"...every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the colored canvas, reveals himself."
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
While one could hardly call Aleister Crowley an "accident", the above quotation rings true in regards to the portrait of the man painted with words by Mr. John Symonds.
With the intention of finally swinging The Sword in Mr. Symonds' direction, I took from my book shelves probably the most recent edition* of his infamous work, The Great Beast. (Granada Publishing Limited; Mayflower Books Ltd., Frogmore, St Albans, Herts AL2 2NF. "The Great Beast was first published in 1951. The present work is about a third longer and contains relevant chapters from The Magic of Aleister Crowley which appeared in 1958.") I thought to list Symonds' errors and intentional twists of facts, yet as I reread this book it dawned upon me that it might be more interesting to study and review the author while reviewing his book. Knowing the nature of the author one can better evaluate the accuracy of his judgments and conclusions - and as Horus the Avenger raises the Sword of Reason and Analysis for the sake of Justice and to Adjust the Scales in behalf of a man too long unjustly treated, Our Father Aleister Crowley, it is only fitting that we review the nature of Mr. John Symonds and evaluate his conclusions about the Great Beast 666.
We shall proceed in an orderly fashion.
"...There is no doubt that the widespread interest today in Aleister Crowley stems from The Great Beast.
"Unexpectedly, the tide has turned in Crowley's favour. ..."
Here, in the beginning of the preface, one can see that Symonds was surprised when the interest in A.C. and Thelema grew. And why was he surprised? Simple. Symonds did his best to carefully paint a very unflattering portrait of the man. He talked with A.C. during his last days, acted like a sincerely concerned friend, even managing to become the literary executor of Crowley's estate, and yet as one reads his biographical book one comes to the conclusion that the whole while he was plotting the ultimate back stab - to wait until a man has died to use him as a focal point for "literature" of a sensationalistic nature for the sake of personal recognition and monetary gain at the expense of the subject as well as the truth. Symonds gained the things he desired, however, "A King may choose his garment as he will: there is no certain test: but a beggar cannot hide his poverty." (CCXX II.58) Write as he would, Crowley's noble character shines through and the poverty of John Symonds' character is obvious.
The author did not come right out and directly attack A.C.. Much of what he has written is very good and accurate. Yet very carefully this author twists a well thought out sentence to make A.C. appear to be a megalomaniac eager to be worshipped as God Almighty. Take, for example, these sentences from the preface:
"Crowley was one of the many who rebelled against the self-righteous, rosy view of society and of man which was held by Victorians. These were the 'gods' that he trampled under foot to set himself up in their place."
It is the final sentence which puts the twist in the truth. It was not himself, Aleister Crowley, that he wished to replace restrictive Victorian morals with, but rather did A.C. work very hard to replace the Victorian fetters of the Piscean Age with the Aquarian Age of Thelemic freedom. Certainly Crowley would have enjoyed recognition and respect, what man would not? but he went on, while being shamefully slandered and reviled, with no hope of gaining respect from the majority in his lifetime, in behalf of Thelema and for the betterment of humankind. This man, Aleister Crowley, could have pandered to the majority and created a religion in which he would have been worshipped as a god incarnate. He certainly had the knowledge to do so! And Crowley possessed more than his share of charisma. The fact that he did not do this, that he did not pander to the infantile desires of the vast majority, and in fact set himself up against the very things most people held sacred in order to bring Thelema and the freedom that it offers to humankind into the world, for the sake of humanity and the world, proves that Aleister Crowley had no intention of setting himself up as a god, but rather was he willing to lose the respect that all men desire if this is what it took to establish Thelema in the world. Throughout Crowley's writings it is obvious that he loved humanity. Certainly he had some harsh things to say about humankind - people are often very disappointing as they so often ignore the quality of humanity for the sake of petty ego. Certainly A.C. scolded society from time to time - when a parent scolds his child it is generally not out of hate but rather love and a sincere concern for the child. And this is how Crowley regarded society - not only as his brothers and sisters, but also as his children. [His great sorrow over the untimely death of his children show him to have possessed a very strong paternal nature.] So A.C. sometimes praised and sometimes scolded society, and society being the infant that it still is, generally takes note only of the scoldings and jumps to the wrong conclusions. Crowley was reviled by his "children" whom he loved and wanted the very best for, and this [as a graphological analysis of his consistantly downward slanting handwriting shows] greatly saddened the great man. Still, he went on for the sake of Thelema to say what had to be said, do what had to be done, and be what he had to be - the Great Beast 666.
This was Aleister Crowley. Now what kind of a man is John Symonds? Obviously his social consciousness is not as highly developed as was the Beast's, and apparently his primary concern is not society or some great movement, but rather his own petty ego and desires. Crowley took the unpopular position for the sake of Thelema, whereas Symonds jumped on the proverbial anti-Crowley bandwagon, taking the easy, popular position, and went on to slander the great man for the sake of sensationalist "literature" and the profits to be gained from it.
Chapter 1, first sentence: "Who was Aleister Crowley? Crowley himself was by no means sure." Is this perhaps more true of the author than of the subject he writes about? The fact is obvious to anyone who wishes to study The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, et al, that Crowley knew exactly who he was as well as what he was and why he was. His wandering proved to be anything but aimless and in all that he said and did it is obvious that A.C. was very One Pointed. There was only one course in life for him and every road he took led to that single destination. Crowley was a poet and a mountaineer, a mystic and magician, above all he was a Man - a true Man - and the Logos of the Æon of Horus. He was more than just a persona - and he was always aware of this. But I digress. Could my constant digressions point to the possibility that Crowley is an infinitely more interesting man dead than still living John Symonds?
"The identity of Aleister Crowley is further complicated by his Holy Guardian Angel, Aiwass, who sometimes seems to be more Crowley than Crowley himself." (Page 14)
This shows the ignorance of the author of this biographical work. We have here a non-initiate judging an initiated magician of a high grade of attainment. How could he possibly hope to understand the Man Crowley without first understanding the Magus Therion? Aiwass was A.C.'s H.G.A., his True Self, the Essential Being that clothed Itself in the persona of Aleister Crowley. One's H.G.A. is an Ipsissimus, and one needs only to arrive at the realization of this fact. [By "realization" I mean far more than the attainment of an intellectual comprehension.] That being which Symonds wrote about was more Himself as Aiwass than as Crowley and this was a fact that A.C. realized in the course of his advancement on the Path of the Wise - such advancement being the greater realization of one's True Self.
"He [Crowley] had backed the side [Germany during World War I] he now knew was going to lose and he feared retribution. It is not surprising that he crept closer to his Holy Guardian Angel, Aiwass, and wished he could slough off Crowley's skin." (Page 14)
Utterly absurd. First it should be remembered that the Germany of W.W.I was very different from the later Nazi Germany of W.W.II and that Germany in the very early 1900's was put into a very bad position - its actions not entirely unjustified. However, A.C. did not "back" Germany. He did recognize its position and sympathized with its people, but when it was a contest between the Fatherland and his own beloved England, A.C. found his patriotism too strong to ignore. Certainly he wrote for "The Fatherland" and "The International", pro-German publications, but this was partly because these were the only means he had at the time of presenting his more esoteric writings, and partly as a means of undermining the propaganda of the Germans by making it too ludicrous to take seriously. Crowley did not fear retribution - he was used to being the target of every yellow journalistic big game hunter. Furthermore, he enjoyed the multi-faceted persona of Aleister Crowley, a very useful persona indeed, so while he did in fact wish to be more Himself [i.e. Aiwass], as would any true magician, he had no desire to be entirely rid of Aleister Crowley - the annihilation of the ego aside, that is, which is an esoteric subject that I am afraid John Symonds will never Understand.
Throughout The Great Beast Symonds reports what Crowley "claimed", but his attitude is consistantly one of sneering contempt for the great man. One might think that Symonds hated Crowley simply because he envied A.C.'s freedom from Victorian restrictions - restrictions that apparently fetter John Symonds even after the end of the Victorian era.
On page 18 Symonds points out that A.C. claimed Cagliostro as a past incarnation, but that A.C.'s account of this man's life differed with the accepted account. This to Symonds' mind proves A.C. to be a fraud, although he avoids coming right out and saying this in plain, simple, honest English. He never questions the accepted account of Cagliostro's life. Time and time again historians and records have been proven to be inaccurate, so it is quite possible that the accepted account may be wrong, at least in part, and that Crowley's memories may actually be more accurate. Perhaps not, but Symonds never gives A.C. the benefit of the doubt.
Within the pages of this book Symonds sneers at Crowley's ideal of beauty in women. He reads into A.C.'s words what he wishes and wrongly and most willingly concludes that Crowley's ideal of beauty was something hideous and hag-like. Nothing could be further from the truth. While it is true A.C. was most attracted to the woman who did not appear innocent but rather worldly, experienced and aggressive in her womanhood, this hardly meant that he was "turned on" by women such as Austin Osman Spare might draw! The facts speak plainly for themselves. Rose Edith Kelly Crowley, his wife, was a very attractive woman, the styles of the times taken into account, and Leila Waddell, a later mistress, would have been considered attractive even in the 60's and 70's. Even Leah Hirsig, although rather too slender, was hardly unattractive or grotesque, and Maria Teresa Ferrari de Miramar, whom he also married in 1929 E.V., while a sturdy woman, was quite attractive. Photographs of all of these women can be found in The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. If Crowley loved ugliness, physical ugliness, in women as Symonds wishes the reader to believe, his affairs should have been terribly miserable with nothing but lovely women around him. Instead, all things considered, A.C. seems to have had the time of his life with these ladies. One wonders how successful or unsuccessful Symonds was with the ladies in his life...
Symonds does his best to prove Crowley a masochist, and while A.C. himself admits to such a tendency in his character in regards to women, a tendency does not a masochist make. We all possess certain tendencies that nevertheless do not dominate our character. Symonds writes, on page 23, "He even liked to imagine himself in agony and, in particular, degraded by, and suffering at, the hands of a woman whom he described as 'wicked, independent, courageous, ambitious'." Admittedly A.C. often took it for granted that people were more intelligent than they generally are and he used phrases with a tongue-in-cheek attitude that he felt certain others would understand the humour and poetry of. I cannot imagine Crowley allowing anyone, man or woman, to actually and physically torture him, can you? Crowley was an ass-kicker who did not put up with bullshit [to use the language of our times] from anyone. What he meant is simple enough to see. Crowley was a man in the midst of the turn of the century who desired women far more common in the 60's, 70's and 80's. How he would have loved our times! His ideal woman would be "wicked" only to the Victorian mind, by Victorian standards. She would be shameless, that is, without shame - free of absurd inhibitions and self-confident. She would be dominate - strong while maintaining her femininity - and that is what he meant with his apparently masochistic words. He did not actually wish to be physically tortured by a woman and degraded. He had hoped to meet a woman who was as strong in her femininity as he was in his masculinity; a woman who would drive him to torturous desire and lust; a WOMAN as opposed to a woman. But again we seem to digress. Again we seem to speak more of Crowley than of Symonds - or do we? If Crowley did not actuaally wish to be physically tortured and degraded by women, why does the author persistantly conclude that he did? Did he simply miss the point A.C. was making? Is he so humourless that he cannot comprehend Crowley's tongue-in-cheek style? Maybe. Or perhaps...
In reference to his childhood experimentation with the cat, mentioned on page 25, Symonds writes that "he was lacking in imagination. I mean by this that he could never imagine a situation fully, he had always to act it out. Throughout his life, he kept hurling himself into adventures, especially with women, for precisely that reason. Imagination presupposes restraint upon action. If you act out all your instincts and impulses, you do not need an imaginary inner life, for you get it all in reality. The lack of effective imagination may explain the extravagant nature of Aleister Crowley's life on the one hand, and his failure as a poet on the other."
A.C. certainly did not lack in imagination, and with imagination one could live out one's fantasies and still never realize them all. "Imagination presupposes restraint upon action." What rubbish. It is with imagination that action begins. One imagines something and then one realizes that by putting it into action - at least the real doers in this world act thusly. The talkers are something else. Crowley was a true Man who lived life to the fullest, imagining something and then actualizing it to experience the imagined thing to the absolute fullest. Apparently Symonds is just a talker and a day dreamer who is afraid or perhaps unable due to inhibitions to act in life, to live his life - he can, for instance, only imagine what it would be like to have a mad affair with a flamboyant woman. No matter how often one acts out one's "instincts and impulses" one will always have "an imaginary inner life" - and it seems to me that John Symonds is a man who is afraid to realize his fantasies for fear that they will be, perhaps, disappointing.
As for Crowley's "failure as a poet", he did not fail as such. A.C. was a terrific poet and the failure is society's for either not discovering or not appreciating Crowley as a poet.
We are skipping over many things that Symonds wrote which could be commented upon, but there is so much and our space is so limited that we will content ourselves by just picking out something here and there to review.
"White Stains is, in fact, a collection of pornographic verse which Mr Peter Fryer, an authority on erotica, considers the filthiest in the English Language." (Page 30)
Symonds goes on quite a bit about Crowley's pornographic turn of mind as if it were symptomatic of a degenerate character. One wonders how Mr. Symonds copes with the 1980's! And who is this Fryer? What makes him "an authority"? An authority on pornography is one who studies it avidly - I wonder if Symonds' authority is a pervert of the first rank? Besides, one man's pornography may be another man's erotica, and the difference here is only in semantics. As for White Stains, it is a literary and poetic work of art that is hardly the "filthiest in the English language", [Mr. Fryer has obviously failed to keep up with the pornographic literature of the times!], and it strikes at the heart of Victorian attitudes towards sex, which is one of the reasons it was written. White Stains is also an excellent study of certain mental and emotional disorders effecting human behaviour. It is a shame that neither Messrs. Symonds or Fryer could appreciate this work. They have obviously missed a great deal and could have perhaps learned quite a bit about themselves.
Writing of Abra-Melin on page 37, Symonds says, "if he [the magician performing the operation of Abra-Melin] fails to steer clear of temptation he will speedily become a prey to the Malevolent Demon and his career will be a series of misfortunes, ending in his death with rapid descent to hell." Symonds is obviously building a case here to imply that this was A.C.'s fate and the misfortunes in his life supposedly prove it. He refuses to take into account that everyone experiences misfortunes and "when it rains it pours". This is especially so when one actually lives life, and most especially when one, anyone, sincerely takes up the Path of the Wise. Tough times are certainly ahead for anyone who approaches and crosses the abyss, taking the grade of Magister Templi, of necessity accepting the full force of his karmic debt to work out in a single incarnation.
"He [A.C.] had a low opinion of women." (Page 40) More rubbish. If this were so, why would Crowley have placed so much emphasis upon Babalon, the Scarlet Woman, and Nuit, Our Lady of the Stars? Crowley loved women and he often praised them in poetry. His occasional remarks of a derogatory nature are either specifically directed towards a certain individual or express his disappointment in women who fear to achieve their full potential. And of course there was his irreverent tongue-in-cheek humour, which Symonds could not grasp, to consider. Statements such as Symonds' have caused countless misconceptions about Crowley and they show the careless and irresponsible nature of the author of The Great Beast.
We have barely skimmed through 40 pages of this 464 page book and just look at all that we have written and illuminated! Perhaps we should sum this up here and this we will do by quoting, reviewing and analyzing what John Symonds wrote on pages 53 and 54 of his work.
"Three aspects of Crowley's psychology have by now become clear. One: he lacked an inhibitory counter-force. He threw himself into any adventure that touched his fancy, the more horrible the better, and he was not afraid of madness."
To me it sounds as if Symonds would be at home in the Victorian era. He sees inhibition as a virtue when in fact it is only the death of creation and the murderer of freedom. I shudder to think just how inhibited Mr. Symonds may be! And this illustrates one of the many problems Symonds has with trying to understand a man like Crowley, a man whose essential nobility of nature made fear and inhibition unnecessary. Aleister was a man born in Victorian times who was "ahead of his time" and would have been more at home in the 1980's, whereas John Symonds seems to be a man "behind the times" who would be far more at home in the era of Queen Victoria. Symonds comes off as a stuffy and greatly inhibited individual, a bit of a prig and a prude, a terrible snob, who finds himself unable to experience life but would rather imagine it. Obviously, John Symonds embraces his fears and labels them virtues, rationalizing them, justifying them. This being so, he appears to be only a talker in life and not a doer. And it seems odd to me that he would harp upon the fact that A.C. did not fear madness. Why should anyone fear madness, unless, perhaps, one is facing it with enough comprehension to perceive the degeneration of one's sanity. Does Mr. Symonds have a phobia about madness? Does he, perhaps, perceive inevitable madness in his own future?
"Two: he needed some strong or horrific experience to get 'turned on'. Most people are 'turned on' by sitting at home with a book, listening to music, or looking at a painting. ..."
Twisting the facts, Symonds is trying to show that Crowley was a man of horrible excess. One only needs to read Crowley's own words to discover that he was 'turned on' by reading books - Eckartshausen's The Cloud Upon The Sanctuary really turned him on! He greatly appreciated art - wrote a poetic tribute to Rodin. Aleister Crowley was a highly educated man, cultured, and he greatly appreciated the arts. However, he was not content to just sit at home and imagine life - he was a Man who lived life. But again we get from this a picture of the author himself, John Symonds, and he must indeed be a very boring and dull fellow. He obviously doesn't have a clue as to what excites "most people", and be that as it may, Crowley was not "most people" - he was a unique individual with a powerful personality and character.
Symonds, in his book, goes on to say that "Crowley needed his Mexican whore with the worn face before he could write his verses about Tannhauser." Mr. Symonds has a lot to learn about poets, poetry and inspiration - not to mention the delights of sexual pleasure. One wonders just how asexual the author of The Great Beast is. Personally I love books, as well as music and art, but give me a lusty whore any day and I will fill volumes with poetry ... if I can find the time!
"Three: he had no respect for his own (or anyone else's) body. ..."
It is difficult to see how he arrived at this conclusion. Perhaps he means that Crowley did not fear veneral disease - the following paragraph regarding syphilis indicates this. The fact of the matter is, A.C. greatly respected the human body and advised the student of magick to be physically fit and as a mountaineer physical fitness was a necessity for Crowley. Besides, "the body is the temple of the soul", and the instrument needed for carrying out the True Will, and Aleister was well aware of this fact. He did not fear V.D. pathologically - he had a healthy attitude about such things - but Mr. Symonds seems to be a slave to pathological fear and this may account for his apparent asexuality. Mr. Symonds appears to be a prissy sort of man almost deathly afraid of getting germs from people. But enough for now. What else can I say...?
We come now to an abrupt end ... of Part 1.
(TNN.IV.6.6-11, JANUARY 1986 E.V.)
"Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind and poisons us. ... The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself..."
"The aim of life is self development. To realize one's nature perfectly - that is what each of us is here for. People are afraid of themselves, nowadays. They have forgotten the highest of all duties, the duty that one owes to one's self. Of course they are charitable. They feed the hungry and clothe the beggar. But their own souls starve, and are naked."
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Osccar Wilde
In TNN IV.6 we presented Part 1 of this review of both the book, The Great Beast (Granada Publishing Limited; Mayflower Books Ltd.), and its author, Mr. John Symonds. As we will do here, we went through the book page by page and picked out statements pointing out not so much the errors of fact made by Mr. Symonds but more so how the book says more about the author than the subject, Aleister Crowley.
Without further ado we will continue our review where we left off - going onwards from page 54 of that book.
It should be remembered that we concluded that John Symonds is a terribly inhibited man who would be more at home in the Victorian era and who, because of his Victorian attitudes, could not hope to understand and appreciate a man like Aleister Crowley who was far ahead of his time, a man who proves what Oscar Wilde said, that "it is personalities, not principles, that move the age." We also showed that Symonds continually twisted facts or ignored them and in this way arrived at the most absurd conclusions - conclusions that are obviously contrary to the truth.
Speaking of the events that led to the writing of "Alice: An Adultery" on page 58, Symonds wrote, "Crowley...easily fell in and out of love and did so constantly ..." This author, you remember, was trying to sell a book, and a book is more saleable when it has a wide appeal, at the same time Symonds wanted to influence people against Crowley but to do so directly would turn some people away, hindering sales. John Symonds is relatively clever, so instead of voicing his opinions directly he slants his writing outrageously and implies one thing or another, leading the reader to an obvious conclusion - almost always an incorrect conclusion regarding the character and nature of Crowley. In this case he intends to show the reader that A.C. was frivolous and careless in matters of love and that he therefore could have known nothing about love.
"...the people who love only once in their lives are really the shallow people. What they call their loyalty, and their fidelity, I call either the lethargy of custom or their lack of imagination. Faithfulness is to the emotional life what consistency is to the life of intellect - simply a confession of failure."
- Oscar Wilde
It is true, in a way, that A.C. easily fell in and out of love and did so frequently, but this is because he understood love, he understood that it transcended personalities, and despite what Symonds would have us believe, Crowley truly loved women. Crowley was a great lover of archtypal Womanhood and what he loved most in the women he loved was the Goddess that was in each of them and when he fell out of love it was generally because the women failed to do justice to that Goddess within. A.C. loved Womanhood so greatly that it was difficult for him to settle down with any one woman. He craved that Goddess within each woman and naturally found it as close to impossible as anything can be to find a single woman who fulfilled his desire by completely realizing her full potential, the Goddess within.
In this same section of the book Symonds mentions "the mysterious demon who drove him darkly onwards." There was no "mysterious demon" who drove A.C. "darkly" onwards. There was his Daemon or Genius, his Holy Guardian Angel, his True Self, and That drove him on, not darkly but energetically, to accomplish his True Will. Obviously Symonds lacked the personal experience of being in touch with the supraconscious and he here leads the unwary reader to believe that A.C. was possessed by "dark" or "evil" forces and that these "demonic forces" soured his entire life. Nothing could be further from the truth. One's Way is never easy, but every difficulty is a joyous contest - a child's game that one does one's best to win while laughing in play.
A test of Symonds' wit and intelligence, especially in regards to magick and mysticism, is shown on pages 58 and 59 where he tells of how Crowley went to Ceylon to ask Allan Bennett a question. Symonds then tells the story of how Bennett and Mathers had once fallen into an argument some time prior to this regarding the god Shiva and how Bennett said that if one repeated his name often enough Shiva would open his eye and destroy the universe. Mathers thought the concept absurd and the argument began, Bennett sought to end the argument by assuming an asana and repeating "Shiva, Shiva, Shiva" over and over again until Mathers became so enraged he would have shot Bennett on the spot had not Moina Mathers entered the room and stopped her enraged husband. Symonds concludes "That is the story, but what is true about it, and what Perdurabo [A.C.] wanted to ask Brother I.A. [Bennett], he does not say."
There was nothing to say about it. The story spoke for itself. The question was obviously about Shivadarshana and Bennett showed his wit [and daring!] by setting about to prove his point. Had Mathers succeeded in shooting Bennett to death he would have proven that the recitation of the mantra would ultimately lead to the annihilation of the ego and the destruction of the personal universe or the universe as perceived by the ego. There is nothing puzzling about this story, yet Symonds fails to recognize and appreciate the wit and wisdom [as well as the folly] of the incident.
Throughout the book John Symonds sneers cynically at Crowley, yet he does so subtly and unless one is on the lookout for the author's attitudes these remarks are likely to just slide by and thus fall into the fertile field of the mind to take root there and grow the nasty little weeds of Symonds' choosing. For instance, on page 60: "That is the story as told by Crowley", implying that the tale, considering the source, is not to be believed; page 83: "...Perdurabo entered the temple. With similar European punctuality, Aiwass appeared and began dictating chapter two [of CCXX]", by which Symonds meant to imply that Aiwass was nothing but a fiction; page 191: "The addition of the word 'cocaine' reveals that this drug was used in the ceremony and it doubtless helped the materialisation" - in other words, the results of the ritual were "doubtlessly" only the hallucinations of a drugged mind, Symonds would have the reader conclude; page 215: "Crowley did not tell us much about this working [The Paris Working]. The sacrifice was offered - I think I have made it clear by now what this means..." - here Symonds cynically sneers at the idea of sex having anything to do with religion and magick, yet anyone studying the symbols of religion and magic/k will see the sexual implications in all of these symbols. Etc., etc., etc.. Taken individually, these sneering comments can sneak past the critical mind, but carefully considered it becomes obvious that the author would like nothing better than to discredit Aleister Crowley and sabotage Thelema. To this end Symonds subscribes to the belief that "the end justifies the means".
Throughout the book, such as on page 63 where the Chogo Ri adventure and Knowles are brought up, Symonds brings another into the tale and invariably chooses that person's version of events over Crowley's, no matter how true A.C.'s rings. Again, any means to discredit Crowley is employed and to Symonds' way of thinking anyone who disagreed with Crowley must have been telling the truth.
On page 69: "In October 1902 ... He [A.C.] did not go to see the Pyramids, but wallowed in the fleshpots of Shepheard's Hotel instead. He was not, he said, going to have forty centuries look down upon him."
Such jests as this Symonds twists about to "prove" that A.C. was an egomaniac. In fact, Crowley did visit the Pyramids and spent the night in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid of Giza, and a careful study of The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, The Magical Record of the Beast 666 and The Magical Diaries of Aleister Crowley prove that A.C. had a very healthy self image, was very objective about himself, and just as often pointed out his follies and faults as he did his wisdom and strengths.
On page 78 Symonds then informs the reader that Crowley persuaded his wife Rose to spend a night in the Great Pyramid which shows that he did not hold that "forty centuries" in genuine contempt. Not only does Symonds lack a sense of humour and thus cannot recognize a jest [or he purposely chose not to see the joke], but he cannot see that by taking the first statement seriously he has managed to contradict himself with the second.
"Crowley was always accusing those whom he had quarrelled with of stealing his possessions; towards the end of his life, it grew to be a mania", Symonds wrote on page 71.
This is just one instance where Symonds tries to make Crowley appear to be a mad man, yet the fact remains that although he did not fling accusations about as recklessly as Symonds implies, many people did steal from A.C., and to this day they are still stealing from him in one way or another. How many writers of the occult, for instance, steal A.C.'s words, sometimes as direct uncredited quotes and sometimes in paraphrase, while also turning around and slandering the genius whose thoughts and words they had just stolen and in most cases perverted? All too many is the answer. And even Symonds writes on page 454 of The Great Beast that "The breath had not long departed from him [A.C.] when someone crept up the stairs, entered the room where the body lay and stole his gold watch." I wonder ... where was John Symonds at that moment? And by the way, in a manner of speaking, Symonds has stolen Crowley's life, his fame and infamy, to make a name for himself in the world!
On pages 71 and 72 Symonds tells the story of how Aleister Crowley encountered a sorceress who tried to seduce him by assuming the aspect of a young and beautiful woman but how when A.C. repelled her she lost hold of the glamour that disguised her and was revealed to be "a hag of sixty". Symonds then goes on to say that "What is absurd about this absurd account is that Crowley would have preferred the hag, especially as she was 'worn with strange lusts'; that was just his taste, as he says plainly enough, if you read between the lines." [Remember as you read this article, Mr. Symonds, that I know what you really mean to say - it is plane enough if you read between the lines.]
The account is not absurd. In my own magical career I have experienced such things - in fact, many common every day males at least once in their lives probably see a woman as glamourous [look that word up] when all others fail to see the attracting beauty. Furthermore, if indeed A.C. would have preferred the hag then the hag he would have seen, but since he saw a young and beautiful woman that is what he was most attracted to and what the sorceress would have instinctively known. Besides, it was not what she would have wanted him to see that he would have seen, but what he wanted to see. As for the look that is "worn with strange lusts", this does not mean that she should appear as one of Austin Osman Spare's cronish caricatures. It is more of a reference to a look in the eyes, mannerisms and attitudes that show through in body language. I know exactly what Crowley meant for I am also attracted to that look in some women and have known several attractive women "worn with strange lusts". They were women of the world, who had experienced much, were free of nearly every inhibition, revelling in their sexuality. And if one wishes to know A.C.'s tastes in women so far as appearances go, one merely has to look at the photographs of most of his lovers - Rose was a very lovely and charming lady, Maria Teresa Ferrari de Miramar was a large but also very sensual and attractive woman, and Leila could have stepped out of her time and into the 60's or 70's, not looking out of place, and still be considered beautiful. Symonds reads between the lines what he wants to read, not necessarily what is there, and he counts on the meek sheepish nature of most readers to simply "think" as he leads them to think - and Symonds uses this as just another means of "proving" to his readers that everything about Crowley was perverted, twisted in some way, by whatever means it takes. The truth is expendable.
Page 73: "In July, finding himself without a 'companion-house-keeper' - the woman he had picked up in London havving presumably fled..." Note his usage of the word "fled", indicating that he was something monstrous to flee from. He could have chosen another word like "left", but again Symonds does his best to twist and slant the facts to place A.C. in a very unfavourable light. And of course John Symonds presumes too much.
On page 76 Symonds continues relaying the incidents which led to Crowley's marriage to Rose and writes "according to Crowley's unrestrained account" - why should his account be restrained? A.C. was not reporting news. He was a poet telling a tale of wild romance from a personal viewpoint. One must come to the conclusion when reading such things that Symonds is a very cold fish indeed - lacking passion and a sense of romance. What a boring and tedious fellow he must be. Also, of course, throughout Symonds is doing his best to give the reader the impression that Crowley was a man out of control, when in fact his education, his mountain climbing and his training in magick and yoga bestowed more self-control upon Aleister Crowley than John Symonds will ever know.
We will stop here, say, on page 80. We still have a very long way to go and we ask you to be patient. There is a great deal to comment on in The Great Beast and while we are skipping a good bit we must take on certain things to make our review and commentary complete. Besides, for too long this book has shaped too many opinions regarding Aleister Crowley and Thelema, and such a review is long overdue and very much needed to, in some degree, counter the harm Symonds' book has caused. It is the job of The Sword of Horus to take things apart and analyze them and where necessary avenge the wrongs done to Our Father Aleister Crowley to readjust the scales of balance. Symonds intended to sell books and make money while discrediting Crowley, but he also unexpectedly piqued interest in A.C. and Thelema. Still, it worked in his favour as much of that interest came from individuals of a less than rational or honest turn of mind and believing some of Symonds' conclusions and accepting them they have proceeded to twist the facts and pervert Thelema - sometimes with the best of intentions.
Let us just finish with Part 2 by jumping a little ahead of ourselves to page 181 where Symonds blatantly equates "'abandon thyself to all pleasures'" with "'do what thou wilt'". This has led many to think that "Do what thou wilt" means to do as you bloody well please and to hell with everyone else, and this is what Symonds obviously intended most readers to believe. However, Crowley's own words are ignored, such as those to be found in Liber II, The Message of the Master Therion where he wrote "'Do what thou wilt' does not mean 'Do what you like.' It is the apotheosis of Freedom; but it is also the strictest possible bond. Do what thou wilt - then do nothing else. Let nothing deflect thee from that austere and holy task." It is not the petty will of desire catering to the ego that Crowley speaks of, that the Law of Thelema expounds, as Symonds wishes the reader to believe, but rather it is the True Will, the purpose for existing, which is equal to the Will of God, that the Law proclaims.
John Symonds tries to make Crowley seem infantile and monstrous at the same time by claiming that he jumped into every adventure without thought, careless of how others might be effected, careless of even how he himself might be effected. The truth of the matter is that A.C. usually thought very deeply, if sometimes rapidly, before acting, and when he did not, well, sometimes one must act upon instinct and not rely upon reason alone. Science must be equally balanced with Art - Symonds is obviously a man who lives life most artlessly. Crowley was not afraid of himself and he attended to the hunger of the soul and aimed at self-development and the realization of his fullest potential, the True Self and the accomplishment of the True Will.
Symonds, through his writing, appears to be a man who has strangled his every impulse and who has resisted every temptation fearing that one "wrong" move would condemn him to hell for eternity. And what this constant self-restriction has done to his mind, his heart and his soul is evident - and the sickness he sees in another is the sickness that he himself suffers from. He accuses Crowley of perversion and yet throughout his book Symonds perverts the truth.
(TNN.V.1.6-10, MARCH 1986 E.V.)
"I have noticed that people who dislike me are invariably rendered so blind by malice that they give themselves away and make themselves ridiculous."
- The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, page 564
"...the slickest way to lie is to tell the right amount of truth - then shut up."
- Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
"It is better for you to be defeated while speaking the truth, than to be victorious through deceit. ... He who is victorious through deceit is defeated by the truth."
- "The Sentences of Sextus" from The Nag Hamaddi Library
"And then there is a pale stern figure, enormous, enormous, bigger than all the universe is, in silver armour with a sword and a pair of balances."
- The Vision and the Voice, 25th Aethyr, Aleister Crowley
Parts 1 and 2 of this Sword article will be found in TNN IV.6 and V.1. [Brought together here for the first time.] Due to the vast amount of rubbish that was published in The Great Beast by John Symonds and the influence this book has had throughout the years upon so many people, we will, unfortunately, be forced to continually return to this subject in order to respond, at least to some degree, to Mr. Symonds' charges against Aleister Crowley so that we may better balance the scales of justice.
Page 83: "His name was Aiwass and he was a Secret Chief (of the Grade of Ipsissimus)." This reference to A.C.'s Holy Guardian Angel, which Symonds continually implies was merely a figment of his imagination, errs in the tense used. Aiwass is.
Regarding the writing of The Book of the Law and Aiwass Symonds wrote, "The following day, again at exactly twelve noon, Perdurabo entered the temple. With similar European punctuality, Aiwass appeared and began dictating chapter two." Then on page 85 he writes, "... Aiwass, who was totally lacking in moral feeling ..." Symonds first implies that Aiwass was so punctual only because he was nothing more than a figment of A.C.'s imagination, claiming that Aiwass seemed too "European", then he turns around and virtually says that Aiwass was not very "European" since he lacked morals. Besides this contradiction, why should a praeter-human intelligence not be punctual? Such a being would be the soul of discipline. As for morals, certainly such a being would be above the petty, short-sighted and fabricated moral codes and constraints of human society, which might make him appear amoral to one such as Mr. Symonds who is a slave to Victorian codes, but this does not necessarily imply that Aiwass is the amoralistic devil Symonds tries to make him out to be - all the time implying that he is nothing but a mental projection of Crowley. Such a being as Aiwass would have to consider the good of billions of "souls" in the present as well as the distant future, and not just the good of a handful of people in the immediate present.
Page 84: "Although Crowley hardly knew it at the time, he had caught a glimpse of the Devil", Symonds says of A.C.'s description of Aiwass, thereafter going on to equate Hoor-Paar-Kraat with Set. While H-P-K may be equated with Harpocrates as well as Set, in some sense, it does not necessarily imply anything essentially "evil". Set merely represented the dark side of nature while Horus (Ra-Hoor-Khuit) represented the light side. Neither is "good" nor "evil" moralistically, but merely the necessary appearance of opposites which makes being possible. Satan and Set are often considered one and the same by superficial writers, but they are, in fact, quite different in that Satan is considered by many to be a force of absolute evil. Even this is a corruption of the original concept since HaSatan and Satanas merely means "adversary" and implies a necessary counter force without moralistic connotations. Satan being a creation of God was therefore essentially a part of God and in the Judeo-Christian Bible [as a careful study will show] he was employed by God to test humankind and initiate. As for Symonds' obvious implication that Aiwass and the Devil were/are one and the same, this can only be considered true from a point of view which is highly limited and bigoted. To the Victorian Christian mentality Aiwass does appear to be the Devil, that force of absolute evil which was created by the ignorance of such individuals, whereas any enlightened individual, even the dullest scholar, perceives that the Devil of the Christians is composed of a multitude of older god forms that predated Christianity, a great deal of barbaric superstition, as well as both ignorant and deliberate misconception. It was virtually the Christian who introduced absolute evil into a relative universe.
Page 85: "Aiwass seems to have been strongly influenced by Nietzsche." Page 128, in reference to the first class of A.C.'s writings "which, he says, he did not himself write (although it is in his unmistakable style) but took down at another's dictation."
Because Crowley's mentality and style appear in the writings that were dictated by Aiwass Symonds concludes that Aiwass was nothing more than a kind of pen-name for A.C.. It only shows the absolute ignorance and irrationality of Mr. Symonds. You may rightly think of Aiwass as the writer and Crowley as his instrument. Here I am the writer and my typewriter is the instrument. One may look at this page and say that the typewriter was the true author since it is in the unmistakable style of a Smith-Corona Coronet Super 12 - that is, if one chooses to think like Mr. Symonds, and for the life of me I do not know why anyone would. Certainly traces of the instrument may be found within the work of the author, that is only natural, and furthermore, the mind of Aleister Crowley was purposely composed so that it would be a perfect instrument for Aiwass. In a manner of speaking, Aiwass saw to it that the mind of A.C. was fed just the right data so that particular data could be used which best expressed his, Aiwass', intent in human thought and human language.
On page 85 Symonds quotes The Book of the Law, technically called Liber AL vel Legis sub figura CCXX, Chapter I, Verse 3, "Every man and every woman is a star", as well as CCXX II.58, "the slaves shall serve", and then says, "There is no democracy in The Book of the Law and no Christian charity either." He speaks the truth, of course, but then shuts up. Democracy as it is now is far from perfect. "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer." How often have you heard that phrase? And yet it is just one of the truths spawned by democracy. The wealth gives power and those who possess such material wealth are free to pursue their course in life while those who are denied even the barest of material necessities so that the rich can indeed become richer are thus forced to spend all of their time and energy just to survive in the world and so never find the means to discover and do their True Will. Such democracy is hardly just and fair. Thelema and Crowley propose a more just and fair "democracy", if the term may be used, wherein each man and woman is recognized as an individual with his and her course to follow in life, and instead of restricting the course of the many so that the few may have more than enough time to pursue their own course in life, the many are provided with the means of both survival and that which may be needed for the discovery and accomplishment of the True Will. And certainly the slaves shall serve. The slaves will always serve. However, it does not imply a few elite Thelemites in a world full of slaves that shall serve their every desire as Symonds implies. The Book envisions Thelema as a worldwide way of life, yet admits that there will always be slaves that serve - not slaves in bondage to Thelemites, but rather slaves in bondage to their own weaknesses and addictions, their egos, the dictates of the religions of the slave-gods. Such slaves will always serve their masters, their weaknesses, their ego, and the slave-gods which prey upon them. However, The Book provides the means whereby one may break the chains of slavery, liberate oneself, and discover one's course in life, one's orbit in the universe of being.
No Christian charity in The Book of the Law? Coming from the Beast 666, the Antichrist, is that a surprise! But look at so-called Christian charity. The concept has been abused by unscrupulous individuals in business as well as the business of religion. Furthermore, Christian charity always seems to have strings attached, usually the one that the Christian will help if you promise to convert to his religion, Christian charity used as a means of converting, fairly brainwashing, the weak and easily influenced.
Symonds ignores CCXX II.21, "Compassion is the vice of kings". A Thelemite is a King [or Queen] of the Earth, ruler of him- or herself and his or her personal universe - a human of great strength. That strength may seem marred at times as it is his or her "vice" to feel compassion and act compassionately, often acting against the way of nature's law of survival of the fittest. The Thelemite thus gives what is needed to a fellow star in the body of Our Lady Nuit so that it may continue its journey, but never with strings attached, never to use as leverage to make converts. Once compassion is freely bestowed upon an idividual it is up to that individual which path he or she decides is proper for him- or herself.
"The Book of the Law falls into expressions of childish rage," Symonds says. "'Mercy let be off: damn them who pity! Kill and torture; spare not; be upon them!'" Et cetera. CCXX III.18 and similar verses is not an expression of childish rage, as viewed by the outrageously childish mind of John Symonds, but rather sound advice to those who will be set upon by the followers of the slave religions of the Dying God. When attacked by a foe, especially one of larger size and greater resources, it would be foolish to hold back anything in defense, or attack if one must attack. That which destroys the very fabric of human society must be mercilessly rooted out and utterly destroyed. What good would it be, for example, if a surgeon only half-heartedly goes after cancer in a patient and removes only a little, showing mercy to the cancer cells, leaving the rest behind to multiply and attack the patient again?
Symonds quotes CCXX I.15 which calls A.C. "the chosen priest & apostle of infinite space" and "the prince-priest the Beast" and goes on to say "In other words, the man Aleister Crowley was an avatar (or god in human form)". This is not exactly what it means. These are technical terms referring to the office A.C. filled. Besides, in a sense we are all gods in human form, avatars if you will, and that is what Crowley taught, as all true spiritual teachers have taught. It is the human's duty in life to realize his or her own godhood. We are to become one with our Holy Guardian Angel, also called the True Self, as well as the Daemon, and in Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon [and elsewhere] Daemon is defined as being "one's genius, one's lot or fortune", True Will as well as "a god, goddess". Again Symonds persists in telling only part of the truth and then shutting up so that he can make it appear as if Crowley were trying to set himself up as a god to be worshipped when instead he sought to enlighten his fellow human beings with the truth that we are all gods and goddesses.
With characterstic stupidity, Symonds even manages to undermine his own obvious efforts such as here where he wrote, "The emphasis of the New Aeon ... is on the fact that god is within, not without - there is no god - and that the soul or centre in man is the True Will." Aside from the fact that Symonds put the emphasis on the word "is" when it should be on the word "There", he has here contradicted a great deal of what he wrote or implied elsewhere in the book and confirms what I have just written.
A.C. did not create Thelema. In a sense, Thelema always was. However, Symonds likes to give the impression that Crowley made up a religion that would satisfy all of the petty desires Symonds would like us to believe A.C. was a slave to. Certainly Thelema suited Crowley! He was the embodiment of Thelema and it would have been odd indeed if the two were incompatible.
"The Book of the Law lacks the numinosity of authority of prophetic writings; and its rebellious sentiments exude an atmosphere incompatible with the 'praeter-human intelligence' which Aiwass was supposed to be."
In this place Symonds is trying to tell us that he is an authority on prophetic writings as well as being an expert on the extremely difficult psychology of praeter-human intelligences. Can you believe that? One might say that numinosity is in the eye of the beholder ... and Symonds is blind to the presence of the divine many of us find in The Book of the Law. It is not awe-inspiring to Symonds because he is incapable of actually seeing past his own ego and psychological complexes to SEE The Book that is before him.
Page 88: "In the third and last chapter of The Book of the Law instructions are given for the making of Cakes of Light, a Crowleian parody of the consecrated bread of Holy Communion." Symonds refers to CCXX III.25, but therein is no mention of transubstantiation. Furthermore, there is no parody of the Christian Communion, and the idea of some substance being filled with the essence of a god and then consumed to become one with that god is far more ancient than Christianity and the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. One might more accurately say that the Christians parodied this ancient magical rite!
On page 87 Symonds calls White Stains as well as Snowdrops from a Curate's Garden by Aleister Crowley "exceedingly filthy" and my answer to this is simply that filth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Again Mr. Symonds shows himself to be a slave to his Victorian Christian standards. Read by any rational person today these books will not be found to be "filthy", only perhaps a bit risque in a quaint sort of way, but even so only in an artistic and yet realistic manner.
Pages 90 and 91: "Snowdrops from a Curate's Garden...is too indelicate to quote. However..." and then Symonds proceeds to quote "To Pe or Not To Pe", which to him is filth - missing every nuance and implication, such as the reference to the Hebrew letter Pe, and which any rational reader today would only find amusing.
Page 92: "Mudd had tried to bring into England from Sicily some boxes of Crowley's manuscripts and paintings, and an album of obscene photographs, but had failed to get them through the Dover Customs authorities who destroyed them."
Obscene photographs may have been such things as photographs taken of Leah in the nude posing beside the Great Rock or some such thing. Again we take up the controversy between what is "obscene" and what is "art", and since I subscribe to Playboy, admire the art of realists who paint the human form, and have some photographs Symonds would consider obscene in my own photo album, you can imagine where my sympathies lie. Anyway, how would Symonds know if these manuscripts, paintings and photographs were truly obscene if they were destroyed by the Dover Customs authorities long before he even came into the picture and could not certainly have been there himself?
Symonds wrote, on page 97, regarding an article Crowley wrote for Pioneer Mail, "The first article contained a quite unnecessary, and unjustified, abuse of Alpine guides", in an attempt to make A.C. appear to be petty and vindictive. However, there does seem to be justification in what Crowley wrote concerning these "guides" and so it would be necessary to warn climbers regarding them, perhaps even to save the lives of climbers who would be at the mercy of these "guides".
On page 98 he wrote that A.C.'s article "included an attack on the Alpine Club" and was met with a rebuttal in the next issue of the publication, Symonds tells us, from "an outraged reader who signed himself 'A'." Symonds always seems to prefer the point of view of whomever it is who opposes Aleister Crowley and he tries to make the reader do likewise. But note that whereas A.C. signed his article, the rebuttal was left anonymous, probably indicating that the writer was not only an outraged reader but a member of the Alpine Club. And what of this club?
"[Oscar] Eckenstein's dislike of the Alpine Club was quite well known in his day. Most Britons employed Alpine guides when climbing abroad. Eckenstein and Crowley climbed without guides all over the world and were roundly criticized for it. Crowley accused the Alpine Club of 'virulent, dishonest, envious intrigues against guidless climbing and climbers.' Both men considered the guide routes on most peaks in the Alps to be little more than scrambles. ... Crowley's notoriety and Eckenstein's hatred of the Alpine Club led Himalayan historians to downplay the first K2 expedition. Crowley's name, and sometimes Eckenstein's, were purposely deleted from texts." This quotation is from In the Throne Room of the Mountain Gods by Galen Rowell who climbed K2, and it can be seen why an attack on the Alpine Club might well be justified. There are many reputable climbers today who have a similar contempt for the club.
We will leave Aleister on top of the mountain for now and take up this review of The Great Beast and John Symonds in another number of The Newaeon Newsletter.
To conclude: through the careful telling of only a part of the truth, insinuation and innuendo, irrational and impossible conclusions as well as the grossest of amateur psychologizing, John Symonds has done his very best to portray Aleister Crowley as some kind of a monster, or at least one of the most insane human beings to have ever walked the face of the earth. Yet throughout his attempt Mr. Symonds continually reveals a great deal of himself, his own Victorian attitudes towards sex, his destroy-him-even-at-the-expense-of-truth attitude, his own petty vindictiveness, and, in short, he is rendered so blind by malice that he proves himself ridiculous.
(TNN.V.3.6-8, JULY 1986 E.V.)
"He shaved his head, filed his teeth to stiletto-like points, believed in the devil, tried to enchant women by puncturing their throats with vampire-like 'serpent's kisses,' copulated with animals and dined on the dung of diseased prostitutes."
"With that carte blanche, Crowley and a few of his cronies were able to get away with practically anything short of homicide. When he graduated from Cambridge University, Crowley, who by now had come into his majority, proposed to some of his fellow sex buffs to take a flat in a posh London suburb. There they constructed a wierd [sic] sex temple... This, however, did not have any untoward effect on his women companions. They flocked to Crowley's little temple for continuous orgies. ..."
The above quotations are taken from a fortunately obscure little paperback book entitled The Sexually Obsessed by M. D. Nevins (The Genell Corporation, 14525 Valerio Street, Van Nuys, CA, 1965 E.V.), and if you are saying at the moment, "Oh bloody hell - aren't we ever going to finish with Symonds and his awful book!" I will have to answer, "Yes. Eventually. However, it is because of such books as the above quoted one that we must go yet a little further."
John Symonds by way of his book The Great Beast, as we have shown in TNN IV.6, V.1 and 3, misinforms the readers of his book regarding Aleister Crowley's character, deeds and ideals, and slanders both the memory of Crowley and the nature of Thelema. Today, perhaps upon an even greater scale than during A.C.'s lifetime, Our Father the Beast is being slandered by almost everyone who wishes to write of or make mention of him. And in most cases we can trace the origin of the "untruths" about A.C. primarily to a single book - The Great Beast by John Symonds.
Symonds, who pretended to be a friend to A.C. in his last days on earth, soon after Crowley had died and was unable to defend himself, wrote the highly misleading and misinforming book which twists the truth far out of shape, albeit sometimes subtly, rudely attacking Crowley and mostly through inference and innuendo lying about the man. The pity is that this book endures, and thus it continues to slander Aleister Crowley. The Great Beast, even though first published in 1951 E.V., continues to aversely influence others and, at least to some small degree, undermine the Great Work of Our Father the Beast Six Hundred Threescore and Six, Aleister Crowley. And that is why we cannot finish with it quickly. It is a large book, so full of lies and deliberate distortions of the truth that a full commentary would take another book, and it has had such a bad influence over so many writers and readers for so long that it cannot, unfortunately, be easily dispensed with. So with that long explanation written, let us once again pick up where we left off and study The Great Beast and its author, John Symonds. Let us continue with our review.
In regards to the quotations from The Sexually Obsessed: it is from various pages of The Great Beast, such as page 224 [the 1973 E.V. Mayflower Books Ltd edition], that such tales come. On this page, for instance, Symonds wrote, "He had, it is true, some peculiar habits, that of giving women the Serpent's Kiss, for example, or of defecating on the drawing-room carpet or on the stairs of a friend's house." Such tall tales as that of the Serpent's Kiss, which claims that A.C. had had his teeth filed to points so that he could draw blood from the unfortunate victim of the kiss, came to Symonds secondhand, if not worse, and from such sources as "Mrs Madeline B.", whomever she might be. Symonds never bothered to point out how unlikely it would have been for a rational man to have his teeth filed to points, and Crowley was certainly a rational man, but he happily accepts such tall tales and passes them on then comments on them - "This revolting habit is described in Crowley's novel, Moonchild." Oh, he did have natural spaces between his teeth probably due to a vitamin deficiency when he was young, and it may be that A.C. had chipped a tooth and found that he could scratch someone with it with a kiss, and he just may have so scratched one or two ladies unexpectedly and deliberately as a practical joke, imp that he sometimes was, but I greatly doubt that he turned it into a habit. However, to twist the truth or accept tall tales as facts or simply out and out lie was the guideline for this book's writing. And other, later, and often purely sensationalistic writers eagerly accept these twisted truths, tall tales and lies as truth and further proceed to pervert and embellish upon them. Instead of going to the original source, most of these "writers" build their tales upon the tales of others and if they go back to earlier sources at all they go back no further than Symonds' book.
The rest of that first paragraph quoted, "believed in the devil...copulated with animals and dined on the dung of diseased prostitutes", is not even worthy of comment.
As for the so-called "sex temple" Nevins refers to, we can look to page 153 of The Great Beast where the charges of The Looking Glass against Crowley are brought up: "Crowley had also lived with 'the rascally sham Buddhist monk Allan Bennett', and under their roof 'unmentionable immoralities' had been committed. George Cecil Jones was also dragged in..." Symonds relays the story, in part, but never bothers to point out that none of this was true, thus leaving room for all kinds of perverted hack literary inventions. The fact is simply that A.C. shared rooms with Bennett to give him a decent place to live and learn more about magic and drugs from Allan. There was no sex club that women were flocking to, it is highly unlikely there were many if any women in those rooms since Bennett did not care for sexual intercourse - of any kind. But enough of Nevins and his outrageously slanderous book. Let us concentrate solely upon Symonds' slanderous book!
Throughout the book Symonds sneers at A.C. such as on page 228: "Upon his arrival in New York, he naturally continued (as he put it) his researches in the IX°, and his diary contains the names of quite a few prostitutes for that purpose." "As he put it"? He worded it that way because that is the way it was. He was conducting research, which of course the dirty little Victorian mind of John Symonds refuses to view as such. Oh, admittedly, I am sure he often enjoyed the research, then again the subject of the research aside, does not every researcher enjoy his work?
And on page 248: "The wizard, in fact, replied only through one or other of the occult systems with which Crowley was familiar." This is one of the sneering ways Symonds loves to infer that, in this case, Amalantrah, the "wizard", was only a figment of A.C.'s imagination and not a separate entity, a master of the inner planes of consciousness. Now aside from the fact that one can argue that it would be unusual to discover an occult system of symbology that Crowley was not familiar with, one can simply exercise reason and logic here and answer: Well, why shouldn't Amalantrah speak to Crowley in systems of symbology that he would understand? He was trying to communicate with him. You would not walk up to an American, for instance, who spoke only English, and with the purpose of communicating begin speaking French! However, Symonds does not expect the reader to exercise reason and logic. He expects the reader to simply believe what he writes, follow his lead without question, and accept the inferences and innuendos - and unfortunately this is what most readers seem to do.
Sometimes we can commend Symonds for a paragraph or two, such as that found on page 220: "The purpose of these operations of High Magick Art [in reference to The Paris Working -ED] was to obtain priestly power and, on a lower plane, money. It would therefore be a mistake to think that the celebrants were performing the rites for sexual pleasure. The aim of Brothers O.S.V. [Crowley] and L.T. [Victor Neuburg] was congress with gods. Besides, we do not know for certain that they derived, amid these cloudy visions and exhausting sodomitical practices, any pleasure at all." Or can we commend Symonds? It still comes out that these two men practiced "sodomy" and that word has a "filthy" connotation for just about everyone. Fact is, since the basic definition of sodomy is "any sexual intercourse regarded as abnormal" we are all probably sodomists according to someone's standards of sexual normalcy. There are many who regard use of the tongue in a passionate kiss, oral sex, and even sexual fantasizing as abnormal. I might accept sexual intercourse between a human and an animal as sodomy, i.e. abnormal, but even though I am a practising heterosexual [practising as much as I can; bound to get it right some day!] I do not think I would care to label sexual intercourse between two homosexuals or lesbians "sodomy" as it is, for them, normal. Then again, Crowley, and perhaps even Neuburg, was not a homosexual, although one might classify him as bisexual, or simply heterosexual but hedonistic and uninhibited enough to experiment for the sake of legitimate experimentation. Oh, let's not confuse the matter. The point is that even when Symonds writes something that seems to defend Crowley it somehow still comes out accomplishing just the opposite.
Getting now upon a more definite track, on page 147 Symonds calls the A.·.A.·. "Ordo Argentei Astri" when it should be Argenteum Astrum, defined as the Silver Star.
Page 150 implies that it was Crowley who drove his first wife, Rose Edith (Kelly), to alcoholism - "The first indication of the break-up of Crowley's marriage was that Rose began to drink heavily" - when in fact she was a budding alcoholic before even meeting A.C., and anyway, no one really drives another to drink; only a person's own weakness drives that person to drink. While on the following page Symonds writes "that he entertained his mistresses at home and, at times, hung her [Rose] up by the heels in the wardrobe." Clearly this is another tall tale. A.C. never did such a thing. However, again Symonds enjoys telling the tale in a matter-of-fact way so that the incautious reader will simply accept it without thought.
Page 152 has Symonds telling the reader that in "Crowley's philosophy ... there is no God, and that one can therefore do what one wills", which completely perverts the meaning of two important phrases. When Crowley wrote or said "There is no God" the emphasis was put on the first word, "there", indicating that God was not to be found without but rather within, which is an essential teaching of just about every world religion, and can be discovered by the careful student who is willing to look beyond the dogma built up over these original teachings over the centuries. "There is no God" does not mean that there is no God, but rather that God should be realized from within. Symonds would have the reader believe that Crowley was an atheist when in fact he was a theist. As for the second statement Symonds perverts, he says "do what one wills" as if to say that Crowley preached that "Do what thou wilt" means do whatever you bloody well please, and yet frequently among Crowley's writings one will find statements like: "'Do what thou wilt' does not mean 'Do what you like.'" [Liber II, The Message of the Master Therion] Crowley often goes on to explain that to do as you like or please is to serve the petty desires of the ego, and that that was contrary to the Law of Thelema, "Do what thou wilt", which is a command to discover and accomplish one's True Will or purpose for existing, serving not the ego but the True Self, doing the Will of one's Holy Guardian Angel, Genius or Daemon, that is to say, the Will of God. [Daemon in Greek, by the way, means, in part, "a god".]
Page 263 has it that "Many mysteries in The Book of the Law immediately became clear to Crowley" when the key of AL was discovered "and he changed the name of Liber Legis to accord with this discovery." A small error to be sure, but the book is filled with such errors. When The Book was dictated to Crowley by his Angel Aiwass he wrote down the title as he heard it, "Liber L vel Legis", and did not realize that the "L" he had heard was "AL", sometimes written "EL", being Aleph Lamed in Hebrew. He did not change the title of The Book - he corrected it.
Throughout The Great Beast Symonds remarks that Crowley's favourite manner of sexual intercourse with women was "per vas nefandum", a phrase meaning "by the unmentionable vessel" which Crowley frequently used to describe the form of sexual intercourse he was practising, and Symonds tells us that this refers to anal sex. It may be true, in some cases, but it is doubtful. It is most likely that he is referring to "straight" sexual intercourse during the menstrual cycle which was not only a means of creating a specific kind of energy, during an especially "psychic period" for the woman, but back in the good old days it was the surest means of "birth control" or contraception. However, again, Symonds is trying his damnest to convince the reader that Crowley was a sodomist.
On page 154, just because Crowley had gotten tired of being slandered and taking it stoically, Symonds writes "Crowley developed a mania for sueing [sic] people". It was hardly a mania. First of all he had not attempted to sue more than a few people who had slandered him and should have been taken to court for the libelous statements they made. Secondly, there was a practical reason - A.C. needed money just for the simple purpose of survival if nothing else and who owed him more than the people who were endangering his survival in society and profiting unfairly from it? To have obtained money from his detractors, who were making it difficult for Crowley to earn a living, by winning a law suit would have been justice.
Page 196: "And Crowley had a fault; it was lack of introspection..." Anyone who has read, for instance, The Confessions of Aleister Crowley can clearly see the falsehood of this statement. Introspection is the observation and analysis of one's own thoughts, feelings, reactions, and so forth, and this Crowley did constantly, often "kicking himself in the ass" for acting stupidly.
Page 223: Symonds tells how Crowley and Neuburg worked magically for money and when it came through Neuburg he "was spending it freely but not on him [A.C.] or even, it seems, with him. The Paris Working ends, therefore, on a note of petty jealousy." Clearly Symonds was implying that Crowley was prone to petty jealousy when in fact the paragraph, rationally read, does not show jealousy. The two were attempting, in part, to attract money for the purpose of furthering their Work in a society that is economically based, Neuburg being the assistant, and when that money came to them Neuburg kept it for himself. They shared in the work but Neuburg did not share in the profit from that work and instead wasted it on the superficial things of ego. Certainly it was nothing for Crowley to be pleased about, and his displeasure was not jealousy - he had merely seen all of his magical work wasted, the profits ill and unjustly spent.
Page 226: Symonds wishes to make Crowley look unscrupulous in regards to the obtaining of money. He writes, "Poverty or ambition, which makes men commit all manner of things, had turned Crowley into an adventurer and, it was said, blackmailer." Bad enough to depict Crowley as an unscrupulous adventurer employing his esoteric knowledge to con people out of money, which was not the case, but he repeats an unfounded and untrue rumour that A.C. was a blackmailer and drops it without explanation. The logical conclusion, for the superficial reader that is, is that Crowley was a blackmailer. He never practised blackmail and that is why no proof was offered - there is none, there cannot be any. As for being an unscrupulous adventurer - partly due to the fact that the yellow journalism of his time had branded him in such a way that it made it near impossible for him to get anything published, Crowley did lack money, and lacking money in an economically based society means that one cannot do many things, including such simple things as eating. Crowley did set out on adventures to earn money so that he could continue to survive in a society that was hostile to him so that he could continue his Work. Some such adventures were the translation of Charles Baudelaire's Little Poems in Prose, the editing and annotating of A Prophet in His Own Country by Henry Clifford Stuart, and the ghost writing of Evangeline Adams' book Astrology: Your Place in the Sun. Admittedly some of his adventures were less conventional and aimed at those who had plenty of money, but there was nothing unscrupulous or illegal about them and there was certainly nothing unjust about looking towards people with an abundance of money that they would otherwise waste, instead of people who had little or no money, as a source of income that could be turned to good. Symonds, like so many others, neglects to say that A.C. did a great deal of work without financial profit in mind and that he often published his own works, before he had been badly slandered and while he had the money, and either gave them away or put such a low price upon them that they were well within the reach of those who had very little money to spend. Crowley had, in fact, spent most of his original "fortune" in an effort to accomplish the Great Work and, generally speaking, to continue this work in society was the primary reason he sought funds. Books are not printed by printers unless they are paid, and if they are not printed their words cannot be read, and if they cannot be read the writer cannot reach the people. Symonds is being irrational, counting on his readers not to exercise reason. Even Jesus cultivated wealthy friends and followers, but we do not see Symonds suggesting that he was a poverty-stricken and ambitious man [which he was] who would "commit all manner of things" for money! And I find it interesting how Symonds can make the title "an adventurer" sound sinister when in fact many great men in history can be said to have been adventurers - such men as Sir Richard Burton, George Washington, Lewis and Clark, Thomas Edison, and yes, even Jesus the Nazarene!
On page 257 Symonds points out that "Poverty and humiliation are the words which Crowley used to describe his five years' stay in America. He had no money of his own, apart from the pittance he earned as editor of, and chief contributor to, The International ... How, then, did he furnish a luxurious apartment and have expensive cigarettes and cognac? Leah had no money. ..." then he leaves the question hang as if to say "Perhaps he supported himself with blackmail". Of course the careful reader does not have to go far to dispel the insinuated accusation. One merely has to turn to two pages in the same book where Symonds supplies the probable answer which he here has so mysteriously forgotten. Page 239: "One item in Crowley's diary for the American period (6 May 1917), arises above the clouds of incense. 'Had news of my mother's death.'" The previous mention of the luxurious apartment and all was referring to a period of time after 1917, 1918 or a little later. And on page 150 Symonds wrote in a footnote: "In 1909, Crowley had no money to give away but he was due to inherit £4,000 on the death of his mother. He therefore created a discretionary trust fund, the income of which, when available, was to be divided between his daughter and himself at the discretion of the trustees - George Cecil Jones and Oscar Eckenstein." It would seem quite clear then that the funds Crowley obtained to furnish a luxurious apartment [and "luxurious" is a relative term] came from no mysterious or illegal source, but rather that money was simply his portion of the inheritance left to him after his mother's death. It should also be remembered that he was translating and annotating the works of others and even earning money as a ghostwriter, probably more than we are aware of at present. [I have a suspicious book at present that I discovered at a rare bookshop written by one Michael Monahan, a name that was frequently used by A.C. in writing various articles for the English Review and other publications, the subjects discussed with a leg-pulling kind of wit being those that were common to Crowley. Certainly Crowley earned money quite legally with many such projects that perhaps artistic pride, or in some cases agreements made with the authors given credit, prevented him from discussing, leaving the way open for scandalmongers like John Symonds. -ED]
Often throughout the book Symonds tries to make Crowley seem like a pot calling the kettle black, that is to say, a thief calling others thieves, manically claiming, falsely, that others had stolen from him. One such instance is to be found on page 261. The turth of the matter is that many people did cheat Crowley out of income and profits that were rightly his, that people did, during his lifetime, steal from Crowley and even after his death continue to steal from him. Take, for instance, the theft of the Crowley-Germer library whereupon several rare books, manuscripts and artifacts were stolen and mostly lost forever. Symonds himself even writes, on page 454, with how much truth I do not know, that "The breath had not long departed from him [Crowley upon his death -ED] when someone crept up the stairs, entered the room where the body lay and stole his gold watch." And today we have people falsely claiming to own all of Crowley's copyrights, while most of his work is actually in the Public Domain, virtually trying to "steal" his works for the profit they can derive from them.
Symonds, twisting facts and drawing conclusions from them which he serves up to his readers, tries very hard to prove Crowley a megalomaniac, an ego gone wild, which I am sure some people thought of Jesus the Nazarene and Gotama Buddha while they were simply being rather matter of fact about their place in the world.
On page 173: "Aleister Crowley had returned, so to speak, to one of his previous incarnations; the spirit of Lao-tzu had regained an earthly shell." This is highly misleading, in part because it implies that A.C. claimed to be the reincarnation of Lao-Tzu, author of the Tao Teh Ching, whereas even Symonds tells us on page 14 of his book that one of Crowley's past incarnations was that of "the Chinese sage, Ko Hsuan, a disciple of Lao-tzu". Following Symonds' bit of manufactured evidence which tries to put forth the case that A.C. was an egomaniac is one of the many statements which tries to prove that he had a schizoid personality. "He felt himself to be someone else every minute." In point of fact, Crowley became increasingly aware of his past incarnations, the various personae [Latin for "masks"] that he had expressed Himself through, which included his present self, and he was capable of viewing the world through other points of view than his own. This does not indicate a schizophrenic personality. What it does indicate is that he had truly experienced initiations, he had integrated the various aspects of his current persona and of his previous personae, and that he was hardly the slave of ego which demands that it is, in a manner of speaking, the one and only true god.
Page 202 tells us that a certain vision "reveals only Crowley's megalomania and identification with Christ", although Symonds does not relay the entire vision which he says "The continuation of" reveals. We are simply supposed to take his word for it. However, since Crowley was the Beast 666, the Antichrist [or if you do not believe he was, assuming that he was for the sake of argument - and after all, someone has/had to be!], he would be perfectly right to feel a sense of identification with Christ, as well as the other World Teachers like Gotama Buddha and Lao Tzu. The Beast 666 is just that - another World Teacher - the Antichrist, and here we would like to point out that the prefix "anti" not only means "opposed to" but also "in behalf of" and "in place of", and as "Antitheos" in the Bible is always translated as "God-like", so too may "Antichristos" be legitimately translated as "Christ-like". There is no absolute evil in the concept of the Beast, the Antichrist. He is merely the next World Teacher, who will also be some day replaced. The replacement of previous World Teachers, or more correctly, the correcting of the perversions of their once pure teachings and amplification or expansion of these teachings for sake of the ever expanding consciousness of humankind is a natural process.
Page 217: "he regarded himself as no less than the Buddha". The major error here, an intentional twist of the facts, is that A.C. did not regard himself as the Buddha, but rather a Buddha. The word "Christ", for instance, is by most people associated exclusively with Jesus the Nazarene. The term Christ, however, like its Hebrew version, Messiah, merely means "anointed" or "The Anointed One", and like the term "Saviour" or the Greek "Soter" it was used in connection with others before Jesus was born. The same holds true for "Buddha". Usually associated exclusively with Gotama Siddhartha in the minds of most people, the word Buddha is "a title given by Buddhists to someone regarded as having divine wisdom and virtue and has been applied to other religious leaders of Asia," as even Webster's dictionary points out. There is an even wider usage of the term "Buddha" expressed by an old Buddhist monk on a British documentary I once viewed. When the Englishman asked "Who is Buddha?" the old monk smiled, which for me was all the answer he had to give, then he elaborated for the Westerner, "I am Buddha, you are Buddha, everything is Buddha," employing the term in much the same way as one would the Chinese "Tao". Most disturbing here about what Symonds is doing is that he must be aware of some of this and this would mean that his attempts to misguide and misinform the reader are deliberate.
Page 239: "Having thrown down Christ ... he sets himself up in Christ's place ... his aim since the time he decided that he was the Beast of Revelation. Some people are just weak and do nothing about it, but Crowley made a religion out of his weakness."
What any of this had to do with weakness is beyond me. There is no logic to what Symonds wrote in this place. However, one only has to read The Book of the Law once to see that Thelema is not founded upon weakness, but rather has its foundation in strength, and for Crowley to have survived seventy-two years in this society, surviving a hardly ideal childhood and more then the last half of his life battling poverty, illness, more than his share of disappointments, the natural deaths of more than one child, the constant attacks the yellow journalistic publications of his time launched at him in order to boost their sagging circulations, outrageous slanders that prevented Crowley from being able to deal with this economically based society in a reasonable manner, not to mention the physical and psychological strength and prowess needed to climb the highest mountains in the world - all this only serves to prove that Crowley was a man of remarkable strength, a strength and nobility of character that far exceeds the prudish and narrowminded weakness of Mr. John Symonds. It is a curious fact, I have often noticed, that frequently the people guilty of certain, let us say, "offences" are the very people who go about falsely claiming that others that they perhaps fear or envy are guilty of those offences, projecting their weakness and failings on others rather than recognizing them in themselves. Thus such a book as The Great Beast, while being a perversion of the facts which incorrectly portrays the subject of the book, often reveals much more of the true nature of the author himself, in this case Symonds. If Symonds claims that Crowley had a pornographic mind and a megalomaniac nature one can be reasonably sure that behind the prim and inhibited Victorian standards of this author there lies a creature that secretly revels in pornography and that his constant struggle to debunk such persons as Aleister Crowley and Madame H. P. Blavatsky shows Symonds to be a megalomaniac who bleieves that he has all the answers as well as the right to pervert the truth whenever he deems it necessary to accomplish the purpose of his petty and inflated ego.
Page 261: "Among the regulations for the good conduct of the Order set out in 'Liber CI' is the ambitious, not to say snobbish, injunction (which irritated at least one humble would-be follower) that 'Every Brother is expected to use all his influence with persons in a superior station of life (so called) to induce them to join the Order. Royal personages, ministers of State, high officials in the Diplomatic, Naval, Military, and Civil Services are particularly to be sought after.'"
While Symonds writes "not to say snobbish" it is apparent that he who is himself "snobbish" sees this attitude where it is not. Snobbism, of course, is a symptom of ego and here again Symonds is doing his best to make Crowley seem to be dominated by the petty ego, a thing which we can be sure Symonds himself suffers from. The above injunction, however, relating to the O.T.O., a fraternal order of a temporal nature, is merely a logical and rational means of building the strength of the order in society and of further promoting the establishment of Thelema in the world. There is nothing "snobbish" in this practical plan. If not for the conversion of Constantine I, emperor of Rome, where would Christianity be today? It was this single event more than any other in history that elevated the underground and persecuted "cult" to the position of a legally recognized "religion".
Pages 230-233: "Crowley was, of course, both a traitor and a 'crank', and Viereck knew it..."
"Without hesitation or any search of his heart, he began to publish in The Fatherland the crudest propaganda against Great Britain and in praise of Germany. And when The International, another publication run by the same firm, was turned over to him to edit for a weekly wage of twenty dollars, he filled it up with anti-British balderdash and magick...
"The resentment flowed forth but without much conviction, as if he did not care whom he was abusing and could, with little persuasion, turn it against someone else. The asides in his articles of hate show that Crowley was still a schoolboy."
"Crowley's own summary of these activities sounds too much like a man trying to double back on his tracks; he had supported the losing side and, with characteristic effrontery, he tried to make out that he had been doing his best for England all along. 'I decided,' he wrote, 'on a course of action, which seemed to me the only one possible in a situation which I regarded as immensely serious. I would write for The Fatherland. By doing so I should cut myself off temporarily from all my friends, from all sources of income; I should apparently dishonour a name which I considered it my destiny to make immortal...'" And before this on the same page, Symonds very sarcastically wrote: "It was his method of helping the Allies. He was trying 'to wreck the German propaganda on the roof [sic] of Reductio ad Absurdum'. Through his advocacy of unrestricted German submarine warfare, for example, he indirectly brought American into the war. He should, he said, have been given the Victoria Cross."
This accusation that Crowley was a traitor during World War I has been eagerly picked up from Symonds by numerous later writers and it has done a great deal of harm.
First of all when one thinks of "the war with Germany" one automatically thinks of Hitler and the Nazi party, and yet these were facets of World War II; the war with Germany that is here referred to is World War I and that was a very different war against a very different Germany. Quite unfairly Germany had been blockaded and cut off as it was the German people were suffering greatly - they felt that they had no choice but to fight or die. Therefore it is not surprising to find that Crowley, who "was in favour of a fair deal for everyone" (page 229), and who admired the great German intellect, sympathized with the German cause, upset with the bullying of the Allies, his own people, which must have caused him some shame. Crowley was not a one dimensional man. There were many facets to his character and he was capable of understanding various opposing points of view. Because of this, while he did sympathize with old pre-Nazi Germany, Crowley also found that he was a loyal British citizen and he was, in effect, torn between his two allegiances. It was not unlike a child being asked to decide between his divorcing parents, either live with one or the other. In Crowley's case he was being asked to choose either his British Motherland or the German Fatherland and he could see the right and the wrong in both of these. Thus with some conviction he could write anti-British propaganda, and yet, since he was restricted, barred, from serving his country in any other way after volunteering his services to the British government, and since writing was his business and he was unquestionably a master of the English language with a sharp sense of wit and humour, he set out to destroy the German propaganda machine from within, and apparently with some success. Crowley was not being a "schoolboy". He was being deliberately childish so as to make the high-sounding pro-German propaganda absurd, catering to the egos of such men as Viereck who would be blind to the absuridty. Writing for both The Fatherland and The International not only enabled Crowley to undermine the German propaganda machine, at least in part, but it was a quite practical means of survival since, while it did not pay much, it enabled him to keep food in his belly and a roof over his head, and furthermore these magazines enabled him to reach out to people and teach them about magick and Thelema, which was part of his True Will, and a study of the 1917-18 issues of The International [it folded early on in 1918 E.V.] shows that more and more the magazine became less propaganda and more magically oriented, written mostly by Crowley under various pseudonyms.
Trying to prove that A.C. was ineffective Symonds tells us that Commodore Gaunt, head of Naval Intelligence in America, said to "'Let him alone, I have got a complete line on him and also The Fatherland.'" - and that Gerald Kelly, Crowley's brother-in-law and friend who had turned against him due to the marriage to and divorce from Rose, "who was working as a secret agent in Spain during the war, was also asked for his opinion of Crowley. He too, advised leaving Crowley alone..." Ineffectual? Well, that would be one reason not to bother Crowley while he was writing for The Fatherland and The International. Another reason, however, to have left him alone would have been that he was indeed most effective in undermining the German propaganda effort by reducing it to the absurd.
Symonds wrote, incorrectly, that "he knew that he could not persuade anyone that he was really working for Britain by his reductio ad absurdum method of propaganda; and he himself did not believe it." This final statement has absolutely nothing to back it up because Crowley did indeed believe it and it was the simple truth. And oddly enough, Symonds cannot help but to constantly undermine his own propaganda. For example, while claiming that Crowley's efforts were ineffective, he tells us in The Great Beast, as quoted above, that Crowley "indirectly brought America into the war." That was, of course, one of Crowley's objectives! For the success of Britain and the Allies' cause, America's assistance was necessary. It was only a matter of time before America got involved anyway, but while the President and Congress were dragging their feet things were going very bad for Great Britain and the Allies. The sooner the United States was brought into the war the better, for America as well as the Allies. Symonds cannot help himself. Although he fights against Crowley with every ounce of his being, he must undermine his own arguments and admit the truth somewhere amidst his lies. This is not only due to John Symonds' weakness founded in falsehood, but also upon the strength and essential nobility of Aleister Crowley's character.
"On 14 June 1917, he analysed his mind in general and his attitude towards the war in particular, and concluded with the view that his psyche was split into two independent halves, on one of which was written patriot, on the other traitor.
'I am getting quite to the point of habitual recognition of myself as Aiwass, and it does much good. But I have seen lately the danger of having a mental machine which functions so independently of the Self, and even of the human will. E.g. all my sympathies are most profoundly with the Allies; but my brain refuses to think as sympathizers seem to do; so in argument I often seem "pro-German".'"
Here again Symonds tries to make Crowley seem schizophrenic, not only a traitor but a lunatic. He, of course, lacks the knowledge which can only be gained from personal experience to enable him to recognize some of the fundamental differences between the psychology of an average human being and the psychology of a magician. Schizophrenia, which essentially means "to divide the mind", is a mental disorder characterized by indifference and withdrawal as well as delusions of persecution. Anyone can clearly see that the persecution that Crowley suffered from was hardly a delusion - it was printed in black and white for everyone to see and still be seen by the researcher. And it is just as obvious that Crowley was certainly not indifferent, to either the fate of Britain or Germany, and far from withdrawal he waded right into the thick of things! The difference I mentioned is essentially this: the common person who becomes schizophrenic divides himself into two or more separate individual characters that disagree with one another - he suffers from duality of self, the false self, the ego. The magician, on the other hand, may seem to be rather "schizophrenic" to the careless observer, but in fact he is not dividing himself when recognizing the legitimate rights of opposing points of view, he is not being divided by a dualistic, fractured ego, but rather he is going beyond the limitations of ego and thus enabled to see and experience the various viewpoints because of a unification, an integration of self which brings about the realization of the True Self, a oneness, as it were, with That which one truly is and which the persona is only a convenient and temporary mask for, a means of Self-expression. The problem that Crowley makes mention of is that he became aware of how others could incorrectly perceive the magician and how the magician himself could hamper his own work in the world if the union of self and not-self, as A.C. would put it, was not perfect, if one's persona had not yet fully realized its True Self, in Crowley's case Aiwass.
In a manner of speaking, Crowley was both pro-German and against pre-Nazi Germany, as well as pro-British and against the British action against Germany which brought about the only reaction Germany could take to try and save itself - war. For the extremely objective individual, few and far between, as well as the Master of the Temple, Crowley's way of thought is perfectly Understandable. No one is absolutely right or wrong, good or evil, in both Germany and Britain, however, when all was said and done, Aleister Crowley was a loyal Englishman and did what he thought was best for Great Britain, his options limited when his government rejected his offers of assistance.
Page 160's footnote: "No One (Nemo) was another of Crowley's magical titles." This title was not exclusively A.C.'s, but like "Babe of the Abyss" it is applied to anyone undergoing a certain ordeal, or in this case one who has successfully undergone a specific magical ordeal. Symonds' lack of personal experience and genuine, comprehensive knowledge of magick and the Path of the Wise makes him most unsuitable as a magician's biographer. He is very much without Understanding of the subject about which he writes.
Page 171: "D of the A" is interpreted to mean that Crowley was "The Demon of the Aeon", the present Æon of Horus that is, but again we are misled for it would be correct to interpret this as the Daemon of the Æon, this word meaning, in Greek, "a god", that is to say, the essential godhood or Genius in all of us, whereas Demon refers to a lower entity often considered to be malefic, although even a demon need not be actually "evil" no matter how destructive it may be to the human that it comes in contact with, just as the fire which burns a man is not necessarily evil. Furthermore, whereas Daemon is equivalent to the Supraconscious Self or Mind, i.e. the fully realized and integrated being, Demon is, at least in part, equivalent to the Subconscious Self or Mind, a mere fraction of the ego - a psychological complex. So here we have Symonds again subtly perverting the facts to slander and villify Crowley.
What a weak coward John Symonds is. He proves his cowardly weakness by taking the easy course. Rather than trying to understand Aleister Crowley, rather than trying to explain and defend Aleister Crowley, Symonds seeks to slander and destroy the man and his work - and how easy it is to wreck another man's reputation with lies and innuendo, especially when one has decades of yellow journalism, envious gossip and jealous rumour, and sensationalistic "literature" to back one up. How spineless the man who cannot face himself, deal with his own inner demons, and instead turn against another, a man who is greater than he could ever hope to be, and seek to destroy him with lies - and in the ultimate "behind the back" manner, after the man has died and cannot defend himself.
Page 173: "The Saxon k, added to the c in magick, was here [in Book Four] used by him for the first time, to link his brand with the Science of the Magi, as opposed to mere conjuring tricks. It has also a secret meaning, for the k stands for kteis, Greek for the female genitals which were now playing a large part in Crowley's magical operations."
True so far as it goes, but the final K in "Magick" also represents the Hebrew letter Kaph which is spelled out in full as Kaph Pe or in English KPh, which is the union between K(teis), the Greek equivalent of Yoni, and Ph(allus), the Greek equivalent of Lingam, that is to say, the union of the two apparent opposites in nature, Yin and Yang, via Love Under Will.
Page 177: "CROWLEY was a friendless man, not because he had no one to be friendly with, but because, like all founders of religions, he wanted followers, not friends."
Not only is this a gross generalization, but contradictory to things he had wirtten elsewhere in The Great Beast. Crowley was not a "friendless man". He had had many friends, many of whom were quite famous in their own right, though many of those friendships deteriorated over the years, partly due to the strain that had been put upon them by the constant villification levelled at Crowley in the press and society. It is quite natural for friends to come and go in one's life and under such special circumstances as those in Crowley's life it is even more natural for this to happen. As for the charge that he sought followers not friends, there may be some justificaiton for this, but not as Symonds means it. Since he was not dominated by ego, Crowley did not hunger after the accumulation of friends as most people do only to find later that when the chips are down most "friends" turn out to be fair-weather-friends. If Crowley acquired a friend it was not through conscious effort but merely the product of mutual attraction and appreciation. Such was the attraction between Crowley and Allan Bennett, the two remaining friends until the death of the latter, and he never tried to convert Bennett to Thelema knowing he was comfortable, finally, as a Buddhist monk. Crowley and Oscar Eckenstein were the best of friends for a number of years, in fact there is no evidence to suggest that their friendship ever ceased even long after they stopped seeing each other, but quite the contrary, and Crowley never sought Eckenstein as his follower, but rather looked up to him, as to Bennett, as someone to follow in a sense, someone to learn from. However, while not exactly looking for followers to personally worship him in an ego cult, Crowley did seek out would-be Thelemites for the strength and greater establishment of Thelema in the world for the cure of the dis-eases of this often chaotic planet constantly divided by strife.
Page 179: "the philosophy of the left-hand path which is called 'sexual magic'." Here we have a problem with language and terminology which Symonds uses to his benefit, to make "sex magick" seem like something terribly evil - "black magic". In the West, "the left-hand path" has always implied "black magic". However, there is nothing "evil" in "sex magick", especially as the greater the love involved the greater the power generated and although love in itself is neither "good" nor "evil" and can be either, in a manner of speaking, the love involved in "sex magick" is selfless and giving and that purifies it. "Sex magick" is of the "right-hand path" in Western terminology - the black magician and especially the black brother generally incapable of producing much power by means of "sex magick" since they cannot act or think selflessly - but in Eastern terminology it is of the "left-hand path" as it deals with the lunar current [generally women] as opposed to the solar current dealt with in Eastern magick of the "right-hand path". The fundamental difference in terminology is that we in the West generally think of "good" and "evil" as distinct absolutes, which they are not in reality, while in the East there generally seems to be greater enlightenment and the relative nature of "good" and "evil" are more easily recognized. Whereas the West thinks in terms of morals, the East thinks in terms of polarities. And so there is confusion when employing such terms as "the left-hand path" which means something entirely different in the East than it does here in the West. And Symonds uses this to his advantage, never explaining this difference in perspective and meaning.
Page 255: "He does not tell us anything of Leah's personality, for he was incapable of drawing a portrait of anyone." Perhaps this is a matter of opinion and I for one am of the opinion that The Confessions alone paints a multitude of interesting portraits of such people as Leah Hirsig.
On page 210 Symonds says that he found Crowley's short story "The Stratagem" to be "one of the poorest" he had ever read. Again we will simply dismiss this and such statements as a simple matter of opinion and personal taste. I like the story.
Of course one of John Symonds' greatest personal problems is his lack of a true sense of humour, which in turn causes him to take himself too seriously, inflating his ego, which tries to prove that everyone is in error but he himself. As is so common to these people who try to set themselves higher by attempting to lower another, Symonds delights in pointing out Crowley's errors, with the usual effect of showing that A.C. was not in error but only that Symonds himself lacked the ability to understand what was actually said. Take for example page 261 where Crowley describes George Macnie Cowie as being "'deaf and dumb'" and Symonds is quick to point out in a footnote that the man "was, in fact, only deaf." His lack of a true sense of humour and all that that entails caused Symonds to miss the joke. By "dumb" Crowley was, in his usual tongue-in-cheek manner, exercising a play on words and meant that Cowie was, although capable of speech, so stupid as to be incapable of intelligent speech. It is this lack of a well developed sense of humour that leads many people as well as would-be magicians astray, causing them to miss certain things, misunderstand other things, taking too much too seriously, most of all themselves, and then becoming a slave to their own egos.
"When writing about sex," Symonds wrote on page 186, "Crowley usually adopted an ironically pompous tone, as if at heart he did not believe in what he was saying. It was a huge joke, really, to announce in a parsonic voice that he had been committing fornication with a prostitute, and a rather ugly one at that." Whether the lady in question was ugly or not is neither here nor there, and such a term is only relative to one's point of view anyway. However, what is important here is that it was not "a huge joke, really". Crowley was serious and he did "believe" in what he was saying, for, from personal research and experience he knew what he was talking about. What Symonds misreads here, as his lack of humnour and blinding ego prevent him from seeing it, plus he was out to destroy the memory and work of Aleister Crowley and so saw only what he wished to see, is that although A.C. was being quite serious he could see the humour in everything and he also perceived and appreciated how many others might view what he was saying about sex. Knowing that everything serious has a funny side, and being able to view things from other often less enlightened viewpoints, the mischevious imp in Crowley was tickled by writing seriously about the sanctity of sex while all the time thinking about what his father or his mother or uncle Tom and the rest of the Plymouth Brethren that he had been brought up with might say if they could hear him or read his words. Generally, when Crowley was being pompous and sanctimonious it was not the subject he was discussing that he was being ironical and sarcastic about, but rather the attitudes that dictated pompous sanctimoniousness and those who exercised it naturally, unable to see the humour in what they considred sacred. For Crowley, as for most true adepts and masters, laughter and a sense of humour are two of the most sacred things in life, perhaps equalled only by the union of man and woman, the union of people in love and the act of love. Of course, so long as there are men like John Symonds around, men with little or no sense of humour who take themselves and their beliefs too seriously, men who outwardly manifest prudish and Victorian standards of sex, lacking a sound and healthy concept of love, the true adepts and masters, the true geniuses of our world will always be misunderstood and maligned, feared and envied and so slandered out of petty spite. There is, then, only one way for us to defeat those who would pervert truth - while doing our best to never become as they are we can exercise careful reason and logic as well as a healthy sense of humour. And when looking upon Mr. John Symonds, after carefully analyzing his written words, we can sit back, smile and say "He's only 'a huge joke, really'."
(TNN.V.4.6-11, SEPTEMBER 1986 E.V.)
"Crowley died peacefully in bed on December 1st, 1947, at the age of seventy-two. He had been working on a talisman that would bring him a great fortune. His last words were 'I am perplexed...'"
"Although during his lifetime Crowley was referred to as the 'personification of evil,' today the Great Beast seems scarcely more than a roguish old gentleman who puts on a Hallowe'en mask to frighten people ... Compared to these modern black magicians, Crowley was quite a nice guy ... Reading the life of the Great Beast makes one sigh for the good old days when a man like Crowley could shock people and be generally regarded as 'The Wickedest Man in the World.'"
- The Beast by Daniel P. Mannix, Ballantine Books, Inc., 1959 E.V.
"If you can't dazzle them with brilliance - baffle them with bullshit."
"Crowley died from myocardial degeneration and chronic bronchitis on the night of 1 December 1947, leaving beneath his pillow a parchment talisman in Enochian consecrated 'for a great treasure'. He was seventy-two years of age. ... his last words, 'I am perplexed...'" So wrote John Symonds in The Great Beast, first published in 1951 E.V..
We have spent a lot of time and energy on Mr. Symonds' book The Great Beast and originally it was planned to finish with both the book and it's author in TNN V.6. However, you, the reader and student, are probably tired of the subject and the careful reader could probably tell by my writing of Part 4 in TNN V.4 that I too have grown weary of it. Therefore, let us finish with Mr. Symonds and his book here and be done with both of them. The only reason so much time and energy has been expended in this review of The Great Beast is that so many books and articles written after 1951 E.V. about Aleister Crowley have been based primarily upon Symonds' book. Its influence has been strong over the past few decades - too bloody strong. A comparison of the initial quotation from the end of Daniel P. Mannix's book, The Beast, and that above from the end of Symonds' earlier work shows just how heavily later authors relied upon the earlier volume. Mr. Symonds probably feels very smug about his apparent success in his cowardly attack upon Our Father - cowardly because he waited until after Crowley had died and then attacked with craft and cunning so that his personal animosity was not blatantly obvious to most readers - but let us assure the gentleman, and I use that term loosely, we shall have the last laugh as we continue to see interest in Crowley and Thelema spread all over the world. When Thelema is firmly established in human society, as it will be, without doubt, Mr. John Symonds' magnum opus of misinformation will be given a proper place - the bottom of boxes in cellars and attics, garbage cans, perhaps some will even consign The Great Beast to fire, although I do not myself approve of book burning, even the burning of this book.
The Great Beast proves John Symonds to be an unintelligent man who has not learned from history, as even he must realize by now. He thought to utterly destroy Aleister Crowley and his Work while turning a profit, but instead found that Crowley's popularity as well as interest in Thelema and Magick continues to increase - his book hanging about his neck like an albatross, haunted forever by the ghost of the Great Beast. Symonds as well as Crowley's earlier detractors failed to remember the career of a certain Nazarene. A man named Peter, once called Simon, believed his rabbi, his teacher, to be the Christ, the Messiah, the one and only son of God, and to the Jews of this time who forbade even an artistic representation of Jehovah, Yahweh, the very idea that some man might be calling himself the son of God was utterly blasphemous and mad. Naturally, then, people flocked to listen to this mad blasphemer and people who would otherwise not have been interested in what another self-appointed prophet had to say heard the words of Jesus, were converted, and spread his teachings further until one day all the world would know the name of Jesus. Now, in our time, we have a man named John. We can hardly call him "divine" as his motives are anything but holy or even honourable. However, the effect is the same.
Let us continue with and here finish the review of The Great Beast and its author, Mr. John Symonds. They are getting more attention than is deserved.
Symonds is a very sly man to be sure and when he wrote The Great Beast he did so with the idea of marketability, mass appeal and the highest possible profit in mind. Obviously he wished to discredit Crowley in order to defend and protect his own Victorian standards of life that he cherishes despite their obsolete and damaging nature. However, to ensure the highest possible readership and thus the highest possible profit, John Symonds wrote in such a way as to appeal to those who are admiringly interested in Crowley, knowing that most readers are superficial readers and will find only what they want in a book, while doing his best to pervert the truth, appealing to those who are antagonistically interested in A.C., and assassinate the character of a man who was no longer alive to defend himself and who had withstood the better part of his seventy-two years the attacks of the yellow journalism of his day.
The following quotation from Chapter 17, page 270, of the Mayflower 1971 E.V. edition is a perfect example. In speaking of the Abbey of Thelema, Symonds wrote: "Crowley's establishment (in which not orgies took place but The Orgia were performed) was designed for the serious purpose of bending the world to his demoniac vision." A superficial reader might approve of the distinction the author made between "orgies", rude and purely physical sexual intercourse between three or more individuals, and the "Orgia", the sacred rites of ancient Greece in which "Sex Magick" was employed, not unlike the Tantric practices of the Middle and Far East. Having read this and been satisfied, the typical reader is likely to miss the rest of the implications or even accept them without serious thought - "purpose of bending the world to his demoniac vision". This implies that A.C. was trying to force his will on others, interfering with their individual Wills, and that his "vision", his own Will, was "demoniac", which to most people is the same as saying "satanic", i.e. evil. If Symonds had wanted to be correct, which we know was not his intention as it would have limited readership and thus profits, he could have said that the Orgia were intended to remove some of the obstacles and open the way for the natural manifestation of the Æon of Horus and the establishment of Thelema in human society, and that the Abbey was to be a place where people, of their own free will, if it was their True Will, could go to find their personal balance and purpose and set about the job of accomplishing their True Will. Rather than a "demoniac vision" this was a Daemonic vision, the word "daemon" in Greek most often used to mean "a guiding spirit, genius, or a god", referring not to some "evil spirit" or "fallen angel", but rather to the Holy Guardian Angel.
On page 273 Symonds writes of the illness, which eventually ended in the death, of Crowley's child, Poupee [French for "doll"], and he does so in such a way as to make A.C. look silly and ineffectual. "The only distrubing factor was the continued illness of Poupee," Symonds wrote. "A doctor was summoned and on the magical plane Crowley cast the Yi King sticks." Crowley was not sitting around playing pick-up-sticks as this seems to indicate. He was very worried, although at first it seemed as though the child was merely suffering from one of the many childhood illnesses that we all go through, and this so distracted him that he could not trust his own judgment. Symonds makes the Yi King [or I Ching] sound like a means of magic when in fact it is merely a form of divination. That is to say, one does not do something with the Yi, one consults one's own Genius to find out what is going on and what one should do to make it come out as desired, that is, if anything can be done. As for the talk of "on the magical plane", it seems that Symonds was trying to discredit the esoteric arts and sciences in general, to denigrate that which his Victorian Christianity considered "evil". The fact of the matter is that Crowley, as with anyone consulting the Yi, did so from the material or physical plane of consciousness in an attempt to contact a higher level of consciouness not confused by emotion and preconceived ideas.
The ignorance of John Symonds is matched only by those who have read his book and found therein nothing absurd. For instance, on page 277 he wrote: "During the course of the day, [Crowley did] ritual work ... summoning up devils, banishing them, conversing with Holy Guardian Angels, invoking the gods and so forth." Notice the pluralization of "Holy Guardian Angels". The entire sentence, including this alone, trivializes magical practices to an absurd degree, sneers at it, misrepresenting these practices, and shows the ignorance of John Symonds.
Page 278 mentions Helen Hollis [the Snake] and points out that A.C. described her as "a regular street-walker" and then Symonds writes, "which was his ideal of womanhood". A "street-walker" means to most people a prostitute, one who indiscriminately sells herself and sex to anyone who has the money. When Crowley said that he was, no doubt, with usual tongue-in-cheek, being humorous - although Symonds, if he has a sense of humour and could recognize this, would naturally wish to take it seriously to further make Crowley seem less likeable. In truth, Crowley's ideal of womanhood was that she should have in her make-up a healthy bit of whoredom. A whore, as even the Reverend Walter W. Skeat, Litt.D., LL.D., D.C.L., Ph.D., in his A Concise Etymological Dictionary of the English Language tells us, is not the same as a prostitute as the whore is one who gives of herself, discriminatingly, with and for love. Common modern usage of the word "whore" is in error. The difference, I am sure, escapes Mr. Symonds who probably thinks that sexual intercourse of any kind is not quite right, i.e. a "sin".
Crowley wrote in his Commentaries to The Book of the Law [Liber AL vel Legis sub figura CCXX]: "We of Thelema say that 'Every man and every woman is a star'. We do not fool and flatter women; we do not despise and abuse them. To us a woman is Herself, absolute, original, independent, free, self-justified, exactly as a man is. We dare not thwart Her Going, Goddess she!" By viewing women in this way one of the results Crowley hoped for was that "Prostitution (with its attendant crimes) will tend to disappear, as it will cease to offer exorbitant profits to those who exploit it."
On page 296 Symonds refers to a part of the Orgia which he says was "a parody of the Christian sacrament of Holy Communion". Here we have the arrogant Victorian-minded Christian unwilling to recognize the fact that the sacrament in question is far older than Christianity and that it was practised by many religions long before the brith of Jesus the Nazarene. If Crowley was parodying the sacrament then Jesus parodied it before him! Crowley did not parody that or any other Christian sacrament. He merely practised a rite that is older than we can accurately judge and which exists in nearly every religion in one form or another. Still, even if Symonds realized and accepted this fact it would not suit his purpose to mention it in a book wherein he wished to appeal to those who already felt animosity towards Crowley and Thelema, a book he had hoped would turn people against the man and his philosophy. He had no intention of objectively relaying the facts and therefore his writing is slanted just the way he wanted it - far from the centre of truth.
Speaking of the grade of Ipsissimus Crowley eventually attained, on page 298, Symonds writes "Crowley had surpassed God Himself" in an effort to make A.C. seem like an insane egomaniac with delusions of grandeur. Ipsissimus, Latin, means "his own very self", and it implies perfect union with one's True Self or Holy Guardian Angel, or psychologically speaking, the integration of the conscious and subconscious aspects of one's self or mind. It does not imply a surpassing of "God". The "Gods", attributed to various Sephiroth of the Tree of Life, cannot be surpassed as they are of a different order and they are, in fact, aspects of humankind's higher nature, in a manner of speaking. "Very God", one might say, is placed in this system above and beyond Kether, to which Ipsissimus is attributed, and one does not surpass it by becoming an Ipsissimus, although one can fully realize one's self as "Very God" by the final absorption into the Body of Nuit, becoming one with the Limitless Light. Therefore, knowing all of this far better than yours truly, Crowley would have never thought in terms of surpassing God Himself and would have only put such a thing down in writing as a poetic concept not intended to be literally interpreted. Once more, Symonds is only doing his best to try and make A.C. seem so insane, so unlikeable, that certain people will buy the book and recommend it to others, accepting and passing along perverted facts, while others will be turned away from Crowley and Thelema by this book which so badly misrepresents them.
Let us skip a few pages - a couple of hundred! - for as you can see, one could spend a lifetime commenting upon and correcting just about every sentence in Symond's "book of lies", not so falsely called, and we are growing so weary of the subject that we certainly do not want to do that!
As usual, Symonds places the blame for other people's failures on Aleister Crowley. It has become something of a tradition. Rose, his first wife, became an alcoholic and was institutionalized for a time and immediately Crowley was accused of driving her mad. He was, in fact, accused of driving several people mad. Forget about the fact that Rose was a budding alcoholic before she even met Crowley, and that if one becomes a slave to anything, be it alcohol, drugs or fundamentalist pseudo-christianity, one has only one's own weaknesses to blame. Forget about the fact that the number of people whom Crowley happened to know who went mad was extremely small and insignificant in comparison to the hundreds of people he knew, associates and lovers, who did not go mad - most of whom going on to lead uneventful and obscure but sane lives, some of whom going on to enjoy a life with some recognition and fame. Ignore the fact that when Victor Neuburg was associated with Aleister Crowley the former's poetry soared heavenward and that it was only after that association ended that Neuburg hit the skids. Blame Crowley for Neuburg's failure! Give him no credit for Neuburg's success. The idea always seems to be to concentrate upon the minimal amount of negativity, ignoring the overwhelming degree of positivity, and blame anything that went wrong in anyone's life on Aleister Crowley. But naturally! What better scapegoat for the ills of this Christian dominated and infected society than the Beast 666!
Along these lines, on page 402, we are told by Symonds that "Crowley ascribed Achad's [Charles Stansfeld Jones] failure to an Inflated Ego which he, Crowley, had done his best to inflate by example and encouragement." If living life to the fullest and doing one's best to reach one's full potential and express one's self is the example Symonds is referring to, and if encouraging a young student is such a terrible thing that must inevitably lead to the destruction of that student, then I suppose that many of us are guilty of driving people mad - perhaps even Mr. Symonds himself, who, through The Great Beast, has set an example for several writers to follow to ignore truth, take the easy way when it comes to research, and write what is sensational with the only goal being to make money and ruin people! And certainly Symonds' book has encouraged some misguided students into thinking that magick and Thelema are as he misrepresents them, whereupon they set out upon the most twisted and perverse path that can be imagined rather than to follow the true Path of the Wise and Way of Thelema!
Symonds continues, on pages 402-3: "In due course, Achad recovered and pronounced Aiwass, Crowley's Holy Guardian Angel, a Malignant Intelligence and 'the enemy of mankind'. He went on to explain that the New Aeon, in which he believed, was that of Maat, the goddess of wisdom and justice, not Horus, as Crowley had announced." Frater Achad had not, quite obviously, recovered, as Symonds here writes, and in such a way that one could read it either as a statement of fact or a bit of sarcasm, again trying to appeal to as many types of readers as possible. Achad was quite mad and suffering from an acute case of megalomania. Furthermore, he was angry with Crowley for not accepting his wild claims of high attainment, jealous of a man who was everything that he wanted to be but deep inside knew he could never become. And, of course, it was no one's fault but Achad's that he went mad. A person is not driven mad by others, not even when that is the intention of others. A person allows him- or herself to go mad being either too weak to control his or her own mind, or too eager to escape the realities of the sane world of reason and logic.
Aleister Crowley was blessed and cursed with a personality that either repelled or attracted others very strongly, and naturally of those who were attracted to him there would be those who would eventually be rejected by him for one reason or another and we all know how painful rejection can be, even if we agree that the reasons are logical and justified. A mind that is not sufficiently stable and self-secure tends to take rejection, which is an inescapable part of life, far too seriously.
Symonds, on page 453, after telling us how Crowley had gone into a long monologue about the beliefs regarding the end of the world, went on to tell us that A.C. then said "'As a matter of fact ... the world was destroyed by fire on March the 20th, 1904.'" Symonds continued: "'But we are still here,' I murmured. 'That is, [Crowley is said to have replied] according to the Initiated Doctrine.'" This is where Symonds left it, giving A.C. the appearance of being a typical crackpot. The impression John Symonds had intentionally given could not be any further from the truth. Crowley was a very reasonable and logical man with a very scientific turn of mind. He was only stating a fact. The world, as it once was, as it was for such individuals as the Christian writer John the Divine nearly 2,000 years ago, was destroyed in 1904 E.V.. Since 1904 there have been so many changes in every strata of society that even a person from the 1800s would think his world had been utterly destroyed and he had somehow been transported to another world if suddenly placed in the 1980s. Imagine how someone like John, to whom The Book of Revelation is attributed, would view society in 1904 ... or 1986 E.V.!
The end of the world referred to in The Book of Revelation or Apocalypse was never intended to imply a physical end. It is an initiated document written by an initiate which employs concrete symbols to explain abstract ideas via a language that was intended to be understood only by other initiates. Certainly there must one day be an end to the Earth, physically, even if we leave it up to nature and the universe, but such matters as this seldom interest initiates very much - it is taken as a matter of course, so why dwell on it? Absolutely every thing that comes into existence eventually becomes nonexistent. It is the nature of the relative universe.
After doing his best to make Aleister Crowley seem like an unscrupulous madman throughout his book, Mr. Symonds gives us his impression of Crowley when he met and knew him for a brief time just before his death in 1947, and here he tells us things he did not intend to reveal:
"he could be considered, I thought, an ordinary old man with upward turning eyebrows; and yet there was a quality of remoteness about him that made him different. I can best describe this quality by saying that it suggested that he cared very little for the usual preoccupations of mankind. But he had one failing common to the generality of men: he was vain and did not want to depart without leaving as great a mark upon the earth as possible."
Symonds, a common man self-restricted by Victorian standards, could not even hope to understand a magician, let alone one of the grade of Ipsissimus, of the Æon of Horus, and of course he goes out of his way to misunderstand and misrepresent Aleister Crowley, the Beast 666. He almost has to. It may have been, in the beginning, as it is with all of us, that A.C. was somewhat vain and that he did wish to leave his mark on the world. That is natural. [Is this not what Symonds has done with his book and, in part, what he had intended to do?] However, long before John Symonds met Aleister Crowley, vanity had been burned out of the Beast - but of course a vain man like Mr. Symonds can only perceive certain qualities in another in terms familiar to him. It was not his mark that Crowley wanted to leave on the world, it was the Mark of the Beast. There is a difference. It was not personal vanity that motivated the Ipsissimus, it was the need to see his True Will carried out to the very fullest on earth - that True Will which is also called the Will of God.
The "quality of remoteness" in Aleister Crowley that Symonds detected - it is the quality natural for an Ipsissimus who is above the Abyss, whose natural state of being is beyond the pettiness of ego and the world of relative concepts. Truly, Aleister Crowley in his last years did not care much for the "usual preoccupations of mankind", the silly antics of the monkey ego, but it is quite obvious that he loved humankind very much, that he had lived his life for the sake of humanity, and that a part of him felt deep sorrow for those he cared about and who showed so little concern for others as well as for Crowley himself - that much is evident in a graphological study of the man's handwriting.
What can we say to finally sum up this relatively brief review of The Great Beast by Mr. John Symonds? What can be said that has not already been said in this five-part Sword of Horus article regarding this book and it's author? Not much! We have about said it all - at least we have said all that is necessary.
John Symonds is not a man who can be trusted. He pretended to befriend an old man in his last years on earth only so that he could turn around and, after the man died, concoct a mass of misinformation of twisted facts and a perversely antagonistic point of view in an effort to destroy the life work of one far greater than Symonds could ever hope to be, while trying to make his mark in the world. This manipulator of facts and words, with the craft of a con-artist and the cunning of a sneak thief as well as the scruples of an assassin for hire, for the purpose of making a name for himself, profiting from the creation and proliferation of sensationalistic garbage, and whether he realises it or not, the destruction of the Æon of Horus and the retardation of the spiritual evolution of humanity in behalf of the worst aspects of the past æon, has systematically set about to destroy the memory of Aleister Crowley, this æon's World Teacher and Logos, and all that he fought for during his lifetime - all that we, sincere Thelemites and aspirants to Thelema, hold dear. He has created a pattern that others have enthusiastically followed, too lazy to do their own research, too weak to take the bold stand for truth, and due to his efforts we now find that many of Aleister Crowley's works are unavailable. What a fool Crowley must have been, Symonds laughs, to have made him, John Symonds, literary executor of his last will and testament! Now that he has made his money from publishing the works of Aleister Crowley, John Symonds can sit back and do his best to keep those works from being published, depriving us all of the wisdom to be found in those books by the Beast 666, the enemy to all of the pseudo-christian "virtues" that Symonds cherishes - "virtues" that have brought this society to its knees and yet threatens it with utter destruction. What a fool the Great Beast must have been!
What a fool? Yes. A Pure Fool. There is often a fine line between Wisdom and Folly and one may often appear to be the other - at least for a time.
Do you ever wonder...? Let us assume that Crowley was indeed an Ipsissimus. His ways would be difficult for any of us to understand - even the Magister Templi who has attained to true Understanding would have difficulty in comprehending the ways and motives of an Ipsissimus. The Ipsissimus would be by nature of his being rather "remote" and the petty silliness of ego in humanity would have little interest for him. He is concerned with, how shall we term it? ... souls ... with all of humankind in general. His physical needs would be few and he would not hunger after grand living quarters, luxurious clothing and the "finer things in life", although certainly he would not object to them as they are in themselves neither "good" nor "evil". He would be content to survive and continue his work on earth for as long as it is necessary and then peacefully pass away from this material plane. He would, of course, see to the basic needs of his physical vehicle, and if there was pain - the pains incurred by old age, travel, experimentation, by pushing the physical body and brain to the limits during a very full and productive lifetime - appropriate measures would be taken to alleviate those pains, in the most simple, rational and expedient manner, so that the work could continue with the minimum of disturbance. The Ipsissimus, accepting the restrictions of the relative universe and its laws imposed upon him by maintaining a physical body, for the good of humanity, would continue his work, feeling the discomforts of the body but accepting them as a price that must be paid - a price that is willingly and with joy paid for the good of his children.
The Ipsissimus would be wise enough to veil himself in apparent foolishness. He would, in fact, find it necessary to hide his Light as protection for those around him. He would see no need to display his attainment and he would be relaxed in his ways.
As a Master of the Temple he had learned to Understand through Samadhi. As a Magus he had given his Law, spoken his Word, and performed every act of Magick that was necessary to establish his Law in the land. Finally, as an Ipsissimus, wholly united with his own True Self, the Genius, the Daemon, the Holy Guardian Angel, he would retire somewhat from the world, maintaining only a slight contact with the world of mortals, a connexion that would lessen more and more with the passing years, while becoming more active than ever, with total consciousness, upon the higher levels of being, the Inner Planes of consciousness.
His ways would not be easy for the rest of us to fathom.
He might, for instance, confide in a man who is misrepresenting himself as a friend. We wonder ... Jesus befriended Judas although it is obvious that he knew Judas would betray him and it was that betrayal that led to the crucifixion, as the story goes, and had it not been for that attempt to destroy the Nazarene we might not know of that man's name today and his work would have come to naught. Had not the early Christians been persecuted, had not the teachings of the Master Jesus been surpressed, interest in him and his work may not have developed - for we all know that it is that which is forbidden, that which is condemned, that most people find the greatest interest in. Slander a man and his work enough and one builds interest in both - it becomes the best form of advertising imaginable.
There was, not long ago, an old man named Crowley who, as a young man, had lived a very full and interesting life. In his last days he confided in a man who misrepresented himself as a friend. Perhaps ... just perhaps ... Crowley knew that Symonds was insincere and that he would, when his back was turned, so to speak, betray him for the symbolic thirty pieces of silver. People do not crucify with wood and nails today, but one can execute a man socially by employing simple paper and ink - perhaps a greater weapon of destruction than the cross. And the results of this literary crucifixion? They have made a man who may have been otherwise forgotten a legend. Instead of destroying the man, Aleister Crowley, these "soldiers of Christ" and mercenaries have accomplished just the opposite. Aleister Crowley now lives forever. His work goes on.
Why make a man who would try to undermine one's life's work the literary executor of one's will? Why, we ask, did Jesus call Simon-Peter to him, ask who he thought Jesus was, and when Simon-Peter replied "The Christ! The Messiah! The son of God!" neither say yea nor nay, but insist that he tell no one of this knowing full well that to tell a man to keep a secret is a sure means of making him tell the world and so increase interest, draw people forth so that the work of teaching can be done. Why make a man like Symonds literary executor? So that he would do exactly as he has done. First try to profit from this and in the process spread the teachings and then refuse to continue spreading those teachings by making those works difficult to obtain, resulting in making them rare and more valuable and more widely sought after.
Do you really think that Aleister Crowley, in his latter years, ever acted thoughtlessly? Could a man who lived seventy-two years, having travelled the world and experienced all that life can offer while maintaining a mind sharp enough to write The Book of Thoth and see to the designing and execution of the Thoth Tarot Deck, among other things - could such a man be so easily fooled by one like John Symonds and be incapable of carefully manipulating such an individual as well as events to further the Great Work?
Often in life things do not work out as we wish they would and plans go awry. With the passage of time we often discover that this was for the best and that what we wanted was not what we needed. Those of us who study the esoteric aspects of life often recognize the hand of the Yechidah, the Holy Guardian Angel, in these affairs, manipulating events so that despite what we may want, we receive that which we need to finally become one with that True Self. That True Self, Genius, Daemon, by whatever name you call IT, often does something that at the moment looks foolish, useless, perhaps even contrary to the purpose, however, that Supraconscious Self, that brilliant Silver Star, is possessed of senses that range far beyond the extremely limited senses of the mortal man, the false self, the ego, and what It does today It does with tomorrow in mind, and the tomorrows after tomorrow.
Someone once asked Crowley, in his latter years, if memory serves me right, where is Aiwass, his Holy Guardian Angel, now? The reply given seemed to indicate that Crowley did not know and implied that if that being ever existed he had long ago abandoned Aleister Crowley. A.C. had only shrugged as a reply - one wonders if he did so with a twinkle in his eyes and a subtle smile on his lips. What should he have said? "Aiwass is here, dear chap, right before your eyes, still manifesting in the world, wearing this old worn body and living among men as one Aleister Crowley. Have you forgotten? I am Ipsissimus. I am Myself. Where is Aiwass now? He is here and if you but had the eyes to see you would know that. Remember, my good man, appearances can be deceiving ... and in fact, they most often are."
Therefore let Mr. John Symonds think he has accomplished his goals with The Great Beast and everything else he has done to try and discredit Our Father Aleister Crowley. Certainly he sees that interest in Crowley is even greater than ever, and even more serious than in the 60s. He must slowly be coming to the realization that instead of using Crowley he had been used by the old Beast, wiser than Symonds will ever be, and that all of his efforts to destroy the work of the Antichrist, the Beast 666, have been turned about to accomplish just the opposite. This must really be eating away at his insides.
The dreaded Eighties are coming to a close. Soon the Nineties will be upon us and then the year 2000. I would not be at all surprised if Thelema is well established and recognized in the world by then. No, I would not be surprised in the least!
Thank you, Mr. John Symonds, for all that you have done for Thelema. You have ensured the fame of Aleister Crowley better than any Judas and increased interest in him and his work with greater impact than any faithless follower who cannot keep a secret. Why we Thelemites and the millions of Thelemites that will follow us may even come to honour you - in some little way. Aleister Crowley was in possession of a great secret. Often one's enemies can be of greater assistance to one than one's friends - and with you I think he proved his point. Therefore the wise man truly loves his enemies as he loves Himself, his True Self, that is, for most often it is one's enemies, through their ignorance and blind hatred, that makes for the best vehicles, or pawns if you will, in the great celestial game played by the True Self - in this case, Mr. Symonds, Aiwass.
(TNN.V.5.6-10, NOVEMBER 1986 E.V.)
*POST SCRIPT: Shortly after publishing the above in the original volumes of The Newaeon Newsletter, Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd. (The Old Piano Factory, 43 Gloucester Crescent, London NW1) published what is sure to be the last edition or version of The Great Beast in John Symonds' lifetime. Copyrighted in 1989 E.V., it is entitled The King of the Shadow Realm: Aleister Crowley/his life and magic, a costly 588-page hardbound book. Symonds, in the first part of his Preface, states:
"This is my second and final - and let me hope definitive - biographical book about Aleister Crowley. All the basic material of the first, The Great Beast, 1951, which saw an augmented edition in 1971, is incorporated in it. The late Gerald Yorke accumulated over the years a large collection of Crowley memorabilia which prompted this new book."
John Symonds finishes his Preface with the following remark:
"If I had to carve in stone the epitaph of this talented and extraordinary man, it would be:
Aleister Crowley, 1875-1947.
He delivered the psychotic goods."
Someday we may draw the Sword of Reason and slash away at this final version of Symonds' insult to intelligence, although we have put it off for quite a while already, and perhaps when we do, if we do, Symonds will have already died. Therefore we can only hope that either the orginal printed version of this review, originally sent to him by way of his publisher, or the current Internet version above, will reach Mr. John Symonds and perhaps, if he ever so exercises his mind, give him something to think about. In the meantime, we all have better ways to spend our time than to waste any more of it on the idiocies of such a false man as John Symonds.