the references to cannabis in Pantagruel,the well established use of cannabis by Crowley, (who wrote about it quite extensively and included translations from members of Paris Hashish club in the 1st volume of the Equinox, which he himself translated), along with Paschal B Randolph, Blavatsky, Cahagnet, Stanislas de Guaita, Beasant, Gurdjief and a variety of other important figures of occult history associated with its use, that almost nothing at all appears on this subject when you look for it on the search engine for this site. Moreover, now that there is a presentation of source material regarding this, it has raised some hackles, and AE Waite style stuffiness tries to squash the discussion. If you don't want to bang on about bhang, then quite simply don't and join another thread, rather than trying to control the free form flow of this one.
You might want to check out Israel Regaerdie's 'Roll Away the Stone' 😉
what is the trick to posting images here?
I'm with you on this one. I just tried to post a response to your ranting with two (2) appropriate images, and I hit "submit" and NOTHING came out ... not even the text.
No preview button, no edit button, no "notify moderator" button. I guess it's back to the stone age ... just like AC warned us about.
Oh wait! I just found the EDIT button. Please advance to the bronze age. My elderly eyes have trouble seeing gray on gray.
Maybe you should pick a more appropriate avatar, if you think a discussion of the role of cannabis in the spiritual life of man is 'ranting'? as Shaivites have quite clearly been using cannabis since the Stone Age 😀
Maybe Saint Augustine would fit you better ?
if that is the case, Frater Shiva, perhaps you can direct me to where it is written about here? if not, then it is far from a mundane discussion on well known material.... I am saying it is under discussed.
And I was chiming in, as it was a discussion of rabelais and crowley, and cannabis is a big part of that discussion. What was your point in relation to that exactly? why the concern about multi-posts, in an otherwise somewhat dead forum? what about this discussion has upset you exactly?
I do like the cactus, I sell peyote and peruvian torch cactus in my vancouver shop, the urban shaman. A shame your book is so pricey as I would like to read what you have had to say on the subject, but 2k for a used edition, oy vey, it shall remain a mystery unto me.
And in regards to hashish, and its occult use, have you written much on that? is it available?
I just replied TWICE and this f**king forum ate my posts. I'll try sending a PM to you.