Aiwass is the name given to a voice that English occultist Aleister Crowley claimed to have heard on April 8, 9, and 10 in 1904. Crowley claimed that this voice, which he considered originated with a discarnate intelligence, dictated The Book of the Law (or Liber Legis) to him.
According to Crowley, the first appearance of Aiwass was during the Three Days of the writing of Liber al vel Legis. His first and only identification as such is in Chapter I: "Behold! it is revealed by Aiwass the minister of Hoor-paar-kraat" (AL I:7).
Hoor-paar-kraat (Egyptian: Har-par-khered) is more commonly referred to by the Greek transliteration Harpocrates, meaning "Horus the Child", whom Crowley considered to be the central deity within the Thelemic cosmology (see: Aeon of Horus). However, Harpocrates also represents the Higher Self, the Holy Guardian Angel.
Crowley described the encounter in detail in The Equinox of the Gods, saying:
The Voice of Aiwass came apparently from over my left shoulder, from the furthest corner of the room. It seemed to echo itself in my physical heart in a very strange manner, hard to describe. I have noticed a similar phenomenon when I have been waiting for a message fraught with great hope or dread. The voice was passionately poured, as if Aiwass were alert about the time- limit ... The voice was of deep timbre, musical and expressive, its tones solemn, voluptuous, tender, fierce or aught else as suited the moods of the message. Not bass – perhaps a rich tenor or baritone. The English was free of either native or foreign accent, perfectly pure of local or caste mannerisms, thus startling and even uncanny at first hearing. I had a strong impression that the speaker was actually in the corner where he seemed to be, in a body of "fine matter," transparent as a veil of gauze, or a cloud of incense-smoke. He seemed to be a tall, dark man in his thirties, well-knit, active and strong, with the face of a savage king, and eyes veiled lest their gaze should destroy what they saw. The dress was not Arab; it suggested Assyria or Persia, but very vaguely. I took little note of it, for to me at that time Aiwass was an "angel" such as I had often seen in visions, a being purely astral.
In the later-written Liber 418, the voice of the 8th Aethyr says "my name is called Aiwass," and "in The Book of the Law did I write the secrets of truth that are like unto a star and a snake and a sword." Crowley says this later manifestation took the form of a pyramid of light.
Crowley went to great pains to argue that Aiwass was an objectively separate being from himself, possessing far more knowledge than he or any other human could possibly have. He wrote "no forger could have prepared so complex a set of numerical and literal puzzles". As Crowley writes in his Confessions: "I was bound to admit that Aiwass had shown a knowledge of the Cabbala immeasurably superior to my own" and "We are forced to conclude that the author of The Book of the Law is an intelligence both alien and superior to myself, yet acquainted with my inmost secrets; and, most important point of all, that this intelligence is discarnate." Finally, this excerpt (also from Confessions, ch.49):
The existence of true religion presupposes that of some discarnate intelligence, whether we call him God or anything else. And this is exactly what no religion had ever proved scientifically. And this is what The Book of the Law does prove by internal evidence, altogether independent of any statement of mine. This proof is evidently the most important step in science that could possibly be made: for it opens up an entirely new avenue to knowledge. The immense superiority of this particular intelligence, AIWASS, to any other with which mankind has yet been in conscious communication is shown not merely by the character of the book itself, but by the fact of his comprehending perfectly the nature of the proof necessary to demonstrate the fact of his own existence and the conditions of that existence. And, further, having provided the proof required.
However, Crowley also spoke of Aiwass in symbolic terms. In The Law is for All, he goes on at length in comparison to various other deities and spiritual concepts, but most especially to The Fool. For example, he writes of Aiwass: "In his absolute innocence and ignorance he is The Fool; he is the Saviour, being the Son who shall trample on the crocodiles and tigers, and avenge his father Osiris. Thus we see him as the Great Fool of Celtic legend, the Pure Fool of Act I of Parsifal, and, generally speaking, the insane person whose words have always been taken for oracles."
Perhaps more importantly, Crowley later identified Aiwass as his own personal Holy Guardian Angel and more. Again from Equinox of the Gods: "I now incline to believe that Aiwass is not only the God once held holy in Sumer, and mine own Guardian Angel, but also a man as I am, insofar as He uses a human body to make His magical link with Mankind, whom He loves, and that He is thus an Ipsissimus, the Head of the A.'.A.'."
A number of authors have expressed the view that Aiwass was most likely an unconscious manifestation of Crowley's personality. Occultist Israel Regardie argued for this view in his Crowley biography, The Eye in the Triangle, and considered that The Book of the Law was a "colossal wish fulfillment" on Crowley's part. Regardie noted that in 1906 Crowley wrote: "It has struck me – in connection with reading Blake that Aiwass, etc. 'Force and Fire' is the very thing I lack. My 'conscience' is really an obstacle and a delusion, being a survival of heredity and education." Regardie argued that because Crowley felt that his Fundamentalist upbringing instilled him in an overly rigid conscience, when he rebelled against Christianity “he must have yearned for qualities and characteristics diametrically opposed to his own. In The Book of the Law the wish is fulfilled.” Charles R. Cammell, author of Aleister Crowley: The Man, the Mage, the Poet also wrote that The Book of the Law was "in part (but in part only) an emanation from Crowley's unconscious mind I can believe; for it bears a likeness to his own Daemonic personality." Journalist Sarah Veale has also argued that Aiwass was an externalised part of Crowley's psyche and in support of this view quotes Crowley himself as saying:
Ah, you realize that magick is something we do to ourselves. But it is more convenient to assume the objective existence of an angel who gives us new knowledge than to allege that our invocation has awakened a supernormal power in ourselves. (Kaczynski, 542)
A number of authors such as Israel Regardie, Sarah Veale, and academic Joshua Gunn have argued that the stylistic similarities between The Book of the Law and Crowley's other writings are evidence that Crowley rather than a discarnate entity was the sole source of the book.
Occultist Michael Aquino of the Temple of Set also believed on esoteric grounds that Aiwass was probably "a subjective idealization of Crowley's own personality". Aquino based this assertion on the fact that Aiwass identifies himself as "minister of Hoor-pa-kraat"(Chapter I, verse 7). In the view of the Temple of Set, Hoor-pa-kraat, also known as "Harpokrates" or Horus the Younger, is considered to be "the later Osirian corruption of the Great Horus" also known as Horus the Elder. Aquino does not believe in the objective existence of Hoor-pa-kraat, hence he considers the objective authenticity of Aiwass "doubtful" although he did consider The Book an "inspired utterance".
Crowley, being the Qabalist that he was, labored to discover Aiwass's number within the system of gematria. Initially he believed that it was 78: "I had decided on AIVAS = 78, the number of Mezla, the influence from the highest unity, and therefore suitable enough as the title of a messenger from Him." After receiving a letter from a stranger, the typographer and publisher Samuel A. Jacobs (whose Golden Eagle Press published the work of e.e.cummings and others), and whose Hebrew name was SHMUEL Bar AIWAZ bie YACKOU de SHERABAD, Crowley asked the Hebrew spelling of AIWAZ; to Crowley's astonishment and delight it was OIVZ, which equated to 93, the number of Thelema itself, and "also that of the Lost Word of freemasonry, which I had re-discovered". Crowley remained perplexed, though, since the spelling of the name in AL was "Aiwass" not "AIVAS", which does not add up to 93. However, when Crowley decided to use the Greek Qabalah, he discovered that ...
...its value is 418! and this is the number of the Magical Formula of the Aeon. It represents the practice of the Book as 93 does the theory. It is now evident with what inconceivable ingenuity AIWAZ has arranged his expression. He is not content to give one spelling of his name, however potent; he gives two which taken together are not merely twice as significant as either alone, but more so, in a degree which is beyond me to calculate.
According to Israel Regardie, a certain "Qabalist of tremendous knowledge" would have discovered a Hebrew spelling that enumerates to 418 were he aware that Tav is pronounced /s/ when without a dagesh:
- (tav)400 + (aleph)1 + (waw)6 + (yod)10 + (aleph)1 = 418
There seems no etymological connection between the name "Aiwass" and the name of the futhorc rune Eihwaz which derives from the Proto-Germanic word for "yew". While Crowley placed no emphasis upon Nordic mythology, it is suggestive that the rune Eihwaz is sometimes associated with the World-tree Yggdrasil, which, imagined as an ash in Norse mythology, may formerly have been a yew or an oak.
- Aleister Crowley. The Book of the Law. Red Wheel Weiser Centennial edition, 2004, p. 25
- (Crowley 1996, p. 29)
- Crowley, Aleister. "THE EQUINOX OF THE GODS – Chapter 7". The Equinox. hermetic.com. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
- Crowley, Aleister. "The Equinox of the Gods – Chapter 7". The Equinox of the Gods. hermetic.com. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
- (Crowley 1979, ch. 50)
- (Crowley 1979, ch. 49)
- (Crowley 1996, pp. 29–32)
- (Crowley 1974, ch. 7)
- Regardie, Israel (1982). "Chapter 15. The Book of the Law". The Eye in the Triangle: an Interpretation of Aleister Crowley. New Falcon Publications. pp. 473–494.
- The Art of the Law: Aleister Crowley’s Use of Ritual and Drama Justin Scott Van Kleeck
- The Morton Smith-Aleister Crowley Connection, Part II, Invocatio, a blog mostly about western esotericism, August 8, 2011
- Gunn, Joshua (2011). Modern occult rhetoric: mass media and the drama of secrecy in the twentieth century. University of Alabama Press. pp. 91–92.
- Aquino, Michael (May 1, 2010). "Appendix 5: ‘’The Book of the Law’’ – Commentary". The Temple of Set (Draft 11 ed.). p. 218.
- (Crowley 1979, ch. 85)
- Crowley, Aleister. "The Confessions of Aleister Crowley – Chapter 85". The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. Hermetic.com. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
- Israel Regardie (1970). "The Literal Qabalah". A Garden of Pomegranates. Llewellyn. p. 115.
- Crowley, Aleister (1982), The Book of the Law: Liber AL vel Legis, Weiser
- Crowley, Aleister (1979), The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, Routledge & Kegan Paul
- Crowley, Aleister (1974), Equinox of the Gods, Gordon Press
- Crowley, Aleister (1996), The Law is for All, New Falcon Publications, ISBN 1-56184-090-4
- Thelemapedia. (2004). Aiwass. Retrieved April 14, 2006.