by Frater Achad Osher 583
Some of these articles were originally published
in Red Flame, A Thelemic Research Journal, No.8 Liber Al Vel Legis
“Marcelo Motta was an enigma … he was a legitimate A.’.A.’. member who had attracted and trained serious students. I was one, but within months of commencing work with Motta he published his commentary to Liber AL and I cut contact with him (cf. the 1925 EV ‘short’ Comment).” (1)
–Frater Hymenaeus Beta
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. –AL I:40
On Feb. 7th of this year a question presented itself to Frater Sabazius Xth Degree and head of OTO for the United States. I will not go into all the gruesome details but it suggested that although Frater Hymenaeus Beta claims he quit or cut contact with Marcelo Motta’s branch of the A.’.A.’., in truth, Motta had actually expelled him. (2) Therefore, the question to Sabazius was, “How could Frater Hymenaeus Beta be one of three individuals who is in charge of running a lineage of our Order?” The response centered around whether or not Motta had the authority to expel Frater Hymenaeus Beta. Frater Sabazius replied by stating what HB had told him, “Motta lost his authority to govern A.’.A.’. when he published his commentaries on Liber Al, in violation of the Class A Comment. This authority then passed to the next most senior initiate, even if he did not wholeheartedly accept it until some time later, after Motta’s insanity had progressed even further.” In other words, Motta had no authority to expel Frater Hymenaeus Beta because his authority had been taken away years ‘earlier’ and given to another even though the latter had not realized it yet. Basically, what they want you to believe is that Class A or The Tunis Comment granted them the authority not only to judge, but to over-throw Marcelo Motta, their own teacher, whom they claimed was head of the A.’.A.’. They will tell you that when their teacher published his personal commentary to Liber AL vel Legis in 1975 (3) he automatically lost all his authority and that another person named Frater K.N. 4=7 automatically assumed the position as head of our noble Order.
However, what does “not wholeheartedly accept it” mean? We know that Frater K.N. remained loyal to Motta for almost five years after the latter had published his Commentaries. Then, according to Motta, difficulties arose and Frater K.N. withdrew voluntarily from the Order in writing. In other words, he resigned. However, it now seems Motta was completely wrong. Frater K.N. didn’t resign, he merely left Motta when he realized Motta had become a centre of pestilence and, in leaving, he took his master’s authority with him. If such is true, why was this story never made public until after Motta’s death on August 28th 1987? Could it have anything to do with the fact that Motta most likely would have been rather hostile to the idea that he was no longer in charge? What rebuttal of facts might have he disclosed? Nevertheless, this branch of the Order’s interpretation of how ‘authority shifts’ is what this essay is all about because such views are not shared by any other branch nor is such even reflected in the views of Aleister Crowley. Many of us look upon the view of this lineage as an attempt by them to justifying their quest for existence, authority and the domination of our Order as a whole. In other words, they are merely ‘creatively interpreting’ The Tunis Comment in order to proselytize their own personal views and to explain how individuals, like themselves, who either quit or resigned were actually still in the Order.
I’d like to start by saying, “Maybe there is a verse in their Tunis Comment which is not in mine?” Yes, I agree, The Tunis Comment says, “Those who discuss the contents of this Book are to be shunned by all, as centres of pestilence.” But if they believed that their teacher had gone insane and became a centre of pestilence why didn’t they simply follow the Comment’s advice, walk away and shun him? Where in the Comment, or for that matter anywhere in the volumes of Crowley’s A.’.A.’. literature, does it say that when you quit and walk away from your teacher you have the right to take his authority with you? How laughable is this? Do you really think Aleister Crowley would have put a ‘clause’ in his fraternity so that every Probationer on up could usurp future leaders simply by stating that it is their belief they had gone mad or violated a particular line from The Tunis Comment?
Furthermore, using their own interpretation to the letter, we should renounce Frater Hymenaeus Beta because it’s easy to find numerous places in the introductions, footnotes and the articles where he discusses or comments upon the contents of certain verses from Liber AL vel Legis. Even Frater Sabazius is not exempt from this folly. He, too, has written pieces in which he interprets verses from Liber AL vel Legis. When confronted about this, Sabazius was quick to respond, “Some may consider my use of supportive or illustrative quotes from Liber AL to be ‘pestilential’ commentary on Liber AL, and according to a very strict definition of ‘commentary,’ they would probably be right. But then, according to a very strict definition of ‘commentary,’ every public reading of Liber AL would have to be considered commentary as well. Every vocal inflection, every emphasis of one word and de-emphasis of another, every facial expression and hand gesture, would convey meaning beyond that contained in the printed text itself. HB is not concerned with the very strict definition of commentary, though.” He is correct on many points. It’s all a ‘commentary.’
So, where do we draw the line and who is to judge what is and is not a commentary? Sabazius has made it very clear that he’ll accept Frater Hymenaeus Beta, in his authoritative capacity as both leader of OTO and as one of the heads of his A.’.A.’. lineage, to make those decisions for him, to either approve or to disapprove what is a ‘commentary.’ This may sound all well and good but if Frater Hymenaeus Beta can ‘approve’ his own commenting on Liber AL vel Legis, or that of others, why couldn’t Marcelo Motta do the same when he published his commentaries in 1975? After all, Motta being the head of his A.’.A.’. lineage should have had the same authority. The bottom line is this. You can not state that your predecessor is guilty of a crime and exempt yourself of the same due to the position which you now hold, especially when the position is the same as he held when supposedly committing the same offense. If it’s good for the goose then it’s good for the gander. Is it me, or are there are too many inconsistencies which imply someone is stretching facts as they go along to justify their own authority, rather than facing phantoms they’re creating and being caught at?
Yes, I’ve heard the argument that Motta simply commented upon too much by addressing the entirety of Liber AL vel Legis in his book while others are only casually mentioning a verse here or there. However, The Tunis Comment doesn’t discriminate between discussing one verse or all, or exactly in what context. You’re simply told that those who discuss or comment upon the contents of this Book are to be shunned. Cut and dry. So, verily, should we reject both these gentleman as centres of pestilence? In truth, I think not. Let’s be serious. How many authorities, writers and leaders in the world would fall by the wayside if this foolishness notion was enforced? Dear readers, I’ll let you judge for yourself as to how ludicrous this all sounds. There must be something more to The Tunis Comment.
However, for the record, I’m not saying that these A.’.A.’. individuals did not have the right to walk away if they honestly believed their teacher had gone mad. I’m not even saying that I’m against the over-all idea that they could not continue on their own in creating their own lineage from scratch. I honestly believe, if they make the connections, that they can and I accept them with open and honest arms in their noble quest. The only thing I find really ludicrous, or just plain hard to understand, is how Frater Hymenaeus Beta can interpret The Tunis Comment to imply that it gives him and others the power to over-throw the source of their lineage while claiming ‘they’ are the “traditional authority.” (4) I can not fathom nor stretch my imagination far enough to comprehend their logic, unless they’re implying that traditional authority is synonymous with anarchy and revolution. If so, they best keep their backs to wall, a watchful eye on all their Probationers and trust the lesson they’ve been taught is not passed on.
It may not seem important as to why we had to mention this controversy but it is because Frater Hymenaeus Beta and others will try to tell you that our branch of the A.’.A.’., like Motta’s, has become a ‘centre of pestilence’ merely because we’ve dared to do what Aleister Crowley warned us against. We interpret and comment upon certain controversial aspects of Liber AL vel Legis in a open forum, meaning this issue of Red Flame. They’re going to try to cite Crowley’s Tunis Comment to you as evidence of our inappropriate behavior. They’ll even try to convince you that issue No.8 of Red Flame proves that we have all gone mad and that we no longer have any authority within the A.’.A.’. Therefore, if this issue of Red Flame is going to discuss principles found in Liber AL vel Legis it is important to correctly understand the Comment and whether or not it says we should be shunned … as some Thelemic scholars would lead you to believe. In other words, since The Tunis Comment is used by some Thelemic raconteurs as a weapon against what they personally believe are heresies, it becomes important to begin this issue here. Sadly, a heresy to some merely implies a contradictory view point which should be tolerated from a Thelemic standpoint, to others.
Love is the law, love under will. –AL I:57
1. Frater Hymenaeus Beta, “The Crowley Copyrights,” The Magical Link, Vol. 6 No. 3, Fall 1992, p.3.
2. Marcelo Motta & Aleister Crowley, The Equinox, Vol.V No.4 Sex and Religion
(TN: Thelema Publishing Company, Nashville 1981) p.xiii.
3. Aleister Crowley & Marcelo Motta, The Commentaries of AL, The Equinox VolumeV, No.1
(NY: Samuel Weiser, Inc. New York 1975).
4. Frater Hymenaeus Beta, “Consider the Source,” The Magical Link, New Series No.2
Spring-Fall 1998ev p.10.
The next question we need to ask ourselves is,
“What authority did Motta really have that could be
An Open Epistle on Motta's Degree
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. –AL I:40
Karl Germer published his edition of Aleister Crowley’s Liber Aleph: The Book of Wisdom or Folly in September of 1961ev. On the inside A.’.A.’. title page where it lists those individuals involved in the publication, Motta’s ‘symbol’ is there alongside 6=5 and followed by the title of Imperator. This title literally means an individual whose primary function is the responsibility of ‘hands-on’ management of the Order on a mundane level subject to the authority from above. Motta was obviously helping Germer with getting Liber Aleph published and there is little dispute of this fact. However, Frater Hymenaeus Beta would have you believe that Karl Germer acknowledged Motta as being an Adeptus Major, working magickally and spiritually out of the Qabalistic sphere of Geburah. But is this true? You’ll note in Red Flame No.7 pg.xv, we mentioned the claim that Motta was 6=5 without openly attacking it but since the publication of our last issue there are new ‘developments’ which force us to clarify some facts. We didn’t want to reveal this information but under the circumstances we’ve been left with no alternative.
Rather than taking Frater Hymenaeus Beta’s word for it, lets look at what Motta wrote in regards to his own magickal accomplishments. He wrote (in the third person), saying: “After some initial correspondence, Motta visited the Germers personally and was offered the alternative of either joining the A.’.A.’. or the OTO. He chose the former at once: He had read One Star in Sight, which describes exactly the kind of organization he had been looking for since he was eleven years old. It took him seven years and much tribulation to pass from Probationer to Neophyte.” (1) Motta tells us this first meeting with Germer occurred in 1953. However, if it took him seven years to make Neophyte, that would place his taking such a degree around 1960. In other words, when he was working on Liber Aleph with Karl Germer he was not a magickal 6=5 but only a Neophyte by his own admission. To further substantiate this, in the summer of 1962, the year after Liber Aleph was released and three months before Germer’s death, Motta admits that he finally “passed through the Zelator Initiation.” (2)
Now here is the Truth. Frater Hymenaeus Beta needs you to believe that Motta’s 6=5 was a ‘magickal attainment’ to signify that he was indisputably the highest ranking A.’.A.’. initiate when Karl Germer died but this is nothing more than a distortion of historical facts. Consider this parallel. J. F. C. Fuller is listed in many A.’.A.’. manuscripts as N.S.F. 5=6 Cancellarius. The initials N.S.F. refer to Fuller’s motto, Non Sine Fulmine. Everyone acknowledges that this 5=6 was only an ‘Honorary Degree’ for publishing purposes. In truth, Fuller never got the past 0=0 degree or Probationer. Should we consider Fuller’s 5=6 a magickal accomplishment now that he has died? Absolutely not! The same goes for Motta. His 5=6 is merely an ‘Honorary Degree’ used only to signify his efforts in publishing Liber Aleph. It’s NOT magickal, much less a leadership position.
There is one major reason why Frater Hymenaeus Beta wants you to believe that Marcelo Motta’s 6=5 degree is magickal. Take into consideration what Karl Germer wrote to Jane Wolfe in a letter dated June 24th, 1952. He tells her, “You know that I have a high regards to P’s attainment. I’m sure she has gone through 5=6 some time ago. I’m sure she is under guidance.” Germer is referring to one of the most dedicated, if not brilliant A.’.A.’. initiates in the history of our noble Order, Phyllis Seckler. She was initiated as a Probationer on June 3rd, 1940, taking the magickal motto of Tenax Propositi. (later Meral) On July 1st, 1952 Soror Meral obtained the Knowledge & Conversation of her Holy Guardian Angel. She shared this belief with Karl Germer in numerous correspondences and he acknowledged it in one letter dated, July 7th, 1952, “Dear child, your questions go to the bottom of one of the deepest problems that have puzzled and tortured all initiated men and women from time immemorial … I suppose it is the conflict with being human with a body of flesh, and the fact that you have risen to or above Tiphereth where the voice of the Secret Chiefs is gradually taking over and begins to speak to your soul.” As you can see, she has a strong claim to the attainment. This implies that when Karl Germer died in 1962 she was obviously holding a degree above that of Zelator which was claimed by Marcelo Motta. This is why Frater Hymenaeus Beta needs you to believe that Motta’s 6=5 degree is magickal and not honorary. This way he can tell you that Motta held one degree higher than Phyllis and it justifies his claim as to why Motta assumed head of the AA and not Phyllis. However, his claim is simply not true. So, we ask, what authority really “passed to their next most senior initiate” after Motta had gone insane by publishing his Commentaries?
Love is the law, love under will. –AL I:57
1. Marcelo Motta & Aleister Crowley, Magick Without Tears, being The Oriflamme
Vol.VI No.3 1983, p.476-477.
2. Ibid, p.498.
OTO Initiations or The Tunis Comment?
“We have contradictory injunctions from AC himself on this, ‘study is forbidden’ in the Comment, ‘study constantly’ in the Minerval. This was either an error on AC’s part, or he did it for a reason. I prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt. Everyone can come to his or her own conclusions as to what that reason might have been.”
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. –AL I:40
At this point I’d like to confirm my status as one who enjoys going against the mainstream, if I haven’t already. Yes, I believe it is no secret that Liber AL vel Legis is a remarkable little book and that Thelema today, as a whole, is bathing in an unbelievable amount of solidified dogmatic bull-shit hardened by the Sun into putrefying masses throughout the world, even more than most religions accumulate over centuries. I’ve said it time and time again, as it stands, the ultimate legacy of our faith will not be judged historically by the greatness of our spiritual leaders but by the apparent in-house fighting which we’re constantly doing amongst ourselves in an attempt to prove who is the true authority. At times I feel like yelling, “Children! Go to your rooms!” Aleister Crowley warns us of this insanity which overtakes anyone who dares to study Liber AL vel Legis. The ego manifests to such an extent that it screams, “Not only do I know the Truth, I am the Truth and you will follow only what I say!” It is on that note that I should remind the reader and reiterate Crowley’s haunting words from the Tunis Comment. “The study of this Book is forbidden. It is wise to destroy this copy after the first reading.” Sadly, it does seem like sound advice but, from a Thelemic perspective, something is tragically wrong with this statement. Are we not a philosophy supposedly founded on Universal Freedom which implies many views should be allowed and tolerated? Unfortunately it seems some Thelemic leaders, past and present, want you to believe that they have cornered the market on our faith as they stand proud and high on their pile of ‘smelly dogma.’
Rather than falling prey to rigid dogmatic interpretations of The Tunis Comment, I tend to agree, in part, with Grady McMurtry. I can still hear him laughing during one of his lectures, saying that this was one of those great Crowley paradoxes to test us all. He told us that Crowley believed if we ‘blindly follow’ him or anyone, then obviously we’re not a Thelemite and so, yes, we should burn the book! I’m not quite sure that this was Crowley’s intention when he wrote The Tunis Comment but it sounds noble. If nothing else it was Grady’s way of patronizing the masses who were both initiates and outsiders at the lecture he was giving. A far more convincing rant came in private after a group of us had taken First Degree initiation on the following evening. He told us that if we adhere to the letter of this Comment, or “The study of this Book is forbidden”, it violates our Minerval Obligation in Aleister Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis. He reminded us that while he was acting as our initiator he said that we must study it [Liber AL] well; for it is the Charter of Universal Freedom. And now that we’ve continued on by taking First Degree Initiation he made a further recommendation, as in the former occasion, to study constantly The Book of the Law. He stressed the grave dangers of violating anything which we’ve sworn under Oath. No one can say how or when the effects of breaking an Oath may occur since no two individuals are alike. It may not be immediate, nor tomorrow, a month or a year away and maybe not even in one’s present incarnation but, karmically, “we’ll have Hell to pay.” I won’t get into the gruesome details of what happened to Karl Germer on his death bed but it was one of Grady’s favorite examples of karma taking its toll on one who violated their Oaths, especially the Minerval.
Studying The Book of the Law is a well known problematic statement made within the initiation chambers of the OTO which seemingly defies The Tunis Comment. This dilemma was white-washed by Frater Sabazius who has stated, “We have contradictory injunctions from AC himself on this. ‘study is forbidden’ in the Comment, ‘study constantly’ in the Minerval. This was either an error on AC’s part, or he did it for a reason. I prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt. Everyone can come to his or her own conclusions as to what that reason might have been.” However, Sabazius fails to point out that all the rituals of the Ordo Templi Orientis were written long before The Tunis Comment. Which probably means, like many things which Crowley had previously written, that parts of the rituals are no longer authoritative due to his later injunction and should have either been up-dated or discarded. Sabazius’ logic would rather have us believe that this contradiction between The Tunis Comment and the initiation rituals was not an ‘error’ on Crowley’s part. This is a noble aspiration but it implies that he believes there was a conscious reason on AC’s part for allowing the commandment of studying The Book of the Law to remain in the OTO initiation rituals. But where is the support for this belief? There is nothing written amongst Crowley’s papers to imply that this was the case. The truth of the matter is, Crowley never updated anything previous to The Tunis Comment. We can look back in hindsight and say otherwise, but it would only be personal speculation and nothing more.
However, Sabazius must take this middle-of-the-road or fence-sitting stance. If he comes out too strongly against The Tunis Comment he attacks the A.’.A.’. lineage which is presently ruling OTO. The same lineage which claims that this document gave them the right to over-throw their teacher. Furthermore, one of these individuals made Sabazius Xth Degree, Head of OTO for The United States. So how willing is he to disagree with their beliefs? On the other hand, if he follows The Tunis Comment to the letter, he probably had to ask himself a more serious question. Should he admit that the initiation Obligations & Oaths are no longer valid and should be disregarded if we’re to consider ourselves true Thelemites? Obviously these archaic Obligations & Oaths were not updated by Crowley to reflect the principles found in The Tunis Comment. Therefore it can be justifiably argued that anyone who takes initiation within Ordo Templi Orientis and follows its obligations is in grave danger of being shunned as centres of pestilence according to the commandments given by our prophet, Aleister Crowley. Sabazius wisely avoids taking sides on this issue and does the infamous ‘Tunis Comment shuffle’ by claiming both sides are correct. He then drops this dilemma into your lap to figure out. However, it’s a vile policy of leadership to tell others that they must come to their own conclusions on what Crowley’s “reason” for leaving in this contradiction between the OTO rituals and The Tunis Comment. Especially as there is no such reason to be found in his writings.
More importantly, according to magickal principles, if one set of Obligations or Ordeals are not fulfilled, or disregarded, it sets into motion a foundation whereby all become totally useless. You can not pick and choose, Oaths are either all or nothing. This was the tragedy behind the fall of a fraternity known as The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Crowley wrote their “ordeals were turned into contempt, it being impossible for anyone to fail therein … In short, the order failed to initiate.” (1) I tend to agree with Aleister Crowley and Grady McMurtry that any Ordeal, regardless of what, when it’s promised to be accomplished while under Oath, must be adhered to by the letter. If the leadership of any fraternity fails to teach this magickal principle then it is in grave danger of going the same way of The Golden Dawn by becoming little more than the patronization of egos, some one’s money making scheme, or both. In other words, an OTO member must study The Book of the Law.
Some OTO leaders agree with what I’ve said and have admitted with a deep sigh, that initiates can study this book because they gave their ‘word’ during their initiation but they are quick to point out, “But don’t comment upon anything you discover in writing.” In other words keep everything hush-hush so no one really knows you’re studying The Book of the Law. This way you can not be called upon as defying The Tunis Comment and you can still fulfill your magickal obligations given under Oath. Yet this is a half-ass way of condoning part of the Comment rather than facing its apparent contradictions. The Comment clearly says the study of this book is forbidden and does not distinguish between a private or public pursuit. The next line clearly warns us, “Whosoever disregards this does so at his own risk and peril. These are most dire.” There are no exceptions mentioned.
However, one final note on this subject, Grady would often point to one of the last lines in The Tunis Comment, “There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.” This, in itself, should tell an individual to reflect upon what Crowley has just written and then pursue what you must if you’re a Thelemite. After all, “Man has the right to write as he will” (Liber OZ) … a line which is not followed by, ‘but don’t comment upon The Book of the Law.’
Like Grady, I think The Tunis Comment is a beautiful thing. It clearly shows how to separate the nuts from the Tree and I’ll leave the reader to assume what that implies amongst modern Thelemic circles.
Love is the law, love under will. –AL I:57
1. The Equinox Vol.III No.1, Liber Causae (New York: Samuel Weiser, Inc. 1973) p.57.
The Study of this Book is Forbidden
“The Comment must be consistent with itself at all points;
it must exhibit the Book of the Law as of absolute authority on all
possible questions proper to Mankind, as offering the perfect solution of all problems philosophical and practice without exception.”
Aleister Crowley, July 30th, 1921 (1)
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. –AL I:40
It is important for us to further review what we know about The Tunis Comment. In doing this we’ll show how our A.’.A.’. branch embraces this controversial subject. For starters it is a very complicated one page document. Aleister Crowley wrote it while he was in Tunis. Thus it became known as The Tunis Comment although it is also referred to as the ‘short’ Comment. It is included in most modern publications of Liber AL vel Legis and is considered to be the ‘true’ commentary on the behavior which Thelemites must follow regarding the book itself. After the appropriate Thelemic opening of “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”, The Tunis Comment begins by proclaiming very harshly, “The study of this Book is forbidden.” If that doesn’t shock you and get your attention then the next line should. “It is wise to destroy this copy after the first reading.” I personally know people who have done just that. Several have burned the book, one threw her copy into Long Island Sound and another buried it in his ‘sacred’ spot, obviously after reading too many Castaneda books. If you don’t follow that commandment The Tunis Comment continues by sternly warning, “Whosoever disregards this does so at his own risk and peril. These are most dire.” Crowley ends ‘The Comment’ by telling Thelemites, “Those who discuss the contents of this Book are to be shunned by all, as centres of pestilence. All questions of the Law are to be decided only by appeal to my writings, each for himself. There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.”
The commandment seems very straight forward but, let’s be honest, Liber AL vel Legis is a complicated little book, containing more mysteries per line than most religious volumes and, due to its cryptic nature, it automatically cries out for study contrary to what The Tunis Comment demands. This of course implies, like any religious manuscript, that the text is liable to offer conflicting interpretations, an idea which Crowley detested. Anyone who has ever studied the Beast’s life is quick to realize that he was a ‘control freak’ on many levels, especially in regards to his students. He and he alone was ‘the authority’ to be consulted regarding Liber AL vel Legis. No one else had that right and although he preached the freedom behind the concept of Thelema, he often did not practice such on the lowest mundane level. At best Crowley accepted his student’s Thelemic findings, as with Frater Achad, as long as such proved his greatness regarding The Book of the Law rather than fulfilling theirs. If anyone dared to cross the line then a serious conflict quickly ensued. Some modern Thelemic leaders are plagued with this same problem.
The idea that others might inevitably interpret verses from The Book of the Law when Crowley acknowledged his own attempt, Extenuation of The Book of the Law (The Law is for All), as being “over a quarter of a million words of the most turgid and incomprehensible hogwash ever penned” (2) obviously rubbed him wrong. Still, regardless of his failed attempts, he knew The Book of the Law mentions “the work of the comment” (AL III:40) and he honestly believed, albeit possibly wrong, that this was something he was required to produce. So, what was a little Beastie to do? Toward the end of his life he explained why his early attempts were failures and how The Tunis Comment came about, stating that he, “mistook ‘Comment’ for ‘Commentary, a word-by-word exposition of every verse including Qabalistic interpretation, a task obviously endless.” (3) Crowley’s remarks are, of course, playing semantics and are open to personal interpretation. If nothing more, the above remark is simply an excuse for what he believed to be his earlier failures. However, The Book of the Law is very ambiguous when it states “the work of the comment.” The way it is written could imply a one page comment as Crowley came to think or the work of commenting upon each verse. It’s all open for interpretation and, in fact, both views may be acceptable depending upon how one reads it.
Furthermore, we know Aleister Crowley admitted that while in Tunis, in November of 1925, during “a mood of blank despair … out came the Comment.” (4) He continues, claiming “Easy, yes; inspired, yes; it is, as printed, the exact wording required. No further cavilling and quibbling, and controversy and casuistry.” He tells us that all “heresiarchs are smelt in advance for the rats they are … and they are accordingly nipped in the bud” and if anyone dares to comment upon verses in Liber AL vel Legis then “off with his head.” However, if this is his reasoning behind The Tunis Comment it’s little more than a travesty. The very nature of his rant is completely un-Thelemic and contrary to many of the commandments found throughout Liber AL vel Legis. This creates a serious dilemma for Thelemic thinkers. Are we to cling to every word Aleister Crowley, the man, has ever written or are we to follow the words found in Liber AL?
The Book of the Law plainly and very clearly mentions others who will come after Crowley and who’ll discover certain keys to its meaning. The book further tells us that all prophets are true, each understanding another piece to the puzzle (i.e. New Aeon). All prophets implies that within Liber AL vel Legis there is an acceptance of individuals other than Crowley who’ll interpret the Law of Thelema, contrary to what the Beast may wish. So let’s be honest. According to The Tunis Comment and Crowley’s rantings, these Thelemites should be shunned like the plague. Charles Stansfeld Jones, also known as Frater Achad, is a classic example. Yet we know that Crowley often acknowledged the wonders this gentleman discovered by studying the Book. He cites Achad time and time again as proof of the authenticity of Liber AL vel Legis coming from beyond himself and is quick to state that he was oblivious of certain mysteries until Achad pointed them out. In fact, up to his dying day Crowley cites Achad’s discoveries even though he considered him to be a ‘centre of pestilence’. It is no secret that Achad was truly a remarkable Thelemic pathfinder and, yes, it could be argued that he went mad to a certain extent. His magickal theories are a bit hard to grasp unless one is flying high into the ozone. However, what Crowley and others fail to realize is that on the most mundane plane, being our own Earth, there have been many explorers who defied conventional beliefs and went off into the wilderness in quest of the unknown. Some believe these individuals were driven by a Will greater than their own for the sake of humanity. Yes, many of them tragically perished but others, using their predecessor’s records and maps, even in part, learned from their errors and went on to explore further. What each achieved, we call progress. As Thelemites we can not idly sit still, rely on the world being flat and then tell everyone not to dream otherwise.
Israel Regardie said it best in his biographical study of Aleister Crowley titled The Eye In The Triangle. Here he wrote that The Tunis Comment came about due to Crowley’s “disillusioning experiences with one Frater Achad in America, and Leah Hirzig and Norman Mudd having played around with and perverted the predictions implicit in this Book.” (5) We won’t get into the fact that Crowley himself perverted many of the predictions implicit in Liber AL nor fulfilled half of what the book told him to do. Am I opening up a can of worms by implying that Crowley too should be shunned? Anyway, according to Regardie, Crowley felt that many of his students “perverted the predictions” and “were flung into the outer darkness, as it were, for doing so.” As a future warning to protect his children Crowley “uttered the dictum (The Tunis Comment) to regard anyone who discussed the Book as a center of pestilence, and thus to be avoided.” I don’t think I need to point out the obvious contradiction as to what Crowley was really trying to protecthis students, his hold upon them, or was he simply yelling, “Don’t listen to anyone other than me!”
Yes, some fathers find it difficult to deal with their children growing up, becoming independent and having thoughts of their own. Maybe Crowley is correct with The Tunis Comment, albeit unconsciously. We know the Comment is the clearest description from his Higher Self, warning others who dare to traverse the path which he has chosen. When he received The Tunis Comment he had been recently expelled from Italy, he was flat broke, his life was in ruin and he was distraught by all those whom he felt had failed him over the years. He acknowledged he was “in a mood of blank despair.” Yes, like an angry father yelling at his children, the Comment came ‘through’ him. On the one hand he was responding both consciously and unconsciously with contempt and anger and on the other; unleashing powerful images from the depths of his psyche, something which magick had trained him to do. Anyone who has children can understand the frustration he must have felt. Yes, The Tunis Comment is truly a Class A document within Crowley’s magickal system. However, we must not lose sight of it being a reflection of his soul at a given point in his Life, and it was not one of the high points. It shows a man telling the world that he wished he had destroyed Liber AL vel Legis the first day he set his eyes on it and anyone who avoids destroying their own copy has a good chance of living their life as he has. One’s only hope, if one dares to continue, is to listen to him. In other words, in his own mind, who greater than Crowley could guide you? Obviously the Comment is a wish-fulfillment of a man who wanted the world to follow him as the greatest Prophet of the New Aeon but, by his own admission, few were. Soror RL said it best in regards to this period of his life when she wrote a student saying, “Crowley was way over the deep end when he wrote the Tunis Comment. He was firmly in the grasp of the Dark Night of the Soul. Perhaps the writing of the Comment was part of his self-cure, enabling him to drag himself back into the fight for Thelema. I tend to look at it as this type of extreme magick, a re-dedication so to speak, that enabled him to leave behind his failures and go on.” And finally, since Crowley admits he had failed miserably at producing an adequate commentary to Liber AL vel Legis the brief Tunis Comment, whether it be bad or good, took a massive burden off his shoulders. It unconsciously let him off the hook from producing anything further. Is there any wonder why he pushed it as the final solution?
It is no secret The Tunis Comment initially perplexed Crowley. He would not be able to rationalize its meaning for years. Then the ‘excuses’ slowly began which were fostered by a budding mythos of reasoning rather than facing the phantoms which initially spawned the Comment. One such rationalization appeared in Eight Lectures on Yoga in 1939. Here he claims, “Those of you who possess a copy of The Equinox of the Gods may have been very much surprised at the extraordinary injunction in the Comment: the prohibition of all discussion of the Book. I myself did not fully understand that injunction; I do so now.” (6) What he is referring to is the concept that we must adhere to the practice of going quietly about the world, not talking about our studies or the results. We must be silent, arguing not, converting not, otherwise we stand the chance of falling into the pit of Because, and there to perish with the dogs of reason. We must transcend all forms of logic. In one respect he is completely correct, in another he fails to fulfill the above statement by his insistent reasoning and looking for a meaning behind The Tunis Comment. His comments also acknowledge that issue No. 8 of Red Flame might be guilty of just such a folly by questioning and then reasoning out possible solutions to verses in Liber AL vel Legis.
However, we must be honest, Crowley’s remarks are actually illogical and only reflect one line and not the over-all intent of the Comment itself. In fact, a single line taken from any manuscript can be construed to mean something totally different than what it might imply in its original context. What Crowley fails to realize is that in Eight Lectures on Yoga he admits that St.Paul “was a learned Rabbi.” Such a remark implies that Paul had actively studied somewhere before he became silent to rely on his own faith in quest of his God. On the other hand, The Tunis Comment not only forbids us from discussing the contents of Liber AL vel Legis but also forbids us from even studying it in the first place. So where are we, who are Thelemites, to get our faith so we can keep quiet about it? In other words, The Tunis Comment hardly reflects the spiritual practice which Crowley is implying in Eight Lectures on Yoga even though it does sound like a fair excuse. Sadly, am I the only poor sap in this world who thinks The Tunis Comment has too many damn loopholes, or rooms where one can walk in and seemingly find a door on the other side where you can sneak back out? I think it’s easy to rationalize its meaning but its over-all message would be better suited for itself rather than Liber AL vel Legis. In other words, don’t study The Tunis Comment—destroy it!
Furthermore, there are other problems with The Tunis Comment, especially where it states, “All questions of the Law are to be decided only by appeal to my writings, each for himself.” First of all, if The Tunis Comment says you can’t study the book then obviously you shouldn’t have any questions. It’s an obvious contradiction. To have a question implies you’re in need of a solution which requires further information or, dare I say, study. So the bottom line is, should you study the book? Crowley flops like a fish out of water with this topic by saying ‘No’ in some places and ‘Yes’ in others. As an example, in Magick Without Tears, where he lambastes The Tunis Comment as being correct, he offers the following advice, “… make The Book of the Law your constant study. Such value as my own work may possess for you should amount to no more than an aid to the interpretation of this book.” (7) Are you confused yet? The only plausible solution which makes any sense is to simply study the damn book and acknowledge that you’re in dire peril by disregarding Crowley’s warnings and, to possibly alleviate any peril, accept that any and all questions which pop into your mind will be decided only by appeal to Crowley’s writings. In other words, don’t think for yourself nor look elsewhere for solutions. This is most likely what Crowley intended when he wrote The Tunis Comment.
However, there is a major problem with this approach. If Crowley claims that everyone must refer ‘only’ to his writings, then what happens if we discover amongst his papers that he interprets one particular verse from Liber AL vel Legis to imply that all his students should jump off a cliff? Should we all do such if it is construed it to be the solution to one of our questions regarding the Law? That might be an extreme example so let us ask a lesser question to show what I’m implying. What is the woman’s position within a Thelemic Community? Ah, yes, let me decide “only by appeal to (Crowley’s) writings.” But which writings? The Tunis Comment doesn’t say and unfortunately Crowley himself never tells us which writings are best to use and which ones aren’t. There is so much to muddle through when attempting to find the answer to my question about the Law. I know Crowley once wrote, “Practically all women ought to be chloroformed at 35” (8) but he gives no indication before nor after in his diaries as to what inspired this remark. According to some, The Tunis Comment gives me the license to take him verbatim ‘wherever’ I find an answer to my question. What I’m trying to point out is that The Tunis Comment is too ‘generic’ and obviously leaves room for misuse if taken literally by the mentally unstable, especially if one has access to chloroform.
There must be a hidden agenda in the wording of The Tunis Comment. If not, it’s definitely the worst advice ever given by the old man. Isn’t it ironic that the world’s most restrictive religions allow the study of their scriptures when Thelemites, who are practitioners of Universal Freedom, are told by their Prophet that they can’t study their own? What’s wrong with this picture? I tend to partially agree with the assessment made by Grady McMurtry. He often said we should not be ignorant in believing that Crowley spoke so literally in telling humanity that even after years, possibly hundreds of years, that we must sit still and deny ourselves by not studying or commenting upon the book. This, in itself, is blasphemous and in some respects anti-Thelemic. Restriction is a Sin! (AL I:41).
Yes, it could be argued that The Tunis Comment is a Class A document within our noble fraternity and is considered sacred, being received ‘through’ Crowley and because of such not one single letter can be changed. I definitely agree. However, I do not agree that we must blindly follow it to the letter. Class A simply implies that we must accept it as a perfect reflection of Crowley’s soul crying out, especially in relationship to his life in 1925. To blindly follow The Tunis Comment without that understanding is pure folly. The bottom line is that it is a complicated one page statement, filled with Thelemic contradictions of which only a few have been addressed here. Its beauty lies in the fact that you must carefully think about it before blindly following its message or any one’s interpretation of it.
Still, knowing these Truths, there will always be those restrictive old-Aeonic souls masquerading as Thelemites who are unconsciously terrified with the principles found in Liber AL vel Legis. They’ll fall back on The Tunis Comment as if it were the gospel in a feeble attempt to protect their own inability to discuss the manuscript and, yes, they might even condemn issue No.8 of Red Flame. It will be their belief that people must be told not to study Liber AL vel Legis otherwise they may have to acknowledge why they don’t! Yea, verily, it is easier to run away from the Light and pull The Tunis Comment over oneself as if it were a comfy blanket rather than face one’s own shadows. Crowley said it best, “People who avoid facing facts are bounded by phantoms.” (9) My own personal view is that The Tunis Comment is one of our most sacred Holy Thelemic Banners. For the Weak it contains the perfect excuse to crawl under a rock and never study Liber AL vel Legis, to simply leave it on their Gnostic Altar to collect dust until the next Mass. But, for the Strong it gives you the license to study it at Will. It all depends upon the point of view which you take. I reiterate its ending, “There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.” Yes, The Tunis Comment clearly separates the nuts from the tree, those who are and who are not Thelemites. Ours is a Law of the Strong.
Still, when all the controversies are said and done, it all boils down to one simple thing. The Tunis Comment clearly states, and I quote, “All questions of the Law are to be decided only by appeal to my writings, each for himself.” Let’s say, for the sake of an argument, that Aleister Crowley is 100% completely right and that we must follow this Comment to the letter. If so, The Tunis Comment is signed by “The priest of the princes, Ankh-F-N-Khonsu.” At Cefalu, in 1921, when Crowley first began hacking out his intent in regards to a comment (not necessarily The Tunis Comment) he wrote, “It is ‘my scribe Ankh-af-na-khonsu (CCXX,I,36) who ‘shall comment’ on ‘this book’ ‘by the wisdom of Ra-Hoor-Khuit’, that is, Aleister Crowley shall write the comment from the point of view of the manifested positive Lord of the Aeon, in plain terms of the finite & not in those of the infinite.” (10) I know all this might seem like common knowledge but let’s examine what Crowley wrote a bit closer.
First, let’s look at the reference in The Tunis Comment to “my writings.” This could imply that we are to seek our answers in those Crowley writings which were done while he was assuming the persona of Ankh-F-N-Khonsu. Possibly, even right down to the specific spelling of the name as used in the Comment itself. Let’s see, what else did Crowley write using this particular name, spelled in this fashion, that I might refer to as a source for my questions about Liber AL vel Legis? Oh, yes, I found a couple. After writing The Tunis Comment he released another piece using the exact same alias. It’s called The World Teacher to the Theosophical Society (1925) Also, when he published the handwritten manuscript of Liber AL vel Legis in The Equinox of the Gods (1936) he used the name Ankh-f-n-khonsu to specify the persona who had received the book from Aiwass. However, it could be argued that since Ankh-f-n-khonsu was only a scribe, the latter is not one of his “writings” but the words of Aiwass. Unfortunately these are the ONLY pieces other than The Tunis Comment where Crowley uses this particular alias, spelt this specific way. It can thus be construed that the first is the only place where we’re allowed to look for answers according to Ankh-F-N-Khonsu! [OK, since writing this article I concede that Aleister Crowley used another spelling of the name as Ankh-Af-Na-Khonsu when he wrote a two page piece titled The Summons which first appeared in the Tunis Edition of Liber AL vel Legis (1926). It was later edited and included in The Equinox of the Gods. This is, after all, the correct spelling of the name according to Liber AL vel Legis. It has been argued, by some, that you can also use this piece as a source for your questions. I’m not sure but if it is your Will, so be it.]
Since Aleister Crowley’s piece entitled The World Teacher to the Theosophical Society is considered by some to be the ONLY REAL SOURCE for the answers regarding any question which we might have regarding Liber AL vel Legis I’d like to quote it in full. It begins:
The World-Teacher sayeth:
Find, each of you, your own true Way in the Universe,
and follow it with eager joy!
There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt!
Do that, and no other shall say nay.
Greeting and Peace!
Ankh-F-N-Khonsu, the Priest of the Princes.
I guess when all is ‘really’ said and done Grady McMurtry wasn’t that far off when he pointed out that one of the last lines in The Tunis Comment clearly tells us, “There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.” Except, if I had my way, I might add:
“Do that, and no other shall say nay.”
It is important at this point to understand that it was not my intention to become confrontational with this article. I simply wanted to address some of the more obvious questions regarding The Tunis Comment, holding tidbits of controversy up and letting you hack out where you feel I’m right and wrong. I want you to think for yourself. As a Thelemite that is the one true noble aspiration. Your final conclusions are your own business, as long as you own them as part of your Universe and not the divine Truth for all to follow. Within the AA we’re supposed to learn the method of science, the aim of religion. Each one of us should desire certainty, not faith, while in life. (AL I:58) We should approach each and every subject from the point of view of a scientist who desires to unravel its hidden mysteries. We diligently study what is before us and we leave no stone unturned in our quest. In regards to The Tunis Comment common sense dictates that there are definite problems with the document which Crowley and others fail to acknowledge or to which they have lame excuses. Their comments about these quirks fail to fulfill any serious understanding of the problems and often their excuses are controlling and patronizing rather than informative. Yes, there is little doubt that The Tunis Comment is an extremely controversial document. By addressing a few of its problems I hope that some of you might stop taking everything at face value, being yes-men and women to Old-Aeonic authority figures who are only spoon feeding you with what they believe you should know regarding the Laws of Thelema and the New Aeon. However, if you blindly accept the spoon being fed of bitter tasting information and you question not, then bleat loudly little sheep, for the slaves shall serve.
Love is the law, love under will. –AL I:57
1. Aleister Crowley’s private diaries, July 30th, 1921, p. 58. (Eq.of the Gods, p. 130)
2. Magick, Liber ABA , Book Four, Parts I-IV (ME: Samuel Weiser Inc., 1994) p. lxxiv.
3. Aleister Crowley, Magick Without Tears (MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1973) p. 316.
5. Israel Regardie, The Eye in the Triangle: An Interpretation of Aleister Crowley (MN:
Llewellyn Publications, 1970) p. 479.
6. Aleister Crowley, Eight Lectures on Yoga (London: OTO, 1939) p. 70.
7. Magick Without Tears, p. 2.
8. Unpublished diaries, January 3rd, 1931, p. 1.
9. Unpublished diaries, October 25th, 1939, p. 27.
10. Aleister Crowley’s private diaries, July 30th, 1921 p. 57 (Eq.of the Gods, p. 126)
Editorial note: This article, “The Study of this Book is Forbidden,” is edited from the unpublished commentary on Liber AL vel Legis by Frater AO583. It has previously been published in a slightly different format in a series of Epistles distributed in our branch of the A.’.A.’. titled Of Causes Why: Understanding the New Aeon through the Teachings of the Great Beast. New material has been added to this article.
But Is There A Comment?
“I am convinced that he did not correctly interpret
Liber Legis in this respect, for he tried to do over
what he had already successfully done. Thus he erred.”
Letter from Frater Achad
to G. Yorke, May 22nd, 1948
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. –AL I:40
After reading “The Study of this Book is Forbidden” one of my students argued that since we have adequately shown how Aleister Crowley believed that the Extenuation of The Book of The Law is “the most turgid and incomprehensible hogwash ever penned” (1) and that The Tunis Comment is equally flawed then what is left? Is there a Comment? In Truth, this was a good question and one which I should have addressed.
In some ways I agree with Frater Achad’s point-of-view on this subject and I think many of his remarks are worth consideration. In a letter dated May 22nd, 1948, which Achad wrote to Gerald Yorke, he quoted the following two verse from Chapter Three:
39 All this and a book to say how thou didst come hither and a reproduction
of this ink and paper for ever — for in it is the word secret & not only in the
English —and thy comment upon this the Book of the Law shall be printed
beautifully in red ink and black upon beautiful paper made by hand; and to
each man and woman that thou meetest, were it but to dine or to drink at
them, it is the Law to give. Then they shall chance to abide in this bliss or
no; it is no odds. Do this quickly!
40 But the work of the comment? That is easy; and Hadit burning in thy heart
shall make swift and secure thy pen.
Achad then writes, “Now what happened? A.C. did produce a ‘Book’ to say how he came ‘hither’, at least to some extent in Equinox Volume I. Number vii. But he greatly improved upon this in his publication ‘The Equinox of the Gods’ in 1938 [sic]. It was a real book.
He did fulfill the instruction about reproduction of MS. in Equinox VII (Vol. I.) but on a minute scale. He greatly improved upon this in ‘The Equinox of the Gods’.
But he also fulfilled the instruction in regards to the Comment. He did this quickly. Hadit made secure his pen. It was published, as the Comment in Equinox Vol. I Number vii.
This is the brief ‘comment’, written entirely by A.C. himself, without any of my interpretations added, which should have appeared (again) in ‘The Equinox of the Gods.’ It was brief and exactly to the point. A.C.’s further commentaries were laboured. They might, as intended, well have formed an appendix to be published later, but did not belong in the BOOK which fulfilled instructions of Chapter III, 39-40.”
Achad also adds, “Liber Legis itself testifies to what I say above, in a way which simply does not apply to any ‘comment’ of 1925 or later … “
The next day Achad writes off another letter where he states that he believes Therion had been “led to restrict the meaning and application of the teachings of Liber Legis by means of a later Comment [i.e. Tunis] which he published in ‘The Equinox of the Gods’ in place of the former one which is yet the Comment.” In Achad’s view, the only real commentary is the one Crowley published in The Equinox I:7. Of course, Crowley views this comment as “shamefully meagre and incomplete.” (2) The best argument for Achad’s belief is that Crowley considered him to be the fool mentioned in Liber AL vel Legis 3 where it states, “The fool readeth this Book of the Law, and its comment; & he understandeth it not.” (AL III:63) Achad is quick to point out that Crowley acknowledges his early discoveries upon the idea of Not and how they unveiled many of the mysteries in Liber AL vel Legis. Achad’s contention is that the only comment he had available to read was that which appeared in The Equinox I:7 published in 1912. In other words, according to Liber AL itself, how could Frater Achad read the book and then its comment in order to make his discoveries about Not, if the correct comment (The Tunis Comment, 1925) had not yet been written? is this NOT a good question?
“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains,
however improbable, must be the truth.”
Love is the law, love under will. –AL I:57
1. Aleister Crowley, The Law is for All (AZ: New Falcon Publications, 1996) p. 9.
2. Aleister Crowley, The Confessions of (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1979) p. 675.
3. Note: The Equinox of the Gods, p.98-99.
The Tunis Comment 2007: The Debate Continues
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. –AL I:40
I would like to begin by pointing out that an entire issue of CORNELIA was devoted to the Tunis Comment: Issue No. 10. It republished such articles as “The Latest Dance Craze: The Tunis Comment Shuffle,” “An Open Epistle on Motta’s Degree,” “OTO Initiations or The Tunis Comment?,” “The Study of this Book is Forbidden.” and “But is there a Comment?” The CORNELIA issue also published “An Epistle on the Tunis Comment,” which was had originally been distributed only to A.’.A.’. initiates; but most of its information was also published in the other pieces just mentioned. Most of these articles had been written between 1998 to 2000, and over the years we thought the debate had been closed. That is until Saturday, November 24th, 2007 when one of our students in Japan asked a very good question.
He wrote, “Recently, I was in discussion about the status of the Tunis Comment. In your Epistle on the Tunis Comment, you acknowledge it’s stature as Class A, but where was it ever published as a Class A publication?” …. Answer: Admittedly, I’m brain dead and the answer is probably right in front of my nose but it is eluding me this morning. I need more coffee or less late night partying so that my eyes will face the right direction. Anyway, I can’t seem to find any source outside modern theorists referencing The Tunis Comment as Class A. So my question – “Where does it state The Tunis Comment is a Class A document amongst Aleister Crowley’s writings?” I asked readers on my blog if they wanted to answer this and throughout the day I received numerous replies. It became obvious that many of the Crowley scholars, like me, were perplexed. We have all toed the official Dave Scriven, Bill Breeze and OTO line for years without questioning whether or not The Tunis Comment is really a Class A document to be taken verbatim and without question. At this point we began searching for the answer whether or not this really is a Class A document.
The next day, Sunday, November 25th, 2007, I posted on my blog, “7:45am Wow, Andy one of our students in Japan really stirred up a hornet’s nest on this one! The Tunis Comment always seems to bring out debate. Still, most scholars are saying the same thing; under Fraters Hymenaeus Beta and Sabazius The Tunis Comment has always been referred to as Class A which means it must be “obeyed” in regards to The Book of the Law. It’s waved like a Holy Banner to silence anyone debating Thelema.”
8:00am The noted author and Crowley biographer Richard Kaczynski writes, “Dear Jerry, 93. I’m still looking, but so far have this: In “Equinox of the Gods,” p. 126, footnote, he says the Tunis “Comment is the really inspired message.” Whether Crowley means inspired in the “Class A” sense of the word, I don’t know. I was thinking that there may be some significance to the fact that he signed it Ankh-f-n-khnoshu, but he’s written non-Class A material under that pen-name. I suspect the answer may rest in some of his contemporary correspondence, either between Crowley and Mudd, or possibly even to Montgomery Evans. Or correspondence around the 1938 edition of Liber AL (or its subsequent reprinting by Agape Lodge). It’s also possible it may be in the Wilkinson letters, as Wilkinson later edited the long comment. Of this, Crowley remarked that it was written in an exalted state of mind that he could never regain, so he was reluctant to alter a word of it. I should go back to that letter in case he’s talking about the short comment. The search continues. 93 93/93 Richard.” ….. Great thoughts; I have much of the correspondence mentioned and predictably, I already searched it. Any true referebnce to The Tunis Comment being Class A in these works eludes me.
8:10am Brian Cross sent some good observations about The Tunis Comment almost mimicking about a dozen other that I received. Like the OTO Archivist Tony Iannotti who wrote, “The short comment was also from Tunis, and was first published in the Tunis edition of Liber AL, though I have never seen that edition. (11 copies in leather boxes?) If the whole edition was Class A, then that might count.” … and, as Brian puts it rather nicely, I’d like to quote his email. … “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Dear Jerry Cornelius, As the Comment is printed with the text and facsimile of the Book, and the latter are covered by the imprimatur, does it not follow that the former is too? Accordingly, I suggest, one should look to the 1925 Tunis Edition of CCXX. Should it have an imprimatur, problem solved! Otherwise, the first edition of CCXX with the Comment present and the imprimatur would appear to be the source for the Class A ascription. Whichever way one considers it, I would say that this indeed qualifies as a quite literal answer to your question “Where does it state The Tunis Comment is a Class A document amongst Aleister Crowley’s writings?”. Hope this helps! Yours, Brian Cross. Love is the law, love under will..” ….. Answer: Thanks Brian, good thoughts. My reply to Tony also answers yours and is as follows: “All the scholars so far are scratching their heads over this one. The one page 1925 Tunis Comment published at the end of the 11 copies of Liber AL vel Legis is the Comment in question. It also appears in most modern editions at the end. Some refer to it as the ‘Class A Comment’ but we’re trying now to determine why? Is this a modern assumption? I am perplexed. Anyway, simply being put at the end of a Class A document can not count otherwise an Introduction, Preface, Index and/or other additions added to any Class A Documents would automatically fall into this category. This is a tricky subject because if it’s not a Class A document but just something Crowley wrote about his views on the subject then interpretation and/or ignoring it is completely justified.”
8:25am Mike writes, “Being in the OTO for many many years I am beginning to see this Tunis Comment question as simply another way the Order and ‘Sabazi-ass’ is trying to keep Thelemites from thinking! Basically, if it is not Class A then we technically don’t have to follow it any more than Magick in Theory & Practice or other books he wrote. No?” ….. Answer: You are correct but I’d prefer you call him Sabazius. Anyway, it would simply be a non-A.’.A.’. book relating to Crowley’s personal views at the time he wrote it and nothing more. This is why the debate is so critical. The Tunis Comment may well be Crowley’s definitive statement on Liber AL vel Legis but it becomes ‘open for interpretation’ if not Class A.
9:15am John writes, “The entire original edition of Liber AL published in 1925 is a Class A document which is why the Comment is also Class A since it was first published there.” …. Answer: Logically, it sound good but all the publications of The Tunis Comment, regardless where and in what they have been published in since 1925, do not stamp it with any A.’.A.’. classification. All A.’.A.’. documents have this classification somewhere on the text. You’d think that Aleister Crowley would have labeled it Class A in The Equinox of the Gods (1936), no? And yes, it is a great argument to simply say the ‘entire’ Tunis edition of Liber AL is Class A because it has such at the beginning of the original book but the Class A on the Tunis edition simply refers to the original handwritten manuscript; not the Intro or other parts therein. It refers just to what Crowley ‘received’ in 1904. Did he ‘receive’ the 1925 Intro? Should it be a Class A document?
10:15am As for the Tunis Comment, Rey de Lupos of New Mexico wrote, “… being stated as a Class A document, I did read this in a lesson series called Of Causes Why. [grin] Aside from that, I remember talking with Jim Eschelman about it many years ago and he made a statement to the same effect over soba noodles, but I thought this was a personal statement rather than a recorded fact. I will dig through my archive and see if I can come up with something.” ….. Answer: the quotes found in our series titled Of Causes Why, even in our Tunis Comment articles published in Red Flame or on our website were the official views reiterated by Frater Hymaneus Beta, Sabazius and others. I, like others, simply accepted the view because at the time I was still on good terms with the OTO. I didn’t doubt their views but in hindsight, I should have. I should have questioned. It was just one of the amusing little historical things that never came up. Go figure? Anyway, keep reading the blog, lots of great info being posted.
11:20am No Carol, I do not create these “controversies to sir up trouble.” All students in my branch of the A.’.A.’. are told to ask questions and to think rather than accept what others tell them. If a student discovers a ‘quirk’ I think, since we are scientists, that we should seek to discover the solution. … If the heads of the OTO told you that the world is flat are you going to blindly believe them even if data surfaces to make you question their authority?
12:40pm Brian sent a great reply. He writes, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law Dear Jerry, Just a quick note. You quite rightly say, “Anyway, simply being put at the end of a Class A document can not count otherwise an Introduction, Preface, Index and/or other additions added to any Class A Documents would automatically fall into this category.” But, if you take a look at, for example, the little red copy of CCXX taken from the 1938 edition, you will notice that the imprimatur follows the introduction, but precedes the text, Comment and facsimile. Now, I would opine that this means that everything following the imprimatur is under its classification. Comparison with other Class A texts in the Equinox is helpful, though I hope that those with access to any earlier versions of CCXX will be forthcoming with any relevant facts. Given that Crowley was careful to distinguish appendices to such texts, except in the very few cases of mixed Class texts, such as Liber 418, I think the only reasonable default position is that the Comment is in Class A (which to me is more like an injunction not to tamper with a literary artefact). As you say, “This is a tricky subject”, and I await further developments with interest. Yours, Brian. Love is the law, love under will.” ….. Answer: Thanks for the comments. I have copies of all the earlier editions of Liber AL vel Legis which enabled us to do the definitive study on the book for Red Flame No. 8. … Not everything after an Imprimatur’s stamp is of the ‘Class’ stated. Otherwise the 15 pgs of ads and comments at the back of The Book of Lies would be A.’.A.’. Class A documents as stated at the beginning of the book. There has to be a line drawn somewhere. … Class A for instance implies ‘received’ and therefore cannot be changed in style or letter. The question, “Did Crowley ‘receive’ the Comment or did he write it?” In Magick Without Tears he simply writes that it was “inspired” while in a “mood of blank despair.” Regardie talks about this period in The Eye in the Triangle; as do I in my article “The tudy of This Book is Forbidden.” … Anyway, when we stamp Class A on the inside copyright page of Liber AL vel Legis [and many editions have such] we imply the classification to Liber AL and not our Intros, Appendix and etcs that are put into our editions. For instance, the original Equinox of the Gods published in 1936 is a Class E manuscript. This means it’s a manuscript that deals primarily with the propagation of the Laws of Thelema. If what you are saying sounds logical then consider that throughout this book many sections carry other classifications like Class A or B in order to distinguish them from the over-all book. But The Tunis Comment on the last page carries no classification at all. Thus we must consider, by your reckoning, to make it the classification found on the inside title page which is E? Or should we use the classification on the last previous article before The Tunis Comment which is Genesis Libri AL which carries a Class B stamp. ??? Either, or, it’s confusing. … I am simply bewildered; you’d think that if Crowley had made it a Class A document in 1925 he sure as Hell would have noted such in The Equinox of the Gods, no? I’m enjoying your thoughts … keep em’ coming …
Monday, November 26th, 2007. 7:10am The distinguished Crowley historian and OTO statesman Robert Stein writes, “I don’t know where the Class A designation for the Comment exists. Somewhere Crowley did write that the earlier (long, short, Djeridensis commentaries) were not THE COMMENT mentioned in the BOTL. Your student is correct that the Comment was properly published as an “appendix” to an undisputed Class A Document. I am here in ——– so I have to rely on my memory. The Class A Comment first appears as a separate sheet, in black and red, enclosed in the box with the photocopies of the manuscripts as the Tunis Edition in 1923. The second time he published it is in The Equinox of the Gods in 1936. There Liber 220, the typeset version is found at the beginning.. After several chapters of diversion, the manuscript is found at the end, with the Class A Comment after it. Again, the Comment clearly is only applicable to the manuscript. An attachment to a Class A liber. In the 1938/40 London/California editions (the last of Crowley’s lifetime), the Comment is included after the typescript version. The manuscript was not included. So by internal evidence, this is technically not a publication of Liber AL. …”but always with the original in the writing of the Beast…” Crowley apparently personally supervised the 1938 London, but not the California version (remember that there are two California ones, one in signatures, and one just in pamphlet pagination). I think that is the history of the versions in Crowley’s lifetime, but check Red Flame. Personally, the typeset versions are like the other Class A libers, for most of which we don’t have the equivalent of the original receptions (as received). If Crowley didn’t call them Class A, they better would fit the definition of Class B. That would then be true of the typescript of Liber AL (Liber 220) alone as well. Somewhere (look possibly in the Equinox of the Gods) Crowley says that what we call the Class A comment (much later origin than any other Class A document) is superior to his other comments. By analogy I would interpret this as parallel to the difference between the manuscript and the typeset versions. Crowley (and I chose not to interpret his intent) would indicate by this that the Comment is Class A, but I don’t remember any specific statement as such. … I hope this is helpful. Let me know what you find out further. It would be a good reference for me to know about.
7:20am Greig in UK writes, “Hi Jerry, 93 Is it possible that Crowley deliberately never gave “The Comment” in Liber AL a classification at all? It does say that:
All questions of the Law are to be decided only by appeal to my writings, each for himself. There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt. This puts the responsibility on the Individual to decide when reading the book, which is what Thelema is about. Just a thought. 93 93/93 Greig.” ….. Answer: and I agree with you. The problem lies in the fact that some people over the last ten to fifteen years in leadership positions have waved The Tunis Comment like a Holy Banner of undisputed Truth because it’s supposedly a Class A document and must be ‘OBEYED’ to the letter. This is why many in the OTO have stopped writing about or discussing Liber AL vel Legis due to what the comment says. Arguably, compared to times when Grady McMurtry was alive, Liber AL has been reduced to collecting dust on Gnostic Mass altars. Now, if it turns out that The Tunis Comment is simply an inspired piece of writing it can be ignored if so chosen. This opens up a big can of worms for the control freaks of Thelema.
10:0am Lee from the UK writes, “Hi Jerry, 93. Love your blog and read it every day. On the subject of the Comment I honestly think that Crowley never designated it a Class A Document. Inspired or not I believe it was merely a tool of convenience to get Norman Mudd off his back. (That’s not to say that it doesn’t have value beyond that though.) This is just a guess, but I think the Class A culprit here is none other than Marcelo Ramos Motta. 93 93/93 Lee.” ….. Answer: you may well be right because most of the adherents spreading the gospel belief in the Tunis Comment are ex-Mottaites!
3:07pm Andy, the person who originally asked the new infamous Tunis question, just wrote me. He writes, “Jerry 93! I had a musing while at work, so I’m firing this off to you while at work 🙂 Even if scholars do manage to sift through the paperwork and manage to find one source that could be taken as saying the Book of the Law is Class A material, I think it is apparent that Crowley made no real effort to present it as Class A, so what if they do? Where in the Book of the Law does it say that the Comment has to be obeyed? It speaks of the Prophet writing it, how it should be written, and the fact that it should be spread with the Book of the Law. It also speaks of people understanding it and not understanding it, but not that it somehow replaces the law of Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Anywho, it’s been fun reading the findings and musings of the various scholars.” ….. Answer: yes it has. Can’t wait to hear your next discovered quirk. The masses need to be stirred up every now and then!
Tuesday. November 27th. 2007 –6:20am Well, the Tunis Comment has definitely stirred up controversy once again! I’m not going to keep publishing all the emails coming in, close to thirty since just yesterday afternoon. Most are beginning to say the same thing but from a different angle or interpretation. This is a good thing. Some, like my close students Robert Flores sums it up best when he wrote, “I am completely of the mind set that Crowley never meant it to be a class A document! Thelemites everywhere should feel free to openly discuss the book. (as I always have anyhow) It is amazing to me that for years we all just accepted it as a class A document; What a fresh set of eyes can offer!” His comment is mimicked in the majority of incoming emails. The noted Crowley scholar Clive Harper writes, “Regret that I can’t offer any solution to the Class A comment.” … Some comments were not kind, like when an OTO initiate of repute writes, “Seems to me that this is another proven case where Sabazius and others have simply twisted Thelemic facts trying to keep initiates under their thumb, not thinking and accepting their dogma as gospel!” … Ouch. … And I can go on and on. Anyway, the basic jest of this debate seems to be that there is absolutely no evidence to support the claim that the Tunis Comment should be referred to as a Class A document and shouldn’t be or at least until concrete evidence surfaces to prove such.
7:00am Aisha surfaces, she writes, “Been busy here in Tokyo. I been working hard, long days. I read your blog for the first time in over a week. Good to see your health doesn’t slow down your ability to stir the big pot of Thelemic dogma! Remember cooking lessons, don’t stir too fast or you’ll spill things over the side. Much love. 93s Aisha.”
Love is the law, love under will. –AL I:57
Frater Achad Osher 583
Copyright (C) Cornelius 2007