The Book of Lies

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Book of Lies by Aleister Crowley, from Samuel Weiser.

Aleister Crowley The Book of Lies from Samuel Weiser

Its author wrote that The Book of Lies, Which Is Also Falsely Called Breaks should serve as the text-book for a Babe of the Abyss, i.e. an aspirant to Perfection who has irrevocably committed himself to “interpret every phenomenon as a particular dealing of God with his soul,” but who has not yet attained to Mastery on that basis. He assigned it the number 333, which is the number of Choronzon, the “mighty devil” who assails the Babe of the Abyss with the carrot of ego-attachment and the stick of cosmic fear. At the same time, he recommends the book even to beginners as containing useful wisdom regarding “many matters on all planes of the very highest importance.”

It is a short book, made up of many short chapters. Nearly all posthumous editions include the author’s later commentary to the original text, chapter by chapter. While these commentaries often contain useful instruction in their own right, they also frequently serve to misdirect the reader regarding the central message coded into a given chapter. And indeed, it is a highly cryptic book—sometimes whimsical, and often baffling.

There are certain conflicts of fact between the two stories that Aleister Crowley wrote regarding this book’s relationship to his status in O.T.O. (one in his Confessions, reproduced in the foreword to most of the later editions of The Book of Lies, and the other in Magick Without Tears chapter 25). It seems fitting that a volume called Lies should produce two irreconcilable stories from the author about its significance. Leaving aside Crowley’s hardly credible protestations of innocence, it has long been my surmise that The Book of Lies served as Crowley’s de facto “application” for the office of Grand Master General of the English O.T.O., since the book tidily synthesizes such topics as sex, metaphysics, qabalah, yoga, esoteric freemasonry, and original magical ritual. The facts that O.T.O. is never mentioned in the text itself, and that Lies includes several official rituals of Crowley’s own A∴A∴ initiatory system, actually serve to support this contention. At the time, O.T.O. Frater Superior Theodor Reuss, the Order’s international Head, was in the habit of recruiting as Grand Masters individuals who a) shared his propensity for esoteric synthesis, and b) had a proven track record as organizers of other initiatory societies. (A sterling but hardly isolated example would be Gerard “Papus” Encausse, whose Martinist Order was eventually listed among the bodies contributing their wisdom to O.T.O. in the latter’s Manifesto.)

In his accounts of his induction to the Ninth Degree, Crowley seems to tease the reader by claiming that the chief secret of O.T.O. is written in plain language in one of the chapters of The Book of Lies. Be that as it may, not only one, but most of the chapters contain doctrines relevant to O.T.O. mysteries. And considering that he equated the fully instructed and proficient O.T.O. initiate to an Adeptus Major, two full grades shy of the Babe of the Abyss in the A.∴A∴ system, one must infer that the best readers can get rewards from The Book of Lies that surpass the innermost Truths of O.T.O. [via]