Monday, January 8, 2018

On Crowley, and the Writing of Liber AL vel Legis

Aleister Crowley in Freemason garb; 1915
Aleister Crowley in Freemason garb; 1915

Compiled by Jude & Adam K

The great occultist Aleister Crowley (also "Uncle Al," "To Mega Therion," "The Great Beast," and "Frater Perdurabo") passed long ago - December 1st, 1947, to be exact. There's much that can be said about him, and precious little that remains unsaid. The mere mention of Crowley's name has a seriously polarizing effect, in that people love or hate him with virtually no grey area betwixt. There's little doubt amongst those even moderately well read, that during his days amongst the living he thrived upon the degree of notoriety his lifestyle and works induced.

In the earliest days of the 20th century Crowley received by some sort of divine transmission, a text that would go on to provide the foundational material for the branch of philosophy he later founded--Thelema. But who was Aleister Crowley anyway? As a matter of fact, there's a synoptic overview addressing that in a previous article. Today's post illustrates what happened during a time when two newlyweds--Crowley and his wife Rose, were honeymooning in Cairo, Egypt.

Crowley and his family
Crowley, Rose, and their daughter Lola Zaza, 1910


During their time in Egypt Crowley enjoyed identifying himself as "Prince Chioa Khan," which was another way to call himself "The Great Beast," this time in Hebrew. And imagine if you will--he wore garb that was eastern and regal in style, wore bejeweled accessories, and even donned a turban. The couple did touristy newlywed things, including browsing museums and playing golf. Afterwards, they settled into their honeymoon apartment suite.

On March 16th, 1904, at the Great Pyramid of Giza, Crowley decided to please Rose by performing a ritual from the Goetia--to "shew the sylphs." And though Rose did not see any sylphs, she slipped into an altered state. It was thereafter she informed A.C. that the god Horus* wished to connect with him, and that "they are waiting for you!". Other things she conveyed were "it's all about the child," and "all  Osiris"; and furthermore, that Crowley had offended Horus (which was later deemed to be due to that he was not initially invoked).

Crowley was resistant to the possibility that Rose's message was authentic, thus he posed her with a set of questions. See here under the heading "Summons." Rose had done no previous studies that would allow her to know or to guess responses to the questions; thus that her responses were all correct is remarkable. And still Crowley was not satisfied. Next Rose was taken to the Bulaq Museum and was asked to point out an illustration of Horus. She did, but in no superficial way... it wasn't one of the most easily recognizable depictions she referred to, but instead was an ancient funerary stele--a 26th dynasty piece (to Thelemites, now referred to as the Stele of Revealing). The stele depicted Horus, but in the form of Ra-Hoor-Khuit, being offered a sacrifice by Ankh-af-na-khonsu. In such a form the god is "Horus of the two horizons." The stele had been inventoried by the museum, with of all numbers, 666; which surely upon discovery had Crowley proudly beaming.

The Stele of Revealing
The Stele of Revealing

As a sidenote, I wish to publish a quote from Wikipedia:
"In Thelema, The Book of the Law (I, 36) says:

'My scribe Ankh-af-na-khonsu, the priest of the princes, shall not in one letter change this book; but lest there be folly, he shall comment thereupon by the wisdom of Ra-Hoor-Khu-it.'

Based on this, Aleister Crowley used the "magical" name "Ankh-f-n-khonsu" (from the "Stele 666" translation prepared in 1904 for Crowley by Egyptologist Émile Brugsch) to sign "The Comment" of The Book of the Law, and also used it sometimes when referring to himself as the prophet of Thelema and the Aeon of Horus. Kenneth Grant wrote that 'Crowley claimed to have been a re-embodiment of the magical current represented by the priesthood to which Ankh-af-na-Khonsu belonged.'"

The point of sharing the above quote, is to demonstrate but one example of how astute and observant Crowley's mind was, and how interconnected, logical and ordered, so many of the concepts presented by Thelema are. I mean, here is the priest from within the Stele of Revealing image, who is furthermore Crowley's scribe and alter ego, and is additionally an energy stream that enabled Crowley to connect with Aiwass, Nuit, Hadit, and Heru-ra-ha, for the purpose of transcribing perhaps the most important document Crowley ever wrote.

But back to the story... Rose at some point conveyed that it was an entity named Aiwass that spoke to her. And on April 7th she was given directions on how Crowley was to receive a message. It was to be three days of writing within "the temple," which was in fact a room within their honeymoon abode. A.C. was to note what was heard within a period of one hour, beginning each day at noon. As well there was a specific invocation ritual he was to perform. A.C. was not impressed by the nature of the rite, as it was not in line with what he knew of magick; but even so he followed it precisely.

The invocation ritual that Crowley held so little faith in, failed upon the first attempt, which was in daylight and around noon. A second attempt was made at midnight, and it was successful. Thus a connection was established with Aiwass, whereby Crowley was informed that he was to be the prophet that would bring awareness to man upon entering a new astrological age, which was the Aeon of Horus.

Crowley did not see Aiwass, but he described an impression of a fine and diaphanous being; he was fit and strong, was in his thirties, and had a brutal but kingly face. He had eyes veiled so that their glance did not destroy what they saw. And the voice, that came from behind A.C.'s left  shoulder, was accentless, passionate and deep, hurried yet sincere, and with a voluptuous and musical quality. The entity was dark, and his clothing was suggestive of him being perhaps Persian or Assyrian. Crowley experienced his messenger as an entity, and believed it possible that the being could have been an aspect of his higher self. But he felt that Aiwass would've had to have been a deity as well, given the epic proportions, complexity, and supernatural nature of the message delivered.

And thus the transmission that in time would become "Liber AL vel Legis," or "The Book of the Law," was transcribed from the 8th-10th of April.

In the early days of describing of how Liber AL vel Legis came into being, Crowley is quoted as having said, it is "a highly interesting example of genuine automatic writing." However, thereafter he outrightly denied that the text content was delivered through automatic writing, and disclosed that in fact at times it was required that certain questions be asked, for clarity and understanding. Furthermore, he pointed out that as an entity conveyed the message and that he was not in an altered state of consciousness, it could not have been automatic writing.

Beyond the precise description of how the content was delivered though, anyone reading the resulting book could clearly see that it's far too complex and riddlesome to be a forgery, and that this complex work was written within such a short timeframe. Over time there were various changes made to the text, and some were made long after its transmission. Crowley claimed that the reason for this was that certain changes simply could not be implemented at earlier times, in instances because the necessary technology was not available.

Once the message had been fully transcribed, Crowley did not initially resonate with it. It stood far from cooperating with his Buddhist and Osirian beliefs. Also, he was raised during the Victorian age in England--a setting wherein women were certainly not treated as equals (and that was to change). It's easy to imagine the hard time he had dealing with the gravity of it all. However, within the next years he came to regard the information as the gift to man and the responsibility to himself, that it indeed was.

In 1906 Crowley returned to England, re-met with his friend George Cecil Jones, and due to their combined efforts the A∴A∴ (Astrum Argenteum) was born. It became the foundation to Crowley delivering his spin on magick, as well as his Thelema, to the world. The first publication of The Book of the Law was in 1909. The following year Crowley joined the OTO in Germany, which was a branch of the Freemasons. He in time took over the helm, broke away from Freemasonry, and had them embrace his Thelema. It was not all fun and games; his taking over the reins of the OTO was not supported by all, and it caused a significant rift within the association.

The Book of the Law on Amazon 

Allow me to break away from the story for a moment in order to present this sidenote: Crowley ended up joining the OTO as the result of a freak accident. Theodor Reuss had highly guarded magickal secrets, including sex magick rites, that he allowed only his highest ranking members to access. It had been brought to Reuss's attention that Crowley was using similar magick. And he spoke to Crowley, inquiring about how he learnt it, and who disclosed to him the secrets that he (Reuss) kept so closely guarded within his organization. Crowley told him that he had not been exposed to Reuss's secret magickal rituals, and had in fact discovered the methods and rites he'd been using by his own works. Reuss was highly impressed, and when Crowley joined the OTO as a member, he was immediately jumped up to a higher rank due to this.

By the way, though Aiwass delivered the content of The Book of the Law, the individual chapters are presented from the first person perspective of each within a trinity of Egyptian deities: Nuit, Hadit, and Ra-Hoor-Khuit (in that order). Nuit and Hadit** are complements to each other (another dual aspected being); their offspring is Heru-ra-ha, who is Ra-Hoor-Khuit (Re-Harakhty) and Hoor-paar-kraat (Harpocrates) combined as one. Ra-Hoor-Kuit is his older and warlike aspect, while Hoor-paar-kraat*** is the passive and younger one. Both Ra-Hoor-Khuit and Hoor-paar-kraat are representations of the god Horus. And if that's not enough for you to digest, there's more--the story of why Aiwass was present. He was a minister to Hoor-paar-kraat--a god of silence; and HPK was the one that wanted Crowley to receive the word of Liber AL vel Legis. Thus in that he himself (HPK) could not deliver the message, he sent Aiwass on his behalf.

Nuit/Nut depicted in a sarcophagus
Nuit/Nut depicted in a sarcophagus.
A wikimedia file; copyright: Milano - Museo egizio 
 

The child of course represents the content of The Book of the Law... Which brings us back to the statement "it's all about the child." Horus is a child god. Furthermore, a central element of Thelema is the Principle of the Child; which is explained in that the child is the sovereign individual, and the formula is of growth. And speaking of children... this entire topic clearly illustrates this great work, Liber AL vel Legis, as being a magickal offspring to Crowley. As for the other statement--"all Osiris"; he is a patriarchal god, and is also one of fertility and transition. Thus his message is one of coming out of an age of patriarchal domination.

And so concludes the story of how The Book of the Law (and therefore subsequently Thelema) was born. Crowley through his Thelema, did indeed deliver the message of those Egyptian gods; and through him they enlightened Thelemites on the message of the Aeon of Horus--which was that mankind's chosen and predominant faith organizations would no longer be relevant, and that new means of faith would be based upon the liberty for each individual to exercise their true will.

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Footnotes

*Some say that this happened following an invocation of Thoth, the god of knowledge.
**Hadit is not so much a god as he is a concept--a symbolic representation of a divine utterance. The Divine Utterance in this case, is Thelema. In this sense all Thelemites are Hadit, seeking union with Nuit.
***Hoor-paar-kraat is represented in Thelema is an embodiment of the "Child Principle," and of the "Crowned and Conquering Child"--who is the Lord of the Aeon; and these concepts/titles represents all Thelemites. Furthermore, he is an invisible god, ergo he is not illustrated on the Stele 666.

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The References Used for this Compilation

Adam K (for his wisdom, memory for details, and his ability to effectively analyze).
An Open Epistle on The Cover to Liber AL vel Legis, by Frater Achad Osher 583
Thelema 101: Aleister Crowley (1875-1947)
Wikipedia : The Book of the Law

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Other Crowley Reading on our Blog:

Aleister Crowley, Some Things you Might Want to Know
To Mega Therion
The Virgin & the Whore
The Serpent Gate: To Meta ophion (a tarot resource)

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