Qui habet aures audiendi, audiat.
The word “comment” appears four times in the Book of the Law: in I, 36; III, 39f.; and III, 63. The Latin, meaning “something invented,” was taken by Isidore and other Christian theologians for “interpretation, annotation.” Crowley spent many years trying to write the Comment as prophesied in the Book of the Law, “by the wisdom of Ra-Hoor-Khuit,” mystically identified with “Hadit burning in thy heart.” It took him 21 years. At last, in Tunis, Tunisia, in 1925, he wrote the 104 (93 + 11) words of the Comment in a moment of pique, and published it as an appendix to the Book of the Law. The Comment became the last Official Publication of the A∴A∴ in Class A.
Despite its apparent simplicity, the Comment is a difficult work to understand. Aiwaz seems to have anticipated this too: “The fool readeth this Book of the Law, and its comment; & he understandeth it not” (III, 63). For Crowley’s Comment (see below), rather than interpret the Book of the Law, appears to forbid its study, advises readers to destroy it after the first reading, declares that those who discuss the Book “are to be shunned by all, as centres of pestilence,” and refers all questions of the Law to Crowley’s writings, “each for himself” (quoting, apparently, the Buddha’s last words to the sangha in the Pali Canon). This corresponds to the A∴A∴’s initiatory praxis, which discouraged group work. In effect, Crowley declares the Book of the Law to be a sealed scripture, like the book in Revelation 5, 1-4: “And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. And a saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof? And no man in heaven, nor on earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.”
Some “orthodox” Thelemites have interpreted the Comment to include all of the Thelemic Holy Books (Official Publications of the A∴A∴ in Class A) and to prohibit all philosophical discussions whatsoever, thus effectively establishing Thelema as an exclusively private affair, based on the fourth paragraph: “All questions of the Law are to be decided only by appeal to my writings, each for himself.” The practical effect of this view has been to suppress all theoretical or “theological” research into the Law of Thelema, limiting themselves to praxis almost exclusively. In writing, most Thelemic books are consequently practical, historical, or biographical in character.
The difficulty with the exoteric view summarized above, in addition to the fact that praxis without wisdom is unintelligible, is that Crowley himself appears to contradict it. Since we are referred to Crowley’s writings by the Comment itself, this puts one in a catch-22! Specifically, in Magick Without Tears, a mature work published posthumously, Crowley, basing himself on the Book of the Law, discusses the advent of “one” who will “discover the key of it all.” It is so important that I quote it in full, from the end of Chapter XLVIII of Magick Without Tears:
The Book’s meaning is “…not only in the English…” etc. (AL I, 36; I, 46; I, 54, 55; II, 76; III, 16; III, 39; III, 47; III, 63-68; and III, 73). These passages make it clear that there is a secret interpretation, which, being hidden as it is hidden, is presumably of even graver importance than the text as it stands. Such passages as I have been able to decipher confirm this view; so also does the discovery of the key number 31 by Frater Achad. We must also expect a genius to arise who will accomplish all this work for us. Again we know that much information of the utmost value has been given through the Hebrew, the Greek and very probably the Arabic Qabalah. There is only one logical conclusion of these premises. We know (a) the Book means more than it appears to mean, (b) this inner meaning may modify, or even reverse, the outer meaning, (c) what we do understand convinces us that the Author of the Book is indeed what he claims to be; and, therefore, we must accept the Book as the Canon of Truth, seeking patiently for further enlightenment. This last point is of especial virtue: see AL III, 63-68. The value to you of the Book varies directly with the degree of your own initiation.
Thus, Crowley makes it quite clear that a future genius will arise who will not only study and discuss the Book of the Law, they will declare a “secret interpretation … of even graver importance than the text as it stands.” This hidden or inner meaning will not merely explicate the text of the Book of the Law, it will reverse the outer, conventional meaning. Moreover, in the introduction to Magick Without Tears Crowley writes to his correspondent, a quite low-ranking member of the A∴A∴ and not a genius by any means, “I think you should have a copy of the Equinox of the Gods and make The Book of the Law your constant study.” Similarly, the Minerval of the O.T.O. is solemnly sworn to study the Book of the Law! Clearly, then, since the Comment declares Crowley’s word to be definitive, the study of the Book of the Law is permitted. How can this be?
The answer I think lies in Crowley’s reference to a secret or hidden interpretation of the Book of the Law that reverses its outer meaning, and is of even graver importance than the text as its stands. If we apply this broad hint to the text of the Comment itself, we may experience an intuition of what is meant. The primary dictum of the Comment is: “The study of this Book is forbidden.” We need look no further than the dictionary. In the definition of this word one finds “application of the mind to the acquisition of knowledge, as by reading, investigation, or reflection.” The solution of the enigma is also to be found in the Buddhist scriptures as well as in the text of the Book of the Law itself: spiritual truth is trans-rational and trans-linguistic. Therefore, it cannot be apprehended by rational analysis. This is why study is forbidden, because the methodology of ratiocination is inappropriate because it is impossible. Therefore it cannot be anyone’s true will.
In other words, the Book of the Law is a Tantra. Tantras are written in a “twilight language” that have exactly the qualities that Crowley attributes to the text of the Book of the Law. Tantras, like the Book of the Law, are written in a symbolic code that, if interpreted literally, leads to error: “These are most dire.” The literal interpretation of many Tantras would commit one to murder, incest, rape, cannibalism, the consumption of excrement and urine, etc. (rather like the Bible). Similarly, the Book of the Law refers to murder, the ritual sacrifice of children, cannibalism, and indiscriminate slaughter. Following Crowley in the light of the Comment, none of these meanings is true. The Book of the Law is written in a complex psycho-symbolic cipher; it cannot be interpreted literally. Thus, as the Book of the Law itself says, “The fool readeth this Book of the Law, and its comment; & he understandeth it not.” Yet this is precisely how the exotericsts interpret the Law of Thelema. They are ignorant fools who destroy themselves by their own folly, and bring calumny upon themselves and disrepute upon the Law of Thelema. Thus, they are indeed to be shunned as centres of pestilence. “They are fools that men adore; both their Gods & their men are fools” (Liber CCXX, I, 11). It is “wise” to destroy the Book after the first reading: i.e., the meaning of the Book is the reversal of what it says, and it can only be understood in this (twi)light. This is the ritual of passage through the Secret Door of the order of the shunned.
The verse quoted itself hints at this reversal of meaning: “The fool readeth this Book of the Law, and its comment; & he understandeth it not.” That is to say, the Pure Fool, the divine crazy wisdom master, the mahasiddha, the yogi, the initiate, reading the text of the Book of the Law in the light of its comment, understands (Binah, the grade of Master of the Temple) IT (the Ultimate Reality; see Liber 333, Cap. 31) to be NOT (LA, shunyata, emptiness, void, the method of reversal, etc.).
I declare that this revelation concerning the method of reversal (the method of LA, or LAM) constitutes the essential realization of the Book of the Law, sans which those who read, study and discuss the Book of the Law are without, whereas those who comprehend this method and apply it consistently constitute the true Thelemites, the centres (from Greek kentron “sharp point, goad, sting of a wasp”), the spiritual Pivot, the Kether or Hadit, unitary and transdual, which will spread like a virus, as the toxin that is also a medicine. As it is written, “Even as evil kisses corrupt the blood, so do my words devour the spirit of man. I breathe, and there is infinite dis-ease in the spirit. As an acid eats into steel, as a cancer that utterly corrupts the body; so am I unto the spirit of man” (Liber LXV, vv. 14ff.).
Moreover, I declare this new understanding of the Law of Thelema to be the Next Step. It is time to transcend the misosophy of the sycophants.
Let him come through the first ordeal, & it will be to him as silver.
Through the second, gold.
Through the third, stones of precious water.
Through the fourth, ultimate sparks of the intimate fire.
Yet to all it shall seem beautiful. Its enemies who say not so, are mere liars.
There is success.
(Liber CCXX, vv. 64-69)
The thesis is the exoteric. The antithesis is the esoteric. The synthesis is the realization of the transdual.
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
The study of this Book is forbidden. It is wise to destroy this copy after the first reading.
Whosoever disregards this does so at his own risk and peril. These are most dire.
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.
Love is the law, love under will.
The priest of the princes,