Then This Line Drawn Is A Key

The sixtieth page of the Book of the Law, and the sixteenth in the third chapter thereof, has one of the more intriguing puzzles presented in that book. While the “RPSTOVAL” cipher is one that likely garners the most fame, the line drawn through the page (followed by the “circle squared in its failure”) has certainly drawn its own amount of commentary.

While others have given different letters through which the line passes, my interpretation is that is passes through or otherwise touches/intersects the letters s, t, B, e, t, I, s, a, y, f, a - in that order from top to bottom, left to right. There are, curiously enough, eleven letters, which is a number quite dear to the Thelemic cosmology in its unification of five (pentagram, man) and six (hexagram, god). The word of the Great Work, Abrahadabra, which opens and closes the third chapter, also has eleven letters. If you choose to interpret the intersection of different (more or less) letters, then that is certainly your perogative, but much of the following is based on my interpretation as stated.

I love puzzles; especially Kabbalistic ones. Thus, it should come as no surprise that I have done some ill-advised meddling. After banging my head against this passage, I decided to try yet one more likely-useless method and began counting through the sets of letters by different numbers… every other letter, every third, every fourth, etc., knowing any number that is not a multiple of eleven will give a unique pattern. I eventually counted by six, which lands first at one of the two capital letters (I) and makes its way around until the sequence is exhausted. Interestingly enough, this places the other capital letter (B) in the center position, giving I, s, s, t, a, B, y, e, f, t, a. (You can work this out for yourself if you begin counting at and including the initial letter 's'.)

Permutations such as this are common within Kabbalistic ciphers, but this didn't seem to get very far with respect to gematria. I eventually thought to reduce each letter to its AIQ BKR minimal value (30=3, 400=4, and so on). I got 1, 3, 3, 9, 1, 2, 1, 1, 8, 4, 1. Boring. Okay, 13 is “achad,” but things break down thereafter. It is, however, the reverse of 31, so I thought to reverse the lettering in this permutation to a, t, f, e, y, B, a, t, s, s, I. This gave the reverse of the reduced numbers, of course, and it jumped out at me: 1, 4, 8, 1, 1, 2, 1, 9, 3, 3, 1. Right at the end were two very important numbers in Thelema: 93 & 31. 93 is of course both Love and Will in Greek, while 31 (being a third of 93) is AL - the (eventual) title - but also “El,” a Hebrew name of God, and “La,” meaning “not”.

Not bad, but there were still a lot of letters remaining, and while interesting, I would have to find reasonable connotations for the remaining letters to really think it was worth something. Four for eleven is only good enough for hitting a baseball. 811 popped out as the sum of IAO in Greek, and that left the numbers 14 and 21. Citing Sepher Sephiroth, I found fourteen was the spelling of the Hebrew letter Yod in full (YD), slang for the phallus. (Hey, I was trying to “think like Crowley.”) 21 is fruitful in being not only the sum of the first six numbers - our permutator - but Eheieh, the divine name of Kether meaning “I Am” as the principle of manifestation. So, in order, that yielded “Phallus IAO I Am (the) Love &Will (of) God”.

Okay, I'm listening…

Looking at other combinations, 148 (the first three numbers) is the enumeration of the Hebrew word for scales - Libra. This letter is the Justice (later Adjustment) card, related to the letter 'L'… and what was the original title of The Book of the Law? Liber L. (If you're not sure on this, go back to The Equinox V1 and you'll see!) That left me with 11 and 21, both of which have been discussed already, and another “interpretation” of the numbers presented by the “line” puzzle.

Of course, there is also the “circle squared in its failure” that occurs as part of this passage. (It has been proven for some time that “squaring the circle” is not mathematically possible, so all that remains is the metaphor for the Great Work.) I see the “failure” as the two ends that do not touch the circumference of the circle. These “point” to the nearest letters “A” and “i,” which sum to eleven - the failure of the Great Work in uniting the five (man) and six (god). Another interpretation is in not aligning the highest (Kether as the first emanation represented by A=1) with the lowest (Malkuth as the last emanation represented by I=10). Eleven is also Nuit whose infinite circumference is here not reached. The ends that do touch the circumference “point” to “s” and “d,” which sum to 64 - the square of eight, and thus Hadit. (I am eight, eighty, … &c.) Eight is also the Hebrew letter Cheth, which in full is four-hundred and eighteen - the enumeration of Abrahadabra and the Great Work! So, we have the “failure” on one side and “success” on the other.

I could go on, but before I pull a Norman Mudd and take a long swim with rocks in my pockets, it's probably better that I stop. (Others may disagree - on avoiding the swim more than continuing the math.) As a parting thought, I tend to find that it is better to view this sort of thing as a commentary rather than anything conclusive. They are an intellectual exercise and don't get you any closer to a real understanding of the material than… say, counting the number of times a word might appear in the text? These are “keys,” after all… they get you in the door, but the rest is up to you. It is somewhat more healthy to pause and think “neat!” as opposed to pausing and thinking “I am the chosen one!”

I never even got chosen for dodgeball.


Contact Colin Campbell via campbell@hermetic.com
The works presented in De Arte Magica are © 2010–2016, Colin D. Campbell