> I would strongly recommend that you read at least
> the portion of the text "Gargantua and Pantagruel"
> which deals with the Abbey of Thelema. there are
> essays online which you may Google which pertain
> to Rabelais and Thelema, and these would also
> likely be very helpful to you in an approach to
> the Rabelaisian trajectory of Thelemic philosophy
> and discipline/indulgence.
In order to get to the substantific marrow, I would recommend reading:
Rabelaisian Dialectic and the Platonic-Hermetic Tradition by G. Mallary
Masters (1969 State University of New York Press, Standard Book Number
87395-039-9) and also The Wine & The Will: Rabelais's Bacchic Christianity
by Florence M. Weinberg (1972 Wayne State University Press, ISBN
0-8143-1464-3). The former work is pretty direct whereas the latter is a bit
more circumspect. Even though I find that I disagree with some of Weinberg's
projections, especially concerning marriage and the Abbey of Thelema, some
of her other insights are pretty incredible ...especially the metaphorical
value she gets out of the Battle of the Vineyard where Brother John routes
the raiding army with a cross for his battle staff. Interestingly, even
though Masters' work was published in 1969 and Weinberg's published in 1972,
Weinberg's work was written first as Masters draws upon it for his own
Much like I recommend not reading Finnegan's Wake without at least having
Joseph Campbell's "Skeleton Key to Finnegan's Wake," I think that the G&P
becomes more comprehensible from select commentary, and those two books I
name above would be the appropriate commentaries, although one could do
worse, I suppose, than to have Samuel Putnam's commentary as well.
> secondarily, you may wish to follow out a path
> which i have yet to follow myself but will
> someday: get hold of "Monks of Thelema" by
> Walter Besant
Having read it, I wouldn't so much recommend it to the casual reader,
although I personally found The Abbey admission ritual, the Erisian pageant,
the commentary on cads and prigs etc, to be amusing. Though I derived some
pleasure from reading it, I think most post 20th century types would find it
rather dry and dull. It is pretty typical Victorian romantic fiction. It's
not particularly brilliantly written. It's value is more in its existence
than its content. It points directly to another late 19th century literary
circle (The Rabelais Club) with Freemasonic connections that had a separate
interest in Thelema. (However, this isn't to suggest that the Masonic
connection is anything more than casual.) The Monks of Thelema's most
central moral is an appropriation of ...the best laid plans of mice and
men... . However, I do recommend Besant's work, "Rabelais." Chapter III
specifically deals with The Abbey of Thelema, and there is also mention of
the Societe Angelique: (I've pretty much finished my researches on this
potential "secret society," and supposed first incarnation of "the
Illuminati" and it is my determination that Besant had it wrong; as Richard
Copley Christie suggests. There was indeed a secret society operating at the
presses of Sebastian Gryphius where Rabelais, Marot and Dolet all worked.
However, it was NOT Societe Angelique, but a group called the Griffons. They
were the first organized labor movement and were responsible for the first
"labor strike." They had secret admission rituals etc, so it would be easy
to see how some historical theorists like Michel Lamy or Philip Coppens got
it wrong, especially when their goal seeks to connect everything to the
Priory of Sion. There were, of course, other intellectual circles and forums
around Lyons, but they were by and large informal.
One other thing of note... the people from whence these things come...
Rabelais, Symphorien Champier (who has been associated with the Academy of
Fourviere; the first mention of the Societe Angelique [circa 1500-1507]),
Erasmus etc shunned magic, witchcraft, incantations and so forth. Agrippa,
for example, is mocked in the G&P. (The whole premise of the odyssey is to
find a reliable oracle, and all of the magicians, soothsayers and witches
fail in this.) At the same time, these individuals embraced the QBLH and
some aspects of Alchemy. (Erasmus and Agrippa corresponded, but not
regularly and though Agrippa tried to win an endorsement from Erasmus, he
was told to leave Erasmus out of it.) They were largely into metaphorical,
philosophic renderings like the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, the Ciceronian
controversy and so on.
> third, as an approach to the reading of
> Crowley's texts, i would recommend that
> you at least sample a few of the biographies
> of the man, perhaps a diverse set of 2 or 3
> of them, probably including that by Sutin.
> a number of them are by his devotees, so be
> aware of this (e.g. that by Regardie, or
> that by Suster)
> you could skip the first portion and be of
> similar educational trajectory to most who
> approach Crowley. I would NOT recommend
> skipping the bios, however. in the case of
> skipping both or not, once you'd got to
> that point, i would then start with
> "Liber Al vel Legis" and, if you can find
> it, an edited Commentaries by Regardie or
> Grant or some other worthy.
First thing of Crowley's I ever read cover to cover was his own Confessions.
That is an amazing work with plenty of meat in it for those who don't mind
doing a little work. In fact, some of his most "esoteric" teachings are
really discussed quite openly within its pages. My current copy which I've
had for several years is heavily notated.