By Aleister Crowley

Chapter LXXVII: Work Worthwhile: Why?

Cara Soror,

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

Your remarks on my 0 = 2 letter are very apt and inspiriting—that is if I have rightly understood what you want to say.  (Really, you know, they are a bit muddled—or I am!)  May I frame your question, if it is a question, in my own terms?  Yes?  Right.

You say that I have advanced an invulnerable theory of the Universe in philosophical and mathematical language, and you suppose (underlined three times with two question marks) that one could, with a great effort, deduce therefrom perfectly good reasons for an unswerving contemplation of one's umbilicus, or the performance of strange dances and the vibration of mysterious names.  But what are you to say (you enquire) to the ordinary Bloke-on-the-Boulevard, to the man of the world who has acquired a shrewd knowledge of Nature, but finds no rational guide to the conduct of life.  He observes many unsatisfactory elements in the way things go, and for his own sake would like to "remould them nearer to the heart's desire,  to refurbish the cliché of Fitzgerald about "this sorry scheme of things."  He is not in the least interested in the learned exposition of 0 = 2.  But he is aware that the A∴ A∴ professes a sound solution of the problem of conduct and would like to know if its programme can be justified in terms of Common Sense.

As luck would have it, only a few weeks ago I was asked to address a group of just such people—and they gave me three-quarters of an hour's notice. It was really more like ten minutes, as the rest of the time was bespoke by letter-writing and posting which could in no wise be postponed.

So I had to devise an adequate gambit, one which ruthlessly excluded any touch of subtlety, or any assumption of previous knowledge of the subject on the part of the audience.

It came off.  For the first time in history, the laymen elicited intelligent and relevant questions.  There were only three half-wits in the five score or so persons present, and these (naturally!) were just those people who claimed to have studied the subject.

What follows is a rough outline of my argument.

I began by pointing out that Nature exercises many forms of Energy, which are not directly observable by the senses.  In fact, the History of Science for the last hundred and fifty years or so has consisted principally of the discovery of such types, with their analysis, measurement and manipulation.  There is every reason to suppose that many such remain to be discovered.

But what has in no case been observed is any trace of will or of intelligence, except through some apparatus involving a nervous and cerebral system.

At this point I want especially to call your attention to certain species of animals (bees and termites are obvious cases) where a collective consciousness seems to exist, since the community acts as a whole in evidently purposeful ways, yet the units of that community are not even complete in themselves.  (Isn't there some series of worms, each sub-type able only to subsist on the excrement of its preserver in the series?)

Then there are the phenomena of mob psychology, where a crowd gleefully combine to perform acts which would horrify any single individual.  And there is the exceeding strange and interesting psychology of the "partouse"—this is a little more, in my judgment, than a spinthria.

In all such cases the operative consciousness does not reside in any single person, as one might argue that it did when an orator "carries away" his audience.  But these remarks have rather shunted one into a siding away from the main line of argument.  My most important point is to insist that even with the most familiar forms of energy, man has done no creative work so ever.  He has discovered, examined, measured (rather clumsily) and used, but in no case has he understood, still less explained, the causes of phenomena.  Sometimes he cannot even reconcile different "laws of Nature."  So we find J.W.N. Sullivan exclaiming "The scientific adventure may yet have to be abandoned," and to me personally he confessed "It may yet turn out that the mathematical approach to Reality may have to be supplanted by the Magical."

Now in Nature it leaps at one that Will and Intelligence are behind phenomena.  My old friend and colleague Professor Buckmaster, who wrote a book on "Blood" which, he admitted, could not possibly be understood by more than six people, told me that the ingenuity of the structure of the human kidney "almost frightened" him.  Yet in all Nature there is no trace whatever of any purpose such as human mentality can grasp.  Again, apparent purpose often appears to be baffled.  Take one example.  Evolution, working through thousands of years to establish a most subtle scheme of cross-fertilization, found, just as it was perfect, conditions so altered that it was completely useless.

The "law of cause and effect" itself took a death-blow when Hesinger showed that the old formula "If A then B" was invalid, and must be altered to "If A, then B or C or D or E or . . . "

But at least we know enough phenomena to make it certain that Will and Intelligence do exist somehow apart from any nervous and cerebral system of which we are aware, and that these must be of a type which transcends our human consciousness as that does that of a limpet or a lichen. It follows that somehow, somewhere, there must be "gods" or "Masters"—whatever name you like.  And that, I suppose, is what you may call the premise major of my syllogism.

The minor, I confess, is not so apodeictic.  No one, I suppose, is going to point proudly to the present state of human affairs, as evidence that we are all becoming wiser and nobler every minute, as people did seventy years ago.  (I was brought up in the faith that Queen Victoria would never die, and that Consols would never go below par.)

In face, one may suspect that the majority of well-instructed men expect nothing but that History will repeat itself, and our civilization go the way of all the others whose ruins we dig up in every quarter of the earth.

(Our own destruction may be more complete than theirs; for most of the monuments to our intelligence, sobriety and industry are made of steel, and would vanish in a very few years after the smash.)

Well, if we have to wait for the calamity, and for evolution to begin all over again in a number of centuries—with luck!—one thing is at least quite certain: we can do nothing about it.  Any form of activity must be as futile and as fatuous as any other; and the only sensible philosophy must be "Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die."

Is there a conceivable alternative?

Well, consider the cause of the impending collapse.  It is quite simple: Knowledge is loose, without control of Will and of Intelligence.  (How clearly the Qabalah states and demonstrates this doctrine!  But I musn't be naughty; let me stick to Common Sense!)

Now, these qualities in us having failed to measure up to the situation of the world, one hope remains; to get into communication with those "gods" or "masters" whose existence was demonstrated in my Premise Major and learn from Them.

But is this possible?

Tradition and experience unite to assert that it is so; moreover, various forms of technique for accomplishing this are at our disposal.  This is what is called The Great Work; and it is abundantly clear that no other aim is worth pursuit.

So much for the argument; it will be agreed readily enough that to put it into practice we shall need an Alphabet, a Grammar and a Dictionary.  Follow the Axioms, the Postulates, the Theorems; finally, the Experiments.

And that is what all these letters are about.

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.

Next Chapter
Previous Chapter
Back to contents