Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) changed the face of spirituality. His approach to magic(k), which included exploring Eastern practises, sex and psychedelics, was a breath of fresh air to the staid world of ceremonial magic and brought the West’s attention to Yoga and Tantra.
At the same time his bisexuality and wild lifestyle caused a media frenzy and he became known as “the wickedest man in the world.” Looking back from the present, his experimental approach to magick seems before its time and is still considered to be relevant for many seeking a deeper understanding of themselves and who are willing to go beyond the boundaries of conventionality.
One of the most significant aspects of Crowley’s work was his receipt of ‘The Book of the Law’ in 1904. This text clearly differentiated his new system of spirituality based on Will (Thelema) from that which went before. It rejected previous religious systems as the “lumber of the ages” and posited a new and more healthy approach to life, refusing the suffering ethos of the monotheistic religions. Crowley wrote a number of commentaries on ‘The Book of the Law’ and many whom came after have done the same. Sadly, most of these commentaries have been mired in “Thelemic” orthodoxy, and while wordy and filled with debate and heat, they offer little light.
Overthrowing the Old Gods is one of the very first books to attempt to truly engage with ‘The Book of the Law’ from a variety of angles. Webb became a High Priest in the Temple of Set in 1996, and thus views Thelema from a different angle (the Temple of Set holds that in 1975 a new Aeon of Set proceeded the Aeon of Horus that ‘The Book of the Law’ heralded). In many ways this gives him a deeper retrospective insight into Thelema, allowing him to offer a highly insightful commentary on ‘The Book of the Law’ coupled with a commentary by Dr. Michael Aquino, High Priest of the Temple of Set from 1975 to 1996. These commentaries are dense and will take much study to fully unlock but they are well worth the effort.
Webb’s commentaries and essays show an encyclopaedic knowledge of Thelema, psychology and magick. They cover new discoveries related to Egyptology, Gnosticism and psychology.
The second half of the book is composed of a series of excellent essays divided into the Force and the Fire. I suggest those new to these subjects first study the essays starting at page 248 which offer an introduction to Thelema and the Left Hand Path. The essays in the Force section explore the subject deeper and all of these help elucidate the position taken in the commentaries on ‘The Book of the Law’.
It should be noted that Webb takes the position of a Left Hand Path practitioner. While such a term may strike terror into the heart of those who don’t understand, it simply represents a tradition that aims at individual discrete self-deification rather than union with the universe or submission to a given deity or deities. Such a tradition is found throughout religious and mythic history from ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’ where Gilgamesh rejects the Goddess and at great cost (the loss of his lover Enkidu) must create his own path, to the heroic tales of the Germanic peoples and ancient Greece.
Webb uses his commentaries and essays to clearly communicate the nature of this elite spiritual path to those who seek it. Hence this work is important in both its insight into Thelema and ‘The Book of the Law’, and its clear exposition of the Left Hand Path and its practise in the modern world.
This is a must read book for any modern magician, indeed anyone who treks beyond the boundaries of conventional spirituality.
– Reviewed by Robert Black in New Dawn 143