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  That Pesky Comment Thang Again
General Thelema Posted by Colin S McLeod on September 22, 2001 @ 01:43 PM
from the pharisee-dotes dept.

There is one thing almost guaranteed to get a Thelemite's back up, and that is to inform him or her that they don't know what the Law really means. Yet the authority usually cited for the freedom and responsibility of interpreting the Law for oneself is The Comment -- which also instructs adherents, apparently unequivocally, that those who discuss the contents of The Book of the Law are to be shunned by all. Yet this injunction is routinely ignored. "Don't Thelemites have the right to interpret as they will?" is the insouciant reply to any objection. Do they?

"Those who discuss the contents of this Book are to be shunned by all, as centres of pestilence." That's what it says and that's what is very rarely practiced. Yet the same people who stand upon their Comment-given right to interpret as they will commonly also refuse anything but a strict and literal reading of "All questions of the Law are to be decided only by appeal to my writings, each for himself." Indeed, in many years of reading on this topic, I have never even seen it suggested that it should be similarly disregarded as somehow optional; as allegorical, or whatever. It is, of course, simply convenient to accept one as plainly literal and to reject the other. As someone who does respect the right even of illiterate lunatics to decide questions of Law for himself, I don't make too much of a fuss about such inconsistencies, but it is important to me in that the forums available for someone who does like to take a literal approach to The Comment, including the shunning injunction, are severely limited. Living, as I do, in a part of the world where I can go for years without seeing anyone with any claim to be a Thelemite, the Internet has been a boon, but there are no discussion groups where The Comment is literally respected. If one even brings it up one is sneered at as if one has yet to achieve the enlightenment required to see that one should be above such silliness. This is not only patronising, it is disrespectful of the very part of The Comment that is also cited as the authority for the precious auto-interpretation. To partake in any discussion at all, what I have done it to simply ignore those who, by my judgement, discuss the contents (at least on occasions when they are discussing). This is a shame, as often I would like to respond more directly to persons who do seem to be quite interesting and who have something to say. So what do I do? Do I start up a moderated group for non-discussers and permanently shun the rest of you?

P.S. For those who can stand my obtuse style, I have penned a further essay on The Comment here. A gin and tonic might be required to get you through it.

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    Re: That Pesky Comment Thang Again
    by Xnoubis on Saturday September 22, @01:48PM
    Do I start up a moderated group for non-discussers and permanently shun the rest of you?

    I don't know about the shunning part, but a forum for discussions strictly adhering to the Comment could be interesting.

    I'm also curious: I attempt to be Comment-compliant in my own way. Do you find my own writings, as far as you've read them, in violation of the Comment? (Leaving aside, for the moment, the disagreements we might have over other points of doctrine.)

    • Re: That Pesky Comment Thang Again
      by Colin S McLeod on Monday September 24, @07:02AM
      I haven't read all your contributions on this site but, having gone through a good few of them, I can't see any which would give me cause for concern. However, you do bring up the problem of practicality of shunning. How strict should one decide to be? How do I know you don't privately discuss the Contents quite freely? How do you know that I don't? And, if one does and the offender then sees the error of their ways, when would it be appropriate to stop shunning? So, even if one doesn't oneself discuss, and even if those one talks to respect one's position at the time, should one still shun those who one knows discuss the contents with others? Or even privately in writing?
      In a way, my isolation (Queensland, Australia, for those who don't know; think of the Crocodile Hunter and then think of something - anything - else) has made it rather easy for me as I haven't had to make the difficult social decisions on this basis; but, on the other hand, I had shunned other Thelemites prior to coming to this view because I was generally disgusted by the nonsense that went on in its name. And though many, such as some of the respondees below, do have a natural feeling of reverence for the Book, and a reluctance to defile that reverence with speech, there is still a reluctance to actually cease social relations with inveterate discussers, especially in typically-small Thelemic communities. But what does a non-discusser and shunner do with them, the non-discussing non-shunners?! Can one perhaps apply a sliding scale of shunning, so one has different levels of contact with the different levels of offence?
      As those who have read the intro to my website (www.duaut.net/) will be aware, I am sympathetic to a sliding scale of definition of the word "contents" so some discussion of what others might consider contents might be allowable; but, even taking that view, in a public forum such as this, it would still offend those who quite properly decide that the most plain reading is appropriate for them. Such an interpretation evokes that other great bug-bear of Thelema, the issue of Grade, and the way in which the Law might vary through the grades. What is appropriate for one of the three grades might not be appropriate for others. I have even considered the possibility that the shunning injunction is intended to eventually cause a schism of social relations between the Grades as the basis of a theocratic society. Obviously, that isn't about to happen anytime soon, but it bears some thinking about.
      As things stand, I agree with those below who see in the Comment mostly the eminently-laudable motive of just shutting up the idiots. We have had the salutary example in recent days of the U.S. President presuming to lecture Muslims on what really "blasphemes" Allah (having spent quite a few months in Cairo, I can imagine how that went down) so it isn't inconceivable that one day the state will be trying to tell us what R.H.K. really wants us to do. But as an exorcism of the chattering Apes, The Comment would have to be respected. I believe that, by the light of Hadit, a consensus will eventually emerge but meanwhile I intend to take quite a cautious approach.


      • Re: That Pesky Comment Thang Again
        by The Twit on Monday September 24, @07:35PM
        I spent a week in Cairo, a lot of that time in the National Museum, and that's where I met Mustafa, the Egyptian who didn't immediately try to hustle me. He was a French teacher from Tanta in the delta, just in Cairo for the day on some business, and between his tiny bits of English and my tiny bits of French we managed to spend some hours together talking about Egypt's problems, which he explained as overpopulation, ignorance, and corruption. We went to eat at a sort of soup kitchen where we each got a bowl of thin vegetable broth for the equivalent of three cents. He introduced me to a man he said was a Muslim Brother, who smiled and greeted me warmly in Arabic. I got the impression that most Egyptians, given a truly free and secret ballot, would rather have an Islamic fundamentalism with some social conscience than the graft-driven personality cult of General Mubarak.

        • Re: That Pesky Comment Thang Again
          by Azag on Saturday September 29, @01:50AM
          Reminds me of a story my father related to me.

          In 1968 Dave found himself in Vietnam, as part of a 12 man Special Forces operations team. He was the demolitions expert, and also an engineer, a "bridge builder" quite literally. The team would night jump into position, cut down a mess of trees, build a bridge across some impasse and then defend the position until a transport arrived and quickly hurried across - at which point Dave would wire the entire rig w/C-4 and blow the bridge up. Sometimes this "defense" of their position would break out into full-on combat, days worth with no sleep, and gave me new insight - metaphorically - into my own interpretation of the Buddhist idea of liberalization: "If you want to build bridges in your life, go out and build real bridges" - maybe a bad example...but you get the drift...
          Sometimes it takes some interior combat to defend your spiritual bridges, and after you get what you need - sometimes it’s good to destroy all preconceptions of crossing.

          After some seriously hairy covert missions, he (Dave) finally got the R&R he had so desperatly needed, and made his way to French Beach, in the French quarter of southern Vietnam. Lying in the sand, having a beer, contemplating his own existence (I would imagine) he noticed a Vietnamese gentleman just downwind doing the same, noticing him. They eventually made their way towards a conversation by waving their arms, writing in the sand, and arranging shells in formation near the water. Dave got to practice his Vietnamese, while his new friend wrestled with English. They laughed and talked for hours had some beers and escaped the terrible war for a day in the warm comfort of friendship, and recognition of the human condition.

          ... This Vietnamese gentleman was genuine Viet-Cong (VC) on vacation from Hell himself. Love is the law, love under will.

    Re: That Pesky Comment Thang Again
    by jazzcat on Sunday September 23, @04:13AM
    ...actually I was able to plow your 'as a matter of a fact; approach non withstanding your, literal
    concern with the commentaries thang, to the point
    of you practicing, a kind of literal abstinence
    toward the said,defier of said injunction against
    such pratice...ect. ect.

    gawd what did I just say?..anyhoot; as you have found out I am very experimental in my approach, to the extent that, I would talk about the BOTL
    on the crapper in a grayhound buss station, with a extreamly derranged intransigent wino,

    and Ra hoor has not struck me with lightening yet
    (knock on wood)...well; be it that as it may,
    I once had a copy of The Commentaries in my hand
    that had Crowleys signature on it, some bloke
    was selling for a hundred dollars in Berleley
    back in 1980 or so, the inscription read on the inside cover: something like that Crowley was inviting the person over for some of his famous hot curry, anyway I have realated this story before,
    but my point is that, I believe that the commentary is where you find it, not where you
    talk about it, in class rooms or groups that
    would actually attempt to do so, cuz then it becomes, mere speculation, and translating the
    TEXT, into nice neat catagories as us humans are want to do...And the whole idea of the Book of The Law, in my humble value judgement is to sort of injest it whole, sort of live it, sort of become
    the lines, let them coil around your everyday thoughts, almost to the exclusion of everything else at prolonged periods of time, until the Book
    becomes part of your psyche, until you sort of breath its essence...then, and, and only maybe then
    can a person begin to speak to some sort of approach to commenting on the contents, but still
    keeping in mind that one is only indulging in
    in an exercise, a kind of controled chaos, if you will, and that only in utter awe, and a total
    absurdist logic, or as Antonin Artaud said, "I
    abandon myself to the fever of dreams, in search for new laws."

    and having said that I am entirely open to suggestion, and I will read your essay.

    Re: That Pesky Comment Thang Again
    by Ambrosius on Sunday September 23, @09:44AM
    In his commentary on Liber Al, Crowley says (I'm paraphrasing) that the problem with all previous religions is that various interpretations of their holy books caused division in that religion. Thus you have, for example, "fundamental" Muslims living in the U.S. who are patriotic, taxpaying, quiet living Americans on the one hand, and on the other, "fundamental" Muslims that believe that Allah has ordered them to to kill Americans by whatever means available.

    Do What Thou Wilt. That's the standard I follow. The divine Will is not something to be profaned by displaying it for the perusal or entertainment of others. When I discuss the contents of the Book of the Law, I'm opening the door to my Sanctum Sanctorum (please be sure to wipe your feet ;-}). If I comment or criticise someone else's `interpretations', I'm intruding on a whole universe that I can't possibly understand!

    Also, the Book of the Law takes care of itself. When I took college composition, I decided that my final research paper (the major project of the course) would be my personal commentary on Liber Al. I would break the rule of the Comment by an act of will, proving once and for all that NO RULE can contain this mighty Himog!

    The paper took months to put together. The class started with thirty people; only ten or eleven completed the course. When I read my final draft before handing it in, I saw that not a single word of my intended `comment' made it into the paper. I had written a lucid and original essay on Crowley's place at the head of the succession of prophets, but nowhere were the contents of Liber Al discussed, only referred to as the moving force behind his work.

    The professor gave me an `A' on the paper.

    When I had my Minerval at Ra-Hoor-Khuit Lodge in Syracuse, N.Y.(now defunct), whenever I asked the lodge master what a verse of Liber Al meant, he would simply reply, "I don't know" and politely turn to something else. That's the rule I follow.

    • Re: That Pesky Comment Thang Again
      by Deggial on Sunday September 23, @03:35PM
      "whenever I asked the lodge master what a verse of Liber Al meant, he would simply reply, "I don't know" and politely turn to something else. That's the rule I follow."


      I'm totally with Ambrosious here.
      Yours, In silence,


      • Re:Ornate Commenting
        by Deggial on Sunday September 23, @03:44PM

        This is a comment on a comment on a comment of a comment.

        Isn't that a little weird?


        Leave it to a thelemite to make a comment ornate.

        93 93

    Re: That Pesky Comment Thang Again
    by Fra THA;M on Sunday September 23, @10:30PM
    Perhaps, only just perhaps, the Comment is an out for those Thelemites who become weary trying to argue and defend their interpretations, and really...isn't magick often best understood intuitively? Doesn't it often dissapear in a plume of perfumed smoke when you try to tie it down, and explainand rationalize it? Perhaps...though I don't sit in that camp.

    Re: That Pesky Comment Thang Again
    by The Twit on Monday September 24, @12:46PM
    >Do I start up a moderated group for non-discussers
    >and permanently shun the rest of you?

    That would be the logically mandated action for someone trying to be a Comment literalist, but if someone actually is a Comment literalist they would be an Orthodox Thelemite.

    Re: That Pesky Comment Thang Again
    by Mordecai on Wednesday September 26, @11:21AM
    Two problems with this author's position, one obvious error and one glaring inconsistency. The error is in the apparent assumption that one must take the entire Comment as meant literally or as meant metaphorically. It's not true of course. A work may easily contain both metaphorical and literal parts. There's no real contradiction between recognizing the irony in "The study of this book is forbidden" while appreciating the truth of "All questions of the Law are to be decided only by appeal to my writings, each for himself". This brings us to Colin's glaring inconsistency. He agonizes about whether to shun people like me, but he also clearly studies the book. That's forbidden, man! Stop it!

    Re: That Pesky Comment Thang Again
    by tony on Wednesday September 26, @12:36PM

    Sometimes doing the forbidden is exciting. Sometimes the risk of becoming a Centre of Pestilence adds an extra bit of frission to the day... was the author of "Leah Sublime" concerned with pestilence? It would seem he had a taste for it.
    Who forbids? and Why?
    The author of the "Book of Lies" forbids! Do exactly as he says.

    93, etc.


    • Re: That Pesky Comment Thang Again
      by Mordecai on Wednesday September 26, @01:03PM
      "I forbid argument"!

      Heaven forbid!

    • Re: That Pesky Comment Thang Again
      by Colin S McLeod on Thursday September 27, @10:29AM
      "Sometimes doing the forbidden is exciting."

      That was pretty much the point I made in my "Observations" piece (linked above). The implication is that one can ignore the voice of wisdom and choose to be foolish - but those under the law cannot defy the law with impunity. Stepping off a cliff can add a frisson to your day, but it will make the rest of your days rather short - unless you are a skilled base-jumper, or whatever. And to stand behind saying: "Go on, its fun" without warning of the real risks is not what I would call honest.

      "was the author of "Leah Sublime" concerned with pestilence?"

      Hands up everyone who upholds A.C's views on abortion.

      "Who forbids? and Why?
      The author of the "Book of Lies" forbids!"

      This is just this sort of ignorance I'm trying to do my little bit to disperse. The piece is signed "Ankh-f-n-khonsu", not A.C. I'm quite willing to concede there was probably a close relationship but not, evidently, so close that anything else was written - seriously - in that name. But if you think that there is no difference between the authors, and that the Book of Lies and The Comment are of equivalent standing, then I really don't have much more to say to you. Someone as familiar as you are with the texts is being disingenuous by not addressing that point. Which side of the fence are you on? Making it clear up front saves everyone a lot of time.

      "Do exactly as he says."

      That facile, "I'm not going to do anything anyone tells me to do" stuff (thank you for bringing it up) is a large part, by my observation, of why people don't respect the Comment. Its hypocrisy, of course, because in doing so they are most often just going along with the mob. It is a testament to the power of the peer groups, even in supposedly-individualistic circles, and that's what, I believe, the shunning is about. It is a very powerful weapon when used in a disciplined fashion and has a long history in a variety of religious traditions. We should also recall that A.C. was himself subject to it at school. He was, as he describes in the Autohagiography, "sent to Coventry" ,as they called it in English schools, by his schoolmates, and it had quite a serious effect on him. But, still, if you don't see the wisdon in it, that's your concern. I'm just trying to make the point that I see in it a quite practical method of dealing with the Book, a method in which those who wish to follow the voice of wisdom can co-operate by recognising A-f-n-k as our spokesman, as it were. Then those who are sick of all the blather out there can get togethor and shut out the fools.

      • Re: That Pesky Comment Thang Again
        by Mordecai on Thursday September 27, @11:28AM
        >Then those who are sick of all the blather out there can get togethor and shut out the fools.

        With this attitude it's difficult to see why you're here. It seems rather hypocritical of you not to shun a relatively unmoderated discussion area like Beast Bay. You clearly consider me a fool, so I cordially invite you to shut me out, and take your "blather" elsewhere.

      • Re: That Pesky Comment Thang Again
        by Nekial on Saturday September 29, @06:20PM

        What were his views on abortion? I don't recall at the moment.

        I try to avoid discussion of the contents of the Book. I quote it without comment or interpretation occasionally, if I think it suits the discussion. But...

        I can't even answer one of your questions without refering to the contents. Do I avoid answering? The following parenthetical paragraph will contain discussion of the contents of the book. Avoid as necessary:

        (Aiwass identifies the scribe of the Book as Ankh-f-n-Khonsu. The scribe of the Book was a man we know by many names, Al Crowley. It seems fairly clear to me, then, what he meant by "my writings," ie, Crowley's writings.)

        It's true that some of Crowley's writings bear more relevence to the Book than others, but according to the Comment, imo, it is his (entire)body of written work alone to which we may appeal.

        I agree with this because:
        It undermines any authority that 'Book of the Law Thumpers' and 'false prophets' (as well as evangalists) might otherwise have.
        Also, the path of attainment is a personal one, and each aspirant needs to find what the Book needs to mean to them, for the sake of their own journey.

        However, I don't see it as any sort of unbreakable rule of Thelema (or for Thelemites) that they abide by the Comment. I have sworn no loyalty to Crowley (by any name) and am not obligated to do what he says. It is after all just a comment, the opinion of A-fn-Kh/Crowley. He is not Pope of any religion, and I'm not a member. His writings do say there is no dogma in thelema, but as many rules as thelemites (each for oneself). I see strict adherence to the Comment (on its own grounds) as dogmatic and wrong for me.

        Crowley was wise beyond me, and it is wise to take his opinion seriously, which I do. It may be that I conclude some day that the Comment is spot-on, at which point I will abide by it. But never merely 'because A-fn-Kh said so.' That would be blind faith, something I was not offered.

        That Crowley and many of his friends did study the Book; that Crowley encouraged others to study it, to memorize it; that the Book itself (I'm about to discuss it's contents - skip to the next paragraph if necessary) declares one will come after that will make certain aspects of it clear (by study of the text, I assume) -

        -for these reasons and those others above, I cannot take it too seriously, except as a wise warning and ward against dogmatists to come. (Only a dogmatist would take it literally; so perhaps it is meant as the key to the defeat of anyone getting dogmatic and preachy about the Book. When someone's cracking fanatic about the Book you point their literalist attention to the Comment and watch their credibility dissapear in a puff of logic.)

        Love is the law, love under will.


        • Re: That Pesky Comment Thang Again
          by Shade on Thursday January 03, @09:45PM
          With regard to the Comment: it always seemed to me to be something in the nature of a true challenge, an initiation or a magical act. When you "disobey" the Great Big Beast by consciously deciding to study, discuss, comtemplate, and even comment upon Liber AL for yourself - that's when you become a Thelemite, as distinct from a mere Crowleyite. The point is to do your own true will, not mimic his. If the Book of the Law is a universal transmission from some source beyond Aleister, then everyone must formulate their own response to something which contains mysteries which "no beast shall divine". If this is an Aeon of Horus, it must continue to evolve. If in fact Crowley's vision has any validity, it has to lead to people casting off their shackles and thinking for themselves. "Slaves of the Prophet"?
          Puh-lease, no!

          fay ce que vouldras,

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