|Lon Milo Duquette (from his author profile)|
|Richard Kaczynski (from his "X" profile)|
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Let’s take a look at possible explanations for beginning with this enigmatic sentence known as the Law of Thelema. Why did Aleister Crowley instruct all communications to start this way and conclude with “Love is the law, love under will.?” Not only written communication, he advised Thelemites to pass along this greeting every time when beginning speaking to someone. In this neck of the woods, it’s customary when making a transaction at a store for the cashier to say something like: “Hi, how are you today?” Taken literally, a practicing Thelemite should respond, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. I’m fine, how are you?” That sounds ridiculous, the cashier might likely think wtf are they talking about? although we can find several accounts where Crowley does just that upon meeting someone for the first time. A Thelemic corollary to this opening remark is: “Every man and every woman is a star.” Another way to approach this opening injunction without completely ignoring it is to say it silently, without the intent of passing the instruction along – for the most part, telepathy remains quite weak at this primitive stage of human civilization, they won’t (not can’t) hear your thought . . . though some will, you may be surprised – but to remind yourself to acknowledge and respect their right to be who they are and to do what they do. In this regard, it appears similar to the Hindu salutation “namaste” which means “the being in me honors the being in you.” This kind of exercise might cotrespond to what John Lilly calls metaprogramming the human biocomputer. When or if it’s practiced enough times, it becomes baked in to what’s known as the “body of habits.” The linguistic formulation no longer becomes necessary. That kind of respect for strangers becomes part of your default mode, until proven otherwise.
“Do what thou wilt” did not originate with Crowley. The earliest I know of it comes from Augustine of Hippo sometime around the 5th Century c.e.: “Once for all, then, a short precept is given thee: Love, and do what thou wilt: whether thou hold thy peace, through love hold thy peace; whether thou cry out, through love cry out; whether thou correct, through love correct; whether thou spare, through love do thou spare: let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good.” Bob Dylan has a song that begins: “I dreamed I saw St. Augustine alive as you or I.” Some 1200 years later in the 17th Century c.e. Francois Rabelais made “Do what thou wilt” the one rule of his fictitious Abbey of Thélème in the novel Gargantua. Crowley flipped St. Augustine’s command to put love under will. Augustine says no matter what you do, do it with love. Crowley wants you to determine what to do, what course to take, THEN do it with love. Carlos Castaneda puts it as “follow the path with heart.”
It's understandable why St. Augustine and Rabelais used the archaic “thou” instead of “you,” but why Crowley? After all, he endeavored to align Thelema with the method of Science. Why not, “Do what you wilt shall be the whole of the Law?” Or, “do what I wilt?” “Thou” is defined as a second person singular pronoun. When applying “Do what thou wilt” to yourself, it implies something different, something other than how you see yourself now. “You” is also a second person singular pronoun, but it doesn’t have that same effect for suggesting something other than your current “self”; maybe because it’s not archaic? To me, “thou” suggests a becoming, becoming something other than your current self-identity, commonly known as the ego. “Thou” indicates a process, “you” defaults to a static identity. In Thelemic terms, what kind of process, becoming what? What might ‘thou” suggest in “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law? One might get a clue by reading Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein where “Thou” gets a clear, if mystical representation. I share the suspicion with some others that Heinlein was asked by his friend Jack Parsons to give an account of Crowley’s philosophy and Stranger is what he came up with. The Book of the Law does get a mention in it. One could also find a clue from reading/performing the ritual known as “The Mass of the Phoenix” found in Chapter 44 of the Book of Lies. In that regard, Crowley presents the idea of the “Bud-Will” in the 86th chapter of Liber Aleph, “On the Complete Formula.” It’s basically a ritual designed to begin the process of discovering one’s True Will seen metaphorically as the beginnings of a plant that will eventually bloom.
Lon Milo Duquette begins his Lion of Light “Introduction” with:
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. He begins the short blurb he wrote for the back cover with the same words.
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Aleister Crowley and Robert Anton Wilson were introduced to me at roughly the same time by my friend and roommate Bob Gregory. I was 21 or 22. Meeting Bob seemed serendipitous as it resulted from my first personal experience with backstabbing music business politics. A music store salesman whom I respected didn’t like the band I worked for. He lied to me saying they intended to replace me. I quit that band and joined another one that Bob ran lights for. Bob was fond of saying that Bob spelled backwards is still Bob. He had a small occult library that he took on the road with him that included Gems from the Equinox, a best of anthology from Crowley’s Equinox volumes. He also told me about this incredible book that I just had to get, Cosmic Trigger, The Final Secret of the Illuminati by Robert Anton Wilson. Esoteric titles seemed difficult to find at that time in Western Canada where we toured. Fortunately, I found a copy of Cosmic Trigger before too long in an O.T.O. run bookstore in Edmonton. They also had a copy of The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. For whatever reason, I immediately developed a strong affinity for him. I sometimes suspect it had something to do with a strong Led Zeppelin imprint received during High School. Their guitarist, Jimmy Page was known as one of the biggest collectors of Crowley artifacts to the point of purchasing his house on Loch Ness in Scotland known as Boleskine. By his own admission, Page has done much research in the Golden Dawn and related subjects. He went so far as to open his own occult bookstore: The Equinox Booksellers and Publishers in London simply because he couldn’t find the books he wanted to purchase in other shops. The first book his company published was a rerelease of an English edition of Goetia: The Lesser Key of King Solomon assembled in 1904 and containing an excellent Introduction by Aleister Crowley. The rest of the text was translated by MacGregor Mathers but Mathers didn’t want to put it out. Much of my deepest Zeppelin imprint occurred when their concert film The Song Remains the Same came out in 1976; I was 17. I saw that film once a week for seven weeks either influenced by acid or mushrooms, sometimes with friends, sometimes alone. This seems the real High School for me. Another important connection with Crowley was that he advocated the practice of yoga. I had begun practicing yoga about a year or so before hearing about him and found it very valuable and useful; a mental and emotional lifesaver. I continue practicing yoga to this day.
Like Apuleius, my co-presenter here, the practical side of Magick has always been of great importance. I declined to join the Edmonton branch of the O.T.O.for various reasons. I also resonated strongly with Wilson’s do it yourself approach and his apparent lack of overt affiliation to any organization. I did what I could to apply exercises from Crowley’s often hard to understand writings along with books by Israel Regardie and Christopher Hyatt. Regardie also recorded a number of basic Golden Dawn exercises on cassette tape that proved most helpful. A breakthrough into deciphering Crowley’s system came with the publication of Lon Milo Duquette’s The Magick of Thelema retitled The Magick of Aleister Crowley with the second edition. For instance, Crowley’s iteration of the “Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram,” “The Star Ruby,” found in chapter 25 of The Book of Lies contains various instructions that were all Greek to me. Duquette’s book provides translations of those instructions and much otherwise helpful information. I highly recommend The Magick of Aleister Crowley for anyone looking to seriously dive into the praxis of Thelema. It’s a guide book I continue to use to this day.
When I was first contacted by Hilaritas Press about the idea of putting together a book centered around RAW’s lost manuscript, Do What Thou Wilt, I suggested that Duquette write an introduction for it. I remember reading in one of his books that he called RAW his hero. He turned in a wonderful personal account. I was astounded to read the gift given to him at the dinner following his initiation into the O.T.O. by the head of the order, Grady McMurtry, along with the brilliant advice: “If you don’t have fun with Crowley, you’ll go mad!” Reading it again, I noticed one curious discrepancy. In 1981 there’s mention of Timothy Leary being given the Adam Weishaupt Illuminati Award. The Introduction ends by quoting from the plaque for the same award given to RAW in 1989. It says it’s “The Third Annual Adam Weishaupt Illuminati Award.” Time seems an illusion.
Duquette’s piece has a temporal anomaly at the conclusion. It’s followed Richard Kaczynski’s “Foreward” that begins by informing the reader that they are holding a time machine. An entity Robert Anton Wilson called his Holy Guardian Angel in Cosmic Trigger 1 “intently urged that I should try to understand time better.” He also relates that a lot of the communications from this entity “involved the paradoxes of time.” The future Great Beast composed a brilliant essay called “TIME” reprinted in the Collected Works of Aleister Crowley Volume II featuring a dialogue between a British skeptic and an Indian mystic. Both the skeptic and the mystic agree upon the absurdity of basing time sole upon the movements of astronomical bodies. To say what other factors they consider would be greatly over-simplifying this erudite offering. I will provide one tantalizing quote: “First and foremost is the wonderfully suggestive work, misnamed fiction, of our greatest novelist, H.G. Welles. This man, the John Bunyan of modern scientific thought, has repeatedly attacked the problem (of time), or at least indicated the lines on which a successful research might be prosecuted, in many of his wonderful tales.” The Time Machine is one such tale. John Bunyan is best known for his 17th Century book, The Pilgrim’s Progress which contains the theme that knowledge is gained through travel, thus a pilgrim most benefits as a voyager prepared to go far and wide.
Both Duquette and Kaczynski mention Timothy Leary. In a blurb on the back cover, Duquette includes the Good Doctor as part of his Holy Trinity that includes Wilson and Alan Watts. Progressing further into this book, us pilgrims will soon encounter Watts as the person who turned Wilson on to Aleister Crowley. Leary, whom Kaczynski notes considered himself Crowley’s successor, concludes his autobiography, Flashbacks, with the phrase, “. . . it’s about time.” William S Burroughs, who kicked off the whole 23 enigma thing through a conversation with RAW, ends his novel, The Western Lands, a novel about surviving biological “discorporation” (as Valentine Michael Smith puts it in Stranger in a Strange Land) with the sentence: “Hurry up, please, it’s time.” When Burroughs suffered a heart attack that would ultimately prove fatal, the last words he spoke to his companion as he was being wheeled out of his home in a stretcher were: “I’ll be back in no time.”
The first time your humble narrator saw Robert Anton Wilson speak occurred at the Open Center in New York circa 1986 or ’87. At the break, as we were riding down in a large freight elevator, my then wife asked me what I thought of his talk so far. I reported that I had the experience of feeling like time was dilated. Not many people were in the elevator. I looked around and noticed an unaccompanied Wilson on the far side staring at me rather intently. It felt a little unnerving.
Kaczynski’s rich Lion of Light piece provides great temporal context by pointing out the relatively little biographical information that publicly existed on Aleister Crowley’s life when Wilson wrote “Do What Thou Wilt: An Introduction to Aleister Crowley.” Enlisting Kaczynski’s well-informed, hawk-eye view to usher in Wilson on Crowley seems a great coup. Hats off to Mike Gathers for bringing him in to the fold. Three insights in particular stand out to me: “RAW appreciates Crowley’s humor and trickster nature . . . a facet of the Beast that gets lost, even today, in caricatures of him as wicked, or as some kind of dark edgelord.” Secondly, after mentioning a wide array of other thinkers and teachings Wilson cites, Kaczynski writes: “The originality and scope of all the dots RAW connects is breathtaking.” Last, and perhaps most relevant to grok in fullness, the closing remark: “As RAW amply demonstrates, the real magick is what of ourselves we bring to the table of understanding.
I love the idea of including a music selection in these posts. I’ve chosen a clip from a Japanese concert by the Ginger Baker Band because the musicians all realized their True Wills in one way or another though I suspect only one of them, Bill Laswell, knew anything about Crowley. At the age of 5 or 6, in the village where he grew up in Gambia, West Africa, kora player/vocalist Foday Musa Suso pointed to a jet plane flying across the sky and told his mother that one day he would be traveling to work in one of those. As a child, Ginger Baker incessantly beat out rhythms on anything he could find until his parents relented and bought him a drum kit. His story is told in the excellent documentary Beware of Mr. Baker. Bill Laswell came to New York with not much more than a bass guitar. After discovering that Brian Eno was staying in a brownstone down the street from where he lived, he got up every morning for a few months waiting for Eno to come out asking if there was anything he could play on. Finally, Eno said, “I’ve got something for you.” The session he played on and received a writing credit for became the first track on the David Byrne/Brian Eno album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts called “America Is Waiting.” Maybe someone will appreciate the irony in the title? Keyboard and percussionist Anton Fier, not seen or heard often in these clips, put together several classic alternative rock records under the moniker of the Golden Palominos.
This video has several other performers. The Ginger Baker Band begins at 38:13 and has three pieces. The first ends at 48:00. It starts with lengthy African-style drumming before the melodic instruments and voice kick in. The second piece ends around 53:56. The last one goes until 59:06. Better audio of it is available. During this performance, I’m off in the wings stage right mixing the Front of House sound and recording it. Normally I’d be somewhere out in the actual front of house, but the stage and P.A. system is contained entirely on two barges chained together floating in the Seto Inland Sea. The audience is seated on the beach area. Enjoy!
Love is the law, love under will.