Anyone who is familiar with Liber Al vel Legis, Liber 220 - the Book of the Law, has read the Tunis Comment. This brief five line set of directions, encapsulated in the obligatory Thelemic enjoinder, is signed Ankh-f-n-khonsu and was listed as a “Class A Publication” by Aleister Crowley, meaning it was directly inspired by Aiwass.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Love is the law, love under will.
The priest of the princes,
At first the Tunis Comment on the Book of the Law is prohibitive and patronising. Then it is threatening; then proscriptive; then prescriptive; then, with a quote from Liber Al itself, it completes the circle of contradiction.
My reaction on first reading the Tunis Comment, in the early 1970s c.e., was to dismiss it as a sly joke. I had already read the Confessions and had a feel for Aleister Crowley’s sense of humour. Some years later a friend said he had literally torn the Book of the Law into four pieces, after his first reading, and had thrown each wad of paper off the roof toward the cardinal points of the compass. I began to realise that most people fail to see the humour in it. In fact some people interpret the Tunis Comment with devout solemnity. I recommend reading it with intelligence and personal integrity.
This tiny comment has a very important task which it fulfills admirably. Its task is to address the issue of authority. Authority is defined as the power or right to enforce obedience. As a Class A Publication, the Tunis Comment has the highest authority its author could give it. However, those who have any real initiation will look to their own Holy Guardian Angels as their highest authorities. No external authority, however exhalted, can compete with one’s own True Will.
“The study of this Book is forbidden. It is wise to destroy this copy after the first reading.” Das ist verboten! This sort of talk rankles people in the Western World who are used to the freedom of making up their own minds. If it is forbidden, would it not be wiser to avoid reading it in the first place? Yes, but the authority of the writer is derived from Liber Al vel Legis itself. So by who’s authority are we forbidden to read the very Book which provides the authority that forbids its study? Since we have been foolish enough to have read the Book, is it now wiser to toss it in the trash or to just put it on the shelf and forget about it, as most people do? Either way we are done with it unless we ignore this first line of the Tunis Comment, however circular its logic.
“Whosoever disregards this does so at his own risk and peril. These are most dire.” Yoiks! That’s a threat if ever there was one. If we fail to ignore Liber Al we are cruisin’ for a bruisin’. This line is true but you wouldn’t know it unless you had indeed studied the Book extensively and endured the life changes that resulted from the effort. In that case, the risk and peril are to the inept world view of an unexamined life. Liber Al is corrosive to the reader’s ego: his or her sense of self as distinct from all otherness. Liber Al is a magic mirror that reflects, one might say illuminates, the hidden links to the Eternal Self, the Holy Guardian Angel. For those who are submissive to external authority, this warning should definitely be taken seriously. Slaves need not apply. Thelema requires that we take personal responsibility for our thoughts and deeds. So with this line we are done with the Book of the Law. There is no point in reading further. The risk is too great for any reasonable person to take.
“Those who discuss the contents of this Book are to be shunned by all, as centres of pestilence.” We are proscribed, banished, exiled if we discuss the Book. True, but it sounds more like an order than a prediction. Should we then eschew the company of anyone who speaks of the Book of the Law? Given that real initiation is intimate and personal, the society of other aspirants is unlikely to contribute anything to our advancement and may hinder it if we believe the word of another rather than discover the truth for ourselves. However, human beings are social animals. The counsel to avoid discussion is more likely to engender rebellion than adherence. If we are still interested in Liber Al at this point, we have proven that we are utter fools, mad enough to risk dire peril to continue down an unwise path. Is it any wonder that we find ourselves alone?
All real initiates are shunned by the slaves of ‘because’. Ordeals are curses. Ordeals compel us to connect the spiritual verities of initiation to our own prosaic material-world experience. Ordeals link spirit to flesh. Ordeals earth initiations. Anything that helps the mind to cope with the linking process is welcome, including discussion. Yet thinking and talking about the Book of the Law, or any part of Liber 440 has limited value, and if thinking and talking take the place of doing, they lead away from initiation rather than toward it. Note that talking and reasoning are the main tools which the Abrahamic evangelist uses to convince people to deny their own wills in favour of the ‘will’ of his own projection of God. Those who are obedient to anything outside themselves have no chance of attaining real initiation for they deny the “first ‘revelation’ of Aiwass” which is that God can only be found inside us, not out there somewhere. Thelema stands in direct contradiction to the belief that we must supplicate to a God outside ourselves. On the contrary, we must unveil the divine light within ourselves and we must not be distracted on a fool’s errand to seek it elsewhere.
“All questions of the Law are to be decided only by appeal to my writings, each for himself.” Here is a prescription against those who pontificate on their ever-so-important interpretations of Liber Al. But now are we expected to slavishly blinker our minds and focus exclusively on Ankh-f-n-khonsu’s writings to answer any query we may have regarding the Book we were foolish enough to study in the first place? If we have proven ourselves to be unwise thus far, would we suddenly demonstrate wisdom by following this particular authoritative advice after brazenly ignoring the previous three instructions? In the end, the only really valid interpretation of the Law is your own, for it is the only one you truly understand. Therefore, it is the only interpretation that can change as the result of your own experience and spiritual development.
I have learned many things regarding Liber Al from others, often from those who are unaware of the existence of Thelema. I enjoy the freedom of deciding for myself what to ponder and what to dismiss as impertinent. Although Crowley left us many valuable teachings regarding the Book of the Law, he didn’t cover everything. In fact he addressed only a small fraction of Its mysteries. In some significant instances he only suggested an approach to further study rather than make definitive comments that might restrict further exploration. Perhaps in a couple of thousand years, when he has had thirty-odd incarnations to fill out his official comment, we might have a more complete picture. If answers to all questions of the Law are limited to what Crowley covered in that one, albeit pivotal lifetime, then we are condemned to obdurate ignorance. Crowley himself would never have accepted a statement like this from anyone, and he knew it would be rejected out of hand by every person with the integrity necessary to pursue the difficult path illuminated by Liber Al.
The old-aeon notion of authority, of appealing to a godly man, a holy book, or an external God, for direction and guidance, is absurd in light of the Book of the Law. Liber Al vel Legis is clearly anti-authoritarian. It takes every opportunity to undermine authority on every level. Yet many would-be Thelemites yank Jesus off his cross only to tack Aleister Crowley back up on it. They glamorise him, his message, and the Book dictated to him by his own Eternal Self. They miss the point which Crowley himself made over and over: Do what thou wilt. That is: follow the direction of your own Eternal Self, the star veiled within you the incarnation, your own Holy Guardian Angel. That precludes obeying the authority of anything or anyone else.
“There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.” With this final line of the Tunis Comment the circle of contradiction is complete. Here, at last, authority finds its rightful place: in you.
The Confessions of Aleister Crowley
©1969 John Symonds and Kenneth Grant
Hill and Wang, Inc., New York - 1970
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Liber 220,1:8. See Crowley’s comments on chapter 1: verse 8.
8. The Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in the Khabs.
Here Begins the text.
Khabs is the secret Light or L.V.X.; the Khu is the magical entity of a man.
I find later (Sun in Scorpio, An. VII) that Khabs means star. In which case cf.v.3.
The doctrine here taught is that that Light is innermost, essential man.
Intra (not Extra) Nobis Regnum deI. [INRI]
We are not to regard ourselves as base things, without whose sphere is Light or “God”. Our minds and bodies are veils of the Light within. The uninitiate is a “Dark Star”, and the Great Work for him is to make his veils transparent by ‘purifying’ them. This ‘purification’ is really ‘simplification’; it is not that the veil is dirty, but that the complexity of its folds make it opaque. The Great Work therefore consists in the solution of complexes. Everything in itself is perfect, but when things are muddled, they become ‘evil’. The Doctrine is evidently of supreme importance, from its position as the first ‘revelation’ of Aiwass.
This ‘star’ or ‘Inmost Light’ is the original, individual, eternal essence. The Khu is the magical garment which it weaves for itself, a ‘form’ for its Being Beyond Form, by use of which it can gain experience through self-consciousness, as explained in the note to verses 2 and 3. This Khu is the first veil, far subtler than mind or body, and truer; for its symbolic shape depends on the nature of its Star.
Magical and Philosophical Commentaries on the Book of the Law, pp 96 & 97
Edited and Annotated by John Symonds and Kenneth Grant
© 1974 John Symonds and Kenneth Grant
93 Publishing, Montréal, Québec. September 23, 1974 c.e.
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