© threefold31 – Reproduced by kind permission

An Essay Concerning Liber CCXX and the Fill vs. Kill Debate

May 10 2013 E.V, Anno IVxxi. Sol and Luna conjunct in Taurus

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

The following essay addresses the question of whether to use the phrase “Aum! Let it fill me!” or “Aum! Let it kill me!” in verse 37 of the third chapter of the Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis sub figura CCXX. The author would like to thank the Frater Superior of OTO, as well as members of the Lashtal forum for gathering and sharing much of the information contained herein, particularly Lutz, belmurru, abn53, Bryce Churchill, and Marlene Cornelius.

Abbreviations used:

SV – The Stele Versifications – An original poem written by Aleister Crowley in March/April 1904 in a “vellum book”, based on the hieroglyphics appearing on both sides (obverse and reverse) of the burial stele of the Egyptian priest Ankh-af-na-khonsu, numbered 666 in the Cairo/Boulak Museum catalog.

VB – the vellum book containing the Stele Versifications, written by Crowley in Cairo, Egypt, Spring 1904 (no longer extant)

POTS – The Paraphrase of the Stele Versifications, when published as a standalone work. Appears in EQ 1(7), and EOTG (in a photo-facsimile of the EQ 1(7) version)

XXXI – Liber L vel Legis – the original manuscript of the Book of the Law – written April 1904. Misplaced sometime between 1905 and 1909.

CCXX – Liber AL vel Legis – the typeset published version of XXXI. At least five versions were published in Crowley’s lifetime (with one being withheld), and they can be identified by their publication dates: 1909, 1913, 1936, 1938, 1942. CCXX contains the SV, in a form different from the POTS (this is the bone of contention).

The 1907 version exists only in galley proofs – (see below)
The 1909 edition in Thelema is the same as 1907, and is riddled with errors. Proofs survive from September 1908.
The 1913 edition has one incorrect letter, (‘ecstacy’ misspelled) and one mistakenly capitalized letter (‘The’ tomb).
The 1936 edition is essentially the same as 1913, except for the correction of these two errors, and minor alterations. The  typeset and manuscript versions of the Book of the Law appeared together here for the first time.
The 1938 (London) edition and 1942 (USA) editions essentially follow the 1936 publication. The 1938 version was considered by Crowley as the edition of Liber Legis where he finally ‘got it right’.

CTS – The original typescript of XXXI, made in Cairo in 1904. All three copies are no longer extant. One of these copies is the basis for both CCXX 1907 and 1909.

TGI – The Great Invocation – A ritual that includes the third and fourth verses from the obverse Stele Versifications, (including the reading “kill me!”), as well as the whole of the versifications from the reverse of the Stele. Composed probably during the 1904 Cairo period, but after Liber L vel Legis was received, as it includes terms unique to that book. This was never published, but appears in galley proofs in the Appendix to CW III. The original manuscript copy is no longer extant.

CW III – Appendix to the Collected Works of Aleister Crowley, Volume III (exists in galley proof only – withheld from publication). This Appendix contains the first attempt to publish CCXX, dated 1907. Full of numerous errors, it was nonetheless the text used for Liber CCXX in Thelema (1909), the original manuscript having been misplaced at that point, and recovered in the summer of 1909.

EQ I(7) – The Equinox volume 1, number 7 – published Spring 1912. Contains POTS, TSK, XXXI (in reduced photo-facsimile)

TSK – The Temple of Solomon the King, an account of the magical career of Aleister Crowley, specifically the portion found in EQ 1(7), which contains the POTS.

EQ I(9) – The Equinox volume 1, number 9 – published Spring 1913. Contains the Evocation of Bartzabel, which includes the Stele Versifications in a form different to that of the POTS.

EQ I(10) – The Equinox volume 1, number 10 – published Autumn 1913. Contains Liber CCXX (with one misspelling and one incorrect capitalization as compared to XXXI).

EQ III(3) aka EOTG – The Equinox of the Gods – a comprehensive work detailing the reception of the Book of the Law. This work includes a full-size facsimile of the original manuscript (XXXI), and a typeset version of the same (CCXX), appearing together for the first time. Also includes the POTS in photo-facsimile from the EQ 1(7) printing. Published 1936.

TGT – The Giant’s Thumb – An unpublished work by Crowley that survives in galley proof (1915); contains the Stele Versifications in a photo-facsimile form of that which appeared in EQ 1(7)/TSK

LC – Liber Cadaveris – Ritual CXX called of Passing through The Tuat. Contains instructions to insert the SV in two places. The verses are not written out, only abbreviated to indicate which sections to include; the first inclusion denotes the first verse of the SV; the second inclusion contains the next two verses, and runs from “Unity uttermost shewed” to “kill me” Presumably written in mid- 1912, but never published.

The Background      

Aleister Crowley (AC) and his pregnant wife Rose spent much of March and April 1904 in Cairo, Egypt. During this time they performed a number of magical operations known collectively as the Cairo Working. After AC performed the preliminary Invocation of the Goetia, Rose began receiving messages of a clairvoyant nature, and told her husband that he needed to invoke the god Horus. Shortly thereafter, they visited the antiquities museum in Cairo, and Rose pointed out an obscure burial tablet, or stele, as being an image of the god in question. The stele was in fact the funerary tablet of an Egyptian priest named Ankhefenkhons, and AC noticed that this stele bore the catalog number 666, a number of great personal significance to him. He subsequently commissioned a translation of the hieroglyphs from this stele, which was done by the assistant curator of the museum in French, and then English. From this translation, Crowley spent some unspecified amount of time composing a poetic versification, or paraphrase, of the contents. This paraphrase was done sometime between March 23 and April 8, 1904.

The culmination of the Cairo Working was the reception of a text known as The Book of the Law, dictated to Crowley by a discarnate entity identified as Aiwass. The dictation took place for one hour, at noon, on three successive days, and resulted in 65 manuscript pages containing 220 verses with close to 6000 words of text. The text included specific instructions for the preparation of a standard printed book that reflected its contents. Among these instructions, in several places, were particular warnings to not change even a single letter of the dictation after it was finished. Aiwass had a message to deliver, a message that AC was to make public, and to leave exactly as he wrote it down. Aleister Crowley had been declared by Aiwass as both the scribe and the prophet of this revelation.

During his lifetime, AC was involved with publishing the typeset version of the original manuscript a number of times. He originally entitled this work Liber L vel Legis sub figura CCXX, as it was The Book of the Law containing 220 verses. All of the versions he authorized differ from each other to a greater or lesser extent, but by 1913, the Book had come very close to its final form.

At three separate points in the dictation of the text, (later to be numbered vv. I:14, III:37 and III:38), Aiwass instructed Crowley to insert the poetic paraphrases of Stele 666 that AC had already finished prior to the dictation. These three insertions comprise the entirety of the paraphrases from the obverse side of Stele 666. The paraphrases of the reverse side play only a minor role in this discussion, as they were not included in the text of CCXX.

The SV were originally written down by Crowley in a vellum book, which is no longer extant. Thus, the only evidence of what was likely in the VB are the versions which survive in manuscript or printed form. These versions consist of:

The Great Invocation, appearing in the unpublished Appendix to the Collected Works of Aleister Crowley, Volume Three in 1907

A Paraphrase of the Inscriptions Upon the Stele of Revelling (sic) in the Equinox vol. 1 no. 7 of 1912

Liber Cadaveris, a magical ritual that was never published, from 1912

The Evocation of Bartzabel in the Equinox vol. 1 no. 9 of 1913

The Giant’s Thumb of 1915

The Equinox of the Gods of 1936

All versions of Liber CCXX – 1907 (unpublished galleys), 1909 (identical to 1907), 1913 (revised, with two major errors), 1936, 1938, 1942

Only EQ 1(7) and EOTG published the POTS in full, both obverse and reverse (and the latter is simply a photo-facsimile of the former, so these are identical); the unpublished TGT also has them in full, with some corrections; CW III, LC and EQ 1(9) contain only part of the SV.

The original manuscript, Liber XXXI, was typed up in Cairo before AC and Rose left for Scotland in April 1904. Three copies were made, none of them extant. However, their contents can be surmised from the published versions drawn from them: one was used for CCXX 1909, and since this is identical with CCXX 1907 in CW III, either the same typescript was used for both, or all three copies of the typescript were identical. It is important to note that AC claimed these typescripts were never properly proofread against the ms of XXXI, and this seems certain to be the case, as CCXX 1907 & 1909 both contain numerous errors, compared to XXXI which they were designed to reflect. This is strong evidence that AC was not the typist for these copies, as some errors appear to be due to the inability to read his handwriting.

The specific problem which this essay addresses is the inclusion of the SV into the text of CCXX. This was originally done by an unknown typist in Cairo, probably not Crowley, but working under his direction. In order to include the SV in this work, the typist would almost certainly have had the VB to hand, in order to consult it for the wording of the verses to be included.

The first verse to be included appeared after 143 words of the original dictation, (later to be numbered verse 14). In the ms of XXXI, there is a note in ink indicating that “V. 1 of the Spell called the Song” is to be inserted there. This was done as instructed, and presents no difficulties.

The next three verses to be inserted appear in the third chapter, (later numbered verse 37). This insertion is the crux of the difficulties. After dictating “I adore thee in the song–” Aiwass made it clear to the scribe that more of the SV were to be inserted there. AC initially wrote “Unity &c” in pen, presumably in the middle of the dictation, and left a large gap on the page. At some point after the dictation, but not long after, (since this instruction was followed by the typist), AC wrote, in pencil, a brief indication of which parts of the SV were to be included. As “Unity uttermost showed…” is the beginning of the third verse of the SV, he must have realized that he had forgotten about verse two, because the pencil note states “”I am the Lord of Thebes” &c from vellum book” (this is the beginning of the second verse of SV, and is written over the word ‘Unity’), and continues with an extended line to the words “fill me”, indicating the end of the fourth verse of the SV. Therefore, AC unambiguously wanted the second, third and fourth verses of the SV to be inserted in the text at that location.

The beginning of the following verse (later numbered 38) is dutifully written from dictation, and again a note in ink is written to indicate which part of the SV to insert there; this time it is “The light is mine &c”, (the beginning of the fifth verse of the SV) followed by another penciled note similar to the first one, stating “from vellum book to “Ra Hoor-Khuit”” (the ending of the sixth verse of the SV). Thus AC again unambiguously indicated that the fifth and sixth verses of the SV were to be inserted in the text at that location. It is these two penciled notes which are the evidence that the SV were originally in a vellum book. And furthermore, these notes also indicate that the VB was the text to consult for the wording of the SV to be inserted.

Perhaps the most important point to keep in mind at this stage is that AC wrote a note in XXXI that indicated the fourth verse of the SV ended with the words “fill me!” This was a poem that he had written only days prior to making this note. It must have been fresh in his mind. He may have forgotten the beginning of the second verse of the SV due to the heat of the moment during the dictation, writing “Unity” instead of “I am the Lord of Thebes”, but he clearly was well aware of the sequence of the verses when he made the two pencil notes after the dictation. He may well have been looking at the VB when he did so. If it could be proven that he did, there would be no controversy.

This penciled note and the circumstances of its writing are vitally important to the argument about the wording of the SV. Those who would desire to change the reading of the SV inserted at this point MUST insist as part of their argument that Crowley, the author of the poem, did not at that moment remember the wording of his own work, and mistakenly put in the word Fill, instead of the word Kill, which is supposedly the word that actually appears in the SV from the now lost vellum book. I will return to this point later, but it is enough to say here that whether a mistake or not, the word ‘Fill’ in the penciled note is the earliest evidence we have of what was in the SV.

The next stage is when the ms of XXXI is handed over to the typist. We can be almost certain that the typist did in fact type the words “fill me!'” in verse III:37, because this is how it appears in CCXX 1907 and 1909. There are only two possible ways this could have happened. Either the VB contained the SV with the words ‘fill me’, in which case the typist did a fine job and typed out the verses correctly. Otherwise, the SV in the VB included the words “kill me”. When the typist comes to this point, there is a discrepancy with the note in the ms of XXXI. Should the word Fill or Kill be typed in there? Now there are (again) only two options; consult with your employer Mr Crowley to resolve it, or make up your own mind and type in Fill because that’s what it says in the manuscript. Unfortunately, it is impossible to know what actually happened at this point. Crowley said the typescript was never proofread, but he did not say he wasn’t even consulted about it during the typing stage.

If we conclude that both scenarios are equally likely, then they cancel each other out, and provide no argument one way or the other. Crowley may well have not been consulted and the typist did as they pleased – he certainly didn’t catch numerous errors before going to print in 1909, so he wouldn’t have caught this one either. On the other hand, AC may have been consulted and instructed the typist to use the word Fill, because he liked it better, or because that’s what was in XXXI. The choices are simply undecidable. All we can say for certain is that the typist used the same word, ‘Fill’, that is in the manuscript. Whether Fill is also in the VB can not be determined from the evidence. But that implies that the word Kill cannot be unequivocally placed in the VB either.

Lacking any positive evidence from the VB, or any account by AC of what happened in the typing stage, we can only examine what was written and/or published by Crowley that contained the SV. At this point, it is instructive to look at the SV as they appeared in print or manuscript, because not all instances are identical.

The Evidence

The first printed appearance is in CW III, which is also identical to the published version in CCXX 1909, as seen below:

Stele Versifications from Liber CCXX in the Collected Works vol. III Appendix

Above, the gemmed azure is
The naked splendour of Nuit;
She bends in ecstasy to kiss
The secret ardours of Hadit.
The winged globe, the starry blue,
Are mine, O Ankh-af-na-khonsu!

I adore thee in the song —
I am the Lord of Thebes, and I
The inspired forth-speaker of Mentu;
For me unveils the veiled sky,
The self slain Ankh-af-na-khonsu
Whose words are truth. I invoke, I greet
Thy presence, O Ra-Hoor-Khuit!

Unity uttermost showed!
I adore the might of Thy breath,
Supreme and terrible God,
Who makest the gods and death
To tremble before Thee: —
I, I adore thee!

Appear on the throne of Ra!
Open the ways of the Khu!
Lighten the ways of the Ka!
The ways of the Khabs run through
To stir me or to still me!
Aum! let it fill me!

The light is mine; its rays consume
Me: I have made a secret door
Into the House of Ra and Tum,
Of Khephra and of Ahathoor.
I am thy Theban, O Mentu,
The prophet Ankh-af-na-khonsu!

By Bes-na-Maut my breast I beat;
By wise Ta-Nech I weave my spell.
Show thy star-splendour, O Nuith!
Bid me within thine House to dwell,
O winged snake of light, Hadith!
Abide with me, Ra-Hoor-Khuit!

Notes:

  • “self slain” is not hyphenated
  • verse four says “To stir me or to still me”.
  • Ankh-af-na-khonsu contains “af-na”, and ‘khonsu’ is not capitalized
  • the letter O is capitalized before proper names.
  • the god names are given as Nuith and Hadith.

Immediately after CCXX in CW III, there appears the Great Invocation. This includes only two of the SV, as seen below.

Stele Versifications from The Great Invocation in the CW III Appendix

Unity uttermost showed!
I adore the might of thy breath,
Supreme and terrible god,
Who makest the gods and death
To tremble before Thee!
I, I adore thee!

Appear on the Throne of Ra!
Open the ways of the Khu!
Lighten the ways of the Ka!
The ways of the Khabs run through
To stir me or to still me!
Aum! let it kill me!

The differences from the version printed in CCXX CW III are as follows:

In the first excerpt, note that the words ‘thy’, god’ and the second ‘thee’ are not capitalized; also, after the word “thee”, the colon and hyphen are replaced with an exclamation point.

In the second excerpt, the word ‘Throne’ is capitalized, and the penultimate word is ‘kill’ instead of ‘fill’. Also, elsewhere in TGI, the name Ankh-f-n-khonsu does not contain ‘af-na’ in the center.

From this evidence it is clearly shown that these two verses were typeset very differently. TGI was supposedly written during the Cairo Working period, but its manuscript is not extant. From internal evidence, it must have been written after XXXI, as it contains terms such as Coph Nia that first appeared in XXXI. It cannot be ascertained whether AC consulted the VB to prepare this original ms, or possibly the Cairo typescript of CCXX, or if he did it from memory. If he did consult the VB to create TGI, AND transcribed it correctly, AND this was then typed up correctly for CW III, then the VB contains verses considerably different than those typed up for the CCXX typescript. This scenario seems very unlikely, because it requires perfect fidelity of transcription AND typing.

An alternative scenario is that Crowley simply wrote down some of the SV by hand for this Invocation, making scribal errors or corrections as he wrote. He may have decided that ‘kill’ was a better rhyme for the purposes of TGI, or ‘kill’ may have been in the VB in the first place. But since the date of this work is not known with certainty, all that can be concluded from the printed galley proof is that it contains different versions of the SV in it. And considering that the Cairo typescript was done (in all likelihood) directly from the VB, it is probably a more accurate version of what was in the VB, as it comes directly from a primary source, not a secondary source like the ms for TGI. At best, TGI is the earliest evidence of a variant reading, but the variance goes beyond just a single word. Therefore, the two occurrences of the SV in CWIII had two different origins entirely.

The next attempt to produce a printed version of Liber Legis came in the famous three-volume set called simply Thelema. Proofs of this version exist from late 1908, and it apparently was published in 1909 (but possibly as late as 1911, though this is unlikely). The text of CCXX is the same as CWIII, with all its errors, as the XXXI ms had been lost in the intervening years, only to reappear in June 1909, too late to be used for proofreading CCXX in Thelema.

Crowley had a few copies of Thelema put together in a single volume, printed on real vellum, and bound in Morocco. One of these was his personal copy, which has recently been returned to the OTO, after being kept in storage in South Africa for decades. This copy has three corrections to the text of CCXX, made in marginal notes by Crowley. Of these, two were implemented in a later edition, and the third one was not. The first, changing Now to Nor in v. II:54, is not of interest here. The second one, changing “To stir me or to still me” to become “To stir me or still me” is of interest, because this is the line that precedes the major change in question. On the next line, Crowley has struck out the F in “Aum! Let if fill me!” and marked a K in the margin, to show that the line should read “Aum, let it kill me!”

This single annotation has become the primary evidence for the Frater Superior of the OTO – acting not in his capacity as an officer of that order, nor as a member of the A.’.A.’. – to insist that the text of Liber CCXX v. III:37 be changed to reflect that the word Fill should now be Kill. This change was announced on the 109th anniversary of the reception of the Book of the Law, in April 2013.

First of all it must be noted that Crowley’s copy of CCXX 1909 has only three corrections in it, despite the fact that the text is corrupted with multiple errors. Therefore, the claim that this was somehow a ‘master copy’ of the Book is somewhat lacking. To be sure, it was certainly the most important of all the extant copies at that time, and any annotations to it must be given due consideration. And crossing out a letter to show a replacement is an important note. It shows evidence that at that particular moment, AC wanted the word to be Kill, not Fill. But when was that particular moment?

We know that the copy was given away to Thomas Windram upon his departure for South Africa in the Fall of 1913. So it is possible that Crowley had this copy for up to four years, and certainly for at least two years. And he gave it away during the same period that CCXX was being prepared for its first full public edition in the Equinox 1(10). But there is no evidence as to when he wrote in it. Furthermore, the annotation lacks context as well as any further instruction. A letter F is crossed out, but for what purpose? To change the text of CCXX? If that is the case, AC never implemented the change, so the only argument that can be offered is that he forgot about it.

Crowley might have crossed out the F for a number of reasons. He may have done it in the presence of Windram, and instructed him to use the SV with the word Kill in them in a certain ritual. Or, if he had truly forgotten about it, he may have given the book to Windram without even noticing his annotations.

Considering that he also corrected the line immediately preceding this one, the most likely explanation is that he was indeed correcting the text of the poem, possibly for a future edition of CCXX, but possibly not. Since the changes are not comprehensive, he may have just noticed the poor meter of the previous line and removed the word ‘to’, then noticed that the word ‘fill’ was there, and he preferred ‘kill’. He may then have declined to actually change it in CCXX due to fear of changing the ms, which clearly had the word ‘fill’ in the pencil note. And he may have given it away to Windram before it could be properly used as an editing tool for the upcoming EQ 1(10). There are simply too many unknowns to make a definite conclusion.

It cannot be overstated that in the following 34 years of his life (or more), and four more editions of CCXX, the change was never made. Nor is there any other extant copy of CCXX with the same change in Crowley’s hand. Nor is there any mention in his diaries of the desire to change it. One marginal K in this special copy of Thelema 1909 is all we have to show the intent of the prophet, scribe, and editor of CCXX. We will need more than that to show clear intent. We will need a pattern of publication, at the very least, that shows his preference for the SV with the word ‘kill’ in them. And for that, we must turn to their appearance in other publications.

The first publication of the entire POTS occurred in EQ 1(7) of 1912, as part of the account of the Cairo Working. This same version was used in photo-facsimile form in the much later EOTG from 1936, which gives a more complete account of the events in Cairo, and also included the entirety of CCXX as well as XXXI. The first appearance of POTS came in the form below, (the reverse is not shown):

A Paraphrase of the Inscriptions upon the Obverse of the Stele of Revelling (sic)

Above, the gemmed azure is
The naked splendour of Nuit;
She bends in ecstasy to kiss
The secret ardours of Hadit.
The winged globe, the starry blue,
Are mine, o Ankh-f-n-khonsu!

I am the Lord of Thebes, and I
The inspired forth-speaker of Mentu;
For me unveils the veiled sky,
The self-slain Ankh-f-n-khonsu
Whose words are truth. I invoke, I greet
Thy presence, o Ra-Hoor-Khuit!

Unity uttermost showed!
I adore the might of Thy breath,
Supreme and terrible God,
Who makest the gods and death
To tremble before Thee: —
I, I adore thee!

Appear on the throne of Ra!
Open the ways of the Khu!
Lighten the ways of the Ka!
The ways of the Khabs run through
To stir me or still me!
Aum! let it kill me!

The light is mine; its rays consume
Me: I have made a secret door
Into the House of Ra and Tum,
Of Khephra and of Ahathoor.
I am thy Theban, o Mentu,
The prophet Ankh-f-n-khonsu!

By Bes-na-Maut my breast I beat;
By wise Ta-Nech I weave my spell.
Show thy star-splendour, O Nuith!
Bid me within thine House to dwell,
O winged snake of light, Hadith!
Abide with me, Ra-Hoor-Khuit!

Note that the word ‘self-slain’ is hyphenated, the letter O’s before the proper names are not capitalized, and the name Ankh-f-n-Khonsu has “-f-n” in the center and ‘Khonsu’ is capitalized. All of these instances differ from the version of the SV published in CCXX 1907 and 1909. Also, the names Nuith and Hadith appear with an H at the end, which matches the occurrence of those names in CCXX 1907 and 1909. From this evidence it can be concluded that the POTS was not simply taken from the Cairo typescript or the earlier versions of CCXX. It must have been drawn from a different source.

Having already appeared in CCXX – a document that was not supposed to be changed even so much as a letter – the poem would not have simply been copied for use in the POTS with so many changes to it. While simply changing Fill to Kill would have made sense, if it was Crowley’s intention to eventually change that in a later version of CCXX, there would be no reason to make all the other changes. And those are consistent. Ankh-f-n-Khonsu is spelled that way all six times it appears on the obverse and reverse; ditto for all the appearances of the capital O’s. The hyphen might easily have been added to ‘self-slain’ to insure the meaning of the compound word, but these other changes are too drastic. And also, the SV from the reverse of Stele 666 do not even appear in CCXX, so that cannot be the source for the POTS.

The evidence clearly points to the POTS as being a stand alone entity, published by AC in that specific form, NOT as a copy of what was inserted into CCXX. And this raises the question of whether AC consulted the original VB to create this publication of the POTS. Since the changes are quite significant from what was already created in the Cairo typescript and the earlier versions of CCXX, the answer must be no. If the VB was the source for the POTS, then the CTS was drastically wrong, not just in the word Fill, but in many other instances as well. This is simply not plausible. What is far more plausible is that the POTS is a deliberately different publication. If the source was the VB, then that source was deliberately changed. If it was not the VB, then what was it? There must have been another typescript, or even more likely, another handwritten version by Crowley that was used for the POTS.

Sometime around 1912, Crowley wrote out Liber Cadaveris, “Ritual CXX called of Passing through the Tuat”. His handwritten notes survive, and they include instructions to use three of the SV in the ritual. These three verses are not all written out, but their beginnings and endings are indicated by abbreviated remarks, much as in Liber XXXI. The verses in question are the first, fourth, and fifth, with the fourth verse indicated by “Unity uttermost shewed—kill me!” This was obviously written out from memory, (as he often spelled ‘showed’ as ‘shewed’), and not by reference to the VB (probably lost by that time), but it is clear evidence that Crowley approved of the version with ‘kill’ for use in a ritual context.

Next in the timeline is the very telling appearance of the Evocation of Bartzabel in EQ 1(9) in 1913. This working is extant in both manuscript and printed form. The ritual has all of the SV from CCXX vv. II:37 & 38 in it, and they appear in the form below.

Stele Versifications from An Evocation of Bartzabel EQ 1(9)

I am the Lord of Thebes, and I
The inspired forth-speaker of Mentu;
For me unveils the veiled sky,
The self-slain Ankh-f-n-khonsu
Whose words are truth. I invoke, I greet
Thy presence, O Ra-Hoor-Khuit!

Unity uttermost shewed!
I adore the might of Thy breath,
Supreme and terrible God,
Who makest the Gods and death
To tremble before Thee:
I, I adore thee!

Appear on the throne of Ra!
Open the ways of the Khu!
Lighten the ways of the Ka!
The ways of the Khabs run through
To stir me or still me!
Aum! let it fill me!

The light is mine; its rays consume
Me: I have made a secret door
Into the House of Ra and Tum,
Of Khephra and of Ahathoor.
I am thy Theban, O Mentu,
The prophet Ankh-f-n-khonsu!

By Bes-na-Maut my breast I beat;
By wise Ta-Nech I weave my spell.
Show thy star-splendour, O Nuith!
Bid me within thine House to dwell,
O winged snake of light, Hadith!
Abide with me, Ra-Hoor-Khuit!

Notes:

  • ‘self-slain’ is hyphenated
  • the letter O’s are capitalized
  • the name Ankh-f-n-Khonsu has “-f-n” in the center
  • the word ‘showed’ is spelled ‘shewed’ in the second verse
  • the word ‘Gods’ in the second verse is capitalized
  • there is only a colon after the word ‘Thee’ in the second verse
  • Nuith and Hadith have letter H’s at the end of their names
  • the ending of the third verse is “let it fill me!”

This version of the SV is unlike any of the other ones that have been in print. It is a hybrid – using the word Fill, the capital O’s and Nuith/Hadith as in CCXX 1909; the name Ankh-f-n-khonsu as in the POTS, a unique spelling of ‘shewed’, a capitalized ‘Gods’, and a use of a single colon after ‘thee’.

What was the source for these SV? It certainly was not solely POTS, which had just been published a year earlier, nor was it CCXX 1909. The SV were most likely included in the original manuscript by Crowley, who must have either written them from memory, or deliberately changed them from existing printed versions. With all the variants corresponding to no single printed version, the former is the more likely case. But regardless of what his source was, the most important aspect of this version is the inclusion of the phrase “fill me!” This shows unequivocal evidence that Crowley authorized the use of ‘fill’ in a publication that was NOT Liber CCXX. So the claim that ‘fill’ only occurs in CCXX and ‘kill’ only occurs in the POTS is not valid. One cannot make the argument that Crowley really wanted this verse changed, and didn’t because he was lazy or forgetful, but always used ‘kill’ in other instances because it was the true and original poetry. Not so. At least in one instance, the SV appears outside of Liber CCXX with the word Fill in it.

This ritual was re-published in expanded form in the Equinox IV(2) in 1998. In that edition, several changes appear to the SV. The name Ankh-af-na-kohnsu has ‘af-na’ in the center; ‘showed’ is spelled with an ‘o’, a hyphen has been added after the word ‘Thee’ in verse two; and the H’s have been removed from the end of the names Nuit and Hadit. In short, the SV as they appear here are not the same as they appeared in EQ I(9), and seem to have been harmonized with their appearance in CCXX, (except for the telltale capitalization of ‘Gods’). I do not presently have access to the original ms., housed at the Ransom Center in Austin, in order to determine what was in the original handwritten version. The editor’s note for this ritual indicates that the published version was made to conform more closely with the original ms, and presumably this includes the occurrences of the SV in it. But in any event, there seems no reason to doubt that the phrase ‘fill me!’ was indeed used in the original, and this is the key point. It proves that AC was ambivalent about the usage of the SV and whether ‘kill’ or ‘fill’ should be present. At this key stage of the timeline, amidst all the publications of the SV in the Equinox and the annotation in the Windram copy of Thelema 1909, the status of Fill vs. Kill was obviously not definitely settled.

Next in the timeline is the publication of CCXX in EQ 1(10), its most definitive edition to date, and very nearly in its final form. It is important to note the two main errors that occurred in this edition; the word “ecstacy” misspelled in verse II:21, and the wrongly capitalized “The tomb” in verse III:34. Other than these, the rendition is vastly improved from the poor version printed in 1909 from the CTS. Below are the SV from the EQ1(10) edition of CCXX:

Stele Versifications from Liber CCXX in The Equinox vol. 1 No. 10 – 1913

Above, the gemmed azure is
The naked splendour of Nuit;
She bends in ecstasy to kiss
The secret ardours of Hadit.
The winged globe, the starry blue,
Are mine, O Ankh-af-na-khonsu!

I am the Lord of Thebes, and I
The inspired forth-speaker of Mentu;
For me unveils the veiled sky,
The self-slain Ankh-af-na-khonsu
Whose words are truth. I invoke, I greet
Thy presence, O Ra-Hoor-Khuit!

Unity uttermost showed!
I adore the might of Thy breath,
Supreme and terrible God,
Who makest the gods and death
To tremble before Thee: —
I, I adore thee!

Appear on the throne of Ra!
Open the ways of the Khu!
Lighten the ways of the Ka!
The ways of the Khabs run through
To stir me or still me!
Aum! let it fill me!

The light is mine; its rays consume
Me: I have made a secret door
Into the House of Ra and Tum,
Of Khephra and of Ahathoor.
I am thy Theban, O Mentu,
The prophet Ankh-af-na-khonsu!

By Bes-na-Maut my breast I beat;
By wise Ta-Nech I weave my spell.
Show thy star-splendour, O Nuit!
Bid me within thine House to dwell,
O winged snake of light, Hadit!
Abide with me, Ra-Hoor-Khuit!

Note that this version is identical to CCXX 1907 & 1909, with the exception of the removal of the final ‘H’ in the names Nuit and Hadit in the last verse. This indicates that it was highly unlikely the VB was used to proofread this, because it was not needed, and it was probably lost by 1913 anyway. But there had to be a decision made regarding Nuit and Hadit, and AC may have made that one, harmonizing the names with all the other occurrences in CCXX, and making the rhymes work better.

The other possibility, far less likely, is that the editors consulted the POTS from the previous year, changed all the lower case o’s to capitals, changed Ankh-f-n-khonsu’s name, as well as Nuith and Hadith, and most importantly, changed ‘kill’ back to ‘fill’, based on what could only be a referral to XXXI and the pencil note. That seems like a lot more trouble to go to than simply using a version that was almost identical to the finished product. And if the editors had done that, wouldn’t someone notice the discrepancy of fill/kill and discuss it with Crowley? He was at least somewhat involved in the proofing, because he even inserted a note at the end of chapter two regarding a discrepancy between what he remembered hearing, and what was in the ms of XXXI, (the famous harden/harder controversy). But no matter how involved he got, the word ‘kill’ was not used, even though he had corrected this in his own copy, presumably within the previous year or two.

Consider for a moment that in the space of a year and a half, three different printed versions of the SV appeared, in EQ 1(7), 1(9) and 1(10). They could not and did not all have the same source, and whatever sources they did have, it is highly unlikely that the VB was one of them. So none of these can be taken as indicative of the contents of the VB.

If Crowley did not flex his editing muscle for the publication of his most important book in 1913, he got the chance soon enough. An unpublished work of his called The Giant’s Thumb has survived in galleys, and it contains all of the POTS, in what looks like a photo-facsimile, (the same as was done for EOTG in 1936). The section is heavily marked up and edited. Not only is the misspelling of ‘Stele of Revelling’ corrected to ‘Revealing’, but the word ‘Inscriptions’ in the title is changed to ‘Hieroglyphs’, and all of the lower case o’s are marked to be changed to capitals. However, the names of Ankh-f-n-khonsu, Nuith and Hadith are not marked for change. Despite these editorial comments, the proofs were presumably nowhere to be found by 1936, when the POTS saw their next publication. In summary, all three printed versions of the POTS are the same (one with penciled corrections to three letter o’s), and all of them use the word Kill.

The next time the POTS were published was in the ambitious volume known as The Equinox of the Gods, {technically EQ III(3)}, which purported to finally adhere to all the instructions from Aiwass regarding the publication of the Book of the Law and an account of the events that led up to its reception. Inside the back cover was a pocket holding 65 pages of the original ms XXXI in full size photo facsimile. The text expanded on the TSK that appeared in EQ 1(7), and of course the POTS were present. The two errors of CCXX 1913 were also corrected, and therein is some further evidence.

In Crowley’s personal copy of EQ 1(10), which contained his best version of CCXX to date, he made a correction to change the wrongly capitalized “The tomb” to “the tomb” in verse III:34. No other corrections were indicated. Gerald Yorke, caretaker of much of Crowley’s material after his death, made the following note regarding AC’s correction: “Alterations in the hand of A.C. for the printers in preparing The Equinox of the Gods”. This was the ONLY correction Crowley made in that volume. This is evidence that he clearly was looking over the ‘best’ version he had of CCXX, with an eye to insure its accurate publication. And he did not bother at all to request that Fill be changed to Kill. Furthermore, as a supplementary piece of evidence, in the accompanying errata slip for this volume, no mention is made that the word Fill is a mistake. From this we can conclude that Crowley was satisfied with the contents of the book as it appeared in EOTG, except for the errata that were duly noted, since the book was proofread both before and after publication.

Here is an instance where we have a ‘master copy’ of Liber CCXX intended to record discrepancies, and actually used as such, and the opportunity to use it to finally correct his ‘mistake’ about the word Fill is passed up. This volume of CCXX was known to have been used for purposefully editing Liber Legis. The absence of any correction to Fill here speaks as loudly, if not more so, than the presence of the marginal ‘K’ in CCXX 1909. The 1909 CCXX did have three corrections, but only two of them were implemented, and probably by use of different source material. And if CCXX 1909 WAS used for editing, which is unlikely, the change to Kill was obviously ignored.

To summarize the instances of the SV as they appeared in print in AC’s lifetime:

CCXX 1907/1909 versions (identical)
CCXX 1913 version (and subsequent)
TSK 1912, TGT 1915, EOTG 1936 (identical)
TGI (ca. 1904)
EQ 1(9) Bartzabel

Also one appearance, in the Liber Cadaveris manuscript, of three of the SV.

Of these published and private versions, Fill was printed 6 times in CCXX and 1 time in Bartzabel; Kill was printed in the POTS 3 times (identical), 1 time in The Great Invocation, and written out 2 times: once in LC, and once as a replacement letter in Thelema 1909. If we consider only those instances where the text was actually published, we have 6 times for Fill and 2 times for Kill. If all versions of CCXX are considered as the same instance of the SV, and all versions of the POTS as the same instance of that version, then there have been two appearances of Fill and only one appearance of Kill in print. No matter how one looks at it, Fill was preferred over Kill in all formats.

The Argument

This is the extent of the literary and publishing evidence available to us so far. Surely other information will come to light in the future that may provide evidence for one side of the argument or the other. But any amount of evidence may become moot in light of the general pronouncement on the subject made by the editor William Breeze, who, again, is not speaking as Frater Superior of the OTO, nor as an officer of the A.’.A.’. The following quote was from his online posting regarding the changing, or ‘correction’ if you will, of the text of Liber CCXX:

“That the correction was made to the text’s first publication under its Class A imprimatur gives the correction the authority of Class A. In other words, his correction plainly means that there was a failure of accuracy in the 1909 Class A printing that he wanted corrected. His correction outweighs all secondary indications to the contrary, even when taken together.”

The first difficulty with such a conclusion is that it negates any amount of evidence to the contrary, and dismisses it out of hand. Since the whole premise for the change hangs from the slender thread of a single handwritten annotation, the only way to bolster the importance of such a single piece of evidence is to deny that any other evidence could contradict it! There is certainly a problem with such an approach, because it puts all corrections of Class A texts by Crowley immediately in Class A, regardless of whether they were ever implemented in print. This creates a paradox, because Class A documents are by definition not to be changed by so much as a letter!

In such a case, there must needs be a clear definition of when a document has attained Class A status and when it has not. The presumption is that it is Class A as soon as it is written down, (by hand, as all of AC’s Class A works were done). Transferring them to a typeset version is simply making the text available to be printed and distributed. Therefore, if one misspells a word that appears in Liber XXXI, (such as ‘ecstacy’ in CCXX 1913), there is certainly no difficulty in making the comparison to the original, and correcting the typo. But in the present instance, there is NO original to compare to, and the closest thing to the original, the pencil note in XXXI, clearly says ‘fill’, not ‘kill’. By all of the available evidence, and Mr. Breeze’s own admission, the VB was not available to AC when he made this ‘correction’ in his copy of Thelema 1909.

So from what authority is this Class A text being changed? Having painted oneself in a logical corner, there is only one place to turn: Crowley himself is the authority. He is the ‘executive editor” of the Book of the Law, empowered to make determinations on the status of words in Class A documents, whether or not he is consulting an original ms. to see if it conforms to the document. And with this logical move, Mr. Breeze has sidestepped the whole issue of taking responsibility for the change, and placed it squarely on the shoulders of Aleister Crowley. OTO members who would be forced to accept such a change (in contradiction to their pledges), are invited to do the same, for it is not they who are changing CCXX, it is Crowley.

What this approach amounts to is this: something is a Class A document when Aleister Crowley says it is. And actually, that has been the case since the beginning, for after all, Crowley was the one who invented the classification in the first place. But whereas all the other dozen Holy Books of Thelema were penned by him and put in this Class, only CCXX specifically says within its text not to change a letter. It is the ultimate origin of the whole idea of Class A.

There is really no court of higher resort in this matter, once the premise is accepted that Crowley can decide Class A on his own volition. Since so much weight is being put on the prophet’s shoulders in this instance, and all of the justification for a change is borne by a single pencil note, it should be demonstrable – beyond a reasonable doubt – that Crowley intended such a correction to be made to the text. Unfortunately, that is precisely where the evidence is not forthcoming. Not only is there no VB to consult for the original, there is no other indication that the crossed out ‘F’ means unequivocally that the text of CCXX must be changed. It is good evidence for such, but the complete lack of any attempt to actually implement such a change speaks as evidence against it.

This is where the seemingly hermetic argument of ‘let Crowley decide it’ meets the preponderance of all the other evidence. Because in absence of a clear statement such as “change this word to this”, the ONLY corroboration for a change can come from supplementary evidence. But this is the very evidence being denied in the first place! We are no longer in the world of sensible arguments. We have entered the world of sophistry.

Nor can the current editor have it both ways. If supplementary evidence is not necessary, then it does no good to invoke the appearance of the POTS as a bolster to the argument that AC preferred ‘kill’. It no longer matters how many times ‘kill’ or ‘fill’ appeared in print. All that matters is that one day AC took his pencil and crossed out an F and wrote in a K. To quote Ramses II “so it has been written, so it shall be done.”

But there is a converse to this as well. If corrections made on a printed document indicate that they should be changed, then LACK of corrections obviously means they should not be changed. How then are we to consider the case of Crowley’s personal copy of Thelema 1913, used to make a correction for EOTG? He clearly was marking an error in the text of CCXX, yet chose not to make the correction of the word ‘fill’ to ‘kill’ in v III:37. The only way out is to say he simply missed this one. But one cannot prove a negative. It is unsustainable to argue that he simply overlooked this word, because there is no positive proof that he did so. There is only the evidence that he did indeed change a minor capitalization in the text, which would indicate he was looking very closely at it. While we may force ourselves to ignore all the evidence that Crowley published CCXX with ‘fill’, we can hardly ignore that he left it alone when he was actually using the text for proofreading. If the correction to CCXX can hang from a single penciled note, which is scant evidence indeed, then keeping CCXX unchanged can hang from the equally scant evidence that Crowley proofread his own copy of CCXX and did not make such a correction. QED

To return to the original question; when does a document achieve Class A status? The only definition of Class A has now become: a document is Class A when Crowley, through the A.’.A.’., publishes it as such. And it remains Class A, with unchangeable contents, until AC (or an editor working from an original) determines otherwise. But this determination need not be published.

The situation is similar to when the Pope creates a Cardinal in pectore (i.e., in secret). Such a Cardinal is not announced publicly, and cannot enjoy the rights of his office until he is officially announced. And if the Pope should happen to die before such an announcement – even if he leaves behind documents that show he has elevated the man to Cardinal, the presumptive Cardinal never receives the red hat. The only difference in the analogy is that although Crowley died, and never made ‘kill’ Class A in his lifetime, the word is being elevated to Class A nonetheless.

The last remaining difficulty with the present situation is this; what if Crowley changed his mind? What if he decided that ‘fill’ was right after all? What if he found the VB and realized it had ‘fill’ in it all along? Where would he make such a note? Would he write it in his diaries? (he certainly didn’t write down the instance of crossing out the ‘f’ and replacing it with a ‘k’). He couldn’t erase the note in Thelema 1909, because he had given it away. His only sensible course of action would be to never change the text as it stood. Which is precisely what happened. And what the lack of correction in his CCXX 1913 indicates.

We may never know the reason why Crowley always printed Liber CCXX with the phrase “Aum! Let if fill me!”. Was he afraid to change the text? Did he forget the change he previously wanted to make? Did he search for the vellum book, and lacking it, decided he could not justify changing it? These are questions that cannot be answered. All that can be said is that he never changed it in print in his lifetime. And in the absence of positive evidence for his motives, changing this sentence now is presumptuous at best. It would be far better to footnote the discrepancy, and make extensive notes about it. It could even be incorporated into a long chapter on the history of Liber CCXX and all of its editions. But whatever is done with the information about the penciled correction in Thelema 1909, it is by no means an imperative that Liber CCXX must be changed. To make the leap from ‘this was changed by Crowley at some point in 1912’ to ‘Crowley wanted this permanently changed in CCXX to make the edition correct’ is a huge leap of faith. And Nuit has promised Thelemites certainty, not faith. Where is the certainty in this change?

Love is the law, love under will.
RLG