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A Memorandum Regarding The Book of the Law

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Sacred River explores spirituality grounded in religious naturalism & progressive ethics that is both non-theistic and non-supernatural.

by Aleister Crowley, 1923, unpublished, written to James Branch Cabell
Printed in The Revival of Magick, edited by Hymenaeus Beta & R. Kaczynski
Copyright (c) O.T.O.


ALMOST EVERY VERSE of The Book of the Law contains profuse mathematical and philosophical truths concealed in apparently standard English, which English has none the less its regular meaning. You will have noticed that the style of the Book is for the most part astoundingly sublime, and the ineffable wonder about the whole thing is that I should have written it down from the dictation of a voice whose owner I could not see, one hour exactly for each chapter, on three consecutive days. It is thus quite certain that the author is somebody possessed of knowledge and ingenuity utterly beyond my capacity. Indeed, I feel confident in saying, beyond the capacity of any human being imaginable. Incidentally there are passages in the Book which baffled exegesis until certain events took place, years after writing it, which were entirely beyond my control, yet which furnished fresh proof that the Author of the Book knew what was going to happen or was able to bring events to pass.

May I give you one very strange example?1 I have studied the Book all these eighteen years. Verse 19 of Chapter III utterly bamed me. How could I “count well” the name of the Stele; it never had a name! But I played about with the figures and it suddenly dawned on me that 718 was the value of the name “Stele 666.” “That’s it,” I said to myself. “In a sense the Stele is my Stele.” But I wasn’t quite satisfied, and then it came upon me like an earthquake, that after all, the Stele did possess a nameits description in the catalog of the Museum at Bulaq—that name, the only name it ever had, was actually Stele 666.

As to controlling external events, let me tell you one extraordinary incident. In November, 1917, appeared the end of my article in The International, “The Revival of Magick.” It challenged the readers to find who was meant by 666 (my Magical Motto TO MEGA THERION adds to 666). One night in January, I asked an Intelligence2 with whom I was in touch, if I could spell my motto in Hebrew so as to get new numbers which might throw some light on something. He replied, “Yes.” I asked, “All three words of the name or the last only?” He said, “The last only.” I then tried all sorts of ways of spelling Therion and got no results. That was on a Saturday night. I went to the office on a “Workless Monday” for my mail. Nothing there. But on Tuesday Viereck3 sent round a letter addressed to him which had arrived on Monday, having been written on Saturday night at about the time when I had made my enquiry. The writer was a perfect stranger to all of us. He asked Viereck to tell me that he had solved the riddle in my article of November and gave the spelling of Therion in Hebrew making the value 666. This was astonishing enough; but much more was to come. The stranger signed himself as Samuel bar Aiwaz bie Yackou de Sherabad, from which I deduced that his father’s name was Aiwaz.4 This name had been given me as the Author of The Book of the Law; see Chapter I, Verse. 7. I had only heard the name, which I supposed to be a made-up name like Tzadquiel or Taphthartharath;5 I had no idea that it was a regular human name. I had tried to spell it and made it 78. Now, however, I wrote to Friend Samuel for the correct spelling, which he gave. I was astonished to find that the value was 93 like that of Thelema, the word of the Law, and Agape, the method of carrying out that Law. The Author of the Book had therefore, so to speak, signed it, infallibly identifying himself by means of this number with the essence of the message which he had come to impart.

These two incidents are mere samples chosen from an immense number. I hope to be joined this month by a mathematical Professor6 so that we may collect, classify, and make clear the innumerable evidences that this book is of praeterhuman origin. You will at least understand how it is that I regard it as incomparably the most important human document existent. You will excuse me, in fact, if I seem a little mad on the subject; but really, hardly a moment passes without the discovery of some new and important secret in its secret pages. The very mistakes in the Book, as they seem, conceal strange secrets. For example: Chapter III, Verse 47—”this circle squared in its failure.” The Hebrews concealed the value pi the Name of God ALHIM, which is incorrect in the fourth place.” But by putting our secret key ShT to sanctify this name we get 3.141593, pi correct to six places (note 31 and 93).

But this note must not be as endless as the decimal of pi! You must forgive a sick and lonely man for inflicting upon you the subject nearest his heart. I am really very eager that you should bring the Law of Thelema into your work as a solution of the dreadful hopelessness, futility, and fatuity of this riddle-life. “Do what thou wilt” explains and justifies existence. We do what we do because it is our nature; the Geis7 which we lay upon ourselves to make a figure of our Secret Idea. “Lust of result” ruins our work and makes it ridiculous. There can be no result. We are bounded by our own illusion—Self-devised. The life of Manuel8 was Success, being wholly the symbolic self-realization of a creative boy—a series of illusions which came to nothing, yet allowed him to see, externalized, the reaction of the Universe upon various facets of the diamond Soul. Jurgen’s excursion was a failure, because he worked with “lust of result” to obtain something outside himself, not knowing what (and still less that nothing of the kind exists), because he could not face the fact that he had sold the poet to the pawnbroker.9 Have I read you aright? I was a little sad about chapter 22 of Jurgen,10 feeling that you had to some degree misunderstood my message. For none of us, not even the least spiritually developed, may fulfil himself wholly by self-gratification. Each of us has a Will of eternal import, necessarily related to everything that exists, and all our conscious desires are so many masks—one fixed expression concealing our infinite variety. We are all Ideal Triangles, and every triangle we draw is but a single case-true, yet concealing and even denying all the other possibilities of the real Truth, inexpressible in form, and so mocked as illusion by sense-bound spirits.

Verily and Amen! My silent solitude in this Abbey, with its windows open upon the Eternal, and its gates closed to the Conditioned constantly strengthens my conviction that so great a Master of Thought and Language as yourself dare not leave the world without Hope. Your deepest, so far, has been to proclaim an irrational Faith that selfless Heroism somehow avails a man against the abject aimless inanity of life. You cannot rest there. It must be shewn that energy is indestructible, that nothing is wasted, that all True Work is worthwhile. And I hope that my Masters may be using you to put Their Key into your hands, that you may fling open the doors of the Secret Palace of the King, and shew the people what inexhaustible riches are theirs—just when it seemed that Famine was universal. You have shewn that nothing in the world, however great and glorious, is worth stretching forth an hand to take; shew now that everything in the world, however small and contemptible, is worth a life’s danger and hardships to attain. (You have done this, in a way, in Domnei. I want a book to complete the Jurgen-Manuei group in a Trilogy, and behold the Great Fool, knowing nothing because identified with All (which, not being divided against itself cannot be known), doing nothing because doing his True Will, fulfilling the Universal Will by opposing no resistance to it in an attempt to grab some illusion, and suffering nothing because realizing that all that happens to him is a mirror-description of himself. He goes laughing and dancing through the world, and destroys all evil and sorrow as he goes, by the simple method of showing everybody he meets that their vices and their discontent arise from ignorance, that they are each one perfect in his way, each a necessary illusion through which the All becomes conscious of itself (just as the Fool interprets himself to himself through his own set of illusions) and each only a nuisance to himself and others by following false Ideals, interfering with others for various mistaken reasons, and so on, thereby causing all sorts of collisions, losing his way and so despairing of Direction, fearing the Future, regretting the Past, and misapplying—the Present. The Fool shows each one his proper path and puts him on it; it soon appears that there is room in the world for all alike, that all are equally worthy of wonder and worship, that Perfection is inherent in the Whole, and that the object of Life (which is motion) is to display an every-changing pageant, thus enabling each to become conscious of the All, which otherwise would remain homogenous, devoid of quantity and quality, Unknown and Unknowable.

I do hope you see this point of view. It has saved me from spiritual despair, made all things intelligible and adorable for me, set me radiantly revelling in my Work, which I had almost abandoned as fatuous; I am in love with life, and ready to ride with Death towards a new Adventure.

The world is dying with disgust with its own dread vanity; the treadmill its one task, the Sodom-apple11 its one food, oblivion its only joy, and “Hope not” its final word of wisdom. You have declared this doom more dreadfully than any man since Gautama;12 for you have left no loophole, either in time, or space, or condition of existence, for any being, from Koshchei to Dame Lisa.13 The world is waiting for you to utter the wizard-word Thelema, which changes every curse into Blessing, gives meaning to the most incoherent gibberish, and bows down the most barren tree with sun-ripe fruit. Forgive this spate of speech! My words are of little worth; but if you will read The Book of the Law often enough, the Spirit of the Lord which is in you will shew you the splendour of this Freedom, and inspire you to send forth its sunlight through the prism of your Art, that men may behold your “Bow in the Cloud”.14 and know that the floods are diminished upon the face of the Earth.


Notes

Notes based on chapter footnotes printed in “The Revival of Magick”

1. This was written to the American novelist James Branch Cabell (1879-1958), the author of Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice (1919). Chap. 22 of Jurgen was loosely based on Crowley’s “Liber 15,” the O.T.O. Gnostic Mass.

2. (Amalantrah; the interview in question was actually February 24. See “Liber 729, The Amalantrah Working,” The Equinox IV(3). Crowley gives another account of this episode in Book 4, Part III, Appendix 3.

3. George Sylvester Viereck (1884-1962), Crowley’s employer as the editor of The International.

4. Samuel Aiwaz Jacobs (c. 1891-1971) was a typographer and book designer who founded the Golden Eagle Press.

5. Tzadkiel is from the Hebrew tzaddiq (“righteous, just”) and El, God. Hence, he is the angel of justice. The name Taphthartharath comes from Paracelsus’ work on talismans, wherein the spirit of the planet Mercury is identified as Tophtharthareth. With no known etymology, it qualifies as a “made up name.”

6. Norman Mudd (c. 1890-1934) was educated at Cambridge and was professor of mathematics at the Grey University College, Bloemfontein, South Africa, before joining Crowley at the Abbey ofThelema in Cefalu.

7. Literally “tabu,” from Gaelic geas, “prohibition, tabu,” and geasa, “obligation,” either magical or one of honor.

8. Count Manuel is the hero of Cabell’s Figures of Earth and the ruler of the land of Poictesme.

9. In Jurgen, the title character is a middle-aged pawnbroker who, when given a year of youth, leaves his wife, Dame Lisa, for erotic adventures in the land of Poictesme.

10. The chapter that drew on Liber 15, the Gnostic Mass.

11. The Book of Lies, ch. 67 is entitled “Sodom-apples”

12. Gautama Buddha (c. 563-483 BCE), founder of Buddhism.

13. Koshchei is a figure in the Russian fairy-tale “The Death of Koschei the Deathless” in Andrew Lang’s Red Fairy Book. In Cabell’s Jurgen, Dame Lisa is the wife whom Jurgen abandons; they are reunited in the end.

14. Gen. 9:13