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My favourite rendezvous was a little chemist's shop in Stafford Street, managed by a man named E. P. Whineray, one of the most remarkable and fascinating men that I have ever met. He was a Lancashire lad all over and not ashamed of it. His personal appearance was in itself arresting. Of medium size and well proportioned, his body seemed intentionally inconspicuous. It was the perfect servant of his head. He was almost completely bald, with bushy iron-grey eyebrows. The dome of his skull was perfectly spherical and suggested the most profound capacity for reflection. His eyes were intensely lively and piercing; they shone with eternal laughter, no less good humoured because supremely cynical. He understood human frailty in every detail and not only forgave it, but loved men for their weaknesses. He reminded one of an owl; the resemblance was very striking indeed.
He knew all the secrets of London. People of all ranks, from the courtier and the cabinet minister, to the coachman and the courtesan, made him their father confessor. While he never betrayed a confidence, he had a fund of stories which never failed. His lightest remarks vibrated with wisdom. When one spoke to him, it was like blowing the bellows of a blacksmith's forge; a shower of scintillating sparks came crackling from the sombre heart of the fire of his soul. Like Eckenstein, he saw through everybody at a glance. I used to haunt his shop and learned from him about London. He had already appeared in literature. Robert Hichens has set one of the most subtle incidents of Felix in his little shop. Another reason for my frequenting him was that he understood me, and one of my weaknesses is my bitter need of such people.
He was (incidentally) one of the most learned men in his line. He had supplied me with ingredients for some of my magical preparations, such as kyfi, the mysterious incense of the ancient Egyptians; the perfume and oil of Abra-Melin, the unguentum Sabbati, and the like. In particular, he was at one time able to supply onycha.
There is an incense sacred to Tetragrammaton. After the cakes of light and the incense of Abra-Melin, it is the most powerful of all known perfumes. In fact, it is in a sense more powerful than they are, for they are definitely consecrated to particular purposes, whereas it is entirely without conscience. It consists of galbanum for air, onycha for water, storax of earth and olibanum for fire. It represents the blind force of the four elements and by its use one can bring them to manifestation. Being in itself neither good nor evil, it is extraordinarily dangerous.
I may regard, by the way, that what we call “good” and “bad” are both extremely limited. The greatest disasters arise from what we call indifference. I once examined the horoscopes of a number of murderers in order to find out what planetary dispositions were responsible for the temperament. To my amazement, it was not the secret and explosive energy of Heschel, not the sinister and malignant selfishness of Saturn, not the ungoverned fury of Mars, which formed the background for the crime, but the callous intellectualism of Mercury.
Then comes a most extraordinary discovery. The horoscopes of the murdered are almost identical with those of the assassins. They asked for it!
Incidentally, history bears out this view. The greatest horrors in the history of mankind are not due to the ambition of the Napoleons or the vengeance of the Agamemnons, but to the doctrinaire philosophers. The theories of the sentimentalist Rousseau inspired the integrity of the passionless Robespierre. The cold-blooded calculations of Karl Marx led to the judicial and businesslike operations of the Cheka. Human passion at its worst has generous possibilities, and mercy with the Red Cross — theoretically, at least — is just behind fury in the trenches; but reason is inexorable and inhuman. It is not the heart of man which is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked”, but his brain.
One evening Whineray told me that a gentleman, whom I will call the Earl of Coke and Crankum, wished to meet me, having need of my magical help. I agreed. At that moment the man himself walked in. He took me round to his rooms; and, to my stupefaction, blurted out the most extraordinary story. I could hardly believe my ears. The man told me his inmost family secrets, and those of the most atrocious kind, as if I had known him twenty years. He said that he was bewitched by his mother and a woman friend. On the surface these people were pious Evangelicals. The idea that they were trying to murder him by witchcraft was a little startling, no less so the alleged motive. Lord Coke had been the second son. He claimed that his elder brother had really been the son of some baronet or other; that his mother hated her husband and had become desperate when the heir-apparent had been killed in battle. His mother had determined to kill her remaining son.
Coke himself had married an American woman of the meanest character. She would ring the bell to have the pleasure of hearing the servants call her “my lady,” Coke saw witchcraft in every trifle. When the countess happened to sneeze he would deduce that his mother was on the job. He had told his troubles to many people, and trusted them at first quite blindly, and then without a word of warning concluded from some harmless word or act that they had joined the conspiracy against him.
Of course, it was a perfectly plain case of persecution mania, accentuated
by his old habit of brandy tippling and his newly acquired one of sniffing a solution of cocaine. Apart from his obsession there was nothing wrong with the man. He enjoyed magnificent health; he was one of the best preserved men of fifty to fifty-five that I have ever seen. He was deeply religious, with more than a touch of mysticism, and a really deep insight into the Cabbala, which he understood although he knew little or nothing about it. I thought I could cure him and undertook the task.
My plan in such cases is not to undeceive the patient. I proposed to treat his story as literally true in every way and to fight fire with fire. I said to him: “What you must do is to develop your own magical powers so as to beat your mother at her own game.”
He had considerable capacity for Magick and understood the object of the measures which I proposed. We began by chartering a yacht, which we anchored in an unfrequented river on the south coast. I obligated him and proceeded to teach him how to develop his astral body. He rapidly acquired the technique and gained much confidence when he found that by my methods he could check the results of his clairvoyance.
I would, for example, give him a talisman which he had never seen before, and ask him to discover its nature. We would then compare the result of his investigation with the book from which I had taken the talisman, and he would find that he had judged correctly. (For instance, I would give him a square containing thirty-six characters in Enochian, which he could not read. He would pass in his astral body through an imaginary door on which this square was inscribed, and tell me that he had come out upon a balcony overlooking the sea, where a violent storm was raging. I would then refer to The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin identify the square, and note that its virtue was to arouse a tempest. There was thus no room for self deception as there is when one gets a message from one's Uncle Ferdinand that he is very happy picking violets, and tell Eliza not to worry.)
I soon found, however, that the presence of the countess, though she was entirely sympathetic and charming, was a hindrance; she took up too much of his time and thought. One of the troubles with the man was that he was shockingly sentimental; it was the worst kind of Dickens. For that and other reasons, we decided to make a Great Retirement in a distant country; our whereabouts was to be concealed; that in itself would tend to confuse and alarm his mother and her fellow witch. We crossed to Paris and wandered down by Marseilles and Gibraltar to Tangiers.
I was of course in paradise to be once more among Mohammedans, with their manliness, straightforwardness, subtlety and self-respect! There was another point in favour of our journey. I wanted to get my pupil into the habit of the open-air life, so as to break him more easily of the cocaine habit. The pull of cocaine is almost entirely moral, except in unusually bad cases.
There is little or no physical suffering involved in sudden stoppage as there is in the case of opium and its derivatives. I wanted to wean him from the drug by taking his mind off his mother and her machinations, his wife and her wondrousness, his children and their charm; I wanted to fill his consciousness with unfamiliar sights and sounds, with actual adventures and with the physical preoccupation of the day's march.
Unfortunately, we arrived in Tangiers at a moment of political crisis. The sultan had just come to smash and even the journey to Fez was unsafe. Not that we should have cared: Coke was as brave as a lion about everything outside his dam and her devices; but the authorities would not hear of our leaving the city — even the environs were beset by banditti. It was a great nuisance, especially as I had got ready for the desert by shaving my head and getting into my Eastern clothes. However, I consoled myself by making excursions after dark into the suburbs and courting all adventures that might come my way. I had in fact a perfectly gorgeous time.
But poor Coke would not enter into the spirit of the East — in which we humorously include a country whose name (Morocco, Al'Maghrabi) means west and whose most easterly point is in the longitude of Oxford. He was homesick for the dull uniformity of family life. That is, I believe, the heart of England's horror. Frank Harris has described English vices as “Adultery with home comforts”. The average Englishman likes to drink tea in a pair of previously warmed soft slippers, with a smiling piece of meat presiding over the soggy toast, and unintelligent brats playing halma in the background. “The East” only means to him sunstroke, fever and other diseases, each more dreadful than the rest; people whose views do not interest him — they are unintelligible and immoral; discomfort and boredom. He has no idea of abstract beauty and he is terribly afraid of meeting an idea which might stir his stagnant stupidity.
To me every new scene, every new point of view, is welcome. I want to be taught. I want to enlarge my mind. Nihil humani a me alienum puto. Even so, humani is one word too many. As I wrote in The Book of Lies.
The Chinese cannot help thinking that the octave has five notes.
The more necessary anything appears to my mind the more certain it is that I only assert a limitation.
It is natural that my attitude should be utterly abhorrent to my fellow countrymen. But they are quite wrong to think that my ideas are anti-Anglo-Saxon. They are anti-anything which imagines itself to have a monopoly of truth or propriety.
I could not get Coke to take any interest in the people, their customs, their ideas and their art. The sunshine on the sparkling sea, the infinite variety of colour and form, the tingling mixture of races and religions meant nothing
to him. Beauty was literally splashed over life like a bucket of cold water over an athlete. Instead of exhilarating him, he shivered and moaned. He kept on groaning like a wounded animal: I want my wife! I want my children! Of course, what he really wanted was cocaine, and that was just the thing I did not want him to have.
I had managed to get rid of his persecution mania for the time being. Whenever he noticed his mother flying past the moon on her broomstick, he would perform a banishing ritual, and sail out in his astral body on to the word and chop the broomstick like Siegfried with the lance of Wotan, and down she would fall into the Straits of Gibraltar, plop, plop. Nor did he suffer seriously from the suppression of cocaine. His only trouble was that his mind was so sodden with sentimentality that no amount of sunshine could restore its lightness and elasticity. If I had been able to take him into the desert for a couple of months he would have had to live through the purgatory involved in the absence of sour-faced snobbery and sneaking servility.
Thanks to Muly Hafid, there was nothing for it but let him relapse into the slough of despond and stifle in the stinking slime of civilized society. I begged him to walk home from Gibraltar, but it merely gave the old delusions an excuse to renew their grip. He classed me as having joined the conspiracy against him of black magicians, from his mother and his neighbours to his son's schoolmaster (who had been persuaded by the devil to inflict one hundred lines of the Georgics upon the luckless lad!) and his family lawyer — who had been persuaded by Belial to fail to lend him ten thousand pounds without security.
I have never been so sorry for any man in my life. I have never met anyone more genuinely noble, generous and kind-hearted. He was the most amusing companion, witty and well read. And all these magnificent qualities were completely marred by a single puerile weakness. Once again I had to admit that the superstition and sexual huperaesthesia, which go in England by the names of religion and love, had emasculated a man. Anglo-Saxonism is psychological phthsis.
At the accession of the new sultan, his subjects took the opportunity of enjoying themselves, rejoicing in countries where the spirochaetas pallida of civilization does not make love luetic, liberty ataxic and life choreic. The people are spontaneous about amusements. To me nothing is more dreary than the policed processions of noble nonentities, famous puppets and beauties whose diet is skin food, whose athletics are face massage and whose fresh air is cocaine. In England enjoyment has been reduced to formality. The studied solemnity of golf is typical. Every few holes one's partner gives a little lecture on the healthfulness of the game, its virtue to bring out the finest qualities of the player, and so on ad nauseam. The Anglo-Sacon consciousness of sin
make him feel that he needs an excuse for indulging in the most innocent pleasures. The result is that they cease to be pleasures at all.
Gaiety has become entirely unknown; the nearest approach to it is tipsy vulgarity.
The joyous men of Morocco were giving themselves over wholeheartedly to glee. Their exercises and sports have been described so often that it would be absurd to go over the ground once more. But one amusement is less well known. Europeans are not encouraged to assist.
On one of my lonely adventure walks, I came upon a crowd of about two hundred people in a secluded spot. They were protected from intrusion by unofficial sentinels, strolling (apparently without aim) among the trees in a circle a couple of hundred yards in diameter. I knew more or less what to expect, and before being observed looked myself over to see that every article of my costume was correct. I then began to recite what I had learnt from my sheikh in Egypt — the “Great Word to become mad and go about naked”.
Subhana Allahu walhamdu lilahi walailaha illa allahu wallahu akbar wala baala wala quata illa billahi alaliu ala'zhim.
Glory to God and thanks to God, and there is only one God, and God is most great, and there is no strength but in Him, the Exalted, the Great.
It does not take me long to work myself up by means of a mantra, even of this lengthy type, into a state of ecstasy, and to proceed, if desired, from that state to actual Dhyana, by concentrating upon any appropriate cakra. By ecstasy I do not mean anything characterized by extravagant action. It is merely that I seem to myself to be floating in the air or at least to weigh about one quarter of what I actually do; that I become completely abstracted from my surroundings and from all internal interference. I should thus be either invisible to the sentinels, or, if observed by them, recognized as a holy man whose religious exercises it would be an outrage to disturb. I need hardly say that the thing must be done properly. To attempt to fake anything of the sort would be a fatal error. The psychic sensitiveness of the Arab would detect it at once; he would suspect a bad motive, put one down as a blasphemer and cut one down with unhesitating cheerfulness. And serve one right!
In this way I passed the sentinels and mingled with the crowd. It was a wild tribe from Seoul. The women were present, thought they took no active part, and merely helped to keep the ring. The circle was some thirty feet across. Squatting on its edge were the usual musicians, playing as usual for dear life, while dancing and yelling were a number of men, armed with very small light axes of peculiar workmanship. They were evidently not the ordinary tools used in daily life, but manufactured for the purpose of the ceremony.
With these weapons the men cut themselves on the head (very rarely elsewhere) until the blood was streaming from their scalps on every side. They were, of course, quite unconscious of any pain, and those of them who were actually blinded by the blood were yet able to see.
The excitement of the crowd was as great as that of the celebrants themselves, but it was rigorously suppressed. I cannot say that the ring kept absolute silence; I doubt whether I was sufficiently cool to make any reliable observations, and I certainly was beyond the stage of intellectual curiosity. But the impression was that the onlookers were deliberately abstaining from either speech or gesture. I governed myself accordingly. But I was hard put to it to refrain from dashing down my turban, leaping into the ring with a howl of “Allahu akbar!”, getting hold of an axe and joining in the general festivity.
It literally took away one's breath. The only way I can express it is that one breathed with one's heart instead of with one's lungs. I had got into not dissimilar states while doing Pranayama, but those had been passive, and this was a — no, active is a pitifully inadequate word — I felt myself vibrating with the energy of the universe. It was as if I had become conscious of atomic energy or of the force of gravitation, understood positively and not merely as the inhibition to rising from the ground. I do not know how long I stood there holding myself in, but judging from subsequent calculations it must have been over an hour: the sense of time had entirely disappeared. But I became suddenly aware of a terrific reaction; I felt that I had missed my chance by not letting myself go and perhaps been killed for my pains. At the same time I was seized with a sudden sense of alarm. I felt myself to be outside the spiritual circle. I was sure that someone would discover me and a swift shudder passed through me as I apprehended my danger. Fortunately, I had sufficient presence of mind to resume my mantra and melt away from the multitude as silently as I had descended upon it.
This little adventure always stood out as one of the most exciting (in a small way) of my life, that is, of merely material adventures; and it has given me furiously to think about the general formulae of “Energized Enthusiasm”. The practices of the Sidi Aissawa, the dervishes, some Asiatic devotees, and many Russian peasants whom I have seen conscientiously and scientifically exalting their consciousness by bringing physiological methods to the aid of spiritual aspiration, have been too individual to compare with these Moors. In this ceremony the entire body of assistants were consciously and collectively inducing a spiritual state which I recognized as entirely different to individual ecstasy. The soul which they invoked was neither the sublimation (or simplification) of each man's personal self, nor was it the universal and immanent Spirit. It was a collective consciousness.
The psychology is similar to that of any mob which works itself up into
enthusiasm over some ill-defined religious or political idea; but these Moors were invoking what I must call their tribal god, for want of a better term. They were creating him by pouring their personal enthusiasm into the pot, so to speak. I had no doubt that the individual deity thus invented (I can find no better term) could exist organically, so to speak, and I began to understand how the prophets of old had succeeded in inventing their gods, neither personal nor universal, but representing the Platonic idea, corresponding to the sum of the tribal attributes, and, once invented, enjoying an independent life, exercising initiative, and so on, just like a human being, sustained by the united wills of his devotees, and thus turning the tables on them and compelling them who had made him in their image to conform with the likeness of him.
I had quite a number of other small adventures during my short stay in Morocco. The character of the people corresponds very closely with my own in its more salient aspects. I liked them very much better than the Egyptians, who seem to me to suffer from too much history, too much civilization, too much commerce, too much admixture of blood; and above all, too much cosmopolitanism. The Egyptian has little national character, he had been pauperized by the influx of Europeans, and corrupted by the “evil communications” of Greeks, Armenians and the objectionable type of Jew. The Jew in Morocco is, on the whole, a very fine fellow. He has a religion and a point of honour, to say nothing of his pride of race. It has been said that every nation has the government which it deserves. I would add, the type of Jew which it deserves. His imagination and sensitiveness make him the touchstone of his surroundings.
There is a saying in North Africa that the Moor is a lion, the Algerian a deer and the Tunisian a hare. When subsequent journeys to North Africa enabled me to make the comparison, I found it strikingly true. The Moors have been called the Irish of of Islam, as the Burmese the Irish of Asia. The former metaphor is admirable. There is an independence, a pride, a devil-may-careishness and a bonhomie which reminds one strongly of the more boisterous type of Irish. The Burmese rather resemble the quiet, religious type. The moor is always on the look out for a lark. I found myself engaged in all sorts of schoolboy escapades where hard knocks and Rabelaisian practical jokes gave birth to huge and hearty laughter. Mortal enmities and murderous assaults did not in the least interfere with the jolly friendship of the antagonist.
I was very sorry when we had to return to England. We took Granada on our way. I found the Alhambra entirely familiar, although I had never been there before. It was not a case of the sens du déjà vu, which is a passing perception. I went from one court to another as if I had lived there before; I knew what I was coming to so accurately that I could hardly doubt that I had really lived there at one time or another. I remembered nothing of the
circumstances; except that it must have been my habit to go to the western tower and look over the valley, the town somnolent at the foot of the hill, and the distant sierra, while the sun sank superbly sad among clouds which seemed to have borrowed their softness and brilliance from swansdown.
Coke and I arranged to see the dancing of the gypsies who lived in the caves outside the city, and I made a somewhat elaborate study of the subject. The principal dances are the tango, which is quite different to that with which we have become familiar; the fandango, the civilla gitana; the soleario gitana, the cachusa gitana, the morongo, the sirrillas, the baile de la flor, the baile de la bosca and the baile de la bona.
It is a mistake to say, brutally, as science is inclined to do, that all dancing symbolized passion. I am always annoyed with research that stops half way. That is the great error of Freud. When he says, quite correctly, that dreams are phantasms of suppressed sexual desire, the question remains, of what is sexual desire the phantasm? To me it seems no more than one of the ways of expressing the formula of creation. I regard chemical action as identical. A man and a woman unite; and the result is a child, which is totally different from them though formed of their elements. Just so the combination of hydrogen and chlorine produces hydrochloric acid. They are gases; at ordinary temperature it is a liquid. None of its chemical and physical reactions is identical with those of its elements. The phenomena are analogous in very many ways, but the essence of their similarity is in the Cabbalistic formula Yod, Hé, Vau.
I have successfully eliminated the danger of obsession by sexual ideas in this way: I refuse to admit that it is the fundamental truth. Science in failing to follow me so far has destroyed the idea of religion and the claim of mankind to be essentially different from other mammalia. The demonstration of anthropologists that all religious rites are celebrations of the reproductive energy of nature is irrefutable; but I, accepting this, can still maintain that these rites are wholly spiritual. Their form is only sexual because the phenomena of reproduction are the most universally understood and pungently appreciated of all. I believe that when this position is generally accepted, mankind will be able to go back with a good conscience to ceremonial worship. I have myself constructed numerous ceremonies where it is frankly admitted that religious enthusiasm is primarily sexual in character.
I have merely refused to stop there. I have insisted that sexual excitement is merely a degraded form of divine ecstasy. I have thus harnessed the wild horses of human passion to the chariot of the Spiritual Sun. I have given these horses wings that mankind may no longer travel painfully upon the earth, shaken by every irregularity of the surface, but course at a large through the boundless ether. This is not merely a matter of actual ceremonies; I insist that in private life men should not admit their passions to be an end,
indulging them and so degrading themselves to the level of the other animals, or suppressing them and creating neuroses. I insist that every thought, word and deed should be consciously devoted to the service of the great work. “Whatsoever ye do, whether ye eat or drink, do all to the glory of God.”
One night in Granada I met one of these gypsies. The setting was supremely romantic. The burden of his life fell from the shoulders of the poet. I experienced that spontaneous and irresistible stroke of love which only exists when the beauty of the human form and the beauty of the rest of nature are harmonized automatically. It was one of those experiences which come even to the most romantic poets, and to them only too few times in a decade. Fuller always maintained that the lyric in which I celebrated that night was the greatest that had ever been written of its kind. I can do no less than ask public opinion to examine his judgment.
Your hair was full of roses in the dewfall as we danced, The sorceress enchanting and the paladin entranced, In the starlight as we wove us in a web of silk and steel Immemorial as the marble in the halls of Boabdil, In the pleasaunce of the roses with the fountains and the yews Where the snowy Sierra soothed us with the breezes and the dews! In the starlight as we trembled from a laugh to a caress, And the God came warm upon us in our pagan allegresse. Was the Baile del la bona too seductive? Did you feel Through the silence and the softness all the tension of the steel? For your hair was full of roses, and my flesh was full of thorns And the midnight came upon us worth a million crazy morns. Ah! my Gypsy, my Gitana, my Saliya! were you fain For the dance to turn to earnest? — O the sunny land of Spain! My Gaitana, my Saliya! more delicious than a dove! With your hair aflame with roses and your lips alight with love! Shall I see you, shall I kiss you once again? I wander far From the sunny land of summer to the icy Polar Star. I shall find you, my Gitana, my Saliya! as of old With your hair aflame with roses and your body gay with gold. I shall find you, I shall have you, in the summer and the south With our passion in your body and our love upon your mouth — With our wonder and our worship be the world aflame anew! My Gitana, my Saliya! I am coming back to you!1
This year was indeed my annus mirabilis in poetry. It began with Clouds Without Water, to which I have already called attention in the matter of its
- Crowley made a sound recording of this poem. It is widely extant.
technique. The question of its inspiration is not less interesting. At Coulsdon, at the very moment when my conjugal cloudburst was impending, I had met one of the most exquisitely beautiful young girls, by English standards, that ever breathed and blushed. She did not appeal to me only as a man; she was the very incarnation of my dreams as a poet. Her name was Vera; but she called herself “Lola”. To her I dedicated Gargoyles with a little prose poem, and the quatrain (in the spirit of Catullus) “Kneel down, dear maiden o'mine.” It was after her that my wife called the new baby!
Lola was the inspiration of the first four sections of Clouds Without Water. Somehow I lost sight of her, and in the fifth section she gets mixed up with another girl who inspired entirely sections six and seven. But the poem was still incomplete. I wanted a dramatic climax, and for this I had to go to get a third model. Number two was an old friend. I had known her in Paris in 1902. She was one of the intimates of my fiancée. She was studying sculpture under Rodin and was unquestionably his best woman pupil. She was strangely seductive. Her brilliant beauty and wholesome Highland flamboyance were complicated with a sinister perversity. She took delight in getting married men away from their wives, and the like. Love had no savour for her unless she was causing ruin or unhappiness to others. I was quite ignorant of her intentions when she asked me to sit for her, but once in her studio she lost no time, and “The Black Mass', “The Adepts” and “The Vampire” describe with ruthless accuracy our relations. She initiated me into the torturing pleasures of algolagny on the spiritual plane. She showed me how to intensify passion by self-restraint. The formula is entirely analogous to the physical formula of the Arabs. She made me wonder, in fact, if the secret of puritanism was not to heighten the intensity of love by putting obstacles in its way.
I regard the idea as entirely morbid and objectionable. Artificial impediments to nature are necessarily as disastrous as natural ones. The essence of my objection to English ideas of morality is just this: that sexual relations are over emphasized and assume an entirely disproportionate value. The formula of the average novel is to keep the reader in suspense about the love affairs of the characters. I confess frankly that I cannot read such stuff with patience.
I do not mind a background of love properly subordinated to the true interest of life; but I do not know any single book of which it is the main theme which does not disgust me.
Am I reproaching myself, then, for having written as I have on the subject? My defence is duplex. In the first place, I have no objection to lyrical love. “I arise from dreams of thee” and “O lover, I am lonely here” are legitimate. It is the sacrament by which man enters into communion with God.
There remain my narrative and dramatic books on love. The Tale of Archais is simply jejune; I apologize and pass on. The Mother's Tragedy, “The
Fatal Force”, Jezebel, Tannhäuser, all treat love not as an object in itself, but on the contrary, as a dragon ready to devour any one less than St. George. Alice is partly excusable, because it is really a lyric, when all is said and done. In any case, I do not value the book very highly. It is ridiculous to make anything important depend on the appetites of an American matron. The same may be said of The Star and the Garter, Why Jesus Wept exhibits love as the road to ruin. It is the sentimental point of view about it which is the catastrophe of Sir Percy's career. In Orpheus love, it is true, inspires the poet to great deeds of a sort; but it ends in disappointment and leads him to death.
But back to my sculptress! To her I dedicated Rodin in Rime and Clouds Without Water itself — not openly; our love affair being no business of other people, and in any case being too much ginger for the “hoi” “polloi”, but in such ways as would have recommended themselves to Edgar Allan Poe.
There remains a tragic and abominable story to be told. She suddenly decided that she had better get married; not being able to marry me, she did the next best thing, found another explorer and dragged him to the altar. This man left shortly afterwards on an expedition which involved his being very many months beyond reach of communication. He had a rival brother officer, who somehow discovered one of the cryptograms. (As a matter of fact, it was a simple one; he had merely to take a rule and draw a straight line to make the name and the surname of the girl stand out en toutes lettres.) It might seem that such a man would not know how to draw a line anywhere, but he drew this line — and arranged that a copy of the book thus marked should be handed to the husband by another member of his party after he had cut his communication with the world, perhaps for years. In point of fact, it proved to be for ever.
Now as to section eight of Clouds Without Water, “The Initiation”, I hardly know why I should have felt it necessary to conclude on such an appalling chord. The powers of life and death combine in their most frightful forms to compel the lovers to seek refuge in suicide, which they, however, regard as victory. “The poison takes us: Chi alpha iota rho epsilon tau epsilon nu iota chi omega mu epsilon nu .” The answer is that the happy ending would have been banal. The tragedy of Eros is that he is dogged by Anteros. It is the most terrible of all anticlimaxes to have to return to the petty life which is bound by space and time. I had the option of coming down to earth or enlisting death in my service. I chose the latter course.
My model was a woman very distinguished and very well known in London society. She had already figured as the heroine of Felix. She had been one of the best and most loyal friends of Oscar Wilde. She was herself a writer of subtlety and distinction, but she filled me with fascination and horror. She gave me the idea of a devourer of human corpses, being herself already dead. Fierce and grotesque passion sprang up for the few days
necessary to give me the required inspiration for my climax. I could only heighten the intoxication of love by spurring it to insanity.
This, in fact, is a final criticism of love itself as such, and justifies all that has been said about it by the Buddha — and even by the Church. It justifies my own attitude that love must be resolutely torn from the throne in the human heart which it has usurped. One must not set one's affections on things below; one must find an answer to old age and death. “Only those are happy who have desired the unattainable.” Love being the sublimation of the human ego, it follows that the ego itself must be surrendered. The limitations of life on earth are intolerable. The consciousness is unendurable for all those who have begun to understand the universe. Man is so infinitesimally inane, yet he feels himself capable of such colossal attainment.
My twelve months of creative spurt reached a climax in February 1908, when I wrote the five books of The World's Tragedy in five consecutive days at Eastbourne. This is beyond all question the high-water mark of my imagination, my metrical fluency, my wealth of expression, and my power of bringing together the most incongruous ideas so as to enrich my matter to the utmost. At the same time, I succeeded in reaching the greatest height of spiritual enthusiasm, human indignation, and demoniac satire. I sound the gamut of every possibility of emotion from innocent faith and enthusiasm to experienced cynicism.
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