Recently on Facebook I posted a link to cracked.com’s piece on 5 Things You Won’t Believe Aren’t In The Bible and was challenged (by some person with an evil sense of humour) to do the same thing with Aleister Crowley’s The Book of the Law. I dashed off the following in a few minutes as a parody, but lots of people liked it and asked if they could repost it, so here it is as a note for posterity.
Please note: this is a parody, it’s meant to be funny, not some sort of Orphic Manifesto or something. And it’s not exactly thought through, it literally was written in just a few minutes for fun, not to make a statement. If you disagree with something in it, all power to you, it’s your Thelema just as much as it is mine.
So those caveats made, here are “5 Things You Won’t Believe Aren’t In Liber Legis”:
1. Holy Guardian Angel
Since the original Cracked article started off by talking about there being no angels in the Bible, I thought I’d do the same. I’m always hearing people talk about how the Holy Guardian Angel is some kind of central point of Thelema. Hey, guess what? It’s not mentioned anywhere in Liber Legis. In fact, there’s not an angel of any sort in there. Crowley decided to make the HGA the absurd central point of the A∴A∴ system because no sensible person would ever take it seriously as a real thing. As usual, he overestimated the average intelligence of the common people. And Thelemites.
2. True Will
This one really freaks people out, since most Thelemites take it for granted as an essential part of Thelema – they even think that’s what Thelema means. It doesn’t. The Book of the Law just talks about “Pure Will”, which I would argue is different than Crowley’s later invention of True Will. Crowley struggled with this distinction all his life in my opinion.
Many Thelemites (including Crowley) believe in reincarnation. Liber Legis talks about death a lot. But it never once says anything about what’s going to happen afterwards (well ok, it does say there’s dissolution and eternal ecstasy, but either way, it doesn’t say you’re coming back). Crowley neatly sidesteps the issue in the Gnostic Mass too, basically saying “Yeah, whatever you want to make up for what happens afterwards, that’s cool.”
Despite being one of our major Goddesses, and appealed to ad infinitum by frustrated nerdy Thelemic men and women desperate for an excuse to get laid, she’s not in there either. She would come later (if you’ll excuse the pun) in The Vision & the Voice.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard someone with more ego than intelligence complain that someone isn’t a very good Thelemite because “they don’t even do magick regularly!” or some such tosh. It’s not in there either. One line in Chapter II features the phrase “I am the Magician and the Exorcist”, but that’s as close as it gets. And that’s a God speaking
After this was first published on as a throwaway note on Facebook, it caused quite a storm in a teacup amongst various “expert” Thelemites. In order to preempt another such tide of criticism, I thought I’d add a couple of my answers to those previous critics here as well 🙂
I am now informed that there are already some people offended by my posting this idle fancy, particularly my description of the HGA as “absurd”. For their enlightenment, it’s not my description, I stole the description from someone else, so I suggest you argue with him instead.
“Let me declare this Work under this title: ‘The obtaining of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel'”, because the theory implied in these words is so patently absurd that only simpletons would waste much time in analysing it. It would be accepted as a convention, and no one would incur the grave danger of building a philosophical system upon it.” — Aleister Crowley, Magick in Theory & Practice, Chapter 2
“THE AUGOEIDES. Lytton calls him Adonai in ‘Zanoni,’ and I often use this name in the note-books. Abramelin calls him Holy Guardian Angel. I adopt this:
- Because Abramelin’s system is so simple and effective.
- Because since all theories of the universe are absurd it is better to talk in the language of one which is patently absurd, so as to mortify the metaphysical man.
- Because a child can understand it.
–Aleister Crowley, The Temple of Solomon the King, in The Equinox I (01)
The notion that Pure Will as distinct from True Will was first pointed out to me by the late Tim Maroney, who succeeded in blowing my mind with the ramifications. I miss your searing wit and intellectual brilliance Tim.
And last but not least… another criticism that was made was that I was commenting on The Book of the Law, which some people seem to think should not be done. Ironically of course, there’s nothing in The Book of the Law that says you can’t comment on it (maybe that should be 6 Things You Won’t Believe Aren’t In Liber Legis?). And even more ironically of course, I’m not commenting on The Book of the Law anyway. As the title says, I’m commenting on things that are not in The Book of the Law.
This article is written by guest contributor Rodney Orpheus. Rodney Orpheus was born in Ireland and joined the music business in the late 80s as lead singer of The Cassandra Complex, one of the originators of the European electro-industrial music scene. Since then he has become a successful record producer and technologist. Rodney has published two books on the works of Aleister Crowley (Abrahadabra: Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thelemic Magick, and Grimoire of Aleister Crowley), and is a leading member of prominent magical organisation Ordo Templi Orientis. Rodney lectures internationally in both technology and occult subjects and is a frequent speaker at academic and trade conferences as well as on TV and radio. He currently lives in London, England.