Love Contra Compassion

Another older piece, originally penned December 14, 2014. It’s a little self-helpy, but I think there’s enough worthwhile material in here to make it worth publishing. It’s a little long, but if you’re interested… here it is.

Compassion is not a form of Love, rather it is a corruption, harmful to both Thelema and Agape.

being boundless
is unlimited
and in unlimited supply.
Thelema, Love and compassion:

I am a Thelemite, and have often been puzzled by an apparent paradox in our holy writings:

The Law of Thelema reads thusly:

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law
Love is the Law, Love under Will.

I have come to understand these personally that:

By Will, it is meant Thelema, the divine purpose for *your* life. discover and do that.

By Love under Will, we can judge our perceived Will, if it’s nature is not Love, we are wrong, and likewise, judge our Love, that if what we think is Love is not inline and subject to our personal divine path, then perhaps it is not truly Love. In this manner, these 2 great ideals serve to provide us with a balanced guide to our lives.

The entire makeup of the OTO, the fraternal organization taken over and reorganized by our prophet, Aleister Crowley is built on providing mutual support and a community which takes care of itself and helps its members grow.

And yet, Liber Al (the most holy book of Thelema) 2:21 contains this:

“Compassion is the vice of kings”

Now the majority of verse 21, and those verses surrounding it speak to the victory of the coming aeon, and the advancement of humanity. It is a contrast of master and slave, the lost soul and the saint. Yet I firmly believe no word in this text is accidental, and as such, I was caught off guard by this text; It does not say compassion for the lost is the vice of kings, or compassion in this circumstance or that, but, “compassion is the vice of kings”. Even if we take the most cynical “insiders and saints only” view of this, it seems contradictory. If we are to Love each other, if we are to build a society which enables and encourages each other to grow, how then is compassion vice?

Furthermore, having searched myself, I have found that my personal Thelema, my personal Will, and the truest nature of who I am, involves my small communities, and the act of service, of encouraging and enabling greatness in those I respect. How then am I to reconcile my Will and Love with this verse?


Any Thelemite knows that Crowley was one for study, and would often revert to etymology for his definitions, even when there was a common usage which may have, either subtly or not so subtly, a different connotation.

If we go back to the etymology, we get this:

Compassion is from the latin compati, which means literally to “suffer with”.

Love, from the Old English “lufu”, is of Germanic origin, from the Indo-European root (Shared by Sanskrit) Lubhyati, “to desire”. by the time it hits latins “Libet” we have “taking pleasure in”.

So lets contrast these; Which is better for all parties involved? Should we suffer with those around us, or should we desire them and take pleasure in them?

These two seemingly similar words actually imply polar opposites in our relationship to people. One is key to the vector of greatness, the other to a mutual hell of suffering; One leads to aiding someone on their path upward, the other to enabling them to wallow in failures and pain.
What does it mean to Love?

I began with this small piece because I felt it needed to be the first phrase of this text, but let me revisit it:

being boundless
is unlimited
and in unlimited supply.
Love is not a limited commodity:

There are a class of people which we all know of; those who are such beacons of Love that all fear and hatred seems to be deflected from them by sheer force. They are fire-hoses of strength, joy, light and empathy. They may very well feel your suffering greatly, but in feeling it, they still maintain their core. They are not brought down to the pits of hell, but remain an anchor by which those who are able may find true solace, rather than co-suffering.

I have had the great privilege of sitting (with hundreds of others) in the presence of the Dali Lama. Just being in the same room, you know that something is different. Those who truly Love do not clutch at Love like we do, rather it flows through them without any sense of insincerity or distraction. They are amazing listeners, and when they speak, everyone WANTS to listen, because they speak un-self-consciously, and truthfully. You can see the same in people like the hugging saint, in many children, and in those rare people living quiet lives around us, who are sincere in their happiness and openness.

They have discovered, on a very core level, that Love is not a limited commodity.

We do not need to horde Love. In fact, the more we allow Love to flow through us, the more Love we have in our lives. It is a beautiful

Hurt people limit their own exposure to Love:

When we are injured, when we feel insecure, we do not allow Love to flow through us, but we choke it off, along with everything else of a mercurial nature. We isolate ourselves and like a stagnant pond, allow our fears and self-doubt to fester and grow. Strong people, by contrast, move more freely, are less guarded, and as such are freer. The act of “self-protection” in this case, causes more harm than good by prioritizing cutting off the hurt, over allowing healing.

Bravery and fearlessness:

When I was a young man, I was taught that to be fearless was probably to be an idiot, blind to the dangers around you. To be brave was to acknowledge your justified fears, and push on anyway, knowing full well the risks. This sounded macho and I clung to it for many years. The comment on bravery, and it’s virtues are completely valid. The comment about fearlessness needs some qualification, but first, a note on why the distinction is important:

When we are fearless, we act without reservation. We are completely sincere and dedicated to our actions. To attempt acrobatics tricks with even a moment’s hesitation is incredibly dangerous, but to move into them fearlessly, while no guarantee of success, is still the only viable path to success. So it is with music and, I would argue, with Love as well.

If you are fearless in a situation with real risks, then there is a problem. The corollary, however, is that if you are never fearless then you never believe yourself to be in a truly safe environment. This is problematic.

When we look at people like the Dali Lama and the Hugging saint, we know they have been through incredible challenges, things which might break other people. Yet, they still seem able to Love fearlessly, as if they can not be hurt. Why is this and how can we emulate it?
Growing up and the Artery of Love:

We have all heard the explanation about how cholesterol builds up along an artery, making it harder and harder for blood to flow through it. So it is with Love; As we accumulate emotional scars, each time moves us from fearlessness to bravery, and makes our loving more timid, more partial, and hence, more prone to failure.

As children grow up, they move from the fearless environment of parental care, to a condition of bravery. They are encouraged to go out, to take risks, to realize dangers and to learn to deal with them, and this is right to do. They are also, however, shunned, told not to speak, and put in a position where to share what is important to them is also a risk. This is the beginning of the choking off of Love; The censorship of self.

This peaks in high school, where in adolescence, trying to determine their order in the world, children lash out at each other violently, both emotionally and often physically, seeking not to understand, not to listen, but as their parents before them, to assert dominance and silence, or at least control, the voices of those around them.

As this artery gets choked off, we find that not only does less Love flow through, but that with the lower volume, we begin to consider that maybe we should not share this limited commodity with everyone. Perhaps it is best to horde it, and share it only with those who help, or at least do not harm, ourselves.

Self-healing and Selfishness in conversation:

One issue I have dealt with myself, is an involuntary selfishness, especially in conversation. I want to be a good listener. I want to be there for others. Yet when we begin discussing, I find that without even realizing it, I have monopolized the conversation. I feel horrible when I do this. Why does this happen, and what can we do about it?

Love is powerful. Love seeks out injury, to destroy it, to replace all suffering with joy and light.

We are a vehicle for Love. Try to visualize it as a physical thing, traveling through us. It tackles with great vigor those things which block it. Love wants to be free. As we are the vessel through which Love flows, it seeks to repair the Self first, and make us proper vessels, more capable of truly caring both for others, but also, and more importantly, for ourselves.

This means being willing to Love unconditionally. It is EASY to “Love” another, especially someone who is hurting, who is in a worse place than you. Quite often though, this isn’t really Love, but compassion. It is schadenfreude disguising itself as Love. It enables both of you to fall to new lows together, rather than working to elevate each other. It is the replacement of joy, which requires constant work, with suffering, which is painful but effortless. Instead, let us chose to seek light and joy. This does not mean to ignore the suffering. Rather the opposite. It is to acknowledge it, but then to WORK on it, rather than wallow in it.

If we Love unconditionally, the first person we must be willing to Love is ourselves. We can see this when we are feeling Love, and we feel it work within us. We must give ourselves permission to heal, to be strong, and to allow ourselves unmitigated joy in ourselves. We must not fight against the ideas of pride and strength, but let the sheer beauty of existence overwhelm us and bring us with it, exalting ourselves to great heights, and bringing those around us with us.

This starts with realizing that every time we turn the conversation back to ourselves to our own troubles, we should not then scold ourselves, and engage in shame, but plainly acknowledge our own hurt, our own need to heal, and allow that to begin.

Two Cycles:

The negative cycle most of us are involved in goes something like this:
– I try to be a good listener, but my attention goes to my own issues.
– I shame myself for paying attention to myself and associate this self-healing attempt with shame and pain.
– I create another emotional scar, and further choke off the attention and Love I am able to channel to myself and others.
– I have an even harder time paying attention to others.

The positive cycle we can move towards goes something like this:
– I try to be a good listener, but my attention goes to my own issues.
– I make a note of where I’m feeling hurt, and possibly comment on it, to be discussed when I can.
– I follow through on that note, and find someone I can discuss this with, without shame and really get to the heart of the issue and start healing.
– I am healed, even a small bit, and Love flows through me more freely, and my attention is available for others.
The joy of being there for someone, and the need to allow others to be there for you:

We all take joy in being there for other people. When we are there to help others, we want more than anything for them to succeed. We want to be part of a success story. We want to be that person they can trust so completely, that they will share with us those things which are scary to them, which they are afraid of and which, until they share them, have power to hold them down.

When you allow someone to listen to you, and trust them enough to allow them to be a part of healing yourself, you are not necessarily burdening them. Think about how you feel when someone comes to you and you are able to help them by listening and being there for them. Now be humble enough to allow someone else to be that person for you.

Healing happens inside a safe space, where you can be fearless. By being a place where others can be fearless, and by trusting in others to allow you the same, you create an environment for mutual growth and strength.

As you allow yourself permission to be selfish, you are really allowing yourself permission to perfect yourself, and to become the person who can act from a place of fearlessness, like those people mentioned in the beginning of this paper. Only by taking care of yourself, can you really put yourself in a position to be completely present for others.

Examples, my mother and my path:

I love my mother very much. I know she loves us, her family. When I was a child, she didn’t want us to go without. Despite my father bringing in enough for us to live on, she worked in the frozen foods and dairy section of the local super-market. She worked long and hard hours, often swing shifts to ensure that we had everything we wanted. She did this so long that she got walking pneumonia, and worked through the same for YEARS, while we watched her health deteriorate.

I know her intentions were good.
I also know that her actions were, perhaps compassionate, but not based on any reality. What she did hurt rather than helped us. None of us wanted to see our mother sick and frail.

I have taken this to heart in my profession. I work in a field where Karoshi (death by work) is not uncommon. I’ve seen multiple people under 50 with heart attacks. To sleep regularly and work a 40-60 hour work week is unheard of. I sleep regularly. I eat regularly. I don’t overwork. Because of this, I am generally the sharpest person in the room, even when the people I’m working with are far more intelligent than I am. I am better than them, and MORE USEFUL than them, because I have prioritized taking care of myself.


Our society values compassion. It values things like enabling people, because we believe that to suffer is to care. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you embrace Agape, the universal, god-like love, then you can not exempt yourself. If you care about those around you, you will start by taking care of yourself, that you can preserve your own mental, emotional and physical reserves, thus preparing you to deal with things in the long term.

Understand that there is ALWAYS an emergency, and always will be. That by prioritizing yourself, you are able to be the center of calm in the storm, and the person from whom love, true Love, blasts, like a firehose. You can be there for others in a way few people can, but only if you are willing, in an ongoing process, to allow yourself to heal and receive healing as well.


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