As Thelemites we are, of course, concerned with how to interest others in our cause: we want to share the Law with those we know. We want our individual group to grow. We want to do our part, however small or large that might be, in aiding the changeover to the Æon of Horus—and what could help us more than to strive towards a more perfect edition of The Book of the Law. And though AL III:39 seems to be a blue print for the task at hand it appears to have been summarily ignored in the preparation of many editions of The Book of the Law. The instructions seem to be quite simple. Ra Hoor Khuit is speaking simply and plainly. He says, basically, that published versions of Liber AL vel Legis shall consist of four parts:
(1) “All this” is of course Liber AL itself: as painstakingly and accurately transcribed as possible from the original manuscript: “change not so much as the style of a letter;” (AL I:54); “… shall not in one letter change this book” (AL I:36); “… the letters? change them not in style or value!” (AL II:54); and with the punctuation included as originally done by Aleister Crowley himself: “The stops as thou wilt;” (AL II:54). “Thou” in this case being Crowley himself. Thus, we would have the most perfect rendered transcription of Liber AL vel Legis possible.
(2) “To say how thou didst come hither” sounds like the work of an introduction of sorts. It is a biographical summary of Crowley: his life up to 1904, his work with magick and yoga, his marriage, and especially the events in Egypt that immediately preceded the transcribing of The Book of the Law. Crowley wrote several essays that could qualify for this, the most detailed appearing in The Equinox of the Gods. Yet perhaps a new introduction is in order; one in plain language for contemporary readers. I would vote for one that would contain as much information as possible about what took place in Cairo pertaining to the actual transcribing itself.
(3) “And they comment upon this the Book of the Law shall be printed beautifully in red ink and black upon beautiful paper made by hand;” (AL III:39). “He shall comment thereupon by the wisdom of Ra-Hoor-Khuit.” (AL I:36). “But the work of the comment? That is easy; and Hadit burning in thy heart shall make swift and secure thy pen.” (AL III:40). All this seems to indicate that Crowley’s comment is to be divinely inspired; but which comment of the many he wrote should we use? Old? New? A? D?—it is perhaps best to include all of these. Unfortunately, Crowley never did pen an easily comprehensible comment for beginners to this work. Undoubtedly, he was never meant to. As the reader adds to his own knowledge, AL vel Legis blooms before his eyes.
“Red ink and black”—someone once informed me that Egyptian scribes believed that accounts divinely inspired ought to be written in red—I would suggest that the actual verse be in red ink, with the comment in black; but that’s only a suggestion.
“Beautiful paper made by hand”—I really don’t understand why. To be impressive? To last longer? I don’t know; but it says to do things a certain way; and therefore we should. There is one possible interpretation of this; that making the paper by hand would somehow be part of the manufacture of the book as a talisman—though it’s hard to imagine a factory full of magicians charging reams of paper.
(4) “And a reproduction of this ink and paper for ever.” (AL III:39); “But always with the original in the writing of the Beast;” (AL III:47)—both these seem to have the same command, important enough to be repeated; and it is my surmise that “for ever” and “always” means the original holographic manuscript is to be reproduced in every single edition of The Book of the Law ever printed.
How should the manuscript be reproduced? “Paste the sheets from right to left and from top to bottom;” (AL III:73) seems to be pretty plain: the holograph should be reproduced as it was in the The Equinox I(7), and again in the first edition of The Law is For All. In other words, it should be reproduced all on one page.
So thus we have not only the ideal edition of Liber AL vel Legis, but also the form of publication as mandated by Ra Hoor Khuit. Which all brings us to this perplexing dilemma: If we are Thelemites, then we accept The Book of the Law; if we accept The Book of the Law, can we condone any other version of AL then the one prescribed in The Book of the Law itself? I wouldn’t think so.
There are two other instructions in regard to this:
(1) “This book shall be translated into all tongues” (AL III:47)—surely the work of several lifetimes.
(2) “And to each man and woman that thou meetest … it is the Law to give” (AL III:39)—this is harder. It is part of the very same paragraph, in fact the very same sentence, as the publishing instructions we’ve been discussing. Are we to produce this beautiful book and then give it away like the Jehovah’s Witnesses give away their Watchtower (at least the Witnesses ask for donations in return). This leads us to another problem: Crowley took this phrase to mean that the Law was to be included in a sort of greeting which has since degenerated into a bunch of Thelemites 93ing each other (hypocrite that I am, I do it myself). I suggest that we reconsider the meaning of this line, though if it is decided that we should give away copies of The Book of the Law I also realize that it would be years before we could do this while also doing things “well and with business way.”
Thus we see that published versions of The Book of the Law need to contain four parts: AL vel Legis itself, a comment, the tale of how it came to be written, and the holograph; because, as it has been said, “the Law is for all.”