Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Because I am frequently asked "What is a good order to read Aleister Crowley's writings in?" and "How did you get started in Thelema," I'm going to write my best answer here. I'm going to go from memory because I'm being a bit lazy (I do still have all the invoices and correspondences and papers, so I could easily look up the facts, but…) because I want to enjoy the nostalgia of doing so.
The first book I read by Crowley was The Book of Thoth: an Essay on the Egyptian Tarot. But to use the vernacular of today's youth, I didn't grok. Maybe because the book was on loan I had difficulty with it (otherwise, I write notes and cross references in my books, which helps me learn) - but the most reasonable explanation I had at the time was that I didn't fully comprehend the "worldview of The Book of the Law, which Crowley designed his tarot on." So I borrowed The Book of the Law and 777 & Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley from the same friend. The truth of the matter was that this didn’t help at all (remember, I’m not able to write my references and notes in these books).
At the time, I was well versed in the writings on Wicca and other new age concepts. I had even read Dianetics. European mythologies, Gnosticism, and neo-pagan magickal works were my thing – and I knew my tarot very well. I owned The Rider-Waite Deck, The Mythic Tarot, and numerous books on all these subjects – but Crowley and his mythologies where brand new to me. I even knew my Tree of Life, the Aleph-Beth, and astrological and tarot correspondences. I had recently begun to study the Golden Dawn and was an initiate of The Free and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. But I just wasn’t “getting” Crowley.
I became more interested in Freemasonry and The Golden Dawn. I was studying the liberal arts in college at the time (encouraged by the Master of my lodge to do so) and the languages where basically the same all around. Human Relations, Philosophy, Psychology, Comparative Religion…. Things started to really add up for me. So I signed up and became a member of the Golden Dawn.
As seemed the thing to do at the time, I studied the writings of Israel Regardie and Robert Wang (I also bought The Golden Dawn Tarot). At the time this was very suitable to me, even though “the rituals of the old time are black. Let the evil ones be cast away; let the good ones be purged by the prophet,” the Path to the Vault of the Adepti (5=6 Golden Dawn) granted me extraordinary powers with the Tarot and both the Golden Dawn Tarot and The Book of Thoth (tarot deck) became perfectly clear to me and the Rider-Waite Tarot seemed suddenly stiff. At about this same time I had acquired my own copies of Liber AL vel Legis (The Book of the Law), 777, and The Book of Thoth: An Essay on the Egyptian Tarot and felt compelled to write a letter to Chic Cicero (who I had already had a long correspondence with) babbling I remember not what after I bought and read The Law is for All. A little over a week later I received a reply stating that he felt I had gone about as far in the Order as I was going to go at this point and that he had given my name and address to Lon Milo DuQuette regarding my interest in Crowley and the OTO. Shortly after, I received a short letter from Lon telling me that it was recommend I buy his book from Samuel Weiser Publications, The Magick of Aleister Crowley (now re-titled The Magick of Thelema) and a business card with his name and OTO Lodge contact information. So I ordered the book.
At this point in the narrative I have to admit that I don’t know that book recommendations are going to be enough. In fact, this entire narrative is nothing if I do not mention that other than a few new age books about crystals and herbs and shamanism, and the usual antique books in public libraries such as The Witches Hammer and The Black Arts, I never succeeded in finding books on the occult until after my very first initiation as a witch on the beach bordering Newport Beach and Huntington Beach in 1987. So if those men and women I knew then where really linked to a magickal current and that initiation was true, I’ve never entered into reading the words without the initiations behind me. And one thing I discovered with my work through Freemasonry and The Golden Dawn up to this point in my story, initiation makes things make sense that otherwise didn’t.
But don’t let me get all silly about it. It’s not just the initiations themselves that do the trick – initiation is just the marker of having accomplished something up to that path – so it was most certainly all the other work and training that illuminated the Being in me to see what I couldn’t before see. So yes, study is definitely a must.
After a few short correspondences, I think I frustrated Lon. He bluntly told me that his hands were full, he didn’t have time for a student, and introduced me to William Heidrick and Phyllis Seckler (Frater AMTH and Sorror Meral respectively).
It’s here that I end this tale. My story doesn’t finish at this point – this is all still many years ago in the past – but to be honest, the works and books and information came in such a fashion that I think I thought I was at a smorgasbord. Perhaps it will be the same for someone who follows in my steps. There are rituals, practices, and markers along the way that no book can fully express – but if this history opened doors for me, maybe it can open doors for you too (If thou wilt).
Love is the law, love under will.