A Brief History Of Liber Al Vel Legis

A Brief History Of Liber Al Vel Legis Cover Liber AL vel Legis is also known as “The Book of the Law,” “Liber AL” (pronounced “Lee-ber El”), “Liber Legis” (“Book of the Law” in Latin), “Liber 220” and other names, all of which refer to the same text. This book was “received” by aleister crowley on the three consecutive days of April 8, 9, and 10 in 1904. He claims to have heard a voice over his left shoulder for exactly one hour each day, starting right at noon, dictating the three chapters of Liber AL vel Legis on each day. Crowley identified this being who was dictating Liber AL vel Legis as “Aiwass.” He writes in Equinox of the Gods, “[Aiwass] is the name given by W. to P. as that of her informant”9 meaning that Rose Crowley, his wife, initially gave Crowley (who is “P.” or Frater Perdurabo, which was a motto Crowley took on as a Neophyte in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1898) the name of this being. He continues, “Also it is the name given as that of the revealer of Liber Legis”10 which is in conformity with line 7 of chapter 1 in Liber AL vel Legis (henceforth noted in the form of “AL I:7”): “Behold! It is revealed by Aiwass, the minister of Hoor-paar-kraat.” Crowley admits, “whether Aiwass is a spiritual being, or a man known to Fra. P., is a matter of the merest conjecture.”11 Crowley sometimes felt that Aiwass was a spiritual being, his own Holy Guardian Angel, his True Self, his subconscious, or just an adept. Who Aiwass actually was is really not of concern in this treatise, for what is said in Liber AL vel Legis should stand on its own merit – “Success is your proof,” as it says in AL III:46. Either way, to Crowley, “this Book [Liber AL vel Legis] proves: there is a Person thinking and acting in a praeterhuman manner, either without a body of flesh, or with the power of communicating telepathically with men and inscrutably directing their actions.”

The tradition of Thelema could be said to have been formally inaugurated when Crowley received Liber AL vel Legis in 1904. In Liber AL it is declared “The word of the Law is Aleph” (AL I:39) which is “Thelema,” or “Will” in Greek. It continues, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” (AL I:40) and also “There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt” (AL III:60), as if we hadn’t already gotten the picture. An argument against the idea that Crowley established Thelema in 1904 with the reception of Liber AL might mention that the words “Do what thou wilt” have been uttered at least twice before. Firstly, St. Augustine of Hippo wrote “Dilige, et quod vis fac” in his Confessions at the end of the 4th century CE, which means “Love, and do what thou wilt.” Here St.Augustine means that if one loves God, one is free to act because their will is surrendered to the will of God (and therefore apparently can’t possibly act wrongly). Though the wording is extremely similar, this is not what is meant by Liber AL vel Legis in its aphorisms of “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). As Crowley says in “Message of the Master Therion” so concisely, “While Will is the Law, the nature of that Will is Love. Love is as it were a byproduct of that Will; it does not contradict or supersede that Will; and if apparent contradiction should arise in any crisis, it is the Will that will guide us aright. Lo, while in The Book of the Law is much of Love, there is no word of Sentimentality.” Here he explicitly states that the “Love” in Liber AL is not the sentimental love that many think of when first hearing the word, and it is especially not love of the orthodox Judeo-Christian-Islamic notion of a vengeful Father-in-the-sky God. The idea of “Love” in a Thelemic context will be more fully treated in later chapters.

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