Chapter LXXIX: Progress
MAGICK WITHOUT TEARS
By Aleister Crowley
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
You will certainly have to have an india-rubber medal for persistence: this is the nth time that you have tried to catch me contradicting myself.
Well, so I do, and must, every time I make any statement whatever, as has been shown several times in this chatty little interchange of views. But that is not what you mean.
You say—permit me to condense your more than somewhat tautological, pleonastic, prolix, diffuse and incoherent elucubrations!—that the whole idea of the Great Order is based on faith in Progress. The doctrine of successive aeons is nothing else. The system of training is nothing else. Nothing, in fact, is anything else. MaugrÂ‚ this and in despite thereof (you continue, with a knavish gleam in your hither eye) I am everlastingly throwing down the whole jerry-built castle by my cynical reflections. (Some one—Anthony Hope in a lucid moment, I think—says that cynicism is always a confession of failure—“sour grapes.”) Maybe, some of the time. But the explanation is very simple, and you ought to have been able to think it out for yourself. It is a question of the “Universe of Discourse,” of Perspective. An engineer may swear himself ultra-marine in the map all the time at the daily mistakes and mishaps that go on all the time under his nose, yet at dinner tell his friends complacently that the bridge is going up better than he ever expected.
Just so, my gibes are directed at incidents; but my heart's truth is fixed on the grand spiral.
All the same, I am glad you wrote; it is a text for a little sermon that I have had in mind for a long while on the conditions of progress.
Number One is obviously Irregularity, Eccentricity, Disorder, the Revolutionary Spirit, Experiment.
I have no patience whatever with Utopia-mongers. Biology simply shouts at us that the happy contented community, everyone with his own (often highly specialized) job, nobody in need, nobody in danger, is necessarily stagnant. Termites and other ants, bees, beavers; these and many another have produced perfect systems. What is the first characteristic? Stupidity. “Where there is no vision, the people shall perish.” What is the Fighter Termite to do, after he has been blocked out of his home? None of these communities possess any resource at all against any unforeseen unfavourable change of circumstance. (We look rather like that just now at the end of 1944 e.v.) Nor does anyone of them show any achievement; having got to the end of their biological tether, they stay out, without an aim, an idea, an effort. The leech, an insufferable pest in its belt—it has killed off tiger, rhinoceros, anything with a nostril!—is the curse of our military station at Lebong—or was when I was there. At Darjeeling, a few hundred feet higher, devil a one! They have no one to think: now how can we flourish up higher? Those old forlorn-hope Miss-Sahibs—how wide are their nostrils! Then—how?
Consider for a moment our own Empire. How did that spread all over the planet? It was the imaginative logic, the audacity, the adroit adaptability, of the Adventurer that blasted the road.
The sunny Socialist smiles his superior smile, and condescends to instruct us. That was an unfortunate, though perhaps sometimes necessary, stage in the perfection of Society.
Something in that. But there are other kinds of Adventure. My imagination can set no limit to the possibilities of Science, or of Art: our own Great Work is evidence of that.
Last Sunday I looked through an interview with the least brain-bound of these ruminators—poor old, dear old G. for gaga Bernard Shaw.
The artist, said he, was a special case. he should have a nice easy job, three or four hours a day, and be free for the rest of it to devote himself to his Art. I wonder how much of his own work would have seen daylight if he had been tied to some silly robot soul-killing, nerve- crushing, mind-infuriating routine job for even one half-hour a day! When I am on a piece of work, I grudge the time for eating; and when it's done, I need the absolute relaxation of leisured luxury.
Then what of the Work itself? If the Idea be truly new and important, God help it! The whole class of men affected jump on it with one accord, if haply they may crush it in the germ. Read a little of the History of Medicine! Any man who shows a sign of independent thought is watched, is thwarted. He persists and is threatened and bullied. He persists; every engine of oppression is set in motion against him. Then something snaps; either they succeed in killing him (Ross, who defeated malaria, nearly starved to death) or they make him a baronet, or a peer, or make his death a Day of National Mourning, and bury him in the Pantheon—“auc grands hommes la patrie reconnaissante“—like Pasteur after one of the most infamous campaigns of persecution in history.
Then, of course, entertainment must be standardized. It costs money to produce; and who will produce anything which can only appeal to the very few—to none at all, soon, if these swine have their way. So, if it is new, is original, is worth one's while, it must be ignored.
Besides, being new and incomprehensible to the great Us, it may be dangerous, and must be suppressed.
In all literature I know no pages so terrifying as those in Louis Marlow's Mr. Amberthwaite, which describe his dream. I wish I could quote it, with Sinai as the orchestra; never mind, read it again. And we are on the way—far on the way—to That!
Now, obviously, the robot education, robot textbooks stuffed in by robot teachers, will have done wonders with the help of the bovine well-being to produce a race of robot boys.
All independence, all imagination, all spirit of Adventure, will have been ground down and rolled out smooth by this ghastly engine. But—
Nature is not so easily beaten; a few boys and girls will somehow escape, and either by instinct or by observation, have the sense to keep secret. Now whatever their own peculiar genius may select as their line, they will realise that nothing is possible in any way while the accursed system stands. Their first duty is Revolt. And presently some one will come along with the wit and the will and the weapon, and blow the whole most damnable bag of tricks sky-high.
We had better busy ourselves about this while it is still possible to get back to freedom without universal bloodshed.
“All right, Master, you win! Now give us your own idea of Utopia.”
An Utopia to end Utopias? Very good, so I will. Education, to begin with; well, you've had all that in another letter. The main thing to remember is that I want every individual taught as such, according to his own special qualities. Then, teach them both sides of every question: history, for example, as the play of economic forces, also, as due to the intervention of Divine Providence, or of “Sports” of genius: and so for the rest. Train them to doubt—and to dare!
Then, somehow, as large a number of the most promising rebels should be selected to lead a life of luxury and leisure. Let every country, by dint of honouring its old traditions, be as different as possible from every other. Restore the “Grand tour,” or rather, the roving Englishman of the Nineteenth Century. Entrust them with the secrets of discipline, of authority, or power. Hardship and danger in full measure: and responsibility.
A great deal of such material will be as disgustingly wasted as it has been in the past; and there will be much abuse of privilege. But this must be allowed and allowed for; no very great harm will result, as the weak and vicious will weed themselves out.
The pure gold will repay us ten thousandfold. You ask examples? With us, the Elizabethan and the Victorian periods stand out. What is most wanted is opportunity and reward. Under Victoria there was some—taste the late Samuel Smiles Esquire, D.D. (wasn't he?)—but not enough, and Industrialism, the mother and nurse of Socialism, was destroying the soul of the people.
In my not very maternal remarks on Mother-love, was included the substance of the one wise saying of my pet American lunatic “You can't get past their biology.” This is so true, and so disheartening, that it arouses me to combat. Must we for ever be bound to the inconvenient habit of sows and cabbages? I pick up the glove.
Isn't it Aldous Huxley who says somewhere that some species or other can never develop higher powers because its brain is shut in by its carapace? I thought this too, long ago; and I went into interminable conferences with my old friend, Professor Buckmaster; I wanted to extend brain surgery to produce the phenomena of Yoga. Also, I wondered what would happened if we wedged apart the sections of the cranium at, or shortly after, birth, so as to prevent them closing and giving the brain a chance to grow.
I suspect, by the way, that something of the sort is done in China and Burma; but the object is merely to produce megalocephalic idiots as a valuable addition to the financial resources of the family.
I thought that modern physiology, with its great recent advances in knowledge of the specialized functions of the brain, might quite possibly succeed in producing genius.
You would not surprise me if you told me that something of the sort is being tried in Russia, with its Communism modelled so closely on that of Ivan the Terrible at the moment, war or no war! Qui vivra verra.
Anyhow, all that I really want you to get into your head “sunning over with little curls” is that Progress demands Anarchy tempered by Common Sense, and that the most formidable obstacle is this Biology.
The experience of the Magician and the Yogi does suggest that there is room in the human brain as at present constituted for almost limitless expansion. At least our system of Training is more immediately practical than digging up our Corpora Quadragenina and planting them in a Monkey's Medulla just to see what will come of it. So put down that bread-knife!
Love is the law, love under will.
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