Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Aleister Crowley’s Commentary on Liber LXV, the Book of the Heart Girt With a Serpent, was written in 1923. It reads as notes for students rather than as a polished manuscript, and was distributed to students of AA, but not made widely available until Phyllis Seckler published it in her periodical In The Continuum in the 1970s.
Liber LXV poured out of Crowley in the course of five evenings in late 1907. The text is a cascade of paradoxical images, references to ancient mythologies, and mystical insights. Crowley was obviously impressed with what had come to him (he disdained claiming authorship in the conventional sense), and later was happy to see the text, with its 325 verses (sixty-five per chapter), in print. But to say it’s easy to read is silly, because the entire intent of the text is to enhance the process of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, which explicitly by-passes rational thought and conventional notions of cause and effect.
Having, by 1923, been through the experience of the Abbey of Thelema at Cefalu, and tried to guide a number of students toward K&C, he appreciated better the obstacles facing aspirants to A∴A∴. This Commentary was one outcome of such increased understanding.
I’ve recently spent considerable time on the Commentary, though I usually re-read it every year. Students all have their own favourite verses or passages, and for me, it’s Chapter III, which I had to memorise to pass into A∴A∴ Neophyte.
The segment from this chapter that I’ve quoted below drew my attention for use in this blog, because as much as any set of comments Crowley ever wrote, it hints at his understanding of what the HGA is. Beginners in Thelema often hunt for a workable definition of the HGA, not fully grasping that it’s the HGA which defines them, and they get frustrated that there isn’t a two-sentence statement on record that gives them what they want. But in his observations below, Crowley provides significant clues about That which we’re all seeking. The regular type is the text of Liber LXV, and the italics are the Commentary.
Love is the law, love under will,
— ooooo —
21. I, and Me, and Mine were sitting with lutes in the market-place of the great city, the city of the violets and the roses.
22. The night fell, and the music of the lutes was stilled.
23. The tempest arose, and the music of the lutes was stilled.
24. The hour passed, and the music of the lutes was stilled.
25. But Thou art Eternity and Space; Thou art Matter and Motion; and Thou art the negation of all these things.
26. For there is no Symbol of Thee.
21-26. The idea of the Ego must not be used to unite the experience of the Adept. The music of Life ceases (in such a case) whenever doubt darkens, trouble disturbs, or time wearies the consciousness. The Adept must lose himself wholly in the consciousness of his Angel, which is beyond all such limitations and immune to all attacks – for He is not to be expressed by any fixed Image, such as might be destroyed.
27. If I say Come up upon the mountains! the celestial waters flow at my word. But thou art the Water beyond the waters.
28. The red three-angled heart hath been set up in Thy shrine; for the priests despised equally the shrine and the god.
29. Yet all the while Thou wast hidden therein, as the Lord of Silence is hidden in the buds of the lotus.
30. Thou art Sebek the crocodile against Asar; thou art Mati, the Slayer in the Deep. Thou art Typhon, the Wrath of the Elements, O Thou who transcendest the Forces in their Concourse and Cohesion, in their Death and their Disruption. Thou art Python, the terrible serpent about the end of all things.
27-30. The Adept learns to control all varieties of image which present themselves, and to create any he may wish, but his Angel represents the Ideal which is his limit in this matter. All ideas of which he may be capable are comprised in the nature of his Angel.
28-29. These verses are especially obscure, and must to a certain extent so remain. For they contain an allusion to the most secret and critical issue of the Magical career of To Mega Therion. “The red three-angled heart” is the peculiar symbol of Ra-Hoor-Khuit; and the Prophet objected to accepting The Book of the Law, which Proclaims Him, as being incompatible with his Oath to attain the Knowledge and Conversation of his Holy Guardian Angel. Not until nineteen years later did he fully realize that the Holy Guardian Angel was concealed in this symbol Ra-Hoor-Khuit. The “priests” seem here to represent the Secret Chiefs of the A∴A∴ who executed their purpose of establishing the Law by means of To Mega Therion in complete disregard of his personal ideas of what his Work (“shrine”) and the object of his adoration (“god”) might be. The metaphor at the end of verse 29 reminds us that the lotus (Isis-Nature) conceals beneath its outward semblance the secret perfections of the Child.
30. The Holy Guardian Angel is now further identified not only with cognate symbols like Ra-Hoor-Khuit, but with ostensibly hostile glyphs. He is to be found in all phenomena soever.
31. I turned me about thrice in every way; and always I came at the last unto Thee.
32. Many things I beheld mediate and immediate; but, beholding them no more, I beheld Thee.
31-32. In whatever direction the Adept chooses to move, he must come eventually to his Angel. All that he sees is but a veil upon His Face.
33. Come thou, O beloved One, O Lord God of the Universe, O Vast One, O Minute One! I am Thy beloved.
34. All day I sing of Thy delight; all night I delight in Thy song.
35. There is no other day or night than this.
36. Thou art beyond the day and the night; I am Thyself, O my Maker, my Master, my Mate!
33-36. This passage, purely lyrical, requires no special comment. It asserts the ultimate identity of all Ideas with the Angel, including himself, whom he recognizes as united with Him in the triune relation of Father, Ruler, and Bridegroom, the source of his Being, the determinant of his Will, and the inspiration of his Joy and his Fertility.