Chapter LXXII: Education


By Aleister Crowley

Chapter LXXII: Education

Cara Soror,

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

Education means “leading out”; this is not the same as “stuffing in.”

I refuse to enlarge on this theme; it is all-important.  To extract something, you should first know what is there.  Here astrology ought to give useful hints; its indications give the mind something to work on.  Experience makes “confirmation strong as Holy Writ;” but beware of à priori. Do not be dogmatic; do not insist in the face of disappointment.  Astrology in education is useful as geology is to the prospector; it tells you the sort of thing to look for, and the direction in which to explore.

There are, however, two main lines of teaching which are of universal value to normal children; it is hardly possible to begin too early.

Firstly, accustom his ear from the start to noble sounds; the music of nature and the rhythm of great poetry.  Do not aim at his understanding, but at his subconscious mind.  Protect him from cacophonous noise; avoid scoring any cheap success with him by inflicting jingles; do not insult him by “baby-talk.”

Secondly, let him understand, as soon as you start actual teaching, the difference between the real and the conventional in what you make him memorize.  Nothing irritates children more than the arbitrary “because I say so.”

Nobody knows why the alphabet has the order which we know; it is quite senseless.  One could construct a much more rational order: e.g. the Mother, the Single and the Double letters, all in the natural order of the elements, planets and signs.  Again, we have the “Missionary” Alphabet, arranged “scientifically” as Gutturals, modified ditto, Dentals, Labials, vowels and so on; a most repulsive concoction!  But I would not accept any emendation from the God Thoth himself; it is infinitely simpler to stick to the familiar order.  But explain to the child that this is only for convenience, like the rule of the road; indeed, like almost any rules!

But when your teaching is of the disputable kind, explain that too; encourage him to question, to demand a reason and to disagree. Get him to fence with you; sharpen his wits by dialectic; lure him into thinking for himself.  I want tricks which will show him the advantages of a given subject of study; make him pester you to teach him.  We did this most successfully at the Abbey of Thelema in Cefalu; let me give you an instance: reading.  One of us would take the children shopping and bring up the subject of ice-cream.  Where, oh where could we get some? Presently one would exclaim and point to a placard and say, “I really do believe there'll be some there”—and lo! it was so.  Then they would wonder how one knew, and one would say: Why, there's “Helados” printed on that piece of card in the window.  They would want to learn to read at once.  We would discourage them, saying what hard work it was, and how much crying it cost, at the same time giving another demonstration of the advantages. They would insist, and we should yield—to active, eager children, not to dullards that hated the idea of “lessons.”  So with pretty well everything; we first excited the child's will in the desired direction.

But (you ask) are there any special branches of learning which you regard as essential for all?


Our old unvalued friend St. Paul, the cunning crook who turned the Jewish communism of the Apostles into an international ramp, saw in a vision a man from Macedonia who said “Come over and help us!”  This time it has been a woman from California, but the purport of her plaints was identical. Much as I should like to see my Father the Sun once more before I die, nothing doing until—if ever—life recovers from the blight of regulations.  Luckily, one thing she said helps us out: someone had told her that I had written on Education in Liber AlephThe Book of Wisdom or Folly—which has been ready for the printer for more than a quarter of a century—and there's nothing I can do about it!

However, I looked up the typescript. The book is itself Education; there are, however, six chapters which treat of the subject in the Special sense in which your question has involved us.

So I shall fling these chapters headlong into this letter.


Long, O my Son, hath been this Digression from the plain Path of My word concerning Children; but it was most needful that thou shouldst understand the Limits of true Liberty.  For that is not the Will of any Man which ultimateth in his own Ruin and that of all his Fellows; and that is not Liberty whose Exercise bringeth him to Bondage.  Thou mayst therefore assume that it is always an essential Part of the Will of any Child to grow to Manhood or to Womanhood in Health, and his Guardians may therefore prevent him from ignorantly acting in Opposition thereunto, Care being always taken to remove the cause of the Error, namely, Ignorance, as aforesaid.  Thou mayst also assume that it is Part of the Child's Will to train every Function of the Mind; and the Guardians may therefore combat the Inertia which hinders its Development.  Yet here is much Caution necessary, and it is better to work by exciting and satisfying any natural Curiosity than by forcing Application to set Tasks, however obvious this Necessity may appear.


Now in this training of the Child is one most dear Consideration, that I shall impress upon thee as is Conformity with out holy Experience in the way of Truth.  And it is this, that since that which can be thought is not true, every Statement is in some sense false.  Even on the Sea of Pure Reason, we may say that every Statement is in some Sense disputable.  Therefore in every Case, even the simplest, the Child should be taught not only the Thesis, but also its opposite, leaving the Decision to the child's own Judgment and good Sense, fortified by Experience.  And this Practice will develop its Power of Thought, and its Confidence in itself, and its Interest in all Knowledge.  But most of all beware against any Attempt to bias its Mind on any Point that lieth without the Square of ascertained and undisputed Fact.  Remember also, even when thou art most sure, that so were they sure who gave Instruction to the young Copernicus.  Pay Reverence also to the Unknown unto whom thou presumest to impart thy knowledge; for he may be one greater than thou.


It is important that thou shouldst understand as early as may be what is the true Will of the Child in the Matter of his Career.  Be thou well aware of all Ideals and Daydreams; for the Child is himself, and not thy Toy.  Recall the comic Tragedy of Napoleon and the King of Rome; build not an House for a wild Goat, nor plant a Forest for the Domain of a Shark.  But be thou vigilant for every Sign, conscious or unconscious, of the Will of the Child, giving him then all Opportunity to pursue the Path which he thus indicates.  Learn this, that he, being young, will weary quickly of all false Ways, however pleasant they may be to him at the Outset; but of the true Way he will not weary.  This being in this Manner discovered, thou mayst prepare it for him perfectly; for no man can keep all Roads open for ever.  And to him making his Choice explain how one may not travel far on any one Road without a general Knowledge of Things apparently irrelevant.  And with that he will understand, and bend him wisely to his Work.


Now, concerning the first Foundation of Thy Mind I will say somewhat.  Thou shalt study with Diligence in the Mathematics, because thereby shall be revealed unto thee the Laws of thine own Reason and the Limitations thereof.  This Science manifesteth unto thee thy true Nature in respect of the Machinery whereby it worketh, and showeth in pure Nakedness, without Clothing of Personality or Desire, the Anatomy of thy conscious Self.  Furthermore, by this thou mayst understand the Essence of the Relations between all Things, and the Nature of Necessity, and come to the Knowledge of Form.  For this Mathematics is as it were the last Veil before the Image of Truth, so that there is no Way better than our Holy Qabalah, which analyseth all Things soever, and reduceth them to pure Number; and thus their Natures being no longer coloured and confused, they may be regulated and formulated in Simplicity by the Operation of Pure Reason, to their great Comfort in the Work of our Transcendental Art, whereby the Many become One.


My son, neglect not in any wise the study of the Writings of Antiquity, and that in the original Language.  For by this thou shalt discover the History of the Structure of thy Mind, that is, its Nature regarded as the last Term in a Sequence of Causes and Effects.  For thy Mind hath been built up of these Elements, so that in these Books thou mayst bring into the Light thine own sub-conscious Memories.  And thy Memory is as it were the Mortar in the House of thy Mind, without which is no Cohesion or Individuality possible, so that it is called Dementia.  And these Books have lived long and become famous because they are the Fruits of ancient Trees whereof thou art directly the Heir, wherefore (say I) they are more truly germane to thine own Nature than Books of Collateral Offshoots, though such were in themselves better and wiser.  Yes, O my son, in these Writings thou mayst study to come to the true Comprehension of thine own Nature, and that of the whole Universe, in the dimensions of Time, even as the Mathematic declareth it in that of Space: that is, of Extension.  Moreover, by this Study shall the Child comprehend the Foundation of Manners: the which, as sayeth one of the Sons of Wisdom, maketh Man.


Since Time and Space are the conditions of Mind, these two Studies are fundamental.  Yet there remaineth Causality, which is the Root of the Actions and Reactions of Nature.  This also shalt thou seek ardently, that thou mayest comprehend the Variety of the Universe, its Harmony and its Beauty, with the Knowledge of that which compelleth it.  Yet this is not equal to the former two in Power to reveal thee to thyself; and its first Use is to instruct thee in the true Method of Advancement in Knowledge, which is, fundamentally, the observation of the Like and Unlike.  Also, it shall arouse in thee the Ecstasy of Wonder; and it shall bring thee to a proper Understanding of Art Magick.  For our Magick is but one of the Powers that lie within us undeveloped and unanalysed; and it is by the Method of Science that it must be made clear, and available to the Use of Man.  Is not this a Gift beyond Price, the Fruit of a Tree not only of Knowledge but of Life?  For there is that in Man which is God, and there is that also which is Dust; and by our Magick we shall make these twain one Flesh, to the Obtaining of the Empery of the Universe.

I suppose I might have put it more concisely: Classics is itself Initiation, being the key of the Unconscious; Mathematics is the Art of manipulating the Ruach, and of raising it to Neschamah; and Science is co-terminous with Magick.

These are the three branches of study which I regard as fundamental. No others are in the same class. For instance, Geography is almost meaningless until one makes it real by dint of honest travel, which does not mean either “commuting” or “luxury cruises,” still less “globe-trotting.”  Law is a specialized study, with a view to a career; History is too unsystematic and uncertain to be of much use as mental training; Art is to be studied for and by one's solitary self; any teaching soever is rank poison.

The final wisdom on this subject is perhaps the old “Something of everything, and everything of something.”

Love is the law, love under will.

Yours ever,


P.S. Better mention, perhaps, that literacy is no test of education. For ignorance of life, the don class leaves all others at the post; and it is these monkish and monkeyish recluses, with their hideous clatter and cackle, “The tittering, thin-bearded, epicene,” “Dwarf, fringed with fear,” the obscene vole, dweller by and in backwaters that has foisted upon us the grotesque and poisonous superstition that wisdom abides only in dogs-eared, worm-eaten, mule-inspired long-forgotten as misbegotten folios.

I like the story—it is a true tale—of the old Jew millionaire who bought up the annual waste of the Pennsylvania Railroad—a matter of Three Million Dollars. He called with his cheque very neatly made out—and signed it by making his mark!  The Railroad Man was naturally flabbergasted, and could not help exclaiming, “Yet you made all those millions of yours—what would you have been if only you had been able to read and write?”  “Doorkeeper at the Synagogue” was the prompt reply.  His illiteracy had disqualified him when he applied for the job after landing.

The story is not only true, but “of all Truth;” see my previous letter on “Certainty.”

Books are not the only medium even of learning; more, what they teach is partial, prejudiced, meagre, sterile, uncertain, and alien to reality.  It follows that all the best books are those which make no pretence to accuracy: poetry, theatre, fiction.  All others date.  Another point is that Truth abides above and aloof from intellectual expression, and consequently those books which bear the Magic Keys of the Portal of the Intelligible by dint of inspiration and suggestion come more nearly to grips with Reality than those whose appeal is only to the Intellect.  “Didactic” poetry, “realistic” plays and novels, are contradictions in terms.

P.P.S. One more effort: the above reminds me that I have said no word about the other side of the medal.  There are many children who cannot be educated at all in any sense of the word. It is an abominable waste of both of them and of the teacher to push against brick walls.

Yet one last point.  I am as near seventy as makes no matter, and I am still learning with all my might.  All my life I have been taught: governesses, private tutors, schools, private and public, the best of the Universities: how little I know!  I have traveled all over the world in all conditions, from “grand seigneur,” to “holy man;” how little I know!

What then of the ninety-and-nine, dragged by the ears through suicide examinations, and kicked out of school into factory in their teens?  They have learnt only just enough to facilitate the swallowing of the gross venal lies of the radio and the Yellow Press; or, if mother-wit has chanced to warn them, they learn a little—very little—more, getting their Science from a Shilling Handbook and so on, till they know just enough to become dangerous agitators.

No, anything like a real education demands leisure, the conversation of the wise, the means to travel, and the rest.

There is only one solution: to pick out the diamonds from the clay, cut them, polish them, and set them as they deserve.  Attempt no idiot experiments with the muck of the mine!  You will observe that I am advocating an aristocratic revolution.  And so I am!

P.P.P.S. Short of the ideals above outlined, you may as well have a pis aller—words of astonishing insight and wisdom, not alien to the Law Thelema, and written by one who was trained on The Book of the Law.

“Self-confidence must be cultivated in the younger members of the nation from childhood onwards. Their whole education and training must be directed towards giving them a conviction that they are superior to others”, wrote Hitler.

“In the case of female education,” I read on, “the main stress should be laid on bodily training, after that on character, and, last of all, on the intellect; but the one absolute aim of female education must be with a view to the future mother.”

They are quoted as an extreme example of all that is horrible and evil by Mr. George E. Chust of the Daily Telegraph—from Mein Kampf!

P.P.P.P.S. There is a game, an improvement on the “Spelling Bee”—I have anti-christened it “Fore and aft” so as to be natty and naval—which is in my opinion one of the three or four best indoor games for two ever invented.  Here are the rules, in brief: any disputed points? Apply to me.

1.  A “Word” consists of four or more letters.

2.  It must be printed in big black type in the Dictionary chosen for reference.  (Nuttall's is fairly good, though some very well-known words are omitted.  The Oxford Pocket Dictionary is useless; it is for morons, illiterates, wallowers in “Basic English”—and [I suppose] Oxonians.  No proper names, however well-known, unless used as common: e.g. Bobby, a flatfoot, a beetlecrusher, a harness bull; or Xantippe, a shrew, a lady.  X-rays is given in the plural only: ditto “Rontgen-rays”, and they give “Rontgenogram”.  “You never can tell!”  Participles, plurals and the like are not “words” unless printed as such in big black type.  E.g. Nuttall's “Juttingly” is a word; “jutting” is not, being in smaller type.  “Soaking” is in small type, but also in big type as a noun; so it is a word.)

3.  The Dictionary is the sole and final arbiter.  This produces blasphemy, but averts assassination.

4.  The first player starts with the letter A.  The second may put any letter he chooses either before or after that A.  The other continues as he will, and can.

5.  The player who cannot add a letter without completing a “word” loses.

They proceed to B, and so on to Z.

6.  A player whose turn it is must either add his letter within a reasonable (This is a matter of good feeling, courtesy and consideration) time, may say “I challenge” or, alternatively, “That is a 'word'.” The other must then give the “word” that he intends, or deny that it is a “word” within the meaning of the Art, as the case may be.  The Dictionary decides the winner.  The challenged player may give one word only, and that in the form which is printed in the Dictionary; e.g. if he were challenged at BRUSS, and answered Brussels, he would lose; if BRUSSELS-SPROUTS, he would win. Hyphens need not be given. CASHMERE is a “word”; it is a kind of shawl, etc., so is CHARLEY, a night-watchman.  Don't argue: the Dictionary decides.

7.  This game calls not only for an extensive vocabulary but for courage; foresight, judgment, resource, subtlety and even low cunning.  It can be played by more than two players, but the more there are, the more the element of chance comes in; and this is hateful to really fine players and diminishes the excitement.  The rapier-play of two experts, when a word changes from one line of formation to another, and then again, perhaps even a third time, is as exhilarating as a baseball-game or a bull-fight.

And what the Tartarus-Tophet-Jehanna has all this to do with Education, and the Great Work?  This, child!  H. G. Wells and others have pointed out with serene justice that a gap in your vocabulary implies a gap in your mind; you lack the corresponding idea.  Too true, “Erbert!  But I threap that a pakeha with such xerotes as his will chowter with an arsis of ischonophony, beyond aught that any fub, even in Vigonia and dwale mammodis with a cascade from a Dewan tauty, a kiss-me-quick, a chou over her merkin and a parka over her chudder could do to save him, and have an emprosthotonos, when he reads this.  Sruti!

(Whaur's your Wullie Chaucer noo?)

I put this in for you because an American officer,7) very dear to me, flited from the Front for a few days to ask me a few questions—oh, “very much above your exalted grade” my dear—and I thought it might be useful to him to learn this game, needing, as it does, such very meagre apparatus, to wile away some of the long hours between attacks.  He picked it up quickly enough; but, after a bit when I suggested that he should pass it on to his comrades-in-arms, he jeered at me openly!

Their vocabulary to mine, he said, holds just about the same proportion as mine does to yours; I hypothesized modestly, “about five per cent.” (After all, I am forty-five years his senior.)  He roared at me.  “Not one in a hundred,” he said, “know so much as the names of nine-tenths of the subjects that I discuss habitually and fluently.  They gasp, they gape, they grunt, the gibber; it is almost always black bewilderment.8))  And some of them are college graduates—which I'm not.”

He was snatched from school, and given a commission on the spot, apparently because he was one of very few that could be differentiated from the average Learned Pig.

All this made me exceeding sorrowful. I began to understand why my Liber OZ, written entirely in words of one syllable only, with this very idea in mind, turned out to be completely beyond the average man's (or woman's) understanding.  I had some Mass Observation done on it.

“But this is rank socialism,” “Sy, ayn't this all Fascism?”  “Oh Golly!”  “Cripes!”  “Coo!”  “How dreadful!” about the nearest most of them got to Ralph Straus and Desmond MacCarthy!

Words of one syllable!  Louis Marlow9) had already told me what a fool I was to expect that.  “All they can digest,” said he, “is a mess of stewed clichés with Bird's custard Power.”

Damn everything—it's true, it's true.

So do you at least get together the stones that you need to build your Basilica!

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Lat., “Of the Will of Children.”  Cap. 40 of Liber Aleph.
Lat., “Of the Method of Disputation.”  Cap. 41 of Liber Aleph.
Lat., “Of Knowing the Will of a Child.”  Cap. 42 of Liber Aleph.
Lat., “Of the Art of Cultivating the Mind: (1) Mathematics.”  Cap. 47 of Liber Aleph.
Lat., “Continues: (2) Classics.”  Cap. 48 of Liber Aleph.
Lat., “Continues: (3) Sciences.”  Cap. 49 of Liber Aleph.
Probably Grady Louis McMurtry, who became “Caliph” or acting head of O.T.O. many years later – WEH.
They attach no meaning to these words:
      * Palaeontology
      * Criterion
      * Vector
      * Synthesis (They know “synthetic” but can't connect it with the noun)
      * Epitome
      * Foreign Policy (To them a mere phrase; no idea of its connotation or principles)
      * Demology
      * Entrepreneur
      * Correspondent and Co-respondent.  (They don't know the difference)
      * Subcutaneous
      * Chordee )
      * Gleet      ) (Although they have them!)
      * Histology (“Something to do with history”
Louis Umfraville Wilkinson wrote under this pen name.  He was one of two individuals named to be literary executors under Crowley's Last Will and Testament – WEH.


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