The Learned Arts of Witches & Wizards

by Anton & Mina Adams

A Review by G.M.Kelly

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

Barnes & Noble Books/Barnes & Noble, Inc.
New York
by arrangement with Lansdowne Publishing
2000 E.V.

The Learned Arts of Witches & Wizards, described on the title page as the "History and traditions of white magic", is, well, a cute book.  With parchment coloured paper, pentagrams, illustrations and many colour photographs, it is an attractive book of 160 pages.  It's chapters cover "Witchcraft -- Its Passage through Time", "Places of Magic", "Spellcraft", "The Witch's World", "The Wizard's World" and "The Path of Magic".  This pleasant little book is more of an introduction to these subjects than a deep study of them, and it focusses upon the Craft, i.e. Witchcraft, more than anything else, with a fair degree of accuracy.  Of course my reason for briefly reviewing it here is simply that Aleister Crowley is mentioned within its attractively artistic pages.

On page 31, appropriately enough (AL = 31), the subchapter "Aleister Crowley (1875 - 1947) -- The Beast 666" begins thusly:

"Although famous for his later career, which was dogged by a heavy drug habit and insatiable sexual appetites, Aleister Crowley still made an important contribution to the practice of magic.  His main problem was that he understood the power of magic but lacked the discipline to use the power without self-destructing."

Of course the authors here mistake the tales of the "demon Crowley", the caricature of him created by his detractors and the yellow journalists of his day, with the man himself, his experimental and medicinal employment of various drugs exaggerate with the idea that all drug USE is drug ABUSE, which of course is not true.  As for "discipline", no magician or witch to this day, no doubt, can honestly boast to be more disciplined than Aleister Crowley was, as his own records prove.  And most certrainly he made more than a single important contribution to the practice of magick.  As usual, Crowley was be grudgingly given his due, but by way of a backhanded compliment.  It really seems to irk some people that they owe so much to that "horrible" Beast and must, from time to time, admit it.

In the next paragraph I was happy to see that in the brief mention of The Book of the Law, the authors made an important point, briefly but accurately:

"The book's central premise is that there is no law beyond 'Do What Thou Wilt', which meant 'follow your true will' [sic] not, as it is sometimes interpreted, 'do whatever you want'."

I think the quotation marks here used by the authors were intended more to accentuate phrases than to actually imply a direct quotation, but it matters little for this was indeed an important matter of which to make mention.

On page 52 the authors say:

"Aleister Crowley's most famous statement was:  'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law'.  Many of his actions gave the impression that 'do what thou wilt' meant that you can do anything you want.  However, the key to this philosophy is to bring about a harmony between the conscous will and the often hidden purposes of one's higher self.  To do this, you must be very clear in what you want.  If not, your spellcraft will fail."

This almost explains the Law of Thelema, but as can be seen by the wording the authors probably do not understand the full importance and meaning of the Law, which pertains to far more than mere "spellcraft".  It is not, however, exactly untrue, and once more Anton and Mina Adams make a vital point that puts Crowley in perspective far better than did their opening remarks on page 31.

The Learned Arts of Witches & Wizards is not a must-have for your library, but it's not a bad book, it is "cute", and best of all it is fairly inexpensive, a Barnes & Noble bargain.

Love is the law, love under will.