The OTO Living in the Sunlight meditation
Grand Master Shiva X°
In parts I – III on Liber Resh I made occasional reference to a meditation practice called “Living in the Sunlight.” Up until we revived this practice in Australia in 2018, few people had ever heard of it. The Sunlight meditation is only mentioned in an unpublished 1915 letter from Aleister Crowley to his disciple Frater Achad, and in a 1922 lecture by Achad called “Living in the Sunlight.”. A transcript of that lecture was published in issue number 7 of the Swedish journal The Fenris Wolf (2014).
If you want to find out more on the background to this meditation, I wrote a short paper called “Living in the Sunlight: the Mutations of the Tao working” in the Best of Oz. Overlooked for about 100 years, the Australian OTO and now the Italian OTO have incorporated it into their Syllabi. In this post you will learn how you can make it part of your own personal practice too, whether you’re in the OTO or not.
It is probably a little cheeky of me to call and claim this as “The OTO Living in the Sunlight meditation.” To be clear, historically the Sunlight meditation was never issued as an official instruction of the Order. However, we know that Crowley practiced it. We also know that Achad practiced it and thought enough about its virtues to lecture on it years after the fact. And we know that the Sunlight work was all going on at a time when developing the OTO was front and centre of the Crowley/Achad collaboration. So as far as I’m concerned, it may as well have been an official instruction. And as the current Australian and Italian work demonstrates, it now is an official OTO practice! So, call it a modern OTO practice if that makes you feel better.
Living in the Sunlight was the creation of the uber cool model, poet, journalist, editor, social worker and mystic, Jeanne Robert Foster (1879-1970). Foster was a student and lover of Crowley’s for a while during his North American period (the World War One years). By all accounts Foster, who took the motto Soror Hilarion (a name drawn from the Theosophical Society tradition), was super smart, super charismatic, super awesome and super sexy. My friend Tobias Churton in his excellent study, Aleister Crowley in America, commented “it is arguable that Aleister Crowley never got over their broken relationship.” Crowley’s diary entry for 31 May, 1920 reads “Did she really break my heart?” Foster is worth reading about in her own right. If that interests you, see Richard Londraville’s biography, Dear Yeats, Dear Pound, Dear Ford: Jeanne Robert Foster and her circle of friends.
Maybe Living in the Sunlight was forgotten for all of these years as Crowley was not wanting to be reminded about Jeanne? We’ll never know. It is also apparent that Living in the Sunlight’s mindful state was achieved by alternate methods in the preliminaries to other more advanced OTO practices, which Crowley was developing and codifying at this time. This too may well explain its disappearance – it was superseded. But Crowley was dealing with a different time and member base. Today, it is a brilliant starting point to cultivate the mindset and skills set we develop through our Work.
So what is it?
In the 1915 letter from Crowley mentioned above, he writes, “I must tell you more, too, about “living in the sunlight,” which is our beloved Sister Hilarion’s way of saying “the way of the Tao”…She taught it me, and from that hour my whole life has been transfigured…The main point seems to be the conception of yourself as a King – Vide Liber CCXX Cap 2. It’s damnably hard to explain, but it’s merely a trick, like all great skill, perfectly easy once you find the way. The elements of struggle, worry, desire, must be eliminated.”
Crowley added a PS: “About this “living in the sunlight,” I ought to add that it involves making everybody in your sphere reflect your radiance. This is the measure of your success.” (The full quotes are in my Best of Oz essay)
This diagram with Light, Life, Love and Will in the corners is not by Crowley but clearly influenced his own Light, Life, Love and Liberty doctrine. It is from The Inner Life and the Tao-Teh-King by C.H.A. Bjerregaard. We know that Crowley was reading this during the World War One years (at the same time he was around Achad and Foster), and that he was actively developing and designing OTO while he was attaining great insight in the Way of the Tao. Much of this and Crowley’s earlier Taoist work found its way into OTO design and practice. In the Crowley quote above, the Way of the Tao is identified with Living in the Sunlight. Call the Sunlight practice a Taoist meditation if you will.
The thing with Taoist meditation is that it is more often than not a subtle energetic practice, also known as medical qigong, or Taoist alchemy. Like Liber Resh, these practices acknowledge a greeting of earth and heaven, (“Hail unto thee…who travellest over the heavens…”,and “… Hail unto thee from the abodes of…”). And they actively draw upon these interactive energies to imbue the practitioners own ‘microcosmic orbit.’ Will and imagination are heavily employed to move and store energy. Details might differ to tradition, but just like the advanced Liber Resh, Taoist meditation makes contact with and draws energy from the sun. This is one and the same Way (“Tao”) as Living in the Sunlight.
So what do you do?
Here’s how Achad described the practice in his lecture:
“When we were in Vancouver, some years ago, a certain sister of the
Order whom we called [Soror Hilarion] came to visit us with the Master
Therion [Crowley]. She it was who first used this expression “living in the sun light”
and who has most shown it forth in her own life…the remembrance of her
is always, as it were, a ray of sunlight. She is one of the most wonderfully
bright, cheerful, soothing individuals and yet at the same time so full
of passion that is[sic] arises within one all the latent forces that I have
ever known…she had a method all her own which everyone of us may
adopt. It consisted in this: she said whatever may have been the cares
and trials and troubles of the day, no matter how many people may have
gone against us and appeared to be unkind to us and so on – no matter
what state of mind we may have been in – there was one great secret…
This world, itself, is more or less of an illusion and we create to a large
extent our own illusions…we are looking at it from an illusionary point of
view. Now, the idea was that every morning – every night, when she laid
down to sleep, she put aside the cares of the day – all little annoyances
and sorrow and shadow, with a firm determination, before sleeping, to wake
up to the sun and wake up to a new day – to a clean sheet, to look at the world
afresh every morning and to live that day in the sunlight and with the sun.”
The first thing to say is that however you choose to personalise this practice with your own will and imagination, it resembles a prayer where you identify with the Sun and surrender your attachment to illusion. You do this with “firm determination.” It is telling that Crowley summarised his Chapter on Invocation in his opus, Magick in Theory and Practice, as “The secret is ‘Inflame thyself in praying’ .” That is the attitude to adopt and assume here.
The account by Achad sounds quite straightforward and simple. It is. Achad’s (and Foster’s) description partakes of what I consider a uniquely American alt-spiritual tradition, a movement distinctly ‘new world’ in its simplicity, openness, gnosticism and egalitarian flair. It flourished in the lecture circuits, town hall meetings, and correspondence courses of the day, and is best popularised in the positive thinking scene. (To study this phenomenon, check out the books by American historian Mitch Horowitz, who the Tasmanian OTO did an interview podcast with a few years ago: https://soundcloud.com/frater-hermellyon/hieros-gamos-radio-ep-13-mitch-horowitz). There is much to be said for “firm determination.”
Crowley’s understanding of the practice might seem in stark contrast to Achad’s recollection. In the Crowley quote above, he speaks of the kingship evident in The Book of the Law, and radiating your Light to others in your circle. Achad and Crowley are both speaking about the same thing, but Crowley in a private teacher-student and initiated context. Achad is giving a public lecture. I would treat Crowley’s description as an insight into Thelemic energetics, or the Thelemite subtle body, and its initiated role and function (according to Crowley) as given in the Holy Books. As the prophet of Thelema, we must pay special attention to his insights.
While Living in the Sunlight may sound simple, try and maintain your practice regularly and see what happens! The surrender of illusion and attachment is a bumpy ride. And the road to hell is paved with good intentions. As Crowley notes, “the elements of struggle, worry, desire, must be eliminated.” Easier said than done! But note that Crowley also describes Living in the Sunlight as “merely a trick…perfectly easy once you find the way.” In other words, it’s a psycho-bioenergetic hack. In order to find the way, it helps to suspend disbelief. Your mind will resist of course – the demiurge will do anything to avoid relinquishing control to Our Lord and Father the Sun.
Achad gives away the Key to the hack, and I’ve seen too many would-be practitioners blink and miss it! So I’m going to spell it out. The transcript says “the idea was that every morning – every night, when she laid down to sleep, she put aside the cares of the day…to wake up to the sun and wake up to a new day…to look at the world afresh every morning and to live that day in the sunlight and with the sun.”
In other words, do this practice just before sleep and immediately upon waking. Make this habit.
Why do it at these times?
Remember what Crowley said about Living in the Sunlight: “my whole life has been transfigured.” That is the hack! In these relaxed and twilight states as we wake or drift off to sleep we are likely to be in alpha or even theta (brainwave) states beyond our normal conscious awareness. These waves govern the threshold between the conscious and unconscious, retaining memories and feelings, and directing our beliefs and behaviours.
The Living in the Sunlight work consciously moves us away from a convergent attachment to the people and things in our external material world. By identifying with the divergent spiritual world of energy (sunlight) while in these states, we can consciously program the unconscious and its autonomic nervous system (ANS) in an ongoing alchemy of transfiguration. It will take care of the rest automatically. We cause change to occur in conformity with will.
There is a lifetime of initiated theory and practice that goes with all of this, but essentially here is a simple but highly effective hack that is the end result of a lot different meditation and yoga, the nocturnal (tantric) yogas of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as kundalini and other subtle body work: re-programming to live in the Sunlight. For this reason, Achad’s lecture goes into some intricacies of kundalini and its equivalents in nature, qabalah and biblical interpretation. This Potential hacking of the ANS (if you want to call it that) for transfiguration is a good part of the traditional OTO Hermetic Science College work, with its impact on mind, body and hormonal secretions affecting our moods and behaviours and general sense of wellness, consciousness and presence. The OTO Priest imparts the same to our People:
☩ The LORD bless you.
☩ The LORD enlighten your minds and comfort your hearts and sustain your bodies.
☩ The LORD bring you to the accomplishment of your true Wills, the Great Work, the Summum Bonum, True Wisdom and Perfect Happiness.
(OTO Gnostic Mass)
Lord most secret, bless this spiritual food unto our bodies, bestowing upon us health and wealth and strength and joy and peace, and that fulfilment of will and of love under will that is perpetual happiness.
(OTO Gnostic Mass)
While of tremendous benefit to anyone’s wellness and that of their immediate circle and loved ones, Living in the Sunlight is particularly beneficial to those charged in OTO with radiating the Light in our Gnostic Catholic Church and Sovereign Sanctuary; is preparatory for the practices commencing from VII°; and a useful preliminary to the lucid or solar Sleep of Shiloam, the Sleep of Light of OTO adepti.
In Australia we encourage our members to get familiar with the Living in the Sunlight practice from our probationary Minerval degree.
“The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” Matt:8:20. Wake up and shine evermore and you won’t need to lay your head. As J. Daniel Gunther has written about in his books and his lectures, “You must have effected an animadversion toward the New Aeon, changing your focus from a world which calls death life, to a world where True Life is death to the world.” (Right Perspective on Initiation lecture) Whether you arrive there mystically (Sunlight) or magically (Resh), or in combination and synthesis, this is the way, and the truth and the life.
“That which I have said of ye operation of ye Sun is accomplished & ended.” (Emerald Tablet, Isaac Newton translation)