|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," "Frater Perdurabo") passed away long ago, on December 1st, 1947. Today he is oft remembered and celebrated through written word, especially by Thelemites and other magicians, due to the numerous works he produced; and by others due to the indelible, larger than life impression he left. However, within this blog post we focus upon one specific period within his life and literary achievements, the writing of Liber AL vel Legis.
In the earliest days of the 20th century, Crowley received via supernatural 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, found themselves in Cairo, Egypt.
|Crowley, Rose, and their daughter Lola Zaza, 1910|
Aleister had married Rose to save her from the dreadful inconvenience of an arranged marriage, but fell in love along the way. He had been good friends with her brother, artist Gerald Kelly, for a while, but the friendship didn't survive him marrying Rose. The couple's visit to Cairo was part of their extended honeymoon, which spanned Paris, Egypt, and Ceylon. It was early in 1904 when they arrived there, which was significantly after their August 12th, 1903 wedding. Crowley adopted the nomer "Prince Chioa Khan" for that time (a Hebrew reference to him being the Great Beast). His clothing was noble looking and eastern, complete with a headcloth and jewelry. The couple engaged in touristy activities for a time; the latter part of their journey they spent the days relaxing at home in their suite. During their honeymoon journey, A.C. wrote a set of poems dedicated to his love, and entitled the works "Rosa Mundi and Other Love Songs."
Within that that timespan, on March 16th, 1904 at the Great Pyramid of Giza--in attempt to entertain his new wife, Crowley took to performing a ritual from the Goetia--to "shew the sylphs." Rose didn't see any sylphs; however, later on she informed A.C. that the god Horus* wished to communicate with him, and made other eyebrow-raising remarks, including that "they are waiting for you!" and "it's all about the child," also, "all Osiris."
Crowley was resistant to the possibility that Rose's message was authentic, thus he posed her with a set of questions. Rose had done no previous studies that would allow her to know or to guess responses to his questions; thus that all responses were correct is remarkable. And still Crowley doubted. The situation must have been bizarre to him, as Rose had little interest in supernatural and mystical matters, and yet there she was picking up a divine transmission, sent for him! Next, Rose was taken to the Cairo Museum and was asked to point out an illustration of Horus. She selected a 26th dynasty piece--the funerary stele of Ankh-af-na-khonsu, which to Thelemites is now referred to as the Stele of Revealing. The stele depicted Horus as Ra-Hoor-Khuit, with Ankh-af-na-khonsu making an offering. The stele's inventory number prior to being housed at the Cairo museum, was of all numbers, 666, which doubtlessly Crowley enjoyed once he discovered the fact. With Rose identifying Horus correctly, the message she'd delivered was determined authentic.
It was initially reported that the stele was housed in the Bulaq Museum. It appears that Crowley was unsure of which museum he saw the stele in, and may have later on consulted an outdated tour booklet referring to its previous location. To complicate matters, the stele had earnt a nickname based upon said error--the Stele 666; thus sticking with the erroneous story made more sense.
|The Stele of Revealing|
As a sidenote, I wish to publish a quote from the Book of the Law (I,36):
"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."
Crowley signed "The Comment" to Liber AL vel Legis with the name "Ankh-f-n-khonsu." The carvings on the stele allowed Crowley to see how important the name was to Thelema. As is commonly known, Crowley understood himself to be borne of the energy stream of the priest commemorated by the stele.
The point of sharing the above quote and subsequent explanation, is to demonstrate how astute and observant Crowley was, and how interconnected, logical and ordered, many of the concepts presented by Thelema are. The aspects one could view Ankh-f-n-khonsu by (for but one example), overlap intricately. He is the priest from within the Stele of Revealing image, was Crowley's scribe and alter ego, and was 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.
Rose at some point conveyed that it was an entity named Aiwass, who had conveyed Horus's words to her. Then on April 7th, she was given directions on how Aleister was to receive further information. It was to be three days of writing within "the temple," which was in fact a room within their honeymoon abode. He was to begin transcribing at noon, and continue for an hour. First though, there was a specific invocation ritual he was to perform. The nature of the rite wasn't like the magick he engaged in, which annoyed him; but he performed it just the same.
The invocation ritual that Crowley held little faith in, initially failed; this in daylight at midday. Another attempt was made at midnight, which worked. Thus a connection was established with Aiwass, whereby Crowley was informed that he was to be the prophet who would bring awareness to man upon entering a new astrological age--the Aeon of Horus.
Crowley did not see Aiwass, but he described an impression of a diaphanous being, who was fit, thirtyish, and had a brutal but kingly face. His eyes were dangerous, but veiled as not to harm. His voice, which came from behind A.C.'s left shoulder, was said to be accentless, passionate, and deep; also, hurried yet sincere, and with a voluptuous, musical quality. The entity was dark, and his clothing was suggestive of him being Middle Eastern. When describing the specific nature of Aiwass, Crowley said that his messenger was an entity, and that he believed it was possible 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 supernatural quality and complexity 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, 1904.
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 denied that its content was delivered through automatic writing, due to that at times points weren't clear, and queries were presented to obtain clarity; and also due to that he was not in an altered state of consciousness, which he deemed necessary for automatic writing to occur. Aside from the precise description of how the content was delivered, 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 significantly after its transmission. Apparently, certain changes could not be implemented at earlier times, because the precise nature of the text passages in question wasn't clear enough.
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 by the delivered message, 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 personal brand of 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 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 A.C., 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, thus when Crowley joined the OTO as a member, he was jumped up to a higher rank.
Now returning to the topic... 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 (Ra-Harakhty) and Hoor-paar-kraat (Har-pa-khered) combined as one. Ra-Hoor-Khuit is his older and warlike aspect, while Hoor-paar-kraat*** is the passive and younger one. Heru-ra-ha, in this context, is a representation of 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 who wanted Crowley to receive the word of Liber AL vel Legis. Thus in that he himself (HPK) could not deliver the message, Aiwass acted on his behalf.
|Nuit/Nut depicted in a sarcophagus.|
A wikimedia file; copyright: Milano - Museo egizio
A remark on that "it's all about the child"; how does this statement apply? In the form of Hoor-paar-kraat, Horus is a child god, and it was he who had the message of TBOTL delivered. Additionally, 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. As a matter of fact, this entire topic clearly illustrates this great work, Liber AL vel Legis, as being a magickal child to Crowley. As for the statement--"all Osiris"; he is a patriarchal god, and is also one of rebirth, fertility, and transition. Thus his message is one of coming out of an age of patriarchal domination, and moving on to better.
"Another way to describe the Principle of the Child, is that within this Aeon, the child will take over the reins that the parent previously held."
And so concludes the story of how The Book of the Law (and subsequently Thelema) was born. Crowley through his Thelema, did indeed deliver the message of those Egyptian entities; 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. Skeptics and naysayers would say that it has not happened, therefore will not happen. However, the simple truth is, these Aeons are potentially very long, as the Aeon of Isis and the Aeon of Osiris have shown. There is no set time of how long an Aeon lasts, but it's relatively safe to say, that the Aeon of Horus is still in its infancy.
*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.
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
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)