My precise motive in going to Paris eludes me. I seem to have acted upon general principles. My visit proved eventful. Firstly, I met a man named Sullivan, “a fellow almost damned with a fair wife” named Sylvia. They had been married some time and she had developed a pain in the old place. A friend of hers asked my advice. I gave it, not suspecting the object of her solicitude. The situation suddenly developed by Sylvia and myself starting trouble.

Sullivan came of the people. His brilliant brain had pulled him up to the position of “mathematical and scientific reviewer” for The Times and the Athenaeum, besides casual contributions to various papers. Absorbed in his work, he had no taste in common with Sylvia bar music, and he had begun to find it rather a nuisance to have to trail her along at his heels. He asked me point-blank to take her off his hands for a time. As in the case of Ratan Devi I was glad to oblige. He could have her back when he liked by whistling for her.

The dialogue reverted after this short digression to the subject that enthralled us — The Book of the Law. I astounded his science by setting forth the facts of its origin, and the evidence of its contents that the author possessed the key to several problems insoluble by any intellect hitherto incarnate. We talked day and night for a fortnight. On his part, he showed me a great many mysteries in The Book of the Law that I had not suspected till then. I may indeed say that more than once he asked me some questions on a subject of which I was quite ignorant, and that on searching The Book of the Law I discovered a satisfactory reply in a text whose meaning had escaped me through my ignorance of the subject in question.

Our conversation was uninterrupted except for the tyranny of sleep and Sylvia. She became pregnant, a complication necessitating a further brief digression. It was agreed that she should return to Cefalu with me, he to join us and work out fully the mathematical theories of The Book of the Law as the convenience of his editor permitted. After Sylvia's confinement, we would confer more about the proper course of action. He then went off to Mentone to bid god-speed to the girl he really loved, a woman writer who was living with one of his editors so long as her lungs would let her (they lasted till 1922). Alas for gods whose wings are clipped by love and their feet hobbled by habit. We were to meet Sullivan at Marseilles, sailing for Palermo with or without him as his editor might permit. The few days of absence had wrecked {869} him mentally and morally. We had no sooner sat down to lunch than he burst into a torrent of maniacal ejaculations.

All this was spouted by a whale answering to the name of “I want Sylvia back”. When his breath failed, and he fell back panting like a mad dog, I remarked between mouthfuls, “Righto!” I'll have to get the cabin changed and take a few of Sylvia's things out of my trunk. I think there's nothing else, provided, of course, Sylvia wishes it.“ The poor man was flabbergasted and Sylvia flew into a royal rage. My contempt for him was one thing; my indifference to her quite another. But neither ran any danger of pride. They were reduced to shamefaced stammering. My cheerful calm daunted them. Sullivan, selfish and stupid, actually proposed to hurry back that night to Paris, though Sylvia was obviously fagged out with the journey of the day before, to say nothing of her having set her heart on spending a few days enjoying the beauties of the Riviera — it was her first escape from England.

On that point only did I try to influence Sullivan. He saw that I was right and grudgingly agreed to give the poor child a few days' enjoyment. With this exception I concentrated my whole energy on impressing Sullivan with the supreme importance to science of The Book of the Law. I further offered to prove the efficacy of its formulae by developing him within three months into a first-rate man.

I repeated my invariable epitome, “Every man and every woman is a star.” “You, being a man, are therefore a star. The soul of a star is what we call genius. You are a genius. This fact is obscured either by moral complexes which enmesh it, or lack of adequate machinery to express it in terms of action.” To this universal theorem must be added a rider suited to any case under consideration.

To Sullivan I explained, “You already possess a perfected machinery. Your knowledge is enormously above the average. You reason clearly and correctly. You have a fair command of English. You lack only the link between soul and sense. You admit yourself second-rate and refuse to believe in the possibility of becoming first-rate, despite my theoretical demonstration and the testimony of my previous successes. That despair is, itself, one complex which inhibits your genius. Today you have shown me another. A mere animal appetite sharpened by a few days of starvation can wreck your intellect, sweep every decent instinct overboard and make you treat your word of honour as idle.”

He had then just enough sense to understand me; but the foul fiend tore him the more terribly at the least effort of his sanity and decency to asset itself.

I saw them off by the train, very heavy at heart. I was sorry for Sylvia buried alive in a south coast village without a soul to speak to and no resource in herself but her music. Yet after all she did not much matter. She {870} was one of millions in a similar plight. Also even if saved, the profit was mostly personal. The case of her husband was altogether more serious. His abject surrender to the brute was a defeat involving a whole world in the disaster. I could have made him the evangelist of Thelema; with his abilities he might have been more important in history than St. Paul. But he could never do any great work as long as he was liable to be obsessed by the body, any more than a motorist could break the record from Land's End to John o'Groats if he shied and ran off the road every time his eye was caught by a tree.

I found the abbey in admirable order. We had a new member, a boy named Godwin1), whom I had known in America. When he first wrote me, he was in Annapolis, an attendant in the naval hospital. The boy had amazing ability, backed by exceptional energy and other moral qualities such as the Great Work, or indeed any work worth the name, requires. Out of his scanty savings he had bought a set of The Equinox for a hundred dollars and several other expensive items. He grudged his time as little as his cash. He learnt by heart an astounding number of our sacred books, and when later on I asked him to compile a dictionary of Sanskrit roots for my use on a certain research, he went at it with a will and made good. As against all this, he was surly, mulish and bitterly rebellious. He raved against the injustice of being punished for breaking the regulations of the navy. I vainly showed him that when he signed on as he did of his own free will, he pledged himself to conform with the regulations and that in breaking them he blasphemed himself.

Reckless in his ardour for knowledge, he injected himself with forty grains of cocaine. He had never tried it before. All he knew was that half a grain had been known to cause death. The record of his experiment makes interesting reading. He began by trying to set a piece of glass on fire by the force of his will.

The next act was plagiarized from Samson. He hung on to a pillar while the Philistines, some half a dozen husky sailor boys, tried to pull him off. They finally managed to sit on his head and control his frantic punches and kicks. They then got surgeons on the job who pulled him through. In a couple of days he was all right again. His experiment, if intended to escape notice, failed. They hauled him before the Lord High-Muck-Amuck, who told him, with the best respects and wishes of Uncle Sam for a prosperous passage to perdition, that after a careful consideration the Navy Department had unanimously decided that they could sweep the seas clear of the White Ensign without troubling themselves to put him to the inconvenience of co-operating. Shaking the pipe-clay of Annapolis from his person, he favoured New York with a flying visit, dropped in on me, and — please could I find him a job? I did what I could, but before I found him work, he had got the Lafayette to {871} try him as a waiter. I thought he might be of use to my “son” in Detroit and wrote asking him to find an opening. He did so and Godwin went off.

In all he said and did, one peculiarity obtruded itself — this violent reaction against any act of authority as such, however reasonable, however much to his own advantage. When he noticed the suggestion of discipline, he became blind with rage. His mental faculties were simply snowed under. Having habitually yielded to this impulse, it became a fixed form of his mind, so that even between spasms he would brood incessantly over his wrongs. I hoped the abbey would break up this complex. For a time he improved greatly, but in my absence the Ape, in whose hands I had left the sole authority, had very ably established a routine, adherence to which minimized the time necessary to the prosperity of the household, and thus allowed each mentor the theoretical maximum of leisure for his own chosen work. Godwin rebelled. On two occasions he became, if not literally insane, at least so lost to self-control as to assault her murderously. In both cases, she cowed him by sheer moral superiority as wild beasts are supposed to shrink from the eye which is fixed fearlessly upon their fury. After my return he improved. I recall only one outbreak. My experience was the same as the Ape's. I stood up to him and made him obey, and he obeyed.

The occasion is not without interest. Frater Progradior, 1 = 10 A∴ A∴, and IX° O.T.O., was expected to arrive from New South Wales to spend some four months seeking initiation under my personal guidance. His age was fifty-three and his rank in both Orders such as to command the utmost respect from junior members. Apart from this, his age and the fact of his having come so far should have made Godwin eager to show him all possible consideration. The question arose where he should sleep. The answer was self-evident. The only possible arrangement for many reasons was for Godwin to give up his room temporarily. We gave Godwin several opportunities of making the suggestion spontaneously. The propriety was as obvious to him as to anyone else. He sulked in silence. I was sorry to have to issue an order, a thing I had not done for many months, but I had to do so. Godwin refused point-blank. I pointed out quite kindly the various considerations which applied. I might as well have talked to a turnip, better in fact, for a turnip's eye would not have got bloodshot, nor the eyes swollen with blood almost to bursting. He again refused violently. It was absurd, he being our guest with no claim whatever upon us. I had to say, “Out of your room by six o'clock, or out of the abbey and you don't come back!” By six o'clock he was in his new quarters.

Alas for these men who cannot be taught the elements of common sense by any means soever. Not long afterwards some trivial incident touched the same spot. I thought he would be the better for a holiday from the abbey. He was working so hard that his health began to make me anxious. He interpreted {872} my suggestion as a banishment and instead of going, as I proposed, to Palermo, and putting in a month working up the interest of the people there about us, he went off to the top of the Rock without any provisions of any kind. He had taken an oath not to come down before eight days. In subsequent clauses appeared such austerities as this; not to allow water to touch his face! It was a rotten thing to do. Cypris was very fond of him and she went through agonies watching him pace to and fro on the parched sun-blistering crags like the possessed of Godara among the tombs. I refused to interfere. He was up there by no will of mine. Whenever he chose he could come down and eat and drink, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. So Cypris filled a rucksack with food and drink and dragged herself up those sweltering slopes to the ruined stone hut, where the crazed creature had made his headquarters. He refused to speak to her, but I think she got him to drink some water. He must indeed have perished for thirst otherwise.

I wish I had a copy of his Magical Record of this Retirement. It was an incoherent scrawl of furious ravings mostly aimed against the innocent Jones (Jesus Stansfield Christ was his favourite brickbat) in Chicago. I have no idea what excited such animosity. His magical work was chiefly to count the loose stones of the floor of his hut, and divine from their number the most erratic nonsense which seemed to him the sublime arcana of Grades so exalted that a mere Magus was in comparison one poor pip of a China orange to all Lombard Street and the City of London to boot. For a magical wand, he had picked up a piece of dry stick which he chewed incessantly under the impression that by so doing he was putting the affairs of the planet in shape during such moments as he could spare from adjusting the solar system and showing the gods how to run the universe, any recalcitrant deity being ruthlessly smacked into repentance.

Cypris begged me to intervene, urging that he was irresponsible. She said she felt sure that he would come down if I wrote to him to do so. I consented. That day after lunch, as I lay half asleep on a couch by the main door, Godwin rushed in. His appearance really alarmed me; unshaven, unwashed, his movements violent and jerky and his eyes rolling wildly, I should not have mistaken him for the Prince of Wales. He flung a rucksack on the floor at my feet and roared out “Aleister Crowley” in a harsh, angry, uneven growl. He then went off as suddenly and strangely as he had come. When I saw him next he was himself again, merely showing signs of exhaustion. He was tired and penitent like a naughty child who has found forgiveness. His final fireworks had been dramatically admirable. He had gone to the barber's to be shaved. But no sooner was he thoroughly lathered than he remembered his oath not to let water touch his face. He bolted out of the shop and stamped up the street, the foam from his face flying in all directions. He put his head down and charged through somebody's private estate, vaulted the {873} wall at the back and spurted up the slope as if the devil were at his heels instead of merely in his heart.

This was the beginning of the end. Even after he had regained sanity in most matters, he clung to the conviction that his adventure on the Rock had initiated him to a Grade far superior to mine. I should, of course, have been only too glad if this had happened. The decaying debris of my Oedipus complex still stinks, which stink being interpreted may be rendered in English, “How I wish I had someone to go to, a man like myself, not an angel, whose humanity would understand and sympathize with my weakness and weariness, and on whose shoulders I might shift at least a little of the responsibility which is breaking my back!”

Poor Godwin tried to smother his shame by piling pride upon it. His megalomania grew on him at a frightful pace. His conscience was crushed into a pulp and his common sense scattered to the winds. He suddenly developed an entirely new defect. I had always found him truthful. He now adopted a policy of deliberate deceitfulness with the greatest subtlety. It was perfectly imbecile. He had only to say what he wanted and I should have done whatever I could to help him, whatever it was. He, however, persuaded himself that he must keep his plans dark and the final absurdity of the whole thing was that I was aware from the beginning exactly what he intended to do. Our relations ended, bar occasional correspondence, towards the end of the year, when he left us to go to Australia avowedly to help Frater Progradior in establishing the Law. However, he only stayed a short time in Sydney and went on to San Francisco, where, free from all guidance or control, he broke out into a series of spasms of which I do not know the details, and which are of little interest as being merely casual symptoms of a state of mind which I had already studied sufficiently. I asked myself, “How now?” Has Thelema failed in this case? I have thought this over ruthlessly, but my final judgment is that the Law is not touched by these events. It seems to me beyond dispute that any conceivable code of conduct presumes implicitly that men always act on certain fundamental principles which they carry out, well or ill, within wide limits; those limits being exceeded, the man is not a man “within the meaning of the act” and the Law cease to apply to him. For instance, we feel safe in acting on the assumption that a man will not walk into a blazing house, and we make no law to punish any such action. We assume that a man always acts in what he believes to be his own best interest. The conduct of Godwin was irrational, his motive had no logical link with his actions. It is therefore impossible to imagine any formula by which to judge him.

So far, so good, but at least I failed to break up the complex which obsessed him. That is true, but I blame my inexperience and nowise the principles on which I proceed. I am not without excuse. Let me give one {874} example to illustrate the impossibility of guiding him or even enlightening his mind. He was anxious to do certain magical work, which forms part of the task of a Grade which he had not attained. In order to devote himself to this, he proposed to neglect the work prescribed for the Grade which he actually possessed. I pointed this out, and after some show of sulks, he agreed. A day or so later, in discussing some point of magical theory, I happened to say, “I want you to understand very thoroughly what this implies.” He retorted violently, “I'm not an 8 = 3! To understand is not a part of the work of my Grade!” To that he stuck. It was useless to argue that the understanding of an 8 = 3 has a technical definition, and that a child of two years old must understand the alphabet, if it is to be any use to it. Stupidities of this type were constantly coming up.

In matters like chess, he was just as bad as he was about Magick. He begged me to teach him the game. I prescribed a system of study to be vitalized by daily practice with me over the board. For some reason which I never succeeded in grasping, he refused obstinately to follow my advice in any single point. When we played he grew steadily worse and when asked to account for this, he took up the position that nothing was to be gained by winning. He was even ass enough to quote The Book of the Law about lust of result. He could hardly help seeing that unless one played to win, there was no point in playing at all. Nothing moved him. He simply gave up playing. The stupidity was really disheartening. He had a fine natural ability to judge position and invent combinations. A little technical knowledge of the openings, and a systematic study of the end game which he might have acquired in a year, should have made him a first-class amateur. My worst weakness is this: I hate to see good material wasted.

So much for Godwin. In brilliant contrast stands the figure of Frater Progradior.

My success with him is enough to wipe out a dozen failures and more. He was a Lancashire man of good family which had fallen into undeserved distress. As a result he had had to work with his hands from the age of nine. He had always been eager and earnest about spiritual affairs. He had begun by joining the Theosophical Society, but after seventeen years found himself unlightened in the slightest. He had then put in eleven years with the A∴ A∴, but in the absence of personal guidance his progress had been slow. He arrived weary of life, despairing of truth.

I begin my training as a general rule by prescribing a few preliminary practices such as are universally beneficial. In the meantime I watch quietly for symptoms by which to determine the diagnosis. He was rather a hard case. I was puzzled. There was clearly something very wrong indeed, but I could not imagine what. Of course in my conscious self I am always stupid, but the Magus who uses me knows his job. {875}

One afternoon we went off bathing with the Ape. I prattled as we walked quite pointlessly and just as we reached the edge of the cliff above the bay I made some casual remark which proved a winning shot. He stopped short and gasped; his eyes starting from his head. I am so stupid, let me report, that I failed to notice anything special. I was mildly surprised to see him dash down the path like a young goat, tear off his clothes, and sprint into the sea like an alarmed seal. He never spoke a word till after the swim and the return to the road. He then said with a pale face and in awed accents, “Please tell me again what you said just now?” “How the devil should I remember?” I returned courteously. He stammeringly reminded me of the subject, and of course I was able to repeat my remarks, which were nothing specially striking. He asked me to discuss the subject more fully, which I did, after which he relapsed into silence. Directly he reached the abbey, he passed into a state of trance which lasted three whole days without a break. He then came to me looking like an incarnation of pure joy and told me what had happened. Without knowledge of his need I had unwittingly given him the key to the inmost treasury of his soul. One minute facet of truth unveiled from the matrix by the wheel of my word had let in the light. In three days he had achieved the critical initiation which had baffled him for nearly thirty years. I prescribed a Magical Retirement so that he might fix in his consciousness that lightning flash as a permanent arc-lamp. This proved a success.

My own joy was boundless. I was inspired to prepare a perfected ritual for the attainment of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, and presented him with a copy of the manuscript for use in his operation. I entitled it Liber Samekh. It is the most powerful and exalted of all my magical instructions. I think he was helped not a little, not only by the ritual itself, but by the feeling that I had sufficient care for him — he suffered from humility — to devote myself so passionately to making his path plain.

One result of this Retirement is astounding from the point of view of the profane. The Spirit of the Lord descended upon him and opened his eyes to a a series of visions of a class far more exalted and intense and intimate than anything he had hitherto experienced. He was inspired to write these down during their actual occurrence, and here is the marvel. His education had been quite elementary. He could neither spell nor construct his sentences correctly, nor had he command of any extended vocabulary. What, then, was my amazement to perceive in his style an originality and power of the first order. It, not less than his subject, was quite dissimilar from that of John Bunyan, and yet the suggestion of identity was undeniable. It was a kinship of soul.

Parallel with this spiritual attainment, his mental and physical powers were renewed as the eagle's. His depression vanished and was replaced by calm, {876} deep joy, overflowing and manifest to all of us. He began to take long solitary walks across the hills and did his twenty miles a day as he had not done for a quarter of a century. We felt it as an actual bereavement when the time came for him to go back to Sydney.


Previous | The Confessions of Aleister Crowley | Next

WEH note: This is C. F. Russell


If you have found this material useful or enlightening, you may also be interested in


Ordo Templi Orientis, O.T.O., and the O.T.O. Lamen design are registered trademarks of Ordo Templi Orientis.


All copyrights on Aleister Crowley material are held by Ordo Templi Orientis. This site is not an official O.T.O. website, and is neither sponsored by nor controlled by Ordo Templi Orientis.

The text of this Aleister Crowley material is made available here only for personal and non-commercial use. This material is provided here in a convenient searchable form as a study resource for those seekers looking for it in their research. For any commercial use, please contact Ordo Templi Orientis.