Mysteries of the Law
In the 1900’s a figure emerged in British society. His name was Aleister Crowley, and he became known as “the most wicked man in all of Britain” (Netzley 213). Crowley was a leading occultist of the time, and was also perhaps one of the most flamboyant. His writings were as odd as his sense of humor, as he often spoke of child sacrifice, black magick, and drugs. One writing in particular, The Book of the Law, has made more of an impact than any other. Three mysteries surround the Book of the Law: its conception, the general philosophy contained, and how the philosophy is used in day to day life.
In 1904 Aleister Crowley and his wife Rose, took a vacation to Cairo, Egypt. Rose did not have any formal training in the occult, so Aleister found it strange when she fell into a trance like state. She began to tell Aleister that someone was waiting for him. He did not think much of this, as Rose had no interest in magic. On March 18th, 1904 Crowley invoked the Ancient Egyptian god Thoth, the god of Knowledge. After this ritual Rose told Aleister that Horus, another Egyptian god, was the one waiting for him. That very day they went to the Boulak Museum. Upon entering, Rose immediately took Aleister to exhibit 666, a piece entitled “The Stele of Revealing”, where she recognized Horus (Thelemapedia). Weeks went by as the Stele was being translated, and Aleister was then told that he must “go into the temple and write for one hour between noon and 1 pm, on the days of April 8th, 9th, and 10th” (Thelemapedia). During the hour, the voice of Aiwass speaks to Aleister and he pens every word. The voice sounded “of deep timbre, musical and expressive, its tones solemn, voluptuous, tender, fierce or aught else as suited the moods of the message. Not bass—perhaps a rich tenor or baritone” and that is seemed to be coming from a “tall, dark man in his thirties, well-knit, active and strong, with the face of a savage king, and eyes veiled lest their gaze should destroy what they saw” (Magick 435). It took Aleister only three days to pen the book, and he states “I wrote 65 pages of this present essay (at about my usual rate of composition) in about 10 1/2 hours as against the 3 hours of the 65 pages of The Book of the Law. I was pushed hard to keep the pace; the MS. shows it clearly enough” (Magick 435). When examining the manuscript (the original work is printed in the back of every copy of the Book of the Law as a fascimile) it becomes apparent that this is true, the writing shows a hurried pace and there are several misspellings and grammatical errors. The book is divided into three chapters, which symbolize the three’ Aeons’ of human existence and also of a “trinity of ruling deities” (Intro to Crowley). This odd tale of how the book was more received than conceived, and its three chapter structure are simply small echoes of what lies in the pages of The Book of the Law.
The philosophy of Thelema (the religion based on the Book of the Law) can be taught with one simple phrase: Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law, Love is the Law; Love under will. This phrase is uttered by Thelemites (the term used to describe someone who follows the religion of Thelema) as a sort of greeting. This philosophy was first introduced in Francois Rabelais book The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel (Great Beast). In this text Rabelais introduces characters that live in the garden of Theleme, a mythical setting in which every person is allowed to do exactly what they want. This was adapted by Crowley in the introduction of something called ‘True Will’. True will is something that one must find for themselves, and no other being can determine ones true will. Do what thou wilt does not simply mean “Do anything you want”, rather it implies that one may only do his or her own true will. “Love is the law” may be interpreted to describe the fact that Love is true will, and when one finds his or her own true will, the individual will be filled with a feeling of divine love. “Love under will” can be interpreted to mean that love as a true will is not universal, and if ones true will leads along a path that is not full of love, one should choose the true will instead of love. Crowley firmly backs this idea in a very severe quote from The Book of the Law, “…thou hast no right but to do thy will. Do that, and no other shall say nay.” This is interpreted to mean that as long as one is accomplishing his or her true will, there will be nothing in the way to stop the individual from succeeding.
Accomplishing ones true will is a major focus of Thelema and The Book of the Law. The problem lies therein: how might one live by the philosophies encountered in The Book of the Law or Thelema? Also, the question of why anyone would want to live by The Law might be asked. One must dive into the Book and attempt rigorous personal study of the text in order to comprehend it. Crowley himself comments on the study of the Book “All questions of the Law are to be decided only by appeal to my writings, each for himself” (The Book of the Law 50). This is taken to mean that one cannot elicit meaning from another’s opinion, one must investigate the Book and take away a personal meaning. In order for a Thelemite to carry out the ideas expressed in The Book of the Law, they must live by only one law: Do what thou wilt. As long as one is accomplishing this true will, he or she is living by the Law of Thelema. Another important fact to state is that one cannot carry out his or her true will if he or she is stopping another from accomplishing their true will. It can be seen now that murder, violence, theft, and any other horrible human behavior is not the Law. Destructive behavior is regarded as childish and uncaring in the eyes of a Thelemite. The question of why one would want to live as a Thelemite may now be addressed: If everyone on earth regarded each other as a being with a true will that cannot be interfered with, all of mankind could go on living happily and peacefully. The broad ecstasy that The Book of the Law invokes is mirrored in the individual. When one begins to live to accomplish true will, bliss follows. This echoes out into the lives of others around the individual. The Book of the Law is a very life affirming text, and the laws of Thelema are as well. Life is filled with mystery, mysteries that The Book tries (and succeeds) in revealing. Crowley, his wife Rose, and Aiwass have unveiled one of the most important things in human society, that we are all on one path: The path of true will.
The shroud that has covered a man and his ideas for a hundred years has now been lifted. The Great Beast, as Crowley has been deemed, does not seem like an appropriate title. His writings have impacted human kind, and will continue to do so. If the words of The Book of the Law are heeded, we as beings will continue to exist into eternity. Aleister Crowley has created a mystery, a mystery that began with his conception of The Book of the Law, and continues into what the law is, and how it is put into use in day to day life. In conclusion, it may be stated that these mysteries are no longer such, instead they are practical laws and guidelines that everyone on earth may benefit from.
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