The Book of the Law
Aleister Crowley’s Bible for the Thelemites
In 1904, a rather infamous occultist named Aleister Crowley founded the religion of Thelema, and it has been propagated by his followers ever since. As part of that, the central text of their faith is The Book of the Law, more properly known as Liber AL vel Legis sub figura CCXX as delivered by XCIII = 418 to DCLXVI. It is, without a doubt, one of the most unusual books that I’ve ever read. There’s even an amazing comment at the end of it, better than in any magical grimoire or rare esoteric tome in any library on Earth.
As the story goes, the masterfully channeled volume proclaimed the arrival of the Aeon of Horus, the age of the Crowned and Conquering Child — marking the end of the Aeon of Osiris. This was because, up until that time, Crowley claimed that the history of the world had been divided into two eons: the matriarchal Aeon of Isis and then the patriarchal Aeon of Osiris.
It all began in early 20th century Cairo, Egypt, where Aleister Crowley was contacted by a disembodied voice identifying itself as Aiwass, minister of Ra-Hoor-Khuit, the lord of the New Aeon. Aiwass instructed Crowley to be prepared to write down everything he would say from noon to one on April 8th, 9th, and 10th of 1904. Thus, a minute before Aiwass began, Crowley entered the ritual chamber and sat in front of a pile of typewriter paper. Then, he picked up a fountain pen and wrote down what he heard verbatim, as Aiwass spoke to him in a rich tenor voice that changed in expressiveness with the mood of the message. Crowley heard the voice of Aiwass coming from behind him, out of the corner of the room.
Here’s the thing though, while the three chapters of The Book of the Law were dictated by Aiwass, each one is in the voice of a different ancient Egyptian deity, which has now become part of the Thelemic pantheon. That is to say, the 66 passages in the first chapter were spoken by Nuit, the 75 passages in the second chapter were spoken by Hadit, and the 79 passages in the third chapter were spoken by Ra-Hoor-Khuit. They are the three speakers of The Book of the Law, by means of Aiwass — which may or may not have been Aleister Crowley’s “Holy Guardian Angel” as described in The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage.
Then again, another popular theory is that Aiwass is an emissary of the “Secret Chiefs” from the “Invisible College”. They are believed to be ascended masters who achieved enlightenment and moved on to the spirit world. Countless magical secret societies have claimed to be in contact with them, in one form or another, all throughout history. Regardless, the point is that, no matter what, Thelemites treat the strange mix of poetry, prose, and cryptograms in The Book of the Law as divinely revealed scripture. Granted, there are some Thelemites who believe that the deities are more archetypal or even just metaphorical, not literal gods and goddesses.
Along with this, looking back on the history of the occult in the West, I think it’s important to understand that, The Book of the Law changed the way in which the cards in certain Tarot decks are labeled and ordered. To explore this a bit, consider the following passage, from the 48th verse of the first chapter:
“My prophet is a fool with his one, one, one; are not they the Ox, and none by the Book?”
To the untrained eye, that sentence makes no sense at all. However, to the trained eye, the sentence above is seen as a set of esoteric references that correspond to leading the Tarot with The Fool card, numbering it as zero, and simultaneously linking it to the Hebrew letter Aleph. That is to say, through an application of the gematria cipher, the value of Aleph is as follows: ALP=1+30+80=111. In addition to that, the ox is the hieroglyphic meaning for the letter name Aleph, and the number on The Fool card should be 0, or “none by the Book”.
In another example of how these complex codes work, in the 57th verse of the first chapter of The Book of the Law, Crowley wrote the following:
“All these old letters of my Book are aright; but צ is not the Star.”
Here, The Book of the Law clearly indicates that the Hebrew letter Tzaddi should not be allocated to The Star, which is card number 17 in the Tarot. Then, the 73rd verse in the third chapter of The Book of the Law describes the process by which the substitute Hebrew letter is determined, using the Atbash cipher. So, according to The Book of the Law the substitute letter for Tzaddi is Heh, resulting in the following attributions:
The most sacred text of Thelema also accurately predicted the correct decipherment of the English alphabet, which no occultist had ever been able to do before. This possibly helps authenticate and validate The Book of the Law or at least prove how brilliant Aleister Crowley really was. Either way, the point is that The Book of the Law called for dramatic change to the Major Arcana, which are the trump cards in the Tarot. So, a number of corrections were made in the Thoth Tarot developed by Crowley — as described in The Book of Thoth in 1944. This is important because the Tarot has come to serve as a pictorial guidebook containing the secrets of the ages in symbolic form.
Of course, one of the most fascinating connections that can be made in The Book of the Law is as follows. In the 39th verse of the third chapter, the passage mentions “the word secret”. This is revealed in the 39th verse of the first chapter, which states that:
“The word of the law is θέλημα.”
Interestingly enough, by the process of the English serial Qabalah:
Similarly, by the process of the Greek Pythagorean Qabalah:
Furthermore, a simple English/Greek Qabalistic formula can be used to tie together the 39th verse of the first and third chapters of The Book of the Law with a double value of 93. This is important because by applying isopsephy to the two central terms in Thelemic philosophy — Will and Love — the result is as follows:
- Thelema: (Θελημα) = (9+5+30+8+40+1) = 93
- Agape: (Αγαπη) = (1+3+1+80+8) = 93
In Thelemic terminology, 93 93/93 is a shorthand code for the phrase:
“Love is the law, love under will.”
In other words, 93 93/93 = Love Will/Love. For these reasons and many more, the number 93 is the most significant number to the Thelemites. They even use the number to identify one another. Plus, the Hebrew spelling of Aiwass (OIVZ) is equal to 93. It’s all part of what Crowley called “Current 93”, which is an esoteric term he coined to denote the mystical energies now at work in the Aeon of Horus — having manifested as the doctrine of Thelema, as prescribed by The Book of the Law, which was first published in 1909. It was initially part of ΘΕΛΗΜΑ, a collection of the holy books of Thelema which was privately published in London as a three-volume set, with The Book of the Law appearing in Volume III.
In the end, when Aleister Crowley died in 1947, the original copy of The Book of the Law was sent to Karl Germer. He was the head of the Silver Star, or A∴A∴ (Argenteum Astrum) — a magical order that Crowley founded in order to help spread Thelema. However, after Germer died in 1962, no one could find The Book of the Law anywhere among his files. It was seemingly gone forever. Then, in 1986, a man named Tom Whitmore bought a house in Berkeley, California, where he found the original charter of the O.T.O. (Ordo Templi Orientis) — a magical order that Crowley had taken over. Along with that, Whitmore found The Book of the Law. Thankfully, he donated it back to the O.T.O., and ever since then, the Thelemic relic has been in the hands of true believers, right where it belongs.