Updated: May 9
The birth of Thelema by Tim Ozpagan
The Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in the Khabs. Worship then the Khabs, and behold my light shed over you!"
Liber AL vel Legis, Chapter 1, verses 8 – 9, the Goddess Nuit speaking through Aiwass.
Thelema is a spiritual and philosophical system founded by English writer and occultist Aleister Crowley in the early 1900s. The philosophy centres around the concept that each individual possesses a True Will or an inherent purpose in life. This True Will seeks to find its place in the universe and can be understood through spiritual training, introspection and the practice of Magick. Within the framework of Thelema is the practice of Magick and its goal of following one's True Will.
To distinguish it from stage magic, which involves illusions performed for entertainment, Crowley introduced the term "Magick" spelt with a "k", to make the distinction. He believed genuine Magick was a potent force from within, capable of fostering spiritual and personal transformation.
The following narrative explores the conditions and settings surrounding the receipt of "Liber AL vel Legis", or "The Book of the Law", the foundational text of Thelema, received by Rose and Aleister Crowley in Cairo in 1904 on their honeymoon. The book comprises three chapters, each dictated via a spirit named Aiwass in dialogue with three Ancient Egyptian gods—Nuit, Hadit, and Ra-Hoor-Khuit.
Under the Honey Moon
Cairo, 1904 — Amidst the bustling streets of the ancient city, the Egyptian sun shone brightly, casting stark contrasts of light and shadow. Aleister Crowley and his wife, Rose, find themselves far from their English homeland in a land of enigma and forces they cannot yet comprehend. They were the epitome of an Edwardian English couple, except that Aleister was a mystic and a magician, and their lives were about to be irrevocably upturned.
The city welcomed them with open arms, a kaleidoscope of vibrant colours, exotic scents, and mesmerising sounds. Incredible museums, housing artefacts that whispered tales of long-forgotten civilisations, had captivated them. The unfamiliar dress customs had caught their eyes, a testament to the rich cultural tapestry that makes up the fabric of Egypt.
The sweet, unmistakable scent of hashish and shisha lingered in the air from cafe smokers, enveloping them in a dreamlike atmosphere. Music echoed everywhere in Cairo; the lively melodies of the people and the mystical calls to prayer that seemed to resonate within their very souls were entrancing Aleister and Rose. The sounds were hypnotic and intoxicating, weaving a spell that drew them deeper into the city's embrace.
Egypt is an immersive land of ancient culture; its streets still pulsate with the secret power of the old gods. It is a place where the veil between the mundane and the mystical seems to grow thin, tempting the mind to delve into the realms of mystery and the unknown.
As Aleister and Rose explored the city together, hand in hand, they felt a growing sense of connection to something greater, something that lay just beyond the reach of their conscious understanding but was secretly entering their imagination. The land of Egypt had stirred something within them, awakening a thirst for knowledge and a desire to uncover the hidden voices buried beneath the sands of time.
Now, as they stood on the threshold of a new chapter in their lives, Aleister and Rose could not help but wonder if unseen forces had guided their arrival in Cairo, leading them to this moment. In the days that followed, there would be little doubt that the ancient gods had seen them, and Aleister and Rose would serve as their instruments, unveiling the sacred wisdom silent for centuries.
The ancient gods silently observed the couple, biding their time, waiting for the perfect moment to reveal themselves. Unwitting pawns in a metaphysical game, Aleister and Rose were about to be summoned to a divine encounter that would alter the course of their destiny.
The effect of this ancient land, especially on Rose, was markedly profound. Previously, Rose, an ordinary woman with no formal training in spiritual matters, had inexplicably transformed into a medium. Her once mundane existence was now marked by extraordinary visions and prophetic whispers. The gods had chosen her as their conduit. And the gods had explicit instructions for Rose and her husband.
They were to enter the modest spare room of their Cairo apartment precisely at 12 noon on April 8th and record the events and psychic messages they would receive. In the days leading up to the 8th, the couple visited the Boulaq museum, where the spirit directed them to an exhibit. An innocuous stele (a wooden funerary offering tablet) had laid undisturbed and untranslated for decades. Aleister engaged an Egyptologist to read the hieroglyphics—it revealed a name, Ankh af na Khonsu. A priest of the Egyptian God Mentu who lived in Thebes during the 25th and 26th dynasties (c. 725 BCE). The modest wooden stele had been made with an inscribed spell to ensure the deceased would continue living beyond death.
The stele of Ankh-af-na-Khonsu.
The front-fascia of the stele reads:
Saith Osiris, the Priest of Mentu, Lord of Thebes, the Opener of the Doors of Nuit in Karnak, Ankh-af-na-Khonsu, the Justified — "Hail, Thou who is highly praised, thou great-willed, O Soul filled with awful and giveth the terror of him among the Gods, shining in glory upon his great throne, making ways for the Soul (ba), for the Spirit (yekh) and for the Shadow (khabt). I am prepared, and I shine forth as one that is prepared. I have made way to the place in which are Ra, Atum, Khepri and Hathor."
Translating the name Ankh-ef-en-Khonsu into its principle components reveals "Ankh" symbolising a new life or true life, and "Khonsu", the God of the Moon, known to the ancients as the wanderer, or one who traverses. Ankh-ef-en-Khonsu becomes "the truth that has crossed over" to the new life on a spiritual journey.
As the clock approached appoint 12-noon, April 8th 1904, Aleister and Rose's anticipation was palpable; fear and intrigue filled the air as they entered the spare room of their apartment. The bright daylight outside contrasted with a heavy atmosphere of tension and apprehension in the shaded room.
The voice of Aiwass came suddenly from behind Crowley's his left shoulder. Aleister knew instinctively not to turn around, but sat attentively at the writing table. The voice emanated from a point in space about a foot behind his head. An enigmatic and shadowy figure of Aiwass, the harbinger of the gods, entered more fully into the room. Aleister transcribed every utterance the spirit made. The spirit's voice was disembodied and ethereal, filling the air as Rose entered deeper into a trance, her eyes glazed and distant. The voice of Aiwass was deep, lyrical, and articulate, with a timbre and a rhythm that was unlike any human voice.
An otherworldly coolness clutched the room, defying the heat of the Egyptian sun. Shadows dance on the walls as if eager to witness the events unfolding.
Behold! it is revealed by Aiwass the minister of Hoor-paar-kraat. The Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in the Khabs. Worship then the Khabs, and behold my light shed over you!"
The cryptic messages came fast and were insightful, if not bewildering. In quick succession now, another presence, the Goddess Nuit overshadowed the spirit of Aiwass:
Now, therefore, I am known to ye by my name Nuit, and to him by a secret name which I will give him when at last he knoweth me. Since I am Infinite Space, and the Infinite Stars thereof, do ye also thus. Bind nothing! Let there be no difference made among you between any one thing & any other thing; for thereby there cometh hurt."
Aleister dutifully recorded each strange utterance, his pen scratching against the paper, like receiving a telegraph dispatch in code, the messages issuing out bit by bit, with silences between words and sentences. The air was charged with uncanny energy, and the walls seemed to close in as if the gods were peering closer over Aleister's shoulder to see that he had faithfully inscribed the instructions.
I am the blue-lidded daughter of Sunset; I am the naked brilliance of the voluptuous night-sky. To me! To me!"
"To me! To me!" the words trailed off, and the manifestation of Nuit was at an end.
With the last words spoken, the presence faded, and Aleister and Rose were left to grapple with the profound revelations they had just witnessed. Their lives would never be the same; they had been chosen to bear the weight of a divine secret — a secret that would ignite the fires of revolution and forever change the practices of Magick.
People walking the streets of Cairo, Egypt.
That night, after their first encounter with Aiwass, Aleister and Rose wandered through the labyrinthine streets of Cairo, their minds reeling from the day's events. The city felt familiar and foreign, as though they were walking through a dreamscape of a parallel universe. They were indeed strangers in a strange land, their lives now entwined with ancient gods and esoteric mysteries.
As they search for a place to eat, the bustling sounds of the city faded into the background, replaced by the echoes of Aiwass's haunting voice. They exchanged uneasy glances, each aware that they were on the precipice of a monumental journey, the outcome of which remained uncertain.
The weight of their newfound knowledge casts a shadow over their conversation, with the realisation that they were to still endure two more days of supernatural experiences with Aiwass only adding to their trepidation. Doubts crept into their mind, gnawing at their confidence like a persistent itch they could not reach.
Aleister, in particular, felt the burden of responsibility to transcribe "Liber AL vel Legis," the "Book of the Law" accurately. He had been instructed that he "shall not in one letter change this book." His mind was a whirlwind of conflicting emotions: fear, excitement, apprehension, and awe. He wondered if he could trust his own senses and perceptions or if he had unwittingly wandered into a realm of a delusional dream.
Rose, too, grappled with her role in the events. Was she truly ready for such an undertaking? She was humbled and terrified by her newfound connection as a medium to the gods, unsure of what it meant and how it would shape her life. She searched for reassurance in Aleister's eyes, but he mirrored her same uncertainty.
As they finally settle down at a small, dimly lit cafe, they attempt to find solace in each other's presence, each seeking comfort, knowing supernatural forces stalked them on this strange and perilous path. The night stretched out before them, a tapestry of shadows and secrets, clinging to the hope that they would emerge from the darkness stronger, wiser, and better equipped to face the challenges ahead.
As Aleister and Rose left the cafe, they wandered through the endless maze of streets in the City of a Thousand Mosques. Then, the present moment faded away, and they were transported back to their arrival in this ancient land. It had been the beginning of their honeymoon, a journey into the unknown filled with wonder and optimistic anticipation for an adventure; only now, they were entwined in a world of mysticism and intrigue.
Come forth, o children, under the stars, & take your fill of love! I am above you and in you. My ecstasy is in yours. My joy is to see your joy.”
Liber AL vel Legis, Chapter 1, verses 12 – 13, the Goddess Nuit speaking through Aiwass.
For a more in-depth explanation about the inscriptions of the Stele of Ankh af na Khonsu see the "Wandering Stars" curated by Shane Clayton and the link video by Egyptologist, Doug Blake. on the Funerary Stele of Ankh af na Khonsu.