Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law
The following is a speech that I gave back in 2006 on the third day of the writing of The Book of the Law. Though much has changed since that time, I have chosen to present the piece with little revision. The edition of The Book of the Law discussed is the Red Wheel/Weiser paperback (ISBN: 0877283346). I hope the practice describe herein will prove worthwhile and thought-provoking for my fellow Thelemites.
In the ordinary Hexagram, the Hexagram of nature, the red triangle is upwards, like fire, and the blue triangle downwards, like water. In the magical hexagram this is reversed; the descending red triangle is that of Horus, a sign specially revealed by him personally, at the Equinox of the Gods. (It is the flame descending upon the altar, and licking up the burnt offering.) The blue triangle represents the aspiration, since blue is the colour of devotion, and the triangle, kinetically considered, is the symbol of directed force.
— From the Commentary to Chapter 69 of The Book of Lies
When the Three Days of the Writing of The Book of the Law comes along each year I follow my normal tradition: I gather together new and old friends to feast, celebrate, and reflect on the Law of Thelema. I read the appropriate chapters on the appropriate days. On the third day, when the reading is done, I promptly burn my book. It is at this moment, after the reading but before the burning, that I would like to take a few moments to share my thoughts on the book, the burning, and the ashes that result.
The book that I burn is not simply a copy of Liber AL vel Legis taken from my bookshelf, dusted off, and prepared for the offering. It is a book that I have carried with me every day for 365 days. Stored in my back pocket and conformed to my body, this very book has been consulted on buses, in bathrooms, at bars, and on airplanes. Every day, whether it rains or snows; whether I am going to hiking or going to a movie, a poetry readings, weddings or funerals; everywhere I go I take my book.
It has gone to work with me; once left in the bathroom to be found by a baffled employee later in that day. It was with me through all the friendships made at my company and all of the friendships left there. It lived in my pocket through slow business, long meetings, and pointless rewards ceremonies. I read it while running out the clock on my last day on the job and it was with me for the embarrassing drunken celebration afterwards.
It has traveled with me to the Greek Island of Rhodes. It has been touched by the waters of both the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. It has visited temples built for Apollo and Aphrodite. It inspected funeral steles of the Knights of St. John with me. It was probably somewhat bemused as I tried to communicate to a Greek bartender that I had somehow lost my wife in the crowd. I reread it on the long flight home (I did eventually find her).
It was in my back pocket for my first wedding anniversary on Halloween when my wife and I played music, drank wine, and read poetry until late night. It smashed some pumpkins with me that night, too. I took it out of my pocket and consulted it on the first anniversary of my cousin’s death. It was with me when a dear friend flew in from LA and we watched him play guitar at a dive bar in Ellwood city until last call. This year it has met Salman Rushdie, Gerald Stein, and George Romero.
At NOTOCON V it was there as I was re-united with old friends and formed lasting bonds with new faces as well. I had it with me when I underwent an initiation that led me to choose the life that I now lead. It influenced my decision to go back to school and study molecular physics to better the life of my future family.
I have carried it with me through all of the joys and hardships of this passing year. It is all of these memories and histories that I give over to the fire with these pages. I cannot say that I always follow or even understand all of the words and symbols written within. But I am sure that I would not be the person that I am for myself, my wife, my friends, my brethren, and the world if it was not for this philosophy- a philosophy that I carry not only in my pocket but in my actions and thoughts.
Just as these pages will produce fire when we set the flame upon them, so have they given fire to our choices and beliefs. It is the very same fire that burns in the core of every star and in the hearts and minds of every man and woman. It is a perpetual engine of change. It is the fire that fuels our hunger for knowledge and desire for love. It devours our past and consumes our passions to nourish our future.
I know that there are influences in my life that I cannot see: forces that bring about cause and effect in my interior and exterior being. I do not presume here to dissect them, but as they change me, they change this book as well. Symbiotically, the symbols within it progress as I progress. Over this year I have rarely read this book twice. Though I have read it over a hundred times, each reading tells me a different story. I like to think that these invisible energies I am theorizing about are stored in these pages, just as they are stored in my mind. When the book is burned it is not only a form of self-sacrifice, but also an exercise in self-accountability: a tidying of the memory store-house. Here are the things that I have done, that I have loved, that I have hated. Here is what I believe in and what I am willing to do about it.
The ash that results is more pure than the previous form. It is truly holographic: every part containing the whole. Indiscriminate, beautiful, colorless ash: the most unfettered form a book can exist in. With all of these memories and experiences fully incorporated, this profound ash reminds us of the fate of our flesh. It is a trimming of the past, a fixing of force, it is alchemy. Memory can be transmuted into inertia.
As I have done every year, I will gather the ash and carefully store it in a few small glass containers. These I will keep locked in a wood cabinet in my temple to be used in ritual for the following year. It will be there to remind me that every moment that has occurred is still here: present and dynamically alive in the ash. Just as now every moment that we have lived has led us here, to this time, to reflect upon these very things. And to consider the fire that drives us and the products thereof, to ponder the forces that liberate and inhibit us, to learn which of these to control and which ones to let go of, to try to understand the scope and magnitude of the simple idea of doing one’s will.
With that final thought in mind, I would like us now to join with our brothers and sisters in contemplation, not just those of us in this room, but all of our brethren across this world who choose to celebrate the birth of Thelema. Let us join them on this day, and at this time to witness what occurs when words written on paper give rise to flame.
Love is the law, love under will.