The Case of the Philosophers' Ring

by Dr. John H. Watson
"unearthed by" Randall Collins

A Review by G.M.Kelly

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

Crown Publishers, Inc.
One Park Avenue
New York, N.Y.10016
1978 E.V.

The Case of the Philosophers' Ring is a very enjoyable fiction in which Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson meet some of the great minds of their time.  Some of the personalities involved in this baffling case are Ludwig Wittgenstein, Bertrand Russell, John Maynard Keynes, Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolf.  There is a vamp by the name of Leila Waddell and Holmes is greatly assisted by Annie Besant.  And yes, you guessed it, the villain is, of course, Aleister Crowley ... or is he?

To describe the plot of the story, I shall quote from the inside of the dust jacket:

"It is the summer before the outbreak of World War I.  Holmes, at his Baker Street flat, receives a telegram from the brilliant young philosopher, Bertrand Russell, begging him to come to Cambridge to investigate the theft of a uniquely precious treasure - the mind of Ludwing Wittgenstein.

"Thus begins one of the most diabolically clever, suspense-laden reimaginings of the Sherlock Holmes legend.  Randall Collins, himself a preeminent American scholar, takes us into the intrigues of the Cambridge Apostles, who at the time of this caper include among their members G. H. Hardy, John Maynard Keynes, G. E. Moore, and, of course, Bertrand Russell.  Why has Wittgenstein become lethargic and paranoid?  Holmes and Watson set out to investigate some of the West's greatest minds.

"But the trail plunges suddenly out of the abstract and into the blood and guts of occult murder, when Aleister Crowley, the high priest of post-Edwardian mysticism, enters the picture.  Crowley's influence has drawn in Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolf of Bloomsbury; has aroused the opposition of the benevolent mystic Annie Besant of the Theosophical Society; has fed off the arcane sexual religiosity of Leila Waddell, the 'Scarlet Woman.'  At stake is nothing less than the fate of civilization."

As I have said, Crowley is supposedly the villian of this story - and how tired are we of having the Logos of this Æon cast as the evil antagonist - but is he the villian?  I do not know what Mr. Collins, excuse me, Dr. Watson, had in mind, but to me the book illustrates the stuffy foolishness of Victorian Era thinking, represented by Holmes and Watson, in contrast with the free and easy ways of the New Era, or New Æon, as represented by Aleister Crowley.  Although the villian of the story, Crowley's character comes out as the most complete and sanest of this wonderful cast of characters.  Whatever was originally intended, one can be sure, at least, that The Case of the Philosophers' Ring was meant to be enjoyed.  In the case of the Thelemic reviewer, the book succeeded.

Love is the law, love under will.

Frater Keallach 93

Expanded version of the review that originally appeared in
The Newaeon Newsletter, Volume II, Number 1
21st of March 1979 Era Vulgari