By Aleister Crowley

Chapter XLVI: Selfishness

Cara Soror,

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

Selfishness?  I am glad to find you worrying that bone, for it has plenty of meat on it; fine juicy meat, none of your Chilled Argentine or Canterbury lamb.  It is a pelvis, what's more; for in a way the whole structure of the ethics of Thelema is founded upon it.  There is some danger here; for the question is a booby trap for the noble, the generous, the high-minded.

"Selflessness," the great characteristic of the Master of the Temple, the very quintessence of his attainment, is not its contradictory, or even its contrary; it is perfectly compatible (nay, shall we say friendly?) with it.

The Book of the Law has plenty to say on this subject, and it does not mince its words.

"First, text; sermon, next," as the poet says.

AL II, 18, 19, 20, 21.:

"These are dead, these fellows; they feel not.  We are not for the poor and sad: the lords of the earth are our kinsfolk.

"Is a God to live in a dog?  No! but the highest are of us.  They shall rejoice, our chosen: who sorroweth is not of us.

"Beauty and strength, leaping laughter and delicious languor, force and fire, are of us.

"We have nothing with the outcast and the unfit: let them die in their misery. For they feel not. Compassion is the vice of kings: stamp down the wretched & the weak: this is the law of the strong: this is our law and the joy of the world. ..."

That sets up a standard, with a vengeance!

(Note "they feel not," twice repeated.  There should be something important to the thesis herein concealed.)

The passage becomes exalted, but a verse later resumes the theme, setting forth the philosophical basis of these apparently violent and arrogant remarks.

"...It is a lie, this folly against self...."  (AL II, 22)

This is the central doctrine of Thelema in this matter.  What are we to understand by it?  That this imbecile and nauseating cult of weakness— democracy some call it—is utterly false and vile.

Let us look into the matter.  (First consult AL II, 24, 25, 48, 49, 58, 59. and III, 18, 58, 59. It might be confusing to quote these texts in full; but they throw much further light on the subject.)  The word "compassion" is its accepted sense—which is bad etymology—implies that you are a fine fellow, and the other so much dirt; that is, you insult him by pity for his misfortunes.  But "Every man and every woman is a star."; so don't you do it!  You should treat everybody as a King of the same order as yourself.  Of course, nine people out of ten won't stand for it, not for a minute; the mere fact of your treating them decently frightens them; their sense of inferiority is exacerbated and intensified; they insist on grovelling.  That places them.  They force you to treat them as the mongrel curs they are; and so everybody is happy!

The Book of the Law is at pains to indicate the proper attitude of one "King" to another.  When you fight him, "As brothers fight ye!"  Here we have the old chivalrous type of warfare, which the introduction of reason into the business has made at the moment impossible.  Reason and Emotion; these are the two great enemies of the Ethic of Thelema.  They are the traditional obstacles to success in Yoga as well as in Magick.

Now in practice, in everyday life, this unselfishness is always cropping up.  Not only do you insult your brother King by your "noble self-sacrifice," but you are almost bound to interfere with his True Will.  "Charity" always means that the lofty soul who bestows it is really, deep down, trying to enslave the recipient of his beastly bounty!

In practice, I begin afresh, it is almost entirely a matter of the point of view.  That poor chap looks as if a square meal wouldn't hurt him; and you chuck him a half-crown.  You offend his pride, you pauperize him, you make a perfect cad of yourself, and you go off with a glow of having done your good deed for the day.  It's all wrong.  In such a case, you should make it the request for favour.  Say you're "dying for someone to talk to, and would he care to join you in a spot of lunch" at the Ritz, or wherever you feel that he will be the happiest.

When you can do this sort of thing as it should be done, without embarrassment, false shame, with your whole heart in your words—do it simply, to sum up—you will find yourself way up on the road to that royal republic which is the ideal of human society.

Love is the law, love under will.

Yours fraternally,


P.S.  Let me insist that "pity" is nearly always an impostor.  It is the psychic consolation for fear, the "pitiful man" really is a pitiful man! for his is such a coward that he dare not face his fear, even in imagination!

P.P.S. The day after I had written the above postscript I came upon a copy of Graham Greene's The Ministry of Fear—after a long search.  He points out that pity is a mature emotion; adolescents do not feel it.  Exactly; one step further, and he would have reached my own position as set forth above.  It is the twin of "moral responsibility," of the sense of guilt or sin.  The Hebrew fable of Eden and the "Fall" is clearly constructed.  But remember that the serpent Nechesh {Nun-Cheth-Shin} is equivalent to Messiach, {Mem-Shin-Yod-Cheth}, the Messiah.  The M is the "Hanged Man," the sinner; and is redeemed by the insertion of the Phallic Yod.

P.P.P.S.  An amusing coincidence.  Just as I was polishing up this letter the lady whom I had just engaged to help me with some of my work irritated me to the point when my screams became so heartrending that the village will never sleep again as smoothly as its wont.  They split the welkin in several places; and although invisible menders were immed- iately put on the job it is generally felt that it will never more be its original wholeness.

And why?  Just because of her anxiety to please!  She asked me if she might do something; I said "Yes;" she then went on begging for my consent, explaining why she had made the request, apologizing for her existence!

She could not understand that all she had to do was to try and please herself—the highest part of herself—to be assured of my full satisfaction.

P.P.P.P.S.  "But the A.'. A.'. oath; aren't you—we—all out to improve the race, not counting the cost to ourselves!"

Pure selfishness, child, with foresight!  I want a decent place to live in next time I come back.  And a longer choice of firstrate vehicles for my Work.

© 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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