On Aleister Crowley’s Book of the Law motto “Do what thou wilt”—part 1 of 3

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Note: this series has been updated and published within my book “Aleister Crowley’s Influence on Pop-Occulture: How an Obscure Occultist Influences Culture from Beyond the Grave.”

The most that many know of Aleister Crowley is his (in)famous motto “Do what thou wilt.”

Beyond that, they may know other useful tidbits such as that he referred to himself as “Baphomet,” “The Beast 666,” “To Mega Therion (the great best)” and was known as the wickedest or most wicked man in the world.

Aleister Crowley was a satanic black magician (or rather, magickian), intensely sexually perverse, a drug addict and an all-around glorifier of all things demonic. Crowley is also very, very, very influential in very, very, very many areas of culture, history, the magickal arts and much more. You can find his hidden left hand behind everything from Jack Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard to the Lock Ness Monster and the alien grays.

And this is barely even scratching the surface which is actually why we will merely focus on one Crowley related issue; his (in)famous motto.

But what is the motto? Well, that is the place to start. In a manner of speaking it is not Crowley’s motto meaning that it was not directly authored by Crowley but by one of his demonic cohorts.

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Aleister Crowley had what is known in this context as “scarlet women,” those, including his wives, who were unfortunate enough to have anything to do with him (some of whom ended up in insane asylums). One was his wife Rose who became entranced whilst in Egypt with Crowley. Upon Crowley’s request that she identify the entity speaking to her while they visited the Cairo Museum, she identified the ancient Egyptian artifact known as the Stele of Ankh-ef-en-Khonsu aka Stele of revealing which was conveniently exhibit number 666 (see the video Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page: “Lucifer Rising” and the stairway to hell (and Eddie Murphy) for a view of this).

Aleister Crowley decided to conduct a ritual, a working whereby to summon the being who subsequently dictated the Book of the law which contains the motto.

But what is the motto? Well, firstly keep in mind that what gives the motto its meaning is its context so that is something to which we shall get.

Some quote the mottos simply as, “Do what thou wilt.” Others add to it thusly, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” and yet others quote in in whole, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law. Lover under will.”

Some note that simply quoting “Do what thou wilt” or “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” is why the motto gets such a bad rep as this makes it sound like it is an invitation, if not commandment, to just do whatever you want. However, with the addition of the last portion, “Love is the law. Lover under will” we get a fuller context and the motto turns into a beautiful, life affirming, peace, love and happiness sort of statement.

Well, context expands from immediate to greater (and beyond to cultural, historical, etc.) and so what defines just what is meant by, let us focus on, “love” and “will” is both the preceding and following sentence, the paragraph and the text as a whole.

Note that, to begin with the Book of the Law’s chapter one verse 3 states, “Every man and every woman is a star” which makes you wonder, or finally know, why we refer to celebrities as “stars.”

Verse 7 notes that “it is revealed by Aiwass” which some read as “I WAS” which they then see as a reversal, of sorts, of YHVH’s statement in Exodus 3: “I AM” or “IAM that I AM.” Note that former Magister Templi in the Church of satan who is now the Magus of the Chaos Imperium Diabolus Rex Church (whose name appears to mean something to the likes of: the devil is the king of the church) has stated, “I am that I am not” (see Self-deification and the magick craft).

Verse 10 states, “Let my servants be few & secret” hinting secret societies, mystery religions, etc.

Verses 12-13 begins to provide that which we seek, “take your fill of love! I am above you and in you. My ecstasy is in yours. My joy is to see your joy.” See, it is all positive and beautiful.

Verse 15 offers some identifications, “Now ye shall know that the chosen priest & apostle of infinite space is the prince-priest the Beast; and in his woman called the Scarlet Woman is all power given. They shall gather my children into their fold: they shall bring the glory of the stars into the hearts of men.”

Verse 18 also makes an interesting reference, “Burn upon their brows, o splendrous serpent!”

Verse 21b gets right to the point of identifying the messenger, “…there is no other God than me, and my lord Hadit.”

Now, since this is coming from a deceiving spirit who is dealing in secret info it gets a bit confusing but note that verse 1 stated simply, “Had! The manifestation of Nuit.” Verse 6 stated, “Be thou Hadit, my secret centre, my heart & my tongue!” Verses 7-9, “Behold! it is revealed by Aiwass…The Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in the Khabs. Worship then the Khabs, and behold my light shed over you!”

Yeah, Aiwass, Nuit, Hadit, etc. shed light alright, “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2nd Corinthians 11:14).

Verse 27 refers to the “Queen of Space” which is reminiscent of the Biblical “Queen of Heaven” who is an abominable idol (and the name of which Catholics have applied Mary, see Roman Catholic Maryology: Mary in Roman Catholicism, part 14 – Queen of Heaven?) and verses 33-34 actually references, “Queen of Heaven” in this way:

Then the priest fell into a deep trance or swoon, & said unto the Queen of Heaven; Write unto us the ordeals; write unto us the rituals; write unto us the law!

But she said: the ordeals I write not: the rituals shall be half known and half concealed: the Law is for all.

It is then noted that v. 35 “This that thou writest is the threefold book of Law” and, in part, this will teach “the work of the wand and the work of the sword” which refers to magickal, and sacrificial, practices.

We then learn that v. 39 “The word of the Law is THELEMA.” This became Crowley’s magickal system and hints at the definitions which we seek as we were interested in defining “love” and “will.” As in English “will” can mean a legal document, the exercise of volition, etc. there are various Greek words for “will” such as pisteuō, ekballō, thelō and, of course, thelēma.

And this brings us to the motto in v. 40:

Who calls us Thelemites will do no wrong, if he look but close into the word. For there are therein Three Grades, the Hermit, and the Lover, and the man of Earth. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

The motto will be repeated a few times and so we shall come the love and will part. Note that with regards to the context of “love” and “will” v. 41 states, “The word of Sin is Restriction.” Seems that doing what thou wilt would free you from the restriction of sin. In other words, do whatever you want and do not be concerned about sin.

Verse 42 notes that “thou hast no right but to do thy will” and v. 43 notes that “pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.”

Verse 57 brings us to the statement:

Invoke me under my stars! Love is the law, love under will. Nor let the fools mistake love; for there are love and love. There is the dove, and there is the serpent. Choose ye well!…

Indeed, there are love and love if we take that to mean different concepts and meanings. For example when you say “I love my children, I love chocolate, I love my dog” you are using one word with different meanings (see “Love” and “Hate” – Defining Terminology).

Verse 58 states, “I give unimaginable joys on earth” and states, “nor do I demand aught [anything] in sacrifice” which, as we shall see, is a statement which will be contradicted.

As a point of interest, v. 60 references “The Five Pointed Star, with a Circle in the Middle, & the circle is Red.” This is a pentacle (an incircled pentagram) such as can be seen on the cover of the Anton LaVey’s satanic bible.

Back to love v. 61 states, “…to love me is better than all things: if under the night stars in the desert thou presently burnest mine incense before me, invoking me with a pure heart, and the Serpent flame therein.” Along with this come promises of worldly goods and pleasures in exchange for worship:

Ye shall gather goods and store of women and spices; ye shall wear rich jewels; ye shall exceed the nations of the earth in spendour & pride; but always in the love of me, and so shall ye come to my joy…I love you! I yearn to you! Pale or purple, veiled or voluptuous, I who am all pleasure and purple, and drunkenness of the innermost sense, desire you. Put on the wings, and arouse the coiled splendour within you: come unto me!

There are a lot of veiled references here such as to the coiled, fiery, spinal serpent kundalini which is tied in with sex magick (and thus, with tantric sexual yoga). This exchange of worship of false gods and/or satan in exchange for the things of this world sounds familiar:

Again, the devil took Him [Jesus] to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY'” (Matthew 4:8-10).

Chapter one ends the “Manifestation of Nuit” with calls to have the priestess’ eyes “burn with desire as she stands bare and rejoicing in my secret temple…I am the naked brilliance of the voluptuous night-sky.”

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Here are some relevant books:

John Weldon and John Ankerberg:

Knowing the Facts about Divination Practices and Occult “Games”

The Facts on the Occult

The Coming Darkness

Walter Martin’s The Kingdom of the Occult

Ron Rhodes’ The Truth Behind Ghosts, Mediums, and Psychic Phenomena

Philip G. Davis’ Goddess Unmasked – The Rise of Neopagan Feminist Spirituality
Davis “argued that Wicca was the creation of an English civil servant and amateur anthropologist named Gerald B. Gardner…the origins of the Goddess movement lay in an interest among the German and French Romantics-mostly men-in natural forces, especially those linked with women. Gardner admired the Romantics and belonged to a Rosicrucian society called the Fellowship of Crotona-a group that was influenced by several late-nineteenth-century occultist groups, which in turn were influenced by Freemasonry.”

Ronald Hutton’s The Triumph of the Moon
Hutton “conducted detailed research into the known pagan practices of prehistory [but] could find no conclusive evidence of the coven from which [Gerald] Gardner said he had learned the Craft, and argued that the ‘ancient’ religion Gardner claimed to have discovered was a mélange of material from relatively modern sources.”

Robin Briggs’ Witches and Neighbors
Briggs “pored over the documents of European witch trials and concluded that most of them took place during a relatively short period…The accused witches, far from including a large number of independent-minded women, were mostly poor and unpopular. Their accusers were typically ordinary citizens (often other women), not clerical or secular authorities. In fact, the authorities generally disliked trying witchcraft cases and acquitted more than half of all defendants. Briggs also discovered that none of the accused witches who were found guilty and put to death had been charged specifically with practicing a pagan religion.”

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