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By Aleister Crowley

Chapter LI: How to Recognise Masters, Angels, etc., and how they Work

Cara Soror,

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

I have been thinking over what I wrote in my last letter with regard to the verification of appearances in the Astral Plane.1

I did not mention a parallel question of even greater immediate practical importance: that of one's relations with Astral or discarnate intelligences or with Those whom we call “The Masters” or “The Gods”: the messages of gestures which reach us through the normal physical channels.  The importance is that they actually determine one's line of conduct in critical situations.

It seemed therefore a good idea to give you three examples from The Spirit of Solitude:2 and here they are!

The first extract refers to the “miraculous” discovery of the MS of Liber AL some years after I had deliberately “lost” it.

The second, to the finding of a villa suited to the Work.

The third to my rescue from a state of despair.

Love is the law, love under will.

Yours fraternally,


[The following is from Vol. 4 of The Confessions, pp. 369 - 371.3]

It was part of my plan for the Equinox to prepare a final edition of the work of Dr. Dee and Sir Edward Kelly.  I had a good many of the data and promised myself to complete them by studying the manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford—which, incidentally, I did in the autumn; but it struck me that it would be useful to get my large paintings of the four Elemental Watch Towers which I had made in Mexico.  I thought these were probably in Boleskine.  I decided to go up there for a fortnight or so.  Incidentally, I had the conveniences for conferring upon Neuberg the degree of Neophyte, he having passed brilliantly through this year as a Probationer.

I consequently asked him and an Emmanuel man named Kenneth Ward, to come and stay with me.  I had met Ward at Wastdale Head shortly before, having gone there to renew my ancient loves with the creeds of the gullies.  It happened that Ward was very keen on skiing.  I had several pairs and offered to give him some.  This casual circumstance proved an essential part of the chain by which I was ultimately dragged behind the chariot of the Secret Chiefs.  At least I thought it was a chain.  I did not realize that steel of such exquisite temper might be beaten into a sword fit for the hand of a free man.

To my annoyance, I could not find the Elemental Watch Towers anywhere in the house. I daresay I gave up looking rather easily. I had got into a state of disgusted indifference about such things. Rose might have destroyed them in a drunken fit, just as she might have pawned them if they had possessed any commercial value. I shrugged my shoulders accordingly, and gave up the search. The skis that I had promised Ward were not to be found any more than the Watch Towers. After putting Neuburg through his initiation,* we prepared to go to London.  I had let the house, and my tenant was coming in on the first of July.  We had four days in which to amuse ourselves; and we let ourselves go for a thorough good time.  Thus like a thunderbolt comes the incident of June 28, thus described in my diary:

Glory be to Nuit, Hadit, Ra-Hoor-Khuit in the Highest!  A little before midday I was impelled mysteriously (though exhausted by playing fives, billiards, etc. till nearly six this morning) to make a final search for the Elemental Tablets.  And lo! when I had at last abandoned the search, I cast mine eyes upon a hole in the loft where were ski, etc., and there, O Holy, Holy, Holy! were not only all that I sought, but the manuscript of Liber Legis.4

The ground was completely cut away from under my feet.  I remained for two whole days meditating on the situation—in performing, in fact, a sort of supplementary Sammasati to that of 1905.  Having the knack of it, I reached a very clear conclusion without too much difficulty.  The essence of the situation was that the Secret Chiefs meant to hold me to my obligation.  I understood that the disaster and misery of the last three years was due to my attempt to evade my duty.  I surrendered unconditionally, as appears from the entry of July 1.

I once more solemnly renounced all that I have or am.  On departing (at midnight from the topmost point of the hill which crowns my estate) instantly shone the moon, two days before her fullness, over the hills among the clouds.

This record is couched in very general terms, but it was intended to cover the practical point of my resuming the task laid upon me in Cairo exactly as I might be directed to do by my superiors.

Instantly my burden fell from my back.  The long crucifixion of home life came to a crisis, immediately on my return to London.  At the same time every other inhibition was automatically removed.  For the first time since the spring of 1904 I felt myself free to do my Will.  That, of course, was because I had at last understood what my Will was.  My aspiration to be the means of emancipating humanity was perfectly fulfilled.  I had merely to establish in the world the Law which had been given me to proclaim: “…thou hast no right but to do thy will.”  Had I bent my energies from the first to proclaiming the Law of Thelema I should doubtless have found no obstacle in my path.  Those which naturally arise in the course of any work soever, would have been quietly removed by the Secret Chiefs.  But I had chosen to fight against myself for five years, and “If Satan shall be divided against Satan, how shall his kingdom stand?”  The more I strove, the more I encouraged an internal conflict, and stultified myself.  I had been permitted to complete my initiation, for the reason that by doing so I was fitting myself for the fight; but all my other efforts had met with a derisory disaster.  More, one does not wipe out a lustre of lunacy by a moment of sanity.  I am suffering to this day from the effects of having wasted some of the best years of my life in the stupid and stubborn struggle to set up my conscious self against its silent sovereign, my true Soul.  'Had Zimri peace who slew his master?'

* The preparation for this was in some ways trying to the candidate. For instance, he had to sleep naked for seven nights on a litter of gorse.

[The following is from Vol. 4 of The Confessions, pp. 590 - 598.5]

A boisterous party was in progress.  The dancer's lifelong friend, whom I will call by the name she afterwards adopted, Soror Virakam,6 was celebrating her birthday.  This lady, a magnificent specimen of mingled Irish and Italian blood, possessed a most powerful personality and a terrific magnetism which instantly attracted my own.  I forgot everything.  I sat on the floor like a Chinese God, exchanging electricity with her.

After some weeks' preliminary skirmishing, we joined battle along the whole front; that is to say, I crossed to Paris, where she had a flat, and carried her off to Switzerland to spend the winter skating.  Arrived at Interlaken, we found that Murren was not open, so we went on to St. Moritz, breaking the journey at Zurich.  This town is so hideous and depressing that we felt that our only chance of living through the night was to get superbly drunk, which we did . . .

(Let me emphasize that this wild adventure had not the remotest connection with Magick.  Virakam was utterly ignorant of the subject.  She had hardly so much as a smattering of Christian Science.  She had never attended a séance or played Planchette.)

Lassati sed non Satiati7 by midnight, I expected to sleep; but was aroused by Virakam being apparently seized with a violent attack of hysteria, in which she poured forth a frantic torrent of senseless hallucination.  I was irritated and tried to calm her.  But she insisted that her experience was real; that she bore an important message to me from some invisible individual.  Such nonsense increased my irritation.  But—after about an hour of it—my jaw fell with astonishment.  I became suddenly aware of a coherence in her ravings, and further that they were couched in my own language of symbols.  My attention being thus awakened, I listened to what she was saying.  A few minutes convinced me that she was actually in communication with some Intelligence who had a message for me.

Let me briefly explain the grounds for this belief.  I have already set forth, in connection with the Cairo Working, some of the safeguards which I habitually employ.  Virakam's vision contained elements perfectly familiar to me.  This was clear proof that the man in her vision, whom she called Ab-ul-Diz, was acquainted with my system of hieroglyphics, literal and numerical, and also with some incidents in my Magical Career.  Virakam herself certainly knew nothing of any of these.  Ab-ul-Diz told us to call him a week later, when he would give further information.  We arrived at St. Moritz and engaged a suite in the Palace Hotel.

My first surprise was to find that I had brought with me exactly those Magical Weapons which were suitable for the work proposed, and no others.  But a yet more startling circumstance was to come.  For the purpose of the Cairo Working, Ouarda8 and I had bought two abbai; one, scarlet, for me; one, blue, for her.  I had brought mine to St. Moritz; the other was of course in the possession of Ouarda.  Imagine my amazement when Virakam produced from her trunk a blue abbai so like Ouarda's that the only difference were minute details of the gold embroidery!  The suggestion was that the Secret Chiefs, having chosen Ouarda as their messenger, could not use any one else until she had become irrevocably disqualified by insanity.  Not till now could her place be taken by another; and that Virakam should possess a duplicate of her Magical Robe seemed a strong argument that she had been consecrated by Them to take the place of her unhappy predecessor.

She was very unsatisfactory as a clairvoyant; she resented these precautions.  She was a quick-tempered and impulsive woman, always eager to act with reckless enthusiasm.  My cold scepticism no doubt prevented her from doing her best.  Ab-ul-Diz himself constantly demanded that I should show “faith,” and warned me that I was wrecking my chances by my attitude.  I prevailed upon him, however, to give adequate proof of his existence, and his claim to speak with authority.  The main purport of his message was to instruct me to write a book on my system of Mysticism and Magick, to be called Book 4, and told me that by means of this book, I should prevail against public neglect.  I saw no objection to writing such a book; on quite rational grounds, it was a proper course of action.  I therefore agreed to do so.  But Ab-ul-Diz was determined to dictate the conditions in which the book should be written; and this was a difficult matter.  He wanted us to travel to an appropriate place.  On this point I was not wholly satisfied with the result of my cross-examination.  I know now that I was much to blame throughout.  I was not honest either with him, myself, or Virakam.  I allowed material considerations to influence me, and I clung—oh triple fool!—to my sentimental obligations towards Laylah.9

We finally decided to do what he asked, though part of my objection was founded on his refusal to give us absolutely definite instruction. However, we crossed the Passes in a sleigh to Chiavenna, whence we took the train to Milan.  In this city we had a final conversation with Ab-ul-Diz.  I had exhausted his patience, as he mine, and he told us that he would not visit us any more.  He gave us his final instructions. We were to go to Rome, though he refused to name the exact spot.  We were to take a villa and there write Book 4.  I asked him how we might recognize the right Villa.  I forget what answer he gave through her, but for the first time he flashed a message directly into my own consciousness.  “You will recognize it beyond the possibility of doubt or error,” he told me.  With this a picture came into my mind of a hillside on which were a house and garden marked by two tall Persian Nuts.

The next day we went on to Rome.  Owing to my own Ananias-like attempt to “keep back part of the price,” my relations with Virakam had become strained.  We reached Naples after two or three quarrelsome days in Rome and began house-hunting.  I imagined that we should find dozens of suitable places to choose from, but we spent day after day scouring the city and suburbs in an automobile, without finding a single place to let that corresponded in the smallest degree with our ideas.

Virakam's brat—a most god-forsaken lout—was to join us for the Christmas holidays, and on the day he was due to arrive we motored out as a forlorn hope to Posilippo before meeting him at the station at 4 o'clock or thereabouts.  But the previous night Virakam had a dream in which she saw the desired villa with absolute clearness.  (I had been careful to say nothing to her about the Persian Nuts, so as to have a weapon against her in case she insisted that such and such a place was the one intended.)

After a fruitless search we turned our automobile towards Naples, along the crest of Posilippo.  At one point there is a small side lane scarcely negotiable by motor, and indeed hardly perceptible, as it branches from the main road so as to form an acute-angled “Y” with the foot towards Naples.  But Virakam sprang excitedly to her feet, and told the chauffeur to drive down it.  I was astonished, she being hysterically anxious to meet the train, and our time being already almost too short.  But she swore passionately that the villa was down that lane.  The road became constantly rougher and narrower.  After some time, it came out on the open slope; a low stone parapet of the left protecting it.  Again she sprang to her feet.  “There,” she cried, pointing with her finger, “is the Villa I saw in my dream!”  I looked. No villa was visible.  I said so.  She had to agree; yet stuck to her point that she saw it.  I subsequently returned to that spot and found that a short section of wall, perhaps 15 feet of narrow edge of masonry, is just perceptible through a gap in the vegetation.

We drove on; we came to a tiny piazza, on one side of which was a church.  “That is the square and the Church,” she exclaimed, “that I saw in my dream!”

We drove on.  The lane became narrower, rougher and steeper.  Little more than 100 yards ahead it was completely “up,” blocked with heaps of broken stone.  The chauffeur protested that he would be able neither to turn the car nor to back it up to the square.  Virakam, in a violent rage, insisted on proceeding.  I shrugged my shoulders.  I had got accustomed to these typhoons.

We drove on a few yards.  Then the chauffeur made up him mind to revolt, and stopped the car.  On the left was a wide open gate through which we could see a gang of workmen engaged in pretending to repair a ramshackle villa.  Virakam called the foreman and asked in broken Italian if the place was to let.  He told her no; it was under repair.  With crazy confidence she dragged him within and forced him to show her over the house.  I sat in resigned disgust, not deigning to follow.  Then my eyes suddenly saw down the garden, two trees close together.  I stooped.  Their tops appeared.  They were Persian Nuts!  The stupid coincidence angered me, and yet some irresistible instinct compelled me to take out my note book and pencil and jot down the name written over the gate— Villa Caldarazzo.  Idly I added up the letters.10  Their sum struck me like a bullet in my brain.  It was 418, the number of the Magical Formula of the Aeon, a numerical hieroglyph of the Great Work.  Ab-ul-Diz had made no mistake.  My recognition of the right place was not to depend on a mere matter of trees, which might be found almost anywhere.  Recognition beyond all possibility of doubt was what he promised.  He had been as good as his word.

I was entirely overwhelmed.  I jumped out of the car and ran up to the house.  I found Virakam in the main room.  The instant I entered I understood that it was entirely suited for a temple.  The walls were decorated with crude frescoes which somehow suggested the exact atmosphere proper to the Work.  The very shape of the room seemed somehow significant.  Further, it seemed as if it were filled with a peculiar emanation.  This impression must not be dismissed as sheer fancy.  Few men but are sufficiently sensitive to distinguish the spiritual aura of certain buildings.  It is impossible not to feel reverence in certain cathedrals and temples.  The most ordinary dwelling houses often possess an atmosphere of their own; some depress, some cheer; some disgust, others strike chill to the heart.

Virakam of course was entirely certain that this was the Villa for us. Against this was the positive statement of the people in charge that it was not to be let. We refused to accept this assertion.  We took the name and address of the owner, dug him out, and found him willing to give us immediate possession at a small rent.  We went in on the following day, and settled down almost at once to consecrate the Temple and begin the book.

[The following is from The Confessions, Vol. 4, pp. 379 - 384.11]

I knew in myself from the first that the revelation in Cairo was the real thing.  I have proved with infinite pains that this was the case; yet the proof has not strengthened my faith, and disproof would do nothing to shake it.  I knew in myself that the Secret Chiefs had arranged that the manuscript of The Book of the Law should have been hidden under the Watch Towers and the Watch Towers under the ski; that they had driven me to make the key to my position the absence of the manuscript; that they had directed Kenneth Ward's actions for years that he might be the means of the discovery, and arranged every detail of the incident in such a way that I should understand it as I did.

Yes; this involves a theory of the powers of the Secret Chiefs so romantic and unreasonable that it seems hardly worth a smile of contempt.  As it happens, an almost parallel phenomenon came to pass ten years later.  I propose to quote it here in order to show that the most ordinary events, apparently disconnected, are in fact only intelligible by postulating some such people as the Secret Chiefs of the A∴A∴ in possession of some such prevision and power as I ascribe to them. When I returned to England at Christmas, 1919, all my plans had gone to pieces owing to the dishonesty and treachery of a gang which was bullying into insanity my publisher in Detroit.  I was pledged in honour to look after a certain person; but I was practically penniless.  I could not see any possible way of carrying on my work.  (It will be related in due course how this condition of things came about, and why it was necessary for me to undergo it.)

I found myself at Morêt, on the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau, with nothing to do but wait.  I did not throw up the sponge in passionate despair as I had done once before to my shame—I had been rapped sufficiently hard on the knuckles to cure me of that—but I said to the Gods “Observe, I have done my damnedest, and here I am at a dead centre.  I am not going on muddling through: I demand a definite sign from you that I am still your chosen prophet.”  I therefore note in my diary, on January 12, 1920, as follows:

I am inclined to make my Silence include all forms of personal work, and this is very hard to give up, if only because I am still afraid of 'failure,' which is absurd.  I ought evidently to be non-attached, even to avoiding the Woes-Attendant-Upon-Refusing-The-Curse-Of-My-Grade, if I may be pardoned the expression.
And why should I leave my efficacious Tortoise and look at people till my lower jaw hangs down?  Shall I see what the //Yi// says?  Ay.  Question: Shall I abandon all magical work soever until the appearance of a manifest sign?
> {{:051_fig01.gif?67x84}}
No symbol could be more definite and unambiguous.
I have invoked Aiwass to manipulate the Sticks; and, wishing to ask "What shall be the Sign?" got instantly the reference in CCXX to our Lady Babalon: "the omnipresence of my body."  But this is not quite clear; I took it mentally as referring to the expected arrival of Our Lady, but it might mean a trance, or almost anything.  So I will ask //Yi//, as my last magical act for the time being.
> {{:051_fig02.gif?67x84}}
I think this means the arrival of Our Lady.  I have serious doubts whether the hexagram should not have been:
> {{:051_fig03.gif?67x84}}
Which would have certainly meant that. That I should doubt anything is absurd: I shall know the Sign, without fail.  And herewith I close the Record, and await that Sign.

The next entry is dated Sunday, February 1.

Kindly read over the entry of January 12 with care exceeding.  Now then: On Friday, January 30, I went to Paris, to buy pencils, Mandarin, a palette, Napoleon Brandy, canvases and other appurtenances of the artist's dismal trade.  I took occasion to call upon an old mistress of mine, Jane Chéron, concerning who see //Equinox// Vol. I, "[[../equinox/i/viii/eqi08004.html|Three Poems]]."  She has never had the slightest interest in occult matters, and she has never done any work in her life, even of the needlework order.  I had seen her once before since my escape from America, and she said she had something to show me, but I took no particular notice, and she did not insist.  My object in calling on this second occasion was multiple: I wanted to see the man with whom she is living, who has not yet returned from Russia; I wanted to make love to her; and wanted to smoke a few pipes of opium with her, she being a devotee of that great and terrible God.
Consider now: the Work whereby I am a Magus began in Cairo (1904) with the discovery of the Stælæ of Ankh-f-n-Khonsu, in which the principal object is the Body of our Lady Nuit.  It is reproduced in colours in the //Equinox//, [[../equinox/i/vii/index.html|Vol. I, No. 7.]]  Jane Chéron has a copy of this book.  On Friday afternoon, then, I was in her apartment.  I had attained none of my objectives in calling on her, and was about to depart. She detained me to show me this "something."  She went and took a folded cloth from a drawer.  "Shut your eyes," she said.
When I opened them they saw a cloth four feet or more in length, on which was a magnificent copy, mostly in applique silk, of the Stélé.  She then told me that in February 1917, she and her young man had gone to the South of France to get cured of the opium habit.  In such cases insomnia is frequent.  One night, however, he had gone to sleep, and on waking in the morning found the she, wakeful, had drawn a copy of the Stélé on a great sheet of paper.
It is very remarkable that so large a sheet of paper should have been at hand; also that they should have taken that special book on such a journey; but still more that she should have chosen that picture, nay that she, who had never done anything of the sort before, should have done it at all.  More yet, that she should have spent three months in making a permanent thing of it.  Most of all, that she should have shown it to me at the very moment when I was awaiting an "unmistakable" sign.
For observe, how closely the Words of my Entry of January 12 describe the sign, "the omnipresence of my body."  And there She was—in the last place in the world where one would have sought Her.
Note, too, the accuracy of the //Yi King// symbol
> {{:051_fig02.gif?67x84}}
for {{:trigram000.gif?71x57|Khwan trigram (three broken lines)}} is of course the Symbol of our Lady, and the God below Her in the Stælæ is {{:trigram101.gif?71x57|Li trigram (upper and lower lines solid, middle broken)}} the Sun.
All this is clear proof of the unspeakable power and wisdom of Those who have sent me to proclaim the Law.
I observe, after a talk with M. Jules Courtier yesterday, that all their S.P.R.[[mwt_51.html#ed1|*]] work is proof only of extra-human Forces.  We knew about them all along; the universe is full of obscure and subtle manifestation of energy; we are constantly advancing in our knowledge and control of them.  Telekinesis is of the same order of Nature as the Hertz Rays or the Radium emanations.  But what nobody before me has done is to prove the existence of extra-human Intelligence, and my magical Record does this.  I err in the interpretation, of course; but it is impossible to doubt that there is a Somebody there, a Somebody capable of combining events as a Napoleon forms his plans of campaign, and possessed of powers unthinkably vast.

If these events be indeed the result of calculation and control on the part of the Secret Chiefs, it seems at first sight as if the people involved had been prepared to play their parts from the beginning.  Our previous relations, the girl's to opium, my friendship with her lover, and his interest in my work; omit any item and the whole plan fails.  But this assumption is unnecessary.  The actual preparation need not go back further than three years, when the Stælæ was embroidered.  We may allow the Secret Chiefs considerable option, just as a chess player is not confined to one special combination for his attack.  We may suppose that had these people not been available, the sign which I demanded might have been given me in some other equally striking way.  We are not obliged to make extravagant assumptions in order to maintain that the evidence of purpose is irresistibly strong.

To dismiss this intricate concatenation of circumstances, culminating as they do in the showing forth of the exact sign which I had demanded, is simply to strain the theory of probabilities beyond the breaking point.  Here then are two complicated episodes which do to prove that I am walking, not by faith but by sight, in my relations with the Secret Chiefs; and these are but two links in a very long chain.  This account of my career will describe many others equally striking.  I might, perhaps, deny my inmost instinct the right to testify were any one case of this kind in question; but when, year after year, the same sort of thing keeps on happening, and, when, furthermore, I find myself able to predict, as experience has taught me to do in the last three years, that they will happen, and even how the pieces will fit into the puzzle, I am justified in assuming a causal connection.

* Society for Psychical Research.

1: The reference is probably to Chapter XVII – T.S.

2: This was the original title of Crowley's Confessions – T.S.

3: These page references are presumably to the then unpublished typescript of vol. 4 of The Confessions of Aleister Crowley.  This section appears with no substantial omissions in chapter 65 of the Symonds and Grant abridgement (pp. 595-7) – T.S.

4: The original manuscript of Liber AL vel Legis was again lost, following the death of Sascha Germer, widow of Frater Saturnus.  Ten years later it came home again, this time found in the basement of a non-O.T.O. member.  The MS of The Book of the Law presently resides in a bank vault in the USA, under control of Ordo Templi Orientis—see The Magickal Link, July '84 e.v. – WEH.

5: Cap. 70 pp. 676-680 of Symonds and Grant edition –T.S.

6: Mary Desti Sturges.

7: Lat., “exhausted but not satiated.”

8: Rose Edith Crowley née Kelly, AC's first wife.  “Ourada” is the Arabic for “rose” – T.S.

9: Leilah Waddell.

10: Hebrew numeration, reading the O as Ayin: (6 + 10 + 30 + 30 + 1) + (20 + 1 + 30 + 4 + 1 + 200 + 1 + 7 + 7 + 70) = 77 + 341 = 418) – T.S.

11: Cap. 65 pp. 598-601 in the Symonds and Grant edition – T.S.

© Ordo Templi Orientis.  Original key entry by W.E. Heidrick for O.T.O.  HTML coding by Frater T.S. for Nu Isis Working Group.

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