Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
In November, 1925 era vulgari (common era), Aleister Crowley, disillusioned with his disciples – particularly C.S. Jones and Norman Mudd – and disappointed with some of their ideas, went against the logic of his own holy Law and issued a Canon of Restriction known as The Tunis Comment. [C.f. Liber Legis, 1:41, “The word of Sin is Restriction”.] He was with his seventh Scarlet Woman, Dorothy Olsen, a.k.a. Soror Astrid, staying at the Seniat el Kitou in La Marsa, Tunisia, when the inspiration struck him. He considered it to be an inspiration of the highest order, at that, categorizing it as a “Class A” document, or “Writings of which may be changed not so much as the style of a letter: i.e., the utterance of an Adept entirely beyond the criticism of even the Visible Head of the Organization” – equivalent in authority to The Book of the Law itself, which is also the book which it is intended to protect from the corrupting influence of so-called “heresiarchs”. It warrants, therefore, our most careful consideration, both ordinary and Qabalistic; but any criticism of it is strictly forbidden, and earns us the contempt of our contemporaries. Yet, considering the slavish, herd-minded attitude of those who would take such an edict superficially, this might not be such a bad thing.
Avenue de Carthage, Tunis, 1925 e.v.
Here is The Tunis Comment itself:
“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,
Tunis, 1924 e.v.
It was first published in 1926 e.v., along with the publication of The Book of the Law in Tunis. In his excellent book, Magick without Tears, he puts forth his case for it:
“…in a mood of blank despair about it all, out came the Comment. Easy, yes; inspired, yes; it is, as printed, the exact wording required. No further cavilling and quibbling, and controversy and casuistry. All heresiarchs are smelt in advance for the rats they are; they are seen brewing (their very vile small beer) in the air (the realm of Intellect—Swords) and they are accordingly nipped in the bud. All Parliamentary requirements thus fulfilled according to the famous formula of the Irish M.P., we can get on to your other questions untroubled by doubt.
“One Textus Receptus, photographically guaranteed. One High Court of Interpretation, each for himself alone. No Patristic logomachies! No disputed readings! No civil wars and persecutions. Anyone who wants to say anything, off with his head, and On with the Dance; let Joy be unconfined, You at the prow and Therion at the helm! Off we go.”
Karl Germer, in a letter to Jane Wolfe, wrote:
“A.C. wrote the comment, driven to agonies through Mudd’s ravings. He realised the source of the danger. The better and more complete you eradicate any such and similar thoughts, and forget all speculation and rumination, the better for all concerned.”
But there are significant problems with this little writing. The first is with its logic; next is its conflict with the Law of Thelema itself; then there is the fact that, if taken superficially, it keeps the unresolved matters of Liber Legis from ever being expounded as prophesied; and last but not least, there is the herd-mentality that it uses to threaten one with – why, after all, is being “shunned by all, as a centre of pestilence” supposed to be deemed such a bad thing? This is, after all, from the pen of one who modeled himself after Shelley’s Alastor, “the Spirit of Solitude, the Wanderer of the Waste”.
First, I will address these problems, then I will proceed to consider what another of Crowley’s writings – entitled The Comment called D, or The Djeridensis Working – has to say on the matter, before moving on at last to my important Gematric evaluation of the document.
I: The Problems surrounding The Tunis Comment.
The Comment begins with a line from a verse of Liber Legis, specifically the last line of v.40 of ch.1: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”. Considering what follows, this is a surprising line with which to begin. But there we have it: a passage reminding us that one’s own True Will is the supreme authority.
The very next line forbids any study of The Book of the Law at all: “The study of this Book is forbidden”. Then follows a caveat: “It is wise to destroy this copy after the first reading”.
Any strict literal reading of this is based in ignorance. Forbidden fruit is always the most enticing kind. As for the caveat: it is wise to avoid the book altogether if one is misguided enough to be persuaded by this to actually burn one’s book. As v.27 of ch.2 states:
“There is great danger in me; for who doth not understand these runes shall make a great miss. He shall fall down into the pit called Because, and there he shall perish with the dogs of Reason.”
If you’re really so limited in your thinking as to be moved in such a direction – if you’re that literal-minded – then you’re better off getting rid of it altogether, because a literal interpretation of some of the book’s seemingly outrageous content would be likely to lead you to some very dangerous and erroneous conclusions. The next part of the Comment emphasizes this danger: “Whosoever disregards this does so at his own risk and peril. These are most dire.”
Then comes the injunction: “Those who discuss the contents of this Book are to be shunned by all, as centres of pestilence”. This plainly asserts that those who discuss the book are cursed with a contagious ill karma, which is again backed up in Crowley’s Djeridensis Comment (see below). To associate with these “centres of pestilence”, to not shun them like the worst pestiferous affliction, is to contract their ill fate.
So what is one to do? Let us consult the Law itself: v.17 of ch.3 is clear:
“Fear not at all; fear neither men nor Fates, nor gods, nor anything. Money fear not, nor laughter of the folk folly, nor any other power in heaven or upon the earth or under the earth. Nu is your refuge as Hadit your light; and I am the strength, force, vigour, of your arms.”
If we avoid engaging in such discussion, and shun those who discuss the contents of the book, on account of this grave threat, then we fall back from the veil of mystery for fear’s sake. We know, on the other hand, that Crowley always went where even the mightiest of angels fear to tread. Let the brave warrior do likewise; let the fearful do what he is told.
Next, we are instructed to resolve all questions regarding Thelemic Law only by appeal to the writings of Crowley himself, and to none other – not in conference, of course, since there is to be no discussion, but each for himself alone. We are to assume, in other words, that “father knows best”.
The problem with this, however, is that father does not always know best – as even Liber Legis makes abundantly clear, more than once. First, there is v.54 of ch.1, which reads:
“Change not as much as the style of a letter; for behold! thou, o prophet, shalt not behold all these mysteries hidden therein.”
If, then, we cannot rely on Crowley for all the answers, then where are we to turn? Are we to believe that there will be no other Thelemic prophets and oracles for the next 2,000 or so years?
The very next couple of verses, vs.55-56 of ch.1, say otherwise:
“The child of thy bowels, he shall behold them.
“Expect him not from the East, nor from the West; for from no expected house cometh that child. Aum! All words are sacred and all prophets true; save only that they understand a little; solve the first half of the equation, leave the second unattacked. But thou hast all in the clear light, and some, though not all, in the dark.”
There are to be other prophets, and these prophets are all true. Crowley, once again, is shown here – again – to be somewhat in the dark as to several of the mysteries of Liber L vel Legis, as even he admitted, particularly with regard to the third chapter.
In v.10 of the next chapter, we find Crowley being admonished for his own “ill will”:
“O prophet! thou hast ill will to learn this writing.”
How troubling is this to the student seeking his counsel, and his counsel alone? Is he to rely wholly on one who is not only partially ignorant of all the facts but also infected with a measure (however small) of ill will?
It is in v.76 of ch.2 that we find yet another mystery of which, it is written, Crowley would never know the meaning:
“4 6 3 8 A B K 2 4 A L G M O R 3 Y X 24 89 R P S T O V A L. What meaneth this, o prophet? Thou knowest not; nor shalt thou know ever. There cometh one to follow thee: he shall expound it.”
This riddle was never solved by anyone. If Crowley would never know its meaning, and the one who would know it were to be shunned by all for discussing it, then what would be the point? Here is where The Tunis Comment falters completely. And in its failure, it takes down the prophet chosen to expound further revelation, thereby dooming the full development of Thelemic knowledge. Unless, of course, The Tunis Comment be seen for what it is: a ward only against the profane and the weak, not applicable to the wise, who will do their own wills instead of merely doing what they’re told.
Finally, in v.47 of ch.3 we find yet another warning to the first prophet to avoid altering the book itself – not so much as a single letter – owing to the fact that he would never apprehend its full meaning:
“This book shall be translated into all tongues: but always with the original in the writing of the Beast; for in the chance shape of the letters and their position to one another: in these are mysteries that no Beast shall divine.”
As for the mystery of “the chance shape of the letters and their position to one another”, no mortal prophet – no Beast that is – would ever grasp the reason thereof; for it is a matter beyond the capacity of reason to grasp.
The next part of The Tunis Comment is actually v.60 of ch.3:
“There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt.”
This tells us that no injunction, “Class A” notwithstanding, takes priority over “Do what thou wilt”.
Finally, we are reminded that the Law is “love under will” – i.e. perfect, impersonal love (impulsive and not compulsory), founded solidly upon “pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result”.
Note, too, that the Comment doesn’t purport to be from Aiwass, as does The Book of the Law itself. Instead, it bears the title, “priest of the princes” (the prophet), and the signature, “Ankh-f-n-khonsu”, i.e. Crowley.
II: The Tunis Comment and the Curse of Djeridensis.
Delville, “Promethee” (slightly adapted).
Beginning under that section of The Comment called D entitled “666 to comment on AL to guard against false interpretations”, the first prophet of Thelema set forth the basis for The Tunis Comment. It reads as follows:
“I comment on this Book, lest there be folly; for many are my Secret Sayings and obscure in the text thereof. It would be easy for the clever and the crafty to distort the true meaning of Aiwass so as to suit their own conceits, as hath been seen of old time in the cases of the Words of the Masters, the Q’uran, and the so-called Scriptures of the Christians.”
Clearly, then, we see that the wise old Master had noble designs, and simply sought to protect Thelemic religion from the wiles of such fiendish followers as had contorted the original Gnosis of such prophets as Ixtus and Mahomet before him. For the misunderstanding of men is great, and the chicanery of the coteries of fear and loathing skilled indeed. Yet in his zeal to protect his mission from the clutches of the incorrigible, Crowley locked up the inheritance of his true successors and threw away the key. He failed to consider the possibility that the mission to unveil the Law might continue after his death.
And so he wrote The Tunis Comment, and sealed it with a magical curse, under the heading, “666: His Curse upon any that should seek to distort the Book, or His comment”.
Tunisia, 1925 e.v.
It reads as follows:
“Thus as a safeguard against such, I, by the wisdom of Ra-Hoor-Khuit, do now foresee and guard against all fraud and false ways of reading the Book in simple and plain language. And I lift up my voice and curse with the Great Curse of a Magus of Power him that shall seek to turn my Word from its Truth.”
Now, this curse seems formidable indeed – and it is, but only against those with ill-intent, fraudulent hearts and erroneous designs. Note that “reading the Book in” other than “simple and plain language” is not itself condemned – for Crowley advocated as much himself, e.g. in his commentary to Liber L, v.17 of ch.2:
“Hear me, ye people of sighing!
The sorrows of pain and regret
Are left to the dead and the dying,
The folk that not know me as yet.”
And his commentary:
“This passage was again very painful to the prophet, who took it in its literal sense. But ‘the poor and the outcast’ are the petty thoughts and the Qliphotic thoughts and the sad thoughts. These must be rooted out, or the ecstasy of Hadit is not in us. They are the weeds in the Garden that starve the Flower.”
Not exactly a “simple and plain” interpretation! The “outcast and the unfit” (i.e. of v.21 of ch.2) aren’t actual individuals to be loathed, but weak tendencies within one’s own being, to be eradicated without mercy – by Crowley’s own interpretation. What is to be abhorred, rather, is a “simple and plain language” that is conceived in “fraud and false ways of reading”, not that which is spawned of Truth and brought forth by the Just.
The domed mosque, Tunis (c.1925), oil on canvas.
So then, let it be understood that this “Great Curse of a Magus of Power” – which stands against all who dare, whether by ignorance or intrigue, to turn the mission of Thelema away from the grand scheme of Aiwass itself, no matter how slightly – shall never touch he or she who proclaims his or her word under the imprimatur thereof. And he that would strive to turn such a genuine messenger of Truth from his or her own irreproachable mission, through infelicitous machinations, shall meet with calamity as terrible as that of which Crowley himself warned.
To the caveat given him in v.54 of ch.1 of the Law, Crowley admits his own shortcomings as a final prophet of the mysteries of Thelema, writing:
“I am bidden once more not to tamper with the text of the MS. of Liber AL on the ground that it contains secrets beyond my knowledge.”
Indeed; but not at all beyond the knowledge of his rightful heirs, some of whom have already taken up residence in the Egregore of the Beast and the Whore in the Chapel of Abominations at the heart of the Holy Thelemic Church. Of the others, both now and in times to come, we keep silence, knowing that the strategem of the Secret Chiefs is complex and sublime.
III: A Brief Qabalistic Analysis of The Tunis Comment
As explained in The Angloqabalistic Key (available as a free download in the sidebar library of this site), we make use of the Gematria of Angloqabalah, or AQBL for short. Unlike all other forms of English Gematria that have emerged previously, AQBL is not some contrived system of arbitrarily assigned values for the letters of the English Alphabet, but simply the natural order and value that has been obvious all along. In the Gematria of AQBL, a letter bears the value of its place in the Alphabet. Using it, let us take a moment to evaluate The Tunis Comment, to see if certain phrases may have been chosen for their Gematric import, as a way of informing the wise of additional insights.
Line 1: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”.
The numbers of the words in this all-important line from The Book of the Law come to none other than 444, which in the Hebrew is the value of MQDSh, “the Sanctuary”, and which, being 111 (divine Samadhi) x 4 (the number of Law), is emblematic of holy Law.
Line 2: “The study of this Book is forbidden. It is wise to destroy this copy after the first reading.”
Study=89=Therion. I.e., one should always evaluate the contents of the book not in the light of one’s own imagination, but under the inspiration of The Beast.
The study of this=199=Do what thou wilt. Study is not forbidden if it is one’s True Will to do so.
The study of this book=242=And it shall be suddenly easy – vide Liber Legis, 3:21, which reads:
“Set up my image in the East: thou shalt buy thee an image which I will show thee, especial, not unlike the one thou knowest. And it shall be suddenly easy for thee to do this.”
In his commentary to this verse, Crowley writes:
“I am inclined to see some deeper significance in this passage. There has elsewhere been reference to the words “not”, “one”, “Thou knowest”. The word “easy” is moreover suggestive of some mystery; it is used in the same doubtfully intelligible sense in verse 40.”
The example he cites here – which is critical to our analysis as it is the verse that portends The Tunis Comment, not conceived until 21 years after the reception of the verse – i.e. v.40 of ch.3, reads:
“But the work of the comment? That is easy; and Hadit burning in thy heart shall make swift and secure thy pen.”
Also, the word forbidden=77=runes. This is vital, in light of L, 2:27, which reads:
“There is great danger in me; for who doth not understand these runes shall make a great miss. He shall fall down into the pit called Because, and there he shall perish with the dogs of Reason.”
This is the danger that The Tunis Comment aims to keep the profane away from.
Note the word “after” in the line: “It is wise to destroy this copy after the first reading”: after=50=easy. It is also the value of Hadith (a valid alternate spelling).
Line 3: “Whosoever disregards this does so at his own risk and peril. These are most dire.”
at his own risk=166=and Hadit burning in thy heart. This is also the numeration of The Book of the Law.
own risk and peril=188=child of the Prophet (vide L, 2:39).
Whosoever disregards this does=333=CHORONZON, the force of Dispersion (if one is unequilibrated, otherwise it is the gateway to the Understanding of The Beast) in Hebrew.
Line 4: “Those who discuss the contents of this Book are to be shunned by all, as centres of pestilence”.
Those who discuss the contents of this Book are to be shunned by all, as centres=777, the number of the “child of the Prophet”, or the one to follow 666.
shunned=85=burning (see 3:40 again).
be shunned by all=144=this meaning all (“all” being code for the key of the Law). This is also the value of Ankh-af-na-khonsu, Ra-Hoor-Khuit and Shaitan-Aiwass.
centres of pestilence=213=ZVR (Heb.), “a stranger”, and ONN NDVL (Heb.), “a great cloud” – both by Hebrew Gematria.
pestilence=108=burning in (from 3:40).
Line 5: “All questions of the Law are to be decided only by appeal to my writings, each for himself”.
All questions of the Law=254=It is wise to destroy.
only by appeal=128=each for himself. This is also the numeration of both Choronzon and Dispersion in the English. It is also the value of the phrase, it is no odds (see L, 3:39, which speaks of the promulgation of the Law).
only by appeal to my writings=309=ShT (Shin Teth, or Flame of Spirit and Lust of Flesh conjoined), in Hebrew. By AQBL, ShT numbers 47=Beast and Babalon.
Line 6: “There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt”.
Do what thou wilt=199=TzDQH, Hebrew for “a giving freely”. It is also the value of the line, Will he not sink? Amn – from L, 1:51, which remarks on the danger of standing upon the foundation of the palace of Thelema. It is no danger for those abiding by their True Wills. Finally, this is also the numeration of The Tunis Comment!
no law=65=beyond. Also the value of centre.
Line 7: “Love is the law, love under will”.
This important passage, from v.57 of ch.1, numerates as 323, the value of What is this? Thou shalt know (from 3:22).
Line 8: “The priest of the princes, Ankh-f-n-khonsu”.
This spelling of the name, Ankh-f-n-khonsu which differs slightly from that given in the book itself, numbers 142, the same as the Hebrew BLOM, or Balaam, “stranger”.
Last but not least, Tunis Comment=166=at his own risk.
That said, recall always Liber Legis vs.42-43:
“Let it be that state of manyhood bound and loathing. So with thy all; thou hast no right but to do thy will. Do that, and no other shall say nay.”
And 2:59: “If he be a King, thou canst not hurt him”.
Love is the law, love under will.
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