Aleister Crowley: The Khabs is in the Khu
That theatrical old occultist of the early 20th century, Aleister Crowley, had a slogan. It was: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law."
Now what does that mean?
Well, apart from the annoying anachronism (adding that extra "T" to give the word "will" an archaic quality) he is referring to the process of magic whereby the magician's will or intent is focussed through ritual practice to harness the psychic and natural powers of the universe to influence events.
In other words - and put less cumbersomely - you have to believe in what you are doing in order for it to work.
It's no good practicing magic if you don't believe in magic. That is perfectly obvious. Self-will is the key to magical success.
Actually there may be a partial truth in this. It is certainly true that by the use of repetition, incantation, sleight of hand and magical gestures, anyone can weave a spell to cast an illusion over the whole world.
It's what Tony Blair and George Bush have been up to all the time. Abracadabra, hey presto. Look: they've conjured a "war on terrorism" out of thin air!
Some of you will have heard of Aleister Crowley, no doubt. He was famously referred to by the tabloid press at the time as "the wickedest man in the world," a title Crowley himself revelled in, calling himself the Beast 666 and Baphomet and other such evocative names.
He also had a penchant for dressing up for the camera, of shaving his head, of wearing ritualistic robes and head dresses and of painting himself in "gay cabbalistic symbols" while dancing about with his acolytes on various magical "workings" to raise this or that supernatural being or spirit.
Before he died a certain pilgrim paid a visit to his last place of residence in Hastings, East Sussex to see what the great man was up to these days. The landlady answered the door and called up the stairs for her lodger. Crowley descended the stairs of this quaint, suburban seaside town guest house, naked, with his head shaved and painted bright pink. He was obviously in the middle of a ritual.
Not that any of it ever did him any good.
All those strange chants, that waving about of ritual objects, scourging, casting circles, weaving spells, burning candles, muttering incantations, sacrificing cockerels in the dead of night, using naked women as altars, forming pentagrams in the earth and all the rest. What was the point?
He died lonely, broke and forgotten in December 1947, mostly ignored by a world that only a decade or two earlier had been vicariously shocked and titillated by his outrageous behaviour.
Not so much a case of magical self-will as self-delusion, perhaps.
Originally the slogan came to him after he invoked the god Horus in Cairo, Egypt in March and April 1904. According to Crowley, the god told him that a new magical era had begun, and that Crowley would serve as its prophet. On a succession of days an extra-dimensional being named Aiwass dictated a book which was later published under the name The Book of the Law.
It's opening lines are:
1. Had! The manifestation of Nuit.
2. The unveiling of the company of heaven.
3. Every man and every woman is a star.
It really is a hodgepodge of pure hokum. Line 8, for example reads: "The Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in the Khabs."
I bet you always wanted to know that didn't you? Next time you mislay your Khabs, you'll know where to look. It‘s in the Khu.
Lines 24 and 25 read:
24. I am Nuit, and my word is six and fifty.
25. Divide, add, multiply, and understand.
So there you go. The secret of the universe is seven times eight.
Another name for Aiwass might be Eyewash.
One thing you can say about Crowley is that he had a sense of humour.
Is Aleister Crowley "a theatrical old fraud"?
© 2008 Christopher James Stone