(Advance Review Copy – Liber L vel Bogus – Richard T Cole.)
Readers unfamiliar with the importance of Aleister Crowley’s Book of the Law among the subculture of occultists, spiritualists and pagans might be surprised to learn that the work has been taken up by hundreds of thousands of people as the founding document of their school of spiritual philosophy, termed Thelema by Aleister Crowley.
To thousands of others who subscribe to the Crowley inspired post Golden Dawn explosion of Magick (Crowley & Cornelius Agrippa’s spelling) the Book of the Law represents a document which they believe established Crowley’s inner-plane contact with the spiritual entities who backed the Order of the Golden Dawn.
Those critical of Crowley’s occult methodology regard the events of 8th, 9th and 10th of April as a drug fueled exercise in spiritual self deception. Crowley himself was dubious about the ‘instructions’ supposedly received by his wife via mediumship from the gods in the period prior to the reception of the spiritualistic channeled text itself. The events of this period have been written about countless times. For the first time Richard T Cole discusses Crowley’s psychological state, stating that a conservative appraisal of his autobiographical confessions would award him 38/40 on Robert D Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist.
The author points out that, over thirty years after the event, when discussing his ‘Confessions’ with Jackson Burke in 1938, taped for a later broadcast by a San Fransisco radio station, Crowley is still bragging about raping a servant girl at knife-point: obtaining an alibi at the tobacconists to avoid retribution. He proudly notes the girl’s genuine accusations were disbelieved against the word of a young gentleman and she was cast out onto the street and made homeless for her ‘lies’, later dying a paupers death after turning to Prostitution.
Mr Cole makes mention of the instance of a young Crowley torturing a cat to death in nine different ways to explore the popular myth of its having nine lives. The shadow of psychopathy cannot be far from the mind of the critical reader. At the root of this callous pathology, Mr Cole suggest the incident of the accident with fireworks and two pounds of gunpowder which put the just turned lad of sixteen in a coma for ninety six hours and most likely damaged his brain’s pre-frontal lobes leaving him with the moral responses normally associated with those of a psychopath or sociopath.
This may explain much concerning Aleister Crowley’s later Messianic ambitions. Psychopaths can be most selective concerning the issue of Truth. I have even met one who, on a bad day, will swear blind that the sky is not blue for the sheer hell of it. Aleister Crowley’s ‘truths’ include visiting a museum with his wife that had been closed after flooding for two years (a fact originally noted by Glenn Wright writing as Jess Karlin, years ago on alt.magick & alt.tarot); finding there an ancient Egyptian funerary Stele that he had discovered himself on a previous visit when the Boalak Museum was actually open to the public and the evolution of a piece of ‘automatic writing’ to the status of New Age Bible. The latter via the process of it being used to evidence Crowley’s ‘inner plane contact’ with the Secret Chiefs in order to placate the appetite for spiritual auhenticity of anally retentive superior officer in the Golden Dawn tradition, George Cecil Jones. The whole thing is so much more complex than having an imaginary friend!
Liber L vel Bogus is a splendidly enjoyable work with all sorts of intriguing excerpts from the Yorke-Warburg records peppering its lively account. Also, Mr Cole’s exploration of the events of March 1904 uncover a wealth of material to demonstrate that Crowley was experimenting with techniques of sexual magic some eight years before his induction into the OTO where the ‘sovereign secret’ was supposed to have been revealed to him according to the ‘official’ history. In addition to this, the author lists such tales of chicanery in the manipulation of primary source documents in the care of the Warburg Institute that one is inclined to give credence to the notion that certain facts have been concealed and, at some time, removed from the records. Very disturbing indeed.
I do appreciate how Mr Cole has refocused to centre stage the importance of the Stele of Boulak (sic) to the workings which were undertaken with Crowley’s wife Rose around mid March 1904. Several Golden Dawn rituals were performed experimentally and dispensed with prior to Rose suggesting an invocation of Hoor. Subsequent to this a ritual known only as B2 was devised and written which contains references to the symbolism of the Stele which Crowley’s later accounts report Rose discovering in the Boulak Museum days later. A telling anachronism in the evidence that is presented in Liber L vel Bogus.
According to the present work, the Book of the Law existed in differing typescripts and Aleister Crowley only produced the physical evidence of a manuscript as late as 1909. Even then, as noted above, the manuscript carried the watermark of copy paper first produced commercially in 1905. Richard T Cole presents evidence that its originator was, for years, determined to distance himself from authorship; Crowley first prepared Liber L vel Legis for publication as an appendix to volume three of his poetic ‘Collected works’ trilogy (my first Crowley purchase, back in the 1970s) as an example of ‘automatic writing’ at its finest under an anonymous authorship attribution.
Mr Cole presents a compelling case for one argument he advances, which is that the chapters as presented are not necessarily representative of the sequence in which they were originated. Citing the material from B2 and the Rose Kelly authored Invocaion of Hoor (a rite Crowley makes reference to in his hand written journal as an initiative to “become Ra-Hoor-Khuit”) the author makes a case for Chapter Three of the Book of the Law being the initial piece of automatic writing ‘received’. Certainly there are places in Crowley’s notebooks (OS27/The Book of Results) where Crowley waxes lyrical in true Book of the Law timbre and pace during the period of the 19th-20th April 1904 following the Invocation of Hoor.
Whatever the truth concerning the origins of Liber L vel Legis, the Book of the Law itself is a splendid literary work in its own right. It succeeds in blending metaphysical noetics and poetic eloquence with blasphemy and blood-lust. Whether through deliberate subterfuge or unconscious filtration, Aleister Crowley buried ciphers and keys within the text which reveal a knowledge of the biblical cult of Hadad and the system of Seven Palaces referred to (but not satisfactorily focused upon) in Golden Dawn hermetic teaching. There are passages which reveal familiarity with Zen and Buddhist thought. Even impressions of the angry IHVH of the Old Testament. In short, a composite of Crowley’s reflective unconscious.
Liber L vel Bogus by Richard T Cole should not upset anyone with any common sense or a fair comprehension of what constitutes reasonable doubt. The only people this might upset will be those looking to Crowley as a religious guru or leader … the kind of people he would despise and point to as sheep for the fleecing. A great book. Thoroughly absorbing and in parts highly entertaining.