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Hermetic Library discussions
Posted by sam webster, m.div, mage on Saturday August 05, @09:05AM
from the dissenters-of-pestilence dept.
This is an essay I wrote in seminary, residing on my primitive website. It applies exegetical methods to Liber AL. As a liberal theologian, I would not consider it an “interpretation”, just a work of the mind, but you can draw your own conclusion. I would love to hear your comments.
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**Re: Analyzing Liber AL vel Legis**
by <Diancecht> on Saturday August 05, @01:52PM
[Removed by request.]
|Re: Analyzing Liber AL vel Legis\\
by sam webster, m.div, mage on Monday August 14, @12:28PM
|Apologies for not having replied earlier and thus earning your scatological ire, but your question was difficult for me to understand so I had to think on it for a while. Having done so I believe your question is with respect to my motivation and purpose for the essay. It also seemed to imply some reticence to comment on the Book of the Law in the phrase “to actually comment on the book”.\\
My motivation for writing such an essay is the same one I had in 1981 when I first began to study Liber AL: to understand it. I spent four years becoming a Golden Dawn adept in order to understand the GD part of the text. I studied at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, learning Egyptian language and studying Egyptian religion and culture in order to understand the part rooted in Old Khem. I've studied yoga to get at those parts and the last 8 years have been focused on Buddhism to understand that influence. As part of my 5 year theological training, I was taught how to analyse texts. I see no reason not to apply that tool as I have all of the others. I have done so as an essay because I am an essayist and because that's what you write in school.\\
So my essay is a work of theology: it is a way of letting the principals of the text lie before me so that I might better understand and appreciate it. As is traditional in contemporary discourse, works such as mine are shared with those who have an interest in the field. Here, those constituents are Thelemites, students of Process Thought, Buddhism, New Religions, and theology in general. There might be some interest in the general public since the text can be opaque, and such analyses can shed some light.\\
I am aware of the “Short” or “Class A” comment on Liber AL. It appears to me as seal on the text to prevent those who should not comment on the text from doing so. Others who chose to operate under the Aegis of Thelema, specifically L220.1.40-44, L370.28, L90.15-19, & L65.5.59, have little reason to refrain.\\
The base reason for making such comments is that humans have long learned from each other. The many insights into Liber AL shared with me by those I have met along the road are precious to me, and they have aided my path and deepened my practice. If the fact that I choose not to hoard what I have learned makes you relate to me as a center of pestilence, so be it. Indeed, may I be a plague upon such useless silence.\\
Crowley was raised by people we would call today fundamentalists. They took a text they little understood and generated interpretations out of it to justify their actions, beliefs and lifestyle. By the 1920s the “Higher Criticism” method of textural analysis arose and changed forever our understanding of the Bible: no Moses wrote the Pentatuch, John's Gospel was not written by an Apostle, and so on. These facts change how the text is understood. But none of this can tell anyone how they must use the Bible. Nor can my theologizing tell anyone how they are going to apply Liber AL in their lives, but it might give them a clue, or it might clear up an obscurity, and these are worth while ends.\\
This is the nature of Liber Theology, that we each are responsible for our own theologies. We form voluntary associations with those who share our views or whose views are sufficiently complementary. So, while I may be interested in your view, I have no interest in controlling you, Diankecht, your hostility not withstanding. I am, after all, a thelemite.\\
sam webster, m.div, mage\\
I've been working with some Tibetan Buddhist material recently, and it came to me this morning that the proscription against discussing Liber AL (which I try to take to heart, all due respect to Sam) feels to me a lot like the Buddhist doctrine of accepting that the dharmas are unproduced. As it says in The Vision and the Voice somewhere, “It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.”
The observation could be made that accepting that the dharmas are unproduced doesn't keep the Buddhists away from analyzing them. My feeling is that since this sort of acceptance is generally more difficult for Westerners, it is best reinforced by holding Liber AL in a special “sword-free zone.”
For this reason, I hope to see more of Sam's synthesis of Thelema and Process Thought in a context outside of Liber AL analysis.
My reaction to Sam's analysis is complicated. On the one hand, I'm obviously open to the idea of public exegetical commentary on the text of the Book of the Law (see my Beast Bay article Of Humans & Monsters) and I'm happy to see such a thoughtful and interesting example of Thelemic commentary, but on the other hand I don't entirely agree with some of it and I have a few characteristic quibbles with the writing, important only to cranks like me.
To start off with the positives, I think Sam's idea of analyzing the Book of the Law within the context of 20th century theological philosophy is an excellent one, and he makes some very interesting connections between concepts in Whitehead's philosophy of Organism and the relationship of Thelema's cosmological couple, Nuit and Hadit. This is also an area where Sam could improve his paper. In the academic milieu in which it was initially created it well sufficed to use the barest bones, if any at all, to explain concepts which are introduced in Whitehead's philosophy, but in a work for the general public there should be much more and much clearer explanation of how Whitehead and his interpreters use terms like , actual entity and concrescence, which most readers will never bother to research for themselves.
Though I find Sam's personal attitude toward The Comment to be reasonable, it is far from the only reasonable attitude to have toward that document. And his statement in a reply to an earlier post that, “I am aware of the 'Short' or 'Class A' comment on Liber AL. It appears to me as seal on the text to prevent those who should not comment on the text from doing so. Others who chose to operate under the Aegis of Thelema, specifically L220.1.40-44, L370.28, L90.15-19, & L65.5.59, have little reason to refrain.” could easily be taken to imply that those who keep their opinions and understandings private out of conviction therefore do not have anything worthwhile to contribute. That is an especially unwarranted assumption when made by someone with a not entirely sure grasp of The Comment in the first place. “[A] comment made by the scribe forbidding discussion” is not really an accurate representation of it. The Comment says, “Those who discuss the contents of this Book are to be shunned by all”, which implies that such discussion will indeed take place, and that the answer to it is not to forbid it, but rather to shun it. What is actually forbidden is the “study” of the Book. Perhaps we are being warned about the fact that making any holy Book an object of academic research can easily get in the way of our having a personal relationship with it.
A rather unimportant place where there's also room for improvement is in the apparent lack of concern for proof-reading. The repeated use of “who's” when “whose” is meant, or the occasional use of “principle” for “principal”, do not in themselves vitiate the quality of Sam's argument, but they are certainly less than elegant in literary terms.
Lastly, on a tangent which has absolutely no bearing on the merit of Sam's scholarship, I believe that there was a reason why Crowley, when he adopted the archaic way of spelling magick to distinguish it from stage magic, did not also in his writing adopt the forms magickal and magickian in preference to the commonly accepted “magical” and “magician”. I believe his decision derived from his great love of English, which he well knew contained numerous examples of Shakepeare and other masters of our language using the word magick (or musick or lyrick, for that matter), but no examples of them using the words magickal or musickian (though you certainly find musicall and magission!). If contemporary Thelemites feel that they must use the construction magickian in order to further distinguish themselves from all those stage magicians out there, that's fine for them (I just hope they pronounce it “jick-ee-un” to fully emphasize their distinctness from anyone engaged in legerdemain).
Finally, I'd like to offer folks an example of another sort of public exegetical comment, one which approaches the Book not as an academic subject, but as a mystic metaphor and a Qabalist codex, On Love And Love.
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