- Counter-Currents - https://counter-currents.com -

116 Years of Aleister Crowley’s The Book of the Law

4,533 words

To say that Aleister Crowley was a very colorful individual would be an understatement. He was known for his many talents arising from his great intellect, as well as some disagreeable personality quirks. In his time, some called him the “world’s most wicked man,” which certainly was an overstatement. He was a favorite target for hordes of third-rate journalists. We understand!

He called himself “The Great Beast 666” and took it seriously. This was a sobriquet dating back to his adolescent rebellion from growing up in a fundamentalist household. He had a unique perspective on the Biblical Book of Revelations, regarding himself not as evil but as a figure of enlightenment. Understandably, it didn’t help his popularity; bad “optics” and all that! Objectively, he wasn’t really quite so diabolical, though he did have certain antinomian tendencies, to put things kindly.

Crowley’s writings on the subject of magick (his preferred spelling, distinguishing it from stage magic) can get quite opaque. For those interested in deeper study, having a background in Qabalah will be enormously helpful, since that was his cosmological yardstick. Dion Fortune’s The Mystical Qabalah (London: Society of Inner Light, 1935) is a great introduction to the hermetic side of it. Qabalah does have many facets. It’s better known as Jewish mysticism in decline since the Renaissance, as well as a resurgent celebrity fad. Strong influences of Neoplatonism are evident, and the connection would be a good topic of scholarly inquiry. Fortunately for newcomers, knowledge of hermetic Qabalah isn’t essential to understanding Liber Legis, though it does reveal some layers of meaning, such as the numerology and tarot references.

A brief introduction to the Book of the Law

Crowley is best known as a modern magician and the creator of Thelema, a religion built largely around the Western hermetic tradition. Its founding text and most important scripture is Liber AL vel Legis [1], sub figura 220, abbreviated as Liber Legis which means The Book of the Law. Its three chapters, each describing a revelation by a particular Egyptian deity, were written from April 8-10 of 1904. Crowley himself is called Ankh-f-n-Khonsu, taking on the role of a reincarnated priest of ancient times.

Were these indeed divine revelations, or a product of Crowley’s subconscious mind? I would tend to agree with the latter, and he did state that this was a possibility. The entire document was in his very unique writing style, which argues against it being an authentic case of spirit channeling. Moreover, it contains some minor variances from more recent findings in Egyptology, as well as the terms “the obeah and the wanga” appearing to be out of context. That does not make the book meaningless, of course. Rather, this suggests that it’s better not to regard it as an infallible scripture that must be read in a fundamentalist fashion.

Either way, Liber Legis does have some interesting, and fairly accurate, prognostications about how behind-the-scenes power dynamics in world politics have developed since then. One major problem is that the grand vision it expresses has gone astray. It isn’t being carried out by the batch of aristocratic libertines that Crowley had intended.

He regarded Liber Legis as ushering in a new era, the Aeon of Horus. It’s better known to us as the Age of Aquarius, which apparently had been in the works well before the famous song announced its dawning in 1967. Much less cheerfully, the Hindu tradition calls it the Kali Yuga, an era of decline and destruction. (Does that sound more familiar?) If this turns out to be just as he described it, then we’re in for some interesting times, since each aeon lasts about two thousand years.

The document had a brief afterword, the “Tunis Comment,” which warns readers to destroy it after the first reading and also includes the following:

Those who discuss the contents of this Book are to be shunned by all, as centres of pestilence.

All questions of the Law are to be decided only by appeal to my writings, each for himself.

Very clever! Declaring discussion taboo helped to avoid disputes and challenges to Crowley’s authority. In spite of his own advice, he released two in-depth commentaries on Liber Legis. (Actually, chapter 3 lines 39-40 include a positive commandment to write a commentary.) The problem is that abiding by his dictum not to discuss it obviously makes it impossible to say anything at all about the book. However, I’m disinclined to obey demands to make particular topics off-limits; these days, that sort of goes along with being a Fascist.

You can buy James O’Meara’s book The Eldritch Evola here. [2]

All that said, the following should be regarded as unofficial speculation rather than any official position of Thelema. Moreover, there is much more to the book than the selected topics covered by the following analysis. Now, onto Liber Legis itself [3]. . .

Chapter 1 – Nuit

Nuit is the deity representing the night sky; basically, the vault of heaven, as the ancients would’ve understood. She also represents the infinite vastness of interstellar space, more in lines with modern astronomy, a portrayal well-represented in the document. (Interestingly, conceiving of the cosmos as a manifestation of the divine feminine comes up as a minor point in Frank Herbert’s classic Dune.) Her chapter as a whole is enigmatic, with a touching beauty overall.

The opening serves as an invocation, for the most part. Then early on, the theme of an oligarchy ruling over oblivious masses appears:

Let my servants be few & secret: they shall rule the many & the known.
These are fools that men adore; both their Gods & their men are fools.
Immediately following that is a passage suggesting hedonism, though coming across as surprisingly innocent and touching:
Come forth, o children, under the stars, & take your fill of love!
I am above you and in you. My ecstasy is in yours. My joy is to see your joy.

That seems reminiscent of the spirit of 1960s-style free love eventually to follow, or at least the best aspects of it. In that case, this was permissiveness intended for the ruling class, but was taken up by large parts of the public. Later, line 31 recalls the theme of an oligarchical ruling class given to profligacy.

For these fools of men and their woes care not thou at all! They feel little; what is, is balanced by weak joys; but ye are my chosen ones.

They are to care nothing for the public, which — rather incredibly — is disdained for its moderation.

The essence of Thelema

Line 40 is the most famous part of Liber Legis, worthy of some separate discussion here beyond politics and history:

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

The above does not mean (as some imagine) “do whatever you want.” The line after that does somewhat open the door for hedonism or even anarchy, but that’s not really the object. In Thelema (the name comes from the Greek word for “will”), it has a technical meaning beyond the ordinary contexts. Basically, one’s true will is identical with one’s purpose in life. Discovering this primary objective is an important goal. According to Thelema, one should pursue one’s true will single-mindedly, and everything else is an unwanted distraction. The lines after that detail this position.

This single-minded focus has some approximate parallels in Plato’s Republic. Much is made of the three classes: the rulers, the warriors, and the producers. (This is the same tripartite model of Indo-European societies described by Dumézil and others.) Members of these classes are to stay within their place and not get involved in activities pertaining to other classes. Moreover, they should learn their jobs to perfection and not divert their efforts toward other pursuits. For example, it would be a bad thing for a farmer to moonlight as a shoemaker.

Crowley considered true will to be an absolute basis for natural rights, but the drawback is that there is no way to demonstrate it. For example, what if I claimed that my true will was to be a counterfeiter? If that’s my natural right, which I wouldn’t have to prove, then no court could tell me not to print Benjamins on my color laser printer. At most, a judge could suggest that I should perform legal counterfeiting [4] and encourage me to get a job with the Federal Reserve.

Following these passages is some numerology, as well as several very enigmatic passages with theological meaning. The chapter concludes essentially with a beautiful declaration of love. It’s quite fitting; after all, Nuit is the primordial and eternal Miss Universe.

Chapter 2 – Hadit

Nuit represents infinite space, but Hadit is quite the opposite, much like an atom or a mathematical point. This is likely one of the reasons why some consider Liber Legis to be a foretelling of the atomic age. The style of the previous chapter was languid and luxuriant; this one is energetic and driven.

Beginning on line 18, we return to a theme suggesting oligarchy and the recommended attitude toward the common people:

These are dead, these fellows; they feel not. We are not for the poor and sad: the lords of the earth are our kinsfolk.
Beauty and strength, leaping laughter and delicious languor, force and fire, are of us.
We have nothing with the outcast and the unfit: let them die in their misery. For they feel not. Compassion is the vice of kings: stamp down the wretched & the weak: this is the law of the strong: this is our law and the joy of the world. . .

There’s a good dash of Nietzsche there, or perhaps of Ragnar Redbeard [5]. What’s quite ironic is how it works out with the actual oligarchy today. The words “Beauty and strength, leaping laughter and delicious languor, force and fire” don’t quite come to mind regarding soy-faced Silicon Valley tech moguls, who are small-souled bugmen resembling emissaries from the Borg Collective. Neither does that apply to David Rockefeller, Jeffrey Epstein, his father-in-law Robert “The Vampire” Maxwell, or a troublesome 90-year-old high-rolling forex options trader who looks like Emperor Palpatine.

Consider also the absurd spectacle of “woke capital.” Obscenely wealthy exploiters (and sometimes outright crooks) pretend they care for the masses and cloak themselves in phony righteousness. They attempt to demonstrate their virtue by things like noxious token gestures, censorship, blacklisting, and culture distortion. Not only do they get to feel good about themselves, it goes a long way toward preserving their image as Gutmenschen even despite exploitation [6] and shady business practices [7]. Still, if they’re going to oppress the masses, can’t they just be honest about it?

Line 22 brings up hedonism again, this time a different type:

I am the Snake that giveth Knowledge & Delight and bright glory, and stir the hearts of men with drunkenness. To worship me take wine and strange drugs whereof I will tell my prophet, & be drunk thereof! They shall not harm ye at all. It is a lie, this folly against self. The exposure of innocence is a lie. Be strong, o man! lust, enjoy all things of sense and rapture: fear not that any God shall deny thee for this.

That does seem reminiscent of another famous aspect of the 1960s. Again, the ruling class was supposed to indulge, but it became a feature of the counterculture. Crowley had much experience with drug use, which got him a heroin habit. He spurred along the trend from beyond the grave. The story goes that he tripped on mescaline with Aldous Huxley, who went on to become a counterculture favorite. Crowley also was an inspiration for Timothy Leary.

You can order Kerry Bolton’s More Artists of the Right, Aleister Crowley, here. [8]

I’ll have to differ with the opinion that drug use never has consequences [9]. One needn’t even be a paternalistic Fascist spoilsport like me to realize this. For whatever their shortcomings, garden-variety conservatives tend to understand that too. To their credit, so do liberals who have their heads screwed on reasonably straight.

Then the following suggests the oligarchs will cooperate with each other, while oppressing the masses. Note well, this isn’t what you learned in your civics class about how your government is supposed to operate:

. . . Beware lest any force another, King against King! Love one another with burning hearts; on the low men trample in the fierce lust of your pride, in the day of your wrath.
Ye are against the people, O my chosen!

After that is a brief tirade against rationalism. Actually, line 31 does raise a good point generally regarding confidence:

If Power asks why, then is Power weakness.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The right is out for truth, while the left is out for power. The right must go into the contest for power with at least as much tenacity [10] if we’re going to get ahead.

After a section designating Thelemite holidays, lines 48 and 49 resume the Nietzschean theme:

Pity not the fallen! I never knew them. I am not for them. I console not: I hate the consoled & the consoler.
I am unique & conqueror. I am not of the slaves that perish. Be they damned & dead!

Then line 58 predicts permanent social stratification. We’re not completely there yet, but it’s a problem that’s become much worse in recent times. With the left so dazed by cultural Marxism that they’ve lost most of their class consciousness, opting instead for identity politics, they’ve stopped being the traditional political counterweight to plutocracy. Lately, it falls on the Dissident Right to care about the common people.

Yea! deem not of change: ye shall be as ye are, & not other. Therefore the kings of the earth shall be Kings for ever: the slaves shall serve. There is none that shall be cast down or lifted up: all is ever as it was. Yet there are masked ones my servants: it may be that yonder beggar is a King. A King may choose his garment as he will: there is no certain test: but a beggar cannot hide his poverty.

The “disguised king” motif has a modern parallel too. Some of the New World Order crowd consists of the famous and powerful, and those from prominent families, but also some who nobody has heard about. It took a long time for the public to become aware of George Soros and Jeffrey Epstein. On the other hand, not even your history professors know about Stephen P. Duggan or Jerome D. Green.

The chapter concludes in praise of hedonism and (as before) with some rather mysterious numerology.

Chapter 3 – Ra-Hoor-Khuit

Here we have one of Egypt’s solar deities — basically Horus — who is the child of Nuit and Hadit. Again, recall that the latter represent, respectively, ultimate expansion and contraction. The mythological symbolism is quite apt. Stars are what they are because of a very delicate balance between gaseous pressure to expand and the inward compression of gravity. That results in a stellar core in which a sustained fusion reaction takes place, but in most cases it doesn’t collapse under its own weight like a black hole. If the gravitational constant were even a tiny bit different in either direction, then life on Earth (and any other habitable planets out there) wouldn’t be possible. Sometimes physics and Egyptian mythology are in general agreement.

Other than that, the final chapter of Liber Legis is a difficult one. As a whole, the chapter is considerably more Machiavellian than the previous two. It’s quite militant as well, which will be a challenge for those who value civilization and order, desiring to preserve these things. This appears early on:

Now let it be first understood that I am a god of War and of Vengeance. I shall deal hardly with them.
Choose ye an island!
Fortify it!

Might that refer to the islands of New Zealand, a favorite hideout for billionaire preppers [11]? That much is interesting food for speculation. The warlike theme continues up to line 18; good for a Conan the Barbarian movie but not quite compliant with the Geneva Conventions:

Mercy let be off: damn them who pity! Kill and torture; spare not; be upon them!

Lines 23-25 refer to the ceremonial consumption of blood. In that regard, this does bear a superficial resemblance with “spirit cooking [12],” an odd ritual which has become popular with certain celebrities and top Washington insiders. The Thelemite rite, on the other hand, is called the Gnostic Mass, and is markedly different. As for the blood, these days it’s baked into bread which then is burnt to ash and then baked into the final batch of sacramental bread.

Following that are some instructions for Ankh-f-n-Khonsu (Crowley), as well as a warning to the Scarlet Woman (his wife) not to leave him for an old boyfriend, or else. Perhaps this references a marital quarrel, just as a few of the Quran’s passages are intended to settle disputes between Muhammad’s wives. Several enigmatic passages follow. After that is some unnecessary disparagement of other religions. I may be irreverent, but not that way.

The next lines, 57-59 are rather militant:

Despise also all cowards; professional soldiers who dare not fight, but play; all fools despise!
But the keen and the proud, the royal and the lofty; ye are brothers!
As brothers fight ye!

After some more enigmatic lines, the document concludes.

What is the closest political model?

Clearly, there are some themes repeating in Liber Legis. Essentially it predicts that the world will be controlled by a small group of potentates, largely hidden from the public eye. This is stated early on; to reiterate:

Let my servants be few & secret: they shall rule the many & the known.
These are fools that men adore; both their Gods & their men are fools.

The designated rulers will be bound by no law other than whatever they believe their personal destiny is. Their peers in the ruling class get to be hedonistic and fairly anarchic, while they govern everyone else with an iron fist. The vast majority of the world’s public is intended to be in a subservient role.

You can buy Savitri Devi’s The Lightning and the Sun here [13].

This is not so different from contemporary conditions. For one thing, the above brings to mind the evocative words “conspire to produce an unaware and compliant citizenry [14]” from the DNC email leaks. Perhaps this is a common sentiment among top “swamp creatures” of the Deep State, if not also their lesser minions among the other “inside the Beltway” types.

How could the book be classified politically? Would that be “classical Liber-AL-ism”? Despite some resemblances, it isn’t about anarchism or even the enlightened egoism championed by Objectivism or libertarianism. Again, the plan isn’t for the benefit of the general public. Those at the apex of society are promised nearly absolute freedom, while everyone else is supposed to serve them. That might sound like a lot of fun to some, but the vast majority of the public would be part of the downtrodden masses, and that almost certainly means you.

Is the aristocratic arrangement identical with Fascism? The connection is imprecise. Fascism is focused on the nation. Liber Legis scarcely acknowledges nations, much less their role as sovereign entities. Also, turning the citizens into downtrodden wretches, while the Party’s ruling clique lives like sybarites, is the wrong idea. That’s what Hollywood historiography says Fascism is all about, but that doesn’t quite line up with reality. Instead, the goal of Fascism is to reinvigorate the nation and steer it to greatness. That’s what leaders and other influential figures such as Mussolini, Hitler, Franco, Codreanu, Mosley, and all the rest were attempting to do in spite of very trying conditions. Authoritarian features existed only to serve those goals, and weren’t quite as gratuitous as what you might’ve seen in a TV docudrama.

Authoritarian characteristics are found in Marxist regimes too, despite much advertisement to the contrary of abundant freedom in their People’s Democratic Republics. This also is toward a goal; specifically, the attempt to create a perfected socialist economy. Degenerated conditions did develop, in which the Party set itself up as a privileged class. They used their power to exempt themselves from the austerity faced by the rest of the public. However, lording it over the masses is a bad development in any ideology, even if it’s unfortunately such a common theme in history that liberty seems unusual. Not only is outright tyranny a misuse of power, it eventually can create tremendous resentment and perhaps even revolutionary ferment.

What is the purpose of the iron-fisted control of the public suggested in Liber Legis then? There is no purpose given, so all that it could be is power for its own sake, for the personal benefit and creature comforts of the ruling class. Such an arrangement is standard operating procedure for a kleptocracy, or in other words, a banana republic, no matter what its ideological trappings are. The only difference is that nothing in Liber Legis implies that members of the ruling class should limit their ambitions to their own nation, or even have any particular attachment with it.

The concept is that of a hidden ruling clique operating internationally. At last, we’re to the bottom of it. The closest fit — at least in present conditions — is with globalism, also known under the more colorful term “New World Order.” Many of those characters indeed do live dissolutely [15]. Crowley was onto something with this prediction, though this is not a desirable outcome.

The plan went awry

One paradox here is that Crowley envisioned his followers becoming these masters of the earth, and Liber Legis itself states quite explicitly that Thelemites will be the ruling class. However, it certainly didn’t work out that way. Thelema has drawn the interest of a handful of minor celebrities, and probably has the highest average IQ of all the world’s religions, but it’s mostly a phenomenon for middle-class intellectuals with mystical inclinations. Thelemites are rather like a company’s IT department — the most intelligent people in the building, yet still at the bottom of the corporate ladder, usually taken for granted, and certainly not the wealthiest.

What happened to the plan? Simply put, money talks. Thelemites don’t call the shots around the world, but billionaires do. The problem is not exactly the 1%ers called out by Occupy Wall Street, but rather the 0.001%ers. This goes back a while. Liber Legis was written in 1904, and interesting events were soon to begin unfolding.

According to Carroll Quigley, an influential Anglo-American consortium of business interests was on the rise by then. Networking between the wealthy and powerful began to exert influence over party bosses and kingmakers. Woodrow Wilson became the USA’s first globalist President in 1913, backed by major financiers. The Council on Foreign Relations, the first of the top globalist clubs, was formed soon after. By FDR’s administration, tricky banksters like Baruch, Warburg, and the cockroach Morgenthau were exerting a lot of influence. Eventually, semi-obscure globalist clubs, think tanks, and NGOs began using their influence effectively as a secondary political system. This transnational superstructure has little transparency and (unlike the politicians they use as proxies) isn’t answerable to any constitution or electorate. These days, nouveau riche “woke capital” is playing a somewhat more visible role. All this isn’t exactly the few and secret ruling the many and known, but it’s rather close.

Another paradox is that the oligarchs — limousine leftists who think they deserve to rule the planet — aren’t exactly Nietzschean supermen. Instead, these gauche caviar types tend to be overprivileged weaklings, frequently neurotic, and given to throwing temper tantrums over nothing. As I wrote in Deplorable Diatribes [16]:

Quite unlike blue-collar crooks, globalists are weak and effete. Today, the most bothersome ones are noodle-armed Silicon Valley executives and elderly financiers who look like death warmed over. The geeks couldn’t punch their way out of a wet paper bag, much less the doddering banksters and old stock market swindlers. Wealth has its privileges, of course, but being bulletproof is not one of them. Also, they’re not omnipotent. They’re not magical either!

I prefer settling differences peacefully, but if they cause one engineered crisis too many, they might find themselves facing people who are less patient than I am.

Where do we go from here?

If one takes Crowley’s beliefs at face value, then we’re a century into the new Aeon, and we have nineteen more centuries of the same left to go. With this realization, one might feel rather like I did early in 2009, one month into the Obama administration and wondering how America could endure The Lightworker’s presidency for another three years and eleven months. . . The good news is that although we’re in for a bumpy ride, we might be able to hope for — and more importantly, work toward — better conditions than Clown World. As I wrote further on:

Some have speculated that we’re a century into the “Kali Yuga,” an era of decline where powerful coteries run the show. Still, I’m not so convinced that this is inevitable. Even if it’s true, and that’s just how it’s going to roll with power dynamics for a good while, that doesn’t mean we’re stuck with the same bunch for the duration. The potentates of today will be history one day; maybe this will be a lot sooner than they expected. Dynasties don’t last forever, so hopefully, we might get a better bunch in the future. Folks like the Medicis and Borgias would be preferable to the bozos of Clown World. Back in the day, they had lots of backstabbing and poisoning, but they weren’t hostile to their own societies, and even had a first-rate appreciation for art.

Moreover, although any future ruling class can behave however they can get away with, they can choose higher standards. Tyranny, dissoluteness, excessive opulence, and other things that will cause image problems should be avoided.

Some recent bad examples include Saddam Hussein and his dozens of palaces, his sons Uday and Qusay with their moral depravities and their extensive booze stash, Muammar Qaddafi’s silly outfits and collection of virgin bodyguards, Kim Jong-Il’s ruinously expensive cognac habit, and Kim Jong-Un’s cheeseburger addiction. This sort of thing looks silly at best, and doesn’t inspire respect by the public. Even in earlier times when monarchy was practically the only game in town, it caused avoidable morale problems when royals were obviously out of touch or excessively lorded their status over the public. Moreover, sloth and hedonism often cause weakness. One can hardly imagine Spartan kings living dissolutely; they knew better.

Other than that, a future ruling clique doesn’t necessarily have to be comprised of members of a fairly obscure religion like Thelema. Neither must power inevitably go to members of a far more prominent ethnoreligious group, Deep State “swamp creatures,” nouveau riche woke capital, other tricky New World Order types, or even rich Italians. Perhaps — with much effort and good fortune — we might get to have our say in our own societies. Moreover, a responsible batch of rulers can choose to exercise personal moderation, refrain from oppressing the public, reinvigorate the nation, and steer it to greatness.

Finally, surely the whole concept of obscure prophecies will seem a bit flaky to some of us. In that case, then we can go forward with the maxim that the future is what we make it.