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Aleister Crowley and the Practice of the Magical Diary
By James Wasserman
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2006 James Wasserman
All rights reserved.
Liber CLXV A Master of the Temple
Section I. April 2, 1886 To December 24, 1909
Charles Stansfeld Jones, whom I usually mention by the motto V.I.O., which he took on becoming a Probationer of the AA, made his entry into this World by the usual and approved method, on April 2nd, 1886 E.V., having only escaped becoming an April Fool by delaying a day to summon up enough courage to turn out once more into this cold and uninviting World. Having been oiled, smacked and allowed to live, we shall trouble no further about the details of his career until 1906, when, having reached the age of 20 years, he began to turn his attention toward the Mysteries, and to investigate Spiritualism, chiefly with the idea of disproving it. From this year his interest in the Occult seems to date, and it was about this time that he first consciously aspired to find, and get into touch with, a True Occult Order. This aspiration was, as we shall see, fulfilled three years later, when he had an opportunity to become a Probationer of the AA, and immediately grasped it; but during those three years his researches led him into varied paths: — Spiritualism, Faithism and other Isms on the one hand, and 'The Europe,' 'The Leicester,' and 'The Cosy Corner' on the other: last, but not least, into Marriage, a difficult thing to put on one side and perhaps best left on the other. Having then plunged wholeheartedly into this final experiment, becoming as it were 'Omnia in Uno' for a time, he emerged in a frame of mind well suited to the study of Scientific Illuminism, of which he was much in need, and, having signed the Probationer's Pledge Form on December 24th, 1909 E.V., he took — after careful thought — the Motto 'Unus in Omnibus' and has been riding very comfortably ever since.
From this time onward, according to the Rules of the Order, he began keeping a written record of his Work, and this makes our task easier; but since he himself became more serious from that moment, we must to a certain extent follow his example and treat what is recorded as the attempt of a struggling soul to obtain Light for himself and others. Whatever his mistakes, however poor his results, or laughable his failures, there is this much to be said for him, that he never turned back.
Section II. December 24, 1909, to May 14, 1910
Frater V.I.O. started off bravely enough. As soon as he had read the first number of The Equinox, and before he got into touch with any Member of the AA he made an attempt at Asana. The earliest record I can find reads as follows:
Thursday, Nov. 4th, 1909. 11.20 p.m. to 11.41 p.m.
Asana. Position 1. The God.
Inclination for back to bend, just above hips, had to straighten up several times.
Opened eyes once and moved head, after about five minutes.
Breathed fairly regularly after the first few minutes, counting 9 in, holding 4, 9 out, holding 4.
Saw various colours in clouds, and uncertain figures, during the latter part of the time.
On December 19th his practice lasted 46 minutes. He hoped to do 60 minutes next time. But he does not appear to have done so, for after signing his Probationer's Oath on December 24th I find no record till January 11th 1910. E.V. the day he received his first written instructions from his Neophyte, Frater P.A. As those instructions represent the basis upon which he worked for a considerable period, I shall include them here, in spite of the fact that it may have been out of order for him to work on definite instructions at all, since the Probationer is supposed to choose for himself those practices which please him best, and to experiment therewith for himself. Since however he did not know this at the time, he cannot be blamed for doing his best along the lines laid down by his Neophyte. In any case he might have done far worse than to strive to carry out these few simple rules which are as follows:
1. Ever be moderate and follow the middle path; rather be the tortoise than the hare; do not rush wildly into anything; but do not abandon what you have taken up, without much forethought.
2. Always keep your body and mind in a healthy and fit condition; and never carry out an exercise, whether mental or physical, when you are fatigued.
3. In an ideal country the hours in which to practice are: at sunrise, sunset, noon and midnight (and always before a meal, never immediately after one).
4. As this cannot be done with comfort in this country (England), let your chief practice take place an hour or half an hour before your breakfast hour.
5. If possible set apart a room wherein to carry out your exercises; keep it clean, and only keep in it objects which please you; burn a little incense in the room before beginning an exercise; keep the room holy to yourself, and do not allow yourself or another to do anything unbalanced in thought or action in it. In will and deed make this room a temple and a symbol of that greater Temple which is your HIGHER SELF.
The First Exercise.
Rise to time, and without undue haste, wash and dress, robe yourself and enter the room you have set apart; burn a little incense and turning to the East repeat some simple orison such as: "May the light of Adonai arise within me, may it guide me through this day and be as a lamp to lighten my darkness." Then make a general confession, as shortly as possible, of your last day's work and enter it in your diary, after which sit down in a comfortable position and do the following.
With your hands upon your knees and your head straight, take in a breath in measured time inwards and concentrate the whole of your thought on that breath as it flows into your lungs, cutting away all other thoughts that may arise at the time; then exhale the breath, still keeping your thought fixed on it. Do this for some ten minutes or a quarter of an hour, and mark down in your diary the number of 'breaks,' or any result. The whole of this practice must be performed rhythmically and harmoniously.
The Second Exercise
As the rush of daily work tends to undo what the morning exercise has done, try your utmost to turn every item of your professional work into a magical exercise. Do all, even the smallest work, in honour and glory of Adonai: excel in your special duties in life, because He is of you, and you of Him; do not think of Him as Adonai, but think of Adonai as the work; and of your daily work create a symbol of the Symbol of "The Great Work which is TO BE."
The Third Exercise
As the rush of your daily work tends to unbalance you, so do the pleasures you indulge in. Cultivate joyfulness in all your amusements; and, when joyful, break out into silent and inward praise of the joy within you. Do not make a prudish exercise of it, work silently and joyously, and do not discuss your results with casual friends. And above all do everything for the honour and glory of Adonai, so that of your daily pleasures you may construct a symbol of that Unchanging Joy that IS.
These instructions were accompanied by a letter from which I quote the following:
"The enclosed exercises perform regularly, say to yourself: 'I will do these for three months; even if I get no benefit from them, yet I am determined to do them.' Write to me whenever you like, but don't consider any result that you may get as worth much; for these little exercises are only to produce an equilibrium which is essential before really setting out. If you add any exercise of your own then do it at a definite hour daily and do it continuously; to take up an exercise and then drop it is worse than useless, for it is unbalancing."
Now, as any Probationer knows, as soon as one sets out to do the simplest task regularly and with magical intent, that task becomes not only difficult, but well nigh impossible of performance. This is just what V.I.O. found, and no sooner had his task been set than all kinds of difficulties presented themselves, like the dog-faces demons mentioned by Zoroaster, to prevent its fulfilment. He tried, but at the end of January he writes: "I cannot get on under these conditions. Had plenty of time to do exercises this morning, but was continually interrupted. Did not robe myself as I have no place fit to call a temple." How little did he know at that time how well off he really was in the latter respect! He was living in comfort in a Kensington Flat with every convenience of civilization; a few years later he was glad to do Asana and perform his meditations out in the rain, clad in pyjamas, because his tiny tent in British Columbia was too small to allow of work inside. But we digress. At this point his record breaks off abruptly. He remained in London until May of 1910, when circumstances arose which made it possible for him to visit British Columbia.
Armed then with his instruction paper, THE EQUINOX, and a few Occult books, he sailed for Canada, alone, to start again in new and unploughed fields.
Section III. July 25, 1910, To April 30, 1911
The next entry in his diary is dated July 25th, 1910. It is a general confession of the previous six months. Half of his year of Probation had passed away, and he has not reported to, or received any communication from, the Order. He laments his negligence in this respect, but writes: "Yet know I well that I alone have suffered and shall suffer from this negligence, and I must humbly take any results that may arise out of my failure. Still, even though I may have neglected the advice given me when I first became a Probationer, I feel that I have progressed, be it never so slightly, along the Path which from the first I set out to tread. May it not be, O Adonai, that even now the second six months may be made to balance the first six, and that what is passed may yet be for the best?"
At that time he had not found out that things always turn out for the best; it took him a long while to realize this, but it is evident that soon afterwards his efforts produced some result; for we find an entry on Sunday, August 7th, 1910. "I have found (for a few moments) the Peace which passeth all understanding. Amen." This was evidently the foreshadowing of his first really notable result, the first Dawning of L.V.X. which he experienced on August 29th. There is an entry on September 2nd, full of joy and gladness and wonder at his first Illumination; and then, three days later, he had evidently recognised that this alone was not enough, and this was evidently the reason for the next somewhat curious entry of September 5th, 7.53 p.m., which I shall quote practically in full:
I am calm now, as I commence to write what may be the last entry in this diary. All that I can remember of my life on this planet has, as I look back upon it, been guided by an unseen hand. For so short a life (24 years and six months) it has been filled with an unusual number of incidents, some painful, some joyful and some of a purely spiritual nature. I regret nothing. Again three days have passed since I made entry in this book. I cannot talk of what has happened during those three days, it seems useless to try and do so, in fact it seems useless to make this entry at all except that I know not what is before me, and I feel that had I (or if I) lived longer upon this planet it would have been my life work, indeed it must have been, to help others to the Path. Therefore to those who follow after are these lines written in the hope that they may be saved one drop of the anguish I now suffer. Whatever may have happened in this last three days, the results of my thoughts amount to this. I who have found the heart of the shining triangle, who have indeed become one with the Great White Brotherhood, who have heard the Voice of God in all Its sweetness, who have made that message a part (nay all) of my being, who have held my Beloved in my arms, who have Become my Beloved and lost myself therein, who have for ever given up my lower self, who have conquered Death, who have felt the Pain of the whole World, who have found Wisdom, Love and Power, who have given up All to become Nothing, I who have seen the need of the World, have found that books (hitherto my dearest companions) have no longer any word to say to me — have found that knowledge (relative) or what I thought was knowledge, is of no avail to supply the need of all that other part of my Being that my great God-love would give it. I who have conquered Fear and Death, am now confronted with the fact that without Absolute Knowledge all is vain. I am going to ask the One Last Question. WHY? I have written it. An awful stillness falls. I am alone in my lodgings, I have no money, and I cannot use my Will to demand it from others if I can give nothing in return to help them to find what they really seek. I have cried with Christ "Eli, Eli, Lama Sabacthani." I have suffered the Bloody Sweat with Him on the Cross, and now I say with Him, "It is finished." Amen. One last note occurs to me before I wrap up this book and seal it and address it to F ... in whose hands it will be safe. I looked into the eyes of a little child this evening. Does the answer lie there?
Sep. 5th 12.26 P.M. It is over. I have unsealed the package and once more opened the book. This time it will be but a short entry. Very quietly I knelt; I did not robe or burn incense. I just took with me the memory of the little child who had looked into my eyes as I kissed its forehead. Very quietly I asked my question. I rose and lay upon the bed, and soon the answer came. It came quite silently, and at first I thought I must be mistaken, I had (it seemed) heard it so many times before. No other answer came, so I went out into the streets and along my way. Gradually the fuller meaning has dawned on me, and I have returned to make this entry. I need not add much more. I do not put the answer down. It was given in silence and must remain in Silence. Still there seemed to be just one little ripple of joy in the Great Silent Sea as another soul gently sank to its rest, and the silent voices whispered, "Welcome brother." Then all was calm and Peace as before. The little ripple flowed on to let the whole world know, then, having delivered its message, all was still. Amen.
Whatever the nature of this Illumination, probably a state of Dhyana, it left a very marked result on the consciousness of Frater V.I.O., and gave him the necessary energy to continue his Work through many a dark and dismal period. He himself could not gauge its value at all at the time. He was alone in Vancouver and out of touch with the Order, having received no further word from his Neophyte since he left England. In fact he heard nothing till January of the following year. He however sent a post-card to say that he had obtained some result.
About this same time I find an entry called "The Philosophy of V.I.O." which seems of interest on account of some similarities to the Law of Thelema, of which he had heard nothing at that time. It reads as follows:
Man is bound by but One Law
If he breaks a part of it, he hurts no one but himself.
While he lives in unity with It, he is God.
While he does not live in unity with It he is Man.
While he lives in unity with it he becomes the Law.
To realise the Law and live it is the Great Work.
To break the Law after he has realized it is Sin.
To endeavour to bring all to the knowledge of the Law, is to keep the Law.
Seek ye the Law that ye may be Free.
Wisdom, Love and Power, these three are One. That these should be One is the Law.
By finding the Point from which these three become equal, and there remaining, by this means only, can the Law be Known.
If ye know this, ye know All.
If ye know not this, ye know less than All
Seek ever for the Absolute, and be content with Nothing less.
* * *
By the end of September the immediate results of this first Illumination seem to have worn off, and we find Frater V.I.O. striving desperately to estimate the value of what had happened to him. He was certainly in a mental muddle, as the following entry shows, yet at the same time his one thought seems to have been to find a means of helping others to find that Light which had so transformed his whole being.
Sep. 24th, 1910.
Driad Hotel. Victoria, B.C.
I sit here with the idea of attempting to classify the results lately obtained. (Since L.V.X. entry.)
I may mention that during the interval I have carefully read and studied Crowley's Tannhäuser, Sword of Song, Excluded Middle, Time, Berashith, Science and Buddhism, Three Characteristics, etc. In the Light of Understanding, all these works have taken on a very different aspect to when I read them previously. Also the Purpose of Liber LXV is clear. The result of all this gives me a feeling that I have arrived at the End and also at the Beginning at the same time.
This (by the way) seems the usual experience of the beginner; no sooner does he get a result, any result, than he immediately thinks he is at the end. But V.I.O. is evidently not to be deceived in that way, for he goes on:
Now, had I really arrived at the End, it seems reasonable to suppose I should not be here writing this. My body and mind are at any rate still in existence as a body and mind. But, as these are admittedly impermanent, does it matter much that they continue to exist in this form or no? What has that to do with the Consciousness of the Existence of That which transcends both? Now, had not some part of my present State of Existence realized the possibility of another and higher state of Consciousness, should I not still be in that state of uncertainty in which I lived before this realization came? This realization having come about has at any rate remained as a glimpse of Being, different from the previous not-being.
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