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The Book of Lies by Aleister Crowley

The Book of Lies (1913)

by Aleister Crowley

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8131017,863 (3.85)7
An admirable collection of Crowley's aphorisms - Witty, subtle, and instructive paradoxes that challenge and exhilarate.

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Not giving this one a rating because I really don't know what to think. Some passages of real beauty intermingled with things I don't understand at all. Will have to reflect on this text and see if it offers up more meaning with time.
  Shaun_Hamill | Oct 10, 2019 |

Fascinating, often humorous, and mostly perplexing. Crowley was a modern-day mystic/pagan/occultist/Freemason, but mostly he seems to have enjoyed crafting paradoxes for the credulous.

The book consists of 91 paradoxes or little sayings. The spirt (but not letter) of which is meant to be koan-like. Kind of. Each of the 91 paradoxes has a commentary written by Crowley (who also calls himself Frater Perdurabo, Latin for Father Endurance).

Here's an example that will suffice for all:


Death implies change and individuality; if thou be
THAT which hath no person, which is beyond the
changing, even beyond changelessness, what hast
thou to do with death?

The birth of individuality is ecstasy; so also is its death.

In love the individuality is slain; who loves not love?
Love death therefore, and long eagerly for it.
Die Daily.


This seems a comment on the previous chapter [i.e., Lie #15, The Gun Barrel:]; the Stag-Beetle is a reference to Keph-ra, the Egyptian God of Midnight, who bears the Sun through the Underworld; but it is called the Stag-Beetle to emphasise [sic; British variant spelling:] his horns. Horns are the universal hieroglyph of energy, particularly of Phallic energy.

The 16th key of the Tarot is "The Blasted Tower". In this chapter death is regarded as a form of marriage. Modern Greek peasants, in many cases, cling to Pagan belief, and suppose that in death they are united to the Deity which they have cultivated during life. This is "a consummation devoutly to be wished" (Shakespeare).

In the last paragraph the Master urges his pupils to practise [again, sic:] Samadhi every day.


Samadhi: In HINDUISM is: a state of deep concentration resulting in union with or absorption into ultimate reality. In BUDDHISM is: the meditative concentration that is the final step of the Eightfold Path. in JAINISM is: spiritual self-fulfillment. Enlightenment.

Ecstasy: This comes from the Greek word "ekstasis," which itself comes from "existanai," which refers to a coming out of (a) place or to come out of. In its most literal sense, then, ecstasy refers to a kind of joyous transcendence of self.

Great fun and interesting if you're into this kind of thing. (Which I guess I obviously kind of am.) Also: learn a great new vocab word to describe the rumbling sound of gas in the intestinal tract: borborygmus. Say it to yourself a few times (or ten) and you'll understand where the word came from! ( )
  evamat72 | Mar 31, 2016 |
Reading Crowley is a little like talking philosophy with a four-year-old: you feel simultaneously like you're wasting your time and you're out of your depth, and every once in a while he comes out with a perfect truth that just sings. (Funnily enough, it's a different bit that hits me that way every time I read it.) He's still an egomaniac, though, and hasn't bothered to escape the profound misogyny of his traditions.
  jen.e.moore | Dec 23, 2015 |

This is not a book for beginnings of magic, nor is it a plaything. Crowley is infamous for placing traps in his books that can get those who have not studied the subject for a very long time into very deep trouble.

I own the book as reference material only. I've been a practicing neo-pagan for forty years, and I still won't play with this man.
  bfgar | Aug 7, 2014 |
Its author wrote that The Book of Lies, Which Is Also Falsely Called Breaks should serve as the text-book for a Babe of the Abyss, i.e. an aspirant to Perfection who has irrevocably committed himself to "interpret every phenomenon as a particular dealing of God with his soul," but who has not yet attained to Mastery on that basis. He assigned it the number 333, which is the number of Choronzon, the "mighty devil" who assails the Babe of the Abyss with the carrot of ego-attachment and the stick of cosmic fear. At the same time, he recommends the book even to beginners as containing useful wisdom regarding "many matters on all planes of the very highest importance."

It is a short book, made up of many short chapters. Nearly all posthumous editions include the author's later commentary to the original text, chapter by chapter. While these commentaries often contain useful instruction in their own right, they also frequently serve to misdirect the reader regarding the central message coded into a given chapter. And indeed, it is a highly cryptic book--sometimes whimsical, and often baffling.

There are certain conflicts of fact between the two stories that Aleister Crowley wrote regarding this book's relationship to his status in O.T.O. (one in his Confessions, reproduced in the foreword to most of the later editions of The Book of Lies, and the other in Magick Without Tears chapter 25). It seems fitting that a volume called Lies should produce two irreconcilable stories from the author about its significance. Leaving aside Crowley's hardly credible protestations of innocence, it has long been my surmise that The Book of Lies served as Crowley's de facto "application" for the office of Grand Master General of the English O.T.O., since the book tidily synthesizes such topics as sex, metaphysics, qabalah, yoga, esoteric freemasonry, and original magical ritual. The facts that O.T.O. is never mentioned in the text itself, and that Lies includes several official rituals of Crowley's own A.'.A.'. initiatory system, actually serve to support this contention. At the time, O.T.O. Frater Superior Theodor Reuss, the Order's international Head, was in the habit of recruiting as Grand Masters individuals who a) shared his propensity for esoteric synthesis, and b) had a proven track record as organizers of other initiatory societies. (A sterling but hardly isolated example would be Gerard "Papus" Encausse, whose Martinist Order was eventually listed among the bodies contributing their wisdom to O.T.O. in the latter's Manifesto.)

In his accounts of his induction to the Ninth Degree, Crowley seems to tease the reader by claiming that the chief secret of O.T.O. is written in plain language in one of the chapters of The Book of Lies. Be that as it may, not only one, but most of the chapters contain doctrines relevant to O.T.O. mysteries. And considering that he equated the fully instructed and proficient O.T.O. initiate to an Adeptus Major, two full grades shy of the Babe of the Abyss in the A.'.A.'. system, one must infer that the best readers can get rewards from The Book of Lies that surpass the innermost Truths of O.T.O.
3 vote paradoxosalpha | Jul 2, 2009 |
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"Break, break, break

At the foot of thy stones, O Sea!
And I would that I could utter

  The thoughts that rise in me!"
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Commentary (Title Page)

  The number of the book is 333, as implying dispersion, so as to correspond with the title, "Breaks" and Lies".

  However, the "one thought is itself untrue", and therefore its falsifications are relatively true.

  This book therefore consists of statements as nearly true as is possible to human language.

  The verse from Tennyson is inserted partly because of the pun on the work "break"; partly because of the reference to the meaning of this title page, as explained above; partly because it is intensely amusing for Crowley to quote Tennyson.

  There is no joke or subtle meaning in the publisher's imprint.
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Book description
An admirable collection of Crowley's aphorisms-- Witty, subtle, and instructive paradoxes that challenge and exhilarate.

The Book of Lies (full title: Which is also Falsely Called BREAKS. The Wanderings or Falsifications of the One Thought of Frater Perdurabo, which Thought is itself Untrue. Liber CCCXXXIII [Book 333]) was written by English occultist Aleister Crowley (using the pen name of Frater Perdurabo) and first published in 1912 or 1913.

The book consists of 93 chapters, each of which consists of one page of text. The chapters include a question mark, poems, rituals, instructions, and obscure allusions and cryptograms. The subject of each chapter is generally determined by its number and its corresponding qabalistic meaning. Around 1921, Crowley wrote a short commentary about each chapter, assisting the reader in the qabalistic interpretation.

Several chapters and a photograph in the book reference Leila Waddell, who Crowley called Laylah, and who, as Crowley's influential Scarlet Woman, acted as his muse during the writing process of this volume.
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