The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, Chapter 72
I think it proper to devote an entire chapter to the subject of my relations with freemasonry. I have mentioned that I had obtained the 33° in Mexico City. It did not add much of importance to my knowledge of the mysteries; but I had heard that freemasonry was a universal brotherhood and expected to be welcomed all over the world by all brethren.
I was brought up with a considerable shock within the next few months, when, chancing to discuss the subject with some broken-down gambler or sporting-house tout – I forget exactly – I found that he would not “recognize” me! There was some trivial difference in one of the grips or some other totally meaningless formality. A measureless contempt for the whole mummery curled my lip. I squared the matter (as already related) by having myself initiated in Lodge Number 343 “Anglo-Saxon” in Paris. What that led to I have recounted elsewhere and now quote:
“I happened to know that the chaplain of the British Embassy in Z- was Past Grand Organist of a certain English province. He proposed me, found a seconder, and I was duly initiated, passed and raised. I was warmly welcomed by numerous English and American visitors to our Lodge; for Z- is a very great city.
I returned to England sometime later, after “passing the chair” in my Lodge, and wishing to join the Royal Arch, called on its venerable Secretary.
I presented my credentials. “O Thou Great Architect of the Universe,” the old man sobbed out in rage, “why dost Thou not wither this impudent impostor with Thy fire from heaven? Sir, begone! You are not a Mason at all! As all the world knows, the people in Z- are atheists and live with other men’s wives.”
I thought this a little hard on my Reverend Father in God, my proposer; and I noted that, of course, every single English or American visitor to our Lodge in Z- stood in peril of instant and irrevocable expulsion on detection. So I said nothing, but walked to another room in Freemasons’ Hall over his head, and took my seat as a Past Master in one of the oldest and most eminent Lodges in London!
Kindly note, furthermore, that when each of those wicked visitors returned to their Lodges after their crime, they automatically excommunicated the whole thereof; and as visiting is very common, it may well be doubted whether, on their own showing, there is a single “just, lawful and regular mason” left on the earth!
By the end of 1910, thanks to my relations with the Grand Hierophant 97° of the Rite of Memphis (a post held after his death by Dr. Gerard Encausee, Theodor Reuss, and myself), I was now a sort of universal inspector-general of the various rites, charged with the secret mission of reporting on the possibility of reconstructing the entire edifice, which was universally recognized by all its more intelligent members as being threatened with the gravest danger.
I must briefly explain the circumstances.
(a) There is a great multiplicity of rites.
(b) There is a great multiplicity of jurisdictions.
(c) Even where rite and jurisdiction are identical, there are certain national jealousies and other causes of divergence.
(d) The Progress of feminism has threatened the Craft. (The meaning of the 3° having been totally lost, orthodox freemasons are unable to explain why women cannot become Master Masons. They cannot. I, the fiercest of feminists, say so.) Co-Masonry, under Mrs Besant, whose hysterical vanity compels her to claim any high-sounding title that she happens to hear, Le Droit Humain in France, and similar movements almost everywhere, were bringing masonry into contempt by their sheer silliness. They were so obviously exactly as good as real freemasons.
(e) The history of freemasonry has become more obscure as the light of research has fallen on the subject. The meaning of masonry has either been completely forgotten or has never existed at all, except insofar as any particular rite might be a cloak for political or even worse intrigue.
(f) It has become impossible for people living in modern conditions to devote adequate time even to learning the merest formalities.
(g) The complete lack of understanding which is now practically universal has made men inquire why in God’s name they should cherish such pretentious pedantries?
A few anecdotes will illustrate the situation for the average non- mason.
- A certain rite in England derives its authority from a document which is as notoriously a forgery as Pigott ever penned. The heads of this gang wished to break, in the most shameless and rascally manner, an agreement made some years previously with John Yarker. Yarker pointed out that their only real authority was derived from their agreement with him, since he, working under a genuine charter, had “heled” their breach with antiquity by recognizing them. They replied that they relied on the forged document. He said that he would cut away the ground from under their feet by publishing the proofs that their charter was worthless. Then they said that they knew as well as he did that the document was forged; but they didn’t care, because they had induced the Prince of Wales to join them!
- Several of the main rites of English masonry are not recognized by each other, and some of these are not even tolerated (that is, if a member of A joins B, or even discusses freemasonry with a member of B, he becomes liable to immediate expulsion); yet a certain royal duke was actually the head of two incompatible rites.
- There is no uniformity with regard to toleration. Thus A and B sometimes recognize each other, but, while A recognizes C, B does not, so that a member of B and a member of C might find themselves meeting in a Lodge of A, and thereby automatically excommunicate each other.
- English Craft masons do not permit religious political or commercial motives to enter into freemasonry, yet they are in official relationship with certain masonic bodies whose sole raison d’être is anti- clericalism, political intrigue or mutual trade benefit.
- The Scottish Rite, the degrees of Knight Templar, Knight of Malta and others in England are definitely Christian, e.g. the point of one degree is the identification of prophet, priest and king, three in one, the Trinity of the Royal Arch, with Christ; and in the Rose Croix degree, Christ is recognized as the “corner stone” of earlier symbolism. But in America, the Christian elements have been removed so that wealthy Jews may reach the summit of masonry.
- I once attended a Lodge whose Master was one of the two local bankers. He used his influence to get business for his bank. The other banker promptly obtained a charter from some “clandestine” body and started an opposition. In this district, the clandestine Lodges greatly outnumbered the orthodox.
- I have visited Craft Lodges and Royal Arch Chapters in Fraternal Accord in England, where the “raising” and “exaltation” were carried out in shirt sleeves, while cigars were smoked and the legs conveniently disposed on other chairs, and only employed to kick the candidate as he went round.
- At one ceremony in America, the officers being 33° masons, recognized by the orthodox Scottish Rite in England, there were two candidates, both Jews. They were hoodwinked and introduced into opposite ends of a tube through which they were instructed to make their way. In the middle of the tube was a live sow.
- In Detroit, a member of the 32° was threatened by certain 33°s with expulsion unless he complied with their views as to his domestic life. The matter was one with which they had no right to meddle on any conceivable theory of human relations.
- In some parts of America, financial and social pressure is put upon people to compel them to take the 32°! It is common to boycott men in trade or business for refusing to give unfair advantages to their fellow masons.
- A 33° mason, of many years’ standing, holding high office in the Supreme Grand Council, who had joined in order to obtain the traditional secret knowledge, told me that he had never learnt anything from any of the degrees. The only peculiarity in this case is that he should have expected anything of the sort – or wanted it!
- With hardly an exception, the “secrets” of freemasonry are strictly arbitrary. Let me explain what I mean. If I am given the combination of a safe, I expect to be able to open it by the use of the word. If I can do so, it proves that that is the correct word. The secrets of freemasonry disclose no mysteries; they do not do what they profess to do; they are meaningless conventions.
- With the rarest exceptions, freemasons make no attempt to keep their obligations so far as the moral principles inculcated are concerned. For instance, the Master Mason is sworn to respect the chastity of the wife, sister and daughter of his Brother. Those who do so probably respect the chastity of any woman irrespective of her male connections.
- Freemasons, generally, but especially in England and America, resent any attempt to take masonry seriously. I may quote an essay by a Past Grand Master. It appeared in the English Review for August 1922. It sets forth the initiated view. The question is: Why does a man become a mason?
We ought to cross off the pettier human motives first, love of vanity, of mystery, of display, of make-believe; but the average man in England becomes a mason for as serious a reason as he become a Church member or a theosophist; and the average man is usually most abominably disillusioned.
He may join the Craft with some idea of fellowship, because it is a tradition in his family to do so, or because he hopes to find in the Secret of the Mysteries something which he does not find in any of the exoteric forms of religion.
How is it that the same Order satisfies – more or less – aspirations so diverse?
We are brought at last face to face with the fundamental problem of the masonic historian – the origin of the whole business.
Without any hesitation at all, one may confess that on this critical question nothing is certainly known. It is true, indeed, that the Craft Lodges in England were originally Hanoverian clubs, as the Scottish Lodges were Jacobite clubs, and the Egyptian Lodges of Cagliostro revolutionary clubs.
But that no more explains the origin of freemasonry than the fact “many Spaniards are Roman Catholics” explains why the priest says and does certain things rather than others in the Mass.
Now here is the tremendous question: we can admit all Mr Yarker’s contentions, and more, as to the connection of masonic and quasimasonic rites with the old customs of initiating people into the trade guilds; but why should such a matter be hedged about with so severe a wardenship, and why should the Central Sacrament partake of so awful and so unearthly a character?
As freemasonry has been “exposed” every few minutes for the last century or so, and as any layman can walk into a masonic shop and buy the complete Rituals for a few pence, the only omissions being of no importance to our present point, it would be imbecile to pretend that the nature of the ceremonies of Craft masonry is an any sense a “mystery”.
There is, therefore, no reason for refraining from the plain statement that, to anyone who understands the rudiments of symbolism, the Master’s degree is identical with the Mass. This is in fact the real reason for papal anathema; for freemasonry asserts that every man is himself the living, slain and re-arisen Christ in his own person.
It is true that not one mason in ten thousand in England is aware of this fact; but he has only to remember his “raising” to realize the fundamental truth of the statement.
Well may Catholic and freemason alike stand appalled at the stupendous blasphemy which is implied, as they ignorantly think, not knowing themselves of the stuff and substance of the Supreme Self, each for himself alike no less than Very God of Very God!
But suppose that the sublimity of this conception is accepted, the identity admitted; what sudden overwhelming billow from the past blasts their beatitude? What but the words with which Freud concludes Totem and Taboo: In the beginning was the deed!
For the “sacrifice of the Innocent” celebrated alike in the Lode and in cathedral is this identical murder of the Master of the Fellow- Craftsmen, that is of the Father by his sons, when the ape system of the “Fatherhorde” was replaced by the tribal system which developed into the “military clan”!
These statements are undeniable, yet it may be doubted whether there are five hundred freemasons of all the rites put together who would assent to them, or even refrain from objecting to them as bitterly as the average man in Victorian times disliked being told of his kinship with the other primates, and as his children and grandchildren are annoyed when science demonstrates that their religions are survivals of savage superstitions and their dreams determined by bestial instincts.
- The W.M. of an exclusive English Lodge told me that he had learnt his part by saying it over to his wife in bed, justifying himself for this apparent breach of his obligation by remarking, with a laugh, that the secrets were lost and that therefore he could not betray them however much he wanted to.
Faced with these, and similar difficulties, I gladly accepted the task laid upon me by the most intelligent freemasons of the world, united as they were by their sincerity, understanding and good will, though divided by sectarian squabbles about jurisdiction.
My first object was to answer the question, “What is freemasonry?” I collated the rituals and their secrets, much as I had done the religions of the world, with their magical and mystical bases. As in that case, I decided to neglect what it too often actually was. It would be absurd to judge Protestantism by the political acts of Henry VIII. In the same way, I could not judge masonry by the fact that it had denounced the Concordat. I proposed to define freemasonry as a system of communicating truth – religious, philosophical, magical and mystical; and indicating the proper means of developing human faculty by means of a peculiar language whose alphabet is the symbolism of ritual. Universal brotherhood and the greater moral principles, independent of personal, racial, climatic and other prejudices, naturally formed a background which would assure individual security and social stability for each and all.
The question then arose, “What truths should be communicated and by what means promulgated? My first object was to eliminate from the hundreds of rituals at my disposal all exoteric elements. Many degrees contain statements (usually inaccurate) of matters well known to modern schoolboys, through they may have been important when the rituals were written. I may mention one degree in which the candidate is portentiously informed that there are other religions in the world besides Christianity and that there is some truth in all of them. Their tenets are explained in many cases with egregious error. The description of Buddha as a god is typical. I saw no point in overloading the system with superfluous information.
Another essential point was to reduce the unwieldly mass of material to a compact and coherent system. I thought that everything worth preserving could and should be presented in not more than a dozen ceremonies, and that it should be brought well within the capacity of any officer to learn by heart his part during the leisure time at his disposal, in a month at most.
The eighteenth-century Rosicrucians, so-called in Austria, had already endeavoured to unite various branches of Continental freemasonry and its superstructures; in the nineteenth century, principally owing to the energy and ability of a wealthy iron master named Karl Kellner, a reconstruction and consolidation of traditional truth had been attempted. A body was formed under the name O.T.O. (Ordo Templi Orientis) which purported to achieve this result. It purported to communicate the secrets, not only of freemasonry (with the Rites of 3°, 7°, 33°, 90°, 97°, etc.,) but of the Gnostic Catholic Church, the Martinists, the Sat Bhai, the Rosicrucians, the Knights of the Holy Ghost and so on, in nine degrees, with a tenth of an honorary character to distinguish the “Supreme and Holy King” of the Order in each country where it was established. Chief of these kings is the O.H.O. (Outer Head of the Order, or Frater Superior), who is an absolute autocrat. This position was at this time occupied by Theodor Reuss, the Supreme and Holy King of Germany, who resigned the office in 1922 in my favour.
The O.H.O. put the rituals of this Order at my disposal. I found them of the utmost value as to the central secret, but otherwise very inferior. They were dramatically worthless, but the prose was unequal, they lacked philosophical unity, their information was incomplete and unsystematic. Their general idea was, however, of the right kind; and I was able to take them as a model.
The main objects of the instruction were two. It was firstly necessary to explain the universe and the relations of human life therewith. Secondly, to instruct every man how best to adapt his life to the cosmos and to develop his faculties to the utmost advantage. I accordingly constructed a series or rituals, Minerval, Man, Magician, Master-Magician, Perfect Magician and Perfect Initiate, which should illustrate the course of human life in its largest philosophical aspect. I begin by showing the object of the pure soul, “One, individual and eternal”, in determining to formulate itself consciously, or, as I may say, to understand itself.
It chooses to enter into relations with the solar system. It incarnates. I explain the significance of birth and the conditions established by the process. I next show how it may best carry out its object in the eucharist of life. It partakes, so to speak, of its own godhead in every action, but especially through the typical sacrament of marriage, understood as the voluntary union of itself with each element of its environment. I then proceed to the climax of its career in death and show how this sacrament both consecrates (or, rather, sets its seal upon) the previous procedure and gives a meaning thereto, just as the auditing of the account enables the merchant to see his year’s transactions in perspective.
In the next ceremony I show how the individual, released by death from the obsession of personality, resumes relations with the truth of the universe. Reality bursts upon him in a blaze of adorable light; he is able to appreciate its splendour as he could not previously do, since his incarnation has enabled him to establish particular relations between the elements of eternity.
Finally, the cycle is closed by the reabsorption of all individuality into infinity. It ends in absolute annihilation which, as has been shown elsewhere in this book, may in reality be regarded either as an exact equivalent for all other terms soever, or (by postulating the category of time) as forming the starting point for new adventure of the same kind.
It will be clear from the above that the philosophical perfection of this system of initiation leaves nothing to be desired. We may write Q.E.D. The practical problem remains. We have already decided to incarnate, and our birth certificates are with our bankers. We do not have to worry about these matters, and we cannot alter them if we would; death, and what follows death, are equally certain, and equally able to take care of themselves. Our sole preoccupation is how best to make use of our lives.
Now the O.T.O. is in possession of one supreme secret. The whole of its system at the time when I became an initiate of the Sanctuary of the Gnosis (IX°) was directed towards communicating to its members, by progressively plain hints, this all-important instruction. I personally believe that if this secret, which is a scientific secret, were perfectly understood, as it is not even my me after more than twelve years’ almost constant study and experiment, there would be nothing which the human imagination can conceive that could not be realized in practice.
By this I mean such things as this: that if it were desired to have an element of atomic weight six times that of uranium that element could be produced. If it were desired to devise an instrument by which the furthest stars or the electrons could be brought within the range of every one of our senses, that instrument could be invented. Or that, if we wished to develop senses through which we could appreciate all those qualities of matter which at present we observe indirectly by means of apparatus, the necessary nervous structure would appear. It make these remarks with absolute confidence, for even the insignificant approaches that I have been able to make towards the sanctuaries of this secret have shown me that the relations between phenomena are infinitely more complex than the wildest philosophers have ever imagined, and that the old proverb “Where there’s a will there’s a way” needs no caveat.
I cannot forebear to quote from Professor A. S. Eddington, Plumian Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at Cambridge:
Here is a paradox beyond even the imagination of Dean Swift. Gulliver regarded the Lilliputians as a race of dwarfs; and the Lilliputians regarded Gulliver as a giant. That is natural. If the Lilliputians had appeared dwarfs to Gulliver, and Gulliver had appeared a dwarf to the Lilliputians – but no! that is too absurd for fiction, and is an idea only to be found in the sober pages of science.
The injunctions of the sages, from Pythagoras, Zoroaster and Lao Tzu, to the Cabbalistic Jew who wrote the Ritual of the Royal Arch, and the sentimental snob who composed those of the Craft degrees, are either directed to indicating the best conditions for applying this secret, or are mere waste of words. Realizing this, it was comparatively simple for me to edit masonic ethics and esotericism. I had simply to refer everything to this single sublime standard. I therefore answered the question “How should a young man mend his way?” in a series of rituals in which the candidate is instructed in the value of discretion, loyalty, independence, truthfulness, courage, self-control, indifference to circumstance, impartiality, scepticism, and other virtues, and at the same time assisted him to discover for himself the nature of this secret, the proper object of its employment and the best means for insuring success in its use. The first of these degrees is the V°, in which the secret is presented in a pageant; while he is also instructed in the essential elements of the history of the world, considered from the standpoint of his present state of evolution and in his proper relation to society in general with reference to the same.
The degree of Knight Hermetic Philosopher follows, in which his intellectual and moral attitude is further defined. In the VI°, his position having been thus made precise, he is shown how to consecrate himself to the particular Great Work which he came to earth in order to perform. In the VII°, which is tripartite, he is first taught the principle of equilibrium as extended to all possible moral ideas; secondly, to all possible intellectual ideas; and lastly, he is shown how, basing all his actions on this impregnable rock of justice, he may so direct his life as to undertake his Great Work with the fullest responsibility and in absolute freedom from all possibility of interferences.
In the VIII°, the secret is once more manifested to him, more clearly than before; and he is instructed in how to train himself to use it by certain preliminary practices involving acquaintance with some of those subtler energies which have hitherto, for the most part, eluded the observation and control of profane science.
In the IX°, which is never conferred upon anyone who has not already divined from previous indications the nature of the secret, it is explained to him fully. The conclusions of previous experiments are placed at his service. The idea is that each new initiate should continue the work of his predecessor, so that eventually the inexhaustible resources of the secret may be within the reach of the youngest initiate; for at present, we are compelled to admit that the superstitious reverence which has encompassed it in past ages, and the complexity of the conditions which modify its use, place us in much the same position as the electricians of a generation ago in respect of their science. We are assured of the immensity of the force at our disposal; we perceive the extent of the empire which it offers us, but we do not thoroughly understand even our successes and are uncertain how to proceed in order to generate the energy most efficiently or to apply it most accurately to our purposes.
The X°, as in the old system, is merely honorary, but recent researches into the mysteries of the IX° have compelled me to add an XI°, to illustrate a scientific idea which has been evolved by the results of recent experiments.
In the reconstituted O.T.O. there are therefore six degrees in which is conveyed a comprehensive conception of the cosmos and our relation therewith, and a similar number to deal with our duty to ourselves and our fellows, the development of our own faculties of every order, and the general advancement and advantage of mankind.
Wherever freemasonry and allied systems contribute to these themes, their information has been incorporated in such a way as not to infringe the privileges, puerile as they often seem, which have been associated hitherto with initiation. Where they merely perpetuate trivialities, superstitions and prejudices, they have been neglected.
I claim for my system that it satisfies all possible requirements of true freemasonry. It offers a rational basis for universal brotherhood and for universal religion. It puts forward a scientific statement which is a summary of all that is at present known about the universe by means of a simple, yet sublime symbolism, artistically arranged. It also enables each man to discover for himself his personal destiny, indicates the moral and intellectual qualities which he requires in order to fulfil it freely, and finally puts in his hands an unimaginably powerful weapon which he may use to develop in himself every faculty which he may need in his work.
My original draft of these rituals has required modification in numerous details as research made clearer, deeper and wider the truth which they comprehended; and also, as experience showed, the possibilities of misunderstanding on the one hand, and of improved presentation on the other. Great practical progress was made until the work was suspended by the outbreak of the war in 1914.
One of my original difficulties was to restore the existing rituals to their perfection. There were innumerable corruptions due to ignorance of Hebrew and the like on the part of the unworthy successors of the founders. To take a gross example.
The word Jeheshua, spelt in Hebrew in the 18° of the Scottish Rite, was habitually spelt with a Resh instead of a Vau. So brutal a blunder is conclusive proof that the modern Sovereign Princes of Rose Croix attach no meaning whatever to the name of Jesus – which they profess to adore more intelligently than the mob because it represents the descent of the Holy Spirit into the midst of that tremendous name of God which only occurs in their ritual because of its power to annihilate the universe if pronounced correctly.
The intelligence of the average mason may be gauged by the following quotation from the R.A.M. degree. The twentieth century! – and such stuff is solemnly offered as instruction to grown men!
Some have doubted whether the Ark was capable of containing two of every sort of creature, with provisions necessary for their support for a whole year; for so long and more did Noah stop in that Ark. But on a careful inquiry it has been found that only about one hundred different sorts of beasts, and not two hundred birds, are known, the greater part of them are of no bulk, and many exceedingly small, and it has been said all the creatures in the Ark would not take up the room of five hundred horses. After four thousand years human ingenuity cannot now contrive any proportions better adapted than that of the Ark for the purpose it was intended for. A Dutch merchant, two hundred years ago, built a ship answering in its respective dimensions to those of the Ark; its length being one hundred and twenty feet, breadth twenty feet, depth twelve feet; while building, this vessel was laughed at, but afterwards it was found that it held one third more and sailed better than any other merchant vessel of the time.
Thus we have a collateral proof no way inconsiderable that the Spirit of God, from whom commeth all understanding, directed Noah in that manner.
Again, the central secret of a Master Mason is in a Word which is lost. This fact has induced various and ingenious persons to invent ceremonies in which it is found (in some more or less remarkable manner) amid the acclamations of the assembled populace, and proclaimed in pomp to the admiring multitude. The only drawback is that these Words do not work. It apparently never occurred to these ingenuous artisans to test it. It is useless to label a brick “This is the keystone of the Royal Arch”, unless the arch stands when it is put in place.
Much of freemasonry is connected with the Hebrew Cabbala. My knowledge of this science enabled me to analyse the Secret Words of the various degrees. I soon found myself able to correct many of the corruptions which had crept in, and there was no doubt that my conclusions were not mere conjectures, since they made coherent good sense out of disconnected nonsense. (I am naturally unable to publish any of these discoveries; but fulfils the conditions of the situation; and futhermore, throws light on the obscure symbolism of the entire ritual.
I am thus in a position to do for the contending sects of freemasonry what the Alexandrians did for those of paganism. Unfortunately, the men who asked me to undertake this task are either dead or too old to take active measures and so far there is no one to replace them. Worse, the general coarsening of manners which always follows a great war has embittered the rival jurisdictions and deprived freemasonry altogether of those elements of high-minded enthusiasms with regard to the great problems of society which still stirred even its most degenerate sections half a century ago, when Hargrave Jennings, Godfrey Higgins, Gerald Massey, Kenneth MacKenzie, John Yarker, Theodor Reuss, Wynn Westcott and others were still seeking truth in its traditions and endeavouring to erect a temple of Concord in which men of all creeds and races might worship in amity.
I attempted to make the appeal of the new system universal by combining it with a practical system of fraternal intercourse and mutual benefit. I formulated a scheme of insurance against all the accidents of life; the details are given in the Official Instructions and Essays published in The Equinox, vol. III, no. I; and to set the example I transferred the whole of my property to trustees for the Order. The general idea is this; that every man should enjoy his possessions and the full fruits of his labours exactly as he does under his original individualistic system, but the pooling of such possessions by economy of administration, etc., leaves a surplus which can be used for the general purposes of the Order. I wished to introduce the benefits of co-operation without interfering with the individual absoluteness of the elements of the combination.
The plan promised excellently. The working expenses of the Order were almost negligibly small. We were therefore able to allow members to borrow in case of necessity up to the total amount of their fees and subscriptions; to give them a month’s holiday for less than a week would have cost an outsider; to save them all medical, legal and similar expenses; to solve the problem of rent, and so on. We offered all the fabled advantages of socialism without in any way interfering with individual dignity and independence.
I can hardly be blamed for the catastrophe which has temporarily suspended the work. During the war the Grand Treasurer became insane. His character changed completely. He developed a form of persecution mania, in which his oldest and best friends seemed to him to be conspiring against him. Abetted by a dishonest solicitor, he alienated the whole of the property of the Order with extraordinary thoroughness. He actually destroyed a great part of the library; he falsified the figures; and after opposing all sorts of delays to the demand for his account, he actually made away with my very underclothing. My only remaining resources were some twenty thousand pounds’ worth of books which he could not touch without paying the sum of three hundred and fifty pounds or so, which was due to the people with whom they were stored. I paid this amount in 1921 and the warehousemen then refused to hand over the books or to pay me the balance owing to me on their own statement. They trusted to be able to steal them, having heard that I was unable to find the money necessary to sue them.
I thus found myself after the war entirely penniless and without clothes, except for some of my Highland costumes which had been sent for repair to a tailor just before the outbreak of hostilities and had remained safely in storage. I do not regret these events, except that I grieve over the calamity to my brother. I believe it to have been part of the plan of the gods that I should be compelled to face the world entirely without other than moral resources. Such is certainly a supreme test of the essential strength of any economic proposal.
The system has justified itself astonishingly even in these unheard-of difficulties; I have been able to establish a branch of the Order with entire leisure to work at high pressure at its own objects, without internal friction or economic collapse, although the income is derived exclusively from casual windfalls. If we were able to carry out the full principles of the system, we should already be so prosperous as to be able to devote ourselves exclusively to extending the advantages of the scheme to the world at large.
With regard to the original purposes of the Order, there can be no doubt that the reduction of the cumbersome mass of masonic and similar matters to a simple intelligible and workable system enables people to enjoy the full advantages of initiations which, in the old days, were too multiple to be conferred even on those who devoted a disproportionate amount of their lives to the subject. The central secret of freemasonry which was lost, and is found, is in daily use by initiates of our Order. Scientific facts are accumulating rapidly; and it is certain that within a short time we shall be able to dispose of a force more powerful than electricity and capable of more extended application, with the same certainly. Our qualitative results are unquestionable. The lack of quantitative methods, which has for so many centuries prevented the systematic application of our knowledge, will soon be supplied.
I may say that the secret of the O.T.O., besides what has been mentioned above, has proved to all intents and purposes the simplification and concentration of the whole of my magical knowledge. All my old methods have been unified in this new method. It does not exactly replace them, but it interprets them. It has also enabled me to construct a uniform type of engine for accomplishing anything that I will.
My association with freemasonry was therefore destined to be more fertile than almost any other study, and that in a way despite itself. A word should be pertinent with regard to the question of secrecy. It has become difficult for me to take this matter very seriously. Knowing what the secret actually is, I cannot attach much importance to artificial mysteries. It is true that some of the so-called secrets are significant, but as a rule they are so only to those who already know what the secret is. Again, though the secret itself is of such tremendous import, and though it is so simple that I could disclose it and the principal rules for turning it to the best advantage in a short paragraph, I might do so without doing much harm. For it cannot be used indiscriminately.
Much fun has been made of the alchemists for insisting that the Great Work, an ostensibly chemical process, can only be performed by adepts who fear and love God, and who practise chastity and numerous other virtues. But there is more common sense in such statements than meets the eye. A drunken debauchee cannot perform delicate manipulations in chemistry or physics; and the force with which the secret is concerned, while as material as the Becquerel emanations, is subtler than any yet known. To play great golf or great billiards, to observe delicate reactions, or to conduct recondite mathematical researches, demands more than physical superiorities. Even the theological requirements of alchemy had meaning in those days. An Elizabethan who was not “at peace with God” was likely to be agitated and thereby unfitted for work demanding freedom from emotional distraction. I have found in practice that the secret of the O.T.O. cannot be used unworthily.
It is interesting in this connection to recall how it came into my possession. It had occurred to me to write a book, The Book of Lies, which is also falsely called Breaks, the wanderings or falsifications of the one thought of Frater Perdurabo which thought is itself untrue.
Each of its ninety-three chapters was to expound some profound magical dogma in an epigrammatic and sometimes humorous form. The Cabbalistic value of the number of each chapter was to determine its subject. I wrote one or more daily at lunch or dinner by the aid of the god Dionysus. One of these chapters bothered me. I could not write it. I invoked Dionysus with peculiar fervour, but still without success. I went off in desperation to “change my luck”, by doing something entirely contrary to my inclinations. In the midst of my disgust, the spirit came upon me and I scribbled the chapter down by the light of a farthing dip. When I read it over, I was as discontented as before, but I stuck it into the book in a sort of anger at myself as a deliberate act of spite towards my readers.
Shortly after publication, the O.H.O. came to me. (At that time I did not realize that there was anything in the O.T.O. beyond a convenient compendium of the more important truths of freemasonry.) He said that since I was acquainted with the supreme secret of the Order, I must be allowed the IX° and obligated in regard to it. I protested that I knew no such secret. He said, “But you have printed it in the plainest language.” I said that I could not have done so because I did not know it. He went to the bookshelves and, taking out a copy of The Book of Lies, pointed to a passage in the despised chapter. It instantly flashed upon me. The entire symbolism, not only of freemasonry but of many other traditions, blazed upon my spiritual vision. From that moment the O.T.O. assumed its proper importance in my mind. I understood that I held in my hands the key to the future progress of humanity. I applied myself at once to learn all that he could teach me, finding to my extreme surprise that this was little enough. He fully understood the importance of the matter and he was a man of considerable scientific attainment in many respects; yet he had never made a systematic study of the subject and had not even applied his knowledge to his purposes, except in rare emergencies. As soon as I was assured by experience that the new force was in fact capable of accomplishing the theoretically predictable results, I devoted practically the whole of my spare time to a course of experiments.
I may conclude this chapter with the general remark that I believe that my proposals for reconstituting freemasonry on the lines above laid down should prove critically important. Civilization is crumbling under our eyes and I believe that the best chance of saving what little is worth saving, and rebuilding the Temple of the Holy Ghost on plans, and with material and workmanship, which shall be free from the errors of the former, lies with the O.T.O.