☉︎ in 14° Pisces : ☽︎ in 17° Aries : Anno Vvii

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

To my Unknown Friend: Greeting and health.

“But, but, but .. The Comment!,” you say to me. And, in some kind of shock, I offer a sarcastic “Right?” in return. I mean, how many times over the last several decades have we heard someone accused of being a “centre of pestilence”? How many conversations have been derailed by the invoking of the so-called “Class A Comment,” the Short Comment, or the Tunis Comment? And in nearly every case, or at least every situation I have observed, the use of this ‘center of pestilence’ approach is to shut down conversations rather than be open to mature learning and understanding.

I’m sure it would come to no surprise to you there is a great deal of lip service that is paid to the Comment. My experience is that the Comment is ultimately ignored by most as evidenced by the continual conversation that occurs on various social media outlets, published books, and general conversation within groups. In this same vein, many have accepted blindly the magisterial position of the Class A designation of the Tunis Comment without question—and, I might add, without any real evidence to that nature either—but then continue to thumb their nose at it as if they were ignoring it anyway.

This pronouncement is just handed down by faulty, unchallenged—yet virtually unheeded⁠[1]—tradition. Ultimately, the Tunis Comment is a joke, not because it is worthless, but because it lacks comprehension beyond the most rudimentary assumptions, most of which are based on the personal bias of the writer (and I am no exception here either). In short, the Tunis Comment functions much in the same way as crayons for Kindergarteners: that is, crayons allow them to write and draw in pretty colors while not hurting themselves or others.

Before I dive into my perspective on the Tunis Comment, maybe a little background is in order.

We know it was a political statement. We know that it was a result of being challenged by a disciple[⁠2] who felt Crowley wasn’t measuring up to his obligations as the Prophet of the New Aeon. After dealing with libel claims against his character and activities in his Abbey, being thrown out of Italy over the death of a follower, and the same disciple that challenged him making overtures of love toward his wife, Crowley issues his least verbose yet suddenly most authoritative edict over the Book of the Law proclaiming the inability of anyone to interpret the text—presumably except himself, of course. And he didn’t even adhere to this very well by allowing others to provide commentary on the Book of the Law with his approval.[⁠3]

In the end, though, he was covering his political ass, to put it bluntly, covering his ego from the assault of someone else’s previous (or future) claim to insight or inspiration despite the clear injunctions within the Book of the Law that someone or someones would come after him to continue those insights.

I encourage you to read the circumstances for yourself in Kaczynski’s Perdurabo[⁠4]. He sets the whole scene quite clearly—though he falls on a sharp non sequitur in the endnotes⁠[5] to proclaim that his narrative in no way invalidates the Tunis Comment as a spiritual prohibition on interpretation.

However, moving into the meat of the subject at hand, we have to explore the first paradox of the Tunis Comment which falls to its authorship and content. The authorship itself is Ankh-F-N-Khonsu. That’s pretty straightforward. It’s actually signed by him. We know there are, at most, two documents—one of those debatable—that could be attributed to the moniker … and yet the only real candidate to which we could point was penned in the same year as the Tunis Comment.

I am aware Crowley considers himself to be the same Ankh-F-N-Khonsu, but he could have easily have signed this The Beast, or 666, or To Mega Therion, or any number of other legitimate magical mottos that he’d taken over the years. He chose to be opaque about it in an attempt to connect the Tunis Comment to the Book of the Law directly. And, despite my particular take on the subject, I think he succeeds in this connection with some help from a magisterial tradition that is fed through the organizational edicts of O.T.O. I just think the Tunis Comment is a flimsy excuse for a ego trip, but we cannot safely ignore it.

Which brings us to the content of the Tunis Comment itself. For starters, after being signed by Ankh-F-N-Khonsu, we see that the “appeal to my writings” line becomes murky. If the line refers only to Ankh-F-N-Khonsu, then how are we to utilize any documents that are attributed to this name?

Take The World Teacher to the Theosophical Society for instance, also written in 1925 but not published until February 1926, which reads:

The World-Teacher sayeth:
Find, each of you, your own true Way in the Universe,
and follow it with eager joy!
There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt!
Do that, and no other shall say nay.
Greeting and Peace!
Ankh-F-N-Khonsu, the Priest of the Princes.

It almost reads like a poor cousin to the Tunis Comment. This little blurb of a proclamation itself appears to be in the same style and form as the Tunis Comment with nearly the same meaning but lacking all the sinister overtones of the latter.

Crowley is referred to the scribe that received the Book of the Law as Ankh-af-na-khonsu in his explanation of the reception of the text in Equinox of the Gods. While I would concede this is a debatable point, the reception itself would not make the Book of the Law part of the “writings” of Ankh-af-na-khonsu, but merely the output of the receiver originating from a different source. In the end, the revelatory source of the Book of the Law is Aiwass [AL 1.7] not Crowley or Ankh-af-na-khonsu.

Finally, there is some indication Crowley signed “The Summons” that introduces that volume as Ankh-F-N-Khonsu and then later edited it to Ankh-af-na-khonsu. I believe most scholars, including myself, maintain that these two forms of address are functional equivalents with no real hidden meaning in the differences.[⁠6] Either way, it doesn’t really matter so much to the argument itself since “The Summons” has no true explicative merit to the Book of the Law itself from any kind of theological basis. It is more like a pep rally introduction to the text.

Of course, there is a common interpretation that Ankh-af-na-khonsu is really just Crowley and that “all my writings” refers to anything written by Crowley? And it’s an excellent assumption, actually, up to a point. I mean, does anyone really think that White Stains or Leah Sublime offer any kind of actual exegetic depth to the Book of the Law? Can we appeal to any writings of Crowley? Or is there a list of acceptable writings to which we can all appeal? Where do you draw the line on what writings are used in such an “appeal”?

This “anything by Crowley” perspective is not a very logical approach by any means. If anything, it muddies the waters of any solid understanding of the Book of the Law and provides a small demographic of Thelemites the ability to be dismissive of anything that doesn’t suit their prejudices.

And then you have those who will pull out some kind of “But Crowley’s unpublished letters say …” retort. When you have a magisterium that controls, hides, and obfuscates the literature of the Prophet, you have a pathological festering of doctrinal control. “Trust us to be the guide of orthodoxy as we define it,” is what that says. Even if a scholar offered excellent proof of a point, the magisterium has the ability to come back with, “Crowley states in this letter [that is withheld from public use] such and such.” Who will believe whom? Those who have studied and bled for the Book or those who will claim a mysterious, mystical knowledge that cannot be proved?

That said, we cannot just ignore all of Crowley’s writings. Let’s be clear on the matter: Crowley’s writings are incredibly important to seeing where the Prophet stood on any particular subject of the Law. This isn’t to say that everything he wrote is accurate, relevant, or even necessary. But we most certainly cannot just ignore his work. I’ll breach this subject later as well but Crowley, as the Prophet of the New Aeon, represents the Spirit of the Law from which we need to take encouragement and inspiration for our own personal work. Our foundation, the Letter of the Law, is the Book of the Law itself. While I will dive some other time into these elements of Spirit and Letter—and then add Tradition to this mix— as the Three Rivers, or a Buddhist-like Refuge, of Thelema, should we find a conflict between Crowley and the Book, the Book of the Law is our final source of authority.

Let’s back up and go over the two elements of the Tunis Comment that we can not do: ignore and interpret. We’ve really only covered the historical foundation of the text, the why and who of the Tunis Comment. Let’s move on from there.

I already said that we could not safely ignore the text of the Tunis Comment even though it seems like there is ample reason to do so here. We have to include the Tunis Comment into any consideration toward healthy movement beyond it. We merely need to understand its place in the whole of our hermeneutic endeavors.

The most obvious aspect of the Tunis Comment that cannot be ignored is that it exists at all. Crowley wrote it. Crowley included it with his 1936 Tunis edition of the Book of the Law. We can debate all day about whether the Tunis Comment is a Class A text or what it means for this text to be Class A. Despite the fact that it wasn’t even written during the original run of The Equinox and never enters into the curriculum of the A∴A∴—in fact, the Tunis Comment runs contrary to the instructions of study for that Brotherhood (and for O.T.O. itself quite frankly; though as a Minerval yourself, you already know this)—it doesn’t change the fact that it exists and continues to be included in printed versions of the Book of the Law to the point that a magisterial tradition has taken over its purpose and significance.

But are we to approach this as “Crowley wrote it, we accept it, and that settles it”? Not exactly, no. We have to understand the concept of what constitutes a Class A text.

And what is that definition? The categorization of Class A “consists of books of which may be changed not so much as the style of a letter: that is, they represent the utterance of an Adept entirely beyond the criticism of even the Visible Head of the Organization.”[⁠7]

Where in that definition is anything written about taking a Class A text without critical thought or the claim of inherency or perfection? There is none. The designation of Class A merely means, as the definition states, that it is a text beyond criticism and that such a text cannot be changed. I don’t think enough Thelemites really think that designation through very well. These are books that are supposed to be the utterances of Adepts.

Consider this carefully. How many Adepts can we name? Would you say that an individual designated as a Magi of the A∴A∴[⁠8] would be an Adept? Yes, I think so. That means the utterances of Mosheh, Lao-Tze, Siddhartha, Jesus, Mohammed, and To Mega Therion all fall under the designation of Class A—though will come back to this in a moment to see that all but Therion’s are Class B and why.

Now, how about the ten listed Companions of the A∴A∴?⁠[9] Would those individuals be considered Adepts? Again, I think so, yes.

What about Frater Achad, Crowley’s so-called “magical son”? Yes, of course and I know of very few that would fail to consider him an Adept no matter his later history with Crowley and Thelema.

Let’s stop there, though we could go on and on with names of Adepts. Now, from that list of adepts, do we follow the writings of any of these aforementioned Adepts over the cliff? While many may be authoritative, they are certainly not binding to us in the current aeon. Why is that, you ask? I’ll answer: with the exception of Crowley, each of the Magi listed is from a previous aeon.

Likewise, the ten Companions are provided, as Crowley states, “to prepare the Way of the next Word, and to maintain or to restore the virtue of the Word then current.”⁠[10] This seems to gist of the admonishment in the Book of the Law where it states, “Behold! the rituals of the old time are black. Let the evil ones be cast away; let the good ones be purged by the prophet! Then shall this Knowledge go aright” (AL 2.5). The general flow of history, as we will discuss in more depth later, is that with each new spiritual covenant comes the fulfillment of the previous covenant and the abrogation of that previous covenant’s modes and forms.[⁠11]

The question then becomes, what happens to those writings of Adepts from previous aeons that, at the time of that particular aeon, would have fallen under the definition of what we now call ‘Class A’?

Crowley, in his personal arrogance and self-importance, appears to have regulated texts from previous aeons into only the categories of ‘fiction’ or books for serious study. While there are some books that could be determined, like The Vision & The Voice, to be Class AB (e.g., The Bible, possibly the Bhagavad-Gita); other texts that could be considered Class A (e.g., the Tao Teh King, the Qur’an); and even others that could be considered merely Class B (e.g., the Upanishads); at the least all of them could be classified as Class B in their modern translated forms as “enlightened and earnest” works for study of aspirants.[⁠12] Rather than despising or ridiculing the texts of previous aeons, being able to recognize the continuity between those texts and their aeons through history into the representative text of our current aeon results in deeper wisdom.

Of course, the only thing this doesn’t answer is why the classification system at all. And I think this is a great question.

I think this is yet another one of those traditions that has set in and is rarely questioned. While the A∴A∴ classification is handy, it is the A∴A∴ classification system. As with many things, it can be useful outside that system, but it is specifically the A∴A∴ classification system. It is not the “Thelemic classification system” or the OTO classification system” (even though OTO assumes much of it internally by default). And, in that, it ultimately comes down to a system of classification of Crowley’s own prejudices on written works important for study.

Which all this leads to one further interpretation of the  A∴A∴ classification system: one could read the definition of Class A with a particular emphasis on “the utterance of an Adept”; that is, the utterance of one particular Adept. If this is the case, we can easily assume that “an Adept” means Crowley and that only such writings of Crowley as designated by Crowley would be in Class A.

So where does this leave us with the Tunis Comment? The Tunis Comment is only assumed to be Class A out of magisterial tradition. However, let’s not challenge whether it is or is not Class A. Let’s accept that as a socially-adopted fact. Let’s not ignore this claim. Given the foundation of what we know about the A∴A∴ classification of Class A texts, what does this actually mean for the Tunis Comment?

The Tunis Comment “may be changed not so much as the style of a letter” and that it is “entirely beyond … criticism.” Where in any of that definition does it say that it must be adhered like some kind of Gospel? We are not here to change it or even criticize it. We are here to have an understanding of its place within the movement of history.

This is where we transition into that second aspect: what do we do about interpretation of the Tunis Comment. Can we interpret it?

Thus far, without jumping too far into the hermeneutic rabbit hole just yet, the only thing we see in any discussion (online or even in-person) is interpretation of the Tunis Comment. The majority of compliance, whether actual or feigned or threatened, comes down to a magisterial interpretation of the Comment itself. All of the counter statements, those attempts to explain away the Comment, are also a form of interpretation. While we will approach interpretation, meaning, and significance another time, it is important to note here that we will never truly know the meaning of the Comment itself outside of our interpretation of the historical clues we’ve already discussed. We can, though, come to an understanding of its significance to ourselves and, even in accordance with the Comment itself, each determine that significance for ourselves.

Bur if we are not attempting to ignore the Tunis Comment and we are not attempting to interpret it either, how do we transcended in order to provide a foundation for progress?

I’m glad you asked.

What happens if we just take it literally? Granted, that is a form of interpretation itself, as we’ll see later, but what happens if we just accept it at face value?

Have you read the Tunis Comment lately? What exactly does it say?

Let’s look at it finally, in full.

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, Ankh-f-n-khonsu

Does this whole narrative here remind you of anything, of any kind of specific narrative from a previous aeon? Let me help out: does it sound like the challenge, curse, and expulsion from the Garden of Eden? Don’t eat of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Don’t do it. Something bad will happen to you. Stop! Stop! Danger, Will Robinson![⁠13] And when Adam and Eve went ahead and ate from the tree of knowledge, they were struck with the curse of knowledge, and expelled from the Garden of Eden like the centre of pestilence they were at that point. An angel with a flaming sword was sent to guard the gates of the garden.

We, as Thelemites, are presented with the tree of knowledge in the form of the Book of the Law. We now also have our own warning and curse to attend that tree.

This is the new aeon. It’s a new narrative even if we’re seeing the same or similar motifs in a new way. Rather than ignore it blindly or interpret it away with nonsense or some twisted logic, can we willingly walk straight on through it, curse and all?

We grasp the fruit from our own tree of knowledge, accept the consequences, and walk out into the world to sow the knowledge we have gained to create new life, light, love, and liberty from the seeds of the Law that we have taken into ourselves.

I know. I know. I hear it all the time. The question is asked: “Isn’t the Tunis Comment there to keep each of us from interpreting the Book of the Law for someone else or from telling someone else what their True Will is?”

While we’ll get into True Will later, I think the Book of the Law does a fine job on its own of protecting itself from wild interpretation. Not to suggest it doesn’t happen. It does. But when you measure up such interpretations to the Book itself, it becomes very apparent that such interpretations lack a certain sophistication or finesse in their approach.

Let’s recap here because this is a lot of words, I know.

There are two difficulties that come about with the Tunis Comment: first, we cannot safely ignore it; second, we cannot safely interpret it. Yet there has to be a perspective that is progressive enough to allow for growth in Thelemic knowledge, understanding, and application while being traditional enough for hierological security. The Book of the Law tells us that another prophet will come about within the Thelemic community. I don’t mean the “another prophet will arise” bit for the next aeon. I mean that it is specific that someone will come after Crowley to expound on the technicalities of the Law. If the Tunis Comment is supposed to suppress discussion and commentary, (a) it contradicts the Book of the Law itself and (b) fails on the face of it as a threat of failure but succeeds as a promise of seeding the world with new life, light, love, and liberty.

Love is the law, love under will.

B∴

Personal Note: It is rare for me to make a disclaimer that something on this blog is a ‘draft’ piece of work. However, in this case, this particular article still requires some editing before it’s final. Recent event encourage me to release it into the wild now rather than obsessing over word perfectionism as I am wont to do.

Footnotes 

[1] Except when an attempt is made to shut down dialogue with which one does not agree or pussyfoot out of a conversation by claiming adherence to this mess of a “Comment.”

[2] Norman Mudd

[3] Louis T. Comming

[4] Kaczynski, R. (2010). Perdurabo: the life of Aleister Crowley. Berkeley: Calif. pp. 397-403

[5] Ibid. p. 647n25

[6] There may be some numerological significance to the different styles but they would not be significant to any theological interpretation.

[7] Crowley, A., Desti, M., Waddell, L., & Beta, H. (1997). Magick: Liber ABA. Boston, Md: Weiser Books. p. 458.

[8] There are eight designated Magi of the A∴A∴: Krishna, Tahiti, Mosheh, Lao-Tze, Siddhartha, Dionysus (under several diverse names), Mohammed, and To Mega Therion [Crowley].

Ironically, there is an intimation in the Commentaries that Crowley may have considered Joseph Smith to be among this group as well—but this is, at least, the official list.

[9] Those Masters of the Temple named as Fu-Hsi, Zerdusht, Pythagoras, Osiris, Apollon, Plotinus, Jacobus Burgundus Molensis, Christian Rosencreutz, Sir Edward Kelly, and Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

[10] Crowley, A. (1997). The heart of the master & other papers. Tempe, AZ: New Falcon Publications. p.102.

[11] Even if many of the functions remain similar in an evolved manner.

[12] Erring on the conservative side of caution would classify all such texts into Class B and/or Class C categories.

[13] Lost in Space. “Deadliest of the Species.” 1967.