Centre of Pestilence

The Comment

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The study of this Book is forbidden. It is wise to destroy this copy after the first reading.
Whosoever disregards this does so at his own risk and peril. These are most dire.
Those who discuss the contents of this Book are to be shunned by all, as centres of pestilence.
All questions of the Law are to be decided only by appeal to my writings, each for himself.
There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.
Love is the law, love under will.

The priest of the princes,
Ankh-f-n-khonsu

On this page I will present ideas regarding my take on The Book of the Law. In no way do I present these as authoritative, and they are given only to provide a glimpse into my own insight. As Crowley himself said—”I admit that my visions can never mean to other men as much as they do to me.” Interpretation of Liber AL is a task left to the individual, and I can take no responsibility for any dire consequences that might happen to anyone besides myself upon reading my work.

Those without feeling

For these fools of men and their woes care not thou at all! They feel little; what is, is balanced by weak joys; but ye are my chosen ones. (AL I:31)

Hear me, ye people of sighing!
The sorrows of pain and regret
Are left to the dead and the dying,
The folk that not know me as yet.
These are dead, these fellows; they feel not. We are not for the poor and sad: the lords of the earth are our kinsfolk. (AL II:17-18)

We have nothing with the outcast and the unfit: let them die in their misery. For they feel not. Compassion is the vice of kings: stamp down the wretched & the weak: this is the law of the strong: this is our law and the joy of the world. (AL II:21)

Much is made of the language in AL that calls for stamping out the weak and the poor, and many are uncomfortable with this notion. On first glance, there is little reason not to define the words in a rather straightforward way—i.e. the “poor” are those living in financial poverty, the “weak” are those who need help taking care of themselves, the “outcast” might be the homeless, and so on.

A closer look will reveal one word that appears near most of these admonitions: feel.

Considering the consistency of its use (the only other use of the word is in II:69 “Ah! Ah! What do I feel? Is the word exhausted?”) it is reasonable to conclude that all the negative epithets are fundamentally defined as those who lack feeling. Moreover, in II:21 this clear definition (“For they feel not”) is immediately followed by “Compassion is the vice of kings”—which acknowledges that this social feeling is a defining feature of a “king” (see “The Vice of Kings” below). Within this framework, being poor or weak in the literal sense no longer qualifies, since people in those situations most certainly do feel.

So, the challenge then becomes defining what is meant by “they feel not.” There is a medical condition whereby a person can literally have no sensation of emotion. However, it is very very rare and is generally caused by physical brain damage. Without getting into a long discussion about psychology, I will say that researchers now know that emotion plays a vital role in normal day-to-day decision making. Those with the aforementioned brain damage can think logically as well as anyone else, but are very deficient in making decisions because they don’t have the emotional trigger that tells one to stop pondering and make a choice. It seems very unlikely that AL is referring to these folks as being the poor and outcast.

If this is true, then the definition must refer to a certain kind of feeling. Support for this notion comes directly from the wording—e.g. “…let them die in their misery. For they feel not.” Well, misery is certainly a feeling, so this rules out a general use of the term. The next clue is found in the same verse—”For they feel not. Compassion is the vice of kings…” In the context of this verse, the feeling is either “compassion” specifically, or the more general category of positive social feeling. In such a case, the poor, unfit, weak, etc. would be defined as those who lack the feeling of caring for others. This idea seems to mesh nicely with I:57, “Love is the law, love under will.”

A slightly different take on this would be defining them as those who do not “feel” others. In other words, those who are emotionally disconnected from society, community, and/or family. Some final questions to ask in meditation: what are the “outcast” cast out of? What do the “poor” lack? What are the “sad” sad about? What makes one “unfit”, “wretched” or “weak”?

The Vice of Kings

We have nothing with the outcast and the unfit: let them die in their misery. For they feel not. Compassion is the vice of kings: stamp down the wretched & the weak: this is the law of the strong: this is our law and the joy of the world. (AL II:21)

As we have seen above, we may define the “outcast” and the “unfit” as those who either lack feelings for others (generalized as a love of mankind) or are emotionally cut off from society. However, if we choose to define these groups of people in more literal ways, then we can still find some very interesting views in this verse. First, some definitions:

Vice: usually defined as a failing, defect, weakness, or undesirable habit.

Compassion: a deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.

At first glance, it appears that Thelemites are enjoined to recognize compassion as a moral failing, so that they might go about the business of “stamping down” those who are weaker than themselves. I utterly reject this surface interpretation. Fortunately, there are other ways to see this verse.

The key is found in the term “vice”. Other than being a moral failing, a vice is also a clamping device used to hold items together. Using this legitimate definition of the word, compassion then becomes a tool of kings for holding or binding things together, perhaps illustrating the notion of promoting universal brotherhood. By bringing people together, a king might then “stamp down” the wretched and the weak by eradicating those conditions which cause their suffering. What better way to get rid of weak people than by making them strong, or the wretched by eliminating their cause of misery?

If we accept the notion that the “weak” are those emotionally cut off from others, then the definition of vice as a clamping tool becomes even more relevant. In such a case, it is the job of a king to feel compassion for such lost souls and bring them together with the rest of society. This certainly would take strength (“this is the law of the strong”) and would ideally bring about great happiness (“this is our law and the joy of the world”).

A final thought: the verse does say that Thelemites have “nothing with the outcast and the unfit” and to “let them die in their misery.” Again, if the outcast and unfit are those who do not feel for others and are cut off from society, then by definition we cannot be of them. Moreover, it dictates by contrast that Thelemites are to feel for others and to seek union with society. However, if our vice of compassion fails to bind them to others via a renewed sense of love of mankind, then we are to let them abide in that state. We cannot force them to feel.

Faint & Faery

None, breathed the light, faint & faery, of the stars, and two. (AL I:28)

For the longest time, this verse totally baffled me. Frankly, I thought it was gibberish. Then, during a conversation with some fellow COPs, it came to me.

The preceeding verse says:

Then the priest answered & said unto the Queen of Space, kissing her lovely brows, and the dew of her light bathing his whole body in a sweet-smelling perfume of sweat: O Nuit, continuous one of Heaven, let it be ever thus; that men speak not of Thee as One but as None; and let them speak not of thee at all, since thou art continuous!

Nuit’s answer to the priest’s declaration can also be grammatically restructured as:

”None and two,” breathed the faint & faery light of the stars.

And She then explains:

For I am divided for love’s sake, for the chance of union.

This is the creation of the world, that the pain of division is as nothing, and the joy of dissolution all.

thus evoking the formula of 0=2, which describes the notion of attainment by annihilation through the union of opposites. It is the mystical result of yoga or sex magick.

Other interesting notes about this verse: The central character in the center phrase of the sentence is “&”. You may also note that on one side of the “&” is 5 words, with 6 words on the other, for a total of 11, the number of magick.