Chapter 65


In London I put my foot down at once by taking away my daughter until Rose agreed to follow the doctor's instructions and get rid of her dipsomania once and for all. She capitulated and the necessary measures were taken. This left me free for my proposed Retirement, which I decided to undertake in Paris rather than London. The details of every single minute of my life for the next fortnight are accurately recorded in “John St. John”. Here I need only say that the work was successful beyond all expectations. I not only achieved my stated object, but obtained access to a reserve of energy which carried me on for years, performing Herculean labours without conscious effort. My time was in fact very fully taken up with the preparation of The Equinox. I had to be constantly seeing Fuller, who was editing my Magical Records and the vast mass of material connected with the G∴ D∴, besides which I had my own work to do preparing the books of instruction on a special and scientific basis.

Besides this, I was writing a good deal of poetry. Some of my most important work belongs to this period. “The Wizard Way”, “the Garden of Janus”, “After Judgment” and “Bathyllus” are especially notable. I was seeing a good deal of Frank Harris, who was publishing much of my best work in Vanity Fair. It was the first encouragement I had ever had, and in a way it came too late, since I was already entirely disillusioned with regard to fame. The approval of Frank Harris was another matter; it was something, and something very great, to know that my work gained me the respect of the very few men on the planet who knew the difference between Keats and Lewis Morris. I had been recognized as a poet of the first class by my peers and the applause of the mob would leave me as cold as its neglect or hostility does at present.

I kept hard at work in London until after the publication of the first number of The Equinox. There was, besides, much work to be done in reorganizing the order, to which many people were anxious to obtain admission. My domestic tragedy was coming to a crisis. The disease seemed incurable. The doctor said that the only hope was for Rose to sign away her liberty for two years, and as she refused to do this there was nothing for it but for me to obtain a divorce. There was no sense in my being plaintiff, though I had plenty of ground. To me it seemed a breach of the pledge to protect one's wife, which is the first point of a husband's honour. It was consequently agreed that Rose should be plaintiff and the necessary evidence was manufactured in the usual way. {594}

My year was very much broken into by the vicissitudes of this wretched business. Rose was always begging to be taken back and it was very hard for me to be firm. I made things as easy as possible for her by spending as much time with her as I could. The marriage having been in Scotland, there was no King's Proctor to cause one's knees to tremble, and it was unlikely that any spies would discover that we were living together, to all intents and purposes, the whole time the divorce was pending.

Apart from short trips to Paris, I was in England till autumn, when I thought it best to keep well out of the way during the actual time of the trial. I took Neuburg to be my chela and we left London on November 10th. In the meanwhile I was doing comparatively little personal magical work and my lyrics were all of lesser importance. The fact of the matter was that I had got to the end of my tether. The gods had put their foot down — thus far and no farther! I felt myself my life had become broken up into a succession of insignificant adventures. But I did not know why. The reason was that one cannot work beyond a certain point in a New Aeon on a formula of the Old, and I had sealed my stubborn refusal to make The Book of the Law the basis of my work by taking advantage of the technical excuse that I could do nothing in the absence of the manuscript. And that had been lost for years.

It was part of my plan for The Equinox to prepare a final edition of the work of Dr. Dee an Sir Edward Kelly. I had a good many of the data and promised myself to complete them by studying the manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford — which, incidentally, I did in the autumn — but it struck me that it would be useful to get my large paintings of the four Elemental Watch Towers which I had made in Mexico. I thought these were probably in Boleskine. I decided to go up there for a fortnight or so. Incidentally, I had the conveniences for conferring upon Neuburg the degree of neophyte, he having passed brilliantly through his year as a probationer.

I consequently asked him, and an Emmanuel man named Kenneth Ward, to come and stay with me. I had met Ward at Wastdale Head shortly before, having gone there to renew my ancient loves with the creeds of the gullies. It happened that Ward was very keen on skiing. I had several spare pairs and offered to give him some. This casual circumstance proved an essential part of the chain by which I was ultimately dragged behind the chariot of the Secret Chiefs. At least I thought it was a chain., I did not realize that steel of such exquisite temper might be beaten into a sword fit for the hand of a free man.

To my annoyance I could not find the elemental Watch Towers anywhere in the house. I daresay I gave up looking rather easily. I had got into a state of disgusted indifference about such things. Rose might have destroyed them in a drunken fit, just as she might have pawned them if they had {595} possessed any commercial value. I shrugged my shoulders accordingly and gave up the search. The skis that I had promised Ward were not to be found any more than the Watch Towers. After putting Neuburg through this initiation1), we repaired to London. I had let the house and my tenant was coming in on the first of July. We had four days in which to amuse ourselves; and we let ourselves go for a thorough good time. Thus like a thunderbolt comes the incident of June 28th, thus described in my diary:

Glory be to Nuit, Hadit, Ra-Hoor-Khuit in the highest! A little before midday I was impelled mysteriously (though exhausted by playing fives, billiards, etc. till nearly six this morning) to make a final search for the Elemental Tablets. And lo! when I had at last abandoned the search, I cast mine eyes upon a hole in the loft where were ski, etc., and there, O Holy, Holy, Holy! were not only all that I sought, but the manuscript of Liber Legis!

The ground was completely cut away from under my feet. I remained for two whole days meditating on the situation — in performing, in fact, a sort of supplementary Sammasati to that of 1905. Having the knack of it, I reached a very clear conclusion without too much difficulty. The essence of the situation was that the Secret Chiefs meant to hold me to my obligation. I understood that the disaster and misery of the last three years were due to my attempt to evade my duty. I surrendered unconditionally, as appears from the entry of July 1st.

I once more solemnly renounced all that I have or am. On departing (at midnight from the topmost point of the hill which crowns my estate) instantly shone the moon, two days before her fullness, over the hills among the clouds.

This record is couched in very general terms, but it was intended to cover the practical point of my resuming the task laid upon me in Cairo exactly as I might be directed to do by my superiors.

Instantly my burden fell from my back. The long crucifixion of home life came to a crisis immediately on my return to London. At the same time every other inhibition was automatically removed. For the first time since the spring of 1904 I felt myself free to do my will. That, of course, was because I had at last understood what my will was. My aspiration to be the means of emancipating humanity was perfectly fulfilled. I had merely to establish in the world the Law which had been given me to proclaim: “… thou hast no right but to do thy will.” Had I bent my energies from the first to proclaiming the Law of Thelema I should doubtless have found no obstacle in {596} my path. Those which naturally arise in the course of any work soever would have been quietly removed by the Secret Chiefs. But I had chosen to fight against myself for five years and “If Satan shall be divided against Satan, how shall his kingdom stand?” The more I strove, the more I encouraged an internal conflict and stultified myself. I had been permitted to complete my initiation, for the reason that by doing so I was fitting myself for the fight; but all my other efforts had met with derisory disaster. More, one does not wipe out a lustre of lunacy by a moment of sanity. I am suffering to this day from the effects of having wasted some of the best years of my life in the stupid and stubborn struggle to set up my conscious self against its silent sovereign, my true soul. “Had Zimri peace who slew his master?”

The superficial reader may smile at my superstition. Why should I be so sure that the accident of finding an old portfolio in a loft was no accident, but a coup de maître struck by people, for all anyone can prove, who have no existence except in my diseased imagination? I could answer the criticism by massing the evidence, but I prefer to leave that to be studied in another place when the facts have been marshalled so formidably that it is impossible for any reasonable being not to conclude that a praeterhuman agency was at work on my life. I will merely point out that in modern science the test of truth is less the degree of the probability of any fact, than that which is implied by the text “Wisdom is justified of her children”. Facts are judged by their fertility. When a discovery remains sterile, the evidence of its truth is weakened. The indication is that it is not a stone in the temple of truth; it does not fit in with the entire fabric of knowledge. A new fact proves itself by its fitness; isolated, it is repugnant to the continuity of nature. When it is seen to explain cognate difficulties, to complete imperfect conceptions; when it leads to lives of research which bear fruit, some sixtyfold, some eightyfold and some an hundredfold, then it becomes impregnable. My conviction in the reality of my magical experiences does not depend on any single event. It is because so many incidents, each one more or less incredible and inexplicable when considered by itself, become inevitable when considered in their totality and, instead of themselves requiring to be explained, are the means of throwing light upon every obscure corner of the cosmos.

The mere potency of the incident of June 28th proves that its implications were enormously beyond itself. I was inured to miracles of every kind and I no more allowed them to influence my action that Professor Ray Lankester is guided in his researches by Napoleon's Dream Book2). The finding of the manuscript was not even a miracle; it happened in the ordinary course of nature. There was nothing so wonderfully remarkable about its character. It is this very fact that makes us ask how it is that so ordinary a circumstance should have been the power to break down the resolute resistance of a {597} Magician whose will had been developed to the utmost by every type of training from evocation to exploration?

The answer can only be that, exactly as Coriolanus, insensible to all other appeals, was touched by the tears of his mother, so I, whose determination had defied every form of pressure, direct and indirect, was only waiting to hear the unmistakable voice of my Master, and that this insignificant incident supplied the intuitive certainty: that none other than he was behind it. The finer minds among men can oppose intellectual criticism to intellectual demonstration; to the subtle assurances of intuitions which are perhaps imperceptible of articulate expression they can find no answer.

I knew in myself from the first that the revelation in Cairo was the real thing. I have proved with infinite pains that this was the case; yet the proof has not strengthened my faith, and disproof would no nothing to shake it. I knew in myself that the Secret Chiefs had arranged that the manuscript of The Book of the Law should have been hidden under the Watch Towers and the Watch Towers under the skis; that they had driven me to make the key to my position the absence of the manuscript; that they had directed Kenneth Ward's actions for years that he might be the means of the discovery, and arranged every detail of the incident in such a way that I should understand it as I did.

Yes; this involves a theory of the powers of the Secret Chiefs so romantic and unreasonable that is seems hardly worth a smile of contempt. As it happens, an almost parallel phenomenon came to pass ten years later. I propose to quote it here in order to show that the most ordinary events, apparently disconnected, are in fact only intelligible by postulating some such people as the Secret Chiefs of the A∴ A∴ in possession of some such prevision and power as I ascribe to them. When I returned to England at Christmas 1919, all my plans had gone to pieces owing to the dishonesty and treachery of a gang which was bullying into insanity my publisher in Detroit. I was pledged in honour to look after a certain person; but I was practically penniless. I could not see any possible way of carrying on my work. (It will be related in due course how this condition of things came about and why it was necessary for me to undergo it.)

I found myself at Morêt, on the edge of the Forest of Fountainebleau, with nothing to do but wait. I did not throw up the sponge in passionate despair as I had done once before, to my shame — I had been rapped sufficiently hard on the knuckles to cure me of that — but I said to the gods: “Observe, I have done my damnedest and here I am at a dead centre. I am not going on muddling through: I demand a definite sign from you that I am still your chosen prophet.” I therefore note in my diary, on January 12th 1920, as follows: {598}

I am inclined to make my Silence include all forms of personal work, and this is very hard to give up, if only because I am still afraid of “failure”, which is absurd. I ought evidently to be non-attached even to avoiding the Woes-Attendant-Upon-Refusing-The-Curse-Of-My-Grade, if I may be pardoned the expression.

And why should I leave my Efficacious Tortoise and look at people till my lower jaw hangs down? Shall I see what the Yi says? Ay. Question: Shall I abandon all magical work soever until the appearance of a manifest sign?



I have invoked Aiwaz to manipulate the Sticks; and, wishing to ask, “What shall be the Sign?” got instantly the reference in CCXX to Our Lady Babalon: “… the omnipresence of my body.” But this is not quite clear; I took it mentally as referring to the expected arrival of Our Lady, but it might mean a trance, or almost anything. So I will ask Yi, as my last magical act for the time being.

ÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜ ÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜ I think this means the arrival of ÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜ ÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜ our Lady. I have serious doubts ÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜ ÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜ whether the hexagram should not ÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜ have been: ÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜ ÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜ ÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜ ÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜ ÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜ which would have certainly meant ÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜ ÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜ that. That I should doubt anything ÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜ ÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜ is absurd: I shall know the Sign, ÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜ without fail. And herewith I close ÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜ the Record and await that Sign. ÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜ

The next entry is dated Sunday, February 1st.

Kindly read over the entry of Jan. 12th with care exceeding. Now then: On Friday, Jan. 30th, I went to Paris to buy pencils, Mandarin, a Palette, Napoleon Brandy, canvases and other appurtenances of the artist's dismal trade. I took occasion to call upon an old mistress of mine, Jane Chéron, concerning whom see The Equinox, vol. I, No. VI, “Three Poems”. She has never had the slightest interest in occult matters and she has never done any work in her life, even of the needlework order. I had seen her once before since my escape from America, and she said she had something to show me, but I took no particular notice and she did not insist. My object in calling on this second occasion was multiple. I wanted to see the man with whom she was living, who had not yet {599} returned from Russia; I wanted to make love to her, and I wanted to smoke a few pipes of opium with her, she being a devotee of that great and terrible god.

Consider now: The Work whereby I am a Magus began in Cairo (1904) with the discovery of the stele of Ankh-f-n-Khonsu, in which the principal object is the body of our Lady Nuith. It is reproduced in colours in The Equinox, Vol. I, No. VII. Jane Chéron has a copy of this book. On Friday afternoon, then, I was in her apartment. I had attained none of my objectives in calling on her and was about to depart. She detained me to show me this “something”. She went and took a folded cloth from a drawer. “Shut your eyes,” she said.

When I opened them, they saw a cloth four feet or more in length, on which was a magnificent copy, mostly in appliqu‚ silk, of the stele. She then told me that in February 1979, she and her young man had gone to the south of France to get cured of the opium habit. In such cases insomnia is frequent. One night, however, he had gone to sleep and on waking in the morning found that she, wakeful, had drawn a copy of the stele on a great sheet of paper.

It is very remarkable that so large a sheet of paper should have been at hand; also that they should have taken that special book on such a journey; but still more that she should have chosen that picture, nay, that she, who had never done anything of the sort before, should have done it at all. More yet, that she should have spent three months in making a permanent thing of it. Most of all, that she should have shown it to me at the very moment when I was awaiting an “unmistakable” sign.

For observe, how closely the words of my entry of January 12th describe the Sign, “… the omnipresence of my body.” And there She was — in the last place in the world where one would have sought Her.

accuracy of the ÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜ ÜÜÜÜÜÜÜÜ
the symbol of our Lady, and the God below Her in the stele

All this is clear proof of the unspeakable power and wisdom of those who have sent me to proclaim the Law.

I observe, after a talk with M. Jules Courtier yesterday, that all their S.P.R. work is proof of extra-human forces. We knew about them all along; the universe is full of obscure and subtle manifestations of energy; we are constantly advancing in our knowledge and control of them. Telekinesis is of the same order of nature as the Hertz rays or {600} the radium emanations. But what nobody before me has done is to prove the existence of extra-human intelligence, and my Magical Record does this. I err in the interpretation, of course; but it is impossible to doubt that there is a somebody there, a somebody capable of combining events as a Napoleon forms his plans of campaign, and possessed of powers unthinkably vast.

If these events be indeed the result of calculation and control on the part of the Secret Chiefs, it seems at first sight as if the people involved had been prepared to play their parts from the beginning. Our previous relations, the girl's addiction to opium, my friendship with her lover, and his interest in my work; omit any item and the whole plan fails. But this assumption is unnecessary. The actual preparation need not go back further than three years, when the stele was embroidered. We may allow the Secret Chiefs considerable option, just as a chess player is not confined to one special combination for his attack. We may suppose that had these people not been available, the sign which I demanded might have been given me in some other equally striking way. We are not obliged to make extravagant assumptions in order to maintain that the evidence of purpose is irresistibly strong.

To dismiss this intricate concatenation of circumstances, culminating as they do in the showing forth of the exact sign which I had demanded, is simply to strain the theory of probabilities beyond the breaking point. Here then are two complicated episodes which go to prove that I am walking, not by faith but by sight, in my relations with the Secret Chiefs; and these are but two links in a very long chain. This account of my career will describe many others equally striking. I might, perhaps, deny my inmost instinct the right to testify were any one case of this kind in question; but when, year after year, the same sort of thing keeps on happening and when, furthermore, I find myself able to predict, as experience has taught me to do in the last three years, that they will happen, and even how the pieces will fit into the puzzle, I am justified in assuming a causal connection.

As any billiard player knows, while a ten-shot might be fluked by a novice, or even that he might run up a break of twenty or thirty now and again, a consistent sequence of breaks averaging twenty-five over a series of months cannot possibly happen by chance; this proves impugnably both that certain management of the cue combined with judgment must result in certain movements of the balls, and that skill and not luck determines the success of the player. Again, at roulette a run of one hundred on red might happen once in a thousand years by pure chance; but if it occurred a dozen times a night for a week it would prove that the table is furnished with a mechanical device by which the croupier could control the fall of the ball. {601}

From this time I accepted the Law in its entirety; that is, I admitted its absolute authority. I was not, however, at the end of my difficulties. Much of the book was unintelligible, and many passages, especially in Chapter III, entirely repugnant. I was content to leave these points to be cleared up by the gods themselves in their own good time. They had proved that I could trust them to manage what was after all their own affair and not mine. I refrained from pushing my criticism. I took the general sense of the Book, so far as I understood it, as at once the starting point and the summit of my Magick.

This change of attitude was tremendous. I had always been tongue-tied in the matter of expressing my spiritual self in poetry and my lyrics had been comparatively unimportant. The dealt only with certain aspects of the matter. I could point to nothing which really represented my personality as a whole or brought the events of my career into intelligible relation. The more I learned to study and love The Book of the Law, the better I was able to integrate myself.

Sir Palamedes was the most ambitious attempt to describe the Path of the Wise as I knew it. It is in its way almost complete, but there is no attempt to show the necessary sequence of the ordeals described in each section. The last section, in which Sir Palamedes, after achieving every possible task and finding that all his attainments did not bring him to the end of his Quest, abandons the following of the Questing Beast; he returns, discomfited, to the Round Table, only to find that, having surrendered, the Questing Beast comes to him of its own accord.

I could not pretend that this was more than a tour de force, an evasion of the issue. I know now that the true solution is this: there is no goal to be attained, as I had reached Madrid; the reward is in the march itself. As soon as I got to Madrid my adventures were at an end. If I had had to stay there I should have been bored to death, even if it had been the city of God itself. The joy of life consists in the exercise of one's energies, continual growth, constant change, the enjoyment of every new experience. To stop means simply to die.

The eternal mistake of mankind is to set up an attainable ideal. Sir Palamedes expressed himself fully in following the Questing Beast. His success (as described in the poem) would in reality have left him with nothing to live for. My own life has been indescribably ecstatic, because even when I thought that there was a reward and a rest at the end, my imagination pictured them as so remote that I was in no danger of getting what I wanted. I am now wise enough to understand that every beat of my pulse marks a moment of exquisite rapture in the consciousness that the curve of my career is infinite, that with every breath I climb closer and closer to the limit, yet can never reach it. I am always aspiring, always attaining; nothing can {602} stop me, not even success. I had some perception of this in these years of my life in London, for I wrote in The Book of Lies: “Only those are happy who have desired the unattainable.”

“The Equinox” should have been, on its merits, a very successful venture. Frank Harris had generously given me one of the best stories he ever wrote, “The Magic Glasses”. Fuller had contributed a gargantuan preface to //The Temple of Solomon the King// (the title of the story of my magical career), a series of sublimely eloquent rhapsodies descriptive of the various possible attitudes towards existence. There were three important instructions in Magick; the best poem of its kind that I had so far written, “The Wizard Way”; “At the Fork of the Roads”, a true and fascinating story of one of my early magical experiences; The Soldier and the Hunchback ! and ? which I still think one of the subtlest analyses that has ever been written on ontology, with its conclusion: that ecstatic affirmation and sceptical negation are neither of them valid in themselves but are alternate terms in an infinite series, a progression which is in itself a sublime and delightful path to pursue. Disappointment arises from the fear that every joy is transient. If we accept it as such and delight to destroy our own ideals in the faith that the very act of destruction will encourage us to rebuild a nobler and loftier temple from the debris of the old, each phase of our progress will be increasingly pleasant. “pi alpha mu phi alpha gamma epsilon pi alpha gamma gamma epsilon nu epsilon tau omega rho ”, “All devouerer, all begetter”, is the praise of Pan.

In us the will to live and the will to die should be equally strong and free, should be recognized as complements of each other, neither complete in itself; and the antithesis between them a device invented for our own amusement. All energy implies vibration. Man is miserable in the last analysis because he fancies that when what gives him pleasure is destroyed, as he knows it must be sooner or later, the loss is irreparable; so he shores up his crumbling walls instead of building himself a better house. We all cling to outworn customs of every kind and lie to ourselves about love when we know in our hearts that there is no more oil in the lamp, and that the best thing we can do is to look for a new one. We are afraid to lose whatever we have. We have not the sense to see that whatever it may be, it is bound to go sooner or later, that when it does its place will be filled by something just as good, and nothing is more stupid than to try to set back the sun upon the dial of Ahaz.

As soon as we learn that everything is only half, that it implies its opposite, we can let ourselves go with a light heart, finding just as much fun in the red leaves of autumn as in the green leaves of spring. What is interesting is the complete cycle. Life itself would be deplorably petty were it not consecrated by the fact of its incomprehensibility and dignified by the certainty that however petty, futile, baroque and contemptible its career may {603} be, it must close in the sublime sacrament of death. As it is written in The Book of the Law, “-death is the crown of all.”

The supplement to the first number of The Equinox is a plain reprint of my Magical Record in Paris, mentioned above. I have omitted no detail of my doings. My dinners, my dalliance and my other diversions are described as minutely as my Magick, my mantras and my meditations. Nothing of the sort had ever been published before. It is a complete demonstration of the possibility of achieving the most colossal results in conditions which had hitherto been considered an absolute bar to carrying on even elementary work. It proves my proposition that the efficacy of traditional practices is independent of dogmatic and ethical considerations; and, moreover, that my sceptical formulae based on a purely agnostic viewpoint, and on the facts of physiology and psychology, as understood by modern materialists, were entirely efficacious.

In summary, let me add that The Equinox was the first serious attempt to put before the public the facts of occult science, so-called, since Blavatsky's unscholarly hotch-poch of fact and fable, Isis Unveiled. It was the first attempt in history to treat the subject with scholarship and from the standpoint of science. No previous book of its kind can compare with it for the perfection of its poetry and prose; the dignity and sublimity of its style, and the rigidity of its rule never to make any statement which could not be proved as precisely as the mathematician exacts. I confess to being entirely proud of having inaugurated an epoch. From the moment of its appearance, it imposed its standards of sincerity, scholarship, scientific seriousness and aristocracy of all kinds, from the excellence of its English to the perfection of its printing, upon everyone with ambition to enter this field of literature.

It did not command a large public, but its influence has been enormous. It is recognized as the standard publication of its kind, as encyclopedia without “equal, son, or companion”. It has been quoted, copied and imitated everywhere. Innumerable cults have been founded by charlatans on its information. Its influence has changed the whole current of thought of students all over the world. Its inveterate enemies are not only unable to ignore it, but submit themselves to its sovereignty. It was thus entirely successful from my personal point of view. I had put a pearl of great price in a shop window, whose other exhibits were pasted diamonds and bits of coloured glass for the most part, and at best, precious stones of the cheaper and commoner kind. From the moment of its appearance, everyone had to admit — for the most part with hatred and envy in their hearts — that the sun had appeared in the slum and put to shame the dips and kerosene lamps which had lighted it till then. It was no longer possible to carry on hole-in-the-corner charlatanism as heretofore.

I printed only one thousand and fifty copies, the odd fifty being bound {604} subscription copies at a guinea, and the rest in boards at five shillings. Had I sold a complete edition straight out without any discounts my return would thus have been three hundred pounds. The cost of production was nearer four hundred. Similar figures apply to the other nine numbers. In this way I satisfied myself that no one could reproach me with trying to make money out of Magick. As a matter of fact, it went utterly against the grain to take money at all. When anyone showed interest in my poetry or my magical writings, the attitude so delighted me that I felt it utterly shameful to have any kind of commercial transaction with so noble an individual, and I used, as often as not, to beg him to accept the book as a present.

My feeling about accepting money is even more general than this; it rasps every delicate nerve. I feel that the world owes me a handsome income and I have no shame whatever in taking it, provided it is a sort of tribute. The fortune I had inherited was perfectly all right and it never occurred to me to inquire into its sources. Widowers' Houses shocked without convincing me. Thinking it over, I suppose fraud and robbery are the only two sources of wealth, bar exceptional cases; and I suppose that after all the most honest and most honourable way of getting money is to sell one's writings.

Yet I still feel there is something very wrong about it. Good work is priceless and bad work is worthless. Besides, even the best writers are tempted to do their worst work by the fact that publishers, as a class, are persuaded that the public prefer rubbish. The fact is that there are hardly half a dozen writers in England today who have not sold out to the enemy. Even when their good work has been a success, Mammon grips them and whispers, “More money for more work.” One ought to have an independent income or another profession. There is hardly one first-rate writer in the last century who has not been starved, persecuted, slandered, bullied, exiled, imprisoned or driven to drink or drowning.

To return to The Equinox, there was no question of selling even that small edition even at that pitiful price. I have never had any idea of how to do business. I can make plans, both sound and brilliant; but I cannot force myself to take the necessary steps to put them into practice. My greatest weakness is that as soon as I am sure that I can attain any given object, from climbing a mountain to exploiting a beauty spot, I lose interest. The only things I complete are those of which (as for instance, poetry and Magick) I am not the real author but an instrument impelled by a mysterious power which sweeps me away in effortless enthusiasm which leaves no room for my laziness, cynicism and similar inhibiting qualities to interfere.

I did try to get a few booksellers to stock The Equinox but found myself immediately up against a blank wall of what I must call Chinese conventionality. I remember hearing of an engineer in the East who wanted to {605} built himself a house and employed a Chinese contractor. He pointed out that the work would be much easier by using bricks of a different size to that which the man was making. He obeyed, but a day later went back to the old kind. The engineer protested, but the man explained that his bricks were of a “heaven-sent” size3).

So I found that the format of The Equinox shocked the bookseller; worse still, it was not a book, being issued periodically, nor a magazine, being to big and well produced! I said, “What does it matter? All I ask you to do is to show it and sell it.” Quite useless4).

I spent my spare time in the summer, for the most part, with frivolous friends in the Thames valley. I sorely needed just that sort of relaxation. My soul was badly bruised by the ruin of my romance, but I had a good time of a sort. At least, one of my friends was the most amusing person in his peculiar way that ever met. I must tell one incident, very instructive, as showing the ravages which can be wrought by strong sexuality in an unbalanced mind which, on the one hand, cannot control it and, on the other, fears it and thinks it should be suppressed.

My friend, “Gnaggs” we will call him, had just been divorced from a trained nurse, the woman in the case being a plump, pretty piece of pink of the barmaid type, whom he then married. “Gnaggs” thought his first duty was to safeguard the morals of the woman who had just divorced him! She was living in a block of flats near Hyde Park. Someone was sending him anonymous letters about her. One evening he joined our party — his wife and a few others — when we came in from the river to dine at the Ray Mead Hotel. He had just received another letter, which said plainly that some man was going to be at his first wife's flat that night. He rushed up to London.

When not clamouring for chastity in language which would have seemed to Savonarola violent and extreme, Gnaggs exhorted his wife to enjoy herself with any man she fancied. Neuburg was engaged in a furious flirtation with her, and he and I went back to Gnaggs's house with Mrs. G. and my own inamorata. Neuburg wanted to stay the night; and his hostess, who was very drunk, was a greedy as he was. But I was warned by a heavenly vision. I felt it in the marrow of my bones that a storm was brewing. I put my foot down; and though I almost had to use main force to get Neuburg to go home, I had my way. I was still talking to my own friend at half-past two, when I heard the click of the garden gate and steps on the path. The house door opened and shut with sinister softness. There there was absolute silence.

A few minutes later there was a frightened scream from Mrs. Gnaggs. I threw on a dressing gown and went out. She was standing in a kimono on {606} the landing with a candle, in hysterics, leaning over the balustrade and calling to know who was there. I said, “It is only some beastly burglar,” took the candle and went down. No one in the hall. In the dining-room, in pitch darkness, Gnaggs was standing, trembling, as white as a fish's belly. I lit up, called upstairs that all was well, and told him he had no business to frighten his wife. He seemed incapable of speech. I got him a drink and he gradually pulled himself together. We started to smoke and he told me his story.

He had left his bicycle on the kerb some fifty yards from the entrance to the house where his first wife lived and waited in the shadow for her lover to come out. The man appeared about one o'clock. Gnaggs instantly fell on him, left him for dead on the pavement, sprinted to his machine and raced home. I congratulated him on his resourcefulness in making life interesting and got him to go to bed. He was a good deal scared about the police, in case he had killed the man. We watched the papers anxiously.

The next day a paragraph appeared.

Mysterious midnight assault near Hyde Part. Dr. Herpes-Zoster5), a prominent physician of Clyster Street, was assaulted brutally, and battered by a thug at the door of 606 Mercury Mansions, Iodine Street, Hyde Park, about one o'clock this morning. He was discovered unconscious by the policemen on the beat and taken to Knocks Hospital, where he was found to be suffering from numerous contusions and serious internal injuries. He had not been robbed and can assign no motive for the attack, as he is not aware that he has any enemies. He had been spending a quiet evening with some old friends. Professor and Mrs. Phthisis.

Once more I congratulated Gnaggs and this time quite sincerely. It was certainly quite improbable that the police would get on his trail, as his victim was an utter stranger, as much to his first wife as to himself!

I found this sort of thing added a spice to life. Gnaggs could be relied upon to take one out of the rut every few minutes. Some weeks later I went to spend the weekend with him. I was worn out with worry and work and had caught a bad chill. He was out when I got to the house. Mrs. Gnaggs saw that I was really ill and made me lie down on the sofa in the combination smoking-room and conservatory, and went to get shawls to cover me up. As she bent over me to arrange them, the door opened and Ganggs walked in with his eternal bicycle. He jumped to the false conclusion that she was kissing me – (God forbid!) — and started a row. I was really too ill to do more than look on lazily, with amused contempt; but after half an hour of recriminations, Gnaggs went out to telegraph to her father, his lawyer and several possible allies. She followed him out. {607}

Two minutes later I heard her scream for help. I ran out and found that he had got her by the throat. On seeing me he let her go; she ran screaming into the house. He followed, swearing to kill her. I made a beeline for the drawing-room poker, but the room was so full of trumpery ornaments that there was no room to swing it. So we clinched. We fought our way to the hall. I finally got him down on the staircase. He kicked the balustrade to splinters; but I held on. Luckily, his hair was very long, so that I could knock his head on the edge of a stair whenever he tried to break away. I begged Mrs Gnaggs and the servants to send for help, but they were much too interested in watching the scrap. I had to hold him down for an hour and a half when another guest turned up and restored peace.

We sat down to dinner perfectly good friends. On second thoughts he realized that his suspicions had been absurd. But his wife got hot as he got cool. During the meal she tried to kill him, first by throwing the soup tureen and a few dishes at him across the table, and secondly with the carving knife. It was one of the most delightful dinners I ever ate.

The story has no sequel.

They squabbled and scrapped and scratched for some years, and then went, first to Canada, then to California, and squabbled and scratched some more. They are back in England now, separated most of the time, and only meeting when they feel they would like to squabble and scrap and scratch some more. He is madder than ever, and she has developed into a large lump of dough. She has caught his complaint, and divides her time between drunken orgies with any loose fish she can find, and passionate protestations that she is utterly pure.

I really believe she persuades herself that the other half of her life does not exist. To me both extremes seem equally the debauches of an unbalanced and uncontrolled emotionalism. This view is confirmed by the fact that as she advanced in flabbiness, fat and the forties, she found it harder to attract men, and took to spasms of spiritualism. She raves about her “Guides” and explains the most natural events of life as parts of various portentous plans prepared by people “from the other side”.

On August 22nd the spirit suddenly sprang up in my soul like a serpent and bade me testify to the truth that was in me in poetry. I knew London would stifle me and rushed down to Maidenhead. I spent three days in a canoe, chiefly in the reach under the wier by Boulter's Lock.

            Choose tenderly
A place for thine Academy.
Let there be an holy wood
Of embowered solitude
By the still, the rainless river, {608} Underneath the tangled roots
Of majestic tress that quiver
In the quiet airs; where shoots
Of kindly grass are green,
Moss and ferns asleep between,
Lilies in the water lapped,
Sunbeams in the branches trapped
— Windless and eternal even!
Silenced all the birds of heaven
By the low insistent call
Of the constant waterfall.
There, to such a setting be
The carven gem of deity,
A central flawless fire, enthralled
Like Truth within an emerald!
Thou shalt have a birchen bark
On the river in the dark;
And at the midnight thou shalt go
To the mid-stream's smoothest flow,
And strike upon a golden bell
The spirit's call; then say the spell:
“Angel, mine angel, draw thee nigh!”
Making the Sign of Magistry
With the wand of lapis lazuli
Then, it may be, through the blind dumb
Night thou shalt see thine angel come,
Hear the faint whisper of his wings,
Behold the starry breast begemmed
With twelve stones of the twelve Kings!
His forehead shall be diademmed
With the faint light of stars, wherein
The Eye gleams dominant and keen,
Thereat thou swoonest; and thy love
Shall catch the subtle voice thereof …

It was given me during these days to experience fully once more every incident in my initiation, so that I might describe them while still white-hot with their wonder. It is this that assures me that this poem is unique of its kind. Its only rival is the Bhagavad-Gita, which, despite its prolixity, confines its ardour to Vishvarupa-darshana. Apart from this, it treats of Hindu dogma and ethics. At its best, it is a sectarian work. “Aha!” covers all religious experience, asserts no axioms, advocates no cut-and-dried codes. In some {609} eleven hundred lines I have described all the principal trances, from the three types of Dhyana (Sun, Moon, Agni) and the four elements (for instance, the Disc “like a black boundless diamond whirring with millions of wings”), to the spiritual beings that inhabit the invisible universe, and the Samadhic Trances, Atmadarshana and Shivadarshana.

I have also described the moral and intellectual phenomena of initiation and indicated the main principles on which the aspirant should base his working. The Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel comes as the climax to these triumphs. It is significant that I proceed from this point instantly to declare the Law of Thelema, and give a dithyrambic epitome of the three chapters of the Book. I say distinctly that this message to mankind is to be identified with the Word of my Holy Guardian Angel. It is only as I write this that I realize that the poet in me perceived that Aiwaz and mine Angel were one. Till this moment I believed that I had reached this conclusion after many months of meditation in the last three years and accepted it provisionally with the greatest hesitation.

This psychological paradox, by the way, is very frequent. Again and again I have made important discoveries with tedious toil only to remember, in the hour of triumph, that I had written them down years earlier. It seems that I do not know what I am writing, or even understand what I have written.

The poem ends with “Blessing and worship to the Beast, the prophet of the Lovely Star”. Henceforth I must be no more an aspirant, no more an adept, no more aught that I could think of as myself. I was the chosen prophet of the Masters, the instrument fit to interpret their idea and work their will. I cannot say whether I realized this identification of myself with the messenger of the Masters, this resolution of my complex equation into a simple expression, in which the x of my individuality was eliminated, made it possible for the Secret Chiefs to initiate me fully as a Master of the Temple, three years since my prudent refusal to accept it.


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The preparation for this was in some ways trying to the candidate. For instance, he had to sleep naked for seven nights on a litter of gorse.
Such, at least, is a tenable hypothesis. I have no direct evidence that he does not do so!
WEH Note: This is a typical misunderstanding (by Crowley and the Engineer, not the Chinese contractor!). China has had standards of weights, materials and money for a very long time. These standards were set by imperial edict, and when originally propagated had penalties for violation up to and including death by torture. In plain words, when the Engineer demanded a change from the official standard, he coerced a violation of the law. The contractor attempted to explain by saying that the size of the bricks was a matter of ancient imperial law = “from the Jade Emperor, or spirit of the past Emperors, in Heaven”.
WEH Note: Possibly for the same reasons as the Chinese brick of the previous note. Most countries have very different laws governing the sales and distribution of periodicals over books. For example, in the USA a periodical is not subject to sales tax, has a different postal rate and has provisions of constitutional protection quite different from those of a book. Very likely this became a question of what laws to follow, not one of social confusion but rather conflicting statute.
WEH Note: Another artificial name, this time based on that dread but largely trivial eruptive inflammation. The remaining names are suggestive as well: “Clyster” = enema. Mercury and Iodine were then used to treat sexual and skin diseases. “Hyde” can be taken as a pun for hidding = a beating or for skin. “Knocks” = blows. “Phthisis” = a wasting disease. “Gnaggs” of course is a pun for “nags”.


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