The Great Beast – Aleister Crowley
by Robert Anton Wilson
from Paul Krassner’s The Realist, issues 91-B, C, 92-A, B (1971-2)
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O – The Fool
All ways are lawful to innocence. Pure folly is the key to initiation. – The Book of Thoth
Crowley: Pronounced with a crow so it rhymes with holy: Edward Alexander Crowley, b. 1875 d. 1947, known as Aleister Crowley, known also as Sir Aleister Crowley, Saint Aleister Crowley (of the Gnostic Catholic Church), Frater Perdurabo, Frater Ou Mh, To Mega Therion, Count McGregor, Count Vladimir Svareff, Chao Khan, Mahatma Guru Sri Paramahansa Shivaji, Baphomet, and Ipsissimus; obviously, a case of the ontological fidgets - couldn't make up his mind who he really was; chiefly known as The Beast 666 or The Great Beast; friends and disciples celebrated his funeral with a Black Mass: or so the newspapers said.
Actually it was a Gnostic Catholic Mass (even John Symonds, Crowley's most hostile biographer, admits that at most it could be called a Grey Mass, not a Black Mass - observe the racist and Christian-chauvinist implications in this terminology, but it was certainly not an orthodox R.C. or Anglican mass, I mean, cripes, the priestess took off her clothes in one part of it, buck naked, and they call that a Mass, gloriosky!
So the town council had a meeting - this was the Ridge, in Hastings, England, 1947, not 1347 - and they passed an ordinance that no such heathen rites would ever be tolerated in any funeral services in their town, not never; I sort of picture them in the kitch Alpine-Balkan garb of Universal Studios' classic monster epics, and I see Aleister himself, in his coffin, wearing nothing less spectacular than the old black cape of Bela Lugosi: fangs showing beneath his sensual lips: but his eyes closed in deep and divine Samadhi.
Because that's the sort of images that come to mind when Aleister Crowley is mentioned: this damnable man who identified himself with the Great Beast in St. John's Revelations in an age when the supernatural is umbilically connected with Universal Studios, Hearst Sunday Supplement I-walked-with-a-zombie-in-my-maidenform-bra gushings and, God's socks, Today's Astrology ("Listen, Scoorpio: This month you must look before you leap and remember that prudence is wiser than rashness: Don't trust that Taurus female in you office" - I repeat: God's socks and spats); this divine man who became the Logos when Logos was just a word to pencil into Double-Crostics on rainy Sundays; this damnable and divine paradox of a Crowley!
Listen, some critic (I forgot who) wrote of Lugosi "acting with total sincerity and a kind of demented cornball poetry" and the words, like the old crimson-lined black cape, seem tailored equally well for the shoulders of Master Therion, To Mega Therion, the Great Beast, Aleister Crowley. This is the final degradation: this avatar of anarchy, this epitome of rebellion, this incarnation of inconsistency, this man Crowley whom his contemporaries called "The King of Depravity," The Wickedest Man in the World," "A Cannibal at Large," "A Man We'd Like to Hang," "A Human Beast"; and, with some anti-climax, "A Pro-German and Revolutionary."
Now, to us, he is quaint. Worse: he is Camp. Worse yet: he is corny.
We don't even believe his boast that he performed human sacrifice 150 times a year, starting in 1912.
None of these cordial titles was invented by myself. All were used, in
I -- The Magician
The True Self is the meaning of the True Will: know Thyself through Thy Way.
– The Book of Thoth
For there is no clear way, even on the most superficial level of the gross external data, to say what Edward Alexander Crowley (who called himself Aleister: and other names) really was trying to do with his life and communicate to his fellows.
Witness: here is an Englishman (never forget that: an Englishman, and bloody English at times he could be) who in the stodgiest year, of the dreariest decade of the age we call Victoria, commits technical High Treason, joins the Carlists, accepts a knighthood from Don Carlos himself, denounces as illegitimate all the knighthoods granted by "the Hanoverian usurper" (he also called her a "dumpy German hausfrau" - poor Vicky), yes, and then for years and decades afterward continues, with owl-like obstinacy, with superlative stubbornness, with ham heroism, with promethean pigheadedness, to sign himself "Sir Aleister" - a red flag in the face of John Bull.
But more: the same romantic reactionary, the same very parfet bogus knight, hears that the French authorities, scandalized by the heroic size of the genital on Epstein's statue of Oscar Wilde, have covered it with a butterfly - and, bien bueno, you guessed it, there he is, at twilight with hammer and chisel, sworn enemy of the Philistines, removing the butterfly and restoring the statue to its pristine purity - but why by all the pot-bellied gods in China, why did he turn that gesture into a joke by walking, the same night, into London's stuffiest restaurant, wearing the same butterfly over the crotch of his own trousers?
A Harlequin, then, we might pronounce him, ultimately: the archetypal Batty Bard superimposed upon the classic Eccentric Englishman? And with a touch of the Sardonic Sodomist - for didn't he smuggle homosexual jokes (hidden in puns, codes, acrostics and notarikons) into his various volumes of mystical poetry?
Didn't it even turn out that his great literary "discovery" the Bagh-I-Muattar [The Scented Garden] was not a discovery at all but an invention - all of it, all, all! from the pious but pederastic Persian original, through the ingenious but innocent English major who translated it (and died heroically in the Boer War), up to the high Anglican clergyman who wrote the Introduction saluting its sanctity but shivering at its salacity - all, all from his own cunning and creative cranium?
Yes: and he even published one volume, White Stains (Krafft-Ebing in verse) with a poker-faced prologue pronouncing that "The Editor hopes the Mental Pathologists, for whose eyes alone this treatise is destined, will spare no precaution to prevent it falling into other hands" - and, hot damn, arranged that the author's name on the title-page would be given as "George Archibald," a pious uncle whom he detested.
Sophomore pranks? Yes, but in 1912, at the age of 37, he was still at the same game: that was the year he managed to sell Hail Mary, a volume of versatile verses celebrating the Virgin, to London's leading Catholic publishers, Burns and Oates: and he even waited until it was favorably reviewed in the Catholic press ("a plenteous and varied feast for the lovers of tuneful verse," enthused the Catholic Times) before revealing that the real author was not a cloistered nun or an uncommonly talented Bishop, but himself, Satan's Servant, the Great Beast, the Demon Crowley.
But grok in its fullness this fact: he really did it. You or I might conceive such a jest, but he carried it out: writing the pious verses with just the proper tone of sugary sanctimoniousness to actually sell to a Papist publisher and get cordial reviews in the Romish press - as if Baudelaire had forced himself to write a whole volume of Edgar Guest: And just for the sake of a horse-laugh?
To understand this conundrum of a
II -- The High Priestess
Purity is to live only to the Highest: and the Highest is All; be thou as Artemis to Pan.
– The Book of Thoth
These jokes sometimes seem to have an obscure point, and one is uneasily suspicious that there might be Hamlet-like method in this madness. Even the alternate identities can be considered more than games: They might be Zen counter-games. Here's the Beast's own explanation of the time he became Count Vladimir Svareff, from The Confessions of Aleister Crowley: An Autohagiography.
"I wanted to increase my knowledge
of mankind. I knew how people treated a young man from
And the Hail Mary caper has its own sane-insane raison d'etre:
"I must not be thought exactly insincere, though I had certainly no shadow of belief in any of the Christian dogmas... I simply wanted to see the world through the eyes of a devout Catholic, very much as I had done with the decadent poet of White Stains, the Persian mystic of Bagh-i-Muattar, and so on... I did not see why I should be confined to one life. How can one hope to understand the world if one persists in regarding it from the conning tower of ones own "personality?"
Just so: the procedure is even scientific these days (Role-Playing, you know) and is a central part of Psychodrama and Group Dynamics. "You have to go out of your mind before you can come to your senses," as Tim Leary (or Fritz Perls) once said. Sure: you can even become Jesus and Satan at the same time: Ask Charles the Son of Man.
For Artemis, the goddess of nature, is eternally virgin: she only surrended once, and then to Pan: and this is a clue to the Beast's purpose in his bloody sacrifices.
III -- The Empress
This is the Harmony of the Universe, that Love unites the Will to create with the Understanding of that Creation.
– The Book of Thoth
The infant Gargantua was sent to a school run by the Plymouth Brethren, the narrowly Fundamentalist sect to which his parents belonged. He commends the school in these cordial words from his essay "A Boyhood in Hell":
"May the maiden that passes it be barren and the pregnant woman that beholdeth it abort! May the birds of the air refuse to fly over it! May it stand as a curse, as a fear, as a hate, among men. May the wicked dwell therein! May the light of the sun be withheld therefrom and the light of the moon not lighten it! May it become the home of the shells of the dead and may the demons of the pit inhabit it! May it be accursed, accursed - accursed for ever and ever.'
One gathers that the boy Alick was not happy there. In fact, the climax of his
miseries came when somebody told the Headmasters that he had seen young
This incident is a favorite with the Beast's unsympathetic critics; they harp on it gleefully, to convey that they are not the sort of religious bigots who would torture a child in this fashion; and they also use it to explain his subsequent antipathy to anything bearing the names or coming under the auspices, of "Jesus" or "Christ."
It was this school, they say, which warped his mind and turned him to the service of the devil; a nice theory for parlor analysts or term papers, but it has the defect of not being quite true. The King of Depravity never did embrace Satan, as we shall see, and he kept a very nice mind full of delicate distinctions and discriminations; of this experience he himself says, "I did not hate Jesus and God; I hated the Jesus and God of the people I hated."
But now we jump ahead, past adolescence (skipping the time he seduced a housemaid on his mother's bed; sorry, Freudians), past Cambridge (missing a nice 1890-style student riot) and past mountain-climbing (by 1901, he and his favorite fellow-climber, Oscar Eckenstein, held most of the climbing records in the world between them - all but one to be exact); we came now to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn; caveat lector; we enter the realm of Mystery, Vision - and Hallucination; the reader is the only judge of what can be believed from here on.
IV -- The Emperor
Find thyself in every Star. Achieve thou every possibility. – The Book of Thoth
It seems that the Golden Dawn was
founded by Robert Wentworth Little, a high Freemason, based on papers he
rescued from a hidden drawn in
No: not so either: behind the Golden Dawn was actually a second Order, the Rose of Ruby and Cross of Gold - i.e. the original medieval Rosicrucians still in business at the old stand; and behind them was the Third Order, the Great White Brotherhood - i.e., the Nine Unknown Men of Hindu lore – the true rulers of earth, one can only say, if the last theory be true, that the Great White Brotherhood are Great White Fuckups.
The true true story of the Illuminati, Rosicrucians etc. - or another damned lie - is given in Illuminatus: or Laughing Buddha Jesus Phallus Inc., by Robert J. Shea and this writer, to be published by Dell this year, unless the Nine Unknown Men suppress it.
Well anyway, whenever the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn came from, there it was almost practicing in the open in London in the 1890's, with such illustrious members as Florence Farr (the actress), Arthur Machen (the horror-story writer: you must have read his Great God Pan?), George Cecil Jones (a respectable chemist by day and a clandestine alchemist by night) and William Butler Yeats (a poet who thought his verse was superior to Crowley's, he is described in Autohagiography as "a disheveled demonologist who could have given much more care to his appearance without being accused of dandyism.").
In 1898, the King of Depravity was admitted to the Order: Crowley took the new name Frater Perdurabo which means Brother I-Will-Endure-To-The-End; he later changed it to Frater OuMh or Brother Not Yet - and began acquiring great proficiency in such arts as the invocation of angels and demons, making himself invisible, journeying in the astral body and such-like Wonders of the Occult.
In one critical operation of magick the Wickedest Man in the World failed abjectly in those early days; and this was the most important work of all. It consisted in achieving the Knowledge and Conversation of one's Holy Guardian Angel - what, precisely, that may mean will be discussed later.
The usual operation, as found in The Book of Sacred Magick of Abra-Melin the Mage, requires six months' hard work and is somewhat more grueling than holding the Ibis position of Hatha Yoga for that interlude, or working out pi to the thousandth place in you head without using paper or pencil. The beast's critics like to proclaim that he couldn't manage this because he was incapable of obeying Abra-Melin's commandment of chastity for the necessary 180 days. We will later learn how true that claim actually is.
Invisibility, by the way, isn't as hard as Lamont Cranston's Tibetan teachers implied. After only a few months practice, guided by the Beast's training manuals, I have achieved limited success twice already; and my cats, Simon and Garfunkel, do it constantly. There is no need to look for mysteries when the truth is often right out in the light of day.
V -- The Hierophant
Be thou athlete with the eight limbs of Yoga; for without these thou art not disciplined for any fight.
– The Book of Thoth
Early in February, 1901, in
For instance, after three weeks of daily practice, the Beast recorded in his diary that he had concentrated that day for 59 minutes with exactly 25 "breaks" or wanderings from the triangle: 25 breaks may not sound so great to those who haven't tried this; a single hour, however, will convince them that 3600 breaks, or one per second is close to average for a beginner.
Toward the end of April, the Beast logged 23 minutes with 9 breaks; on May 6th, 32 minutes and 10 breaks. I repeat: anyone who think Acid or Jesus or Scientology has remade his or her life ought to attempt a few weeks of this; it is the clearest and most humiliating revelation of the compulsive neurosis of the "normal" ego.
On August 6 the Beast arrived in Ceylon, still working on daily dharana – oh yes, in Honolulu he'd had an affair with a married woman, later celebrated in his sonnet sequence Alice: An Adultery, published under the auspices of his fictitious "Society for the Propagation of Religious Truth": his critics always mention that, to prove that he wasn't sincere; one sometimes gets the cynical notion that these critics are either eunuchs or hypocrites.
Under the guidance of Sri Parananda and an old friend, Allan Bennett, now the Buddhist monk Maitreya Ananda, he plunged into the other "seven limbs" of yoga. I say that his mountain-climbing involved less self-discipline. I will not argue; I will give a hint only. Here are the first two steps in beginning to do pranayama:
1. Learn to breathe through your two nostrils alternately. When this becomes easy, practice exhaling through the right nozzle for no less than 15 seconds and then inhaling through the left orifice for a like time. Practice until you can do this without strain for 20 or 30 minutes.
2. Now begin retention of breath between inhalation and exhalation. Increase the period of retention until you can inhale for 10 seconds, retain for 30 second and exhale for 20 seconds. This proportion is important: if you inhale for as long as, or longer than, the exhalation, you are screwing up. Practice until you can do this - comfortably - for an hour.
Got it? Good; now you are ready to start doing the real exercises of pranayama. For instance, you can add the "third limb," asana, which consists of sitting like a rock, no muscle moving anywhere; the Hindus
recommend starting with a contortion that seems to have been devised by Sacher-Masoch himself, but choose a position that seems comfortable at first, if you want - it will turn into Hell soon enough.
All this has a point, of course; when pranayama and asana mastered, you can begin to do dharana without constant humiliating failures. Congratulations: now you can add the other "five limbs." Of course, the temptation (especially after your foot is no longer merely asleep but has progressed to a state gruesomely reminiscent of rigor mortis) is to decide that "There isn't anything in yoga after all" or "I just can't do it" and maybe there's something in Christian Science or the Process or probably another acid trip would really get you over the hump.*
Footnote: *Oh yes, brethren and sistern, we have known people capable of much
rationalization. Back in 1901, even, the Beast discovered that some of
the "lesser yogis," as he called them, used hashish to fuel the last
gallop from dharana to dhyana;
and he later recommended this to his own disciples - but always with the
provision that the results so obtained should be regarded as an indication and
foreshadowing of what was sought, not as a substitute for true
attainment. The Beast achieved dhyana,
the non-ego trance, on October 2, 1901, less than 8 months after beginning
serious dharana in
VI -- The Lovers
...rest in Simplicity, and listen in the Silence. – The Book of Thoth
This may be getting heavy, but it has to be endured for a while before the band starts playing again. Specifically, we should have some understanding of what we mean by dhyana and what the Beast has accomplished in those 8 months. The best analysis is probably that given by the Wickedest Man in the World himself in his Confessions:
"The problem is how to stop thinking; for the theory is that the mind is a mechanism for dealing symbolically with impressions; its construction is such that one is tempted to take these symbols for reality. "That is, we manufacture units such as the inch, the chair, the self, etc., in order to organize our sense-impressions into coherent wholes, but the mind which performs this kind service is so built that it cannot then escape its own constructs. Having imagined inches and chairs and selves, the mind then perceives them "out there" in the physical world and finds it hard to credit that they exist only in the mind's own sorting machinery. "Conscious thought, therefore, is fundamentally false and prevents one from perceiving reality. The numerous practices of yoga are simply dodges to help one acquire the knack of slowing down the current of thought and ultimately stopping it altogether."
The mind's self-hypnosis, of course, arises anew as soon as one comes out of dhyana. One never retains the ego-less and world-less essence of dhyana; one retains an impression thereof polluted by the mind's pet theories and most resonant images. The Beast calls this adulterated after-effect of dhyana "mixing the planes" and regards it as the chief cause of the horrors perpetrated by religious nuts on the rest of us throughout history:
"Mohammed's conviction that his visions were of imperative importance to "salvation" made him a fanatic... The spiritual energy derived from the high trances makes the seer a formidable force; and unless he be aware that interpretation is due only to the exaggeration of his own tendencies of thought, he will seek to impose it on others, and so delude his disciples, Pervert their minds and prevent their development... "In my system the pupil is taught to analyze all ideas and abolish them by philosophical skepticism before he is allowed to undertake the exercises that lead to dhyana."
By 1904, the Beast had come to the conclusion that all he had seen and performed, among the Magicians and among the yogis, could be explained by combining the known psychology with the emerging beginnings of psycho-chemistry. He had pushed mysticism as far as one can, and retained his Victorian Rationalism.
the cataclysm of
VII -- The Chariot
The Issue of the Vulture, Two-in-One, conveyed; this is the Chariot of Power.
– The Book of Thoth
Ever since his initiation into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1898, the Beast has been practicing astral voyaging almost daily. This is considerably easier than pranayama, asana, dharana, and it's good clean fun even from the beginning.
If you are an aspirant, or a dupe, merely sit in a comfortable chair, in a room where you won't be interrupted, close you eyes, and slowly envision your "astral body," whatever the blazes that is, standing before you. Make every detail clear and precise; any fuzziness can get you into trouble later.
Now transfer your consciousness to this second body - I don't know why, but some people stick at this point - and rise upward, through the ceiling, through the other rooms in the building, through the stratosphere, until you have left the physical universe entirely - to hell with it, Nixon and his astronauts are taking it over anyway - and find yourself in the astral realm, where NASA isn't likely to follow with their flags and other tribal totems.
Approach any astral figures you see and question them closely, especially about any matters of which you wish knowledge not ordinarily available to you.
Return to the earth-body, awake, and record carefully that which has transpired. The diary of such astral journeys, carefully transcribed, is the key to all progress in High Magick, once the student learns to decipher his own visions.
The skeptical reader, if there are any skeptics left in this gullible generation, might point out that this process begins as an exercise of imagination and that there is no reason to think it ever crosses the line to reality. Quite so: but that objection does not diminish the value of the visions obtained.
The Beast has been at some pains to write a little book called "777" which is a copious catalog, in convenient table form, of the 32 major "astral planes" and their typical scenery, events and inhabitants. Using one's own Magical Diary and the tables in "777" together with a few standard reference works on comparative religion, one can quickly discover where one has been, who has been there before and what major religions were founded on the basis of some earlier visitor's account of what he had seen there.
One need not hold any occult hypothesis about these visions; you can even say that you have been exploring Carl Jung's "Collective Unconscious" - or, more fashionably, that you have been deciphering the ethological record of the DNA code (Tim Leary's favorite theory about LSD voyages, which fits these astral trips just as neatly). The important discipline is to avoid "mixing the planes" and confusing your explanation with the actual vision itself; or, as the Beast says in Liber O:
"In this book it is spoken of the Sephioth, and the Paths, of Spirits and Conjurations; of Gods, Spheres, Planes and many other things which may or may not exist.
"It is immaterial whether they exist or not. By doing certain things certain results follow; students are most earnestly warned against attributing objective reality or philosophical validity to any of them...
"The Student, if he attains any success in the following practices, will find himself confronted by things (ideas or beings) too glorious or too dreadful to be described. It is essential that he remain the master of all that he beholds, hears, or conceives; otherwise he will be the slave of the illusion and the prey of madness…
"The Magician may go a long time being fooled and flattered by the Astrals that he has himself modified or manufactured... He will become increasingly interested in himself, imagine himself to be attaining one initiation after another. His Ego will expand unchecked, till he seems to himself to have heaven at his feet..."
The teachers of Zen have the proper
tactics against this danger of grandiosity:
Having watched the decline into dogmatism and self-aggrandizement of various heroes of the New Wave of dope and occultism, some of us are maybe ready to see that the Beast's incessant profane mockery against himself and his Gods was a necessary defense against this occupational hazard of the visionary life.
But then came the Mystification of
Cairo - and beyond it, the Mindfuck in
VIII – Adjustment
Balance against each thought its exact opposite. For the Marriage of these is the Annihilation of Illusion.
– The Book of Thoth
In March, 1904, the Beast and his first
wife, Rose, were in
It soon developed that some god or
other was trying to communicate;
Like: "What are his moral
qualities?" "Force and fire."
"What opposes him?" "Deep blue" - until one god emerged
that fit the box just as sure as Clark
The Beast then took Rose to the
Sorry about that, fellow rationalists.
And, of course, alas and goddam it, 666 - the Number of the Beast in St. John's Revelations - was Crowley's own magick number and had been for years.
Those who want to invoke the word "coincidence" to cover the rags of their ignorance are welcome to do so. Some of us have a new word lately, synchronicity, coined by no less than psychologist Carl Jung and physicist Wolfgang Pauli - and I've read their books and must admit I came out as confused as I went in; as far as this brain can comprehend, coincidence is meaning-less correspondence, and synchronicity is meaning-ful correspondence, and if that makes you feel superior to the custard-headed clods who still say coincidence, you're welcome to it.
And there's more: when the Beast acknowledged Ra-Hoor-Khuit on the other side of the astral phone hook-up, he was turned over to an underling, one Aiwass, an angel, who told him among other things that the true Word of Power isn't abra-ca-dabra but abra-ha-dabra and the letter adds up to 418, which was the number of Crowley's home on Loch Ness in Scotland; and Aiwass's own name adds up to 98, which is also the number of love and will, the two chief words in his total communication, which is known as The Book of the Law - But enough; the proofs, mathematical and cabalistic and coincidental (if you must) run on for pages.
In summary, the Beast had been playing a Game against himself for six years, since 1898, invoking the miraculous and the proving after the fact that it was "only" his mind.
Now he had to begin considering that he had made himself the center of an "astral" field effect, having the qualities of an intelligence greater than his, and signifying same by multi-lingual and numerological correspondences coming not from "inside" but from "outside": Rose's mind, the "independent" decisions of the curators of the Boulak Museum and, then, a certain Samuel bar Aiwass.
For, in 1918,
He was himself no mean cabalist and had tried all sorts of Hebrew synonyms for "beast" but none of them added to anything like 666; yet the answer came in the mail - Tau, Resh, Yod, Vau, Nun, equal 666 - and it was signed Samuel bar Aiwas.
Aiwas is the Hebrew equivalent of Aiwass, and also adds to 93, the number of his Holy Guardian Angel.
But meanwhile came the Chinese Mindfuck.
IX -- The Hermit
Wander alone; bearing the Light and thy Staff. – The Book of Thoth
One day in
The beast, naturlich, was aware that the Buddha had spotted that disturbing fact a long time ago, but suddenly the full import of it hit home to him on an emotional level.
Chew on it: he could not absolutely prove that there was an external world to Aleister Crowley, but merely that there appeared to be a tendency for sense-impressions to organize themselves to suggest such a world, Lord help us; and he could not absolutely demonstrate that there was an "Aleister Crowley" doing this organizing but only that there seems to be a tendency to aggregate internal impressions in such a way as to suggest such an entity. (Get the Librium, mother). All intelligent people have noticed that at one time or another - and quickly brushed it aside, to carry on in the only way that seems pragmatically justified, assuming the reality of the World and the Self.
The Beast, after the workings of his Magick, the experience of his dhyana (in which Self, indeed, had vanished for a time) and his encounter with the ever-lovin' Aiwass, was not satisfied to rest in assuming anything.
There was no absolute proof that he had ever achieved dhyana, for instance, but only a tendency to organize some impressions into a category called "memory and to assume that they corresponded to "real" events in a time called the "past." Nor could reason alone prove that he had seen a "miracle" in "Cairo," or performed "Magick" in "London," or suffered in a "school" run by "Plymouth Brethren," or had a "biological" "relationship" "with" "beings" know as "Father" and "Mother."
"About now," he scribbled in his diary on November 19, "I may count my Speculative Criticism of the Reason as not only proved and understood, but realized. The misery of this is simply sickening - I can write no more."
He started on a walking journey
And it wasn't six or ten hours in
his case; it lasted four solid months, while
Manson, hell; you could turn into Nixon that way.
X – Fortune
The axle moveth not; attain thou that. – The Book of Thoth
The Beast described this 120-Days-of-Bedlam in a poem called Aha!:
The sense of all I hear is drowned;
Tap, tap, tap and nothing matters!
Senseless hallucinations roll
Across the curtain of the soul.
Each ripple on the river seems
The madness of a maniac's dreams!
So in the self no memory-chain
Or casual wisp to bind the straws!
The Self disrupted! Blind, insane,
Both of existence and of laws,
The Ego and the Universe
Fall to one black chaotic curse...
As I trod the trackless way
Through sunless gorges of
I became a little child!
"The are waiting for you," Rose, in a trance, had said, a year earlier. "It's about the Child."
Israel Regardie, a biographer sympathetic to Crowley, but dubious about the existence of the A.A. (the Third Order, or Great White Brotherhood, behind the Rose of Ruby and Cross of Gold) comments thoughtfully, "I do not wholly understand this."
Herman Hess, who described the Third Order very clearly in Journey to the East, gives the formula for initiation in Steppenwolf:
PRICE OF ADMISSION:
XI – Lust
Mitigate Energy with Love; but let Love devour all things. – The Book of Thoth
One act remained in the drama of
initiation: the achievement of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy
Guardian Angel. This most difficult of all magical operations had been
started anew even before
Sometime after his return to England, the Beast arranged to have George Cecil Jones "crucify" him (I am not totally sure what this means, but suspension on a cross, even via ropes, gets quite painful in a very short while) and, while hanging on the cross, he swore an oath as follows: "I,Purdurabo, a member of the Body of Christ, do hereby solemnly obligate myself... and will entirely devote my life so as to raise myself to the knowledge of my higher and Divine Genius that I shall be He."
I n Chapter 9, "The Redemption of Frank Bennett," in The Magick of Aleister Crowley, John Symonds tells how with a few words Crowley brought a species of Samadhi or Satori to Frank Bennett, a magician who had been striving unsuccessfully for that achievement over many decades.
The words wore, in effect, that the Real Self or Holy Guardian Angel is nothing else but the integration that occurs when the conscious and subconscious are no longer segregated by repression and inhibition. It is only fair to warn seekers after either-or answers that in Magick Without Tears Crowley flatly denies this and asserts that the Angel is a separate "Being... of angelic order... more than a man..."
After the Crucifixion, the King of Depravity went on plowing his way through the required 180 days (the essence of the Abra-Melin operation is "Invoke Often") and adding other various techniques.
On October 9, 1906 The Beast recorded in his Magical Diary:
"Tested new ritual and behold it was very good... I did get rid of everything but the Holy Exalted One, and must have held Him for a minute or two. I did. I am sure I did."
On October 10, he added: "I am still drunk with Samadhi all day." And a few days later, "Once again I nearly got there - all went brilliance - but not quite." By the end of the month, there was no longer any doubt. Eight years after commencing the practice of Magick, Aleister Crowley had achieved the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.
XII -- The Hanged Man
And, being come to the shore, plant thou the Vine and rejoice without shame. - The Book of Thoth
The Beast lived on for 41 more years, and did work many wonders and quite a few blunders in the world of men and women. In 1912, he became the English head of the Ordo Templi Orientis, a secret Masonic group tracing direct decent from Knights Templar. In 1915, he achieved a vision of the total explanation of the universe, but afterwards was only able to record, "Nothing, with twinkles - but WHAT twinkles."
In 1919, he founded the Abbey of Theleme in
Somewhere along the line, he became the Master of the A.A. or Great White Brotherhood (assuming it ever existed outside his own head, which some biographers doubt) and began teaching other Magicians all over the world.
He married, and divorced, and married, and divorced.
He wrote The Book of Thoth, in which, within the framework of a guide to divination by Tarot cards, he synthesized virtually all the important mystical teachings of East and West; we have used it for our chapter-heads.
He landed on
He wrote The Book of Lies, a collection of mind-benders that would flabbergast a Zen Master, including the pregnant question, "Which is Frater Perdurabo and which is the Imp Crowley?" He got hooked on heroin; kicked it; got hooked again; kicked again; got hooked again...
He died, and his friends buried him with a Gnostic Catholic Mass which the newspapers called Black.
But he is best remembered for writing in 1928 in Magick in Theory and Practice that the most potent invocation involves human sacrifice, that the ideal victim is "a male child of perfect innocence and high intelligence," and that he had performed this rite an average of 150 times per year since 1912.
XIII – Death
... all Acts of Love contain Pure Joy. Die daily. – The Book of Thoth
Even his bitterest critics (except Rev. Montague Sumners, who was capable of believing anything) admit that it's unlikely that a man whose every move was watched by newspapers and police could polish off 150 victims a year without getting caught; but they are, most of them, not above adding that this ghastly jest indicates the perversity of his mind, and, after all (summoning those great and reliable witnesses, Rumor and Slander) there was some talk about Sicilian infants disappearing mysteriously when he was running his Abbey of Thelema there...
We have got to come to a definitive conclusion about this matter or we will never grasp the meaning of his life, the value of his Magick, the cause of his vilification, or the true meaning of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.
XIV – Art
... make manifest the
Virtue of that
In 1912, we said, the Beast became
English head of the Ordo Templi
Orientis. This occurred in a quite interesting
manner: Theodore Reuss, Head of that Order in
The Beast (who had been publishing some of the secrets of the English Rosicrucians - but this wasn't one of them) protested that he didn't know anything about the O.T.O. and its mysteries. Reuss then proclaimed that the Beast did know, even if he had discovered it independently, and that he must accept membership in the 9th degree with the accompanying pledges and responsibilities.
The Beast, who was already a
33-degree Freemason, thanks to a friend in
"Now the O.T.O. is in possession of one supreme secret," the Beast writes in his Confessions. "The whole of its systems... was directed towards communicating to its members, by progressively plain hints, this all-important instruction. I personally believe that if this secret, which is a scientific secret, were perfectly understood, as it is not even by me after more than twelve years' almost constant study and experiment, there would be nothing which the human imagination can conceive that could not be realized in practice."
Israel Regardie, the Beast's most perceptive biographer, comes close to revealing the secret in a book called The Tree of Life. However, he remarks that the method in question is "so liable to indiscriminate abuse and use in Black Magic" that it is not safe to reveal it directly; he therefore employs a symbolism which, like a Zen riddle, can be decoded only after one had achieved certain spiritual insights.
Charlie Manson understands at least
part of this Arcanum of Arcanums; his misuse of it is
a classic example of the danger warned of by
The secret, of course, is the formula of the Rose and Cross which, as Frazier demonstrated in The Golden Bough, is the magic foundation under all forms of religion.
XV -- The Devil
With thy right Eye create all for thyself... – The Book of Thoth
A word about Evil; the Beast's frequent injunctions to "explore every possibility of the Self" and realize your True Will etc. have often been misunderstood, especially when quoted out of context, in which case he sounds battier than those armchair enthusiasts of mayhem and murder, Stirner and Nietzsche and Sorel.
But the Beast was not an armchair philosopher, but rather an explorer, mountain-climber and big-game hunter who knew violence and sudden death well enough to call by their first names; he did not romanticize them. Her are his actual instructions about Evil from Liber V, an instruction manual of the A.A.:
"The Magician should devise for himself a definite technique for destroying "evil." The essence of such practice will consist in training the mind and body to confront things which cause fear, pain, disgust, shame and the like. He must learn to endure them, then to become indifferent to them, then to become indifferent to them, then to analyze them until they give pleasure and instruction, and finally to appreciate them for their own sake, as aspects of Truth. When this has been done, he should abandon them if they are really harmful in relation to health or comfort...
"Again, one might have a liaison with an ugly old woman until one beheld and love the star which she is; it would be too dangerous to overcome this distaste for dishonesty by forcing oneself to pick pockets. Acts which are essentially dishonorable must not be done; they should be justified only by calm contemplation of their correctness in abstract cases."
Digest carefully that last sentence. These shrewd and pragmatic counsels are not those of a bloody-minded fool.
XVI - The Tower
Break down the fortress of thine Individual Self that thy Truth may spring free from the ruins.
– The Book of Thoth
Now, The Morning of the
Magicians by Pauwels and Bergier
was a best-seller, especially in the hip neighborhoods, so I can assume that
many of my readers are aware of the strange evolution of some forms of Rosicrucianism and Illuminism in
It is, in fact, not only possible but probable that the attempted extermination of European Jewry was not only the act of insane racism but a religious offering to gods who demanded rivers of human blood.
The same psychology possessed by the Aztecs toward the end. The omens, the oracles, the astrological skryings all pointed to doom, and the blood sacrifices correspondingly multiplied exponentially, hysterically, incredibly… and south in Yucatan much earlier, the Mayans, who always tired to restrict the blood sacrifice to one or two a year, deserted their cities for an unknown reason and fled back to the jungle; they shared the same astrological beliefs as the Aztecs, and it is plausible to suggest that they ran away from a similar oracle telling them that only more blood could preserve the empire.
In fact - I note this only for the
benefit of future students of paranoia - a similar theory about our own
glorious rulers has sometimes crossed my own mind. Why not? Every
time an S-M club is raided by the fuzz, the newspapers mutter vaguely that
among the clientele were "prominent" and "high-placed"
individuals; and don't ever tell me,
Is this the answer to the question
we all keep asking - year after unbelievable year, with growing disgust and
despair and dementia - Why are we in
XVII - The Star
…burn up thy thought as the
And, yes, there is a link between
"In any case it was the theory of ancient Magicians that any living being is a storehouse of energy varying in quantity according to the size and health of the animal and in quality according to its mental and moral character. At the death of the animal this energy is liberated suddenly.
"For the highest spiritual working one must accordingly choose that victim which contains the greatest and purest force. A male child of perfect innocence and high intelligence is the must satisfactory and suitable victim."
A footnote is appended here, not at the end of this sentence but attached to the word "intelligence." This footnote is perhaps the most famous sentence the Beast ever wrote:
"It appears from the Magical
Records of Frater Perdurabo
This certainly seems clear, and horrible, enough, but the chapter concludes with the following further remarks:
"You are also likely to get in trouble over this chapter unless you truly comprehend its meaning…
"The whole idea of the word Sacrifice, as commonly understood, rests upon an error and superstition, and is unscientific. Let the young Magician reflect upon the conservation of Matter and of Energy…
"There is a traditional saying that whenever an Adept seems to have made a straightforward, comprehensible statement, then it is most certain that He means something entirely different…
"The radical error of all uninitiates is that they define "self" as irreconcilably opposed to "not-self." Each element of oneself is, on the contrary, sterile and without meaning, until it fulfils itself, by "love under will," in its counterpart in the Macrocosm. To separate oneself from others is to lose that self - its sense of separateness - in the other."
The chapter, let us remember, is called "Of the Bloody Sacrifice: and Matters Cognate," and the Beast was a precise, almost pathologically sensitive, stylist. If the whole discussion was about the "bloody sacrifice," where the duce are the "matters cognate"? And why does the footnote modify "male child of perfect innocence and high intelligence" instead of the last word in the sentence, "victim"?
Let us review: The Beast originally failed in the invocation of the Holy Guardian Angel; his final success came after:
(a) his success in both the physical and mental disciplines of yoga.
(b) the achievement of accomplished skill in astral voyaging, and
(c) the death of the mind in China, after which he himself became "a little child;" the new ritual which successfully invoked the Angel in 1906 was the same which the Ordo Templi Orientis had kept as a secret for unknown centuries - presumably, other occult groups here and there, like the Beast, have also discovered it independently; because of his oath as a 9th degree member of the O.T.O., the Beast could not disclose it publicly; due to his love of both poetry and cabalism, we can be sure that the code in which he hints at it - the language of bloody sacrifice - would have some innate and existential (not merely accidental) correspondence with the true secret. Finally, the ritual seems somehow connected with "love under will" and losing (the) self - its sense of separateness - in the other."
But some readers already know the secret and others have guessed…
XVIII - The Moon
Let the Illusion of the world pass over thee, unheeded. – The Book of Thoth
Ezra Pound has remarked somewhere that Frazer's Golden Bough, all 12 fat volumes, can be condensed into a single sentence, to wit: All religions are either based on the idea that copulation is good for the crops or one the idea that copulation is bad for the crops.
In fact, one can generalize that even the highest forms of mysticism are similarly bifurcate, some going back to ideas derived from the orgy and some to ideas derived from the ritual murder.
Leo Frobenius, in a series of heavy Germanic treatises on anthropology still untranslated from the Deutsch, has demonstrated, or attempted to demonstrate, a periodic oscillation between these two systems of magick, which he calls Matriarchal and Patriarchal. Two spin-offs from the Frobenius thesis in English are Joseph Campbell's The Masks of God and Rattray Taylor's Sex In History.
The Beast himself (aided by the handy revelations of friend Aiwass) suggests that magicko-religious history, at least in the Occident, has passed through The Age of Isis(primitive matriarchy), the Age of Osiris or the Dying God (civilized patriarchy, including Christianity) and is presently entering The Age of Horus, the Crowned and Conquering Child, in which woman will appear" no longer the mere vehicle of the male counterpart, but armored and militant."
How's that for a prophecy of Women's Lib?
Thus, if the orgy is the sacrament of The Age of Isis, as Frazer indicates, the dying god - or the dying population - is the sacrament of the Age of Osiris. The link between ritual sex and ritual murder is not merely historical or sequential: they are the same sacrament in two different forms.
And the latter becomes magically necessary whenever the former is no longer functionally possible [unreadable] chenever. That is, orgasm is no longer a true [although temporary] "death" and becomes only the "sneeze of the genitals" which all forms of psychotherapy are admittedly or overtly trying to alleviate.
It is a truism that, on the psychological plane, repressed or unsatisfied sex seeks relief in sadism or masochism: it is more true on the astral or magical plane (whatever that is) that is the spiritual spasm cannot be found through love, it must be sought in violence.
And so we see that human sacrifice is the characteristic sacrament of such peoples as the Aztecs (read any history of Mexico to find out how much male chauvinism, prudery and Nixonian macho they wallowed in), the Holy Inquisitors of the middle ages, the Nazis, and some power elites closer to home; while matriarchal cultures such as the Danubians of pre-historic Europe, the pre-Chou folk of China, the first dwellers in the fertile crescent, etc have left behind clear evidence of an equal and opposite ritualized eroticism, some of which has survived via the Taoists in china, The Tantrists in India, the "Old Religion" or witch cult in Europe...
But the Beast was not trying to reinstate the Age of Isis, like these; his magick, he tells us again and again, is preparation for the Age of Horus.
XIX – The Sun
Make Speech and Silence, Energy and Stillness, twin forms of thy play. – The Book of Thoth
Even outside the Manson Family,
there is a lot of religious balling going on these days by people who have
rediscovered part of the ritual of
"The Cup is said to be full of the Blood of the Saints; that is, every 'saint' or magician must give the last drop of his life's blood to that cup (in) the true Bridal of the Rosy Cross...
"It is a woman whose Cup must be filled. It is...the sacrifice of the Man, who transfers life to his descendents...For it is his whole life that the Magus offers to Our Lady. The Cross is both Death and Generation, and it is on the Cross that the Rose blooms..."
The sacrifice must be a real death, a true Rosy Crucifixion, if it is to replace the more violent magic of the Osirian Age. I forbear further quotation, for the secret is concealed beneath many a veil throughout the Beast's works, but it involves at least: a mastery of pranayama, allowing the postponement of orgasm until the magick working is performed at length and in properly exalted enthusiasm; skill in astral voyaging, so the astral body may be busy in its own plane also; perfection in dharana, so that one ray of the mind remains in perfect coordination on the symbol of the Holy Guardian Angel.
What happens, then, can be considered either the true, natural oceanic orgasm which the Patriarchal Age has tended to destroy - or a new and artificial creation produced by this complicated yoga. It's the same debate we hear endlessly about acid: does it restore our "natural" form of perception, or does it "artificially" create a new form?
And, thus, we can understand Horus, the Crowned and Conquering Child, who is being created. He is "the Child" that Rose's Cairo vision invoked; the “little child" that the Beast became after his bad trip to China; "the male child of perfect innocence and high intelligence" who was sacrificed an hundred and fifty times a year after 1912; the Beast himself; and also Aiwass, the Holy Guardian Angel, both an internal aspect of Crowley's mind and a separate "Being...of angelic order...more than a man," for the question posed by the materialist ("Inside or outside? Subjective or objective?") loses meaning in that trance of Samadhi where all the opposites are transcended into a unity that is also a void.
XX – The Aeon
Be every Act an Act of Love and Worship. – The Book of Thoth
In an early issue of his magazine Equinox, the Beast wrote with uncharacteristic solemnity:
I. The world progresses by virtue of the appearance of Christs (geniuses).
II. Christs (geniuses) are men with super-consciousness of the highest order.
III. Super-consciousness of the highest order is obtainable by known methods.
Therefore, by employing the quintessence of known methods we cause the world to progress.
In the first issue, in a more characteristic vein, he wrote:
We place no reliance
On Virgin or Pigeon
Our method is Science
Our aim is Religion
He did his work seriously and humorously, stubbornly and flexibly, wisely and sometimes unwisely, synthesizing – from High Magick and from yoga, from Cabalism and the Koran, from experiments with hashish and peyote and nitrous oxide to years of study of the Tarot and comparative religion, slowly extracting "the quintessence of known methods."
After him came Wilhelm Reich, who discovered the same quintessence independently, and was also hounded, vilified and slandered. And after Reich was Timothy, who finally let the djinn out of the bottle and in a decade changed the face of the world by a century's worth.
But the Beast started the Revolution, and some of us now see that it is the essential Revolution, far more important than that of economics, and that he and his good buddy Aiwass defined it better than Marx or even better than the frontal-lobe anarchists, when they (he?) wrote in The Book of the Law:
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law…
To worship me take wine and strange drugs whereof I
will tell my prophet, & be drunk thereof!…
There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt…
It is a lie, this folly against self…
I am alone: there is no God where I am…
Every man and every woman is a Star…
The word of Sin is restriction…
Remember all ye that existence is pure joy;
that all the sorrows are but shadows; they pass
and are done; but there is that which remains…
Love is the law, love under will…
For the Age of the Child is upon us; and those who seek to preserve the Aeon of Osiris and death are themselves only dying dinosaurs.
XXI – The Universe
And blessing and worship to the prophet of the lovely Star. – The Book of Thoth
And yet – and yet – Manson reminds us, our brothers and sisters in the Movement remind us, sometimes our own unexpected behavior reminds us: there have been such millennial voices often in the past and they have been heralds not of a Golden Dawn but only of a false dawn.
If there is on central lesson to be learned from the Beast, it is not really Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law, which has been around since Rabelais; not even the more profound and gnomic Every man and every woman is a Star; not even the formula of the Perfect Orgasm for which Norman has been searching so loudly and forlornly lo! these many years; it is rather his humor, his skepticism, his irony that reveled in the title of Beast and, even, at times, Ass; the rationality that warned against becoming "the prey of madness" by trusting one's visions too quickly, and the common sense which said that, even if good and evil are identical on the Absolute plane, a man operating on the relative plane simply doesn't enjoy a toothache or invent rationalizations to pick a brother's pocket; the solemn warning that the sacrament is not completed until the Magician offers "the last drop of his life's blood" to the Cup, and dies; but, above all these, the simple historical record which reveals that with all the ardor, all the dedication, all the passion he possessed, it still took eight years (including four months' madness) before he broke down the wall that separates Ego from the true Self and that Self from the Universe.
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