by Hymenaeus Alpha 777
This is the Preface written by Maj. Grady Louis McMurtry X° for the 1983 edition of ΘΕΛΗΜΑ: The Holy Books of Thelema. (Maine: Samuel Weiser, Inc) pgs. vii -xxvi
Copyright (C) O.T.O.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
THE HOLY BOOKS OF THELEMA are the chief legacy of their scribe, Aleister Crowley (1875-1947 e.v.). Their principal value to us, his heirs, lies not in their considerable literary merit, but rather in the insight and illumination these books yield on each reading. Written, as they were, on the most exalted planes of spiritual experience, they have a way of unfolding within the reader, of not only retaining, but increasing their relevance. Since these works were written through Crowley, they cannot be classed with those books of magical and mystical instruction consciously written by Crowley. They afford far more than information or instruction they give access to the source of the scribe’s genius, and can awaken, as if by sympathetic resonance, promptings toward similar experiences in the receptive reader.
The most important liber (or book) is the founding document of Thelema: Liber AL Vel Legis Sub Figura CCXX. Originally titled Liber L, it was later retitled Liber AL (also pronounced el), and is often called Liber Legis, or The Book of the Law. The reception of this book in Cairo, Egypt, signalled the expiration of the on of Osiris, and inaugurated the new on of Horus; thus 1904 e.v. (Era Vulgaris, or common era) is year 0 of the Thelemic calendar.
The three chapters of Liber Legis were literally dictated to Crowley, during three one-hour sessions, from noon to 1 P.M. on April 8, 9 and 10, 1904 e.v. The entity giving dictation was a praeter-human intelligence called Aiwaz, or Aiwass, a being demonstrating knowledge and prescience beyond anything hitherto associated with human faculties. Crowley describes this messenger, and the circumstances surrounding the dictation of the book, in the following excerpt from his writings:
The Voice of Aiwass came apparently from over my left shoulder, from the furthest corner of the room. […]
The voice was passionately poured, as if Aiwass were alert about the time-limit. […] I was pushed hard to keep
the pace; the MS. shows it clearly enough. I had a strong impression that the speaker was actually in the corner
where he seemed to be, in a body of fine matter, transparent as a veil of gauze, or a cloud of incense-smoke. He
seemed to be a tall, dark man in his thirties, well-knit, active and strong, with the face of a savage king, and eyes
veiled lest their gaze should destroy what they saw. The dress was not Arab; it suggested Assyria or Persia, but
very vaguely. I took little note of it, for to me at that time Aiwass was an angel such as I had often seen in visions,
a being purely astral. (The Equinox of the Gods, pp. 117-118)
Crowley later recognized Aiwass as his Holy Guardian Angel, and came to accept the mantle of Thelemic prophet of the on of Horus thrust upon him by his reception of Liber Legis. Although the book abounds in specific references to the scribe and prophet in his now-historical role of The Beast 666, it is nevertheless the most influential of the Holy Books, with the greatest general relevance to humanity.
The Book of the Law was also the origin of the technical class (Class A) to which these Holy Books belong. Chapter I, verse 36, states that the scribe “shall not in one letter change this book; but lest there be folly, he shall comment thereupon by the wisdom of Ra-Hoor-Khu-it.” Crowley accordingly produced several important commentaries to Liber Legis, but only one that he regarded as definitely inspired the Comment he received in 1925 e.v., as predicted by Liber Legis:
But the work of the comment? That is easy; and Hadit burning in thy heart shall make swift and secure thy pen.
(Liber Al vel Legis III:40)
Crowley considered The Comment “the really inspired message, cutting as it does all the difficulties with a single keen stroke” (The Equinox of the Gods, p. 126n). This refers to the commentators that would otherwise revise and distort the message of Liber Legis to their own ends, forming “schools of interpretation” with the conformist pressures and tendencies to schism that inevitably follow. The Comment warns against the dissemination of personal interpretations of the book, thus establishing a scriptural tradition resistant to the revisionism that plagued previous religions and mystery schools. Yet it places supreme emphasis upon individual freedom of interpretation: “All questions of the Law are to be decided only by appeal to my writings, each for himself.” As applied, this creates a climate of freedom without parallel in religious history.
In many ways Liber Legis edits itself, giving explicit and detailed instructions to the scribe. These instructions, reviewed below, shed light on the dynamic interaction between scribe and book.
Liber Legis places great emphasis upon the importance of preserving the book intact for future generations: “Change not as much as the style of a letter; for behold! thou, o prophet, shalt not behold all these mysteries hidden therein.” (Liber Legis I:54). Crowley writes of this:
This injunction was most necessary, for had I been left to myself, I should have wanted to edit the book
ruthlessly. I find in it what I consider faults of style, and even of grammar; much of the matter was at the time of
writing most antipathetic. But the Book proved itself greater than the scribe: again and again have the “mistakes”
proved themselves to be devices for transmitting a Wisdom beyond the scope of ordinary language.
Another such instruction insists upon “a reproduction of this ink and paper for ever—for in it is the word secret & not only in the English” (Liber Legis III:39). Liber Legis even stipulates that the manuscript be included in foreign-language translations, “for in the chance shape of the letters and their position to one another: in these are mysteries that no Beast shall divine” (Liber Legis III:47). The manuscript is therefore reproduced (at 56% original size) immediately following the typeset text of Liber CCXX (by book number) otherwise observed in this edition, but facilitates comparison of the text and manuscript.
An important change made by Crowley when editing Liber CCXX was his numbering of the verses in Chapter I, which are unnumbered in manuscript. Since Liber CCXX derives its title from its total of 220 verses, this title clearly cannot apply to the manuscript. A few recent editions of Liber Legis have appeared which follow the MS., Liber XXXI, more literally in some respects than does Liber CCXX. Technically, such editions are not Liber CCXX, but rather attempts to produce a typeset version of Liber XXXI.
Finally, a close comparison of the text and manuscript will show variant punctuation. This was anticipated and approved by Liber Legis: “The stops as thou wilt: the letters? change them not in style or value!” (Liber Legis II:54). Thus, the changes in the “stops” introduced by Crowley in preparing Liber CCXX from Liber XXXI are in accordance with the book’s instructions.
Accordingly, each of the above-described prescriptions for publication have been observed in preparing Liber CCXX for this edition. The most recent authorized publication of Liber Legis has been used: that published by the O.T.O. in 1938 e.v. In recent reprintings (Weiser, 1979, 1981) four typographical errors were corrected by the O.T.O., after verification in earlier authorized editions and the MS.
Having reviewed the means by which Liber CCXX was prepared from the manuscript, Liber XXXI, it is appropriate here to examine the manuscript itself. In The Equinox of the Gods (p. 10) Crowley gives an explanatory list of the departures in Liber XXXI from what was dictated during the reception of Liber Legis:
A. On page 6 [of the MS.] Aiwaz instructs me to “write this (what he had just said) in whiter words,” for my
mind rebelled at His phrase. He added at once “But go forth on,” i.e., with His utterance, leaving the
emendation until later.
B. On page 19 I failed to hear a sentence, and (later on) the Scarlet Woman, invoking Aiwass, wrote in the
missing words. (How? She was not in the room at the time, and heard nothing.)
C. Page 20 of Cap. III, I got a phrase indistinctly, and she put it in, as for “B.”
D. The versified paraphrase of the hieroglyphs on the Stele being ready, Aiwaz allowed me to insert these later,
so as to save time.
These four apart, the MS. is exactly as it was written on those three days.
The stèle (or stela) referred to in §D above is a funerary monument of Ankh-f-n-khonsu, a Theban priest of Month (or Mentu) who flourished (according to modern scholarship) circa 725 B.C.E., in Egypt’s 25th Dynasty. It figured largely in the events leading up to the reception of Liber Legis, as did the Scarlet Woman, Crowley’s wife Rose. It was her discovery of the Stèle in Cairo’s Boulaq Museum that (in Crowley’s words) “led to the creation of the ritual by which Aiwass, the author of Liber L [Liber AL vel Legis], was invoked” (Crowley’s note to M.B. Bey).
It is referred to as the Stèle of Revealing in Liber Legis, and according to Crowley, indicates “a certain continuity or identity of myself with Ankh-f-n-khonsu, whose Stèle is the Link with Antiquity of this Revelation.” Crowley’s comment is of interest when considering the observations of the Egyptologist Abd el Hamid Zayed, who gave the Stèle its first publication in the archaeological literature, in 1968 e.v.:
The back of the stela is occupied by eleven horizontal lines of inscription, the first part of which is a version of
The Book of the Dead, chap. 30. This chapter was usually engraved upon a large scarab. It is very unusual to
find it inscribed upon a stela. The second half of the inscription is part of The Book of the Dead, chap. 2 and, in
the Theban Recension, it was entitled: “The chapter of coming forth by day and living after death.” Its object was
to allow the astral form of the deceased to revisit the earth at will. [emphasis added]
Certain other observations by Zayed are of interest. He notes that painted wooden stelae are uncommon, since stelae were usually carved in stone. The Stèle of Revealing is doubly unusual in that the reverse side, usually undecorated, is also painted, with exceprts from The Book of the Dead, chapters 2 and 30 (the text of the obverse is from chapter 91). Concerning painted wooden stela in general, he remarks that “it is noteworthy that they all seem to originate from Thebes and its neighbourhood, and that their owners are mostly persons attached to the cults of Month and Amon.” He also notes that “a very interesting point about these stelae is the evidence they afford for the religious views of the period. Most noteworthy is the identification of the forms of Ra-Horakhty [Ra-Hoor-Khuit] with Soker-Osiris.”
The curator of the Boulaq Museum, M. Brugsch Bey, arranged for a French translation of the Egyptian text of the Stèle in the weeks preceding the writing of Liber Legis in 1904 e.v. Crowley translated the French into English, in verse form, and had this English version of the hieroglyphic text at hand during the dictation of Liber Legis. In two instances (Liber Legis I:14, III:37-38) he had occasion to use it, but these verses do not appear in the MS. itself, having been inserted in to the typescript prepared after the book’s reception. Since the original Egyptian-French translation of the Stèle (from which Crowley made his versified paraphrase) has a direct bearing upon the text of Liber Legis, it is given its first publication in Appendix A, with a new English translation by a qualified Egyptologist (Ph.D., Columbia) who chooses to remain anonymous. An actual photograph of the Stèle is also included; all previous appearances of the Stèle in Thelemic publications have been modern painted reproductions, based upon a copy made for Crowley by the Boulaq Museum.
As remarked above, the manuscript of Liber Legis was written from direct-voice dictation on April 8-10, 1904 e.v., several weeks after the translation of the Stèle. The exact provenance of Liber CCXX, the edited form of Liber XXXI, is given in the following excerpt (by Norman Mudd, unpublished):
Three typed copies [of Liber Legis] made in Cairo. One used by publishers of Zæhnsdorf edition (Chiswick
Press) [Thelema] previous to rediscovery of MSS. Errors in vellum books [Thelema] due to the fact that this
typescript not properly checked from MSS.
Thus, Liber CCXX had been edited and typed before Crowley left Egypt, but was later discovered to be unsatisfactory, since it had not been carefully compared to the manuscript. Such painstaking proofreading is of great importance with Liber Legis—the book insists upon exact redaction—but was impossible after Crowley’s return to England since he misplaced the manuscript. The flaws in this early form of Liber CCXX were only discovered after its first publication in 1909 e.v., upon recovery of the manuscript. Liber XXXI and Liber CCXX were later published in The Equinox, marking Liber XXXI‘s first publication, and the first appearance of Liber CCXX as Crowley intended it.
The many injunctions in Liber Legis concerning its editing prompted the creation of a new class of magical literature—Class “A”, which “consists of books of which may be changed not so much as the style of a letter.” A salient feature of Liber Legis, when considered in context with the other books in this volume, is that it was not the work of Aleister Crowley, as Crowley himself emphasizes (The Equinox of the Gods, p. 106):
I claim authorship even of all the other A.’.A.’. Books in Class A, though I wrote them inspired beyond all I
know to be I. Yet in these Books did Aleister Crowley, the master of English both in prose and in verse, partake
insofar as he was That. Compare those Books with The Book of the Law! The style [of the former] is simple
and sublime; the imagery is gorgeous and faultless; the rhythm is subtle and intoxicating; the theme is interpreted
in faultless symphony. There are no errors of grammar, no infelicities of phrase. Each Book is perfect in its kind.
I, daring to snatch credit for these […] dared nowise to lay claim to have touched The Book of the Law, not
with my littlest finger-tip.
In his Commentaries on Liber Legis Crowley enlarges on this important point:
[T]he use of such un-English expressions makes a clear-cut distinction between AIWAZ and the scribe. In the
inspired Books such as Liber LXV, VII, DCCCXIII and others, written by The Beast 666 directly, not from
dictation, no such awkward expressions are to be found. The style shows a well-marked difference.
The “inspired Books” referred to above constitute, with Liber Legis, the Holy Books of Thelema. Liber Legis took Crowley very much by surprise. He was only twenty-eight when he received it, and although possessed of experience in esotericism through his membership in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, he was at its reception disinclined to magical studies. A full grasp of Liber Legis’ significance came only after further initiations. In fact, three decades passed before Crowley issued the account of the reception of Liber Legis stipulated by the book in 1904 e.v.
The Holy Books received three years later in 1907 e.v. were fruit of his early magical career as a connected whole, entailing years of initiations and applied study in several magical and mystical disciplines. Crowley himself illustrates this in a hitherto-unpublished chronology reproduced in full on the following page. For its first publication, references have been provided to Crowley’s accounts of the episodes cited, as published in his Confessions. Obscure or abbreviated entries have been expanded within editorial brackets.
Terse as this document is, it is remarkably comprehensive. Beginning with his first tentative enquiries into occultism at age 22, it follows the high points of his early career through the fall of 1907 E. V. The chronology lists Crowley’s initiations in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn from grades 0=0 through 5=6, and after a passing reference to the leadership crisis that sundered the Order in 1900 e.v., it documents his private studies and initiations (grades 6=5 and 7=4). It ends with the words “Books begin to be received at will”, a reference to the series of Holy Books whose reception commenced in October of 1907 e.v. In this year Crowley took the oath of the grade of Magister Templi 8=3, which he attained fully several years later. His motto was Vi Veri Vniversum Vivus Vici (“By the force of Truth I have conquered the Universe while living”). Abbreviated as V.V.V.V.V., it occurs throughout these Holy Books: it was the magical motto the prophet used “in His office of giving out the ‘Official Books of A.’.A.’.’ to the world in The Equinox” With the writing of these Holy Books through his physical vehicle, Aleister Crowley, V.V.V.V.V. manifested a link with the “Secret Chiefs” of Ordo A.’.A.’., and conveyed the authority necessary for Crowley to fill the leadership vacuum in its dependent Orders, the R.R. et A.C. and the Golden Dawn. This is recounted in Liber LXI Vel Causæ, in a passage with special relevance to these Holy Books:
29. Also one V.V.V.V.V. arose, an exalted adept of the rank of Master of the Temple (or this much He
disclosed to the Exempt Adepts) and His utterance is enshrined in the Sacred Writings.
30. Such are Liber Legis, Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente, Liber Liberi vel Lapidis Lazuli and such others
whose existence may one day be divulged unto you. Beware lest you interpret them either in the Light or in
the darkness, for only in L.V.X. may they be understood.
31. Also He conferred upon D.D.S., O.M., and another, the Authority of the Triad, who in turn have delegated it
unto others, and they yet again, so that the Body of Initiates may be perfect, even from the Crown unto the
Kingdom and beyond.
Crowley writes that the “function of the Magister Templi is to cause the desert to blossom by transmitting the Logos of the Æon to those that are below the Abyss.” Thus in 1907 e.v. many Holy Books were transmitted through the hand of Aleister Crowley, as is detailed below by Major General J.F.C. Fuller, who refers to Crowley by his Neophyte motto, Frater Perdurabo:
Of V.V.V.V.V. we have no information. We do not know, and it is of no importance that we should know,
whether he is an actual person or a magical projection of Frater P[erdurabo], or identical with Aiwass, or
anything else […] It is sufficient to say that all the Class A publications of the A.’.A.’. should be regarded as not
only verbally and Liberally [sic] inspired by Him, but that this accuracy should be taken to extend even to the
style of the letter. If a word is unexpectedly spelt with a capital letter , it must not be thought that this is a mistake;
there is some serious reason why it should be so. During this year 1907, therefore, we find a number of such
books dictated by him to Frater P. Of the sublimity of these books no words can give expression. It will be
noticed that they are totally different in style from Liber Legis, just as both of them are different from any of the
writings of Frater P. (The Temple of Solomon the King, The Equinox 1:9).
In his Confessions Crowley gives an account of the writing of these books from the point of view of the scribe:
[T]he spirit came upon me and I wrote a number of books in a way which I hardly know how to describe. They
were not taken from dictation like The Book of the Law nor were they my own composition. I cannot even call
them automatic writing. I can only say that I was not wholly conscious at the time of what I was writing, and I felt
that I had no right to “change” so much as the style of a letter. They were written with the utmost rapidity without
pausing for thought for a single moment, and I have not presumed to revise them. Perhaps “plenary inspiration” is
the only adequate phrase, and this has become so discredited that people are loth to admit the possibility of such
The prose of these books, the chief of which are Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente [Liber LXV] […] and
Liberi Vel Lapidis Lazuli [Liber VII], is wholly different from anything that I have written myself. It is
characterized by a sustained sublimity of which I am totally incapable and it overrides all the intellectual
objections which I should myself have raised. It does not admit the need to explain itself to anyone, even to me. I
annot doubt that these books are the work of an intelligence independent of my own.
There are many subtleties among these Holy Books, both of degree of inspiration and mode of reception. Crowley especially cherished Libri VII and LXV, but all of these Holy Books were penned during high trance. General Fuller’s account elucidates this aspect of their reception:
We may turn for a moment to consider the actual conditions under which he received them. We find the hint of
the nature of the communication in Liber LXV and Liber VII. On one or two occasions the scribe introduced his
thought upon the note, in particular Liber VII, Chapter I, Verse 30, where Verse 29 suggested Verse 30 to
Frater P., who wrote it consciously and was corrected in Verse 31. Frater P. is, however, less communicative
about this writing than about Liber Legis. It appears that during the whole period of writing he was actually in
Samadhi, although, strangely enough, he did not know it himself. It is a question of the transference of the Ego
from the personal to the impersonal. He, the conscious human man, could not say “I am in Samadhi”; he was
merely conscious that “that which was he” was in Samadhi.
An entry for 1:30 a.m. of October 30 in Crowley’s Diary for 1907 E.V. records Liber VII‘s reception: “About 11 [p.m. of October 29] (I suppose) I began, the 7-fold Word & finished the same.” This confirms Crowley’s assertion that these books were “written with the utmost rapidity without pausing for thought for a single moment.” Liber VII, a book of over 5700 words, was written in only 2 1/2, hours. For comparative purposes, Liber VII is slightly longer than the MS. of Liber Legis, which was taken from dictation in 3 hours.
The Diary also records the writing of Liber LXV immediately after Liber VII‘s reception. Unlike Liber VII, this book was written a chapter or two at a time over several days, from the evening of October 30 through the 3rd of November. The following excerpt sheds further light on the process by which these books were written:
Wrote [Chapters] I & II Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente [Liber LXV] again no shadow of Samadhi; only a
feeling that V.V.V.V.V. was in His Samadhi, and writing by my pen. i.e. the pen of the scribe, and that scribe not
ονμη, who reasons etc. nor a[leister] c[rowley] who is a poet & selects; but of some perfectly passive person.
After the writing of Libri VII and LXV, V.V.V.V.V. issued several more Holy Books, whose reception is recorded in the Diary. The first of these, Liber LXVI, was received several weeks later on November 25.
Crowley’s rather obscure Diary entries recording the reception of portions of Liber CCXXXI show that the “Arcana in Atus of Tahuti” and the “Sigils of genii &c.” were received on December 5-6; the “Sigilla 22” were copied on December 14. It appears that the textual porτion of Liber CCXXXI was received several years later, as is discussed below.
During December 12-14 Crowley received a new book each day—Libri X, CD, and XXVII. He writes in his 1908 e.v. diary that Liber DCCCXIII was “delivered unto me in the winter of last year”; it was therefore received in the winter of 1907-08 e.v. (John St. John in The Equinox I:1 p. 133.)
The balance of the Holy Books were apparently received in 1911 e.v. In his Confessions, Crowley lists several Holy Books in a survey of writings produced in that year.” This list includes Liber CCXXXI, discussed above—an apparent reference to the versified textual portion of that book, which is not mentioned in the Diary for 1907 e.v. Also listed are Libri I, XC, CLVI and CCCLXX. However, Crowley mistakenly lists Libri X, LXVI and CD, all of which were actually written in 1907 e.v. Such confusion is understandable since Crowley had lost his diaries for both 1907 and 1911 e.v., and was writing from memory for The Confessions roughly a decade later.
Having reviewed the provenance of the Holy Books, a technical digression is necessary here to resolve a long-standing problem of attribution. In spite of their spiritual provenance, as detailed above, many students hold that Crowley considered only five of these inspired writings to be Holy Books. How this belief obtained will require some explanation.
Although a full and proper account of A.’.A.’. is impossible in this place—readers are referred to the widely-available authorized account, “One Star in Sight “—it will be useful here to discuss those customs of A.’.A.’. that bear upon the identity of the Holy Books.
The official publications of A.’.A.’. are grouped into five classes, from “A” to “E”. The classification system was devised to obviate potential confusion regarding the relative sanctity or authority of the books and papers evaluated, and has generally succeeded in this. Class “A”, by definition, “consists of books of which may be changed not so much as the style of a letter: that is, they represent the utterance of an Adept entirely beyond the criticism of even the Visible Head of the Organization.” This class ultimately derives from the first and foremost of the Holy Books, Liber Legis, and Crowley extended it to the twelve inspired books received from V.V.V.V.V. It is extremely unlikely that Crowley would intentionally qualify the “holiness” of books in Class “A” —their very definition argues against it.
The source of the problem of attribution is Crowley’s rarest and most prized private edition, Thelema. Published in 1909 E. V., Thelema included Liber LXI and five of the Holy Books—Libri VII, XXVII, LXV, CCXX and DCCCXIII. Many bibliographers list it as The Holy Books, although the only title the edition bears is Thelema. Crowley himself used the proper title—his diaries abound in references to Thelema, which he often used for bibliomancy. One of Crowley’s references to the Holy Books could be construed to mean the three volumes of Thelema, but does not imply exclusive equivalence when taken in context. As a rule, he used the term “Holy Books” generically.
Crowley issued the three volumes of Thelema one by one, as students in A.’.A.’.. achieved successive grades in the Outer College of the Order. By his account, on entering the Order the Probationer received the first volume, comprised of Liber LXI and the secret holy book, Liber LXV. (Note that Crowley does not term Liber LXI a Holy Book.) Those who passed to Neophyte received the second volume, which included Liber VII. In a like manner, Liber CCXX was given to the Zelator, Liber XXVII to the Practicus and Liber DCCCXIII to the Philosophus. Thus, the books in Thelema comprise the core curriculum of aspirants in the Outer College of A.’.A.’..
The notion that the term “Holy Book” should be reserved for the books published in Thelema rests on the assumption that a Class “A” book must form a part of the graded curriculum of A.’.A.’. in order to be so termed. It is a simple matter to dismiss this notion on its own terms. Although the basic assumption may well be correct, Thelema‘s equivalence with the Holy Books is clearly erroneous.
A colophon note to Liber CCCLXX attributes it to the grade of Dominus Liminus, thus resuming the A.’.A.’. graded curriculum where Thelema left off at the preceding grade of Practicus. The Holy Books published in Thelema had similar notes appended to them; for comparative purposes, these notes have been transferred to the Synopsis in the present edition. Liber I, attributed by Crowley to Adeptus Minor, was termed a Holy Book by Crowley himself. Both examples were written after Thelema‘s publication.
In later years Crowley relaxed the secrecy with which he shrouded these books. Liber Legis was republished, and The Equinox III(1) included Libri LXI and LXV. Crowley planned to issue the remainder of Thelema in subsequent numbers of Volume III, but the publishing program failed—The Equinox III(2), which included Liber VII, only survives in galley proofs.
Thus, the confusion Crowley took such pains to forestall arose after his death due to the confusion of a bibliographic reference (the book Thelema) with an ill-defined tradition concerning the Holy Books. An illustration of the effect of this loose definition is a recent edition comprised of three books excerpted from Thelema. Entitled The Holy Books, it led many students to believe that only three Class “A” writings are Holy Books. Its editor, Dr. F.I. Regardie, acknowledges the error, and suggests Three Holy Books as a more accurate title. Given such candor, it is only fair to add that Five Holy Books would be a better popular subtitle for Thelema itself.
Two of the books in the present volume have had classification changes. Liber I was first published as Class “B”, the class reserved for works of “ordinary scholarship, enlightened and earnest.” It was later listed as Class “A” in the official syllabus published in 1913 e.v. This, taken with Crowley’s explicit reference to it as a Holy Book, prompts its inclusion as Class “A” in the present compilation. Another book, Liber LXI, was first published in Thelema, where it appeared in Class “A”. It was changed to Class “B” in the 1913 e.v. syllabus, and changed yet again in 1919 e.v., when it was republished in Class “D”, signifying an official ritual or instruction. Crowley considered Liber LXI an “introduction to the series”; it is therefore included as the Introduction to the present edition, under its most recent imprimatur in Class “D”.
Also, three books containing Class “A” material have been excluded from the present compilation.
The first two may be treated together. They are Liber CDXV—Opus Lutetianum (commonly called The Paris Working) and Liber CDXVIII—Liber XXX Ærum Vel Soeculi (commonly called The Vision and the Voice). Both are diary records of magical workings conducted by Crowley in collaboration with Victor B. Neuburg. Crowley placed these two books in Class “AB”, which he reserved for Class “A” material contained in a Class “B” text. Although Crowley regarded both books with reverence, it appears that he did not consider these “composite” class writings to be Holy Books. The Class “A” material, typically the utterance of a deific or angelic entity, is inextricably imbedded in the Class “B” text, often without benefit of quotation marks. Evidence for this view may be found in Crowley’s writings, where he clearly distinguishes Liber CDXVIII from the Holy Books as a group. Also, Liber CDXVIII has two sections pertaining to Class “D”, since they comprise official rituals or instructions.
The third book excluded is in Class “A-B”: Liber Θεσανρον Eιδολον Sub Figura CMLXIII, commonly called The Treasure-House of Images. In this case, only a short prefatory note is in Class A; the book itself, in Class B, is the work of Major General J.F.C. Fuller.
And what of the future? Will additional writings of this kind be received by others? Suffice to say that the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel is the central (though not final) goal of aspirants to A.’.A.’.. Crowley’s communion with his Angel, Aiwass, reached tangible expression in these Holy Books, and he strove mightily to help others attain to this spiritual experience. As the following excerpt shows, he did expect similar communications to be received by those who succeeded in this, the Great Work:
Although it [Liber Legis] was not the direct result of invocation, unless the successful invocation of Horus be
accounted such, yet in view of the Magical tradition that communications of this type may and should result more
or less directly from the use of ceremonial methods, and of the absence of any other reasonable theory which
covers the facts, I am led to make experiments and to induce others to make experiments on the assumption that
people trained in a) Magical b) Mystical c) Qabalistic arts are more likely than those not so trained to receive
similar communications with such fulness and accuracy as enables them to withstand the severest criticism. (The
original communication was made to Rose [Crowley] but would obviously have come to nothing had I not been
there to gestate and parturate the seed.) These experiments have been justified by such results as the books
LXV, VII, 418, I, Ararita, and by such work as the editing of the T[ao] T[eh] K[ing] and the Y[i] K[ing]. The
validity of the methods is demonstrated by J[ohn] S[t.] J[ohn]. Also by the success of those who have put them
into practice with fidelity, energy and intelligence. Indirectly also by the quality of the failures and disasters which
have accompanied experiments conducted in ways which I disapprove. Incidentally I have been able to predict
results both of the wise and foolish virgins under my supervision. […] [I]t is my special business to set people to
obtain the K[nowledge] and C[onversation] of the H[oly] G[uardian] A[ngel] by such means as I have myself
proved valid. By the word “conversation” I understand communication similar to The Book of the Law as to
origin, authority and value, each as may be suited to the nature and T[rue] Will of the aspirant or experimenter.
Crowley’s last remark deserves special emphasis. Several purported “Holy Books” have appeared over the years that superficially resemble those received by Crowley in style and format, a feature that does not necessarily connote authenticity. Few, if indeed any, show much more than the literary fecundity of their authors. Inspired writings are a spontaneous by-product of the spiritual attainments they reflect, not ends in themselves. Also, they have no equivalence with the results of simple mediumship—years of aspiration and rigorous training were a prerequisite even for a mystic and magician of Crowley’s abundant native gifts. But such directly-inspired writings have been received in the past—Blake’s reception of Jerusalem is the classic Western precursor—and Crowley clearly expected more to be produced in the future.
For the present compilation, in certain respects an updated second edition of the collection published in 1909 e.v., the original title of Thelema is retained, and popular usage is acknowledged in the subtitle The Holy Books of Thelema. All writings in Class “A” (except for “composite” material, as discussed above) are considered Holy Books. Should this prove to be an error despite the available evidence, it will be corrected in a future edition. The Holy Books have been collected and republished verbatim from the sources cited in Appendix C. Extraneous commentaries in the original publications have generally been transferred to the Synopsis. Material in editorial brackets appearing within a text (as occurs in Libri XXVII, CCXXXI and CD) is retained; the reader is advised that these are not insertions by the present editor. Also, the use of typographical conventions such as ligatures (Æ, œ, ﬁ, etc.) has been made consistent.
An explanation of the A.’.A.’. classification system appears in the Technical Bibliography (Appendix B), which also lists the technical books and papers of Thelema by number, class and title. This is intended to help readers place the Class A writings in context with writings in other classes.
Crowley wrote several commentaries to individual Holy Books, many of which have been published. The reader may consult the Selected References in Appendix C for bibliographic data.
It is to be hoped that the publication of these books, here collected in one volume for the first time, will assist all aspirants in the accomplishment of their True Wills, the Great Work, the Summum Bonum, True Wisdom and Perfect Happiness.
Love is the law, love under will.
Hymenæus Alpha 777, Caliph
Maj. Grady Louis McMurtry
(U.S. Army Reserve)
Sol in Leo, Luna in Mercury
August 12, 1982 E.V.
NOTE: Items found in RED in the above manuscript
are footnotes by the editor in the original edition.