Chapter XXVII: Structure of Mind Based on that of Body (Haeckel and Bertrand Russell)


By Aleister Crowley

Chapter XXVII: Structure of Mind Based on that of Body (Haeckel and Bertrand Russell)

Cara Soror,

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Was the sudden cloudburst at the end of my last letter somewhat of a surprise, and more that somewhat of a shock?  Cheer up!  The worst is yet to come.

This is where clean thinking—a subject whose fringes I seem to remember having touched—wins the Gold Medal of the Royal Humane Society.

It is surely the wise course to accept the plain facts; to try to explain them away, or to excuse them, is certain to involve one in a maelstrom of sophistry; and when, despite these laudable efforts, the facts jump up and land a short jab to the point, one is even worse off than before.

This has to be said, because Sammasati is assuredly one of the most useful, as well as one of the most trustworthy and most manageable, weapons in the armoury of the Aspirant.

You stop me, obviously with a demand for a personal explanation.  “How is it,” you write, “that you reject with such immitigable scorn the very foundation-stones of Buddhism, and yet refer disciples enthusiastically to the technique of some of its subtlest super-structures?”

I laff.

It is the old, old story.  When the Buddha was making experiments and recording the results, he was on safe ground: when he started to theorize, committing (incidentally) innumerable logical crimes in the process, he is no better a guesser than the Arahat next door, or for the matter of that, the Arahat's Lady Char.

So, if you don't mind, we will look a little into this matter of Sammasati: what is it when it's at home?

It may be no more than a personal fancy, but I think Allan Bennett's translation of the term, “Recollection,” is as near as one can get in English.  One can strain the meaning slightly to include Re-collection, to imply the ranging of one's facts, and the fitting of them into an organized structure.  The term “sati” suggests an identification of Being with Knowledge—see The Soldier and the Hunchback: ! and ? (Equinox I, 1).  So far as it applies to the Magical Memory, it lays stress on some such expedient, very much as is explained in Liber Thisarb (Magick, pp. 415 - 422).

But is it not a little strange that “The Abomination of Desolation should be set up in the Holy Place,” as it were?  Why should the whole-bearted search for Truth and Beauty disclose such hateful and such hideous elements as necessary components of the Absolute Perfection?

Never mind the why, for a moment; first let us be sure that it is so. Have we any grounds for expecting this to be the case?

We certainly have.

This is a case where “clean thinking” is most absolutely helpful. The truth is of exquisite texture; it blazons the escutcheon of the Unity of Nature in such delicate yet forceful colours that the Postulant may well come thereby to the Opening of the Trance of Wonder; yet religious theories and personal pernicketiness have erected against its impact the very stoutest of their hedgehogs of prejudice.

Who shall help us here?  Not the sonorous Vedas, not the Upanishads, Not Apollonius, Plotinus, Ruysbroeck, Molinos; not any gleaner in the field of à priori; no, a mere devotee of natural history and biology: Ernst Haeckel.

Enormous, elephantine, his work's bulk is almost incredible; for us his one revolutionary discovery is pertinent to this matter of Sammasati and the revelations of one's inmost subtle structure.

He discovered, and he demonstrated, that the history of any animal throughout the course of its evolution is repeated in the stages of the individual.  To put it crudely, the growth of a child from the fertilized ovum to the adult repeats the adventures of its species.

This doctrine is tremendously important, and I feel that I do not know how to emphasize it as it deserves.  I want to be exceptionally accurate; yet the use of his meticulous scientific terms, with an armoury of quotations, would almost certainly result in your missing the point, “unable to see the wood for the trees.”

Let me put it that the body is formed by the super-position of layers, each representing a stage in the history of the evolution of the species.  The foetus displays essential characteristics of insect, reptile, mammal (or whatever they are) in the order in which these classes of animal appeared in the world's history.

Now I want to put forward a thesis—and as far as I know it is personal to myself, based on my work at Cefal—to the effect that the mind is constructed on precisely the same lines.

You will remember from my note on “Breaks” in meditation how one's gradual improvement in the practice results in the barring-out of certain classes of idea, by classes.  The ready-to-hand, recent fugitive thoughts come first and first they go.  Then the events of the previous day or so, and the preoccupations of the mind for that period. Next, one comes to the layer of reveries and other forms of wish-phanstasm; then cryptomnesia gets busy with incidents of childhood and the like; finally, there intrudes the class of “atmospherics,” where one cannot trace the source of the interruption.

All these are matters of the conscious rational mind; and when I explored and classified these facts, in the very first months of my serious practice of Yoga, I had no suspicion that they were no more than the foam on a glass of champagne: nay, rather of

“black wine in jars of jade
Cooled all these months in hoarded snow,
Black wine with purple starlight in its bosom,
Oily and sweet as the soul of a brown maid
Brought from the forenoon's archipelago,
Her brows bound bright with many a scarlet blossom
Like the blood of the slain that flowered free
When we met the black men knee to knee.”

How apt the verses are! How close are wine and snow to lust and slaughter!

I have been digressing, for all that; let us return to our goats!

The structure of the mind reveals its history as does the structure of the body.

(Capitals, please, or bang on something; that has got to sink in.)

Just as your body was at one stage the body of an ape, a fish, a frog (and all the rest of it) so did that animal at that stage possess a mind correlative.

Now then!  In the course of that kind of initiation conferred by Sammasati, the layers are stripped off very much as happens in elementary meditation (Dharana) to the conscious mind.

(There is a way of acquiring a great deal of strange and unsuspected knowledge of these matters by the use of Sulphuric Ether, (C2H5)2O, according to a special technique.  I wrote a paper on it once, 16 pp. 4{to}, and fearing that it might be lost had many copies made and distributed.  Where is it?  I must write you a letter one day.1) )

Accordingly, one finds oneself experiencing the thoughts, the feelings, the desires of a gorilla, a crocodile, a rat, a devil-fish, or what have you!  One is no longer capable of human thoughts in the ordinary sense of the word; such would be wholly unintelligible.

I leave the rest to your imagination; doesn't it sound to you a little like some of the accounts of “The Dweller on the Threshold?”

Love is the law, love under will.



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This paper is still extant; I am unaware of details of publication.  Internal evidence gives it an earliest possible date of 1920 – T.S.


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