Chapter 93

Another thread is now woven into my destiny. Before the war, one of my best men in the O.T.O. was a man named Hammond. He was an engraver of astonishing skill and had been very useful in preparing plates for the diplomas of the Order. He was enthusiastic about its principle and advanced rapidly from the IV° to which he had been affiliated from Royal Arch of old-fashioned masonry, to the very exalted rank of Grand Inquisitor Commander. I liked Hammond personally so well that I even asked him to spend a week with me in Paris and see life, which till then had meant to him only the narrow and sordid circle of lower middle class English in parts of London barely distinguishable form slums. He beheld the heavens opened. Overflowed with gratitude and adoration, he acquired the sort of affection for me that a dog has for its master.

Alas! this dog had the mange! supposedly as the result of vaccination in childhood with an impure preparation, he suffered the tortures of psoriasis. The irritation was perpetual. He had tried every known treatment and received from none more than temporary relief. (I think it throws light on my character that ever since I met him, I have never forgotten, whenever I met anyone likely to be able to suggest some new remedy, to ask him about it.)

Hammond had executed the work entrusted to him by the Order with rapidity and excellence beyond praise. I gave him a new job of the utmost importance. I had written a short treatise on the central secret of the O.T.O. for members of the IX°, and proposed to issue this embossed in the style of headings on notepaper and illustrated with numerous symbolic designs. Hammond was to cut the dies for the text, a really tremendous job. The reward was of course commensurate. It implied his initiation to the IX°, which otherwise might have cost him years of effort. But now appeared a strange defect in the man's character. After preparing nearly one third of the dies he broke off. I was out of London. Letters and telegrams sometimes elicited no reply; sometimes he wrote explaining his failure and promising immediate amendment; but I could not keep him up to the mark even when I got back; and I could not be angry with him if only because of his disease which seemed to me as the excuse for his conduct. Nor did I want to wound such affectionate enthusiasm. In his devotion, he had even called his latest son after me, Aleister Crowley. I left London, leaving him to complete the work as best he could. {898}

I wrote several times from America, but failed to get any reply. On my return I tried to find him, but without success. It became vitally important to re-establish relations as Cowie claimed that the missing property of the Order was in his charge. I tried all sorts of plans, but without result. One day, however, as the Ape and I were taking a short cut through Soho, she insisted on inquiring at one of his old addresses. I objected to waste time on a certain failure. But she insisted and went round. Incredibly enough we found him. He was enraptured. We had tea and dinner together, and then went home with him to his house in Highbury. He had some of the missing assets and had kept them faithfully with all possible care. I was overjoyed to find that my trust had not been misplaced in at least one instance. I rewarded his loyalty by conferring upon him the IX° O.T.O. The prize should have been infinitely precious, for it put in his hands an almost certain cure for his lifelong affliction. We held numerous conferences and concerted plans for re-establishing the Order in London, the old Lodge having suspended its labours in consequence of the ridiculous raid described in “the Last Straw”. For greater convenience, it was decided that the Ape and I should rent from him the top floor of his house, which we did on my return from the Continent.

But now a new ordeal was prepared for me. Despite her quality, the Ape of Thoth began to show the effects of her long strain, anxiety and suffering. I called in a doctor who suspected the beginnings of phthisis, complicated with nervous weakness so serious that practically all her reflexes were abolished. The girl's courage is so infernally sublime that she performs miracles of camouflage to prevent me discovering her condition lest my anxiety should distract me from my work. But at last the cat was out of the bag. It was imperative that she should return to Cefalu at once and regain her health by freedom from work and anxiety, fresh air, fresh food, easy exercise and medical care. It was easy to prescribe this cure but its execution was another matter. I spent the next week chasing round London trying every expedient to collect sufficient cash for her journey and the living expenses of the next few weeks. I pawned every object of value and extracted every penny I could from everyone I knew. Finally I succeeded and off she went to Sicily. She picked up at once. A month later, she was almost herself again, though of course she needed a long period of care to replace the vital capacity which she had spent in the service of the Great Work.

I, too, was very far from well. My desperate situation, my anxiety about the welfare of those for whom I had made myself responsible, unremitting overwork and the eternal disappointments were beginning to break me down. At this moment a letter was forwarded to me from Cefalu addressed to me by Betty Dartnell. Her crazy husband had taken her and his daughter to British Columbia, I think about 1913. The new conditions had transformed {899} her. When I saw her in Victoria in 1915, the flabby sensual debauched rake had become clean, muscular, trim, bright-eyed and self-controlled. I begged her to break entirely with her maniac who had steadily drifted into crazier courses. She was within an ace of cutting the painter, but could not quite bring herself to take an irrevocable step. I had only an hour with her. If I could have stayed a week in Victoria I might have rescued her. Soon after they drifted to Los Angeles, where Dartnell got into the movie job and took to writing scenarios. In that crowd of debauched degenerates, his own insanity was not so fatal as in more sober surroundings. He took to writing me voluminous letters raving about some cinema star or other whom “god designs for his soul mate! And what was he to do? Was he to yield to unchaste impulse?” Page after page, he poured out the most violent megalomania. I wrote back the obvious advice; to act sensibly without imagining that the solar system would go to smash on account of his sexual explosions. At last even Los Angeles found him a nuisance.

Lydia Yonska had taken pity on him at a time when he was desperately in need of money. He had shown his gratitude by pestering her with his unwelcome attentions, even climbing into her house at night through an open window and scaring her half out of her wits with frantic protestations and threats. She found herself obliged to protect herself. Dartnell wrote me a long letter abusing her. He said that she was a vampire and had tried to seduce him, and on his refusal had begun to persecute him. She had been deputed by the devil to destroy men's souls, and God had appointed him to avenge her victims by killing her when opportunity offered.

It happened that Madame Yonska was in New York when this letter reached me. I had, in fact, met her a few days before, and painted her portrait, one of my best pictures, by the way. I thought I would warn her and showed her his scrawl. She told me of course the true facts as narrated above.

Since that time, the winter of 1918-19. I had heard no more of him directly. But Jane Wolfe had seen a good deal of them in Los Angeles. They had separated finally. (They were always doing that, but always the madman had come back and started some new scrap.)

Sheila, his child by his first wife, now in her teens, had shown the taint of his insanity by developing incurable kleptomania. Having inherited also her father's cleverness and cunning, her thefts had escaped detection for a long while, with the natural result that innocent people were always suffering from her misdeeds. Even when found out, she succeeded as often as not in putting her crimes on to others. No one would accept the responsibility of looking after her. She had returned with her parents to England. Betty and she lived in a big house in Cleveland Gardens. Dartnell had buried himself in Devonshire, turning up only when some demoniac impulse to {900} make mischief seized him. Since 1920 Betty had written to Jane for help and advice. Her sexual obsessions had begun to turn into religious channels as so often happens to women on reaching the forties. Jane begged her to come to Cefalu and develop her spiritual and moral self beyond reach of the constant temptation of London to drown her aspiration in drink and debauchery. Betty knew in her heart that her only salvation lay in some such decision. But her almost complete lack of self-control prevented her from taking the plunge.

Such were the conditions when she wrote direct to me, begging me to take her in hand and save her from the stinking mire in which she felt herself slowly being sucked down.

I took this letter as a sign. It was surely strange that I should be in London still. The delays which had annoyed and puzzled me became comprehensible. I went round to Cleveland Gardens. Betty was out. Sheila, whom I had not seen since she was a baby, gave me tea. She fascinated and horrified me. I had never seen a girl so perfectly evil. She had not trace of heart. Such callous cynicism would have been abominable in a rake of sixty. A sinister malice lurked in her most causal remarks. Her deceitfulness was overpoweringly evident in her looks, no less than her words. Her eyes gleamed with ghastly glee. It suggested that she imagined herself as a sort of scourge to inflict obscene suffering upon anyone she might meet. I waited some time hoping Betty would return. She did not and it was arranged for me to come to tea the next day.

I found her in a curious state. She had lost most of the wholesomeness and health which she had enjoyed when I last saw her. She knew she was going downhill and in danger of stumbling and pitching over the cliffs in the dark. She clung to spiritual aspirations as her only hope and told me her experiences. They resembled Jane's for the most part, but certain incidents were indubitably evidential of genuine communication with intelligences of a very high order of initiation. Her trouble was that she lacked the means of discrimination between the most contemptible drivel and the most exalted truth.

She begged me to stay in her house till I left for Cefalu, urging that I was ill and in need of loving care. She overcame my hesitation by emphasizing her need of a strong hand to guide and help her. Finally I consented. I was well aware that she was precisely one of those wrong people against mixing with whom the “Yi” had so earnestly warned me. I went with my eyes open, saying to myself, “Whatever mischief may come of this, it is none the less my duty to save this woman's soul. I will keep my oath, come what may!”

At first things went well beyond my highest hope. I showed her how to invoke the gods, and to banish evil and malignant entities that had hitherto {901} deceived her by impersonating them. The very first experiment succeeded. She brought back information of great value. Its truth and the exalted nature of the being who uttered it was guaranteed by internal evidence of the strictest accuracy. Shortly after this the sun entered the sign of Libra. I chose her to assist me in obtaining the word of the autumnal equinox. She made good. The word was given by her as “THIGHS”, to which she assigned the number 542 and the meaning “Light, Eyes, Flame and Will”.

I wrote this in Hebrew: Teth + Ayin + Shin + 93, which might be pronounced Thighs. Teth is the letter of Leo, the House of the Sun, and therefore a hieroglyph of Light. Ayin means an eye. Shin is the letter of fire or flame; while 93 signifies Thelema — Will. Further 542 is a number which I had long sought to interpret as being the arithmetical mean between 418 (the Magical Formula of the New Aeon) and 666, my own cipher. I had never succeeded in finding a word to express this idea of the unification of my own nature with that of my dynamic structure. It must surely strike the most sceptical mind as remarkable that an untrained woman, wholly ignorant of Cabbalistic formulae, should obtain words, letters and numbers, so accurately interwoven, so complete an hieroglyph of an idea which defied my skill to analyse. As is my custom I sought in the Holy Books and in the Yi King for an interpretation of the word in terms of the events of the ensuing six months. I will mention one or two signal examples of the trustworthiness of such divination.

1. The hexagram which defined the scope of the work of the Order was “Kieh” meaning “Regulations”. In the first three months I am described as unable to organize the affairs of the Order. But in the last three, a sudden change takes place. A way is found of establishing the proper system.

Now, until the winter solstice the chaos grew more confused than ever. A few days later a man suddenly came forward precisely fitted to undertake the organization required. I say suddenly, for he had steadfastly resisted the Secret Chiefs for years. His soul was torn by an earthquake and he broke with his past ruthlessly, devoting himself wholly to the Great Work from that hour henceforth.

The work of the abbey was described by the 51st hexagram “Kan”. The first month indicates anxiety mingled with cheerful intercourse with friends. Till the last week in October I was worried indeed, but meeting many pleasant people and enjoying agreeable conversation with them.

Line two indicates peril which makes one abandon one's immediate business and go to an exalted place. The affairs which he dropped will be taken up again without effort on his part. This describes my last month in England, which brought about a new crisis in my affairs. I dropped them and went to the high house of Cefalu. After a time the abandoned business was resumed. {902}

Line three. To Christmas. Startling events occur. This corresponds to the attacks on the abbey in the Sunday papers and John Bull.

Line four. The abbey is supinely sinking in the mud. We were unable to do anything to improve our position and our activity was hampered by illness.

Line five. All ways in peril and assailed by startling events; there is a coming and going, which hints at the gathering storm of persecution, the constant assaults of ill-health, and the irregularity of the work, or perhaps even the death of Raoul Loveday is implied by the word going.

Line six. Startling events continue causing breathless dismay and anxious watchfulness. In this one might read the renewal of the newspaper attacks on the abbey and the discouragement and worry produced by events.

My own fortune was described by the 9th hexagram “Hsiao Khu”.

The first line. “Returning and pursuing his own course.” Fulfilled by my lectures and new disciples in London.

Two. “Returning”, i.e. to Cefalu.

Three. Various symbols of a check to progress and sudden opposition. As happened on publication of The Drug Fiend.

Four. Shows sincerity averting murderous attacks. My attitude put an end to the libels.

Five. My sincerity attracts sympathy and help. This was fulfilled by the adhesion of several new disciples.

Six. “The rain has fallen and progress checked.” Raoul's death put a stop to my regular work.

Even the symbols for subordinate members of the Order forecast accurately their fortunes. For instance, Hammond had the 32nd hexagram, whose symbolism is that of a ram attempting more than he can do, becoming entangled with the obstacles, and finally being paralyzed.

The description is marvellously accurate. He made fierce quick attempts to achieve his ends. They were baffled. He dashed himself against a wall, was enmeshed in the intrigues of my enemies, and found himself in the end neither able to go forward to victory, nor to extricate himself from the circumstances. He had committed himself to my interests irrevocably.


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