|Oz Fritz (from Hilaritas Press)|
Lion of Light: "Five Footprints of a Camel" A Foreword by Oz Fritz
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
It has been noted before that Crowley derived the name “Aleister” from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Alastor, or The Spirit of Solitude.” Crowley derived the first title of his Autohagiography from Shelley’s poem, which also gives us a pretty solid clue how he envisioned himself. Shelley’s poem is about a Poet trying to discern the ultimate nature of reality in a search for the supernatural that takes him past the boundaries of the natural world (naturally, nich whar?) and towards that mysterious shore from whence no one returns. The name “Alastor” was actually suggested to Shelley by none other than Thomas Love Peacock, author of Nightmare Abbey, a deeply humorous work from whence we derive the quote that diagnoses so many wanderers of the waste: “You talk like a Rosicrucian who will only love a sylph, who does not believe in the existence of a sylph, and who yet quarrels with the entire Universe for not containing a single sylph.” (Peacock directs this to the Byron-analogue, “Mr. Cypress,” not Shelley’s, but the sentiment holds true, at least as far as “Alastor” is concerned.) It should also be noted here that Crowley, while on his honeymoon with Rose Kelly, spent the night in the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid of Giza where he performed the Bornless Ritual in an attempt to show the sylphs to his new wife.
Rose did not see the sylphs, or Crowley failed to “shew” them, but she did enter into a trance state and uttered the cryptic “They’re waiting for you.” Crowley was unimpressed; yet, this was the beginning of the Cairo Working. Alastor, Shelley, Peacock, Cypress and Aleister were all very accustomed to the parade of hunchbacks that we are subjected to as finite beings composed of fiction and reality. While few men could be defined as truly content, Crowley was decidedly not content with this state of affairs. And yet, when the soldier(s) appeared over the course of three days in the form of Aiwass and his wonderful and terrible message, Crowley found himself back to the march of hunchbacks. If we are to believe Crowley, and I see little reason to not believe that Crowley believed what he attested, he resisted the message of Liber AL for years before accepting the Law of Thelema. Aiwass even mocks Crowley’s reluctance in receiving his message in the verse “I see thee hate the hand & the pen; but I am stronger.” Crowley set out for answers, found them and tried to reject them, leaving us with the questions: what do we do when the hunchback throws out his chest and stands up straight, but we despise the soldier standing before us?
If we are Aleister or Alastor, we endure until the end, gradually accepting the state of affairs that Fortune has been/is being revealed before us. If we are Robert Anton Wilson, we keep questioning until the very end. Either way, we know that the soldier shall soon turn back into a hunchback. We are all wandering across the desert of finite existence, in search of the infinite. If we are A Student, we are well advised to go to Wilson to better understand Aleister. But our teacher won’t give up his teacher’s secrets easily. We must come to understand in fullness on our own.
Our wonderful wizard Oz passes some of the baraka of Wilson concerning the question of what to do with our hunchbacks concerning Crowley in his foreword by recalling his own Work. “Five Footprints of a Camel” begins with Oz recounting his time in Wilson’s online “Crowley 101” course for Maybe Logic Academy. I am sure that most of us know that Wilson didn’t always write about or extrapolate Crowley in the traditionalist manner; Oz points out that Wilson didn’t reference Crowley’s essay “The Soldier and the Hunchback: ! and ?” directly in his assignment on those two punctuation marks, but rather the first two chapters of The Book of Lies. Let us compare Oz’s experience in Wilson’s class with Sir John Babcock’s first encounter with the Soldier and the Hunchback in the aptly named Masks of the Illuminati:
“A large poster announced:
TONIGHT AT 8
“The Soldier and the Hunchback”
a lecture on mysticism and rationalism
by Sir Aleister Crowley
free to all
Sir John picked out a Crowley volume entitled, with Brazen effrontery, The Book of Lies. Opening it, he found the title page:
THE BOOK OF LIES
WHICH IS ALSO FALSELY CALLED
THE WANDERINGS OR FALSIFICATIONS
OF THE ONE THOUGHT OF
WHICH THOUGHT IS ITSELF
Despite himself, Sir John grinned. This was a variation of the Empedoclean paradox in logic, which consists of the question: “Empedocles, the Cretan, says that everything Cretans say is a lie; is Empedocles telling the truth?” Of course, if Empedocles is telling the truth, then- since his statement “everything Cretans say is a lie” is the truth- he must be lying. On the other hand, if Empedocles is lying, then everything Cretans say is not a lie, and he might be telling the truth. Crowley’s title page was even more deliberately perverse: if the book is “also falsely called Breaks,” then (because of the “also”) the original title is false, too, and it is not a book of lies at all. But, on the other hand, since it is the “falsifications…of the one thought…which is itself untrue,” it is the negation of the untrue and, therefore, true. Or was it?
Sir John turned to the first chapter and found it consisted of a single symbol, the questions mark:
Well, compared with the title, that was at least brief. Sir John turned the page to the second chapter and found equal brevity:
What kind of a joke was this? Sir John turned to Chapter 3, and his head spun:
Nothing is not.
The first two statements were the ultimate in nihilism; but the third sentence, carrying nihilism one step further, brought in the Empedoclean paradox again, for it contradicted itself. If “nothing is not,” then something is…
What else was in this remarkable tome? Sir John started flipping pages and abruptly found himself facing, at Chapter 77, a photograph of Lola Levine. It was captioned “L.A.Y. L. A. H.” The photo and the caption made up the entire chapter. Lola was seen from the waist up and was shamelessly naked, although as a concession to the English morality her hair hung down to cover most of her breasts.
Sir John, on a hunch, counted cabalistically. Lamed was 30, plus Aleph is 1, plus Yod is 10, plus second Lamed is 30, plus second Aleph is 1 again, plus He is 5; total, 77, the number of the chapter. And Laylah was not just a loose transliteration of Lola; it was the Arabic word for “night.” And 77 was the value of the curious Hebrew word which meant either “courage” or “goat”; Oz.”
Shall we consider how Sir John compares with our courageous goat? Firstly, Oz is playing with you, dear Reader; he notes that “[t]radition holds that one doesn’t speak directly of Cabala. RAW followed that tradition in the course despite Cabala being foundational to the structure of Crowley’s teaching.” He proceeds to not follow Wilson’s example by giving us an example of Wilson not following this tradition, though to the layman it may seem as if he persists in being gnomic, through the application of practical Qabalah. Secondly he has consciously or subconsciously modeled his account of illumination after Wilson’s magical protagonist in Part IV of Masks while noting that The Widow’s Son is “perhaps his most advanced transmission of Magick.” The qabalistic analysis is apparent in Masks; The Widow's Son is derived from less direct, if just as potent, sources. We are drawn away from the heart of the matter towards another. More wanderings in the waste for you, Reader. But through wandering, one can learn much and more. (Oz does give us one more hand in the direction of Masks when he discusses the interchange between Joycean language and Crowleyean magic; Joyce is one of the main characters and expositors of what is happening to Sir John in the novel.)
Here I’ll provide another way to cut through this Gordian knot (aside from saying “There is God”): focus not on the Empress path, which is far above us, running from Binah to Chokmah anyways, and direct thyself towards the path of the High Priestess. We should at this point imagine ourselves lost in the-Sphere-that-is-not-a-Sphere, Da’ath, upon the Tree of Life; let us envision it as a great broken landscape, filled with ego-shadows and ego-destroyers, step carefully. Let us see ourselves as Sophie Bangs and Barbara Shelley in the lamented Promethea, unbound from our Creator and our Selves; we are lost. All at once we are met by a traveler on camelback, none other than Crowley herself. She is playacting (or realizing herself) as a male Empress: Alice. She offers us some cryptic hints about the path from Tiphereth towards Kether. These hints aren’t much help, but as she recedes we see in the sands in her wake the five footprints of a camel.
Perhaps this isn’t doing you any good, Reader. Let me try again: you have found yourself back with Sir John in Part IV- Crowley is giving a lecture on the Soldier and the Hunchback. But this isn’t the same as the essay contained in the The Equinox; sure, it hits on some of the same notes, but the propositions are more succinct, more modern. (Since when does Crowley have a Brooklyn accent?) We are being led to some sort of well, how shall we interpret this? As we listen to Crowley lecture with great erudition and felicity on the infinite we drift a little, contemplating our decisions, only to come back and hear him say: “But all this is not the true infinite. It is only what our little monkey minds have been able to comprehend so far. Ask the next question. Seek the higher vision.”
Five footprints beyond our little monkey-minds: follow those and we'll see that we must conquer in the Aeon of the crowned and conquering child. Oz gives it to you plainly enough in the text. He also gives us the formula for our campaigning: Work. Work and exploration is the only way OUT. Oz also helpfully points towards another way to begin taking the next step- early in his forward, he alludes to the work of Lon Milo Duquette as someone else who is "direct, engaging and often humorous" in his elucidation of Crowley’s work. Perhaps this is unhelpful at this juncture, but Duquette, in his “Few Words of Introduction,” quotes Grady McMurtry saying, as the Outer Head passed him The Eye in the Triangle; that the book was full of “[s]ex, drugs, magick, aliens, conspiracies.” This is an accurate description of the first volume in Illuminatus!, but Masks is all of that in a much more condensed way with a lot more Joyce and Einstein thrown in so we can at least pretend we’re aping at modernity. Duqeutte’s reproduction of Wilson’s Adam Weishaupt award also quotes The Widow’s Son. With this many crossed circuits, at this point I think it might be necessary to ensure we’re taking some joy in our wandering-work.
Brother, stretch out thy hand, the steps are hard. Oz has provided you with a way forward strewn with blossoms of advice plucked from Wilson’s garden; we have Oz recounting Wilson viewing Crowley through the lens of forgiveness, in an especially poignant moment. We are reminded of Wilson’s eclecticism, which might seem obvious but the particulars are always helpful for remembering; I was particularly fascinated by Wilson’s Crowley-Gurdjieff comparison. Synchronicities and experience adorn Oz’s forward like spice. Our wanderings have become our homes and we must tend to the flowering. Perhaps Odyssesus would have arrived on the shores of Ithaca sooner, had he proceeded on camelback. Considering Oz’s final Maybe Logic message to the waning Wilson, I smiled, for I imagined it was welcomed by Wilson and reminded him of what he had accomplished and continues to accomplish. So, I deem it best to conclude the post-proper where Oz concluded his forward: Ewige Blumenkraft!
“The flowers come back every spring. Earth to earth, dust to dust, merde to merde. Every spring the flowers come back…” - Robert Anton Wilson as James Joyce
Love is the law, love under will.