A Warning from the Master Therion

I solemnly warn the world that, while courage is the first virtue of the Magician, presumptuous and reckless rashness has no more connection with it than a caricature of the ex-Kaiser with Julius Caesar. It is composed partly of sham pride prompted by self-love and self-doubt; partly by the insane impulse which the extremity of fear excites. There are plenty of V.C.'s who won the cross, not "for valour", but for lack of self-control over their crisis of cowardice. Discipline automatically made running away impossible; the only way out was to rush forward and do whatever their innate instinct suggested. I know two V.C.'s myself who have no memory whatever of the act that won them the cross.

Similar psychology often makes young Magicians forget that to dare must be backed by to will and to know, all three being ruled by to keep silence. Which last means many things, but most of all so to control oneself that every act is done noiselessly; all disturbance means clumsiness or blundering. The soldier may happen not to be hit as he carries his wounded comrade through the barrage, but there is no luck in Magick. We work in a fluid world, where every moment is compensated at once. Light, sound and electricity may be shut out, and so the effects of human thought, speech and action may divert or delay their action, but Magick, like gravitation, knows no obstacle. It is true that one can lift a fallen flower from the floor and keep it on a table; but the forces are at work all the time, and the action has been completely compensated by the redistribution of the stresses on every material object in the whole universe, by the shifting of the centre of gravity of the cosmos, as my muscles sway from one state of equilibrium to another, and the flower exerts its energies from the mahogany instead of the carpet.

Presumption in Magick is, therefore, sure to be punished --- swiftly and justly. The error is one of the worst because it attracts all these forces which, being themselves weak, are made malignant by pain and find their principal solace in taking it out of anyone they feel they can bully. Worse still, the hysterical expansion of the ego means the deepest possible treason to truth. It invites obsession by every deceitful demon. They puff up the pride of the fool still further; they flatter every foible, exhort him to acts of the most ridiculous kind, induce him to talk the most raving rubbish and teach him to think himself the greatest man in the world --- nay, not a man, but a god. He scores every fiasco as a success, takes every trifle as a token either of his sacrosanct sovereignty or of the malice of hell whose hounds have been mustered to martyr him. His megalomania swings from maniacal exaltation to melancholia, with delusions of persecution.

I have seen several cases of exactly this kind caused by so seemingly trivial a mistake as carelessness in consecrating the Circle for an evocation of an inferior spirit; claiming a Grade in the Order without having made sure of having passed every test perfectly at every point; presuming to instruct a probationer in his work before becoming a neophyte; omitting essential points of ritual as troublesome formalities; or even making excuses for error of the kind by which a man persuades himself that his faults are really due to the excess of his merits.

On Testing Spirits

by the Master Therion

I had learned not to trouble myself to travel to any desired place in the astral body. I realized that space was not a thing in itself, merely a convenient category (one of many such) by reference to which we can distinguish objects from each other. When I say I was in any Aethyr, I simply mean in the state characteristic of, and peculiar to, its nature. My senses would thus receive the subtle impressions which I had trained them to record, so becoming cognizant of the phenomena of those worlds as ordinary men are of this. I would describe what I saw and repeat what I heard and Frater O.V. would write down my words and incidentally observe any phenomena which struck him as peculiar. (For instance: I would at times pass into a deep trance so that many minutes might elapse between two successive sentences.)

Such observations may be contemptuously dismissed as imaginary; but having already shown that all knowledge is equally an illusion, the thought is no inhibition. Yet there are different degrees of falsity and critical methods which are valid within their capacity. Thus we trust our experience of perspective to correct the crude statement of our eyesight that the furthest house in a suburban street is smaller in various ways. They may also verify our visions in various ways. They must be coherent and consistent with themselves; they must not contradict the conclusions of other experiences whose warrants are identical; and before we admit that they possess any value, they must increase our knowledge in such ways as would convince us in ordinary life that our interlocutor was an individual other than ourselves, and his information verifiably such as we could not have gained otherwise. It may seem as if such conditions could never be fulfilled, but it is quite easy to formulate them, and such visions as these under discussion are full of internal evidence of their authenticity.

Let me give one example. The Angel of the twenty-seventh Aethyr said: "The word of the Aeon is MAKHASHANAH." I immediately discredited him; because I knew that the word of the Aeon was, on the contrary, ABRAHADABRA. Inquiry by the Holy Cabbala then showed me that the two words had the same numerical value, 418. The apparent blunder was thus an absolute proof that the Angel was right. Had he told me that the word was ABRAHADABRA, I should have thought nothing of it, arguing that my imagination might have put the words in his mouth.

Let me illustrate the strength of such proof by material analogy. Suppose I receive a telegram, signed Jobson (my lawyer), "Your house has been burnt down." If I already know this from the caretaker, Jobson is merely confirming a known fact of which he and many others may be aware. The telegram might have been forged. Equally, if I have not heard from other sources, or if I have heard, on the contrary, that all is well, the telegram carries no conviction; it establishes a prima facie case for inquiry: no more. But if such inquiry confirms the telegram, it becomes probable that Jobson really dispatched it, though not with complete certainty; short of seeing him personally, the genuiness of the message is only a presumption.

Suppose, however, that I read "London is burnt down. Jobson." The statement is incredible as it stands. Jobson and I, however, have a secret understanding known to nobody else that any proper name in our communications shall stand for something else, discoverable by taking a = 1, b = 2, and so on, thus giving a number whose meaning is to be bound in a code, in which each item of my estate represents a number. He has never used the word "London" before. I add it up, refer to the code and learn that London must mean my house. Now, whether I have already heard the news or no, and even if investigation proves the information to be false, I may at least feel sure that Jobson himself, and nobody else, was the author, If, in addition, it proves true, I may be sure that on this point his knowledge exceeds my own. Suppose, then, that the telegram proceeds to inform me of a number of other matters which I have no immediate means of verifying. I shall nevertheless be justified in assuming their authenticity and acting on the advice in just the measure of my confidence in Jobson's integrity and ability.

Such is one of the simplest methods of criticizing the data afforded by visions. An isolated case need not convince one completely, and it would be ridiculous to argue from a single test, however striking, that all communications purporting to come from the same source must be genuine an authoritative. It is the cumulative effect of repeated tests over a period of years that gives confidence. Incidentally, one acquires by experience the faculty of knowing by instinct whether any given sight or sound is genuine; just as one learns to recognize the style of a writer or painter so that the most plausible imitations fail to deceive, hard as it may be to say in so many words what strikes one as suspicious.

Now, The Book of the Law guarantees itself by so closely woven a web of internal evidence of every kind, from Cabbalistic and mathematical proofs, and those depending on future events and similar facts, undeniably beyond human power to predict or to produce, that it is unique. The thirty Aethyrs being, however, only second in importance, though very far away, to that Book, the Lords of Vision were at pains to supply internal evidence, more than amply sufficient that the revelations therein contained may be regarded as reliable. No doubt the proof appears stronger to me than to anyone else, because I alone know exactly what happened; also because many passages refer to matters personal to myself, so that only I can fully appreciate the dovetailings. Just so a man can never prove to another the greatness of Shelley as fully as he feels it himself, since his certainty partly depends on the secret and incommunicable relations of the poet with his own individual idiosyncrasies.

I admit that my visions can never mean to other men as much as they do to me. I do not regret this. All I ask is that my results should convince seekers after truth that there is beyond doubt something worth while seeking, attainable by methods more or less like mine. I do not want to father a flock, to be the fetish of fools and fanatics, or the founder of a faith whose followers are content to echo my opinions. I want each man to cut his own way through the jungle.