The Book of the Law

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The full title of this book is

Liber AL vel Legis
sub figura CCXX
The Book of the Law
as delivered by XCIII=418 to DCLXVI

Front cover art for the book The Book of the Law

The religion known as Thelema was established with the writing of The Book of the Law. It was written (or received) by Aleister Crowley in Cairo, Egypt in the year 1904. It contains three chapters, each of which was written down in one hour, beginning at noon, on April 8th, 9th, and 10th. Crowley claims that the author was an entity named Aiwass, whom he later identified as his own Holy Guardian Angel. The teachings within this small book are clearly expressed in the Law of Thelema, expressed by these two phrases:

  • "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law" (AL I:40) and
  • "Love is the law, love under will" (AL I:57)

Interpretation of this book is considered a matter for the individual, and openly promoting personal ideas about its meaning is strongly discouraged. Although Crowley expressed the desire to see the Law of Thelema promulgated in all areas of society, success in this endeavor is to be based on others willfully following the the good example of Thelemites rather than by evangelization or direct attempts to convert others. "Success is thy proof: argue not; convert not; talk not over much!" (AL III:42)

The Writing of Liber Legis

The Summons

According to Crowley, the story begins on March 16, 1904, when he tries to “shew the Sylphs” by means of a ritual to his wife, Rose. Although she could see nothing, she did seem to enter into a light trance and repeatedly said, "They're waiting for you!" Since Rose had no interest in magick or mysticism, he took little interest. However, on the 18th, after invoking Thoth (the god of knowledge), she mentions Horus by name as the one waiting for him. Crowley, still skeptical, asks her numerous questions about Horus, which she answers accurately—without having any prior study of the subject. The final proof was Rose’s identification of Horus in the Stele of Revealing, then housed in the Boulak museum, with the exhibit number 666.

On March 20, Crowley invokes Horus, “with great success.” Between March 23 and April 8, Crowley has the hieroglyphs on the Stele translated. Also, Rose reveals that her “informant” was not Horus himself, but his messenger, Aiwass. Finally, on April 7, Rose gives Crowley his instructions—for three days he is to enter the “temple” and write down what he heard between noon and 1:00pm.

The Writing

Crowley wrote the Book of the Law on April 8, 9, and 10, between the hours of noon and 1:00pm. He describes the “Voice of Aiwass” as coming from over his left shoulder, as if the speaker were standing in the corner of the room. The voice was said to be passionate, of deep timbre, and musical, without any recognizable accent.

Although he did not look around the room, Crowley had the impression that Aiwass was a body of “fine matter” like a “veil of gauze.” He further describes Aiwass as a “tall, dark man in his thirties, well-knit, active and strong, with the face of a savage king, and eyes veiled lest their gaze should destroy what they saw” (Crowley, 1997).

Crowley also makes it very clear that it was not “automatic writing,” but that the experience was exactly like an actual voice speaking to him. This is evidenced by several errors that the scribe actually had to inquire about. He does admit to the possibility that Aiwass was a manifestation of his own subconscious. But even were this so, he claimed that the message imparted by Aiwass was so beyond human experience or knowledge that it necessitated a praeternatural intelligence that only a god could possess.

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Document Source

  • This page was originally sourced from Thelemapedia. Retrieved May 2009.