Preface note: All quotations in bold italics are taken from Liber AL vel Legis, the Book of the Law. This post is chock full of ‘em, for reasons which will become obvious. Simple italics are for emphasis (author’s own).
Thank you for providing what has been a thoroughly challenging and frankly frustrating question.
First of all, I am very pleased to see that we share opinions towards the cult of personality around great thinkers and leaders in their fields; as I certainly agree that Crowley “led an adventurous and intellectually courageous full life, but whilst he deserves our respect and admiration; worship or emulation of his personal quirks and foibles seems pointless” as you said of Darwin. I hope that Carrolleyanity never takes root, in the same way that I hope Crowleyanity’s adherents are “damned for a dog”, “and to hell with them, master!”
I am also very interested in fully getting to grips with the Chaobala, as I am of the shunned area of Western Mystery Tradition qabalists who do not gel with the “Kircher Arrangement” of the Tree and believe the Sefer Yetzirah provides a much more elegant and workable arrangement. I hope to hear more on this, and raise some questions of my own, at your talk this coming Wednesday!
So then, your question (which I shall not reprint due to length) concerns the Book of the Law, and what I make of it. I will almost certainly have spent more time discussing the question with myself, other Thelemites, and other occultists on my rounds of international talking heads – for instance, I have had the utmost pleasure of hosting Lon Milo DuQuette last weekend, which caused a lot of scurrying around under the auspices of “The Archbishop is coming!” – than I spent writing it finally.
Should I discuss its qabalistic merits, as when Frater Achad (Charles Stansfield Jones) unlocked one key by adding the A to Crowley’s Liber L? or when David Rankine discovered his newly made-up system of Prime Qabalah fitted perfectly? Should I attempt to defend Crowley’s rebellion against Christianity following his godsawful childhood, and admit his absorption of Islam, as you say, along with the many other religious influences which are touched upon in the Book – and promptly crapped upon in Cap III? Should I break some oaths and go into the extraordinary and frequently infuriating beauty which the initiations of O.T.O. have shown me in this text?
No, bugger it. Everything that I care about in Liber AL Gordon White implies right here. I’ll sum up as best I can: Crowley showed off some parlour tricks to his new wife in the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid, which set off really sodding ancient machinery to transfer consciousness to the stars. We see this in part here where Robert Bauval states that “the pyramidion on top of the king’s pyramid was regarded as the stellar-transfigured king or his star-soul”, and is referenced throughout Pyramid Texts as the King becoming “an imperishable Star” after death magick is performed correctly. The mechanism for this certainly involved the entities at the other end receiving the King for him to be counted among their number.
The activation of a consciousness-transferring machine by a certifiable worker of considerable magicks (even if completely accidental) set off a chain of events in which beings at the other end of the cosmic conference call decided it was time to restart the experiment of humanity becoming Gods again, what with it having dropped off significantly since that whole Enlightenment thing. In the same way we are likely to pick up an old student who makes contact for the first time in a while, who needs a quick reference guide to getting back on the wagon, the Book of the Law was drafted and prepped to send back to Crowley and Rose. Its reception came about following the establishment of a good connection, when Crowley made his second successful attempt at the Invocation of Horus (as described in The Grimoire of Aleister Crowley, by Rodney Orpheus) under Rose’s direction.
What was in it? I’d estimate a fair percentage is, yes, Crowley’s inherent prejudices and wish-fulfilment, so crap; more however is his subconscious regurgitating in a trance state an incredible amount of stored esoteric information, which can be internally and externally verified by people who populate lashtal.com and frankly scare me a little; however I honestly believe that the greater share is a received text from an exterior source, and Crowley knew it – “O prophet! thou hast ill will to learn this writing. I see thee hate the hand & the pen; but I am stronger. Because of me in Thee which thou knewest not.” These entities have been working for some time to bring about a change in consciousness in humanity – work which seems to track through the cult of Mithras back to the Greek Stoics where the words Thelema and Boulemos (as used by Augustine) meant the will one expresses in accordance with the Logos, when acting according to the Stoic virtues of Wisdom, Courage, Justice, and Temperance.
This ends up circling back to the most common argument in magick (at least among people who can actually perform magick and get some damn results) – do the ends justify the means? Does Crowley’s abhorrent treatment of his magical and/or sexual partners necessitate the burning of his books? Do the unpalatable and downright offensive sections of Liber AL mean we must discard the wisdom and magical tech contained in other parts, and in those sections too? Does the utter contempt in which this praeternatural intelligence holds humanity mean that we should not use that tech to go up/out/in there and kick its ass? Was that the point maybe?
Instead of trying to sort that mess out, I will share with you some personal Gnosis on my path through this tangle of questions. Once upon a time, I identified as Gnostic Christian in my spiritual self, and Stoic in my philosophical self, but Thelemite as a magician – hard to put on a business card, but there you go. I couldn’t transfer my spiritual leanings over to Thelema as the concept of Nuit, Hadit, and Ra-Hoor-Khuit had absolutely no grounding in my experience, and I’ve had some pretty bloody vivid experiences of gods, spirits, angels, and so on. Then one day, after reading about the Egyptian method of astrally projecting into deeper and deeper planes (as per the Book of the Dead) and the results of previous astral work, I decided to embark upon such an experiment.
Initially projecting into my astral temple on the Yetzirah, I sat there and meditated for some time upon my more inner nature. This became focussed on my magical name, and what it meant to me – Sefriel, “the shining sword of God” – and eventually when projecting inwards again, I found my perspective pushing into my astral assistant of a free-roaming winged sword (which is my back tattoo for the ink appreciators reading), the whole universe of perception shrinking into that idea on Briah. Suffering from sleep-deprivation and other precursors to a non-standard psychological state, I pushed onwards, and the blade became alive with electricity. I projected inwards once more and attained union with one of the electrons in the wave of electricity, which flowed into the great eye in the hilt of the sword (seriously it’s a cool tattoo) and into absolute void.
Now my perspective slowly shifted into observing myself as a tiny tiny electron, but still mobile, sped by utterly small wings along pathways which were too fine to observe but spread throughout the void. I became aware of other points of absolute energy at the end of these pathways, further winged globes of the creation of other beings, the nodes in an entire network which makes up all consciousness in all realities. Wrenching my perspective inside-out, I became able to focus outwards and then it struck me with breathtaking beauty: the network of consciousness creates the star-goddess Nuit. I was Hadit in my secret centre in Atziluth, and I was eternally at motion, deep in the fabric of Nuit. The words of Liber AL came back to me:
“Thou knowest! And the sign shall be my ecstasy, the consciousness of the continuity of existence, the omnipresence of my body.”
Unfortunately for Kash, who was driving our family to my in-law’s event in Southampton, this realisation was so shocking and profound that it booted me right back into my body, but without decompressing on the way back up/out I had a rather violent fit for a few minutes until I got over my “astral bends”; Kash was rather worried, but she has seen me overtaken with all sorts of strange physiological results in our time together and we completed our journey without more than a passing “What the hell THIS time?!”
Since then, I have verified this using Enochian magick in the same fashion to connect with functions of the universe who maintain these pathways, and with entheogens under extremely appreciated supervision to directly interface with Baphomet outside the hypercube of this reality, where this consciousness meets its potential in the totality of the network. Yeah that was the most fun I’ve had in a basement, and that’s saying something.
This interpretation of a world of consciousness connected at the most high levels of reality completely fits my lived personal experience. When all else is completely ablated, when all false dualities are resolved and “there be no difference made among you between any one thing & any other thing” here I have actually found myself as Hadit in the body of Nuit. It is universal, it applies to anyone, and it is harmonic with the greatest and oldest belief systems that I can find and get my head around. This is what I believe and my research and experience bears out its confirmation in Liber AL – I am now happy to call myself a Thelemite through and through.
I have experientially, and to my mind independently, verified the cosmology of the Book of the Law. I cannot consign it to the scrapheap when I have had such intense experiences which correlate so completely with the material, and so however imperfect, I will continue to see it as a source of inspiration and transmission of ideas from without our physical world. I would happily see it furthered with newer material though – and that is an honest hope for the star-consciousness possibilities of the Chaobala.
My question in return really must focus more on Chaos Magick than yourself this time, so: Above I asked the question, do the ends justify the means? Chaos magick as I understand (and practise) it is a method for shifting probabilities so that the impossible becomes unlikely, and the unlikely likely, such that the desired result which was previously improbable is suddenly manifest. The primary application of any magical tech which works in the real world is to get paid and laid.
What of the ethical component? It is an ironic consequence of achieving instant gratification that the soul is ultimately unsatisfied; going back to being broke and lonely when you have impoverished or magically coerced others along the way not only is a waste of effort, but leaves a mess for others to clear up. How does Chaos Magick address the important issues traditionally dealt with by community magicians (shamans, priests, exorcists, oracles, etc) – how to live, love, and die?
All the very best, and I look forward to seeing you and Matt this week.
enjoying this exchange immensely and i’m learning so much. i think it was crowley who said, ‘for anything to be true, it must contain it’s own paradox.’ was that his get out of jail card? from my own experience i believe there to be some truth in his statement.