The Wiccan Rede: A Historical Journey

Part 7: Commentary # 1

by John J. Coughlin

This letter was in response to my announcement of the site opening on uk.religion.pagan. It has some useful insight into Thelema and Crowley. It also reminded me unintentionally that although Gardner attributes the concept of the Rede to a non-Crowley source, Doreen Valiente may have drawn from Crowley. When I word this into the essay I will mention how Doreen Valiente felt Crowley was a great poet, despite his not always socially agreeable personality. (As of August 7, 2001 I have added text in the essay to reflect this)

From: Cavalorn ([email protected])
Subject: Re: The Wiccan Rede: A Historical Journey 
Newsgroups: uk.religion.pagan
Date: 2001-08-05 05:57:01 PST 
 
In article <[email protected]>, Dark
Wyccan  writes
>I welcome feedback since I consider this a work in progress.

Quoting from your excellent work:

'When associating the Rede with Gardner, most scholars suggest the Rede
is actually based on the older Law of Thelema created by Aleister
Crowley (1875-1947) in his work Liber AL vel Legis (1904), more commonly
known as The Book of the Law.

Who calls us Thelemites will do no wrong, if he look but close into the
word. For there are therein Three Grades, the Hermit, and the Lover, and
the man of Earth. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.[5] 

Even among the O.T.O. (Ordo Templi Orientis), an outer Thelemic order,
there is some debate on the interpretation of this phrase, but those who
connect it with the Rede tend to feel that "harm none" is implied since
in Thelema man is considered good by nature, and thus to follow his
"true nature" (will) there would be a tendency to not cause harm.
Crowley's inspiration for this line of the Law came from Francois
Rabelais' novel Gargantua published in 1534.'

Some corrections need to be made here.

1) Man is not considered 'good by nature' in Thelema; it is more that
Thelema regards good and evil as entirely relative. As the Prayer to
Horus in 'The Book of Lies' has it: 'Save me from Evil and from Good...
there is no grace, there is no guilt; This is the law - Do What Thou
Wilt.' Most Thelemites regard the 'harm none' addition as, frankly, a
cowardly compromise, and unachievable in any case, since any single
action that you may take has the net result of causing harm somewhere
down the line.

2) Crowley wasn't inspired by Rabelais, since (according to his version
of history) he didn't even write the Book of the Law himself, he took it
down at dictation from another being.

3) You appear to have missed that in the following

'An Do What You Will be the challenge,
So be it in Love that harms none,
For this is the only commandment,
By Magick of old, be it done.[7]'

there is more than a touch of Crowley, since the phrase that
traditionally follows 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law'
is 'Love is the law, love under Will'. The spelling of 'magick' with a K
in the last line is also characteristically Thelemic.

Cav
My response:

From: Dark Wyccan ([email protected])
Subject: Re: The Wiccan Rede: An Historical Journey 
Newsgroups: uk.religion.pagan
Date: 2001-08-05 15:25:08 PST 

> 2) Crowley wasn't inspired by Rabelais, since (according to his version
> of history) he didn't even write the Book of the Law himself, he took it
> down at dictation from another being.

True, I should be more fair to Crowley in that.  I tend to view
channelling as a partly psychological process.  Any external messages
are interpreted by the unconscious using one's own symbolism, etc. 
Since Crowley mentions in _Magick_in_Theory_and_Practice_ under
recommended books "The Works of Francois Rabelais.  Invaluable for
Wisdom," I saw it as inspiration or at least unconsciously drawn upon
as the external message was translated into consciousness.  Still, I
should have been more specific. I'll have to figure out a good way to
word that better.


> 'An Do What You Will be the challenge,
> So be it in Love that harms none,
> For this is the only commandment,
> By Magick of old, be it done.[7]'
> 
> there is more than a touch of Crowley, since the phrase that
> traditionally follows 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law'

Ah yes, that was from Doreen Valiente.  She was also familiar with
Crowley's work and probably respected him more for his poetry than
Gardner.  I can't believe I missed that! I'll point that out in the
next update.

Thanks for the insights! Would you mind if I reproduced your message
in the commentary section?

-John/Dark Wyccan
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