One of the Occult Blog-o-Sphere's favorite pet topics has come up again: The Great Work.
First, Rufus Opus made a post which, given that this is the internet and everyone misinterprets tone and meaning easier than they breathe, has had some thinking he has lost his mind. "YEYS-ah GOOD PEOPLE, AH HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT-ah, YE ARE ALL GODS-ah, YE ARE ALL KINGS-ah, GO FORTH-ah, and CLAIM THY KINGDOMS-ah!" With a lot of "fuck" and Thelema thrown in. Honestly, I personally never thought he's lost his mind; he's just ecstatic. Considering the changes in life that he has talked about, it's easy to see why.
And then we jump over to Jason, who talked about the Great Work in terms of achievement of full human potential. His post, in comparison to RO's is a breath of fresh air given the more mellow tone and the more sensible message.
And then Frater MC posted, giving his opinion on it which, as he put it, lines up with the Golden Dawn definition of the Great Work, "To Become More Than Human". But he gives caveats to this in the form of explaining how he defines aspects of it.
I'm sure there are others out there who have posted about this that I don't immediately recall, but suffice to say that The Great Work has been showing up left and right on my blog feed lately. Reading through the posts above, as well as any others, I've noticed something:
Each of them boils down to similar things!
Reading through their takes on The Great Work, certain things stand out to me. These are themes that I've seen run through the concept ever since I first became aware of it many moons ago. It's even backed up in a quote by Eliphas Levi:
The Great Work is, before all things, the creation of man by himself, that is to say, the full and entire conquest of his faculties and his future; it is especially the perfect emancipation of his will.
So what does this say to you? To me, it comes down to this...
A. Personal Sovereignty
Your life is your own. You do with it what you will. You are an independent being who, in the end, is responsible for your life. In times of need, you can assist others, and others can assist you; but that is, and should be, your choice. It's not always easy, in fact it can be hard and painful as hell. But maintaining your sovereignty is important.
Your life is yours to do with what you will. It is up to you to know what that will is. You have the right to choose what you will do. There are consequences to every choice, however, and personally I believe we are responsible for our decisions in life.
C. Evolution & The Pursuit of Bliss
It is my opinion that existence is not meant to be static. Even in occultism there is a popular reference to the way in which almost all the cells in your body are not ones you were born with, or were there when you were ten years old. Change and evolution are part of existence. The Great Work entails evolution, and combined with the pursuit of happiness, this entails evolving to transcend what you are now by becoming better, more skillful, more aware. There are things about us, things about life, that we don't like and which do not evolve us for the better. We seek to overcome these and make room for bliss.
I didn't exactly know how to head this part of it, but taking cue from Jason, I've come to see an integral part of the Great Work as the cultivation of clarity. As termed here, however, that clarity is kind of loaded. This refers to clarity of mind, uncovering your will (and Will), and also clarifying your relationship to all things. The assumption here is that the degree of clarity implied would lead to truly seeing things for what they are. Thus, the stuff that is actually meaningless is shown for just that, and your own baggage and assumptions fall away from your relationships and you can value them for themselves instead of for your own insecurities. This also leads to honest analysis of yourself and your life, to see where you wish to evolve next and what you wish to transcend.
As you can see, these all mix and match all over the place, but in the end, I think this sums up what the Great Work is to me. Granted, there is good reason for the 'Work' part of it. It is an ongoing process that, frankly, most people will never truly complete. Frater RO, when he says he has accomplished the Great Work...well, sure he has. He has done it and achieved a degree of it. That's an accomplishment. But has he completed it?
If he says yes, then I call bullshit.
Because, here's the thing. To me, the Great Work is a human construction born from our imperative to always evolve, to always change, and also from our efforts to deal with the problems of existing. It's the same reason that we have the self-help and self-improvement genres of literature and media, and the same reason that practical magic even exists. To actively engage with it on any level is to accelerate its process. For these reasons, the Great Work is the Human Work, and it won't stop until We do.
You can be lazy. You can decide to call it quits and just not improve anything. Doesn't matter: the Great Work will be there, and like it or not, you will evolve and change.
Now, does anyone else hear the countdown to another one of the Occult Blog-o-Sphere's favorite worn-out pet topics? I hear the HGA coming...tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.