Thelema Lodge Calendar for January 2001 e.v.

Thelema Lodge Calendar

for January 2001 e.v.

   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.

Copyright © O.T.O. and the Individual Authors, 2001 e.v.

Thelema Lodge
Ordo Templi Orientis
P.O.Box 2303
Berkeley, CA 94702 USA

January 2001 e.v. at Thelema Lodge

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

Announcements from
Lodge Members and Officers

The Fraternity of Thelema

    The possibility -- and the necessity -- of fraternity in Thelema is a fundamental concept for our Order, and one which we can only define collectively in the largest scope of our lives together. About us in the circle of stars an ever-altering concord of individual wills works in free relation together. As a local body of members under charter from the US Grand Lodge of Ordo Templi Orientis, we model our social structure upon this universal pattern, endeavoring to welcome all who will to work along with us, whether independently or reciprocally. Members and friends at Thelema Lodge organize opportunities to share freely their pursuits, their studies, their disciplines, and their pleasures. Ritual celebrations to be shared amongst a large community, or study groups with just a few around a table, or informal occasions of fellowship, can be offered by those who want to get them under way, open for participation by any who sustain an interest. Most events at the lodge, including our weekly Sunday evening celebrations of the mass of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, along with study groups, dramatic rituals, and the annual cycle of Thelemic festivals, are open to friends, guests, and visitors, along with initiate members. For anyone wishing to visit the lodge, attendance at our gnostic mass is one of the best times to meet those involved here. This pagan eucharist ritual is a magical operation in which a priest, priestess, and deacon lead the congregation in the charging of an edible talisman of two elements, which is finally consumed in communion by all present. The mass was specifically designed by our Grand Master Baphomet to offer the most efficient introduction to the philosophical concepts and magical formulations central to a Thelemic fraternity. To attend mass, call the lodgemaster well ahead of time at (510) 652-3171 for directions to Horus Temple, and then arrive by 7:30 any Sunday evening. All who participate with the lodge are encouraged to study the canon of the mass in the O.T.O.'s Liber XV, and to familiarize themselves with the roles both of the people and of the officers. To serve the lodge in the celebration of mass, teams of officers who have worked together in private until they know the ritual well, and who are ready for a date on the temple calendar, are also invited to confer with the lodgemaster.

Mysteria Mystica Maxima

    The only regular events at Thelema Lodge which are restricted to initiate members are the initiation rituals themselves, along with occasional instructional workshops directly connected with these rituals. Initiation through the Man of Earth degrees of Ordo Templi Orientis is offered at lodges and oases of the Order throughout the world to all who are free, of full age, and of good report. To become a candidate for initiation at Thelema Lodge, request an application form for the appropriate degree from one of the lodge officers at any event here (or call to request one by mail) and bring it back completed to the lodgemaster. Candidates must obtain the sponsorship of two members in good standing of the degree to which admission is sought. Those who are not well known to any of the initiate community can generally obtain sponsorship by discussing their aspirations and expectations for membership with initiates they meet at lodge events. Completed forms are sent off by the lodge to the office of the US Initiation Secretary, and a mandatory thirty-day period of candidacy begins, after which the initiation ritual can be scheduled. Candidates should apply well in advance, as there will usually be an additional wait for specific degrees to be worked. The traditional schedule of "time in degree" is usually maintained at this lodge (although somewhat abbreviated now in the Order's official policy), and is strongly urged upon all candidates here: nine months as Minerval before taking the I°, a year then before II°, another year to the III°, and then eighteen months before the IV° and P.I. (often taken together).
    Initiations into O.T.O. will be next be conducted at Thelema Lodge on Saturday 13th January. Members interested in attending are asked to contact the lodge officers in advance to learn the time and place of the ritual, and in order that the initiators may know whom to expect and for how many to prepare the feast. Proper ceremonial attire will be required without exception of all present at any of the initiations beyond the Minerval. All active initiate members are encouraged to attend these rituals and participate whenever possible in the reception of a new candidate into the degrees with which they have been invested, but for reasons both of security and practicality all who wish to attend must let the lodge officers know ahead of time; members will not be admitted to initiations when they show up unannounced.

Rituals of the Pentagram

    "Those who regard this ritual as a mere device to invoke or banish spirits, are unworthy to possess it. Properly understood, it is the Medicine of Metals and the Stone of the Wise." -- Aleister Crowley
    This month we bid a fond farewell to the Wednesday evening discussion meetings of the College of Hard N.O.X. at Thelema Lodge. Although the College continues in its on-line discussions, it will be on indefinite sabbatical from the lodge library here. The Magical Forum will be moving its monthly meeting to Wednesday evening to help fill the N.O.X. gap (and also because its previous Saturday slot proved difficult to schedule effectively). This month, on Wednesday evening 17th January at 8:00, there will be a presentation by Nathan, the Forum facilitator, on the symbolism involved in the traditional rituals of the pentagram. These rituals derive from the original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and are usually among the first learned by each new aspiring magician. Nevertheless, their surface simplicity belies their sophisticated symbolism, which we hope to explore a bit more deeply than usual in our presentation and discussion this month. Individuals are encouraged to bring their own experiences with these rituals to share with the group. The Magical Forum meets once a month for a prepared ritual or presentation which is shared and discussed, and any individual is welcome to contribute to the series. Those interested in doing so should talk to the facilitator, Nathan, or call him at (510) 601-9393.

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    Now well into its seventh year, the Section Two Reading Group with Caitlin meets in the lodge library once a month for an evening of literary discussion and shared reading. The next meeting will begin at 8:00 on Monday evening 22nd January, when two late-Victorian tales of moral and psychological horror will be our double subject: Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde along with Wilde's Dorian Gray. The reading group, which arose out of a shared investigation into the qaballah of Carroll's Alice books, gradually completed its progress through each of the specific titles in Section Two of Crowley's A A Curriculum (as published in the "Blue" Equinox of 1919 e.v., and now available in Book Four, appendix 1: "Literature Recommended to Aspirants"). Having made at least a preliminary study of each work, the group determined to continue, updating the curriculum informally with further selections of "suggestive" fiction, and also making return visits to some of the major works on the list. Our first additions to the curriculum were mostly taken from Crowley's related recommendations in other instructional writings, with the reading list of erotic classics in Liber Artemis Iota proving particularly valuable. In fact we are still searching for some of the obscure pornographic volumes recommended therein: if anyone has access to texts in English of Alfred de Musset's Gamiani (1833) or the W. G. Waters translation (1895) of Masuccio Salernitano's fifteenth-century Novellino (famous as Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice source), please let us share them. Our twin titles for this month -- a doubling of tales about doubling -- are not from any of the Crowley's own lists, but we will argue that they easily might have been, had they not seemed too obvious at the time to be mentioned. Both are by authors extraordinarily popular during Crowley's youth, and in whom he is known to have taken particular interest. Robert Louis Stevenson he admired as a stylist (see for example this month's "Crowley Classics" selection), and in 1903 with Gerald Kelly he had dramatized and performed one the stories from Stevenson's New Arabian Nights. Oscar Wilde, whose artificially dramatic prose was less of an influence, had been so prominent and pathetic a celebrity as to attain nearly mythic status for Crowley's generation.
    The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) was the first great success for it Scottish author, then aged 35 and already sick with the tuberculosis from which eight years later he was to die on the other side of the world, in Samoa. The Irish writer who published The Picture of Dorian Gray four years later was nearly the same age, though already a successful editor of women's magazines, and a celebrated essayist and critic, who had ahead of him a string of theatrical successes and then disgrace, imprisonment, and an early death -- likewise abroad -- scarce a decade later. Both books explore notions of personality as an opposition of faculties which may become subject to partial and essentially unbalanced function (in terms not dissimilar to those being worked out upon clinical grounds by the young Viennese neurologist Dr Sigmund Freud). Each protagonist adopts a strategy of abandoning his personal integrity, fragmenting his consciousness with illusions that his will has achieved impossible and nonsensical feats. The mythos of the transformation is different in the two works; pharmacological in one, aesthetic in the other: the result, however, is similar, when the fragmented organism fails and the double figure unites at last in death. Two separated aspects of the self are generated into opposing images of each character: the repressed virtue of Henry Jekyll becomes periodically submerged within the degenerate "troglydite" figure of Edward Hyde in order that he might enjoy a simple night's vulgar pleasure, while the vain beauty of the wealthy young aesthete Dorian Gray is saved from maturity by a narrative trick which transfers his personal degeneration onto his full-length portrait painting. Whether in the artificially high-minded doctor made morally top- heavy by late-Victorian hypocracy and unable to bear the emotional burdens of respectability, bursting out on drugs with an alternate primitive personality, or in the clever young man who refuses to synthesize his experience into wisdom because to do so would spoil his artistic effect, these stories display violence as a metaphor for sexuality in a manner which established the modern "horror" genre.

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Habits of Effective Demons

    Many Thelemites are understandably put off by a book like Stephan Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, whether because of its appeal to conservative values, its mainstream presentation, or the dubious politics of its author. But Michael Sanborn believes that the techniques described in the book could be of great value to Thelemites, when viewed with the proper attitude. (See this month's article, "Prologue to Ye 7 Habits of Highlie Effectif Demons," for an example.) So he's proposed a study group on the book, to meet at Thelema Lodge each Thursday evening at 8:00, starting 18th January and extending for eleven weeks. Attendance at each meeting, while not required, is encouraged. Participating demons should obtain a copy of the book prior to, or immediately following, the first meeting.

Crowley Classics

   These two statements of Crowley's literary aesthetic were written thirty years apart, one in the midst and the other at the close of his poetic career. In 1915 e.v. as a newly arrived free-lance author marketing his literary reputation to the editorial offices of various New York magazines, Crowley used his poetic accomplishments to interest Vanity Fair in several articles which utilized his technical expertise as a prolific and versatile stylist in verse. The article on vers libre (free verse) was published in the December 1915 e.v. issue of that magazine (page 65). The second item, his last major poetical preface, is reprinted from Olla: An Anthology of Sixty Years of Song by Aleister Crowley (London: O.T.O., An I x x [1946 e.v.]), pages 11-13. Some explanatory notes have been provided by the present editor at the conclusion of these pieces.

Two Notes on Poetics
The Nonsense about Vers Libre
(Why not a little Free Prose, for a change?)

by Aleister Crowley

    "Vers libre" is French. France being, in part at least, a free country, we may dare a free translation of it. Here it is: Vers libre -- free worms -- free metrical worms. Vers means worms -- so there you are. We cannot here pause to differentiate the species; the trichina is, of course, very common. But in all vers libre, there is one common characteristic, it has no vertebra.
    Now it is very hard to keep the rules of a sonnet; to find words so aptly wedded to thought and music that all semblance of artificiality becomes lost; but it is no way out of the difficulty to write something which is entirely different, to call it a free sonnet, and then ask the world to admire it. Nor does it constitute literary distinction to remark some point common to all collocations of words such as stress, cadence, rhythm, aptness of imagery, or absence of meaning, and to describe the result as stressism. You can sit down hard on the piano, and nobody is going to mind very much; but if you conclude the performance by boasting that you have avoided the technique and formality of Beethoven, somebody may want to kick you.
    Vers libre and stuff of its kind is not exactly new. "Piers Plowman" is all vers libre, but the author of it never insisted that his work constituted a "school."
    Schools are the curse of art. The artist is a lone wolf. The moment that you put two artists together their art becomes negligible. The business of the artist is with God, and not with man. To produce a masterpiece, you must first have a master thought, white-hot; and you have next to get it fixed in words, or notes, or paint, or stone. One is inspiration; the other technique. One is useless without the other; but the inspiration comes first.
    The business of technique is to be inconspicuous. It is like the manners of a gentleman. And the free worm is always a parvenu; his loudness and self- assertiveness prove it. Nobody minds what he writes, so long as he gets the thought presented in the simplest and clearest and most forceful way. This is so difficult to do that there is not a perfect fifty line passage of poetry, or a perfect thousand words of prose, in the English language. To write a single sentence is an achievement; and it only comes by infinite practice added to a great original genius.
    But the verslibrist -- pray observe the lovely word it has coined to describe itself -- recks nothing of all this. It writes something, anything; and then proceeds to prove that it is better than Shakespeare and Shelley and Swinburne and Swift and Sterne and Smollett and Stevenson -- stylists all. The artist is a workman, and he never stops to admire his output. His mental attitude is ecstasy; he is beyond time and space; his contemporaries do not exist for him. The moment this ceases to be true, he becomes a common creature of the earth, a pushing tradesman. The free worm is too often engaged in trying to become a guinea-worm -- or hack-writer worm, like Hall Craine, or Cyrus Townsend Brady.

    So, the more restrictions we place upon art, the better that art will become. We must not publish our youthful metrical monkey-tricks -- like our Chants Royals or our Villanelles -- because they cannot possibly come out exactly right; language will not suffer such extremely tight lacing. A perfect sonnet, even, is a miracle beyond the hope of any rational poet. But, by trying to write Rondeaux and Ballades and Pantoums, a poet becomes the master of the essential difficulties of language; they are his "five finger exercises;" and when he has burnt about a million of them, perhaps, by God's grace, a thought will come to him, and he will get it written down in moderately decent prose, or even in one of the simpler stanza forms of verse.
    You can recognize success in writing because the product has this quality: it is inevitable. It is like a Greek tragedy; it is like Nature herself. It has being and form in perfect harmony. It is impossible to go into its details; for there are no details. They are all absorbed into the living unity of the whole; much as in the human body, the cells are absorbed into the living man. Anything which stands out in art, is deformity, or disease, or weakness. Consider the long bad passage in the middle of "Kubla Khan," and the anticlimax of the last verse of the "Ode to a Nightingale!" Even in so short a verse-form as the heroic, one is put to it to quote a dozen consecutive perfect couplets. (Swinburne's "Anactoria" would be our first candidate.)

    If the free worms be really masters of the language, let them show it by producing just one perfect sonnet by way of advertisement. If their lack of ideas and lack of music, as well as their disproportion, redundancy and a dozen other faults, are not immediately evident, then we may begin to take their poets seriously. Until then, we shall maintain that this article is the greatest extant masterpiece of English, composed in cataleptic triturated parallelopipeds of a rhythmic -- motjustiste -- borborogmic paraprosdokian- aposeiopesis, the flower of the Washington Square or Dutch Oven School of Literature; or perhaps it would be cleverer to claim that it is not writing at all, but sculpture, or aviation, or imageless iconography, or something -- anything -- which it obviously is not. Then, a lot of my readers will look surprised, and I can pity them.

Apologia for Olla!

by Aleister Crowley

                                                    "Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass" -- Adonis

                                                                    "Everything that lives is holy." -- William Blake

    Poetry is the geyser of the Unconscious. Since "Every man and every woman is a star," each of us is, or makes, his own poem; expressed, or unexpressed, in song. Robert Browning understood this; almost the whole of his work consists of the utterances of very varied individuals. But these are dramatizations of the speaker, analytically disclosed, and rationally set forth. His lyrics are, with the rarest exceptions, the uprush of his own personal genius.
    When I consider my own work, it appears that I have constantly put myself into the soul of various types of men and women, identified myself with their inmost creative Word, lent them my technique, and let them exult for themselves.
    Thus Amphora records the devout yet (unconsciously) passionate outbursts of a Catholic Christian woman; Alice, of a romantic boy in love, the seed of doubt and disillusion beginning to sprout; Clouds without Water, of a sexual maniac who is also a man of the world, a sardonic jester, and a mystic. Such impersonations are almost as frequent as the ecstatic moods of Our Lady, of the many-minded, many throned Aphrodite, weaver of wiles.
    "What a nice poem ---- is; I think it ever so pretty! Why can't you always write like that?" So says nearly everybody about some poem or other of mine.
    A striking instance of this mental obfuscation received some publicity in the Court of King's Bench some years ago. In CROWLEY v. CONSTABLE et al., Mr Malcolm Hilbery K.C. found occasion to recite my popular song, which Gwendolen Otter had endeared to the cultured and magnanimous cognoscenti of our great Metropolis -- the "Dilettanti," you remember? -- "The World for a Whore!" I found his rendering most acceptable, and he was rewarded with a judgeship. I murmured "Go on!" as usual, for Mr Hilberry's quotations from my works were adroitly curtailed to suit his purpose; the next sentence or two was certain to give a totally different significance to the chosen passage.
    But my own counsel, Mr J. P. Eddy, emulous, jumped up and obliged with "An Hymn for the American Republic;" which breathes piety and patriotism in every punctuation mark. He did it well enough, and was allowed, shortly afterwards, to take silk.
    The judge -- Jeffreys, the name was, a memory betray me not -- sat astounded. He positively stammered; "Is that really the same book?" "The very next page, m'lud!" Stupor!
    This book is to make clear the poetic standpoint.
    I have made this collection of short poems as diverse as possible; time and space have been asked their utmost range; every corner of the earth which has contributed to my delight, and every period of my life which has modulated my music, have lent a flower to this posy.
    Louis Marlow, subtlest, profoundest, and wittiest writer of the last two generations, has found the word for my work: surprising. This is the root of the superstitious fear which I impose on nearly every reader. The more I write, the less can I be classified, docketed, pigeon-holed; omne ignotum pro terribili is still the pill-box defence against science, against every shape of thought until it has been rolled in enough dirt to make it a soft, comfortable cliche.
    The grotesque contradictions of these poems have been deliberately enhanced by contraposition; they tear in sunder the veil of my soul, and clothe it in disguise only the more impenetrable for that fact.
    To wind up this thesis, here, it concludes, "The Garden of Janus," my poetic summary of the above truth: of me is it written: "Vel sanctum invenit, vel sanctum fecit." My object is to proclaim the duty of every poet; and this is: to reveal the Godhead in every man and woman through the expression of each one's rapture at the ecstatic moment of Union with that Godhead; thereby to show as just and perfect every soul that is.

Editorial notes:

Vers libre -- "free verse" emerged in French in 1886 with the publication of
    Rimbaud's free-verse
Illuminations, influenced by the prosody of Whitman's
    Leaves of Grass. Laforgue and Apollinaire popularized it in French, as did
    Ezra Pound and his associates in English. In the poetry of D. H. Lawrence
    and William Carlos Williams (and many less talented versifiers) it had
    become quite a popular poetic mode by the time of Crowley's denunciation of it.

Piers Plowman -- Crowley's remark upon the "free verse" of this great Middle
    English poetic allegory of social economics is misleading, because the
    verse of Piers Plowman is regular rather than "free," although based upon
    patterns of stress and alliteration with no regular rhythm of metrical "feet."
take silk -- meaning that Crowley's solicitor was raised to the position of
    barrister with the title of King's Counsel, which carries the privilege of
    wearing a silk robe before the court.

Louis Marlow -- pen name of Louis Wilkinson, novelist, editor, literary
    critic, and a close friend of Crowley's at this time. His edition of
    Law is for All is currently in print.
omne ignotum -- "everything unknown is held to be terrible." Adapted from a
    phrase (concerning the boundaries of the British nation) in the
Agricola of
    Tacitus: "omne ignotum pro magnifico est."

vel sanctum invenit -- "one either finds holiness, or one brings it about"
    (source untraced).

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from the Grady Project:

   This installment continues our transcript of the interview cassette provided by Sirius Oasis. As the conversation resumes, Grady is going on with the story of his parents' elopement, speaking of how his grandfather had confined his mother (not his grandmother, as he mistakenly calls her) away from the rest of her family, thus providing an opportunity for Grady's father to carry her off. In transcribing this section, several interruptions have been edited out, and in a few places the interviewer's encouraging monosyllables (words such as "yeah" or "right"), which let Grady know that he had been understood and could go on to the next point, have been omitted so that his responses can be given uninterrupted. In some places Grady's statements are quite indistinct, and where it proved impossible to interpret them a few of his sotto voce comments have had to be omitted.

Grady Louis McMurtry

interviewed regarding his
upbringing and early life

by Glenn Turner

Berkeley, 6th April 1981 e.v.
(fourth extract)

   Grady: And then Granddad either did something very bright, or very stupid; I've never been able to figure it out. In fact, I think, in a way, he invited it. I don't think he had meant to invite it, but what he did was this: He took my grandmother, who was a very young girl, of course, if not actually a virgin (of course I could care less, actually) and he locked her in the outhouse. Now the outhouse was not --
    Glenn: He took your mother?
    Grady: My -- my grand -- my mother, yes; okay. Now when I say out-house, I mean the back house. Now that's where you hang the hams that are drying (in the Southern tradition, you know); when I said out-house I didn't mean the shit-house; I meant --
    Glenn: Oh, yeah -- right. {laughs} I was wondering.
    Grady: -- anyway; and he nailed boards across the window. Okay; romance; medieval; right out of Tristan and Isolde. So one night, in the dark of the moon, my Dad, on his great black charger, in his big black uniform, came riding up over the hills, pried those god-damned boards off the window, lifted my mother-to-be out of there, put her on the back of his saddle, and rode off across the hills!
    Glenn: -- "rode off across the hills!" Beautiful!
    Grady: Oh God! Back to Oklahoma! Oh boy! -- that's the romance of it.
    Glenn: So, did they have a cabin? Did he have a cabin in the hills he took her to, or something?
    Grady: Well, as a matter of fact, yes: that's the tragedy of it. As a matter of fact, maybe it should be recorded. What happened was this: he fucked her of course, naturally, and I was in the process to get born. That is to say I was a fetus in her womb. I mean, personally, I think that the life was waiting. And he told me something once, many years later; it scared the shit out of me. He said, "I damned near killed you before you were born." I said, "What?" He said, "Yes." And what happened was this: he had been -- He was one of five sons: my grandfather, George McMurtry. All right; the family history is this -- I've been able to research it so far as this -- that when the Confederates lost the Civil War (or they call it the "War between the States"), there were a lot of former Confederates that decided to simply split for Oregon. I mean, get the fuck out of there. And of course they were going in ox-trains. All right; fine. Now the McMurtrys, this is the clan that -- the McMurtrys -- I don't even know what -- what my great-grandfather's name was, or what my great-grandmother's name was. Because you see, our problem was this: in those days the only history you had was the family Bible. You wrote down the names in the family Bible, who had been born or died; but the god-damned cabin burned every other year.
    Glenn: Right; so you loose a lot of history.
    Grady: And that -- there went the Bible, right, and there the history went. In consequence I could only give you the general outline, and it went something like this: So the McMurtrys split from -- wherever they were --
    Glenn: I have a lot of ancestors like that; who knows?
    Grady: Okay, fine. They came across the Mississippi. The parents became infected with (what do call it?) malaria, from the -- from the --
    Glenn: The river?
    Grady: -- from the mosquitoes of the river. Right --
    Glenn: They were leaving the Civil War? Post Civil War?
    Grady: That's right, they were leaving the post-Civil War, and they were heading for Oregon, man, they were going to get the fuck away, right.
    Glenn: So malaria strikes down the parents.
    Grady: That's -- malaria strikes down the parents. But, being of good Scottish-Irish ancestry (in other words, good pioneer stock), they lasted all the way to the Arkansas-Oklahoma Territory boarder. (Now in those days it was a territory.) They died. They left two sons: George and -- the other fellow -- what's the guy's name -- {pause} out of it, right? Anyway, they -- these two kids, two brothers, were raised then by a local pioneer family; they had a farm, of course. And they -- George would become of course my grandfather -- and they would of course become Pentecostal. That is to say (what do you call it?) Holy Roller. That's why I was raised a Holy Roller. And there's a curious history there --
    Glenn: You were raised Holy Roller? Huh? Interesting.
    Grady: Just like Crowley. Different name --
    Glenn: Really? He was too? Okay, right; I remember reading the history; different "brand."
    Grady: -- different name; that's right. And this is very interesting. I mean, it's syncronisity, right. In other words, they called it in his day "the Plymouth Brethren;" in my day we called it "Holy Roller."
    Glenn: A kind of missionary --?
    Grady: Absolutely completely fundamentalist Protestant. Which is one reason why Crowley knew his Bible so well, and also one reason why I know my Bible so well.
    Glenn: So, did you read the whole Bible as a kid?
    Grady: Well you bet you; oh yeah, oh sure.
    Glenn: That must have been your first reading, if you were a book person.
    Grady: It was the only thing I had to read. Just like Crowley.
    Glenn: Right; so there's a similarity --
    Grady: There's a synchronicity there, which I did not understand, except much later. But in terms of your history, it might be something worth -- you know -- thinking about.

Previous Grady Project                  to be continued


Do What Thou Wilt:
A Life of Aleister Crowley

By Lawrence Sutin

Reviewed by Bill Heidrick

Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley by Lawrence Sutin, St. Martin's Press, New York, September 2000, ISBN 0-312-25243-9, 483 pages including index, bibliography and notes, illustrated with photo section. Lists US$27.95

    Lawrence Sutin comes with noteworthy credentials, as a professor at Hamline University holding a J.D. from Harvard. His previous works include Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick, Jack and Rochelle: A Holocaust Story of Love and Resistance, and A Postcard Memoir. His research for this life of Crowley extended over many years and delved deeply into Crowley's surviving diaries. Sutin pursued his quarry like the "Haggis" of Loch Ness through memories of witnesses and notions of Thelemites here and abroad, but he found the Beasty! That said, be ready for a shock when you go to admire the trophy.
    Do What Thou Wilt is far and above the best chronology yet to emerge of Crowley's life, including many facts overlooked by other biographers. Sutin is more helpful than Crowley himself in that regard, and issues of "where and when" are resolved here that leave the reader in an impossibly cramped asana after Crowley's own Confessions. Not only is the main stream of Crowley's life traced in this work, but many side rivulets in the lives of A.C.'s often stunned acquaintances and former lovers are mapped out to conclusion along the way. The book is a bit like Burton with the notes made narrative, rather than purloined away below fables.
    This biography is clearly written and interesting all through, but it's not an easy read. Some Crowley fans will spit like a cat at times, while Crowley despisers may need a neck brace from too much nodding. Sutin focuses on Crowley's problems in living. A sheltered childhood likely deprived little Alex of the essentials of knowing the value of money or how to earn a living. Crowley is portrayed as unreliable, unsympathetic, prejudiced, unkempt at home and ridiculously flamboyant away. With a few exceptions, his lovers, both male and female, experience and often return violence as an almost daily routine. A.C.'s sense of self left room for no lasting domestic harmony and spared little attention for his children. In short, he was chronically difficult. This comes as no surprise, but the details of dereliction and abuse quite crowd out the good times in most chapters.
    Sutin mentions and lauds Crowley writings, but usually doesn't investigate them for insights much beyond the surface. In some respects, this is Crowley "in a zoo", with more of the dirty ape than Thoth in evidence. An impression of reading the natural history of a bonobo with herpes is fleeting with this book, but it comes several times. People have written worse and less accurately of the Prophet's life. At that, there are a few unlikely outrages catalogued and some particular dreadfuls omitted. All in all, it's accurate by preponderance. It goes a good deal farther into fact than any here-to-fore.
    Crowley's multiple drug addictions are cited more than examined in detail. His pioneering work in description of the negative effects of various no longer "strange drugs" is mentioned, but the gloss is quickly over when it comes to benefits. There is too little said on the topic of what these experiences may have brought to Crowley's inventive genius, but oddly also little said about the price he paid. How much was lost by age's slowing down and how much by the oblivion of heroin? No reckoning is tabulated. Heroin began in a doctor's "benign" prescription. Cures were attempted, with failure more from rejection of the prevailing moral manner treatment than from lack of trying. Crowley's writing continued to the end, always striving to communicate ideas in novel guise. The credit and the discredit are fairly distributed here.

    There are imperfections, particularly later in the book. A few of the events at Agape #2, in southern California in the 30's and 40's seem out of sequence. It is doubtful if Jack Parsons was all that bothered by W.T.Smith and L.Ron Hubbard's successes with the ladies, since Jack seemed to have been quicker to drop than to loose. Those were confusing times. The 1930's court case decision seems too disparate between the account in this book, v. Crowley's own remembrance of it. Perhaps Crowley was in denial of the outcome, and the resulting bankruptcy was certainly real enough. A closer study of the findings might show actual vindication on a few points, not rising in the balance to success at proving libel damages. Gardner's relation to Crowley is almost as much a mystery after as it was before reading this book. Certainly, Crowley had neither time nor strength to write the Wiccan Book of Shadows, but there's far too much Crowley in the early Gardnarian materials to dismiss the influence as simply copy-theft. The 1900 e.v. Golden Dawn rebellion is a little lightly handled, omitting some particulars that might have made it easier to follow. Mather's involvement in G D authorship seems exaggerated a bit, but that's not unusual. His use of standing translations of some works is cited but other known cases of his "translating for hire" from the already well Engished are overlooked.

    Sutin presents Crowley as a troubled genius with emphasis on the trouble rather than the genius. Crowley's accomplishments are more often remarked in passing than examined. His Influence on 20th century movements is not much pursued. Here, we see the lotus surrounded by a stinking swamp, not yet in bloom. This nenuphar must find its way into poems yet to come, though hopefully not as frequently as it did in Crowley's own early efforts where AC rhymed it into nearly every song. Do What Thou Wilt shall serve as the sounding board for all future bio's of Crowley. It is so far the clearest, with many points raising questions and thoughts. This biography is no simple pile of twigs and leafs. It's a skillful pruning of Crowley's Tree which will lead to the establishment of major scaffolding branches.

After-thoughts raised in contemplation following reading, the mark of a good book:

    Crowley was impressed by his killing a cat in childhood, an event oddly given space in Confessions. How much later did he come to believe that a sacrificed elemental spirit must be absorbed by sacrificer, as noted in Magick in Theory and Practice? Did A.C. unconsciously become a "tom cat" in an effort to balance the karma? It sounds far fetched but seems more than plausible after reading Sutin. Just what kind of kitty was the Beast, anyway?
    Crowley's oaths often tended to reflect his inadequacies; not what he subsequently refused to attempt but rather what he could not rightly expect to accomplish. Was this deliberately done to force main effort through envisioning a terrible penalty for failure? Not said in Sutin, but there's more than a hint.
    Crowley treated personally close women like men and personally close men like women. That is brought out in many examples.
    Are Crowley's manifest crudities and blind spots significant of a lack of compassion or have they instead to do with blocking complexity and the distractions of normal living? Do you do that?

    It's a wonderful book. Get it!

Prologue to Ye 7 Habits of Highlie Effectif Demons

    In respect of every Man hath it been truly said, "My name is Legion." For a Man is but an amalgamation of Demons in constant Vexation, one with another, so that each Man darteth this Way and that, as the Demons within him govern him, each in their turn. Yet if those Demons might grasp an Understanding of their respective Functions in the Amalgam, then might they resolve their Conflicts, and extend their Influence greatly.
    This is accomplished by the creation of a Role or Position to be known as the Warden. This Warden is a creation by Demons (and thus assumes a demonic Character at first) of one who doth attend to an overriding Mission. This Mission shall be a Summary of the ruling Passions of the Demons within a Man, to form a rallying Flag (as it were) for such Demons as agree to it. If the Mission reflecteth not the main Intent of the Demons, then shall it fail. But if the Mission be crafted with sufficient Understanding, then shall it have Power by the united force of its demonic Constituents, who shall then proceed to slay all those other Demons (within the same Man) contrary to that Mission. By such successive Victories is the Warden forged.
    This Warden sufficeth for the Demons to work their Will upon the face of the Earth, and may be strengthened without Limit. And yet by works of the Magick of Light, it may serve as a place-holder or grounds-keeper for that Being known as the Holy Guardian Angel. But that Work belongeth not to this Place, nor doth the Alchemie of which we write require Participation from any Being outside of the demonic Realm. Indeed, this was not comprehended by him who did first pronounce the Seven Habits, a stubborn and stiff-necked Scoundrel called Covey (an Infidel of the Mormanish faith and an Homofobe as well). For though he did by constant Study bring forth Wisdom miraculously beyond his Station, he was ignorant of the Magick of Light, and thus remained blind to the Demonic nature of the Forces he described. For this Work doth manipulate and concentrate the concerns of this World and this World only (even what Covey doth call Principles are but a Pride of false Piety), and thus remains under the rulership of the Lord of this World (that mightie Devil), save, again, through the intersession of the Magick of Light.
    The Demons of this Art are of four Kinds, and when well-ordered have four Functions:1
    Those Demons of an Earthly nature possess the Power to act, to produce, and to transform the things of this World. Thus are they most fruitfully commanded.
    The Demons of the Watery kind both speak and listen, one with another, in ceaseless Communion. Through their agency may Understanding be obtained, and shelter from the Pangs of ill Fortune.
    The Fiery Demons command by Nature, and so have facilitie to order each Goal into simple Tasks, the better to command.
    Even as Aire is the realm of Complexity, so are the Functions of the Airy Demons many-fold. They look toward the Future and the far-away Places to anticipate the influences on the Present and the Nearby. They fashion Strategies for Gain. And when the Warden is in his Mastery, they question the activities of the Earthly Demons and the commandments of the Fiery Demons, so that All may attend steadfastly to the Mission.
    Though the Warden at first be Nothing more than an Idea, by Persistence and Determination it may yet attain a Life of its own. Its proper function then is to hold the Mission as a Vision, expressing it to Demons of all Kinds near and far, and in this Way providing an Identity (as a Crown of sorts) to the Amalgam known as a Man.
                                                                                         -- Michael Sanborn

1. What follows is an adaptation (read: mangling) of the Viable Systems Model (VSM) of management cyberneticist Stafford Beer into motivational grimoirese.

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From the Outbasket

T.G. and I have been engaged in a perambulating email discussion for some months, covering many topics. Here are some edited excerpts of my part of the discussion.

    Wisdom is one thing. Avoidance of starvation is another. Sometimes it's necessary to point out that difference. If you have studied well, you find that you "know less than you did before". With much learning, more questions come. That's of wisdom, but it's not much good for dinner. Reason itself can be distorted by confusion of modes of application between pure contemplation and survival.

    Logic is fine for details and for a sort of symmetrical esthetic equivalent to aspects of poetry. It is not a good way to create. One should arrange sections of one's philosophy in self-consistent groupings, but logic is not versatile enough to handle a living system. With all the complexity that life affords, any group of postulates will eventually develop contradictions. This is a question of tools. One should put one's tools in the best condition, making the best selection that can be afforded. Don't use a screwdriver to pound in a nail. Logic is good for finishing. It is often useful in working. It's not good for starting.
    A tool, either mental or physical, can be truth in its action. Any other sense of truth for it is relative to externals, including customs and perceptions. Aims and means can likewise be confounded between essence and cultural mind sets. That doesn't mean living in a society is completely a matter of the demented mass imagination. The accepted means and aims are conditioned or selected by what is going on around a person.

    A reason is inside the mind, but a cause may be more often external. Consider chemical addiction? That's more physical in the body than internal to the mind. What of bad brakes in a car? The worry is internal, but the cause is external.
    Some causes are externally assigned, although internal by other considerations. Shifts of the mind in that manner can be used or abused. They are voluntary actions, or should be. The fact that a cause is outside does not eliminate interior need to work with the result. Fixing causality, except in artificially simplified examples, is usually a matter of selecting a chain of events, by subjective choice. Any actual situation is the compound of many convergent "causes".
    Blame is a way of forgetting. Some trivial annoyances should be forgotten. Some things need to be remembered and not blamed away by attribution to external cause.
    Something is balanced, but not you, without self. Forgetting the self is an extreme, good for some things but not for all. Balance is relative. One can change the character of the "self". It may extend or condense to larger or smaller scope. What you consider to be yourself may in fact be a collection of ideas and emotional opinions from other people, with your real center somewhere buried under all of that.
    It is dangerous to ignore cultural framework, as well as grossly inefficient and frequently destructive. Your culture is what you possess, almost as much as you possess natural talents and physical qualities; and it also possesses you! Much of the art of Magick consists in identifying these aspects of cultural framework and coming to a functional way of working through them or around them without harm. Cultivation of a variety of points of view is a necessary part of that, coupled with the difficult to develop "good sense" necessary to distinguish understanding from social duty. It is important to identify those tendencies and blindnesses in the self which are not desirable, such as prejudices or involuntary desires inherited from the days of childhood. Even so, no one can be relied upon to "tell you" what is important and not important in that way. You have to find out on your own, as a fundamental part of maturity. A rudimentary example is "money". A coin has little or no value in itself. Belief in the value of such an object is cultural and inter-cultural. What is represented is not actual value but a sort of "social covenant" to associate human life (time and labor) to a token. If you ignore money, people will deal with you to your disadvantage. If you obsess on money, you will find no value in it.

    Gestalt is required, continually evolving in depth and extent. You cannot depend on a learned meaning staying final, or hope to discover "the way things really are." As you gain experience, the context extends and has to be re-integrated. That changes many things. Also, memory and mental agility tend to suffer with time and age. What was clear at one stage of life may become less clear later, as the world view gradually thins and a particular life reaches toward an end. Even moving to a new home or changing one's job can have a similar effect. Creating a personal philosophy is one of the ways in which these inherent destructive effects in living (Qlipoth) are countered.
                                                                               -- TSG (Bill Heidrick)

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Thelema Lodge Events Calendar for January 2001 e.v.

1/7/01Gnostic Mass 7:30PM Horus Temple(510) 652-3171Thelema Ldg.
1/13/01Initiations into OTO, call to attend(510) 652-3171Thelema Ldg.
1/14/01Gnostic Mass 7:30PM Horus Temple(510) 652-3171Thelema Ldg.
1/17/01Magical FORUM: "Rituals of the(510) 652-3171Thelema Ldg.
Pentagram" 8PM in the library
with Nathan
1/18/01"Habits of Effective Demons"(510) 652-3171Thelema Ldg.
with Michael, 8PM in the library
1/21/01Gnostic Mass 7:30PM Horus Temple(510) 652-3171Thelema Ldg.
1/22/01Section II reading group with(510) 652-3171Thelema Ldg.
Caitlin: "Dr Jekyll & Mr. Hyde" &
"Dorian Gray" 8PM library
1/25/01"Habits of Effective Demons"(510) 652-3171Thelema Ldg.
with Michael, 8PM in the library
1/28/01Gnostic Mass 7:30PM Horus Temple(510) 652-3171Thelema 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.

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