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The years 1907 and 1908 may be described as years of fulfilment. No new current came to stir my life; but the seeds which had been sown in the past came many of them to harvest. I had come to my full stature as a poet. My technique was perfect; it had shaken off from its sandals the last dust which they had acquired by walking in the ways of earlier masters. I produced lyric and dramatic poetry which shows an astounding mastery of rhythm and rime, a varied power of expression which has no equal in the history of the language, and an intensity of idea which eats into the soul of the reader like vitriol.
I should have been assigned publicly my proper place among my peers of the past without difficulty had it not been of one fatal fact. My point of view is so original, my thoughts so profound, and my allusions so recondite, that superficial readers, carried away by the sheer music of the words, found themselves, so to speak, intoxicated and unable to penetrate to the pith. People did not realize that my sonorous similes possessed a subtle sense intelligible only to those whose minds were familiar with the subject. It is, in fact, necessary to study almost any poem of mine like a palimpsest. The slightest phrase is essential; each one must be interpreted individually, and the poem read again until its personality presents itself. People who like my poetry, bar those who are simply tickled by the sound or what they imagine to be the sense, agree that it spoils them for any other poetry.
For instance, if I mention a beetle I expect the reader to understand an allusion to the sun at midnight in its moral sense of Light-in-Darkness; if a pelican, to the legend that she pierces her own breast to feed her young on her heart's bleed; if a goat, to the entire symbolism of Capricornus, the god Pan, Satan or Jesus (Jesus being born at the winter solstice, when the sun enters Capricorn); if a pearl, to the correspondences of that stone as a precious and glittering secretion of the oyster, by which I mean that invertebrate animal life of man, the Nephesch.
It must not be supposed that I am obscure on purpose. I have thought in the language of correspondences continuously, and it never occurs to me that other people have not at their fingers' ends the whole rosary of symbols.
During these two years my domestic tragedy was becoming constantly more acute. Rose told me that she was keeping her word, but it had become impossible to do any work where she was. She was in a state of continual irritation. I was obliged to take rooms in Jermyn Street in order to have a moment to myself. In the autumn of 1907 on returning from Tangiers, I
found that she had obtained one hundred and fifty bottles of whisky from one grocer alone in five months. Confronted with the fact, she broke down and agreed to take a cure for two months, in an establishment at Leicester. At the end of that time I took her climbing for a fortnight and she came back to London in excellent health; but ten days later the disease broke out with redoubled violence. I did everything that was humanly possible; but it was fighting a losing game.
Finally, early in 1909, the doctor threw up the sponge. He told her that she must agree to be sequestrated for two years. She refused: I insisted upon a divorce. I loved her as passionately as ever — more so than ever, perhaps, since it was the passion of uttermost despair. I insisted on a divorce. I would not be responsible for her. I would not stand by and see her commit suicide. It was agreed that I should be defendant as a matter of chivalry, and the necessary evidence was manufactured. I continued, however, to look after her as before; we even stayed together as much as we dared, and I saw her almost every day, either in our house or at my rooms. Directly the divorce was pronounced I returned from Algeria, whither I had gone to be out of the way during the trial, and we were photographed together, with the baby, at the Dover Street studios.
I had written the agony of my soul in Rosa Decidua, which I dedicated to Lord Salvesen (not Salvarsan), the judge who presided at the trial. This poem was printed privately and a copy with the best of the photographs was sent to the judge, with a polite letter of thanks. (It is reprinted in The Winged Beetle, pp. 130-149.) This poem is, perhaps, my high-water mark in realism. It reveals my human self as I had never even attempted to do. I trace my agony through every writhe. I feel compelled to quote a few lines:
<blockquote> > This is no tragedy of little tears.\\ > My brain is hard and cold; there is no beat\\ > Of its blood; there is no heat\\ > Of sacred fire upon my lips to sing.\\ > My heart is dead; I say that name thrice over;\\ > Rose! --- Rose! --- Rose! ---\\ > Even as lover should call to lover;\\ > There is no quickening,\\ > No flood, no fount that flows;\\ > No water wells from the dead spring.\\ > My thoughts come singly, dry, contemptuous,\\ > Too cold for hate; all I can say is that they come\\ > From some dead sphere without me;\\ > Singly they come, beats of a senseless drum\\ > Jarred by a fool, harsh, unharmonious. </blockquote>
But even my utmost realism dared not face the supreme horror. Allan Bennett had written to me to beg me to break off sexual relations with Rose. He knew as I did not, that any child of hers must be under the curse; for, while the baby lay dying in the hospital, its mother was trying to drown her anguish in drink, and it was slowly borne in upon me that the fever was due to the fact that the moment my back was turned Rose had broken out, had neglected to cleanse the nipple of the feeding bottle, and thereby exposed the child to the germs of typhoid. The catastrophe which had stricken the father to the heart was the sister of that which was to perform the same office to the husband.
This poem has everywhere been recognized as overwhelming. E. S. P. Haynes told me that it was the most powerful that he had ever read, and Frank Harris wrote from what he thought was his death bed, “In Rosa Decidua there is more” (“scil”. than in some other poem of which he has been writing) “a despairing view of life — 'beats of a senseless drum — all's filth'. To 'My tongue is palsied … exquisite agony.' Astounding realism raised to art by perfect artistry.”
We went on living together, more or less; but her condition became rapidly worse and in the autumn of 1911 she had to be put in an asylum, suffering from alcoholic dementia.
Another seed of the past began to bear fruit at this time. I had never attempted to transmit my occult knowledge as such. I had never attempted to write prose, as such, apart from short accounts of my climbs, with the exception of the preface to White Stains (Collected Works, vol. II, pp. 195-8). Berashith was my first serious attempt at an essay. That and “Science and Buddhism” were followed by a jeu d'esprit on Shakespeare (Collected Works, vol. II, pp. 185-90); “Pansil” (vol. II, pp. 192-4); “After Agnosticism” (vol. II, pp. 206-8); “Ambrosii Magi Hortus Rosarum” (vol II, pp. 212-24); “The Three Characteristics” (vol. II, pp. 225-32; “The Excluded Middle” (vol. II, pp. 262-6); “Time” (vol. II, pp. 267-82); “The Initiated Interpretation of Ceremonial Magic” (vol. II, pp. 203-4); “Qabalistic Dogma” (vol. I, pp. 265-6); the introduction to Alice, An Adultery (vol. II, pp. 58-61). Some of the ghazals of the Bagh-i-Muattar are in prose, as well as the preliminary matter; and there is Eleusis (vol. III, pp. 219-30).
Most of these were written from a very curious point of view. It was not exactly that I had my tongue in my cheek, but I took a curious pleasure in expressing serious opinions in a fantastic form. I had an instinctive feeling against prose; I had not appreciated its possibilities. Its apparent lack of form seemed to me to stamp it as an essentially inferior means of expression. I wrote it, therefore, in a rather shamefaced spirit. I deliberately introduced bad jokes to show that I did not take myself seriously; whereas the truth was I was simply nervous about my achievement, just as a man afraid to disgrace
himself as a boxer might pretend that the bout was not in earnest. My prose is consequently marred by absolutely stupid blasphemies against itself.
I now began to see that this was schoolboyish bashfulness, and to feel my responsibility as an exponent of the hidden knowledge, to treat my prose as reverently as my verse, and (consequently) to produce masterpieces of learning and wit. The “Dedication and Counter-Dedication” of Knox Om Pax is wholly admirable and it rises to a delightful satirical climax of four stanzas on the “empty-headed Athenians”. “The Wake World” is a sublime description of the Path of the Wise, rendered picturesque by the use of the symbols of the Taro, and charming by its personification of the soul as a maiden. “My name is Lola, because I am the Key of Delights, and the other children in my dream call me Lola Daydream.”
“Ali Sloper; or the Forty Liars” shows traces of my old vulgarity. The dramatis personae contain a lot of bad puns and personal gibes, but the dialogue shows decided improvement; and the “Essay on Truth” is both acute and witty, with few blemishes. “Thien Tao” gives my solution of the main ethical and philosophical problems of humanity with a description of the general method of emancipating oneself from the obsession of one's own ideas, while there are passages of remarkable eloquence.
The last essay in Knonx Om Pax, “The Stone of the Philosophers which is hidden in Abiegnus, the Rosicrucian Mountain of Initiation”, is really beyond praise. Its genesis is interesting. I had written at odd times, but mostly during my travels with the Earl of Tankerville, a number of odd lyrics. The idea came to me that I might enhance their value by setting them in prose. I therefore wrote a symposium of a poet, a traveller, a philosophical globetrotter, an adept, a classical scholar and a doctor. They are made to converse about the chronic calamity of society, and the poems (ostensibly written by one or other of the men) carry on the thought. The result is, in reality, a new form of art; and I certainly assisted the lyrics by giving them appropriate springboards.
In 1903, too, I wrote The Soldier and the Hunchback, ! and ? and //The Psychology of Hashish//. The one goes to the roots of scepticism and mysticism, and represents them as alternative moods, neither valued in itself yet each a complete answer to its predecessor. I show that by perseverance in transcending each in turn, the original crude distinction between affirmation and negation tends to disappear; the supreme doubt is more positive than the more limited assertion.
“The Psychology of Hashish” pleases me more every time I read it. It contains such a wealth of knowledge, it shows such profundity of thought, that I find myself today still wondering how I ever wrote it. I find in it ideas which I am hardly aware that I possess today; how I could have thought
thus at this elementary stage of my career, and written it all down in a single day, is bewildering. It is completely free from any blemishes of the old type. The sublimity of my subject possessed me.
One other seed had fallen upon fertile ground. “The chance of the geologic period” had been seized by Captain John Charles Frederick Fuller, of the First Oxfordshire Light Infantry. It had come his way through the Rationalist Press Association, to whose publications he subscribed. He had not done any serious writing before; his utmost had been a few insignificant articles and poems, which he contributed to the Agnostic Journal. He was fighting valiantly against Christianity by the side of “Saladin”, William Ross Stewart, who was the leader of one of the main branches of militant agnosticism. The army of Satan had, unfortunately, failed to keep discipline in the face of the enemy. The anti-Christians were in fact as prone to split up into sects as the non-conformists themselves. Bradlaugh's personality was big enough to enable him to keep any differences that he may have had with Huxley in the background, but the successors of these paladins were degenerate. Mrs. Besant had broken away from atheism altogether; her hysteria handed her over from one strong influence to another as it appealed to her imagination. G. W. Foote, with the medal of his martyrdom glittering on his manly breast, marched monotonously against the mob of Christianity. He had suffered for the cause and was consumed by personal pride on that account. Ross Stewart had more literary leanings and was accordingly exclusive. Bernard Shaw was engaged in public exhibitions of rapier play; his subtlety made his colleagues doubt his sincerity; and without question his attacks on Christianity had lost their sting by reason of the very bitterness of his contempt for convention.
The Rationalist Press Association, with Grant Allen, Charles Watts, Edward Clodd, Joseph McCabe, Bertrand Russell, E. S. P. Haynes (the lawyer, by the way, who had so elegantly and adroitly arranged the details of my divorce) and numerous other prominent people, was, above all, anxious to be respectable. It felt it to be the most important point of policy not to give occasion to the enemy to blaspheme. Shelley's domestic diversions shocked them; they wanted to prove that conventional morality would not suffer by the abolition of Christianity. One of the Association's own lecturers, Harry Boulter, was prosecuted fro the blasphemy of saying in Hyde Park what a thousand others, from Voltaire to Tyndall, had said for centuries, and it refused to defend him because his remarks had shocked policemen. The attitude seemed to me utterly ignoble. I have no particular sympathy with Boulter, but I recognized that in destroying the delusions of the vulgar one must use the kind of dynamite which they understand.
At the same time, I think the Rationalist Press Association ought to have accepted battle and fought the blasphemy laws to a finish. It lost prestige by
deserting a comrade. People said, as they said of Shaw, that it was “too proud to fight”. There were still other sects of satanists, down to the Reverend Guy A. Alfred, who mixed up religious and political revolt like the Bolsheviks. In one sense the attitude is logical and it is certainly courageous.
Fuller knew the animal and arranged with him to issue a cheap edition of The Star in the West with a preface of his “Alfred's” own, through the Bakunin Press. He thought we should begin reconstruction of civilization at the very bottom. Alfred was certainly our man! When I read Conrad's The Secret Agent I instantly recognized him in Comrade Ossipon. I had never met so repulsive a type. Yet the creature had scholarship of a sort, keen courage and intellectual integrity. I say “intellectual integrity” because I would not have trusted him with a threepenny bit. He did, in fact, cheat us out of a considerable amount, though we went into the business with our eyes open. With regard to the logic of his view, that Christianity and the social system stood or fell together, I object. That is emphatically the Christian view. The elder Cato was not an anarchist, nor Julius Caesar a disciple of Karl Marx. I entirely agree with Nietzsche that Christianity is the formula of the servile state; true aristocracy and true democracy are equally its enemies. In my ideal state everyone is respected for what he is. There will always be slaves, and the slave is to be defined as he who acquiesces in being a slave.
Such was the situation when Fuller, home on leave from India, came to see me and told me that he was competing for the prize essay on my work. He was entirely at one with me on the point of my attitude to Christianity. We regard it as historically false, morally infamous, politically contemptible and socially pestilential. We agree with Shelley, Keats, Byron, Swinburne and James Thomson as far as they went. We agree with Voltaire, Gibbon, Strauss, Huxley, Herbert Spencer, Tyndall, J. G. Frazer, Ibsen and Nietzsche as far as they went. But we were absolutely opposed to any ideas of social revolution. We deplored the fact that our militant atheists were not aristocrats like Bolingbroke. We had no use for the sordid slum writers and Hyde Park ranters who had replace the aristocratic infidel of the past. We felt ourselves to be leaders; but the only troops at our disposal were either mercenaries or mobs. Like the prince of the Fronde, we found ourselves fighting by the side of a venal and ignorant parliament, disorderly banditti, a mob of bourgeois and a horde of beggars.
The position was all the more annoying because we knew perfectly well that the vast majority of the aristocracy, both of blood and of brains, were heartily on our side or profoundly indifferent and aloof. But they were all afraid to come out into the open and sweep religion away; or else felt themselves personally secure from any annoyance and therefore inclined to let sleeping dogs lie. For example, it was known that two thirds of the dons of Trinity College, Cambridge, were openly atheistic, and, according to all
the principle of the university, should have been ipso facto deprived of their fellowships, yet they were perfectly safe in the saddle so long as they abstained from any overt act which the authorities could not overlook. We thought that this hypocrisy was not the harmless practical joke which it seems to be at first sight. We could not ourselves have acquiesced consciously in any such evasion, and we did not understand how people of such intellectual superiority could agree to hold their positions on such humiliating terms.
It is (incidentally) hardly less humiliating for Christianity itself that it that it should be so powerless, despite its ostensible impregnability. It could not furnish the necessary complement of men of intellect from its own ranks, and the college was compelled to endure the contempt of its own fellows. It could not do without them; it dared not prescribe them; it dared not prescribe them; it had to be careful to avoid so much as questioning them on the essential points on which their tenure of office was supposed to depend. It dared not even make any overt endeavour to alter the situation. It dared not even lament the evil days on which it had fallen. It had to pretend that all was well: to deny boisterously a fact which was notorious.
As a matter of fact, Christianity is everywhere in more or less the same position, thought the most liberal estimate of the proportion of population that attends any place of worship scarcely reaches one and a half per cent. The Church claims — when not wailing to the opposite effect — that the entire population is actively Christian. The press cannot believe its ears when it transpires that some professor of geology does not believe in Genesis. There is indeed something pitifully heroic about the enormity of the belief. It it were not that this infinitesimal minority is able to exercise such an asphyxiating effect on popular thought, and such a murderous grip upon popular morals, to torture and deform the minds of children, to make hypocrisy the price of happiness, one might even sympathize with this frog in its attempts to persuade itself and its neightbours that it is an ox. On one point only were Fuller and I at odds. His hatred for Christianity extended to the idea of religion in general. He had, of course, a sympathy in his heart for Islam; the manliness of the Mohammedan makes it impossible to despise his belief in Allah. Islam is free from the degrading doctrine of atonement and the glorification of the slave virtues. The Moslem's attitude to Allah only errs in so far as it involves the childish idea of personifying the powers of the universe. It is right that we should reverence the majesty of nature and obey her laws; but he fought with me, hand to hand, week after week, about the question of Magick. He had originally intended his essay to conclude with the sixth chapter, and he had scrupulously avoided any reference to the magical and mystical side of my work; nay, even to the philosophical side so far as that was concerned with transcendentalism. But I showed him that the
study must be incomplete unless he added a chapter expounding my views on these subjects. Thus chapter seven came to be written.
It is a very complete and just exposition of my views, and it is especially to be noticed that within the one hundred and thirty-three pages there is no reference to The Book of the Law. (At the time of publication, therefore, I was still keeping the hem of my garment scrupulously away from the Cairo working.) By the time he had written this chapter, I had brought him to see that materialism, in any ordinary sense of the word, was thoroughly unsatisfactory as an explanation of the universe; but he was not in the least inclined to accept any theories which might involve belief of any kind in a spiritual hierarchy. In the course of our argument I had myself been made uneasy by a subconscious feeling that, watertight as my system was in itself, certain legitimate inferences might be drawn from it which I was not drawing.
The Book of the Law annoyed me; I was still obsessed by the idea that secrecy was necessary to a magical document, that publication would destroy its importance. I determined, in a mood which I can only describe as a fit of ill temper, to publish The Book of the Law, and then get rid of it for ever.
I was also annoyed by the way in which Fuller stuck to his guns about the magical hierarchy in general. In a spirit of mischief I sent him a typescript of The Book of the Law and asked him to tell me what he thought of it. I wanted to disgust him with myself; I wanted him to class me finally as a hopeless crank. His answer came in the course of two or three days: I could not believe my eyes. This, he wrote, is the utterance of a Master. What did he know about Masters, confound him! It was as if I had sent a copy of Tit-Bits to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and he had reverently pronounced it to be the authentic Logia of “our Lord”.
But there was no getting over the fact. Here was the Book which I hated and feared, the Book from which I was desperately trying to escape, and here was a man who hated anything of the sort without fearing it in the least, a man who had nothing to escape from; and it was instantly accepted by him at its face value. It's no good arguing whether a thing is a hammer or not, when all you know about it is that it has a habit of knocking you down.
It was useless to struggle further. So late as October 1908, I was carrying out a Retirement (see “John St. John”), and invoking my Holy Guardian Angel, without any reference to The Book of the Law. Fuller and I had gone to work to edit my magical diaries and present to the world the story of my magical career in “The Temple of Solomon the King”, as if the Cairo working were a mere episode of that career. We were carrying out the orders of the Secret Chiefs by exposing the G∴ D∴ and publishing its Ritual, but I was sheltering myself from The Book of the Law by taking advantage of a phrase in the text which insists: “All this and a book to say how thou didst come
hither and a reproduction of this ink and paper for ever-for in it is the word secret & not only in the English …” And the manuscript had been lost!
As the sequel will show, the gods knew when to lay their hands on it. I surrendered at discretion, re-obligated myself and in September 1909 wrote my greatest magical poem “Aha!” in which the Cairo working is restored to its proper place in my life. I have made many insurrections since then; but they have always been quelled in very short order and punished as they deserved.
This lengthy preamble will enable the reader to fit into their proper places the ostensibly incoherent events of 1907 and 1908. My own continuous illness, the birth of Lola Zaza and the tragedy of Rose had combined to complicate my ordinary business, making it impossible for me to think of making any new plans for exploration. My affairs in Scotland had fallen into great confusion through the extravagance and dishonesty of my factor. While the cat was away the mice had been extremely busy.
Fuller and I had clearly understood the imminence of the world catastrophe. We did not exactly know where civilization would begin to crack, or when; we were content to leave such speculations to the Prophet Baxter, the Rev. Booth Clibborn and such small deer. But we saw the New Zealander sitting on the ruined arch of London Bridge quite clearly.
We could also see the Professor of Archaeology in the University of Lhasa excavating the ruins of the British Museum. He discovered a vast number of volumes of our period purporting to deal with the occult sciences, but there were few indeed of these which had not crumbled into dust. Of those that remained, the vast majority were evidently frivolous. He rejoiced exceedingly to discover one series of volumes, the dignity of whose appearance, the permanence of whose paper, the excellence of whose printing, and the evident care which had been bestowed on their production, showed him at first sight that the people responsible for their production had been at infinite pains to make these volumes testify against the tyranny of time1. He had them taken to his camp with the greatest care. Although he could not read a word of the letterpress, the illustrations were in the universal language, which he could read at sight. The first standard work of reference — the key to the wisdom of the buried past.
With this vision before us, we determined on making our record of the highest attainments of human spirits of our generation as worthy as possible of its subject. It annoyed us that we could not engrave our knowledge on ten thousand slabs like those at Mandalay, but we determined to do our best. We decided on a fount of type, a size of page and a quality of paper which could not fail to impress the professors of posterity, and we determined that our prose should be so simple,so dignified and so sublime that it would stand out from the slipshod journalism of the period as the Alhambra above
- WEH Note: Here Crowley refers to the preferred manner of his publication. Yet he never understood the nature of binding, and looked to hand-made papers that yellow and mold in the damp. He sought fine leather for the covers, but the stitchings were of linen and the glue such as to fail with age. The first edition of “The Equinox” tends to fall apart at the touch!
the hovels of the vermin that surround it. The scheme required capital, and though I was already somewhat embarrassed by the habit of buying a black egg without haggling, I did not hesitate to put my hand in my pocket.
Fuller was at this time in grave difficulties, à la d'Artagnan, but he gave his time and his toil with magnificent generosity. His draughtmanship, within certain limits, was miraculously fine. Certain subjects were altogether beyond him; he could not portray the human figure. His “Adonai-Ha-Aretz” is lamentable, but his symbolic drawing shows the highest qualities of imagination and execution, and his geometrical work is almost inconceivably perfect. His four Watch Towers (The Equinox, vol. I, no. VII) and similar illustrations are superb, and his ornamental alphabet is altogether beyond me to appreciate. Unfortunately, his prose was florid and confused, and he suffered acutely from what I call the “comma bacillus”. He loved a sentence so much that he could not persuade himself to finish it, but his images are more vivid and virile than those of any writer I have ever known.
The style of The Star in the West is trenchant and picturesque. Its only fault is a tendency to overloading. I could have wished a more critical and less adoring study of my work; but his enthusiasm was genuine, and guaranteed our personal relations in such sort that my friendship wit him is one of the dearest memories of my life. I dedicated The Winged Beetle to him.
Alas, I did not take into account the corrupting influence of women. He held out a long while against the insidious pressure of his wife. It was perhaps only through the treachery of another man that mischief was finally made between us. But nothing can destroy the past, and the long years of our intimate friendship were indeed fertile. We saw each other nearly every day and worked together in perfect harmony.
In “The Temple of Solomon the King” Fuller's style was already much improved, though the story of my life might have been set forth more simply. Though his tendency to burst out into ecstatic rhapsodies resulted in disordering the proportions of its events, in the main his task was admirably accomplished, and there are passages of astonishing sublimity, not only in the matter of language but in that of thought. His point of view was indeed more subtle and profound than he himself realized. I am sure that many passages of this book will stand among the greatest monuments of English prose extant.
But he reached his high-water mark with “The Treasure House of Images”. Formally, this is the most remarkable prose that has ever been written. Each chapter of the main part of the book contains thirty sections, and each section has the same number of syllables. Each of these chapters hymns the sign of the Zodiac and in each section that sign is modified by another sign. It is the most astonishing achievement in symbolism.
But this is not all. There is a chapter containing one hundred and sixty-nine cries of Adoration, which is, as it were, a multiplication of the previous chapters and a quintesentialization of them. To this day we chant these Adorations to the sound of the tom-tom and dance to the music, and the effect is to carry away the performer into the sublimest ecstasy. It possesses all the Magick of oriental religious rites, such as those of the Sidi Aissawa, but the rapture is purely religious. It is not confused with eroticism, and that although many of the symbols are of themselves violently erotic.
<blockquote> > O Thou dew-lit nymph of the Dawn, that swoonest in\\ > ....the satyr arms of the Sun! I adore Thee, Evoe!\\ > ............I adore Thee, IAO! > > O Thou mad abode of kisses, that art lit by the fat\\ > ....of murdered fiends! I adore Thee, Evoe!\\ > ............I adore Thee, IAO! </blockquote>
Unfortunately, when our friendship was interrupted so was his literary career. I had taught him to write prose, but he has been able to employ his talents to no better purpose than to win prizes in competitions organized by the Army Council.
The Star in the West was published in 1907 and was widely reviewed; for the most part, favourably. In particular, Soror S. S. D. D. (Mrs. Emery or “Florence Far” as she was variously known) wrote a very full criticism of it in the New Age. Some of it is so prophetic that it must be quoted here:
It is a hydra-headed monster, this London Opinion, but we should not be at all surprised to see an almost unparalleled event, namely, everyone of those hydra-heads moving with a single purpose, and that the denunciation of Mr. Aleister Crowley and all his works.
Now this would be a remarkable achievement for a young gentleman who only left Cambridge quite a few years ago. It requires a certain amount of serious purpose to stir Public Opinion into active opposition, and the only question is, has Mr. Crowley a serious purpose? …
Such are some of the sensations described by Aleister Crowley in his quest for the discovery of his Relation with the Absolute. His power of expression is extraordinary; his kite flies, but he never fails to jerk it back to earth with some touch of ridicule or pathos which makes it still an open question whether he will excite that life-giving animosity on the part of Public Opinion which, as we have hinted, is only accorded to the most dangerous thinkers.
I was enormously encouraged by this article. I knew how serious my purpose was. She had reassured me on the point where my faith wavered. I had become so accustomed to columns of eloquent praise from the most
important people in the world of letters, which had not sold a dozen copies; to long controversial criticism from such men as G. K. Chesterton, which had fallen absolutely flat. People acquiesced in me as the only living poet of any magnitude. (There were many better known and more highly reputed poets — Francis Thompson, W. B. Yeats, Rudyard Kipling, and later John Masefield, Rupert Brooke and other small fry, whose achievement at the best was limited by the narrowness of their ambitions. I at least was aiming at the highest.)
Yet hardly anyone had read any of my work and the intrigues of my enemies had made it impossible for me to make myself heard. I never cease to wonder at the persistence of malignant hostility on the part of people who have never met me or read a line of my writing. I cannot see why people should pursue me with secret slander, often of a kind which carries its own refutation with it. To give one instance: It was said it was my practice to lure men into the Himalayas for weekends … I always returned alone!
There seemed no limit to the lies that were circulated about me. As to motive, I can only imagine that it was partly the revenge of the G∴ D∴ rebels whom I had smashed, and, subsequently, Mathers and his gang when it became my duty to put a stop to their swindling and blackmail; partly to my intransigence about other forms of quackery. I had not spared the English Alpine Club or the pretenders to literary eminence. I kept myself aloof from cliques and simply refused to admit the existence of the people who were playing at being poets, novelists and philosophers.
But I had learnt intolerance of all pretence and humbug from Eckenstein who had on me somewhat the influence that Athos had on d'Artagnan. Whenever I was tempted to derogate in any way from the highest standards of honour, the thought always came to me that I could not face Eckenstein if I failed. My family, my college and my friend have always been my mentors; but, above all, my friend! His severity was fortified by his clear sight; no subterfuge was possible with him. He taught me to judge my conduct by the most austere standards of rectitude and nobility. It is not too much to say that he created my moral character. I had a fatal tendency to find excuses for myself. He forced me always to face the facts and keep ceaseless vigil over the jewel of honour.
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