The sixth Chokmah day was devoted to a terrible ordeal. I had by this time been enlightened as to the falseness of the Cat; it therefore became my duty to slay her. I had created truth by means of an untrustworthy material and must therefore no longer cling to the image of the ideal. I must destroy it, well knowing that it would never again be possible for me to delude myself with poetical puppets. I must face reality for good and all.
The desolation in my heart was unspeakably dreadful and the seventh Chokmah day found me in the same solitude and silence as the first three; with this difference: that a minister was appointed to comfort and console me. Exactly as before, every single relation that I had established snapped suddenly. I had plenty of friends; but none of them meant anything. However, my consolation was supreme. On the one hand, the despairing cynicism of the wise realist Snake, on the other, the heartless vanity of the foolish idealistic Cat, had left me hopeless for humanity.
In this extremity, I met a very rare animal. A woman! She was a regular street-walker. She had been familiar with hardships, callousness, obsession, shame and poverty from her cradle; but she possessed every noble quality to the full. Hers was the true pride, generosity, purity and passion to which the Cat so basely pretended; and hers also the clear-insighted intelligence, the wide experience and deep insight of the Snake. Yet she had faced and conquered her foes, instead of acquiescing in despair.
I am not one of those sentimental slop-mongers who are always finding angels in the mud. On the whole, my experience of outcast woman had not provoked any excess of sympathy. I thought that in most cases their own defects were responsible for their misfortunes. Indeed, I failed to realize consciously the sublimity of this girl until long afterwards. But today, I see clearly enough the nature of her mission; which ended as strangely as it began, at the close of the Chokmah day. She disappeared into the Ewigkeit without a word and all my efforts to trace her were fruitless.
This day of repose and reward had prepared me for my next ordeal. At the beginning of the eighth day appeared a Monkey and an Owl. Once again I was confronted with the necessity of choosing between two ideas. The Monkey had all the insensate passion, volubility and vanity of the less developed primates. She was a great artist and a great lover; yet in each of these functions she displayed the utmost inanity of conceit. The Owl,
on the other hand, was incapable of sublimity and at the same time free from affectation. She was as pleasant and sensible as the Monkey was excruciating and absurd.
The nature of my ordeal was twofold. In the first crisis, it was put up to me to do the right thing without permitting any interference from personal inclination or consideration of the ultimate consequences of my line of action. The test was applied at a conference of the parties chiefly concerned. The Monkey's husband wanted me to take her off his hands. A divorce was to be arranged and a marriage to follow. Asked to give my views, I began “I have no personal feeling in the matter.” The words were a bombshell. Both husband and wife realized, to their amazed horror, that they had neither of them any means of influencing my conduct. I found myself completely master of the situation. It is only necessary to destroy in oneself the roots of those motives which determine a man's course, in order to enjoy the omnipotence and immunity of a god.
The second point of the ordeal concerned the choice between the women. The Owl offered all the delights of carefree ease and placid pleasure; but there was nothing to be gained. The Monkey represented a life of turmoil and anxiety, with few magnificent moments amid the hours of fretfulness; but progress was possible. It was as if the Secret Chiefs had asked me, “Are you content to enjoy the fruit of your attainment and live at peace with the world, surrounded by affection, respect and comfort, or will you devote yourself to mastering and fertilizing mankind, despite the prospect of continual disquietude and almost certain disappointment?” I chose the Monkey. I was perfectly willing to make the best of the Owl, in my spare time, so to speak; but I accepted the responsibility attached to her rival without reservation.
A single day was sufficient for this part of the initiation. At the dawn of the ninth day all had been arranged. The Monkey went to England to wind up certain of her affairs and the Owl had no string on me. I was thus able to undertake a Great Magical Retirement in June. For this purpose I went to live in a cottage on the shores of Lake Pasquaney in New Hampshire. My initiation now took on a more strictly magical character. I was able to enter into direct communication with the realities of existence instead of conducting them by means of symbolic gestures.
My very first experience was the announcement of the birth of my “son”, as above mentioned. I did not understand the matter in that light but in this: that by means of my system of training, a man had crossed the Abyss and become a Master of the Temple in much shorter period than had ever been known. My own case had been extraordinary. Eleven years had sufficed me to accomplish a task which in human experience had never required much less than triple the time. Moreover, the conditions had been almost
uniquely favourable for me. I possessed all the qualities, all the resources requisite.
In the case of O.I.V. the period was shorter still, and by much; while for him the conditions had been wholly adverse. He was obliged to earn his living in a distasteful and exhausting manner. His domestic circumstances were atrocious. He had not the means of travel or even of scholastic research. I could only conclude that his success was almost wholly due to the excellence of the system which I had given to the world. In short, it was the justification of my whole life, the unique and supreme reward of my immeasurable toils.
Fortified and rejoiced by this good news, I began at once to devote myself to research in the strict sense of the word.
And then the fun began! I found myself unable to do anything of the sort. I am not quite sure how the circumstances responsible for this fit in with my general situation, but they are well worthy of record for their own sake.
I have mentioned elsewhere that in the bosom of the Sanctuary of the Gnosis of the O.T.O. is cherished a magical formula, extremely simple and practical, for attaining any desired object. It is, however, peculiarly appropriate to the principal operations of alchemy, most of all the preparation of the Elixir of Life and the Universal Medicine. At first I used this method casually. It was only when various unexpectedly and even astoundingly successful operations compelled my attention, that I devoted myself systematically and scientifically to the serious study and practice of it. For some two and a half years I had conducted a careful and strenuous research into the conditions of success. Experience had shown me that sometimes this was complete, but at others partial or even negligible, while not infrequently the work would result in failure, perhaps almost amounting to disaster.
Just before leaving New York I had prepared by this method an elixir whose virtue should be to restore youth, and of this I had taken seven doses. Nothing particular happened at first; and it never occurred to me that it might be imprudent to continue.
I was mistaken. Hardly had I reached my hermitage before I was suddenly seized with an attack of youth in its acutest form. All mental activity became distasteful. I turned into a mere vehicle of physical energy. I could hardly bring myself to read a book even of the lightest kind. I could not satisfy my instincts by paddling the canoe which I had imported. I spent about an hour every day in housework and cooking; the remaining fifteen hours of waking life were filled by passionately swinging an axe without interruption. I could hardly stop to smoke a pipe.
There was no self-delusion about this, as I might have persuaded myself to believe in the absence of external evidence. But this was furnished by an irrefutable monument. I wanted to build a wharf for my canoe. With this
object I cut down a tree and trimmed a twenty-two foot log. Its circumference at the smaller end was too great for my arms to meet round it. My only instrument for moving this was a wooden pole. The tree had fallen about a hundred yards from the bank; and though it was downhill all the way to the lake, the ground was very uneven and the path so narrow that it was impossible to roll the log at all. Nevertheless, I moved it singlehanded into the lake, where I fixed it by driving piles. Passers-by spread the story of the hermit with superhuman strength, and people came from all parts to gaze upon the miracle. I should mention that normally my physical strength is far below the average, especially for work of this kind. It is quite an effort for me to shift a sixty pound load for even a few feet.
So much for the sufficiently remarkable truth. Of course imagination improved on the story. I received an indignant letter from New York from the lady who had lent me the cottage, reproaching me for having built a dam right across the lake, to the detriment of navigation!
This spasm of energy continued without abatement for some three weeks, after which I gradually recovered the balance of my normal faculties. The effect of my operations was now to increase the energy of each of them, but in reasonable proportion. I was now able to begin my proposed magical research.
In order to erect the temple of the New Aeon, it appeared necessary to make a thorough clearance of the rubbish of its ruined predecessors. I therefore planned and executed a Magical Operation to banish the “Dying God”. I had written in “the Wizard Way”:
He had crucified a toad
In the Basilisk abode
and now I did so. The theory of the Operation was to identify the toad with the “Dying God” and slay it. At the same time I caused the elemental spirit of the slain reptile to serve me.
The result was immediately apparent. A girl of the village, three miles away, asked me to employ her as my secretary. I had had no intention of doing any literary work; but as soon as I set eyes on her I recognized that she had been sent for a purpose, for she exactly resembled the aforesaid toad. I therefore engaged her to come out every morning an take dictation. I had with me a copy of Bernard Shaw's Androcles and the Lion and bethought myself that I would criticize the preface. The almost unparalleled knowledge of the text of the Bible which I had acquired in early childhood was shocked by Shaw's outrageously arbitrary selection of the texts that sustained his argument. His ignorance of Asiatic life and thought had led him into the most grotesque misapprehensions. I set out to criticize his essay, section by section; but the work grew under my hand, and in three
weeks or so, I had produced a formidable treatise of some forty-five thousand words. I had intended to confine myself to destructive criticism of my author; but as I went on, my analysis of the text of the gospels revealed the mystery of their composition. It became clear both those who believe in the historicity of “Jesus” and their opponents were at fault. I could not doubt that actual incidents and genuine sayings in the life of a real man formed part of the structure. The truth was that scraps of several such men, distinct from and incompatible with each other, had been pitch-forked together and labelled with a single name. It was exactly the case of the students who stuck together various parts of various insects and asked their professor, “What kind of a bug is this?” “Gentlemen,” he replied, “this is a humbug.”
In writing this book, I was much assisted by Frazer's Golden Bough and, to a less extent, by Jung's Psychology of the Unconscious. But my main assets were my intimate knowledge of the text of the gospels, of the conditions of life and thought in the East, of the details of magical and mystical work, and of the literary conventions which old writers employed to convey their ideas.
I may mention the absurdity of Shaw finding difficulty in the fact that the visit of the three “Kings” is not mentioned in profane history. Shaw did not realize that a “King” may be the equivalent of a very minor chieftain in the Highlands.
Again the injunctions to abandon family ties and worldly cares involve no social theories. They are addressed only to would-be disciples, and have been so given — from the dawn of history to the present day — by every Eastern teacher that ever balanced himself upon one thumb, used a hip bath instead of a soup plate, or rode the Wheel of Samsara in preference to a bicycle.
Once more, the irrational incidents of the life of Christ become entirely normal when understood as the rubric of a ritual of initiation.
I claim that my book establishes the outline of an entirely final theory of the construction of Christianity. The subject is far too vast and complex to be adequately discussed in this autohagiography. But I have no hesitation in referring the student to my essay for the solution of any and every difficulty which he may have found in the consideration of this matter.
Having completed this treatise, I discovered myself to be inspired to write a number of short stories based on The Golden Bough. They are “The Hearth”, “The God of Ibreez”, “The Burning of Melcarth”, “The Old Man of the Peepul Tree”, “The Mass of St Secaire”, “The King of the Wood”, “The Oracle of Cocytus” and “The Stone of Cybele”.
Now with regard to my magical work strictly speaking, its character was presumably determined by my Grade. The Magus corresponds to the Sephira Chokmah, whose manifestation in the universe is Masloth, the
Sphere of the Fixed Stars. It was accordingly proper that I should receive a revelation of the universe in this aspect. I began my meditation with no special objective in view. Almost immediately (instead of after a long- continued effort, as had been the case generally speaking in the past) I obtained a Samadhi of which my conscious memory brought back the account “Nothingness and twinkles”, adding subsequently “but what twinkles!” This Samadhi developed in the course of time, as I repeated it, into such importance that I feel almost justified in calling it the radix of my whole philosophical outlook. I have described it, giving historical details, in my Comment on The Book of the Law, ch. I, v. 59. It seems convenient to quote this in this place, as throwing light upon the progress of my inmost apprehension of the universe from this time forward.
THE “STAR-SPONGE” VISION
There is a vision of a peculiar character which has been of cardinal importance in my interior life, and to which constant reference is made in my magical diaries. So far as I know, there is no extant description of this vision anywhere, and I was surprised on looking through my records to find that I had given no clear account of it myself.
The vision developed gradually. It was repeated on so many occasions that I am unable to say at what period it may be called complete.
I was on a retirement in a cottage overlooking Lake Pasquaney in New Hampshire. I lost consciousness of everything but a universal space in which were innumerable bright points, and I realized this as a physical representation of the universe, in what I may call its essential structure. I exclaimed, “Nothingness with twinkles!” I concentrated upon this vision, with the result that the void space which had been the principal element of it diminished in importance; space appeared to be ablaze, yet the radiant points were not confused, and I thereupon completed my sentence with the exclamation, “but what twinkles!”
The next stage of this vision led to an identification of the blazing points with the stars of the firmament, with ideas, souls, etc. I perceived also that each star was connected by a ray of light with each other star. In the world of ideas each thought possessed a necessary relation with each other thought; each such relation is of course a thought in itself; each such ray is itself a star. It is here that the logical difficulty first presents itself. The seer has a direct perception of infinite series. Logically, therefore, it would appear as if the entire space must be filled up with a homogeneous blaze of light. This however is not the case. The space is completely full and yet the monads which fill it are perfectly distinct. The ordinary reader might well exclaim that such statements exhibit symptoms of mental confusion.
A further development of the vision brought to the consciousness that the structure of the universe was highly organized, that certain stars were of greater magnitude and brilliancy than the rest.
While at Montauk, I had put my sleeping bag to dry in the sun. When I went to take it in, I remarked, laughingly, “Your bedtime, Master Bag,” as if it were a small boy and I its nurse. This was entirely frivolous; but the thought flashed into my mind that after all the bag was in one sense a part of myself. The two ideas came together with a snap, and I understood the machinery of a man's delusion that he is a teapot.
From this I came to another discovery: I perceived why platitudes were stupid. The reason was that they represented the summing up of trains of thought, each of which was superb in every detail at one time. A platitude was like a wife after a few years; she has lost none of her charms, and yet one prefers some perfectly worthless woman.
It would be quite impracticable to go fully into the subject of this vision of the Star-Sponge. It must suffice to reiterate that it has been the basis of most of my work for the last five years, and to remind the reader that the essential form of it is “Nothingness with twinkles”.
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