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Cutting Through The Bullshit: A Polemic
I want each man to cut his own way through the jungle.
—Aleister Crowley, from Confessions

Let's cut our own way through the bullshit, shall we? We see this quote used
by people who are intellectually dishonest—since it should not be assumed
that individuals of noticeable academic merit cannot read or follow along in a
passage of text—and applied to the Law of Thelema as if Crowley somehow
thought that people would be blinded by the tenets of Thelema or that he was
minimizing the importance of the Book of the Law and Thelema in general.
But this is not the context of the quote and the Book of the Law is incidental as
proof of something other than a jungle through which the individual should
cut his own way.

The quote in question occurs in Chapter 66 of Confessions. This is the chapter
that starts out with, "I had no special magical object in going to Algiers, which
I reached on November 17th. As my chela, I took Frater Omnia Vincam, a
neophyte of the AA disguised as Victor Neuburg." Immediately we find the
context for the chapter as a whole; that is, his journey through Algiers and the
magical workings and visions that resulted in the conclusion of The Vision and
The Voice. Here after I have taken the liberty to just refer to this whole series
of visions and the events surrounding them by the title of the book that
resulted from them.

Crowley then launches into several different digressions to which he admits
are "permissible because of its pertinence to [his] Algerian initiation." He then
continues on "with the narrative". He goes into some detail as to the process of
his workings and some significant details as to how he accomplished them. He
provides observations and examples, even to the point of providing some
detail into his "proving" of the experience with the Angel of the twenty-
seventh Aethyr. He is at pains to make the point that such visions are capable
of being misleading and deceptive. He's already spent some time discussing
the origin of the various "Calls" that were being used in these workings. He
even discusses what constitutes proof or not. He has taken quite a liberty in
discussing the pitfalls and problems that attend many magicians. He is quite
blunt about the rocks in the path and the difficulties of the mountains he has
had to climb.

He then stops to make a counterpoint by saying, "Now, The Book of the Law
guarantees itself by so closely woven a web of internal evidence of every kind,
from Cabbalistic and mathematical proofs, and those depending on future
events and similar facts, undeniably beyond human power to predict or to
produce, that it is unique." It is in the middle of discussing proofs of workings
that he contrasts the Book of the Law as a work that is self-evident, that is
unique. Crowley here, like in so many different places in his corpus, continues
to set the Book of the Law apart from his other works and magical triumphs.

He continues on from here with his original thesis by saying, "The thirty
Aethyrs being, however, only second in importance, though very far away, to
that Book, the Lords of Vision were at pains to supply internal evidence, more
than amply sufficient that the revelations therein contained may be regarded
as reliable. No doubt the proof appears stronger to me than to anyone else,
because I alone know exactly what happened; also because many passages
refer to matters personal to myself, so that only I can fully appreciate the

Crowley is very clear in this part of his narrative that he feels The Vision and
The Voice is "only second in importance" to the Book of the Law itself and "the
Lords of Vision were at pains to supply internal evidence" of the reliability of
the revelations contained within the former since the latter, as he has already
stated, "guarantees itself" and is in no need of external validation. It is clear
from his grammatical structure this is certainly the way he intended it to be
read. Of course, others may disagree and I would refer them back to their
grade school teachers for more instruction.

At this point in Confessions, Crowley stops to say, "I admit that my visions can
never mean to other men as much as they do to me. I do not regret this. All I
ask is that my results should convince seekers after truth that there is beyond
doubt something worth while seeking, attainable by methods more or less like
mine." In a clear continuity from his previous sentiment—"No doubt the proof
[within The Vision and The Voice] appears stronger to me than to anyone else,
because I alone know exactly what happened; also because many passages
refer to matters personal to myself, so that only I can fully appreciate the
dovetailings."—he reiterates this value statement about his visions. What
visions is he talking about here? What visions are the subject of the entire text
of this chapter? The Vision and The Voice, of course. It is shocking to me that
anyone would even suggest otherwise.

Crowley continues on in his pompous manner, "I do not want to father a flock,
to be the fetish of fools and fanatics, or the founder of a faith whose followers
are content to echo my opinions." The alliteration here is unmistakable and
completely Crowleyan hyperbole as we've come to recognize from other texts.
He then adds the infamous sentence, "I want each man to cut his own way
through the jungle." But what is this jungle of which he writes? Through
context, it is not Thelema or the Book of the Law. It is, however, a very direct
statement concerning the Aethyrs and the processes of Enochian magick
which he has been exploring through a series of visions (he even calls it
"skrying in the spirit vision") in the desert of Algiers.

In context, the subject of his meaning is clear: "I admit that my visions ..."
What visions? The Book of the Law was not a vision for Crowley. It was a
transmission to Crowley. There is a clear separation between such texts. Even

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his "digression" to provide the contrast between the Book of the Law and The
Vision and The Voice speaks volumes. One text has obvious and clear proofs, it
"guarantees itself", he says. The other needed "internal evidence" provided by
the "Lords of Vision" in order to be considered "reliable". And I want to
reiterate such evidence, in a clear connection to his usual misquoted sentence,
"appears stronger to [him] than to anyone else" for the obvious reasons.
Crowley then continues on with his narrative of the working in Algiers toward
the conclusion of The Vision and The Voice.

It should be clear at this point that in such quotes, even taking into
consideration and dismissing Crowley's egotistic claims of being a master of
the English language, Crowley had no intention or meaning with this phrase in
relation to the Law of Thelema or the Book of the Law. It is only through a
deceptive practice of quoting such lines and then associating them implicitly
or explicitly with Thelema, relying on others to not examine the evidence for
themselves, that some individuals have become quite adept at misleading and
causing doubt in others with this tripe. While it is obvious through other clues
in the text that Crowley felt The Vision and The Voice was something of a vital
piece to the thelemic puzzle, it is not within the context of the chapter,
containing paragraph, or the surrounding paragraphs to assume that he felt
that Thelema viz Liber AL was anything more than a revelation that needed no
apologetics as did The Vision and The Voice and he took great pains to indicate
this more than once in Confessions.

Thelema is not a jungle. The Book of the Law does not present a path through
a dark, twisting, overgrown jungle of unidentifiable shapes and shadows. It is
the Law of Light, Life, Love and Liberty. It is only through an application of
intellectual dishonesty that anyone would suggest that Thelema resembles a
jungle or that even Crowley thought so when he wrote, "I want each man to
cut his own way through the jungle." It is a dark mind and soul indeed that
would want others to flounder within some confusion and meaningless tripe
when Thelema is clear and understandable to even the mind of a child.
"[Thelema] is so simple that it constantly approximates to truism", Crowley
says in his Commentary to Liber AL. The Law of Thelema is a light in the
darkness, not a darkness through which the individual must wander around
blindly until a door to understanding is discovered. It is time to put an end to
this intellectual and spiritual dishonesty and bring the Law to all as it was
intended to be: a source of the transcendental truth expressed as Light, Life,
Love and Liberty not a conflicted jungle of contradictions and assumptions
projected upon it by those who would rather bind others in confusion and
doubt than liberate through inspiration and beauty.


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