Love is the Law but what is the Law

I'm a will with an imagination, that's what I Am.

I'm a devotee of several religions, one of my favourites is Thelema which I describe like this:
The pursuit of knowing and exercising your true will, in accordance with the great work, understanding that love is the law. Every person is a star. 
The two most important precepts of Thelema are:
  • Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.
  • Love is the law, love under will. We choose to love.
Both of these precepts are to do with will and both are to do with the law. The will is clearly of central importance to Thelema. To do your true will is to be the complete and actualised self, the sacred self. Doing your true will is as much about being all it is possible for you to be, the best and most powerful version of you, as it is about knowing what to do. What you do comes out of who you are and in turn shapes who you will become.

But what is the law of which the precepts speak and particularly what does it mean to say that love is the law? The beauty is that these precepts have an intuitive understanding which requires little explanation. When I first heard these precepts they resonated with me and I knew they were right and to that extent Thelema was true, in the way that religions can be true.

There's a parallel between the law of the precepts and the legal code, the law of the land we are subject to whether we like it or not. The philosophy of law is called Jurisprudence. 

As I grew up I had a quick mind and enjoyed arguing, so I wanted to go to Cambridge university and study law and become a barrister. During my first year at Corpus Christi College Cambridge I studied Criminal law, Tort law, Roman law and British Constitutional law and passed my exams. During that time I was introduced to the teachings of Aleister Crowley and almost immediately thereafter went mad. I was thrown out of the college midway through my second year and became homeless and ended up in prison and after that onto a religious cult where I lived communally for ten years as a true believer without money or personal possessions, selling bricks for a living and devoted to seeking the knowledge of God. During that time I taught myself to program computers and eventually moved out with a wife to start new adventures and a career as a computer programmer. 

Long before all that I was brought up as a good Evanjellyfish. The smell of home baked bread and women in long dresses playing tambourines from the home church movement of the seventies are amongst my earliest memories. The parallel between religious law and what we normally call law was always clear to me. What is the basis of personal moral culpability for your actions? This seemed to be the core question for both religious law and the legal code. Much of the religion I was taught and pursued was concerned with understanding the law of God.

Under the British law criminal liability requires two components; the mens rea (the guilty mind) and the actus reus (the guilty act). There is no liability unless a crime has actually been committed, this is the actus reus although attempt and intent as separate offences (for some crimes only) complicate the situation. For those offences the attempt or the intent to commit an offence is the actus reus. The mens rea requires intent, without the intent (the will you might say) to commit an offence there is no offence. If you trip and hurt someone then it's an accident not assault because there was no intent to injure. This is except for strict liability offences like speeding in a car or being in possession of controlled substances where the burden of proof is reversed and there is no presumption of innocence and you have to explain yourself. Intent is key under the law.

To live in any modern society is to live subject to the law of the land, to live under the law and under the rule of law. The law is dominant by recourse to great strength and even armies and calls for your submission. To follow the law is to be upstanding and lawful. To break the law is to be criminal and subject to the weight and force of the law. The law is over us. The law is the expression of rulership and defines the bounds and parameters of that rulership and conveys legitimacy to it. The law also confers legitimacy to force and even violence which can be used to enforce the rule of law and the will of the law. The rule of law is backed by the rule of force. Some might fail to see a distinction between the rule of law and the rule of force, especially where the law is cruel and unjust. However, the rule of law may give way to the rule of love for just as the rule of force enables the rule of law so the rule of law may enable the rule of love.

Crowley, the founder of Thelema, came from a religious society and had a religious upbringing and Thelema sprung out from that well. The Book of the Law and the law itself are ideas that have been explored through religion and mysticism spanning the aeons and epochs, the stretch and the gape, of human history. Moral law or religious law might be good descriptions of what the law is when we say "love is the law", but what we are grasping at is a universal law for life. A natural law like the law of gravity. The law by which the spiritual person operates and functions, flowing in harmony within and transcending the bounds of circumstance. By living in accordance with the operation of this law, or by earnestly seeking to do so with an honest heart that is determined to rid itself of inner guile and self deception, we can be reconciled to ourselves and to one another and to the world we find ourselves in and the worlds and possible worlds we collectively create together. The kingdom will be found amongst us and within us: the place where love rules and love is the law. If this law has any meaning that is. I know this law by another name: radical inclusion. Love is the law, if you cannot love you will not remain although grace abounds. The kingdom of heaven, Kether in Malkuth.

Christianity and Judaism share some of their holy texts with the first five books of the Bible, the books of the law, making up the Torah. Torah means Instruction, or Law, also called the Pentateuch. The defining symbol of humanity receiving the law from G-d, in these religions, is Moses being given the ten commandments on stone tablets on Mount Sinai after receiving the name of God in the wilderness from the burning bush, the fire which burns but does not consume, and then defeating the magic of the Egyptians and leading the Israelites out of Egypt and into the wilderness. 

This happens in the book of Exodus. God makes a covenant with his chosen people, the children of God, that if they obey his law they will be his people and he will be their God and God will defeat their enemies and lead them into the promised land.

This is a fairly long passage, skip over the part beginning "Be careful not to make a treaty..." all the way up to "The the Lord said to Moses..." near the end. The middle bit is the law being given and it doesn't make much sense from the perspective of about 4000 years away.

Exodus 34: 8-28
Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped. “Lord,” he said, “if I have found favor in your eyes, then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.”

Then the Lord said: “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you. Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. a Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

“Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.

“Do not make any idols.
“Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread. For seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt.
“The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock. Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons.
“No one is to appear before me empty-handed.
“Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.
“Celebrate the Festival of Weeks with the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and the Festival of Ingathering at the turn of the year. Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord, the God of Israel. I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times each year to appear before the Lord your God.
“Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast, and do not let any of the sacrifice from the Passover Festival remain until morning.
“Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.
“Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.
Notice how the writer couldn't resist including a dig against the goddess Asherah, who is also known as Ishtar, Inanna and Astarte and associated with the morning star and by some traditions she was a consort to Yahweh. To the Hebrews she was a demon goddess. 

The law is a series of rules to follow for life. The Hebrews of this time didn't believe in life after death, so there was no heaven nor any threat of eternal damnation or hell at this time. Notice what a low opinion Moses, and by extension God, already has of his people in this telling of the myth and how the words of the covenant written on the tablets are the words of the law, the commandments.

Huge chunks of the Old Testament are devoted to more of the law, various rules about living about slaves about menstruating and crime and punishment and about festivals and the temple. Every aspect of life and religion seems to be covered in a confusing and contradictory collection of arbitrary rules which are mostly nonsensical from the perspective of the twentieth century unless you squint real hard.

The set of rules, the law, rapidly grew. Breaking the law, sin, required a blood sacrifice to God for atonement because the life is in the blood. The Jews were also forbidden from eating the blood of animals.

Leviticus 17: 11-12:
For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood.”
So unless we are to permit universal and ultimate truth to the exoteric understanding of the rules laid out in Leviticus and Numbers we may only find value in these stories through an alternative understanding. The Jewish tradition is that the Torah was written by Moses. This seems unlikely as it includes the account of his death and beyond. Scholars I favour favour the idea that the books of the law were the collected Rabbinical teachings of the centuries, compiled after the tribes of Benjamin and Judah returned from exile in Babylon and rebuilt the temple starting the second temple era. This was done by Zerubbabel, one of my favourite names from the bible to say Zee-rubba-bel, and the Prophet Joshua and supported by the Persian King Cyrus. The books of the law were probably compiled by Ezra and the laws were never all in force at one time, indeed you can't follow them all. Some, like the laws and rules around the year of jubilee when slaves were to be freed and land returned to its original owner, there is no evidence they were ever put into practise.

The Jews were looking to understand the law of God, the set of rules they could understand to live by and be in covenant with God and receive the promise that comes with that. What we see in the books of the law is the story of their attempt at that understanding. 

Some of the laws, particularly around the keeping of slaves, seem abhorrent to us today and indeed objectively as we define objective morality they are. Yet there are extant similar legal codes from which the Hebraic ones undoubtedly derived and build on. They add new provisions and add some legal protection for slaves. Objectively immoral law which clearly has no relevance other than historical for today, a curse on those morons who seek to apply Old Testament law to justify their hate, but it was as far as humanity as manifested in those cultures had evolved socially at that point. We see the social evolution of humanity and a record of the moral philosophy of the time as flawed as it is and awful in consequence too.

The mess of the Old Testament law points us to a truth about the nature of law, both as religious law and legal code. Any rule applied diligently will create new injustices on either side of the law. Some will be treated too harshly and some too leniently. To rectify this the law can be more nuanced, more law. So it is in the nature of any legal code based on rules to grow as it creates new injustices requiring the remedy of new rules which themselves create new injustices.

The Old Testament also points to something new, something that will be better and the relationship of the people of God to the law will be different. The law will be written in their hearts and minds, no longer something that needs to be learned or studied but innate and indwelling. The law will be written on their hearts and minds.

Jeremiah 31: 33-34
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.

No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
We see a parallel prophecy from the prophet Joel in a prophecy referred to as The Day of the Lord. "I will pour out my spirit on all flesh" is said to herald the New Age.

Joel 2:28-30
And afterward,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.

Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
I will show wonders in the heavens
and on the earth,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
So far we have only looked at the understanding of religious law from the Old Testament and the myth of the incarnation of the Christ archetype, for which the New Testament are the holy texts and in which the Christ archetype is given the title Lucifer in the apocalypse of John chapter 22 verse 16, are concerned about the law very much.

The arc of books of the Old Testament, for the word Bible has as its root the Latin word Biblia and is related to the French word bibliothèque meaning library, is the story of the creation and fall and then God giving the law and calling a chosen people and the law stubbornly refusing to redeem those people. We suspect the authors of the Bible didn't really like people very much and we read the legends with that in mind, but there are further legends of the man I will refer to as Joshua the Christ for reasons described in footnote 1 [1]. The question of the historicity [2] of these legends and teachings are as relevant as they are for the historicity of Crowley to his legends and teachings.

We can see the myth of the Christ as being the fulfilment of the law, as the fulfilment of the blood price for suffering. The old law is swept away and a new covenant and a new perfected law comes in. In the incarnation, in the Christ, God is fully human and human is fully God and the barrier between heaven and earth and God and man is no more and no intermediary or priest is needed to have the knowledge of God.

In various scriptures we see the understanding that the law is a curse, for only through knowing the law can we know we have broken the law. It is the law that creates the opportunity for transgression. We can see this  as the old law, the letter of the law. To rely on the law for righteousness requires the keeping of every bit of the law, every jot and tittle, or we become transgressors. The law can only condemn.

Romans 3:20
Because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
Romans 7:7
What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet. 
Galatians 3:10
For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”
We see a new understanding brought in, all of the law and the prophets have a simpler solution. Indeed love is said to be the fulfilment of the law. Here we find teaching that sounds identical to the precepts of Thelema we revere.

Matthew 22:34-40
Hearing that Joshua had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Joshua replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Galatians 5:14
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself."
Romans 13:8-10
Let no obligation remain, except the continuing obligation to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
And yet there exists a tension for the teachings also teach that the law remains and does not pass away.

Matthew 5:17–18
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
What is the mystical element and act of the myth of the Christ archetype that wrought this change?

The blood sacrifice of the Christ fulfilling the requirement of blood for sin. In the Hebrew temple a heavy curtain, the veil separates the holy of holies from the part of the temple the people may enter. The presence and glory of Adonai, the Lord, may fall on the holy of holies and the priest therein but not onto the people. The priest ministers the presence and word of God to the people and there is a divide between God and humanity. 

At the point the Christ dies that veil is torn in two. 

Matthew 27:51
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split.
The metaphor of the cross is that the gap between God and the people is removed. No priest, no intermediary is required to know God although the office and role of Priest is still to minister the sacred and the holy to the people. Also at the point of death.

John 19:30
So when Joshua had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
It is finished! The great work is both complete and begun. 

The key point of this transition and change of perspective, backed by the force of legend, is that law is no longer contained or constrained by a list of rules. Now love is the law. There is no objective, inhuman, condemning standard to be measured against. Instead the measure and the rule is love. The fulfilment of the law means the end to rule based law. There is no set of rules by which the law can be laid out other than "love is the law".

Understanding the nature of the law is not enough to fully understand "love is the law", in order to understand in fullness we must also perceive the nature of love. Love is not weak, love is fierce. Love needs no defence she comes in like a lion. Love carries the power of rulership. 

Here I turn to some religious poetry on the law and the nature of love:
Righteousness does not come from following the law, because you can't. Instead love has fulfilled and perfected the law, and love is the law. And by grace, we can love. When we love we fulfil the law, and righteousness is made complete in us for love is perfect and without blemish.

For the fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Against such, there is no law.

The spirit is the spirit of love, both the essence and the substance of love.

Grace is not given that we might follow the law, for we are no longer slaves to the law. Grace is given that we might love for when we love we fulfil the law. Righteousness, being made right, comes through grace as we are perfected by love.

What then is sin? Sin is the opposite of righteousness and since righteousness comes through love, sin is the failure to love. And that's it, that's the full list. If we fulfil the law we do not sin.

Where we do not love we dwell in darkness, for love is the light. Love is both the path and the means to find the path, both the freedom and the being made free.
1 Corinthians 10:23 All things are permitted.
Titus 1:15 To the pure all things are pure.
So what does it mean to say that love is the law? It means that love is law by which we may operate in harmony and may be reconciled to ourselves. Like the law of gravity it is the law of nature. It also means that the right operation and exercise and function of love is to rule. Love under will, we choose to love. It means that love rules.

Other holy texts teach and confirm that love is the law. The record of the Old Testament shows us the nature of humanity's search to know the law of God and speaks of an age to come and the New Testament teaches on the new law and the new covenant that comes with it. An understanding of the teaching of the Christ to mean that the kingdom of heaven is now and is found in shared lives. That love is the law, that the rule of love is now and is also the age to come. 


[1] The name Jesus came from corrupted men translating the gospels from Greek into Latin so that normal people couldn't read them. That name is an Anglicisation of the Latin translation of the Greek variant of the Hebrew name Yeshua. The Hebrew name is closest to, and a late Bible variant of, the English name Joshua. Joshua the Christ, quite a different character from the plastic and concrete and so very white Jesus.

[2] From Wikipedia on the historicity of Joshua the Christ:
Non-Christian sources used to study and establish the historicity of Jesus include the first century Jewish historian Josephus and Roman historian Tacitus. These sources are compared to Christian sources, such as the Pauline letters and synoptic gospels, and are usually independent of each other; that is, the Jewish sources do not draw upon the Roman sources. Similarities and differences between these sources are used in the authentication process
There's no evidence at all to the accuracy of the gospels. All it's possible to know from the evidence and the spread of the early church is this: something the fuck happened. Yet still this magic, spread at the point of a Roman sword, conquered the globe. The rotting remains of the unholy alliance of sword and religion in that name remain to this day and is ruled from the Vatican. Meanwhile other prophets of the one holy divine name appear and reaffirm that love is the law.


"But the greatest people," says King Lamus, "are those that refuse to be treated like squalling children, who insist on facing reality in every form, and tear off ruthlessly the bandages from their own wounds.” -- Diary of a Drug Fiend

I think love is simply divine, just heavenly.

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