Discover more from Mystic Beauty
The word of Sin is Restriction
A closer look at verse I:41 of Liber AL vel Legis
Verse I:41 of Liber AL vel Legis reads:
“The word of Sin is Restriction.”
This line in the Book of the Law is often used by Thelemites to reject any kind of restriction on freedom. It redefines “sin” in the traditional sense, and applies it to anything which might limit or restrict one’s Will. Sometimes, the sentence is paraphrased as “the only sin is restriction” or shortened to “sin is restriction” and these carry the general idea that any restriction of freedom is a sin.
But are restriction and sin truly being equated here in the way that is commonly understood?
In the commutative law of mathematics, the formula (A + B) = (B + A) is presumed to be true. We see this math rule being applied to this sentence in the Book of the Law as well. However, by applying the commutative law of math to the full literal sentence, we can see that “the word of sin is restriction” and “restriction is the word of sin” are equal statements. In this light, the comparison here shows that sin is not restriction, nor conversely is restriction a sin, but rather it is the “word of sin” that is the restriction.
To split hairs even further, if we dissect and analyze the sentence literally, as subject - verb - predicate, it is obvious that the subject of the sentence is “word.” Sin is a modifier that describes the subject but is not the subject itself. The object of the sentence is ‘restriction’. The subject and object are linked by the transitive verb “is” to show that they are the same. Taking this literal approach, it confirms once again that it is the word of sin which is the restriction.
We understand that words are symbols which stand for something else. Words are a layer of abstract interpretation that stands between ourselves and the thing we are talking about.
This opaque layer of meaning is often an obstacle to understanding because we can easily get caught up in the words surrounding the thing to which they refer. In effect, mistaking the map for the territory around us, eating the menu instead of the meal, seeing the finger pointing toward an object rather than the object itself.
The use of words itself may be recognized as a restricting factor to what is being communicated. Words are open to misinterpretation. They can be imprecise. At the best of times, they lead to misunderstanding; at worst of times, outright deception. Words naturally limit our ability to express the ineffable. In magical rites, the act of naming anything tends to circumscribe it or bring it under control.
Thus, labeling something as a sin is problematic. Using that word “sin” to describe behavior, we instantly invoke the duality of good and evil as it is commonly perceived. One thing becomes acceptable, while another is not. We create division between those who sin and those who do not. Perhaps even simply calling an activity sinful (regardless of any morality involved) invokes the feelings of guilt and shame that inevitably follows sinfulness. This division then, and associated feelings of shame, is the source of the restriction.
Therefore, it stands to reason that we can broadly reject the labeling of anything as sin, or as being sinful, and when we do so, the individual is freed from any restriction based on the socially induced shame of subjective morality.
The WORD of sin is restriction.
All this semantic word play aside, with respect to the law of Thelema, Crowley makes it clear that the restriction most to be avoided is one which affects True Will.
In the New Comment in The Law is for All, Crowley writes:
“The [first sentence of v.I:41] is a general statement or definition of sin or error. Any thing whatsoever that binds the will, hinders it, or diverts it is sin. That is, sin is the dyad. Sin is impurity.”
The footnote to that passage continues:
“Sin is restriction, that is, it is ‘being’ as opposed to ‘becoming.’ The fundamental idea of wrong is the static as opposed to dynamic conception of the universe.”
Another quote, this time from the chapter titled “Original Sin” in Magick Without Tears:
“[The Book of the Law] is at pains to define Sin in plain terms: ‘The word of Sin is Restriction.’ From the context it seems clear that this refers more especially to interference with the will of another.”
Therefore, we can conclude that the only sin which Thelema recognizes would involve a situation where the Will, either our own or that of another, is impeded or diminished. This has great implications for how we view crime and punishment in society.
Thanks for reading Mystic Beauty! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.