THE BOOK OF LIES, first published in London in 1913, Aleister Crowley's little master work, has long been out of print, Its re-issue with the author's own Commentary gives occasion for a few notes. We have so much material by Crowley himself about this book that we can do no better than quote some passages which we find scattered about in the unpublished volumes of his "CONFESSIONS." He writes:
". . . None the less, I could point to some solid achievement on the large scale, although it is composed of more or less disconnected elements. I refer to The Book of Lies. In this there are 93 chapters: we count as a chapter the two pages filled respectively with a note of interrogation and a mark of exclamation. The other chapters contain sometimes a single word, more frequently from a half-dozen to twenty phrases, occasionally anything up to a dozen to twenty paragraphs. The subject of each chapter is determined more or less definitely by the Qabalistic import of its number. Thus Chapter 25 gives a revised ritual of the Pentagram; 72 is a rondel with the refrain 'Shemhamphorash', the Divine name of 72 letters; 77 Laylah, whose name adds to that number; and 80, the number of the letter Pé, referred to Mars,a panegyric upon War. Sometimes the text is serious and straightforward, sometimes its obscure oracles demand deep knowledge of the Qabalah for interpretation, others contain obscure allusions, play upon words, secrets expressed in cryptogram, double or triple meanings which must be combined in order to appreciate the full flavour; others again are subtly ironical or cynical. At first sight the book is a jumble of nonsense intended to insult the reader. It requires infinite study, sympathy, intuition and initiation. Given these I do not hesitate to claim that in none other of my writings have I given so profound and comprehensive an exposition of my philosophy on every plane. . . ."
". . . My association with Free Masonry was therefore destined to be more fertile than almost any other study, and that in a way despite itself. A word should be pertinent with regard to the question of secrecy. It has become difficult for me to take this matter very seriously. Knowing what the secret actually is, I cannot attach much importance to artificial mysteries. Again, though the secret itself is of such tremendous import, and though it is so simple that I could disclose it ... in a short paragraph, I might do so without doing much harm. For it cannot be used indiscriminately ... I have found in practice that the secret of the O.T.O. cannot be used unworthily. . . ."
"It is interesting in this connection to recall how it came into my posession. It had occured to me to write a book 'THE BOOK OF LIES, WHICH IS ALSO FALSELY CALLED BREAKS, THE WANDERINGS OR FALSIFICATION OF THE THOUGHT OF FRATER PERDURABO WHICH THOUGHT IS ITSELF UNTRUE. . . .' One of these chapters bothered me. I could not write it. I invoked Dionysus with particular fervour, but still without success. I went off in desperation to 'change my luck', by doing something entirely contrary to my inclinations. In the midst of my disgust, the spirit came over me, and I scribbled the chapter down by the light of a farthing dip. When I read it over, I was as discontented as before, but I stuck it into the book in a sort of anger at myself as a deliberate act of spite towards my readers.
"Shortly after publication, the O.H.O. (Outer Head of the O.T.O.) came to me. (At that time I did not realise that there was anything in the O.T.O. beyond a convenient compendium of the more important truths of Free Masonry.) He said that since I was acquainted with the supreme secret of the Order, I must be allowed the IX° and obligated in regard to it. I protested that I knew no such secret. He said' But you have printed it in the plainest language'. I said that I could not have done so because I did not know it. He went to the bookselves; taking out a copy of The Book of Lies, he pointed to a passage in the despised chapter. It instantly flashed upon me. The entire symbolism not only of Free Masonry but of many other traditions blazed upon my spiritual vision. From that moment the O.T.O. assumed its proper importance in my mind. I understood that I held in my hands the key to the future progress of humanity. . . ."
The Commentary was written by Crowley probably around 1921. The student will find it very helpful for the light it throws on many of its passages.
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