The Book of the Law

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Original title page of Liber AL Vel Legis

Liber AL vel Legis, commonly known as The Book of the Law, is the central sacred text of Thelema. Aleister Crowley said that it was dictated to him by a beyond-human being who called himself Aiwass. Rose Edith Kelly, Crowley's wife, wrote two phrases in the manuscript. The three chapters of the book are spoken by the deities Nuit, Hadit, and Ra-Hoor-Khuit.

Through the reception of the Book, Crowley proclaimed the arrival of a new stage in the spiritual evolution of humanity, to be known as the "Æon of Horus." The primary precept of this new aeon is the charge, "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law."


According to Crowley, the story began on 16 March 1904, when he tried to "shew the Sylphs" by use of the Bornless Ritual to his wife, Rose Edith Kelly, while spending the night in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Although she could see nothing, she did seem to enter into a light trance and repeatedly said, "They're waiting for you!" Since Rose had no interest in magic or mysticism, she took little interest. However, on the 18th, after he invoked Thoth (the god of knowledge), she mentioned Horus by name as the one waiting for him.

Crowley said he wrote The Book of the Law on 8, 9 and 10 April 1904, between the hours of noon and 1:00 pm, in the flat where he and his new wife were staying for their honeymoon, which he described as being near the Cairo Museum in a fashionable European quarter of Cairo, let by the firm Congdon & Co. The apartment was on the ground floor, and the "temple" was the drawing room. This was likely in the Standard Life Insurance Building, which still stands today.

The author was an entity named Aiwass, whom Crowley later referred to as his personal Holy Guardian Angel. Biographer Lawrence Sutin quotes private diaries that fit this story and writes that "if ever Crowley uttered the truth of his relation to the Book," his public account accurately describes what he remembered on this point.

Crowley himself wrote "Certain very serious questions have arisen with regard to the method by which this Book was obtained. I do not refer to those doubts—real or pretended—which hostility engenders, for all such are dispelled by study of the text; no forger could have prepared so complex a set of numerical and literal puzzles[...]"


The Book of the Law was first published in 1909 as part of ΘΕΛΗΜΑ, a collection of the holy books of Thelema. ΘΕΛΗΜΑ was privately published in London by the A∴A∴ as a three volume set, with The Book of the Law appearing in Volume III. It was next published in 1913 as part of The Equinox, Volume I, Number X. In both of these early editions it is titled Liber L vel Legis. Subsequent published editions include:

  • 1925 Tunis edition, only 11 copies printed
  • Ordo Templi Orientis, London, 1938, privately issued (US edition 1942, although dated 1938)
  • Weiser Books (Reissue edition; 1976; ISBN 0-87728-334-6)
  • Weiser Books (100th Anniversary edition; March 2004; ISBN 1-57863-308-7)
  • Thelema Media (100th Anniversary edition; (leather bound limited edition: 418 copies); March 2004; ISBN 1-932599-03-7)
  • Mandrake of Oxford (April 1992; paperback; ISBN 1-869928-93-8)

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