Part V: The Next Step

In the last of the introductory sections of the Book of the Law, Crowley reveals two important things which help place the Book into proper context. First, it is clear to me now that the central theme is a very direct derivative of what the Marquis De Sade pleaded for: liberty, and freedom from the tyranny of society and religion, a chance to grow, to recognize the patently obvious in human behavior, not to run from it. As I've said often before, there is so much more to De Sade than a mere cat-o-nine-tails.

Second, when reading this section, especially if you're an American, you would swear Crowley was commenting on our current age. This will become exceedingly clear as we dip into its paragraphs, so let's get going. 
Democracy dodders.

Ferocious Fascism, cackling Communism, equally frauds, cavort crazily all over the globe.

They are hemming us in.
The only thing I might add to this list is the absolutely crazy rise of theocracy in our lifetimes, especially in America. (It's a hoot how many people in our country think the Middle East has a monopoly on that. Never has the old Pogo comic line been more applicable: "We have met the enemy and he is us.") Unveiling religion from silent privacy is senseless, a step backwards to what Giordano Bruno was up against.
They are the abortive births of the Child, the New Aeon of Horus.
I wish it were so, but I'm afraid the pregnancy went full term without a hitch. The unwanted brothers and sisters of Horus took first berth in the birth, leaving no room in the womb for the Conquering Child. I could have sworn there was insemination at the time of Galileo, Kepler, Leibniz and Newton, but a mighty prophylaxis prevented those spermatozoa from finding the ovum. As near as I can tell, the Age of Reason was little more than Onan spilling his seed on the ground; the murderous bolt of lightning wasn't long in coming.

It's just not fair when out of a complete litter, all, save one, are runts, the only survivors, and we get stuck with them. We call that the modern world.

At this point in my life, I see but one remedy. Have you ever noticed how dogs are so good at not hearing you when they don't want to? To turn one's back on society and focus on actually doing one's True Will, ignoring the background static completely, may be the only reasonable approach. Remember, a star must accrete.
Liberty stirs once more in the womb of Time.
Again, I contend that Crowley is operating under a severe misconception that people can read, write, think, ponder and reason, and that they're not inherently lazy, that they care about making the most of this incarnation. Liberty would stir, were it otherwise. My father was so right in his pithy epigram: "Remember Donatien, people are so damn dumb."

By the way, the very choice of the word Liberty indicates to me Crowley was consciously affected by De Sade. The paragraph immediately following buttresses the claim; look it up and see for yourself.

And following that:
Above us today hangs a danger never yet paralleled in history. We suppress the individual in more and more ways. We think in terms of the herd. War no longer kills soldiers; it kills all indiscriminately. Every new measure of the most democratic and autocratic governments is Communistic in essence. It is always restriction. 
Ahem...is Crowley writing of his age and place, or ours? (Maybe the two are more similar than we suppose: in Britain, birthright determines the titular head of government; in our country only a 5-4 Supreme Court vote can do that, but apart from the window-dressing, the story is the same). That penultimate sentence cold-cocked me, and yes, it's spot-on. In America particularly, democracy has led to an insidious form of communism, in which the rich intellectual proceeds of a few brilliant minds are spread infinitesimally thin over the masses who prefer not to think, or are incapable of, or are fearful of thinking.

As for that final word, right from the get-go, this passage from the Book itself formed the adamantine heart of my outlook:
The word of sin is restriction.
If you've read any other entries in this blog, you'll know why, of course...Oscar Wilde!
We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind, and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification. . . . Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also.
Back to the Great Beast:
We are all treated as imbecile children. Dora, the Shops Act, the Motoring Laws, Sunday suffocation, the Censorship—they won’t trust us to cross the roads at will.
As I mentioned in a previous installment, back in the early 70's I passed over this as nothing more than the usual Crowley fluff. I wish I hadn't. A couple months ago when I took time to investigate what Dora and all the other stuff was, I was flabbergasted. As a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, the Shops Act and the Motoring Laws seem perfectly reasonable to me. But the rest! Well, how familiar is this: Dora is an acronym for "Defence [sic] of the Realm Act." Ring a bell?

The restrictions that brought on had as much to do with defending the Realm as the Patriot Act in the United States has to do with patriotism.

Sunday suffocation? Do you recall what I said of theocracy a little earlier? And censorship, perhaps the greatest evil of all, is continually getting worse, thanks to mob rule. I remember Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, one of the premier professional wrestlers of all times, once saying, "What scares me about a wrestling audience is that they can vote and they can breed."

Sitting here alone on my little sofa writing this, I was just reminded of the wonderful speech barrister Horace Rumpole delivered in Rumpole's Return when defending a two-bit pornographer:
Members of the jury. Freedom is not divisible. You cannot pick and choose with freedom, and if we allow liberty for the opinions we hold dear and cherish, we must allow the same privilege to the opinions we detest...and if we are tolerant in great matters, so we must be in the little...for once we start in the business of censorship and the banning of books, that is the ending of freedom.
This, of course, comes straight from author and playwright John Mortimer, who was also a barrister-at-law known for defending writers and publishers in obscenity cases. I still can't believe I grew up in an era when Lady Chatterley's Lover went to court.

Crowley had every right to be indignant, but had we met I would have spouted: "You ain't seen nothin' yet!" Despite his great imagination, I can't for the life of me imagine him envisioning such a self-determining, independent and impervious creature as the NSA coming into existence. I doubt Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, practiced at describing monsters, could even have made it clear to him.

Skipping over the next paragraph which is pretty much more of the same (i.e., indicating that absolutely nothing has changed in the 110 years since the Book of the Law was written), we find some of the usual egocentric puffery:
The establishment of the Law of Thelema is the only way to preserve individual liberty and to assure the future of the race.
I'm not convinced this is the only way, but I believe it is the best way for me. Ask me about it and I'll be glad to tell you why. But if you're not interested, I'll assume the posture of Harpocrates. It never ceases to boggle me that Crowley continually plagiarized the methods of the enemies of liberty and of humanity. His flowery optimism doesn't make proselytizing any more appealing than a pair of white shirts in black ties standing on your door stoop. Besides, the word only is not in the vocabulary of a formalist, at least while the universe is inhabited by more than one person.

This section concludes with the usual advertising which we can pass over.

And there you have it: my take on the Introduction to the Book of the Law. I'll end where I started: the message is most esthetically pleasing (Life imitates Art, don't you know), but the messenger...well, in my estimation, Crowley was a snake oil salesman who didn't understand his product was anything but snake oil. It, indeed, was and is pure myrrh. He also failed to acknowledge progenitors. The marginalia of an annotated Book of the Law would essentially contain most of De Sade and all of Wilde. And so, allow me to leave you with two passages from The Picture of Dorian Gray to back up my claim:
"To be good is to be in harmony with one’s self,” he replied, touching the thin stem of his glass with his pale, fine-pointed fingers. “Discord is to be forced to be in harmony with others. One’s own life—that is the important thing. As for the lives of one’s neighbours, if one wishes to be a prig or a Puritan, one can flaunt one’s moral views about them, but they are not one’s concern. Besides, Individualism has really the higher aim. Modern morality consists in accepting the standard of one’s age. I consider that for any man of culture to accept the standard of his age is a form of the grossest immorality.
...and...
Yes: there was to be, as Lord Henry had prophesied, a new Hedonism that was to re-create life, and to save it from that harsh, uncomely puritanism that is having, in our own day, its curious revival. It was to have its service of the intellect, certainly; yet it was never to accept any theory or system that would involve the sacrifice of any mode of passionate experience. Its aim, indeed, was to be experience itself, and not the fruits of experience, sweet or bitter as they might be. Of the asceticism that deadens the senses, as of the vulgar profligacy that dulls them, it was to know nothing. But it was to teach man to concentrate himself upon the moments of a life that is itself but a moment.
"...uncomely puritanism that is having, in our own day, its curious revival." Does that not take us at once to Babbitt, the logical culmination?

Crowley, Wilde and Lewis: the triumvirate of my life. What an uncanny progression.

Next vignette: Ranae

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