A Brief Preface
Before beginning, I want to assert that Holy Books can be interpreted on several levels simultaneously, some of which may contradict one another but may nonetheless all be true in their own ways. One might say this is built into the very nature of these “higher ideas” enshrined in the Holy Books as they often refer to things that are, Qabalistically, “above the Abyss.” As it is said in the 5th Aethyr, “For below the Abyss, contradiction is division; but above the Abyss, contradiction is Unity.” Therefore, some commentaries may seem to contradict one another or assert multiple things simultaneously. In the end, these are commentaries from a particular individual, and one should always take them with a grain of salt, choosing what is helpful to you at this time and discarding the rest as you Will.
As one last note before beginning a more in-depth commentary, I would recommend reading through the Chapter in question without stopping before even reading the commentary. Then, try to digest the commentary as much as possible. Finally, read through the Chapter in question once again with all the information from the commentary in mind. I believe that this simple method will go to show that commentaries such as these have the potentially to greatly expand one’s appreciation of the Holy Books.
Chapter I – א (Aleph)
The first chapter begins with some Arabic:
This Arabic comes from Surah 112 of the Quran, and it is the entirety of the chapter or “Surah.” Its title is traditionally “Al-Ikhlas,” which literally means “the purity.” It is generally understood as a confession of God’s unity (tawhid), and “purity” refers to the washing away of all things that are not the Unity of God. There are traditionally “99 names” of God, but this Chapter asserts the Unity of God above all names and forms. It is therefore especially proper to this Holy Book, which deals with the transcending of the dualistic mind, or “Ruach.” Crowley calls it “The Chapter of Unity” in Eight Lectures on Yoga.
In Book Four, Part I, Crowley gives it as an example of a mantra, and he transliterates it as “Qol: Hua Allahu achad; Allahu Assamad; lam yalid walam yulad; walam yakun lahu kufwan achad.” He translates this to mean: “Say: He is God alone! God the Eternal! He begets not and is not begotten! Nor is there like unto Him any one!”
Crowley was no stranger to this chapter. Aside from giving it as an example of a mantra in Book Four, Part I, he is given the instruction in the 9th Aethyr of The Vision and the Voice: “And this shall be thy rule: A thousand and one times shalt thou affirm the unity, and bow thyself a thousand and one times.” Crowley comments on this, “The chapter is this: Qol: Hua Allahu achad; Allahu assamad; lam yalid wa lam yulad; wa lam yakin lahu kufwan achad. Between each recitation, the Seer halted and bowed. This practice was performed during the day’s march, the 1001 recitals being divided into 13 sections (a further affirmation of the unity, for 13 = AChD = 1) with short rests.” Again, we see the repetition of the idea of 13 (each chapter of Liber Ararita ends with the 13th line) and its association with Unity (Achad, transliterated as AChD, is the Hebrew word for “unity” and enumerates to 13).
In Eight Lectures on Yoga, Crowley recounts his experience in using this mantra during the scrying of the 30 Aethyrs. He writes, “Now all this [scrying the 30 Aethyrs] went very well until about the 17th, I think it was, and then the Angel, foreseeing difficulty in the higher or remoter Aethyrs, gave me this instruction. I was to recite a chapter from the Q’uran: what the Mohammedans call the ‘Chapter of the Unity.’ ‘Qol: Hua Allahu achad; Allahu assamad: lam yalid walam yulad; walam yakun lahu kufwan achad.’ I was to say this, bowing myself to the earth after each chapter, a thousand and one times a day, as I walked behind my camel in the Great Eastern Erg of the Sahara. I do not think that anyone will dispute that this was pretty good exercise; but my point is that it was certainly very good Yoga.” He recounts this same occurrence in chapter 66 of Confessions.
In short, Surah 112 – “Al-Ikhlas” or “The Chapter of Unity” – was obviously very meaningful to Crowley. It is a confession of the Unity of God beyond all names and images, and it is therefore especially proper for this particular Holy Book which deals with going beyond the names and images of the conceptual mind, or Ruach.
Line 0. O my God! One is Thy Beginning! One is Thy Spirit, and Thy Permutation One!
This line is a translation of sorts of the phrase of which “ARARITA” is the acronym or “Notariqon.” The Hebrew phrase is transliterated by Crowley as “AChD RASh: AChDVThV RASh YYChVDVThV: ThMVRThV AChD.” We can see the first letters are those of the word ARARITA. The phrase is “Achad Rosh” (One is Thy Beginning), “Achdotho Rosh Ichudo” (One is Thy Spirit),”Temurato Achad” (and Thy Permutation One!). Liber ARARITA therefore begins with a translation of ARARITA itself.
Line 1. Let me extol Thy perfections before men.
As Crowley notes in the 22nd Aethyr, this Chapter corresponds verse by verse with the next chapter. Chapter I extols “Thy perfections” and Chapter II explains the same ideas in their “averse and evil” (Ararita, II:0).
One of the more obvious Qabalistic interpretations of at least some of these chapters is that they follow, to some extent, the Sephiroth on the Tree of Life. In line with this, Line 1 corresponds with the 1st Sephirah, Kether, which is perfect Unity, and all the other Sephiroth “extol” this perfection in various ways as reflected down the Tree of Life.
Line 2. In the Image of a Sixfold Star that flameth across the Vault inane, let me re-veil Thy perfections.
This line appears to be a mirror-image, reflection, or balance with the previous line. In Line 1, the perfections are “extolled,” which literally means to “raise up” but generally refers to praising something or someone. In Line 2, they are “re-veiled.” They therefore refer to extolling or “un-veiling” the perfections of God in Line 1 and “re-veiling” the perfectinos of God in Line 2. This whole process of going back and forth between complements (or “opposites”) is the primary characteristic of this Holy Book in general.
Image of a Sixfold Star: The “Image of a Sixfold Star” is the Hexagram. It may be a specific reference to the letters of ARARITA arranged around the Hexagram with the “I” or Yod in the center, representing the ineffable Unity. The Hexagram is also a symbol of the Sun, or any Star in general. Even further, the Hexagram is attributed to the 7 classical Planets (with Sol in the center) and this Chapter deals with the images of the 7 classical Planets as reflected in the images of the corresponding Roman gods (which also happen to be the names we still call most of the planets).
Vault inane: “Vault inane” means “empty Vault,” and refers to empty Space. A “Vault” refers to an arched ceiling, and the Heavens were often called a “vault.” As this is Line 2, it corresponds with the 2nd Sephirah, Chokmah, to which is attributed the Heavens in general (or the “fixed stars” of the Zodiac, which are themselves a symbol of the Heavens). Therefore, the image is one of a Star of Unity that flames across the empty Space of the Heavens.
Line 3. Thou hast appeared unto me as an agèd God, a venerable God, the Lord of Time, bearing a sharp sickle.
What follows is a list of various images. The general idea appears to be that the ineffable perfection or Unity of God appears in various forms or images, which are all ultimately discarded for the Unity beyond name and form. In particular, these images appear to be based on traditional depictions of Greco-Roman gods attributed to the corresponding Sephiroth.
The image here is a traditional understanding of Saturn. He is attributed to the 3rd Sephirah on the Tree of Life, Binah, and this is Line 3 of Chapter I. This Sephirah generally corresponds with ideas of Time and Form, and therefore Death.
an agèd God: Saturn was the eldest of the gods and is therefore called “an agèd God.” Saturn was also thought to be the most distant of the planets and therefore associated with being the eldest.
a venerable God: Venerable generally means “worthy of reverence,” specifically because of being of great age. Again, Saturn was the eldest of the gods.
the Lord of Time: Saturn is identified with Time by Crowley constantly. In 777 Crowley writes, “Kronos is Saturn, the dark one and the limitation of Time.” Kronos (or “Khronos”) literally means “time,” and it is the root of words such as “chronological,” “chronic,” “synchronous,” et cetera.
bearing a sharp sickle: The sickle is used to cut grain, and generally symbolizes death (traditional depictions of Death show him with a sickle for this reason). The sickle is the weapon of Saturn; as Crowley writes in 777, “The Sickle is the traditional weapon of Saturn. It implies the power of time to reap the harvest of man’s life and work.”
Line 4. Thou hast appeared unto me as a jocund and ruddy God, full of Majesty, a King, a Father in his prime. Thou didst bear the sceptre of the Universe, crowned with the Wheel of the Spirit.
Line 4 corresponds to the 4th Sephirah, Chesed, to which is attributed King-ly and Father-ly gods such as Jupiter, Jehovah, Zeus, Wotan, Amoun, Indra, et cetera.
a jocund and ruddy God: Jocund basically means “pleasant” and “ruddy” means reddish, usually used to describe the color of a healthy person’s cheeks. This phrase “jocund and ruddy” has its precedent in the 20th Aethyr. In this Aethyr, the general depiction of Atu X: Fortune (attributed to Jupiter, and therefore to the 4th Sephirah, Chesed) is described, and then the record says, “A voice comes: For he is a jocund and a ruddy god, and his laughter is the vibration of all that exists, and the earthquakes of the soul.” This, in combination with the description of Atu X in this Aethyr, show the identification of Jupiter with the “jocund and ruddy god.” Further, there is a crossover with another Holy Book of Thelema, Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV, where it is written, “Ruddy are the gleams of ruby and gold that sparkle therein; one drop shall intoxicate the Lord of the Gods my servant” (LXV, V:29). The term “ruddy” is used here once more, and “the Lord of the Gods” is Jupiter. As Crowley comments on this line, “The lord of the Gods is presumably Jupiter; he may be chosen because the whole transmutation refer to Chesed, or because of his position as the highest Sephira of Microprosopus.” All of this goes to reinforce the identification of Line 4’s particular image with that of Jupiter.
full of Majesty: “Majesty” is another title of Chesed, and it has historically been used to refer both to God as well as to kings and queens.
a King: All Kings are, by virtue of their being rulers, attributable to Chesed, the 4th Sephirah. Jupiter was the king of the gods. Crowley writes in 777 that the magical image of Chesed is “A mighty crowned and enthroned king.”
a Father in his prime: All Fathers are, by virtue of their being Father-figures, attributable to Chesed, the 4th Sephirah. In the Western, Judeo-Christian traditions, it is most familiar for us to see God associated with the qualities of attributes of being “King” and “Father.” The Father is specifically “in his prime,” meaning he is still active and creative. “Ruddy” is a word that generally refers to being healthy and active. Crowley writes in 777, “the paternal power of Chesed is the solidification of the male creative energy of Chokmah [the 2nd Sephirah].”
the sceptre of the Universe: The sceptre is a weapon that signifies that one is King, i.e. one has authority and power. Crowley writes in 777, “The Sceptre is the weapon of authority referrring to Jupiter (Gedulah— magnificence).”
the Wheel of the Spirit: This Wheel is depicted in Atu X: Fortune, and it generally refers to the Wheel of Existence (or the “circle of life,” as it is colloquially called sometimes). The Wheel of Samsara – of birth, death, and re-birth – is this same Wheel. In chapter 78 of The Book of Lies, many similar symbols are identified: “The Great Wheel of Samsara. The Wheel of the Law [Dhamma]. The Wheel of the Taro. The Wheel of the Heavens. The Wheel of Life. All these Wheels be one…” In particular, Atu X: Fortune depicts the 3 Gunas which represent three forms of Energy or “Spirit”: Activity (Rajas/Alchemical Sulphur), Inertia (Tamas/Alchemical Salt), and Balance (Sattvas/Alchemical Mercury). This is referenced in the Collects of the Gnostic Mass when it is said, “Mysterious Energy, triform.” This “Wheel of the Spirit” is described at length in the 20th Aethyr.
Line 5. Thou hast appeared unto me with sword and spear, a warrior God in flaming armour among Thine horsemen.
Line 5 corresponds with the 5th Sephirah, Geburah, to which all war-like gods are attributed such as Mars, Ares, Horus, Thor, Christ when he is feeling Judgment-al, et cetera.
sword and spear: These are weapons of Mars. As Crowley writes in 777, “The Sword is the weapon of Mars, so also is the Spear. These weapons emphasize the fiery energy in the creative Lingam.”
warrior God: As mentioned previously, all warrior gods are attributed to Geburah. Crowley writes in 777 that the magical image of Geburah is “A mighty warrior in his chariot, armed and crowned.”
flaming armour: Geburah is attributed to Mars, the color red, and the Element of Fire, all of which relate to this image of God having “flaming armour.” Armour is, of course, proper to a warrior.
Thine horsemen: The image of Geburah is of a warrior in a chariot, which are usually pulled by horses. Chariots and horsemen occur together in a single phrase in both the 19th Aethyr and the 16th Aethyr. The phrase also occurs in Crowley’s “The Ladder” which says, “Ho! what planet beams / This angry ray? Thy swords, thy shields, thy spears! / Thy chariots and thy horsemen, Lord! / Showered spheres Of meteors war and blaze…” The phrase also occurs in the Holy Book Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV, IV:38, “Across the waveless sea of eternity Thou didst ride with Thy captains and Thy hosts; with Thy chariots and horsemen and spearmen didst Thou travel through the blue.” The connection to Mars and Geburah is, therefore, very consistent.
Line 6. Thou hast appeared unto me as a young and brilliant God, a god of music and beauty, even as a young god in his strength, playing upon the lyre.
Line 6 corresponds to the 6th Sephirah, Tiphareth, to which are attributed Solar gods and child-gods. In 777 Crowley gives one of the magical images of this Sephirah as “a child.”
young: Tiphareth relates to Child-gods. It also refers to the idea that connects the Sun, the son, and resurrection. In brief, the old idea was that the Sun dies and is reborn (resurrected) with each year, just as the father dies and is reborn (resurrected) in the son with each generation. In this way the idea is connected with the notion, as Crowley writes in “The Ship,” of “never-dying youth.” The idea of youth is repeated in this same line with the phrase “even as a young god in his strength.”
brilliant God: Brilliance refers to the brilliance of light since the 6th Sephirah, Tiphareth, is attributed to the Sun.
a god of music and beauty: The reference is to Apollo, which Crowley says is ” the God of the Sun and male beauty.” Apollo was the patron god of music and he was considered to be the essence of beauty. Also, Tiphareth – the 6th Sephirah – literally means “Beauty.”
playing upon the lyre: Apollo’s musical instrument was the lyre, reinforcing the identification of this particular Image of God with Apollo.
Line 7. Thou hast appeared unto me as the white foam of Ocean gathered into limbs whiter than the foam, the limbs of a miracle of women, as a goddess of extreme love, bearing the girdle of gold.
Line 7 corresponds to the 7th Sephirah, Netzach, to which are attributed feminine gods of love and sexuality such as Venus, Aphrodite, Ishtar, Astarte, Inanna, et cetera. In fact, “venus” is the Latin word for sexual love. In 777 Crowley gives the magical image of Netzach as “A beautiful naked woman.”
white foam of the Ocean: This comes from the traditional mythology of Venus being born from sea-foam. The color white may refer simply to purity and youth, but it is probably a reference to myrtle, a white plant that is traditionally the plant of Venus.
the limbs of a miracle of a women: If the 6th line is Apollo being the quintessence of masculine beauty, the 7th line is Venus as the quintessence of feminine beauty. “Miracle” simply means something at which one marvels and feels wonder, and it carries a connotation of being a work of God.
a goddess of extreme love: Venus is the image of Love, and the two are often equated by Crowley throughout his works. The number 7 recurs throughout Liber ARARITA insofar as there are 7 letters in the word ARARITA, 7 chapters, and the total number of lines can be said to be 91 (7 * 13). In this way, 7 refers to the Love between opposites, the union and identity between complementary ideas so that both are transcended in “love under will.” Venus as the 7th Sephirah has the specific connotation of sexual or erotic love in particular. Crowley writes in 777, “Softness and voluptuousness are two of the principle qualities of Venus.” Softness is seen by her white limbs and her voluptuousness in her “extreme love.”
bearing the girdle of gold: The girdle is the “weapon” traditionally attributed to Venus. In 777 Crowley writes, “The Girdle is the traditional weapon of Venus. It represents the ornament of beauty. When it is untied it can be used to bind and blindfold the candidate. It thus represents the power of fascination by love.” The girdle of Venus is often likened to the Zodiac and therefore, by extension, the limit of the entire Universe. Crowley writes when commenting on Liber LXV, “The Universe is compared to a ‘girdle for the midst of the ray of our love,’ as if that ray were a limitless line of light.” The phrase “golden girdle” occurs in the penultimate line of Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV, “They are gathered together into a glowing heart, as Ra that gathereth his clouds about Him at eventide into a molten sea of Joy; and the snake that is the crown of Ra bindeth them about with the golden girdle of the death-kisses” (V:64). Crowley comments, “The Crown of the Sun himself is their girdle (Cf. the Rosicrucian adjuration ‘Be thy mind open, etc.’) — the girdle is of the ‘death-kisses,’ this identifying death with love, the creative energy.” In general, this girdle shows Venus to be identified with the Universe itself, with beauty and love, and with the brilliance of the Sun.
Line 8. Thou hast appeared to me as a young boy mischievous and lovely, with Thy winged globe and its serpents set upon a staff.
Line 8 corresponds to the 8th Sephirah, Hod, to which are attributed “trickster gods” and gods of learning, communication, and such as Mercury, Hermes, Thoth, Loki, et cetera. The image here is of Mercury as a child.
mischievous: Hod is the place of trickster gods, and Mercury outwitted the other gods in various myths.
lovely: This refers to the idea of the boy as a lover, specifically with an older male. The typical idea is one of Mercury as the young boy and Jupiter as the older man. This idea is developed at great length in Crowley’s “Liber CDXV – Opus Lutetianum or The Paris Working.” It is related with the Christian idea of the Father (Jupiter/Jehovah) and the Son (Mercury/Logos).
Thy winged globe and its serpents set upon a staff: This is a fairly obvious reference to the Caduceus, the weapon of Hermes. It is virtually always shown as a single, central staff that is crowned by a golden globe and around which are coiled two equal and opposite serpents.
Line 9. Thou hast appeared to me as an huntress among Thy dogs, as a goddess virginal chaste, as a moon among the faded oaks of the wood of years.
Line 9 corresponds to the 9th Sephirah, Yesod, to which are attributed virginal, huntress, and lunar goddesses such as Diana, Artemis, Athena Parthenos, Vesta, et cetera. This idea is referenced very clearly in the Collects of the Gnostic Mass where it is said, “Lady of night, that turning ever about us art now visible and now invisible in thy season, be thou favourable to hunters, and lovers, and to all men that toil upon the earth, and to all mariners upon the sea.”
an huntress among Thy dogs: Diana (and her Greek counterpart Artemis) was a huntress, often depicted with hunting dogs. In 777 Crowley writes, “The Dog, as baying at the Moon and the natural companion of the huntress Artemis” and also “The Dog is sacred to the huntress Artemis.”
a goddess virginal chaste: Diana and Artemis are virgin gods, and generally the idea of this category of gods is the youth of females, the virginal state (Atu II: The High Priestess), as opposed to the more matured image of Venus, the lover and the mother (Atu III: The Empress), as well as the older lady or “crone” (Atu XVII: The Moon). These are also distinguished from Virgin Earth goddesses which are attributed to the 10th Sephirah, Malkuth (e.g. Persephone, Kore, the Final Heh in Tetragrammaton, et cetera).
as a moon: Diana and other virginal gods are attributed to Luna, the moon.
among the faded oaks of the wood of years: Oak groves are sacred to the goddess Diana.
Line 10. But I was deceived by none of these. All these I cast aside, crying: Begone! So that all these faded from my vision.
This line signals a transition from the previous lines where the traditional Greco-Roman images associated with the Sephiroth are contemplated. The correspondence with the Sephiroth therefore come to an end.
All the images of the gods from the previous lines are understood as Images of the One, veils before the Unity of God. Because these are understood as Images and not the Thing-in-Itself, the Adept “was deceived by none of these” and therefore they are all “cast aside.” The exact same idea occurs in Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente sub figura LXV, “Be not contented with the image. I who am the Image of an Image say this. Debate not of the image, saying Beyond! Beyond!” (I:7-9).
Because the Adept is not deceived by the Images of God reflected into the various Sephiroth (the Planetary attributions, specifically), he is able to cast them aside so that the Images fade from his vision. In this way, one is able to penetrate to the Unity of God beyond any particular Image.
Line 11. Also I welded together the Flaming Star and the Sixfold Star in the forge of my soul, and behold! a new star 418 that is above all these.
Line 11 relates to the Qabalistic idea of 11 insofar as it is 5 + 6. In this particular symbolism, 5 represents the Pentagram as the Microcosm (the Pentagram looks like a human body) and 6 represents the Hexagram as the Macrocosm (the 7 Planets can be attributed to the Hexagram with Sol in the middle, as previously mentioned). 11 therefore represents the union of Microcosm and Macrocosm, Earth and Heaven, Man and God which is a symbol of the Great Work.
Flaming Star: This is the Pentagram, and a symbol of the Microcosm, of Man, and of the 5 Elements.
Sixfold Star: This is the Hexagram, and a symbol of the Macrocosm, of God, and of the 7 classical Planets.
the forge of my soul: The pure consciousness, the soul, transcends both Microcosm and Macrocosm and is able to unite both into one.
a new star 418 that is above all these: 418 is, in a way, identical to the symbolism of 11 as union of opposites. 418 is a number of the Great Work accomplished insofar as it is the enumeration of the word ABRAHADABRA. ABRAHADABRA is 11 letters, composed of 5 A’s and 6 other letters, representing the union of 5 (Microcosm) and 6 (Macrocosm). A new star 418 is therefore symbolically an 11-pointed Star that unites the Flaming Star of Five and the Sixfold Star.
Line 12. Yet even so was I not deceived; for the crown hath twelve rays.
Even this exalted star 418 does not deceive the Adept, for he knows that all images, even though of united opposites, are still but Images.
the crown: The Crown is symbolic of attainment. Kether, the 1st Sephirah on the Tree of Life, literally means “crown.” The idea of the crown having twelve rays refers to the idea that the Crown is the Sun and the 12 points are the 12 Zodiac signs. This symbolism equates the Adept with the Sun (as the Solar center), the King (as wearing the Crown of attainment and authority), and God (as the Sun has 12 Zodiac signs, Christ had 12 apostles, et cetera). Also, 12 is the number of HUA, which means “He” and is a word used to refer to Allah (God) in Islam very frequently. As Crowley writes in “Liber LVIII: Qabalah,” “12. HVA, ‘He,’ a title of Kether, identifying Kether with the Zodiac, and ‘home of the 12 stars’ and their correspondences.”
Line 13. And these twelve rays are one.
These 12 rays are One in the Crown, associated with Kether, the 1st Sephirah of the Tree of Life. This is Line 13, and the Hebrew word for Unity, “Achad,” equals 13. Thus, Chapter I ends by abiding in the Unity beyond even the elevenfold Star (or the “star 418”). This is just as the Chapter began, by declaring the Unity of God with Surah 112: “Say: He is God alone! God the Eternal! He begets not and is not begotten! Nor is there like unto Him any one!”