By Aleister Crowley

Chapter XXIV: Necromancy and Spiritism

Cara Soror,

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Really, you make me ashamed of You! To write to ignorant me to wise you up about necromancy, when you have at your elbow the one supreme classic—Lévi's Chapter XIII in the Dogme et Rituel!*

What sublimity of approach!  What ingenuity of "considerations!"  With what fatally sure steps marches his preparation!  With what superb technique does he carry out his energized enthusiasm!  And, finally, with what exact judicial righteousness does he sum the results of his great Evocation of Apollonius of Tyana!

Contrast with this elaborate care, rightness of every detail, earnestness and intentness upon the goal—contrast, I say, the modern Spiritist in the dingy squalor of her foul back street in her suburban slum, the room musty, smelling of stale food, the hideous prints, the cheap and rickety furniture, calling up any one required from Jesus Christ to Queen Victoria, all at a bob-a-nob!

Faugh! Let us return to clean air, and analyse Lévi's experiment; I believe that by the application of the principles set forth in my other letters on Death and Reincarnation, it will be simple to explain his partial failure to evoke Apollonius.  You had better read them over again, to have the matter clear and fresh in your mind.

Now then, let me call you attention to the extreme care which Lévi took to construct a proper Magical Link between himself and the Ancient Master.  Alas!  It was rather a case of building with bricks made without straw; he had not at his command any fresh and vital object pertaining intimately to Apollonius.  A "relic" would have been immensely helpful, especially if it had been consecrated and re-consecrated through the centuries by devout veneration.  This, incidentally, is the great advantage that one may often obtain when invoking Gods; their images, constantly revered, nourished by continual sacrifice, serve as a receptacle for the Prana driven into them by thousands or millions of worshippers.  In fact, such idols are often already consecrated talismans; and their possession and daily use is at least two-thirds of the battle.

Apollonius was indeed as refractory a subject as Lévi could possibly have chosen.  All the cards were against him.

* Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, by Eliphas Lévi.

Why?  Let me remind you of the sublimity of the man's genius, and the extent of his attainment.  Apollonius must certainly have made the closest links between his Ruach and his Supernal Triad, and this would have gone seeking a new incarnation elsewhere.  All the available Ruach left floating around in the Akasha must have been comparatively worthless odds and ends, true Qlippoth or "Shells of the Dead"—just those parts of him, in a word, which Apollonius would have deliberately discarded at his death.

So what use would they be to Lévi?  Even if there were among them a few such elements as would serve his purpose, they would have been devitalized and frittered away by the mere lapse of the centuries, since they had lost connection with the reality of the Sage.  Alternatively, they might have been caught up and adopted by some wandering Entity, quite probably some malignant demon.

Qlipoth—Shells of the Dead—Obsessing Spirits!  Here we are back in the pestilent purlieus of Walham Green, and the frowsty atmosphere of the frowsy "medium" and the squalid séance.  "Look! but do not speak to them!"  as Virgil warned Dante.

So let us look.

No!  Let us first congratulate ourselves that this subject of Necromancy is so admirably documented.  As to the real Art, we have not only Eliphas Lévi, but the sublimely simple account in the Old Testament of the Witch of Endor, her conjuring up of the apparition of Samuel to King Saul.  A third classic must not be neglected: I have heard or read the story elsewhere—for the moment I cannot place it.  But it is so brilliantly told in I Write as I Please by Walter Duranty that nothing could be happier than to quote him verbatim.

It was the story of a Bolshevik who conversed with a corpse.  He told it to me himself, and undoubtedly believed it, although he was an average tough Bolshevik who naturally disbelieved in Heaven and Hell and a Life beyond the Grave.  This man was doing 'underground' revolutionary work in St. Petersburg when the War broke out; but he was caught by the police and exiled to the far north of Siberia. In the second winter of the War he escaped from his prison camp and reached an Eskimo village where they gave him shelter until the spring. They lived, he said, in beastly conditions, and the only one whom he could talk to was the Shaman, or medicine man, who knew a little Russian.  The Shaman once boasted that he could foretell the future, which my Bolshevik friend ridiculed.  The next day the Shaman took him to a cave in the side of a hill in which there was a big transparent block of ice enclosing the naked body of a man—a white man, not a native—apparently about thirty years of age with no sign of a wound anywhere.  The man's head, which was clean-shaven, was outside the block of ice; the eyes were closed and the features were European.  The shaman then lit a fire and burnt some leaves, threw powder on them muttering incantations, and there was a heavy aromatic smoke.  He said in Russian to the bolshevik, 'Ask what you want to know.'  The Bolshevik spoke in German; he was sure that the Shaman knew no German, but he was equally sure he saw the lips move and heard it answer, clearly, in German.

He asked what would happen to Russia, and what would happen to him.  From the moving lips of the corpse came the reply that Russia would be defeated in war and that there would be a revolution; the Tzar would be captured by his enemies and killed on the eve of rescue; he, the Bolshevik, would fight in the Revolution but would suffer no harm; later, he would be wounded fighting a foreign enemy, but would recover and live long.

The Bolshevik did not really believe what he had seen although he was certain that he had seen it.  I mean that he explained it by hypnotism or auto-suggestion or something of the kind; but it was true, he said, that he passed unscathed through the Revolution and the Civil War and was wounded in the Polish War when the Red Army recovered Kiev.

So also we are most fortunate in possessing the account almost beyond Heart's desire of Spiritism, in Robert Browning's Mr. Sludge the Medium.  You see that I write "Spiritism" not "Spiritualism."  To use the latter word in this connection is vulgar ignorance; it denotes a system of philosophy which flourished (more or less) is the Middle Ages—read your Erdmann if you want the gruesome details.  But why should you?

The model for Mr. Sludge was David Dunbar Home,1 who was really quite a distinguished person in his way, and succeeded in pulling some remarkably instructed and blue-blooded legs.  Personally, I believe him to have been genuine, getting real results through pacts with elementals, demons or what not; for when he was in Paris, arrangements were made for him to meet Eliphas Lévi; forthwith "he abandoned the unequal contest, and fled in terror from the accursed spot."

What annoyed Browning was that he had added to his collection of "Femora I have pulled", those appendages of Elizabeth Barrett; and where R.B. was there was no room for anyone else—as in the case of Allah!

R.B. was accordingly as spiteful as he could be, and that was not a little.

It is not fair to tar all mediums with the Sludge brush; there are many who could advance quite sincerely some of the apologia of Sludge.  Why should a medium be immune to self-deception spurred by the Wish-Fiend?  While there are people walking about outside the Bug-house who can find Mrs. Simpson and Generals de Gaulle, Franco, Allenby, Montgomery and who else in the "Centuries" of Nostradamus, we should be stupid to assign everything to conscious fraud.

In that case what about poor Tiny Aleister?  Do please allow me the happy young Eagles of the Old Testament; what clearer prophecy of psychoanalysis, it's only the English for Freud and Jung and Adler!

No, by no means always fraud.  Yet at any séance the "investigators" take no magical precautions soever—against, say, the impersonation of Iophiel by Hismael, or the Doves of Venus by the A'arab Zareq. All they attempt especially at "demonstrations" and "materializations," is to guard with great elaboration and (as a rule) complete futility against the deceptions of the common conjuror.  They are not expecting any genuine manifestation of the "Spirit World;" and this fact makes clear their true subconscious attitude.

As for those mediums who possess magical ability, they almost always come from the most ignorant classes—Celts are an exception to this rule—and have no knowledge whatever of the technique of the business.  Worse, they are usually of the type that delights in the secret dirty affinities, and so naturally and gladly attract entities of the Qliphothic world to their magical circle.  Hence tricksters, of the lowest elemental orders, at the best, come and vitalize odds and ends of the Ruach of people recently deceased, and perform astonishing impersonations.  The hollow shells glow with infernal fire.  Also, of course, they soak up vitality from the sitters, and from the medium herself.

Altogether, a most poisonous performance.  And what do they get out of it?  Even when the "Spirits" are really spirits, they only stuff the party up with a lot of trashy lies.

To this summary the Laws of Probability insist that there shall be occasional exceptions.

Love is the law, love under will.

Yours fraternally,


1: sic, s.b. Daniel Dunglas – T.S.

2: Iophiel: the Intelligence of Jupiter; Hismael: the Spirit of Jupiter; A'arab Zereq: the Ravens of Dispersion, Qliphoth of Netzach – T.S.

© Ordo Templi Orientis.  Original key entry by W.E. Heidrick for O.T.O.  HTML coding by Frater T.S. for Nu Isis Working Group.

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