Word Analysis of the use of the word ‘law’ in Liber AL vel Legis

 

These are all the verses in Liber AL that contain the word Law. Since Liber AL is in English and in the text referred to all the Book of the Law we need to clarify what is the nature of this law.

I 33. Then the priest fell into a deep trance or swoon, & said unto the Queen of Heaven; Write unto us the ordeals; write unto us the rituals; write unto us the law!

I 34. But she said: the ordeals I write not: the rituals shall be half known and half concealed: the Law is for all.

I 35. This that thou writest is the threefold book of Law.

I 39. The word of the Law is Θελημα.

I 40. Who calls us Thelemites will do no wrong, if he look but close into the word. For there are therein Three Grades, the Hermit, and the Lover, and the man of Earth. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

I 46. Nothing is a secret key of this law. Sixty-one the Jews call it; I call it eight, eighty, four hundred & eighteen.

I 57. Invoke me under my stars! Love is the law, love under will. Nor let the fools mistake love, for there are love and love. There is the dove, and there is the serpent. Choose ye well! He, my prophet, hath chosen, knowing the law of the fortress, and the great mystery of the House of God.

All these old letters of my Book are aright; but m is not the Star. This also is secret; my prophet shall reveal it to the wise.

II 21. 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. Think not, o king, upon that lie: That Thou Must Die: verily thou shalt not die, but live. Now let it be understood: If the body of the King dissolve, he shall remain in pure ecstasy for ever. Nuit! Hadit! Ra-Hoor-Khuit! The Sun, Strength and Sight, Light; these are for the servants of the Star & the Snake.

II 38. A feast for the three days of the writing of the Book of the Law.

III 9. Lurk! Withdraw! Upon them! this is the Law of the Battle of Conquest: thus shall my worship be about my secret house.

III 39. All this and a book to say how thou didst come hither and a reproduction of this ink and paper for ever–for in it is the word secret & not only in the English–and thy comment upon this the Book of the Law shall be printed beautifully in red ink and black upon beautiful paper made by hand; and to each man and woman that thou meetest, were it but to dine or drink at them, it is the Law to give. Then they shall chance to abide in this bliss or no; it is no odds. Do this quickly!

III 60. There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.

III 63. The fool readeth this Book of the Law, and its comment; & he understandeth it not.

III 75. The ending of the words is the Word Abrahdabra.

The Book of the Law is Written

and Concealed.

Aum. Ha.

When we look at this collection we see that it breaks down into several classes of the use of the word ‘law’. In several cases it simply refers to the book itself and disposed of accordingly. Sometimes the word ‘law’ is qualified by being ‘the law of…[fill in the blank]’. This is usually preceded by some proposition which is then termed that ‘law’. There is also a set of usages of the word ‘law’ that are specifically definitional and these apply most directly to our study of what is this law that Liber AL embodies. We will first sort out the various classes, handling any anomalies, and then look within the class of principle interest to us to see what it is saying about the law it proposes.

The Book of the Law verses:

I 35. This that thou writest is the threefold book of Law.

II 38. A feast for the three days of the writing of the Book of the Law.

III 39. All this and a book to say how thou didst come hither and a reproduction of this ink and paper for ever–for in it is the word secret & not only in the English–and thy comment upon this the Book of the Law shall be printed beautifully in red ink and black upon beautiful paper made by hand; and to each man and woman that thou meetest, were it but to dine or drink at them, it is the Law to give. Then they shall chance to abide in this bliss or no; it is no odds. Do this quickly!

III 63. The fool readeth this Book of the Law, and its comment; & he understandeth it not.

III 75. The ending of the words is the Word Abrahdabra.

The Book of the Law is Written

and Concealed.

Aum. Ha.

The Laws of…:

I 57. Invoke me under my stars! Love is the law, love under will. Nor let the fools mistake love, for there are love and love. There is the dove, and there is the serpent. Choose ye well! He, my prophet, hath chosen, knowing the law of the fortress, and the great mystery of the House of God.

II 21. 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. Think not, o king, upon that lie: That Thou Must Die: verily thou shalt not die, but live. Now let it be understood: If the body of the King dissolve, he shall remain in pure ecstasy for ever. Nuit! Hadit! Ra-Hoor-Khuit! The Sun, Strength and Sight, Light; these are for the servants of the Star & the Snake.

III 9. Lurk! Withdraw! Upon them! this is the Law of the Battle of Conquest: thus shall my worship be about my secret house.

 

Having disposed of the forgoing by relegating them to secondary relevance, we now turn to the principally definitional items. They are of prime relevance because if we do not know how the word ‘law’ is being used, then we will not understand the title “The Book of the Law” nor will we understand how the more particular ‘laws of…’ relate to the more general expression. In the process we will deal with certain uses of the word ‘law’ that do not exactly fit into the above categories.

Definitional items:

I 33. Then the priest fell into a deep trance or swoon, & said unto the Queen of Heaven; Write unto us the ordeals; write unto us the rituals; write unto us the law!

This verse is prefatory to and sets up the context in which the ‘Law’ is to be transmitted. The priest, being the worshiper and servant of the God/dess, requests of the Queen of Heaven the necessary materials, i.e., information, for the cult; the ordeals, the rituals and the law.

I 34. But she said: the ordeals I write not: the rituals shall be half known and half concealed: the Law is for all.

Her reply deserves more attention than lies within the scope of our question. However, within that she is clearly stating the scope of the law she is about to reveal. Being unlimited in scope this is apparently not the “law of the strong” of AL II, 21, which is “our law” that thus not for all. This points further to the importance of separating out the various laws the text encrypts. The following five verses make specific claims about the nature of the ‘law’ that the book is named for. When we look at the way the ‘law’ is presented in each we can see that they do not all have the same value or importance.

I 39. The word of the Law is Θελημα.

I 40. Who calls us Thelemites will do no wrong, if he look but close into the word. For there are therein Three Grades, the Hermit, and the Lover, and the man of Earth. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

I 46. Nothing is a secret key of this law. Sixty-one the Jews call it; I call it eight, eighty, four hundred & eighteen.

I 57. Invoke me under my stars! Love is the law, love under will. Nor let the fools mistake love, for there are love and love. There is the dove, and there is the serpent. Choose ye well! He, my prophet, hath chosen, knowing the law of the fortress, and the great mystery of the House of God.

All these old letters of my Book are aright; but [Tzaddi] is not the Star. This also is secret; my prophet shall reveal it to the wise.

III 60. There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.

As we can see, one use is in reference to the ‘word’ of the law, another the ‘whole of the law’, another the ‘key’ of the law, and another qualifies law by stating that there is no law ‘beyond’ the ‘whole of the law’. What all these statements mean is dependent on the one purely definitional statement:

I 57. Invoke me under my stars! Love is the law, love under will. Nor let the fools mistake love, for there are love and love. There is the dove, and there is the serpent. Choose ye well! He, my prophet, hath chosen, knowing the law of the fortress, and the great mystery of the House of God.

If Love is the law what is meant here? First off, the simple definition is qualified by being ‘under will’. This means that, using English common law as our paradigm, Love is the ubiquitous demand upon all entities in the domain of this law. However, that love can and even must be qualified by will. There will need to be time spent looking at the uses of the word love in our text {it is used 23 times}. For now, we can also look to several sources for explication. One of the current most famous uses of a similar formula about love and will is Scott Peck’s definition about love in The Road Less Traveled. There he proposes that love is “The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth”. Another source, R. Buckminster Fuller, suggests that Love in physics is experienced as the attraction between masses called gravity. What each of these expressions show us is that love is a variety of relationship that varies in proportion to the mutual relevance of the entities in question and that relevance is determined by will.

Further, using a continuum that runs from 100% of an entity’s will being dedicated, as Peck directs, to the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth to 100% of an entity’s will being dedicated against the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth, with complete apathy at the zero point, we can see that there is some species of ‘love’ between all entities all the time. Interestingly, this is homomorphic with what Whitehead says about how all entities are effecting each other all the time, incorporating themselves in each other’s constitutions. In this sense prehensions, positive and negative, are a species of love. They are further always qualified by the will or aim of the concrescent entity since the degree of relevance of any entity for another is, at least in part, determined by the entity in question.

Crowley himself framed the problem in terms of relationship. He found that one is always in relationship with all other things/beings. However, as in the case of a vial of cholera bacterium, the best relationship to have with that vial is with it sealed and on the other side of the room. Thus, treating love as relationship appropriately qualified by will we can begin to approach the ‘whole’, the ‘word’ and the ‘key’ of the law.

I 40. Who calls us Thelemites will do no wrong, if he look but close into the word. For there are therein Three Grades, the Hermit, and the Lover, and the man of Earth. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Here we have to be very careful as to how the verses fit together and effect each other. The ‘whole’ of a law could mean the entirety of that law. In this case that would mean that there is nothing other than the previous clause of the same sentence to define the law. Verse III, 60 seems to support this. If this were so then whatever “Do what thou wilt” means it is the nature of that law. However, we have already seen that there is a logically prior claim on the nature of the law: love. Thus doing one’s will can not be the entirety of the law. ‘Whole’ must then have another meaning.

Wholeness can also refer to the unit quality of things, that things comprise wholes and the corollary, that things can be divided. Perhaps what is being referred to here is the making whole of the divided. Our text supports this hypothesis– In verses AL I, 29-30, Nuit, who we know as presenting the whole of the system from our discussion of the cosmology of Liber AL, states, “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.” Here we see the relevance of wholeness and division in terms of an ultimate category, creation. Through dividing and uniting the world is created. The division wherein arises the multiplicity of the world, the fact that there are entities to unite, typed here as Nuit and Hadit, is for “love’s sake” for the possibility that the division can again be made whole. Since the union is left open to chance, that is indeteminacy, we see here the clear need for the intervention of will to make the union happen. Love as law demands the uniting of the divided. But, with the intervention of will it is no longer any potential union, it is this particular union. Further, that will must be done, not simply possessed or thought about, if the whole is to be made. Thus, doing one’s will makes the law that is love, whole. Also since the ‘making whole’ is the cosmogonic process, doing one’s will is being engaged in the process of the creation of the world.

Interestingly the text says, “shall be the whole of the law”, not ‘is the whole of the law’. This further points to the ongoing process that is creation, the willfully making whole of the divisions of the world through right union. The process termed ‘doing one’s will’ shall, in the doing, be the ‘making whole’ of the ‘law’ whose nature is love and which was the original purpose of the division which requires the ‘making whole’.

This is a lot to hold at one time. It would be helpful if we had some simple way of placing all this in front of us at once. This ‘letting lie before one’ is the meaning according to M. Heidigger of the Greek ‘lagain’, the root of ‘logos’, meaning ‘word’. From this need and method we can interpret the “word of the Law”.

I 39. The word of the Law is Θελημα.

Our text is thus saying that the way of letting the law be as a single symbol before us is through the Greek word ‘Thelema’. Thelema is usually translated as ‘will’ or sometimes ‘true’ or ‘great’ will, and specifically in the creative sense. It is immediately applied in AL I,40:

I 40. Who calls us Thelemites will do no wrong, if he look but close into the word. For there are therein Three Grades, the Hermit, and the Lover, and the man of Earth. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

‘Thelemites’ is being used as a term to refer the followers of doctrines of Liber AL. It further speaks of a division into three grades to be found in the word. Interestingly it is following this tripartite division that the text then says that “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” This adds weight to our claim that ‘whole’ is referring to a making whole of the divided, and not meaning ‘the entirety’. The upshot of all this is that the ‘word’ of the law is simply the way of presenting the entire complex in a single verbal symbol.

One challenge to the above thesis the love is the law in question comes in the negative statement:

III 60. There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.

It could be construed that the law here is “Do what thou wilt”. But, since ‘Do what thou wilt’ is [shall be] the whole of the law, what is being stated here is that there is no law beyond or outside the wholeness. It may in fact be delimiting the cosmos that is the domain of the text. It also has the obvious purpose of stating that this law is of ultimate value, that there is no greater law than making the divided whole.