The Acolyte


Before we enter upon the events of the Great Journey of Frater P., during which for six years he voyaged over the face of the globe in quest of the mystic knowledge of all nations, it will be necessary here to recount, briefly though it may be, the circumstances which let up to his entering into communication with the Order of A ∴ A ∴

Born of an ancient family, but a few days after the fifty-sixth Equinox before the Equinox of the Gods, he was reared and educated in the faith of Christ as taught by one of the strictest sects of the many factions of the Christian Church, and scarcely had he learnt to lisp the simplest syllables of childhood than his martyrdom began.

From infancy he struggled through the chill darkness of his surroundings into boyhood, and as he grew and throve, so did the iniquity of that unnatural treatment which with lavish and cruel hand was squandered on him. Then youth came, and with it God's name had grown to be a curse, and the form of Jesus stood forth in the gloom of Golgotha, a chill and hideous horror which vampire-like had sucked dry the joy of his boyhood; when suddenly one summer night he broke away from the ghouls that had tormented him, casting aside the sordid conventions of life, defying the laws of his {231} land, doubting the decaying religion of his childhood, he snapped, like rotten twigs, the worm-eaten conventionalities of the effete and hypocritical civilisation in which he had been nurtured, and sought refuge for a space in the wild and beautiful country which lies tangled like a head of tumbled hair to the north and north-west of England. Here he learnt from the whispering winds and the dreamy stars that life was not altogether a curse, and that every night dies in the arms of dawn.

His freedom, however, was of but short duration; yet, though he was dragged back to the prison from which he had escaped, he had learnt his own strength, a new life had flowed like a great sea dancing with foam upon him, and had intoxicated him with the red wine of Freedom and Revolt — his gauntlet of youth had been cast down, henceforth he would battle for his manhood, ay! and for the manhood of the World!

Then the trumpet-blast resounded; the battle had indeed begun! Struggling to his feet, he tore from him the shroud of a corrupted faith as if it had been the rotten cerement of a mummy. With quivering lip, and voice choked with indignation at the injustice of the world, he cursed the name of Christ and strode on to seek the gate of Hell and let loose the fiends of the pit, so that mankind might yet learn that compassion was not dead.

Nevertheless, the madness passes, like a dark cloud before the breath of awakening dawn; conscious of his own rightness, of the manhood which was his, of his own strength, and the righteousness of his purpose, and filled with the overflowing ambitions of youth, we find him unconsciously sheathe {232} his blood-red sword, and blow flame and smoke from the tripod of life, casting before the veiled and awful image of the Unknown the arrows of his reason, and diligently seeking both omen and sign in the dusty volumes of the past, and in the ancient wisdom of long-forgotten days.

Deeply read in poetry, philosophy and science, gifted beyond the common lot, and already a poet of brilliant promise; he suddenly hurries from out the darkness like a wild prophetic star, and overturning the desks and the stools of the schoolmen, and casting their pedagogic papilla from his lips, escapes from the stuffy cloisters of mildewed learning, and the colleges of dialectic dogmatics, and seeks, what as yet he cannot find in the freedom which in his youthful ardour appears to him to live but a furlong or two beyond the spires and gables of that city of hidebound pedants which had been his school, his home, and his prison.

Then came the great awakening. Curious to say, it was towards the hour of midnight on the last day of the year when the old slinks away from the new, that he happened to be riding alone, wrapped in the dark cloak of unutterable thoughts. A distant bell chimed the last quarter of the dying year, and the snow which lay fine and crisp on the roadway was being caught up here and there by the puffs of sharp frosty wind that came snake-like through the hedges and the trees, whirling it on spectre-like in the chill and silver moonlight. But dark were his thoughts, for the world had failed him. Freedom had he sought, but not the freedom that he had gained. Blood seemed to ooze from his eyelids and trickle down, drop by drop, upon the white snow, writing on its pure surface the name of Christ. Great bats flitted by {233} him, and vultures whose bald heads were clotted with rotten blood. “Ah! the world, the world … the failure of the world.” And then an amber light surged round him, the fearful tapestry of torturing thought was rent asunder, the voices of many angels sang to him. “Master! Master!” he cried, “I have found Thee … O silver Christ. …”

Then all was Nothingness … nothing … nothing … nothing; and madly his horse carried him into the night.

Thus he set out on his mystic quest towards that goal which he had seen, and which seemed so near; and yet, as we shall learn, proved to be so far away.

In the first volume of the diaries, we find him deep in the study of the Alchemistic philosophers. Poring over Paracelsus, Benedictus Figulus, Eugenius and Eirenaeus Philalethes, he sought the Alchemical Azoth, the Catholicon, the Sperm of the World, that Universal Medicine in which is contained all other medicines and the first principle of all substances. In agony and joy he sought to fix the volatile, and transmute the formless human race into the dual child of the mystic Cross of Light, that is to say, to solve the problem of the Perfect Man. Fludd, Bonaventura, Lully, Valentinus, Flamel, Geber, Plotinus, Ammonius, Iamblichus and Dionysius were all devoured with the avidity and greed which youth alone possesses; there was no halting here —

“'Now, master, take a little rest!' — not he!
(Caution redoubled,
Step two abreast, the way winds narrowly!)
Not a wit troubled
Back to his studies, fresher than at first,
Fierce as a dragon
He (soul-hydroptic with a sacred thirst)
Sucked at the flagon.” {234}

Plunging into the tenebrae of transcendental physics, he sought the great fulfilment, and unknowingly in the exuberance of his enthusiasm left the broad road of the valley and struck out on the mountain-track towards that ultimate summit which gleams with the stone of the Wise, and whose secret lies in the opening of the “Closed Eye” — the consuming of the Darkness.

He who dismisses Paracelsus with a twopenny clyster, or Raymond Lully with a sixpenny reprint, is not a fool, no, no, nothing so exalted; but merely a rabbit-brained louse, who, flattering himself that he is crawling in the grey beard of Haeckel and the scanty locks of Spencer, sucks pseudoscientific blood from the advertisement leaflets of our monthly magazines, and declares all outside the rational muckheap of a “Pediculus” to be both ridiculous and impossible.

The Alchemist well knew the difference between the kitchen stove and the Heraclitean furnace; and between the water in his hip-bath and “the water which wetteth not the hands.” True, much “twaddle” was written concerning balsams, and elixirs, and bloods, which, however, to the merest tyro in alchemy can be sorted from the earnest works as easily as a “Bart's” student can sort hair-restoring pamphlets and blackhead eradicators from lectures and essays by Lister and Müller.

Thus frenziedly, at the age of twenty-two, P. set out on the Quest of the Philosopher's Stone.

Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultam Lapidem Veram Medicinam; this is indeed the true medicine of souls; and so P. sought the universal solvent VITRIOLUM, and equated the seven letters in VITRIOL, SULPHUR, {235} and MERCURY with the alchemical powers of the seven planets; precipitating the SALT from the four elements — Subtilis, Aqua, Lux, Terra; and mingling Flatus, Ignis, Aqua, and Terra, smote them with the cross of Hidden Mystery, and cried: “Fiat Lux!”

Youth strides on with hasty step, and by summer of this year — 1898 — we find P. deep in consultation with the mystics, and drinking from the white chalice of mystery with St. John, Boehme, Tauler, Eckart, Molinos, Levi, and Blake:

“Rintrah roars and shakes his fires in the burden'd air,
Hungry clouds swag on the deep.”

Insatiable, he still pressed on, hungering for the knowledge of things outside; and in his struggle for the million he misses the unit, and heaps up chaos in the outer darkness of Illusion. From the cloudless skies of Mysticism he rushes down into the infernal darkness on winged thoughts: “The fiery limbs, the flaming hair, shot like the sinking sun into the western sea,” and we find him now in the Goetic kingdoms of sorcery, witchcraft, and infernal necromancy. The bats flit by us as we listen to his frenzied cries for light and knowledge: “The Spiritual Guide,” and “The Cherubic Wanderer” are set aside for “The Arbatel” and “The Seven Mysterious Orisons.” A hurried turning of many pages, the burning of many candles, and then — the Key of Solomon for a time is put away, with the Grimoires and the rituals, the talismans, and the Virgin parchments; the ancient books of the Qabalah lie open before him; a flash of brilliant fire, like a silver fish leaping from out the black waters of the sea into {236} the starlight, bewilders him and is gone; for he has opened “The Book of Concealed Mystery” and has read:

“Before there was equilibrium countenance beheld not countenance.”

The words: “Yehi Aour” trembled on his lips; the very chaos of his being seemed of a sudden to shake itself into form — vast and terrible; but the time had not been fulfilled, and the breath of the creation of a new world caught them up from his half-opened mouth and carried them back into the darkness whence they had all but been vibrated.1)

From midsummer until the commencement of the autumn the diaries are silent except for one entry, “met a certain Mr. B — an alchemist of note”2) which though of no particular importance in itself, was destined to lead to another meeting which changed the whole course of P.'s progress, and accelerated his step towards that Temple, the black earth from the foundations of which he had been, until the present, casting up in chaotic heaps around him.

Knorr von Rosenroth's immense storehouse of Qabalistic learning seems to have kept P. fully employed until the autumnal equinox, when B —, the alchemist of note, introduced him to a Mr. C — (afterwards, as we shall see, Frater V∴ N∴ of the Order of the Golden Dawn). This meeting proved all-important, as will be set forth in the following chapter. Through C —, P. had for the time being laid aside von Rosenroth, and was now deep in “The Book of the {237} Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage.” A time of transition was at hand, a spiritual renaissance was about to take place, so little wonder is it that we find P. much like St. Augustine lamenting his outward search, and crying with him: “I, Lord, went wandering like a strayed sheep, seeking Thee with anxious Reasoning without, whilst Thou wast within me. I wearied myself much in looking for Thee without, and yet Thou hast Thy habitation within me, if only I desire Thee and pant after Thee. I went round the Streets and Squares of the City of this World seeking Thee; and I found Thee not, because in vain I sought without for Him who was within myself.”


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The Equinox Vol. I No. II

At this time P. was leading a hermit's life on a Swiss glacier with one whom, though he knew it not at the time, was destined ever and anon to bring him wisdom from the Great White Brotherhood. This one we shall meet again under the initials D.A.
Afterwards known as Frater C.S.


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