Parables are succinct stories in prose or verse that illustrate a lesson of some sort. The most famous are those of Jesus such as the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Sun, the Mustard Seed, the Friend at Night, et cetera. Liber LXV or Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV is part of our Holy Books of Thelema, and it is full of symbolic teachings that resemble parables. As far as I know, no one beyond Crowley has set forth interpretations of Liber LXV, especially as parables.
Within his commentary on Liber LXV, Crowley uses the term “parable” several times, often saying things like a certain parable “requires no commentary: it is as lucid as it is sublime” or “Any comment would be impertinent: the signification of the Parable, deep though it be, is lucid as any passage in literature; and the language, exquisitely ornate as it is, a sublimity and a simplicity all its own. The moral value, in particular, challenges that of the boasted parables of the Gospels. Contrast their sectarianism, their triteness, and (too frequently) their moral obliquity with this masterpiece.” Other commentaries to parables within in Liber LXV are usually either vague or nonexistent. The reason for this is, perhaps, because of Christ’s attitude in using parables was that “those with ears to hear” will hear. Fortunately or unfortunately, it seems that the parables of Liber LXV are a bit more difficult to discern, at least at this young stage of Thelema’s growth. It may be that, once time has passed and the symbolism of the New Aeon is more widely understood, the parables will reveal themselves as plain as day, but – for the most part – a basic understanding of these supposedly “lucid” parables requires an understanding of the Hermetic Qabalah as well as familiarity with other works of Crowley’s and Thelema in general.
In this multi-sectioned essay I therefore wish to attempt to explain the meaning of several parables found within Liber LXV. This is largely because I have found them, after much study, to be as “sublime” as Crowley claimed they were, and I hope to develop the interest of Thelemites in studying the Holy Books of our most sacred Law.
The Parable of the Light and Colors
“Adonai spake unto V.V.V.V.V., saying: There must ever be division in the word. For the colours are many, but the light is one. Therefore thou writest that which is of mother of emerald, and of lapis-lazuli, and of turquoise, and of alexandrite. Another writeth the words of topaz, and of deep amethyst, and of gray sapphire, and of deep sapphire with a tinge as of blood. Therefore do ye fret yourselves because of this. Be not contented with the image. I who am the Image of an Image say this. Debate not of the image, saying Beyond! Beyond! One mounteth unto the Crown by the moon and by the Sun, and by the arrow, and by the Foundation, and by the dark home of the stars from the black earth. Not otherwise may ye reach unto the Smooth Point.”
–Liber LXV, I:2-10
“Adonai spake unto V.V.V.V.V., saying:” Since I do not want to get into metaphysical minutia in this essay, for simplicity’s sake Adonai can be be understood as “God,” and “V.V.V.V.V.” is a name for the Master of the Temple, a very advanced Adept. Liber LXV therefore begins with this lesson from God to the Adept.
“There must ever be division in the word.” This “word” is the word of God, the Logos. A common idea in Thelema is that there is unity, but it is always expressed in a duality or multiplicity. This is very similar to the Tao that is always expressed in Yin and Yang. Crowley writes, “the Logos is essentially an Unity, although manifested through Vibration.”1
“For the colours are many, but the light is one.” This same idea, the unity of the Word is divided, is now expressed in a metaphor: Light is a single thing but it is expressed in a multiplicity of colors. This is a physical fact. It is also a fact that the world in general is perceived in a unique and particular way by each individual.
“Therefore thou writest that which is of mother of emerald, and of lapis-lazuli, and of turquoise, and of alexandrite. Another writeth the words of topaz, and of deep amethyst, and of gray sapphire, and of deep sapphire with a tinge as of blood.” These various stones simply symbolize light being reflected into various colors. We see that, because the colours are many, one writes in a certain way while another writes in a completely different way. That is, although the Light is one, each individual will only see the Light in a certain way. Crowley comments, “Each man sees Nature in his own particular way.”2
“Therefore do ye fret yourselves because of this. Be not contented with the image.” Since men see the world in different ways, it causes fret and concern. Consider the plethora of arguments about the nature of God and the world that have caused everything from argument to slaughter throughout humanity’s history. God then tells the Adept to “be not contented with the image.” That is, although each individual sees different colors of the single Light, this is merely an image. Each individual should not be satisfied with their unique perception of the Light, i.e. the particular “image” that they see. If we become “contented with the image,” this means that we are satisfied with our own relative view of Truth rather than incorporating many perspectives from many different individuals. Through exploring more “colors” by understanding more perspectives, we come closer to apprehending that One Light that is expressed in the many colors or understandings. For example, if we want to know what “dog” means, and we come across a poodle, we can rest contented with the idea that dogs are poodles. If we do not rest content in this image and explore other forms of dogs, then we will see that our first image of “dog” was simply a partial representation of the entire truth. Eventually we will see that the idea of “dog” transcends any one particular image or manifestation. The same goes for Truth as reflected into different religions, philosophies, and individuals across the globe and throughout history. Crowley comments, “Each man sees Nature in his own particular way. What he sees is only an image.”3
“I who am the Image of an Image say this. Debate not of the image, saying Beyond! Beyond!” Adonai or God is “the Image of an Image,” implying that even He (at least in speaking to the Adept in this Book) is simply one color or image of many. God counsels the Adept to “debate not of the image, saying Beyond! Beyond!” That is, we must not debate over the individual differences of our perception of Nature. We must go beyond individual or partial images to attempt to perceive that unified Light or Truth beyond all differences. Crowley comments, “Each man sees Nature in his own particular way. What he sees is only an image. All images must be ignored.”4 This shows a unity behind all religious and spiritual doctrines: every system is a reflected color of the One True Light. This same idea is expressed in Liber LXI vel Causae, “Now the Great Work is one, and the Initiation is one, and the Reward is one, however diverse are the symbols wherein the Unutterable is clothed.”5There are diverse symbols and systems to express the same Path and Goal of initiation or enlightenment. We must not rest contented in any one particular image or color of Truth, but we must instead go beyond all partial images.
A similar idea is expressed in the Holy Book known as Liber Porta Lucis sub figura X, “To you who yet wander in the Court of the Profane we cannot yet reveal all; but you will easily understand that the religions of the world are but symbols and veils of the Absolute Truth. So also are the philosophies. To the adept, seeing all these things from above, there seems nothing to choose between Buddha and Mohammed, between Atheism and Theism. The many change and pass; the one remains. Even as wood and coal and iron burn up together in one great flame, if only that furnace be of transcendent heat; so in the alembic of this spiritual alchemy, if only the zelator blow sufficiently upon his furnace all the systems of earth are consumed in the One Knowledge.”6 The same idea is expressed here with the added notion that the “zelator,” or spiritual aspirant, must simply strive to attain and ignore all images. If the aspiration is pure (not limited by particular images or symbols) and steadfast (blowing sufficiently upon the furnace of aspiration), these differences or varied colors are all “consumed in the One Knowledge,” the singular Light which is divided into the multiplicity of symbols or understandings of different individuals.
“One mounteth unto the Crown by the moon and by the Sun, and by the arrow, and by the Foundation, and by the dark home of the stars from the black earth. Not otherwise may ye reach unto the Smooth Point.” The path of aspiration to Truth is now understood symbolically, as one image among many. The symbolism used is that of the Qabalistic Tree of Life. The idea is that one reaches Kether (“the Crown”) by the path of Gimel (“the moon”), the Sephirah of Tiphareth (“the Sun”), the path of Sagittarius (“the arrow”), by the Sephirah of Yesod (“the Foundation”), the path of Earth or Saturn (“the dark home of the stars”), and the Sephirah of Malkuth (“the black earth”). If these are all placed on the Tree of Life, one will see that they form a straight line up the Middle Pillar from the bottom (Malkuth) to the top (Kether). The idea is that one must aspire to the highest understanding of Truth in a pure and steadfast way, which was already mentioned in connection to the line from Liber Porta Lucis sub figura X. Crowley comments, “All images must be ignored; the adept must aspire single-heartedly to the Smooth Point.”7
SUMMARY: It is by necessity that the Truth is reflected into particular images for each individual. Metaphorically, each individual perceives the Light in terms of certain colors. We should not debate over these individual differences but, rather, go beyond all images. We therefore must aspire single-heartedly to the End, the Light that is beyond all multiplicity and images and symbols. The lesson is both interpersonal and personal. Interpersonally, the lesson is of tolerance: we must not debate over the various “images” or “colors” in which the Light is reflected into different individual’s understandings, i.e. the various religions and philosophies of the world. Personally, the lesson is of aspiring beyond all images: we must not rest content in any particular image or symbol of Truth but, rather, keep our aspiration steadfast unto the End.
1The Vision and the Voice, 28th Aethyr.
2Commentary to Liber LXV, I:2-11.
3Commentary to Liber LXV, I:2-11.
4Commentary to Liber LXV, I:2-11.
5Liber LXI vel Causae, line 5.
6Liber Porta Lucis sub figura X, lines 19-20.
7Commentary to Liber LXV, I:2-11.