The Legacy of the Beast

by Gerald Suster

A Review by G.M.Kelly

W.H.Allen & Co. Plc
44 Hill Street
London W1X 8LB

1988 E.V.

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

I did not expect to like this book as much as I did, especially after reading Suster's Hitler: The Occult Messiah [same as Hitler and the Age of Horus?] wherein I think he tried much too hard to show that Hitler had been influenced by The Book of the Law, although naturally twisting its meaning and politics way out of their intended shape.  However, I did enjoy Legacy and highly recommend it.

While Francis X. King, who contributed a forward to the book, seems to think that Suster went a bit overboard with his praise of Crowley, I think that Suster has perhaps presented us with a book whose view of Crowley is more balanced and objective than previous volumes written by other biographers.  Well, of course I would think that!  But really...I am speaking objectively about both the author's book and its subject, Aleister Crowley.  Trust me!

Writing of Crowley's time at Boleskine House:  "Without taking the matter too seriously, he adopted the persona of the Highland laird."  So many antagonistic writers love to point such things out as being affectations of an extremely egotistical man, completely ignoring the fact that it was a legitimate claim, but also, obviously, an expression of Crowley's boundless sense of humor.

Suster realized the importance of pointing out degrees.  For instance [italics mine] he explains Crowley and Neuburg's relationship as "a mildly sado-masochistic liaison."  Again, the ignorant and the deliberate detractors love to leap on a term like "sado-masochistic" and then proceed to describe something akin to an S & M porno flick complete with studded black leather, chains and whips.  The fact of the matter is, in most of us, to one degree or another, there is a tendency to either sadism, masochism or both.  I used to tease a friend mercilessly and he seemed to enjoy it and our friendship endured until finally his wife coaxed him into being born again - as if once wasn't enough!  Ours was technically, at least in part, a sado-masochistic relationship.  However, I would have never deliberately hurt him in any way nor would he have allowed me to hurt him - although I am not too sure the antics of hard-core S & M would have displeased him as he was a kinky s.o.b. at times, but not really perverse until after he had been born again.

Likewise, I was told by a lady I became acquainted with [although not intimately] that she sometimes enjoys a little slap on the rump while being told that she is a "bad girl".  Seems a little weird to me, and I would enjoy psychoanalyzing her sometime [but not spanking her], yet I do not really see this as something terribly deviant.

It is all a matter of degrees.  Everyone - absolutely everyone without exception [yes, even terribly well balanced yours truly], by the very fact of being human - everyone is a little bit off balance, off centre, yes, a little bit nuts.  The magical career is one in which the aspirant seeks ever greater balance [Equilibrium is the basis of the Great Work] and in which he or she endeavors to come into a greater alignment with the True Self, seeking one's Centre of being.  When one is perfectly balanced, perfectly centred, absolutely one with the True Self [Daemon, Genius, Holy Guardian Angel, etc.] then one ceases to be a human being, no longer has need of the physical body, so to speak, and takes the Next Step in evolution and becomes something, as they say, "greater".

When Suster pointed out that Crowley and Neuburg's relationship was mildly sado-masochistic, he was trying to point out that they were not playing the old whips-and-chains game, but that there was an aspect of their relationship in which Crowley enjoyed mastering his chela and his chela, Neuburg, felt the need to be mastered in order to achieve his full potential in life.  Some of us, like myself for instance, work better when we are free to do things at our own speed, in our own time, although we may work slowly, while many may need a task master to crack the whip from time to time so that we will get off our behinds and get something done.  One might easily say that the relationship between such people is a mildly sado-masochistic one, depending perhaps upon a few other minor factors. 

While there were a few things I disagreed with in Legacy, which may perhaps call for a more in-depth review at a later date, I was generally quite pleased with the book.  What mars Suster's work somewhat are a few things in Part Four where the author seems to be tip toeing around the egos of some people with whom he wishes to maintain cordial relations so as to keep open the avenues of communication in case he feels the need of their further assistance at a later date.  Overly sensitive and/or inflated egos sometimes necessitate carrying tact and diplomacy to the limits, and while these people should have a better sense of the True Self and not be so deeply rooted in the ego or false self, they have proven over the years to be slaves of ego.

The late Grady McMurtry is spoken of in careful terms, but a bit too flatteringly when one considers his actions, lack of action, and motivations overall.  Likewise, William Heidrick is referred to as "an American who is clearly a highly intelligent magical technologist", and this is demonstrably false.  Clearly he is not highly intelligent and what Suster terms "magical technologist" I see clearly as pseudo-scientific metaphysical mumbo jumbo used to disguise a gross ignorance of magick.  He can recite, he can repeat, he can do all the cute little tricks of an average parrot, of course only as imperfectly as a parrot, but he cannot and does not UNDERSTAND what he is talking about, at least when it comes to magick, Thelema and Aleister Crowley, and because of this his errors are numerous.  As for his other endeavors ... well ... I have seen nothing that he has done that has not been done badly.  His editing, et al, of the now defunct O.T.O. Newsletter is a good example of his complete incompetence and why I refer to him as a pseudo-thelemic inept.

"In the work of Mr. Peter Carroll, author of Liber Null/Liber Nox, Psychonaut and a number of essays, one finds excellent sense and sometimes brilliant technical innovations."

Suster defines "Chaos Magick" as an "attempt at liberation from outmoded formulae and patterns of behavior."  I can see this.  However, I have discovered over the years that "Chaos Magick" is, at least for most of those who are attracted to it that I have met, a good excuse to play magician without seriously attending to the study and hard work necessary to actually become a true magician.  [It's outmoded and archaic, therefore unnecessary, so I don't have to do it ... besides ... I'm too busy, too tired, I've a party to go to, and I simply don't want to.]  As for the works of Mr. Carroll - let me put it this way, regarding Liber Null:  Webster, in part, defines "null" as meaning "of no value, effect, or consequence; insignificant", and that, in my humble opinion, aptly describes this and the other writings of Mr. Carroll that I have read.  Trust me, you would be better off buying an archaic text on magic and struggling through the awkward and convoluted terminology, the complex procedures, and so forth.  You will get more out of it in the end and you will come to know more about how it all works by way of experience.  On the other hand, if you enjoy headaches, boredom, and a useless waste of time, by all means pick up and read the works of Peter Carroll and other so-called Chaos Magicians.  Or is that "Magickians"?  Who cares ...

The Legacy of the Beast is well worth having, a very good study, despite a few minor faults in the text, and the gross imperfections of the fourth part of the book.  Perhaps at a later date we will have fun picking on all of those little faults!  [I'm kidding, of course.  My purpose for dealing with what I consider to be faults or errors would be much more serious than that ... but it could still be fun!]

Gerald Suster:  We Will Miss You, My Friend

Originally appeared in The Newaeon Newsletter, Volume VI, Number 2 of May 1989 E.V.

Love is the law, love under will.