Ordo Templi Orientis
Berkeley, CA 94702 USA
September 2000 e.v. at Thelema Lodge
Lodge Members and Officers
For a triumphant twenty-first Rites of Eleusis cycle this summer the lodge thanks everyone involved, especially the seven god-forms presenters, and most particularly our Rites Master for this cycle, Dame Caitlin Aliciane (now Mrs. Caitlin Hussey Wildermuth). This past cycle must certainly be counted among the outstanding successes in the history of our revival of the Rites. When the lodge community here first organized a presentation of Crowley's dramatic cycle of planetary rituals, in an effort spearheaded by the old Nuit Urania Oasis in 1978 e.v. under the direction of the Lady Chandria, the intention was to repeat the revival for seven cycles of seven. So large a project involved an expansion of the troop of ritualists to the extent that when the seventh cycle rolled around very few of them had been involved from the beginning, and the count was lost (Chandria herself having retired from the project by that time due to illness). Before long Eleusis had become so much a part of the annual cycle of lodge events that we've hardly thought of ending it at any particular number, but if we were to expand the original scheme to a higher order and project seven cycles of seven cycles of seven (49 spins of the Rites!) we would now have completed the third of seven meta-cycles, or the cycle ascribed to Luna within the cycle of cycles for Mars. And if Luna of Mars seems a strange conjunction, just wait until next summer for the even stranger Saturn of Sol!
Suzanne's "Saturn" this year in Grace's beautiful garden was a wonderful gothic romp, more fun than we had ever expected from such a mean old god. Thanks to the whole troop of Kali's mad and terrible worshippers, and particularly to the lead dancer, of whom we would love to see more (what little more there is left to see!). Jeff's "Jupiter" was, fittingly, a much more stately and sonorous celebration, with thanks again to Grace for the garden. Leigh Ann's "Mars" at the Julia Morgan Theatre in Berkeley set a new standard for dramatic organization and effect, the story being recast as the martyrdom of the Knights Templar, and the staging taking on near-Wagnerian proportions. It was perhaps our largest and grandest Rite ever, delivering a powerful sense of catharsis when the ashes of the knights were seen to have changed to roses after their execution. Liesl's "Sol" at Sirius Oasis in the afternoon sun was a lavishly costumed presentation of the myth of Isis and Osiris, with thanks to Sam for preparing the script, and to the visiting Master of 93 Lodge for bravely keeping his end up as the abused divinity. This rite featured some stunning Egyptian drag borrowed with great thanks from the magical closets of the Oasis Master, and also the best feast in this summer's cycle. For Bernadette's "Venus" we were back at Sirius, with thanks again to Glenn for the use of the garden, and also to Elton for his very effective lighting of this rite. Nathan's "Mercury" was held at the Arkadia ritual space in Richmond, with thanks to Sam and Tara there for inviting us. This brisk and intelligent invocation was over almost before we knew it, and left the audience in little knots of strenuous discussion and critical inquiry afterwards, just as Mercury ought to do. We finished with Michael and Kat's "Luna" at the amazing Japanese tasting room of the Takara Sake factory, recast as the adventures of a troop of Buddhist monks searching out the secrets of the goddess Tara. Nine rounds of sake were served as libation by the staff of the winery, and the processions of orange-robed probationers chanting through the hall to the shockingly beautiful shrine of the goddess marks another high point for Eleusis. Thanks especially to Sam and Tara for assuming the principal roles at short notice when illness prevented the original players from taking the stage. All of the casts in the cycle this year deserve our appreciation for their grace, beauty, and skill, along with special thanks to Elton for his off-stage technical support and generous assistance all through the preparations, and to the many others involved, for contributions all along the way.
For here is Lady Aberdeen, of all people, talking like a Sinn Feiner. There was applause, says the New York Times, when she said that she looked forward to the time when Ireland would take her place as "one of the sisterhood of free nations that make up the British Empire." This is just two years since Mr. Aleister Crowley said almost the same words facing the Statue of Liberty, to be hailed as a madman or a traitor, and but five quarters of a year since the Irish Martyrs wrote similar remarks in blood in the streets of Dublin, and on the flagstones of the Tower of London.
It is time that we all took a new look at the world. Things are not what they were. In fact, they never were at all; our beliefs have been prejudice and illusion. Only canned brains should be incapable of the effort now required. We are, by definition, the fittest, since we survive; and if we are to continue this process, we must do so by accommodating ourselves to the changed conditions.
We have seen where national prejudice and the gospel of hate have led us. Any one who continues to preach hate is simply a snake. We are talking to the Irish who hate England as much as to the French who hate Germany. It simply will not do. We are in an impoverished world, and for the future we have got to pull together. It is absurd to repair "historical injustices;" no nation but her past is black with such. We must get off the plane of hate and envy together. We must recognize the plain truth that quarreling does not pay. Germany and England are both very silly to starve their best customers -- each other. But we should like to put it on a little higher ground than this: it is inhuman to be inhumane. There is only one attitude possible to an enlightened man today. It is not original. It was worded rather epigrammatically quite a few years ago, as follows: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Heaven knows the idiots who brought about this thing don't know. But most nations trust their destinies to imbeciles.) In the Dhammapada, a classic of Buddhism, six hundred years before Christ, we find the same idea, though without any religious theory to clog the wheels:
The state of hate doth not abate by hate in any time or clime;
But hate will cease if love increase; so soothly runs the ancient rime.
The idea had whiskers, even then; but the idea is not proved false by the fact that Mr. Wilson is clean-shaved.
Here, then, is yet another reason for the vigorous prosecution of the war. To fight a man honorably is to win him to respect and love you; a course of mutual cheating, as in time of peace, has the precisely opposite effect.
The obstacle to mutual understanding has been, of course, ignorance. "Greek" means a thief; Johnny Crapaud, as a term for a Frenchman, commemorates the legend that Frenchmen live entirely upon frogs; even the Bulgar has contributed in a similar way to the wealth of the English language. An idea has to be well fixed before it gets in to the language in this way. Mohammedan hill-men always refer to Bengalis as fish-eating bastards. The French think all Englishmen "perfidious." And so it goes, or rather went, for travel, and this war, in particular, is slowly driving the truth home, that we are all men. We must learn to tolerate each others' customs, and we must understand that LAW is only the concrete and organized expression of those customs.
America has a good point in this matter, and a bad one. The good is that we are accustomed to the most radical changes, not indeed, in ideas, but in the essential conditions of life. The average man of fifty may have been a bell-boy, horse-thief, bank messenger, minister of the gospel, cowboy, ragpicker, and college professor before setting down to serious life as a yeggman. We live in a country where the economic conditions change overnight in the most amazing fashion. We are a live people, accustomed to catastrophe as others to a change of weather. Nothing can abate our elasticity. But we are cursed with the most dreadful of all plagues that can afflict a nation: variegated law.
In America no man knows whether he is a criminal or no, unless he is sure that he is one. And this conviction is very widespread. Laws being passed in Albany alone at the rate of 600 per annum, even the judges make no attempt to "keep up with the Joneses," as Judge Welles complains in his recent book. The general disrespect for law has become universal. It is impossible to go into a bar in New York without seeing men in uniform being surreptitiously supplied with alcohol. The decent man objects to being made into a criminal by a few faddists who slyly pass laws directed against his normal actions. He consequently ignores the law completely, and relies solely on his conscience. This is all very well for the good man, but it encourages the bad man. "One may as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb," says he, and finds murder more profitable then spitting on the sidewalk.
This business of having two sets of laws on top of police regulations is Gilbert and Sullivan. When a burden is greater than a man may bear, he simply dumps it. It is already a curse in Great Britain that Scotland should have a separate law. If you rent a shooting lodge, your lawyers get a letter couched in a corruption of mediaeval French of which they cannot understand one word. You have to compear as a panel and grant warrandice, and you are never quite sure how this is to be done. But you do understand how necessary it was to let a Scots jury return a verdict of "Not Proven"!
Much of the trouble in Ireland comes from this same business of multiplying sets of laws. That is one reason why Home Rule will never work. The Federal power will always be interfering; a separation as completely as Australia's is the only practical solution, since an assimilation as complete as that of Wales is out of the question.
Now America has this curse in forty-nine-fold measure. In one state you are an honest man; ten miles off you are liable to be boiled in oil. It is bad enough to mess up the civil law; that confuses business and makes it possible for all sorts of shysters to graft by setting booby-traps for perfectly good citizens. But to play this joke in criminal law is to trifle inexcusably with the lives and liberties of the people. In prohibition states the first thought of every man is to offer his friends a drink. The minds of the inhabitants are completely obsessed by the Demon Rum. This applies to the men who themselves vote the Prohibition ticket. They drink themselves, but they think they are such fine fellows, and their neighbors such weak fools that they must have the law; oh, dear, yes!
Any European visiting the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave is practically compelled to form the most extraordinary conclusions. For example, let him read the new law in West Virginia, constraining every able- bodied man to work thirty-six hours in every week. "Why," he exclaims, "this is stark, crude slavery, naked and unashamed." Of course it is nothing of the sort; but we shall be glad of some line of explanation that will convince the average Englishman.
Take again the little matter of the censorship. Congress refused to pass several laws on this matter. "Tut," said Secretary Baker, "Tut." And gave orders to establish exactly what Congress denied. Nobody seems to have cared very much, except the aforesaid average Englishman, whose mind flew instantly to the scene in the House of Commons two hundred odd years ago, when Cromwell marched in with his musketeers, threw the Mace on the floor, and cleared the House with the simple remark: "Give place to honester men." To the English mind it seemed that the Administration had abolished the farce of representative government with a stroke. To that mind the incident was highly encouraging; the Englishman is always glad to see the strong silent men take hold, and get rid of the gaping mob of busybodies. But what does the American think? He doesn't think. The political game has long ceased to interest him, except so far as he can use it in his business.
It is because of this attitude that law after law is passed against the will of the majority, against common sense, against the most obvious principles of the constitution. Nobody cares. Nobody is going to take any notice of the law, anyhow. And the result is that we have a practical anarchy.
In East Saint Louis we hear that the sole regret of the white population is that their little ebullition of natural feeling should have attracted notice elsewhere. They meant the party to be quite private; no flowers. One hears the most appalling stories from private sources: One man stops flying negroes, promises them safety, takes them into a dark alley, and shoots them. A gang tosses them, men, women, and children, back into their burning homes. Young girls beat an old negress to death with her own shoes. The most conservative local estimate is 175 dead; many think 300 a nearer figure. Coming on top of the abominable torture and lynching in Memphis of a few weeks ago, this is a Sign. People are not acting according to law, but according to conscience. And the political term for this mode of government is Anarchy. The whole trouble lies with double legislation, complicated by crank legislation.
Where respect for law is inbred in a community, where the conscience of the solid elements of the community is expressed by the law, there is no trouble in the enforcement of the law. But where law grows rank and wild, where nobody cares about it, habitually, there may be grave trouble at just the moment when the most danger is. As things are in this country, an absolutely unpopular law may go through without notice; and if the authorities happen to be serious, for once, and attempt to enforce it, the spectres of Civil War may leap from the churchyard before any man is aware. Where the people are despised because of their longsuffering, ruthless repression of even mild and lawful protest is the first thing that occurs to the police. We noticed the other day some beautiful and timely pictures of the new automobile machine guns supplied to the New York Police. We suppose these are wanted in case of an invasion by the Republic of Andorra.
It is a splendid sign of our national efficiency that Talk is never permitted to interfere with business, except, of course, the legitimatized talk of Congressmen. The world must be kept safe for democracy, and the only way to do this is obviously by the exercise of autocracy. Otherwise, democracy degenerates into anarchy. One cannot find much sympathy for the people who, whatever their merits, had not the intelligence to come in when it rained. Lots of us thought that the war was a pity; we even thought that Eve made a mistake about eating that apple. But the mischief has been done. The only sensible word is Shakespeare's: "Beware the entrance to a quarrel; but, being in, Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee." If chased by a bull, it is unwise to occupy the mind with considerations as to whether the bull may not, after all, be in the right of it, or with reflections upon the bull tribe in general as useful to mankind. If a part of one's brain persists in such thoughts, it is, at that particular moment, a traitor to the whole organism, though very likely on any other occasion it may be the most valuable part of it.
It is hard to please some people. A dear friend writes to the New York Times to complain of the editorial attitude to the International, and to demand its suppression. The ground chosen is a delightful one; it is that that attitude is so scrupulously correct that it must conceal some nameless horror. If I say that So-and-so is a crook, that is a libel; if I say that he is an honest man, that is "obviously sarcastic." As a matter of fact, there is a case in which this argument is perfectly sound; it is when everybody is well aware of the fact that the man in question is crooked. Then whatever you may say about him simply reminds people of that fact. A corollary of this proposition is that when a man knows himself to be a crook he becomes ultra- sensitive to any reference to himself whatever. He spies the cloven hoof even on the devil's good leg. He may even become suspicious of silence itself. This is the psychological penalty of the tyrant. Free Speech is, therefore, the very best proof of good government; it is like the coldness of a dog's nose. Men whose conscience is void of offense before God and man, and who are busy with their work, do not give a damn what fools and knaves are saying about them.
Once a nation starts to distrust its own people it enters upon a very slippery slope. Secret service men multiply. The "agent provocateur" appears. Presently you get a man like Azeff, who is trusted by police and revolutionaries alike; and no one knows, even after his death, on which side he really was. Every citizen looks upon his neighbor with suspicion; he may be either an anarchist or a spy; the production of bombs would prove nothing; the production of police authorities would prove nothing. The Reign of Terror begins where all evil begins: in the mind of man himself. And it does not take very long to translate that into action.
Spy-fever is one of the most dreadful mental diseases. Just as a nervous man with some trifling ailment may seek its diagnosis in a medical book, and conclude that he has Bright's disease, diabetes, tubercle, leprosy, and Herpes Zoster complicated with typhus fever and cancer, so the spy, amateur or professional, watching his neighbor, will soon find something sinister in the way he parts his hair. There is no rational way to refute such a proposition, unfortunately; a conspirator will naturally adopt the most innocent-looking symbol of his dread intent. Ergo, the more innocent a man appears, the more dark and deadly a villain is he likely to be. The only cure for this frame of mind is resolute conquest of it by the Will. Reason only makes bad worse. Of course, the original cause of the malady is just plain FUNK. If the sick man does not want to live, he should worry whether he has cancer or not. It is his fear of death that causes his anxiety. In the body politic we should not be afraid to die well if we have lived well; our business is to go ahead with courage and good temper. If we take to seeing a robber behind every bush, and a ghost in every scarecrow, we are soon morally lost. A man who goes through life in the perfectly rational fear of "germs" cannot be said to live at all; at least, it is not a Man's life. It's much better to be shot from ambush now and then than to spend existence crawling on one's belly in the furrows. It is the difference between a man and a worm.
The "House of Windsor" is a very interesting joke. George V is a German of the Germans. His mother was Russian, but the Romanoffs are German too. "Albert the Good," the Prince consort, was of course the purest possible German. He was selected for being such a perfect specimen of German Germanity. He endeared himself to the English bourgeois by his priggishness and the correctness of his frock-coat and watch-chain. In fact, in these articles of adornment his name still lives. Now it occurs to us as something of a slur upon this Best of Men that his name should thus be contemptuously disowned. It is a blow to bad poetry, too, for Tennyson lackeyed himself into the peerage by adulation of this Prince. Obviously, we must now stop reading those pro-German propagandist tracts, In Memoriam and The Idylls of the King. We must also pull down the Albert Hall and the Albert Memorial. And if this is done, it will be a deathblow to the cowardly pacifists; for no one will ever be able to say again that war does not bring the greatest conceivable blessings to Humanity.
by Grady L. McMurtry
MOONCHILD -- Aleister Crowley
The Mandrake Press, 41 Museum St., W.C. London, 1929.
Aleister Crowley: a Magick Life
By Martin Booth
Reviewed by Paul M. Feazey
Copyright © Paul M. Feazey August 2000
Readers of this Journal will be familiar with the life of the man behind the headlines. Crowley's "autohagiography", augmented by his assorted minor autobiographical writings ("The World's Tragedy", the diaries, etc.), provides more than enough detail for most. One would have thought that the writing of a biography would be less than problematical, not just because of Crowley's own efforts at autobiography, but also because his was a life lived in the public domain: few contemporary individuals wrote of themselves so voluminously or had their movements recorded by the press in such detail.
However, though many have tried, the "ultimate" biography has always been out of reach. Symonds, of course, has presented and re-presented his life of Crowley in numerous editions, and with ever increasing detail. The latest, and presumably final, edition ("The Beast 666"), provides a staggering amount of information, including more than one would necessarily choose to read about the man's toilet habits. Unfortunately, to every anecdote, every incident, is applied a negative slant, a reason to dismiss, insult or belittle. One never feels close to the Aleister Crowley that inspired others to give up everything to follow him, or indeed to the facilitator of a new aeon.
Others have tried, of course, often apparently without real authority or justification: Israel Regardie, Charles Cammell, Francis King, Gerald Suster, Colin Wilson, Daniel Mannix, and the rest. Few seem to come anywhere near to providing a balanced, detailed biography with any sort of mass appeal. Is this, "A Magick Life", then, the exceptional biography for which Thelemites and the public have waited?
The book, which appeared without fanfare, is beautifully produced in hardback, securely bound, and is typeset with admirable clarity. It is equipped with a concise but helpful bibliography and an extensive index. The dust jacket illustration is striking, though it appears to lack acknowledgement of Fuller's contribution. There are thirty-eight black and white illustrations, ranging from the over-familiar to the fascinating; included, as example of the latter, are photographs of Crowley playing chess and a modern photograph of Crowley's place of birth (30 Clarendon Square, Leamington Spa). Where the illustrations are of familiar subjects, Booth has typically sought out the unexpected; for example, one of the pictures of Boleskine is circa 1905, and the portrait of Mathers will be unfamiliar to many. Germer's Gestapo arrest warrant is shown. Given Crowley's increasing status as an artist, though, his own graphical works are perhaps under- represented: just the usual self-portrait, the sketch of Mudd, and a cartoon scribble. There is an unfortunate confusion in the labelling of Victor Neuburg and Leila Waddell.
The Acknowledgements are extensive and display the depth of research undertaken by Booth. Hymenaeus Beta is singled-out for extended and effusive praise and gratitude, to the extent that many readers will view this as an "approved" biography.
Booth, to good effect, rattles through the "influences of The Beast" material in the introduction, rather than considering it the book's peak, as is the case in many other biographies. Many of the subjects of his "influence" comprise the usual suspects (The Beatles, Kenneth Anger, Jimmy Page, Bowie, etc.); however, some are less predictable, including the Ballet Rambert.
Crowley's early years are efficiently presented, and the book includes a most impressive, succinct summary of the development of the Golden Dawn. The extensive material on Crowley's time at Boleskine House is testament to the author's stay there last year, resulting in his inclusion of the estate's current owners in the Acknowledgements.
Crowley's travels around the world are presented in enthusiastic detail, and the anecdotes really come alive in this book. Crowley is presented in context and comes across as a realistic character, not just the subject of a biography. Rose Crowley, too, is presented sympathetically; she is certainly more fairly represented in this than in any other biography of the man. Their relationship is discussed in detail and to their mutual benefit.
Other highlights in the book are lengthy sections on Cefalu and on Crowley's involvement with military intelligence.
It's in the detail that this book weaves its spell. The inclusion of Crowley's Chinese passport, the loathsome Tom Driberg selling one of Crowley's diaries to Jimmy Page, Crowley's refusal to be blackmailed by the junk media of his day.
There are, perhaps inevitably, errors: "Alexandra" is described, yet again, as obscene, and proof-reading in one section results in Alostrael being renamed Alostrad, like some consumer-electronic version of a Scarlet Woman.
What of the biographer, then? Martin Booth was born in Lancashire in 1944, was educated in Hong Kong, and became a teacher, novelist and poet. He operated and owned The Sceptre Press from 1969 until 1981 and its archives are now held at the University of New Hampshire, containing letters from Jean Overton Fuller (303 of them), Timothy d'Arch Smith (6), John Symonds (2), and Gerald Yorke (34). An acclaimed novelist, Booth is the author of "Hiroshima Joe" and "Adrift in the Oceans of Mercy". His "Opium, A History" was especially well received. His previous biographical work includes that of Jim Corbett, the famous tiger hunter turned conservationist. He also, of course, edited Crowley's "Selected Poems". Not terribly well, as it turned out, the volume lacking bibliographic detail.
So, to conclude: Is this the publicly accessible, detailed biography Crowley deserves? Possibly not. We'll have to wait until next month for Lawrence Sutin's long-awaited "Do What Thou Wilt". However, any student of Crowley's life, either the serious researcher or the casual reader, would be well served by this biography. For those anxious to gain the fullest picture, a combination of this book, "The Confessions" and Symonds' "The Beast 666" should provide as much detail and balance as could be reasonably sought.
Impressively researched, impartial, beautifully written, "A Magick Life" is a most welcome biography that stands head and shoulders above those before it, pretty much like the subject of the biography himself.
|---- Paul M. Feazey|
Thelema's Dear Abbey:
Here's Crowley's response to the "Grady Letter" published in this column of the TLC for June, 2000 e.v. We will conclude this letter next month.
Lt. Grady McMurtry
Los Angeles, California
|9/3/00||Gnostic Mass 8:00PM Horus Temple||(510) 652-3171||Thelema Ldg.|
|9/6/00||College of Hard NOX 8 PM|
with Mordecai in the library
|(510) 652-3171||Thelema Ldg.|
|9/9/00||Handfasting of Michael & Shirin|
5 PM at Humanist Hall in Oakland
|9/10/00||Gnostic Mass 8:00PM Horus Temple||(510) 652-3171||Thelema Ldg.|
|9/17/00||Gnostic Mass 8:00PM Horus Temple||(510) 652-3171||Thelema Ldg.|
|9/18/00||Section II reading group with|
Caitlin: "Beowulf: 8:00 PM Library
|(510) 652-3171||Thelema Ldg.|
|9/22/00||Autumn Equinox Ritual 7PM Horus Temp||(510) 652-3171||Thelema Ldg.|
|9/24/00||Gnostic Mass 8:00PM Horus Temple||(510) 652-3171||Thelema Ldg.|
|9/25/00||Reading and Discussion with Nathan|
Crowley's "Moonchild" 8PM Library
|(510) 652-3171||Thelema Ldg.|
|9/26/00||Sirius Oasis meets in Berkeley 8PM||(510) 527-2855||Sirius Oasis|
|9/27/00||College of Hard NOX 8 PM|
with Mordecai in the Library
|(510) 652-3171||Thelema Ldg.|
|9/30/00||Thelemic Salon with Matthew and|
Nathan 7PM Library
|(510) 652-3171||Thelema Ldg.|
The viewpoints and opinions expressed herein are the responsibility of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of OTO or its officers.
Ordo Templi Orientis
P.O. Box 2303
Berkeley, CA 94702 USA
Phone: (510) 652-3171 (for events info and contact to Lodge)
Production and Circulation:
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Internet: firstname.lastname@example.org (Submissions and circulation only)