By Aleister Crowley

Chapter XXXVII: Death—Fear—"Magical Memory"

Cara Soror,

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

You ask me, very naturally, for details of the promise of Nuit (AL I, 58) "...certainty, not faith, while in life, upon death; ..."

In the first place, I think that it means what it says.  There may be, probably is, some Qabalistic inner meaning: Those four nouns most assuredly look as if there were; but I don't feel at all sure what the Greek (or Hebrew, or Arabic) words would be; in any case, I have not yet made any attempt in this direction.

To the straightforward promise, then!  Certainly no word more reassuring could be given.  But avoid anxiety, of course; remember "without lust of result," and AL III, 16: "Deem not too eagerly to catch the promises; ..."  Now, full speed ahead!

Like most promises of this type, it is, one must suppose, conditional.

Such a power is clearly of the Siddhi; and my instinct tells me that it is a result of devotion to Our Lady of the Stars.  Somehow I can't think of it as a sort of Birthday Present to a Favourite Nephew.  "Why not?"  You're right, as usual: anything may be a "Play of Nuit."  Still, I feel that this would be a rare case.

"But doesn't everything have to happen to everybody?"  Yes, of course, in a sense; but don't keep on interrupting!  I was coming to something interesting.

I insist of putting forth the immediately useful point of view: "devotion to Nuit" must mean the eager pursuit of the fulfillment of all possibilities, however unpleasant.

Good: now see how logical this is." For how else could one have reasonable "certainty," as contrary with "faith" (=interior conviction), otherwise than by the acquisition of the "Magical Memory"—the memory of former lives.  And this must evidently include that of former deaths.  Indeed "Freudian forgetfulness" is very pertinacious on such themes; the shock of death makes it a matter of displaying the most formidable courage to go over in one's mind the incidents of previous deaths.  You recall the Buddhist "Ten Impurities;"—The Drowned Corpse, the Gnawed-by-wild-beasts-Corpse, and the rest.

Magick (though I says it as shouldn't) gives a very full and elaborate account of this Memory, and Liber CMXIII (Thisarb) a sound Official Instruction on the two main methods of acquiring this faculty. (None of my writings, by the way, deal with the First Method; this is because I could never make any headway with it; none at all.  F.'. Iehi Aour, on the other hand, was a wizard at it; he thought that some people could use that way, and others not: born so.

If it should happen that you have that faculty, and no gift at all for the other, it's just too bad; you'd better buzz off, and get another Holy Guru less one-legged.)

There are, however, as I find on reading over what I have written else- where, quite a few lacunae in the exposition; and I may as well now do my best to stop one or two obvious gaps.

The period of my life which was the climax of my work on this subject is those weeks of Thaumaturgy on the Hudson River—I fear the Magical Diary The Hermit of Aesopus Island is irretrievably lost—when I was shown the Codex of the Tao Teh King from which my (still unpublished) translation is taken, and when the veil was no more than a shimmering, scintillating gossamer, translucent to the ineffable glory that glows behind it.  For in those weeks I was able to remember and record a really considerable number of past lives.  (I half believe, and hope, that the relevant passages were copied into one of my Cefalu diaries; but who will struggle through those still extant on the chance?)

"But what about the intervals?" you ask, Shabash!  Rem acu tetigisti.1

It strikes me with immense and poignant power a right shrewd blow—what of the other side? What of the periods between successive incarnations?

Let us look back for a moment to Little Essays Toward Truth and see what it says about the Fabric of a man.  (No, I'm not dodging your query: I'll get there in my own good time.  Let a fellow breathe!)  Nothing to our purpose, as your smiling shake of the head advises me.  And yet—The theory is that the Supernal Triad constitutes (or, rather, is an image of) the "eternal" Essence of a man; that is, it is the positive expression of that ultimate "Point of View" which is and is not and neither is nor is not etc.  Quite indestructible.

Now when a man spends his life (a) building up and developing the six Sephiroth of the Ruach so that they cohere closely in proper balance and relation, (b) in forging, developing and maintaining a link of steel between this solid Ruach and that Triad, Death merely means the dropping off of the Nephesch (Malkuth) so that the man takes over his instrument of Mind (Ruach) with him to his next suitably chosen vehicle.  The tendency of the Ruach is of course to disintegrate more or less rapidly under the impact of its new experiences of after-death conditions.

(Hence the supposed Messages from the Mighty Dead, usually Wish-phantasms or outbreaks of the during-life-suppressed Subconscious, often very nasty.  The "Medium" gets into communication with the "Shells of the Dead"—Qliphoth, the Qabalah calls them.  A month or so, perhaps a year or so in the case of minds very solidly constructed or very passionately attached, and the Shells' "Messages" begin to be less and less coherent, more and more fragmentary, more murderously modified by the experiences it has met in its aimless wanderings.  Soon it is altogether broken up, and no more is heard of it.)

It is therefore of the very first importance to train the mind in every possible way, and to bind it to the Higher Principles by steady, by con- stant, by flaming Aspiration, fortified by the sternest discipline, and by continuously reformulated Oaths.

Such a man will be fully occupied after his death with the unremitting search for his new instrument; he will brush aside—as he has made a habit of doing during life—the innumerable lures of "Reward" and the like.  (I am not going to ask you to waste any time on the fantastic fairy tales of Devachan, Kama Loka and the rest; this must come up if you want to know about Paccheka-Buddhas, Skooshoks, the Brahma-lokas and so on—but not now, please!)

There is one Oath more important than all the rest put together, from the point of view of the A.'. A.'. You swear to refuse all the "rewards," to acquire your new vehicle without a moment's delay, so that you may carry on your work of helping Mankind with the minimum of interruption.  Like all true Magical Oaths, it is certain of success.

So then we have a man not only very well prepared to reincarnate at once—this means about six months after his death, for his vehicle will be a foetus about three months old, but to extirpate more deliberately all impressions that may assail its integrity.

Alternatively, there may be something in the nature of such impressions that is unsuitable for carrying over into the conscious mind of the new man.  Or there may be a rule—e.g. the draught of the waters of the River Lethe—and it might be possible for some Adept (whose initiation is of a higher degree than, or of a different type to, mine) to make his way through that particular barrier.

Enough of may, might, perhaps, and all that harpy brood!  The plain fact is that I remember nothing at all of any Post Mortem experiences, and I have never known anyone else who does.

There is one exception. I do remember the _first_, almost momentary, reaction.  I am in my Astral Form, in my best Sunday-go-to-meeting Ceremonial Vestments, and with my Wand I seem to hold this raised, attaching great importance to the act—looking down upon the corpse, exactly as one does at the outset of an "Astral Journey" in one's days of learning how to do it.

I recall no impression at all made by this sight; neither regret nor relief nor even surprise.

But there is one intensely strong reaction—I fancy I have mentioned this already—when one first remembers one of one's deaths: "By Jove! that was a narrow squeak!"

What was it that one feared? I haven't the foggiest.

And that is what I had to tell you about the Magical Memory.

. . . .

. . . .

No: just one point to go to sleep on: suppose two or more people claim simultaneously to have been Julius Caesar, or Shakespeare, or—oh! always one very great gun!  Well, fifty or sixty years ago or more there was a regular vogue for this sort of thing, especially among women.  It was usually Cleopatra or Mary Queen of Scots or Marie Antoinette: something regal and tragic preferred, but unsurpassable beauty the prime essential as one would expect.

Of the Mary Queen of Scots persuasion was old Lady Caithness, who seems moreover to have had a sense of humour into the bargain, for she gave a dinner-party in Paris to twelve other ladies, each of whom had also been the luckless victim of Henry VIII's failure to produce of his own loins a durable male succession.  (His marriages were so many desperate efforts to save England from a second innings of the devastation of the Wars of the Roses, from which his father, who was not a miser, but a sound financier and economist, had rescued the country. You must understand this if English History is to be at all intelligible to you.  The tragedy began with the early death of the Black Prince; the second blow, that of Henry V coupled with the futility of his son and the murder of Prince Edward at Tewkesbury.)

Well, that was a big laugh, of course; it tended to discredit the whole theory of Reincarnation.

Quite unnecessarily, if one looks a little deeper.

What do I mean when I say that I think I was Eliphaz Lévi?  No more than that I possess some of his most essential characteristics, and that some of the incidents in his life are remembered by me as my own.  There doesn't seem any impossibility about these bundles of Sankhara being shared by two or more persons.  We certainly do not know enough of what actually takes place to speak positively on any such point.  Don't lose any sleep over it.

Love is the law, love under will.

Yours fraternally,


1: Lat., "You've hit the nail on the head" (lit. "touched the matter with a pin."

© 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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