Harken unto me, O brethren of the Light! I am the Sword of Horus, and I am a two-edged Sword! Thus shall I destroy and annihilate with one edge, keen for the killing, while the other edge is for the blessing of brethren. Verily I say unto thee that there art times when the Sword doth curse and bless equally in the same stroke!
Care Fraters et Sorores:
The subject of this present inquiry and review is one who is becoming recognized as an "occult historian". His name is Francis King.
This man has given us various books on subjects relevant to Thelema and for many reasons we are indebted to him. However, Mr. King is not without fault and has proven himself to be worthy of the title of "reporter". Having once been employed by a major newspaper, I have found that reporters serve us well by discovering valuable facts and publicizing them for our general knowledge. Yet they also serve us ill by becoming too enthusiastic, too sure of themselves, and thus jumping to incorrect and often absurd conclusions. King has given us many facts and, unfortunately, a few unfacts. He has, like most reporters, and also like many historians, come to some incorrect conclusions that could, and often do, lead the new student slightly astray.
Mr. King has given us Crowley on Christ, a book written by Aleister Crowley and originally entitled The Gospel According to St. Bernard Shaw. This book (published by The C. W. Daniel Co., Ltd., London, 1974 E.V.) is very valuable to Thelemic and Christian students, but is marred by a somewhat incorrect introduction by King. This is, by the way, just one of the few places in which Mr. King has mis-quoted The Book of the Law thusly: "Every man and woman is a star." [It should be: "Every man and every woman is a star." Chapter I, Verse 3.] As for the change of title, considering the apparent decline in educational standards throughout the world, especially in the U.S., this is understandable.
Magic: The Western Tradition (Avon Books, 1975 E.V.) is a fine picture book, which leaves little chance for error.
Sexuality, Magic and Perversion (The Citadel Press, N.J., 1974 E.V.) is not a bad book, despite the title, but it is not a perfect book either.
The Rites of Modern Occult Magic (The Macmillan Co., N.Y., 1971 E.V.), originally published as Ritual Magic in England by Neville Spearman Limited of London, is another worthwhile book mostly concerned with the personalities of the original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
Astral Projection, Ritual Magic and Alchemy (Samuel Weiser, Inc., N.Y., 1972 E.V.), edited and introduced by Mr. King, makes available the hitherto unpublished Golden Dawn material written by S.L.MacGregor Mathers and company.
The Secret Rituals of the O.T.O. (Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1973 E.V.) has obviously raised some hostility in the (so-called) "O.T.O." circles. Chapter 5 of this book was said, in a footnote, to be contributed by a Frater Transmutemini who was identified as an occultist working within the O.T.O. tradition. In Mezla #4, the official organ of the O.T.O. as run by Kenneth Grant [i.e. the Typhonian pseudo-o.t.o. -ED], it was stated that Frater Transmutemini was nowhere listed in any archives. The statement seems to imply that this is a spurious document written by a pretender (perhaps King himself?) who is not in any way connected to the O.T.O.. In all fairness to King, the footnote at the bottom of the first page of Chapter 5 does not say that Frater Transmutemini, whomever he may be, is a member of the O.T.O., but rather it merely states that he is working in the O.T.O. tradition. Of course, in all fairness to Mezla, which often publishes hitherto unpublished Crowley material, this footnote may have been written to intentionally mislead the reader into believing that Frater Transmutemini is a member of the O.T.O.. Then again ... sigh ... one wonders just whose archives the writers of Mezla had access to? Grant's "O.T.O."? Surely. But what of the archives of the "O.T.O." as run by Grady Louis McMurtry? [I.e. the Caliphate pseudo-o.t.o. now headed by the new "Caliph", Bill Breeze, a.k.a. Hymenaeus Beta -ED] And of the various other "O.T.O." archives scattered throughout the United States and Europe? But let us not get into the problems of the Ordo Templi Orientis at this time and in this place. The Secret Rituals of the O.T.O. is a very valuable book for the Thelemic student and, like everything else that Mr. King has written or edited, subject to error at least in some small part.
[LATER NOTE: The Secret Rituals of the O.T.O. has also become a rare volume, as the Caliphate gang does not wish anyone to possess a copy, doing whatever they can to restrict students, obviously fearful that the only "secrets" they possess will be revealed by way of this published book, although they often claim that all of their rituals have been since reconstructed and rewritten and it no longer matters. As usual, the conduct of the Calphate pseudo-o.t.o. is quite unthelemic. -ED]
But, after all, he is only human and this is now past history. What of the present? What has Francis King produced lately? And what of its worth?
The Magical World of Aleister Crowley has recently been published by Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, Inc. of New York. It is not an altogether bad book. In fact, for a rehash of the same old things, The Magical World is not a bad book at all. Within the pages of this book Francis King gives a few hitherto unpublished Thelemic photographs and some interesting "whatever happened to" information. His sources are many and relatively reliable. His style is light and easy to read. But his conclusions, as usual, are not always correct. Of course, his incorrect conclusions can be excused in the light of the fact that he is a typically rash and enthusiastic reporter and not a true student of esoteria. One may even notice, while studying this book and reading somewhat between the lines, a certain tone of sarcasm and hostility. Or was he trying to please all of the people all of the time?
On page 34 King mentioned that Aleister Crowley (who was originally "christened" Edward Alexander Crowley), when he changed his name, may have had a deeper cause for doing so other than to merely emulate the past personalities of "occult" history. He stated that this change of name may indicate a well established psychological insecurity about the nature of his own identity. Mr. King is correct in supposing that there is a deeper cause and meaning for this change of name than merely to imitate his predecessors. However, there is a far more important reason for the change of name than what Mr. King leads the reader to believe. (First he errs in not defining "identity".) I have known many non-ego-centered students to have changed or altered their names. Quite often they make this change before consciously becoming students of the esoteric and do not realize the significance of this change until long after making it. This change of name is a form of psychological purging of the character of the impure elements in it so that a purer self, a self closer to the True Self, is better able to accomplish Its True Will. It is a curious fact that the person who changes his or her name and even such personal habits as his or her handwriting, effectively alters or changes the personality, and when this is "instinctively" done, it is done by the H.G.A. for specific reasons.
Throughout the book Mr. King seemed to want to either mislead the reader or to please him, no matter what his preconceived ideas may be. Thus he continually spelled Thelemic "Magick" without the "K" (i.e. "Magic", which refers to that art of the old ĉon), referring to the first "cult" of the New Ĉon as "Crowleyanity" instead of "Thelema". (This term, "Crowleyanity" is only used [and rarely at that!] in an affectionate and sometimes humourous way by Thelemites. Usually it is employed by insulting detractors. The proper name, used by Crowley and all true Thelemites, is "Thelema") King mentioned that A.C. had "founded" the A.·.A.·., which, in fact, he did not; A.C. merely brought the knowledge of the Order to humankind and, giving It form, made the A.·.A.·. manifest upon this "material" plane of existence or consciousness. He went on to say such things as, on page 99, for instance, that Crowley worshipped the sun as the supreme deity. Imagine the poor neophyte or cowan that reads this! Immediately a picture of a grovelling primative comes to mind. In fact, Crowley recognized the sun as the supreme heavenly symbol of that which we call "God". The sun itself, that emmense ball of nuclear flame, was not the focus of Crowley's attention, nor is it the focus of any true Thelemite's "religious aspirations".
Mr. King's words, such as "prejudices", when speaking of Crowley's attitude towards what are today called "minorities", on page 71, "inmates" and "institutions" in reference to the Abbey of Thelema in Cefalu, and other such well chosen terms, have a limited and derogatory meaning for most people who are not well acquainted with the English language, and think that such words as "bitch" and "bastard" are merely "bad words" without knowing why. Unfortunately for Mr. King, he was not subtle enough in his choice of words.
Mr. King implies that The Holy Books and Liber AL vel Legis were written by Aleister Crowley, either consciously, sub- or unconsciously, because his style is unmistakable in all. The distinction between Crowley and Aiwass is indeed a difficult thing to understand and explain. The writer of these Holy Books was Aiwass via Crowley. Who or What was/is Aiwass? Well, in common psychological thinking, Aiwass was an aspect of Crowley, or more accurately, Crowley was an aspect of Aiwass. Yet, Aiwass, A.C.'s Holy Guardian Angel and an Adept of the A.·.A.·., was, from another Point of View (and still is), a completely different Individual from that of Crowley. The whole question of "identity" is complex in its simplicity and only truly understandable in the Light of personal experience. The point is that simply because Crowley's style is evident in the Books (to a point) does not, in this case, unquestionably prove that he "manufactured" Thelema as some could easily misinterpret. When I write with a pen, does the "character" of the ink, its colour and texture, the width of the line, identify the writer as the pen? When a poet, greatly influenced by Browning to the point of writing Browningesque, writes poety, do the "characteristics" of his writing make the writer Browning or the Browning-influenced poet? No. Crowley was a perfectly constructed instrument for the use of Aiwass and the A.·.A.·.. His style was cultivated by Aiwass for the express purpose of properly expressing the Work and Will of Thelema. No one else could have been quite the medium for Aiwass as was Aleister Crowley, for he was perfect for the Work.
But to return now to Francis King and his most recent book, The Magical World of Aleister Crowley.
On page 142 Mr. King stooped so low as to imply, or to imply to one who is either lacking previous knowledge of A.C. or to one who is hostile towards Crowley, that the death of Raoul Loveday was due to his participation in a magical rite which involved the drinking of the blood of a cat, thus suggesting that Crowley was, at least indirectly, his murderer. To do this he uses a passage quoted from Tiger-Woman (Cedric Chivers Ltd., 1972 E.V.) by Betty May, the widow of the late Raoul Loveday. Of course he does not carry his quotation far enough. Had he done so he would have had to quote page 185 of Tiger-Woman in which Betty May relates how "the Mystic", i.e. Crowley, had warned them not to touch any water while on an expedition together. She tells us how, despite Crowley's warnings, Raoul let his thirst get the better of him and drank from one of the springs on the island of Sicily. It was after this episode, which Betty May herself attributed to Raoul's death, that the young neophyte contracted enteritis (an inflammation of the intestine, especially the small intestine) and died. In other words, Betty May, though she did not like Crowley in the least, admitted in her book that he was not such a bad fellow and that Raoul would not have died then had he followed Crowley's instructions. Yet King, for reasons of his own, leads the less informed reader to incorrect conclusions. By the way, it should be noted that, despite the picture usually painted by various writers, the cup of blood was not a gallon pitcher. It was described by Betty May as "a small silver cup". And I know of several farmers today who still drink a cup of warm blood from a freshly slaughtered animal for various reasons. Sounds somewhat unsavory, I know, but these farmers claim that the strength of the animal is transferred to them. And remember the old adage that "the blood is the life". So think carefully before you judge ... and maybe order your next steak rare!
I could go on and on with this review, but that would be rather redundant of me. [And how unusual that would be!] Despite the rehash and errors, The Magical World of Aleister Crowley is a very good book for the student of Thelema, though somewhat misleading for the uninformed reader. I would suggest that it be purchased and read ... carefully.
There is one thing of interest that the reader should consider. One of King's constantly quoted sources was John Symonds, whom we all know to be a little less than perfect in his gathering and interpretation of the facts regarding Aleister Crowley. I have often wondered about Symonds after reading The Great Beast. This book, though incorrect and hostile towards Crowley, had, for me, a certain air about it that nearly brought tears to my eyes. Through all of the hostility, and all of the blatant lies, a noble and powerful character beamed through the book like a ray of Brilliant Light through a thick miasmal mist. Through falsehood I reached truth with this book and I have often wondered if this was intended by Symonds or if, in some way magical, so to speak, Crowley/Aiwass had guided the hand of John Symonds to write just the right words, appropriate for the time and the people of that time, to benefit Thelema, despite Symonds. I bring this up because it is possible that not only could Francis King have written this book as he did because (a) he wanted to please all of the people all of the time and thus gain a greater readership and so more money, or (b) that he has become actively hostile towards Aleister Crowley and Thelema, but also, possibly (c) because he, like Symonds and others either hostile towards or personally uninterested in Thelema, either directly or indirectly, was working towards drawing people to Thelema. If this third possibility is in fact true, this does not necessarily make a "saint" of King, but it could indicate that he, through his own blindness, is a perfect unconscious instrument for the manipulations of Aiwass and the A.·.A.·., in spite of whatever personal feelings he may have. What do you think, my brothers and sisters? And most important...
What do you think, Mr. Francis King?
(TNN.I.4.6-10, 6/22/78 E.V.)