The following essay was written by Alexander Duncan on his website The Secret Door – Thoughts on Thelma. It is reproduced here with permission of the author, who we are extremely grateful to for producing such an excellent and well-researched analysis. We include it to help give some background to the group that L. Ron Hubbard had involvement with prior to his founding of the Scientology organisation.
The original essay is hosted here.
The purpose of this paper is to neither defend nor attack the political philosophy described herein, but simply to understand the political worldview of the Book of the Law, revealed to Aleister Crowley by Aiwaz in 1904. Sycophants and disciples, on the one hand, and muckraking tabloid journalists and debunkers, on the other, have written a great deal of rubbish about Crowley, Aiwaz, the Book of the Law, and the philosophy of Thelema. Each side has its own agenda, and is willing to select the facts that suit its purpose. Our agenda here is simply to present the Book of the Law in its own terms and to articulate the philosophy of Aiwaz, which also became that of Aleister Crowley, as accurately and as fully as possible without deviation or distortion.
The essential thesis of this paper is that Aleister Crowley, a self-proclaimed High Tory and Jacobite, British nationalist, and proponent of aristocratic revolution, was a “prophet” – to use his own term – of what is today widely called the “new world order” and a committed anarcho-fascist. The latter two terms are not terms that Crowley himself used, but they are accurate insofar as the implications of his political philosophy are concerned. Surprisingly, there is no substantial exposition of Crowley’s politics anywhere that I know of, his actual agenda generally being concealed rather than revealed by his sycophantic disciples, who prefer to follow Israel Regardie’s lead and identify Crowley as a herald of the 1960s counterculture of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band variety, and even a “hippie.” While this view of Crowley is not entirely inaccurate, Crowley was far more than a simple counterculture guru and he was certainly not a “hippie.” Nor are Crowley’s political views a personal idiosyncrasy, irrelevant to an understanding of his essential spiritual or religious philosophy that he denominated Thelema. I will support the latter assertion by basing my thesis on a critical exposition of the Book of the Law, which is the bedrock and foundational document of Thelema and of everything that Crowley did and said after 1909, interpreted in the light of the only commentary on the Book of the Law that is consistent with the Comment.
The Comment, aka the Tunis Comment, the last of the Thelemic “holy books” so-called (Official Publications of the A∴A∴ in Class A), was written in Tunis in 1925, in the same year that Hitler published Mein Kampf, interestingly enough. This short work of 69 words (not counting the introductory and terminal quotations and signature), forbids the study [sic] and discussion of the Book of the Law, and declares that any person who discusses the contents of the Book is to be subject to anathema, i.e., to be shunned by all and thus excluded from participation in society. This injunction is widely taken by Crowley’s followers to mean that one may not discuss the philosophy of Thelema itself, but in fact this is precisely contrary to what the Comment says and no Thelemite that I know of does not study the Book of the Law on this basis. In fact, the Comment provides for two exceptions to these prohibitions. First, if one studies the Book privately one is warned that this behavior is risky, perilous, and direful. Implicitly, therefore, the Comment itself suggests that one may ignore the warning, if one is willing to accept the responsibility. Second, the Comment itself permits the reader to read the Book of the Law once only, whereupon he is directed to the writings of Aleister Crowley themselves. The final decision concerning any matter of interpretation or exegesis is a matter of individual conscience, but the Comment neither prohibits nor condemns discussion of the writings of Aleister Crowley as such. Since Crowley’s major commentary on the Book of the Law, first published by Israel Regardie in The Law Is for All (1975), is explicitly political and is entirely consistent with my thesis, one may take the exposition herein to be entirely orthodox in purport, albeit somewhat heretical in its exposition due to my references to the contents of the Book of the Law.
Chapter I of the Book of the Law opens with a clear pronouncement of individual autocracy, without regard to gender: “Every man and every woman is a star” (I, 3). However, the political philosophy of the Book of the Law is far more extensive than simple libertarianism, for Aiwaz goes on to assert, “Let my servants be few & secret: they shall rule the many & the known. These are fools that men adore; both their Gods & their men are fools” (I, 10, 11). The servants of Nuit, the Goddess of Infinite Space, so-called, who is the speaker in these passages, are the “Children of men,” referred to in I, 5: “Help me, o warrior lord of Thebes, in my unveiling before the Children of men!” These are they who have been “gathered” into the “fold” (lit. pen or enclosure) of the Beast and the Scarlet Woman, referring both to Crowley and his consort and to their successors as the leaders of the Thelemic cultus. Thus, the Thelemic cultus is to be a spiritual order endowed with absolute political authority. It is to be an exclusive and secret government of “the many & the known,” and is neither democratic nor religious in the accepted sense of the term. In particular, Aiwaz rejects the idea of theism, thus making it clear that this new secret government of the world is not to be drawn from any of the established theisms (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, etc.). Aiwaz clearly rejects all human religions: “I am in a secret fourfold word, the blasphemy against all gods of men” (III, 49; see also III, 50-54). Buddhism, however, would not be excluded by this criterion. Thus, individual autocracy is to be understood in the context of political autocracy. The Thelemic order itself is also explicitly anti-democratic for, after describing the diarchy of the Beast and the Scarlet Woman, Aiwaz declares, “But ye are not so chosen” (I, 17). The accepted interpretation of “ye” in this passage is that Aiwaz is addressing the children of men, based on verses 12 and 15. Thus, the Thelemic order is to be established as an elitist secret government ruled by a spiritual monarchy of “the Beast” with the Scarlet Woman as his Imperator.
The primary qualification for the office of chief of the order is the spiritual realization of Nuit, which refers to reality in its universal, non-local aspect, as described by Aiwaz: “Since I am Infinite Space, and the Infinite Stars thereof, do ye also thus. Bind nothing! Let there be no difference made among you between any one thing & any other thing; for thereby there cometh hurt. But whoso availeth in this, let him be the chief of all!” (I, 22, 23). Without going too deeply into the spiritual implications, these passages make it clear, once again, that the leader of the secret government of Thelema is to be the member of the Thelemic cultus with the highest spiritual achievement, i.e., that of the complete emancipation from individual discriminations of every sort. This is the Thelemic interpretation of the Buddhist doctrine of nibbana. The whole structure described is strongly reminiscent of old Tibet, without actually saying so, but with certain essential differences as well, mainly philosophical in character.
That this liberation from discrimination includes moral discrimination is subsequently made clear: “For these fools of men and their woes care not thou at all! They feel little; what is, is balanced by weak joys; but ye are my chosen ones” (I, 31). In other words, the “chosen ones” are not to be limited by considerations of compassion. This doctrine of non-compassion is an essential tenet of the ethics of Thelema and is greatly amplified in subsequent chapters of the Book of the Law, culminating in Chapter III, as we shall see.
Subsequent passages indicate that the Thelemic cultus is to be an hierarchical spiritual order based on grades of spiritual development and the pursuit of the primary spiritual experiences corresponding to the realization of Nuit, discussed above, and Hadit, the principle of differentiation and individual particularity. Progress in the order is to be earned by means of ”the ordeals [lit. trial by physical test] of my knowledge” (I, 32). In addition, spiritual development is to be sought by means of obedience, aspiration, rituals, intellectual mastery, mantras (or mantrayoga), and works of theurgy (I, 37). The ultimate goal of the whole system is individual self-perfection, which includes complete emancipation from every kind of bondage and restriction, including all moral limits, as discussed above: “The Word of Sin is restriction” (I, 41). Thus, the ethics of the Law of the Thelema prescribe individualism, freedom, non-compassion, and non-discrimination, and are really an ethics of anti-ethics.
All prior systems of human government have been based on the dictatorship of religion, i.e., the submission of the individual to an overarching system of mind control that extends even to the religious and political elites, which all have their own particular duties and obligations, in the service of an essentially totalitarian worldview. In the Book of the Law, Aiwaz sought to reverse this dichotomy of the individual and the collectivity by prescribing a society of the individual, i.e., a system of law, and therefore of duty, obligation, and necessity that is predicated on unconditional personal liberty. Thus the Book of the Law declares, “Abrogate are all rituals, all ordeals, all words and signs” (I, 49). In his pamphlet, The Scientific Solution of the Problem of Government, Crowley recognizes the paradox of this view: “The absolute rule of the state shall be a function of the absolute liberty of each individual will.” At the same time, the Book rejects democracy as subjecting the individual to the lowest common denominator that will lead, not to the liberation of the individual, but to his enslavement. Thus, the essential political problem that Aiwaz sought to resolve in the Book of the Law is the contradiction between individual and political autocracy. More than a century later, this remains the essential political problem of our time. To this extent, Aiwaz and the Book of the Law are prescient.
Aiwaz declares that the political philosophy of the Book of the Law solves the problem just described, and affirms, “This shall regenerate the world” (I, 53). He describes a future Thelemic aristocracy, like the Knights Templar, which combines both temporal and spiritual authority, grandeur, wealth, and actual power in a new global transnational order that includes both men and women: “Ye shall gather goods and store of women and spices; ye shall wear rich jewels; ye shall exceed the nations of the earth in splendour & pride” (I, 61). Thus, the political philosophy of the Book of the Law is a universal cultus that will lead humanity beyond its present misery, chaos, and despair to a new global civilization of the future. As such, it is preeminently valuable. Aiwaz prescribed elaborate precautions as to the protection and preservation of the manuscript of the Book of the Law, which is now extant only in photofacsimile.
Chapter II of the Book of the Law, referring only to its political implications, explores and extends the moral philosophy adumbrated in Chapter I. In particular, Aiwaz unconditionally denounces the duty of compassion towards those who suffer, declaring them to be subhuman: “These are dead, these fellows; they feel not. We are not for the poor and sad: the lords of the earth are our kinsfolk. Is a God to live in a dog? No! but the highest are of us. They shall rejoice, our chosen: who sorroweth is not of us. Beauty and strength, leaping laughter and delicious languor, force and fire, are of us. We have nothing with the outcast and the unfit: let them die in their misery. For they feel not. Compassion is the vice of kings: stamp down the wretched & the weak: this is the law of the strong: this is our law and the joy of the world” (II, 18-21). Thus, the ethical philosophy of the Book of the Law is to eliminate suffering through both passive and active means, ignoring those who suffer, on the one hand, and repressing them, on the other.
Aiwaz predicts that the conflict between “the people” and the superior minority shall become so acute that it shall culminate in a “day of wrath,” where “the hermits” – i.e., those of the highest spiritual achievement [lit. uninhabited, empty, desolate] – organize themselves militarily (II, 24). Thus, the spirituality of Thelema is not a spirituality of abstinence, asceticism, and renunciation, but a positive, life and world-affirming spirituality of pleasure and power (II, 45-49). One might ask, what is to become of the majority? Aiwaz’s answer is that they will serve the elite: “He that is righteous shall be righteous still; he that is filthy shall be filthy still. Yea! deem not of change: ye shall be as ye are, & not other. Therefore the kings of the earth shall be kings for ever: the slaves shall serve. There is none that shall be cast down or lifted up: all is ever as it was. … Therefore strike hard & low, and to hell with them, master!” (II, 58, 60).
Chapter III, the final chapter of the Book of the Law, is essentially an elaboration of Aiwaz’s prediction concerning “the day of wrath.” In it Aiwaz predicts that Horus, the Egyptian god of war, will give the Thelemites a war-engine (III, 7), of such destructive power that it will establish the universal global hegemony of the Thelemic order and cultus. Essentially, he predicts the advent of world war, which was subsequently fulfilled twice, in 1914 and 1939 respectively, though without the anticipated outcome. Aiwaz, speaking as Horus, also declares himself to be “the warrior Lord of the Forties,” thus effectively predicting the decade of the greatest war in human history and, in the context of the prophesy just described, arguably predicting the advent of nuclear weapons in 1945 (III, 46). Crowley himself identified the rise of fascism and Adolph Hitler as a fulfillment of the prophecies of the Book of the Law, without actually supporting Hitler, concerning whom he famously declared, “Before Hitler was, I am!”
Concerning the prosecution of the Day of Wrath, which still lies in the future, Aiwaz predicts the appearance of cannibalism (III, 11), killing and torture (III, 18, 46), and perhaps human sacrifice (III, 24).
Finally, Aiwaz predicts the advent of one, a child, who will lead the Thelemic order to ultimate victory (III, 45).
After five years of doubt, Crowley finally accepted the Book of the Law in 1909, and spent the remainder of his life prosecuting his role as the prince-priest the Beast, the chief of all, heading two organizations, the A∴A∴and the O.T.O., and even working for the British secret service, the latter documented by Richard B. Spence in his book, Secret Agent 666 (Port Townsend, WA: Feral House, 2008). Politics was ever at the centre of Aleister Crowley’s philosophy, and he believed in his mission without doubt until his death of a respiratory infection in 1947, at the age of 72. Crowley’s political strategy was to unite the aristocracies of the world, including Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, as well as the American plutocrats, and to join those with wealth, power, intelligence, and beauty in a coherent global movement to stand against the tide of collectivism, including democracy, communism, and fascism, between which Crowley made little distinction, by means of the universal ideology of Thelema. Through social revolution from the top, financed by the aforesaid aristocrats and plutocrats, and armed with what turned out to be nuclear weapons, pursued mercilessly, Crowley, acting as the agent of Aiwaz and the Great White Brotherhood, sought to impose his will on the world in the form of a new world order based on the anarcho-fascist principles of the Book of the Law as its fundamental constitution, with himself and his successors as its supreme leaders. Crowley clearly hoped to achieve control of the state and predicted that the first nation to accept the Law of Thelema would dominate the world. Although the spread of nuclear weapons has made this strategy impracticable, it is a remarkable fact that, 108 years after the dictation of the Book of the Law, the fundamental dynamics described in the Book appear to be playing themselves out as the world heads towards what appears to be inevitable globalization in the context of ever-increasing and widespread violence and terrorism, on the one hand, and the unprecedented enrichment of the 1%, on the other, in the context of global economic and environmental collapse. There are even those who believe that the “Illuminati” are conspiring secretly to create a world fascist technocracy including fomenting World War III as a means of gaining political power. This vision is not far removed from that of the Book of the Law! After seven thousand years of human savagery, it is hard to see, if the law of karma has any truth to it at all, how the karma of human history can be expiated, other than by a universal cataclysm followed by a spiritual revolution. This appears to have been Crowley’s vision also.
1. Technically known as the Cairo Working, the dictation of the Book of the Law to Aleister Crowley in Cairo, Egypt on April 8, 9, and 10 was a psychic experience of the clairaudient type that originated in the spontaneous entrancement of his wife, Rose Edith Kelly. It was Rose, not Crowley, who first named the communicant as “Aiwaz,” which Crowley spelled as “Aiwass” in the ms. of the Book of the Law, and explained to him the essential tenor of the communication to come. This experience included telepathy and elements of independent verification, such as the discovery of the stele of Ankh-af-na-khonsu. Aiwaz is a real but rare Middle Eastern surname, with a number of variations.
2. The Beatles included Crowley’s face on the cover of their Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, released in 1967.
3. Crowley accurately anticipated the revival of interest in experiential spirituality, especially neopaganism and Asian mysticism, during the 1960s, as well as the significance and popularity of drugs, the sexual revolution, and, ironically, because Crowley himself despised women, feminism, in connection with the 1960s counterculture. Israel Regardie, a psychotherapist, suggested that the prevalence of homosexuality was a sign of Crowley’s new eon. Crowley is rumoured to have introduced Aldous Huxley to mescaline, and Timothy Leary claimed to have continued Crowley’s mission. Crowley, along with C.G. Jung, also anticipated the popularity of the use of the I Ching.
4. Crowley attributed his acceptance of the Book of the Law after five years of doubt to his attainment of the grade of Magister Templi (Master of the Temple) in the Supreme Order of the Great White Brotherhood, called the Silver Star or S.S., in 1909. In the same year he published his poem Aha!, in which he publicly accepted his role as prophet of the new eon (cosmic epoch) of Horus, the Crowned and Conquering Child.
5. Crowley himself advocated the study of the Book of the Law in Magick in Theory and Practice and Magick Without Tears. He also declared that the esoteric interpretation of the Book would fall to his successor, which is of course impossible if one does not actually study it!
6. The primary philosophical difference between Thelema and Tibetan Buddhism is the attitude of the latter towards existence (samsara), which is entirely negative and renunciatory, whereas Thelema regards samsara as a necessary expression of reality and therefore an essential aspect of spiritual realization. This is hinted at in the allusion to the “secret name” of Nuit referred to in verse 12. This name was subsequently revealed to be BABALON, the Great Whore of the Apocalypse, which represents the principle of universal parturition in its vital and ecstatic aspects.
7. It is interesting to note that the rejection of “discrimination” became the watchword of the 1960s counterculture, which openly embraced aspects of human behaviour previously deemed to be immoral, if not morality itself.
8. The realization of Hadit and Nuit are the two fundamental spiritual achievements, and may be compared with Padmasambhava‘s references to the spyi-ti and the yang-ti experiences respectively. See Herbert Guenther, The Teachings of Padmasambhava (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996), passim. See also What Is Yoga? Cf. Liber NU and Liber HAD.
9. Ayn Rand is probably the truest and most self-consistent heir to Aleister Crowley in upholding Crowley’s absolute repudiation of altruism as intrinsically evil.
10. While the Book of the Law clearly advocates servitude, it does not appear to advocate actual killing outside the context of the day of wrath, which is a technical state of war, and sedition. A close analysis of the Book of the Law discovers that killing as such is not explicitly mentioned until Chapter III, where it is mentioned five times, always in the context of war (III, 11, 18, 24, 42, 46).