By Aleister Crowley

Chapter XXXIII: The Golden Mean

Cara Soror,

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

You would think that one who like myself has the Sun, the Lord of His Horoscope, in Libra, with Venus who rules that sign in close conjunction with him, with Saturn trine, Uranus sextile, Mars square and Luna quincunx to him, would wear the Golden Mean as a breastplate, flaunt it on my banneret, quarter it on my escutcheon, and grave it on the two-edged blade of my thrice trusty falchion!

Just so, objects that instinct itself!  "Had you been born a few hours earlier, with Aries rising, its lord Mars aggravated by the square of Sol and Venus, you would indeed have been a Wild Man of the Woods, arrogant, bigoted, domineering, incapable of seeing a second side to any question, headstrong, haughty, a seething hell-broth of hate; and this fact disables your judgment."

All perfectly true.  My equable nature is congenitally hostile to extreme measures, except in imagination.  I cannot bear sudden violent movements. Climbing rocks, people used to say that I didn't climb them, that I oozed over them!

This explains, I think, my deep-seated dislike of many passages in The Book of the Law.  "O prophet! thou hast ill will to learn this writing.  I see thee hate the hand & the pen; but I am stronger." (AL II, 10-11)

Well, what is the upshot of all this?  It answers your question about the value to be attached to this Golden Mean.  There is no rule about it; your own attitude is proper for yourself, and has no value for anybody else.  But you must make sure exactly what that attitude actually is, deep down.

Let us go back for a moment to the passage above quoted.  The text goes on to give the reason for the facts.  "Because of me in Thee which thou knewest not.  for why?  Because thou wast the knower, and me."  (AL II, 12-13) The unexpected use or disuse of capitals, the queer syntax, the unintelligibility of the whole passage: these certainly indicate some profound Qabalistic import in these texts.

So we had better mark that Strictly Private, and forget it.

One point, however, we have forgotten: although my Libra inclinations do bias me personally, they also make me fair-minded, "a judge, and a good judge too" in the memorable phrase of the late William Schwenk Gilbert. So I will sum up what is to be said for and against this Golden Mean.

As usual, nobody has taken the trouble to define the term.  We know that it was extolled by both the Greek and the Chinese philosophers; but I cannot see that they meant much more than to counsel the avoidance of extremes, whether of measures or of opinions; and to advocate moderation in all things.

James Hilton has a most amusing Chinese in his Lost Horizon.  When the American 100% he-man, mixer, joiner, and go-getter, agrees with him about broadmindedness in religious beliefs, and ends "and I'm dead sure you're right!" his host mildly rebukes him, saying: "But we are only moderately sure."  Such thought plumbs the Abysses of Wisdom; at least, it may quite possibly do so.  Forgive me if I emulate the teacher!

But this is not as simple as it sounds.  There is great danger in this Golden Mean, one of whose main objects is to steer clear of shipwreck, Scylla being as fatal as Charybdis.  No, this lofty and equable attitude is worse than wrong unless it derives from striking the balance between two very distant opposites.  One of the worst perils of the present time is that, in the reaction against ignorant bigotry, people no longer dare to make up their minds about anything.  The very practice, which the A∴ A∴ so strongly and persistently advocates, tends to make people feel that any positive attitude or gesture is certainly wrong, whatever may be right.  They forget that the opposite may, within the limit of the universe of discourse, amount to nothing.

They fall into flabbiness.

I avoid this—see the example at the very outset of this letter—by saying: "Yes, I hate so-and-so like hell; I want to exterminate the very memory of the bastard from the earth, after I have personally superintended having him 'Seven years a-killing' winding up by hanging, disembowelling, and quartering him.  But of course I'm not necessarily right about this in any sense; it is merely that I happened to be born the kind of man that feels like that!"

Of course, in no case does the Golden Mean advise hesitating, trimming, hedging, compromising; the very object of ensuring an exact balance in your weapon is that its blow may be clean and certain.

You know how all our faults love to disguise themselves as virtues; very often, as what our neighbours call virtues, not what we ourselves think them.  We are all ashamed to be ourselves; and this is sheer, stark stultification. For we are ourselves; we cannot get away from it; all our hypocrisies and shams are just as much part of ourselves as what we like to think is the real man. All that we do when we make these pretenses is to set up internal strain and conflict; there is nothing objective in it.  Instead of adding to our experience, which is the Great Work, we shut ourselves up in this citadel of civil turmoil; it is the Formula of the Black Brothers.

The Golden Mean is more valuable as the extremes which it summarizes are distant from each other; that is the plain mechanics of the lever.  So don't pay too much attention to these remarks; they are no more than the quiet fireside reflections of a man who has spent all his life breaking records.  The Golden Mean at its best can only keep you from extravagant blunders; it will never get you anywhere.

The Book of the Law constantly implies a very different policy; listen to its climax-exhortation:

"But exceed! exceed!"  (AL II, 71)

Remember that which is written: "Moderate strength rings the bell: great strength returns the penny."  It is always the little bit extra that brings home the bacon.  It is the last attack that breaks through the enemy position.  Water will never boil, however long you keep it at 99° C.  You may find that a Pranayama cycle of 10-20-30 brings no result in months; put it up to 10-20-40, and Dhyana comes instantly.  When in doubt, push just a little bit harder.  You have no means of finding out what are exactly the right conditions for success in any practice; but all practices are alike in one respect; the desired result is in the nature of orgasm.

I guess that's about what I think.

Love is the law, love under will.

Yours fraternally,


© Ordo Templi Orientis.  Original key entry by W.E. Heidrick for O.T.O.  HTML coding by Frater T.S. for Nu Isis Working Group.

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