Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Gems from the Forums: Thelemic Vice

Announcing (yet another) feature on this blog: "Gems from the Forums," also known as a silly title to give to reposts of some of the posts I've made to the forums over the years.

Looking back over my post history on that site, I've concluded that I've written a number of very informative and interesting posts there that deserve to see the light of day on my blog, where they might actually be useful or entertaining to some people. Our first entry comes this thread in which a poster asked:

When Hadit says "the vices are my service", what he is saying?
Yes, I know that vice in thelema has no relationshio with vice in drugs and oter stuffs.
Vice in thelema has another meaning. What is this meaning?
My reply appears below:

The short answer is that "vice" means the same thing to a Thelemite that it means to everyone else: an action or habit considered "evil, degrading, or immoral," as one online dictionary puts it.

First, some context.

AL II: 52 reads: "There is a veil: that veil is black. It is the veil of the modest woman; it is the veil of sorrow, & the pall of death: this is none of me. Tear down that lying spectre of the centuries: veil not your vices in virtuous words: these vices are my service; ye do well, & I will reward you here and hereafter."

The key point here is that we are not to "veil" our vices in virtuous words. The implication is that a
lot of things that are natural to human beings -- in the particular example of this verse, sexuality (and especially female sexuality) -- are considered "evil, degrading, or immoral" by other people or by society at large.

The solution, in the previous aeon, was to accept this idea that our natural inclinations are "bad" and to proceed to "veil" those vices -- i.e. prevent others from seeing them, often by concealing them in terms that make them seem "virtuous" to society. Hence, the idea of the "modest" woman, who does not flaunt her sexuality in public.

The Book of the Law is explicitly saying that those so-called "vices" -- the ones that are natural to people, in line with their true will -- are "my service," an expression of the individual's nature. There is no longer any need to "veil" them, to play the silly game of society that requires us to pretend that our natures have to live up to the ridiculous expectations of others and of even our own silly minds and the foolish notions of "goodness" or "spirituality."

Considered alongside AL I:22 ("Let there be no difference made among you between any one thing & any other thing; for thereby there cometh hurt."), this verse illustrates the result of not making a "difference" between things. It's not "better" to perform an action that people consider "virtuous" than it is to perform an action that people consider a "vice." Every action is unique and cannot be compared or contrasted to another in any objective way: to the universe, each is equally a fulfillment of possibility.

That being the case, there is no basis for choosing one action over another except for the nature of the individual (i.e. the true will).

While we're on the subject, a lot of people try to twist one small part of AL II:21 ("Compassion is the vice of kings") to mean the exact opposite of what it actually means by reading it next to II: 52.

There's a really good 
blog post on the subject by Erwin Hessle, to which I would direct interested readers.

I don't have much to add to it, but I'll put some emphasis on a point he makes toward the end: the phrase "vice of kings" is from Hamlet, where it indicates, essentially, the idea of playing at being a king, pretending to be a king.

A beggar thinks that "acting compassionate" is a "royal" thing to do, a "good" thing to do, so he deliberately tries to be "compassionate." In the process, he "makes a difference" and assumes that being compassionate is *better* than being cruel, rather than responding to the situation as the situation warrants (which is what a real king would do).

Real kings obey their nature in conjunction with the environment: they act in a particular situation according to their wills, not according to some arbitrary idea that it's "good" to be compassionate or kind as a matter of principle or some arbitrary ideas about what is "virtuous" or "vicious."

Seen from this perspective, the Book of the Law is consistently affirming that an individual's nature is the only guide of conduct and that ideas about how one "should" behave -- that one should act in ways considered virtuous or good or compassionate or nice -- are nothing more than restrictions that interfere with carrying out the will.


  1. Hadit is infinite. There are no problems if they are vices under will. The word sin is restriction. Your true will will take you down a path and this path can include moments of degradation.
    But as Nietczsche say what does not kill you makes you stronger. The formula for the initiation includes death.

  2. 93 Los,

    I've been enjoying your blog. A quick note in passing...

    Another interpretation of the paragraph regarding the 'vice of kings' in Liber Al can be found when you consider that the word 'vice' has two meanings - the lesser used English meaning indicating a deputy. For instance - a vice chancellor. The vice of a King is a Prince. This recalls the formula of love under will as applied to the Tetragrammaton, as compassion is a form of agape love that is in alignment with that of the will.

    Likewise - the exhortation to 'stamp down' on the wretched and the weak recalls the initiation of freemasons, where the blindfold is removed from the candidates eyes at the precise point that his fellows make an almighty 'stamping' down with their feet.

    I suggest that this paragraph is perfectly crafted to show up those in the Thelemic community who are not fit for initiation - those that accept the surface meaning too quickly and see it as a justification for sadistic attitudes.

    I hope you're well and having fun Los. :-)

    Best, Alrah. 93 93/93.