Frater Achad, a magical name of Charles Robert John Stansfeld Jones, was, by any account, a remarkable individual. His Liber Thirty-One, which I had the honor of annotating and introducing in its definitive edition a year and a half ago, would alone justify an interest in his career by any New Aeon metaphysician or Qabalist. More controversial by far are the masterpieces of occult lore produced in the 1920’s. These works are often reprinted and more honored in wider circles than among hard core Thelemites. They include the Anatomy of the Body of God, Q.B.L., The Egyptian Revival and several smaller works like I.N.R.I., a short metaphysical masterpiece, and the Chalice of Ecstasy.
Then there is silence. In the 1920’s Achad and Crowley completely broke relations, and Jones seemed to disappear into relative obscurity. As it turns out, however, by his own account his magical initiation continued. He continued to teach a scattering of students loosely organized quietly all over the world. At this same time, occultism was in decline after the collapse of the original Golden Dawn at the turn of the century. So too most of the world, Achad had vanished.
Apparently, even his earlier writings have not received a full hearing. I was astonished to discover that The Equinox had published only a rather small fragment of his A Master of the Temple which, as of this writing remains mostly unpublished. To the initiated, it is obvious that The Equinox has not given us a full accounting of that which one would properly expect from a student of this stature claiming the illustrious Grade of a Master of the Temple, but that the entire work is extant and unpublished is most astonishing.
At the end of 1947, Achad’s acknowledged mentor, Aleister Crowley, passed from life. Suddenly, after 20 and more years of relative silence, we find Achad writing a prolific series of semiprivate letters to Crowley’s agents, successors and friends, detailing a radically differing perspective on Thelema, from its origins in 1904 of the vulgar era to the years immediately following Crowley’s death. These letters are exchanged with such luminaries as Karl Germer, Crowley’s lawful successor as administrator of the Prophet’s magical orders, and most especially with the more sympathetic but uncompromising Gerald Yorke.
Right, wrong, sane, utterly deranged or merely sour grapes, for a furious year or so, an enormous volume of mystical, practical, historical and anecdotal material flows from Achad’s rickety typewriter. He occasionally refers to family, his own health problems, life in Canada in the 1940’s, and to visits to his own students in America. Then, again there is silence. Another year or two passes and Jones, too, has died. His legacy, and any meaningful evaluation of it is lost completely in the magical desert of the 1950’s in which the whole Thelemic tradition in the English-speaking world teetered on oblivion.
The latter would be rescued by the second occult revival of the 1965-1975 period; Crowley would be rediscovered by the efforts of his one-time secretary and life-long admirer Israel Regardie, and his faithful student and chosen champion Grady McMurtry. While Achad had no such partisans, even his published works were back in print. But his early life was displayed exclusively through the lens of Crowley’s more ardent adherents, and his unpublished and quietly circulated work was utterly lost.
I first became aware of the existence of an extensive unorganized correspondence and unpublished Achad literature some years ago quite by chance. A substantial cache of “Achadiana” was given me in exchange for some of my own rather rare files of other occult thinkers and writers by a member of the Sovereign Sanctuary of the O.T.O. acting as agent for an occult archivist in California with an admirably open mind and an interest in Achad, C.F. Russell and other Thelemic “bad boys.” Later, the Frater Superior of the O.T.O. was kind enough to open up his home and his own files to me, and many additional documents were placed in my hand. On one memorable evening I spent the entire night simply copying Achad documents from the Frater Superior’s files, exchanging with him what comparatively little I had at that time. Letters, rituals and documents covering over a 30 year period presented themselves. Other documents came my way through other sources, as my name inevitably became linked to Achad’s with publication of the definitive annotated edition of Liber Thirty-One, and of the previously unpublished monograph, The Conjuration of Kronos. In 1998 my agent in such matters, the editor of this journal, was hosted by the Frater Superior, who provided for me many additional Achad documents.
Much of this material is unsorted and unclassified. I have for years searched for a research assistant with experience in data base work simply to establish an organized system for me to fully integrate this great mass of material. In the meantime, what I hope to do in this column is to offer tantalizing glimpses of Achad’s decidedly unconventional but unmistakably Thelemic world view. I must emphasize: Don’t shoot the messenger (that’s me). I find Achad brilliant, decent, crafty, naive and more than occasionally off the wall. His proposed “Aeon of Truth and Justice” leaves me entirely cold, for example. Yet, I feel, it deserves a hearing more decent than the self-serving filtered version it has gotten from, say, a Kenneth Grant. On the other hand, I find Achad’s notion of Liber AL vel Legis as the latest in a line of revered holy books an eminently wise, eclectic and ecumenical antidote to those who, in their zeal, might throw out the spiritual baby with the bath water.
But my task shall be to introduce you to an undiscovered country; the lost and unpublished world of Frater Achad.