I go back in time to Fontainebleau. The winter was superb. It rained rarely, and the sun was so strong that even in February we used to picnic in the forest and snatch an hour's sleep upon the hillside. Everything went well.
Little by little Hermes was weaned from his woes; his wail grew less continuous; he began to enjoy life as a child should. I gave him and Dionysus their first lessons in rock climbing. In two or three days they began to find the best way to tackle a crag and to use their muscles to the best advantage. The central principle of my teaching is to compel the pupil to rely on his own resources, and having thus acquired good judgment and confidence, to develop intelligent initiative. One must show them how to choose the best hand holds and foot holds, but not let them acquire the habit of looking for the teacher to tell them what to do. They must be forced to find out for themselves how to meet any possible emergency. It is important to give them from the beginning as great a variety of crags as possible; smooth slabs, rough ridges, narrow chimneys, shallow gullies, straight faces, some with ample holds that they may select the best from the abundance; scanty holds to teach them to make the best use of what scarcely suffices; sound rocks to measure their full strength; smooth faces to teach them the value of friction, and rotten or loose cliffs to exercise their judgment as to what strain they may safely put on a hold and to check a slip when it breaks suddenly away from hand or foot.
Both boys showed a great capacity for cragmanship, but their qualities were very dissimilar and gave me any amount of clues to their moral characters. The soul is one, and in whatever way it expresses itself its characteristics are invariable. Let me watch a boy climbing a cliff, or playing chess, or building sand castles, or listening to music, and I will tell you how he will act when he grows up whether to be a statesman, a soldier, a doctor, a lawyer or an artist. Hermes would look at the cliff which I asked him to climb with cool wary wisdom. He thought out every step one by one, and when he had made up his mind he would execute his plan in every detail as he worked it out. When he had made a mistake of judgment and found himself obliged to improvise, he was bewildered and frightened. At first he used to begin to cry and look round piteously for his mother. The unexpected difficulty threw him right out of his sense of reality. He lost his head and the old instinct of infancy reappeared. He never showed excitement or eagerness to
climb, and after the victory never exulted in the normal fashion of children, but he was suffused with the satisfaction of having demonstrated his ability.
Hermes had nothing in common with his companion. To him a rock was almost like a living thing. His first reaction was a passionate fear, which a few successful climbs transmuted into an equally eager enthusiasm. It suggested the sexual parallel of a boy's shrinking shyness from women turning into an almost spasmodic lust to conquer them. He would tackle a cliff without considering the details, and when he came to a point which his first impetuous assaults failed to carry, he would call upon his genius to come to the rescue, and overcome the obstacle tempestuously. On reaching the top his triumph was pure ecstasy. I found it impossible to get him to use intelligence in choosing his holds. He defied the laws of mechanics. The obviously most suitable projection did not appeal to him. He made his choice at the bidding of an irrational instinct.
It is surely plain common sense and not a mystical fancy to foretell how these two boys will act in the future. Suppose they enter public life. Hermes will never be a Mohammed, nor Dionysus a Colbert. Hermes might write like J. S. Liliel, paint like Verestchavin, rival Ernest Haeckel in biology, or play chess like Qarrasch. Dionysus would rather challenge comparison with Blake, Dandin, or Bolyai, or Capablanca. One is genius, the other talent without a mixture. And I half believe that these two young boys and no others were given to me by the gods as pure example of the two extreme types, so that I might study how best to develop each to its theoretical optimum. If indeed it must be that in the first few years of life, at any rate, all children must be trained alike, the problem may be stated as the discovery of a method applicable to all. We must not stamp down, discourage or deform genius, nor must we try to obtain from talent qualities beyond his scope.
Elsewhere I have laid down the fundamental principles of early education which my experience with these two boys has led me to formulate. My first practical difficulty was to wean them from self-distrust. I had to break up the Oedipus complex. I had to destroy the false and fatal link between mother and son. A child needs a woman to look after him, no doubt, but we found that his own mother was the worst woman possible. Whenever Cypris and Hermes were together the morals of both suffered. She became hysterical with phantom anxieties and he collapsed into an invertebrate jelly quivering with querulous agitation. I trained the four little by little to treat each other as equals. I destroyed the idea of possession. When a child needed attention, I insisted on a spirit of comradeship almost manly in tone. If a wound had to be dressed there must be no slopping over of sympathy. The child must not whimper and abdicate his dignity nor the mother disgrace the dignity of her function as healer. At first I feared that habit and convention would be hard to overcome. But I was surprised how soon all four found their feet. This
self-respect and respect for others made them disclaim the abject attitude which they had supposed natural and right, with this unexpected result: that having got rid of such false ideas as that a child was the property of its mother, in the same sense as a limb to be controlled and used without consulting its inclination; and on the child's part, that it need not face reality but run to its mother for comfort in any trouble, the psychological root of quarrelling, pestering, lying and cringing was torn up and thrown on the bonfire of self-apprehension as a sovereign soul. The boys never cried, never lied, never made themselves a nuisance and never disobeyed. We respected their rights, we conformed to the rules of the Abbey as devised for our protection, and nothing ever happened to create even five minutes' discord after this understanding had been established, which I may say roughly as having taken place by the end of 1920, nine months after the foundation of the abbey. It was really amusing to contrast the calm certainty and inevitable ease of the five founders with the awkwardness, irritability and vacillation of newcomers.
At the end of February, the Ape had passed through the valley of the shadow of birth, and our household was gladdened by the addition of a tiny girl whom we named Ann Léa in honour of the great mother goddess of summer and of the Ape herself. We wanted a pet name and while discussing various suggestions when walking home from the forest, Hermes suddenly broke in, "I shall call her Poupée." This was delightfully apt and was adopted on the spot by acclamation.
The newcomer fulfilled the dearest wish of my heart. As a man only one gift would have seemed more excellent, and yet I dared not give myself over to gladness, for on the birth of the child I had inquired of the Yi King concerning her. She was symbolized by the 41st Hexagram, called Sun, which signifies diminution. My intuition, quickened by meditation upon this symbol, warned me to beware of getting grained to my love for my child, or nourishing my human hope upon her. As ever, the Yi made no error; despite every effort she never took firm hold of life. She grew feebler and frailer constantly, and in the second week of October bade us farewell.
Weak fool that I am! I would not accept the warning of the wisdom of the "Yi". I set my teeth and swore that she should live. Her helplessness only inflamed my love. I clutched the broken straw of hope more desperately every day, and when at last the axe fell it was as if my own neck had been upon the block. For over a week I could not trust myself to speak. I fought my anguish in silence. The agony of my earlier bereavement came back with tenfold terror. I cannot tell why, insane as I was with grief, I escaped being tempted to revenge myself upon the gods by betraying their trust and breaking my oath of allegiance. It was indeed my most poignant pang to reflect that this was part of the price I had paid for my success in Magick. In my original oath I had pledged myself to pursue the path without withholding the minutest
fraction of my earthly assets or permitting human affection to influence my actions. By this I debarred myself from using my magical power either to procure wealth or in the interests of my natural affection, and thus I was impotent to save the life of my child.
This almost mortal stroke was followed up instantly by an even more atrocious thrust, as I shall tell a little later.
In March, we began to discuss the immediate future. Various considerations decided us to send the Ape to England to stay with my aunt and see to various business details. Cypris and I and the boys were to look for a more or less permanent abode. We consulted the "Yi" with great care, asking successively whether it would be wise to settle in this place or that. The only favourable suggestion was Cefalu.
We reached there on the last day of March. I could not doubt that the gods had guided our steps for finding the hotel so sordid, dirty and disgusting, I swore I would not spend a second night there. The gods rose to the occasion. A man named Giordano Giosus came round after breakfast and said he had a villa to let. Anyone who knows Italy will appreciate the magnitude of this miracle. To get the most trifling business through demands the maximum of good luck at least a month before the first move is made.
Giosus took me up the hill and lo! a villa that might have been made to order. It fulfilled all my conditions; from possessing a well of delicious water to a vast studio opening northwards. The gods took no chances. They meant me to live there and guarded against any possible perversity on my part by planting two tall Persian nuts close to the house. They might have been the very same trees as those in the garden of the Villa Caldarazzo, which, as I have told, I had taken for a token in the days of Ab-ul-Diz. I struck a bargain on the spot, sent for the family, and the furniture with all our belongings were installed the same day. We hired a man to market, cook and clean ship; and there we were as much at home as a mummy in a pyramid, in the loveliest spot of the entire Mediterranean littoral.
A week or two later the Ape arrived, and I began to occupy myself with Magick, poetry and painting on my own account, and on theirs with a systematic training essential to establish the Law as the ethical basis of the new social order of which I intended to construct a working model from such material as the gods might supply.
My cornerstones represented considerable diversity. The Ape was German-Swiss, with long experience of America. Cypris, French; her son's father American, while the other boy was half English. More diverse still were the four personalities. To harmonize them should be most instructive.
I had begun to get them more or less into shape and found out the nature of the essential obstacles to perfect success by the end of June, when I went to Tunis to meet a new disciple.
Since 1918, I had been in correspondence with this lady, Jane Wolfe, of Pennsylvania Dutch stock, about my own age, by profession originally an actress, but now a star of the screen. In order to test her courage I had told her to meet me on the day of the summer solstice at Bou Sada. She cabled consent and then my heart smote me. It was rather rough to ask a woman to take that uncomfortable journey to a place, which at that time of the year was frequented chiefly by the devil and the more favoured of the damned for hell on account of the heat. So I wired and wrote proposing Tunis instead. She never received this message. I stayed a fortnight in Tunis wondering where she could be. She sweated in Bou Sada equally perplexed. In the end she decided to come to Cefalu. The Ape and I met her at Palermo and took her to the abbey --- and then the fun began!
Jane Wolfe was full of fixed ideas about America, of the regular spreadeagle stuff. ("Los Angeles is the modern Athens"!! This actual phrase is hers.) The stars and stripes stood for wisdom, virtue and truth; for spirituality, good manners, progress, civilization --- you know, it goes on till somebody faints. Woodrow Wilson was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and the Hearst newspapers the standard of literary excellence.
Her aspiration was utterly pure, unselfish and all-absorbing. She disdained to count the cost or to seek reward. But alas, in her eagerness she assumed that so long as she ran, it did not much matter which was she was going. She had fallen in with a crowd of charlatans of the vulgarest sort, sheer frauds without knowledge of any one fact about Magick and only concerned to dupe. She accordingly claimed to have received messages from several "Masters on the other side". She showed me this stuff. I have read a lot of rubbish in my life, but nothing in the same street, city, county, country or continent which would stand a moment's comparison for sheer asininity. These "masters" did not even take the trouble to invent plausible accounts of themselves; e.g., there would be a Persian guide named Schmidt and her Chinese master who issued instructions which were on the level of, and quite indistinguishable from, Sunday School exaltation. Her pet persuasion was that she was to travel eastward for three years and after some adventure with a "M. Joperal", an Englishman (the well-known Shropshire or the Essex branch of that typically English tribe), she would proceed to Japan where her destined soul-mate was waiting to marry her, the climax being the birth of a Messiah.
Amid this steaming midden of putrefying manure, I detected rare posies. She had got two or three symbols both intelligible and indicative of initiation.
During her first few weeks at the abbey, every day was one long battle. I hacked through her barbed wire of aggressive axioms. I forced her to confess the incongruity of her assertions. I drilled holes in her vanity and self-satisfaction. I dug her critical spirit out of its corner, and made her clean off
the rust, sharpen the edge and the point, and polish the steel till it shone. When she saw it, she feared it all the more; but I forced her to grasp it and use it. At every stroke she split the skull of one of her dearest delusions and shrieked as if its destruction were her own. She dropped the sword every time my eye was off her, but I always made her pick it up and do some more damage, till at last she found out that killing falsehoods, never so smiling and so like her idea of herself, did not hurt her, but on the contrary freed her, and she also found that the harder she struck at truth the stronger it stood. So in the end, she learnt the value of the critical spirit and made it one of her regular weapons.
Besides this intellectual trouble she suffered from moral maladies of a similar sort. She had always taken for truth any assertion that sounded impressive and seemed to suit her ideas of right and wrong. She was shocked to the limit by our principles and conduct. She gazed with a dropped jaw and glassy eyes, wondering how it was that the frightful catastrophes which were bound to result did not happen. It was a little like those crofters at foyers waiting to see the wrath of God consume the aluminum works that scorned the sabbath. Was she dreaming? Were we really living, loving and laughing, healthy and happy, when, by all rules, we ought to be shrieking with agony in the madhouse, the gaol or the lock hospital! Worse still, she missed all those familiar features to be observed in even the best of families, petty jealousies, scolding, quarrelling, bickering, tyranny and the rest. Can you beat it? Being a woman of sense, it soon struck her that there must be some reason for these strange phenomena, and we took every chance to point out how in any particular case, whose circumstances would have created trouble in other communities, the strict application of the Law of Thelema provided a solution which satisfied all parties. She observed also in her own case that for the first time in her life she was really free to do what she willed. Her only trouble came from her own attempts to interfere with us in the interests of some cold-storage convention, whenever she tried to put forward some opinion or popular principle originally invented to suit medieval conditions, and so cherished through centuries as a fetish, despite its irrelevance to reality.
Let me illustrate this by one case. In her room was a sketch of a famous group in the museum of Naples. It shocked her; blinded her eyes. She could not see what it was, that is, a symphony of exquisitely harmonized lines. The subject obsessed her; whereas we, being trained to seek truth and beauty in each and every impression, saw the implication of the sketch as a secondary and quite unimportant quality. More, granting the subject to suggest the expression of a passion which might or might not be sympathetic, we could at least temper our approval or aversion by reflecting that whatever we personally might feel about it, its right to existence was absolute, exactly as
we acquiesce in the horse, the tiger, the eagle and the snake as equally essential to the perfection of the universe. But to her, perception was paralysed by emotion, and emotion was at the mercy of the idea which assailed it. She was incapable of reasoning about the sketch or even of resisting its influence as being unworthy to occupy her mind. What she thought evil was to her so terrible and irresistible that she surrendered herself to its loathed embrace without an effort, or even the faith in herself or in God that its empire might end.
This attitude is, of course, characteristic of that vast class of moral cowards, whose only remedy for evil is to remove the occasion; whether it is a glass of cognac, a piqu blue blouse or a dollar left lying about. They feel themselves helpless. Sin must follow temptation. Righteousness is only possible in the absence of an alternative. We of Thelema pursue a policy exactly contrary. We resist temptations through the moral strength and the enlightening experience which comes of making a series of systematic experiments with divers iniquities. A Few trials soon teach us that wrongdoing does not pay. We find also that as soon as the arbitrary penalties of misconduct, which society adds to the automatic reaction, are removed, and we do all in our power to mitigate the evil effects, the sting of the serpent loses its virus. It is an old saying that one sin provokes another. This is only true when the sinner, driven into a corner by the avengers, tries to escape by some desperate deed. Thus a boy robs the till to pay for his folly in gambling away his earnings, and being found out is maddened by the thought of jail, sees red and kills his employer. We should rather sterilize sin.
The sense of shame is cowardly and servile. It is based on ignorance that one is a star. "Conscience makes cowards of us all." The man who respects himself will not act unworthily, but if we hammer into his head from infancy that most of his natural impulses are evil, we enslave his spirit. The most natural actions are done furtively. He lurks and lies. Brought up to believe that his right is wrong, he will do what he thinks wrong as easily as what he thinks right. In this way canned ethics breed crime.
Jane Wolfe soon found that we were immune from the effects alleged to follow various causes. Erotic pictures did not stimulate us sexually. Descriptions and illustrations of diseases neither disgusted nor frightened us. The girls did not dress against each other. The new hat of one aroused no envy in her friend. The most cutting criticism made no wound. I would say frankly and even brutally what I thought of this or that trait in one of the girls, and she would take it in the same spirit as a patient submits to the surgeon's knife, knowing first, that whatever I said was inspired by the wish to eliminate error, and secondly that beneath the most ruthless contempt there was absolute respect as due to a star. "If he be a King, thou canst not hurt him." The instant Jane realized that she was a sovereign soul, unique and of
equal splendour to every other, she was no longer hurt by criticisms of the complexes which blasphemed her simplicity and which she had been silly enough to suppose organic functions of her essence.
So passed the summer. With autumn came calamity. I have already told of my own great sorrow. The second sword stroke was that her own inconsolable grief so prostrated the Ape that our hope to retrieve our great loss dragged its anchor. The past had perished and now the future failed us. An operation was necessary to save her own life. My faculties were utterly paralysed. I stood as if petrified in the studio, while in the next room the surgeon drew forth the dead from the living. I shall never forgive myself. I can only say that my brain was benumbed. It was dead except in one part where slowly revolved a senseless wheel of pain. Thus, although I had ether in the house, and I was competent to administer it, it never came into my mind to suggest to the surgeon to use it.
What really pulled me from the pit was the courage, wisdom, understanding and divine enlightenment of the Ape herself. Over and over again, she smote into my soul that I must understand the way of the gods. They had sent our Poupe for their own ends, and she, having accomplished her visit, had gone on her way. One of the principal conclusions to be drawn from the ruin of our earthly joy was this. We must not look to the dead past or gamble with the unformed future; we must live wholly in the present, wholly absorbed in the Great Work, "For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, ..." Only so could will be pure and perfect More grossly, we must understand that being chosen by the gods to do their work for the world, we must no waste our love on any one child. The race of man is our real offspring begotten by my word Thelema upon her vessel of fulfilment thereof, viz: Love. We must train up our child in the way which it should go, foreseeing every danger and providing a safeguard thereto.
By her heroic and inspired interpretation heartened, I set my feet upon my sorrow and used it to make firm my feet. I went on with my work. My energy came back, little by little, and I was able after a time to silence the complain that continually called to my consciousness, but only in the spring did I fight my way to freedom. I had gone to Paris, and went down to Fontainebleau for fresh air and exercise, and also to make a little Magical Retirement. As soon as I sat down to look at myself, I was aware of the old wound. I knew there was only one way. I must open it up and cleanse it thoroughly. I went out northward. On my left, as I came to the city wall, was the hospital where just over a year before, the child was born. I strode fiercely forward with clenched teeth. But at the first breath of forest air the universal sorrow of nature flooded me and I broke out into strong sobbing. I refused to fool myself in any of the familiar ways. I faced it open-eyed. I felt its fullest force in every nerve. So having attained the courage to accept it,
without resistance or resentment, I conquered it. I slew the fiend that had beset me. From that hour to this I have suffered no more. When memory brings it back the sorrow is as a shadow --- the shadow cast by a drifting cloud upon the sea, powerless to darken it, gone swift and silent as it came, leaving no mask, and even adding beauty to the sunlit splendour of the sea by varying its values.
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