By Aleister Crowley

Chapter LVIII: "Do Angels Ever Cut Themselves Shaving?"

Cara Soror,

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

A very witty way to put it!  "Do angels ever cut themselves shaving?"  Rem acu tetigisti,1 again.  (English: you big tease?)

What sort of existence, what type or degree of reality, do we attribute to them?  (By angel, of course, you mean any celestial—or infernal—being such as are listed in the Hierarchy, from Metatron and Ratziel to Lilith and Nahema.)  We read of them, for the most part, as if they were persons—although of another order of being; as individual, almost, as ourselves.  The principal difference is that they are not, as we are, microcosmic.  The Angels of Jupiter contain all the Jupiter there is, within these limits, that their rank is not as high as their Archangel, nor as low as their Intelligence or their Spirit.  But their Jupiter is pure Jupiter; no other planet enters into their composition.

We see and hear them, usually (in my own experience) as the result of specific invocation.  Less frequently we know them through the sense of touch as well; sometimes their presence is associated with a particular perfume.  (This, by the way, is very striking, since it has to overcome that of the incense.)  I must very strongly insist, at this point, on the difference between "gods" and "angels." Gods are macrocosmic, as we microcosmic: an incarnated (materialised) God is just as much a person, an individual animal, as we are; as such, he appeals to all our senses exactly as if he were "material."

But everything sensible is matter in some state or other; how then are we to regard an Angel, complete with robes, weapons, and other impedimenta?  (I have never known a god thus encumbered, when he has been "materialised" at all.  Of course, the mere apparition of a God is sub- ject to laws similar to those govering the visions of angels.)

For one thing, all the laws that we find in operation on various parts of the "Astral Plane" are valid.  Two things can occupy the same place at the same time.  They are "swift without feet, and flying without wings."2  They change size, shape, appearance, appurtenances of all sorts, at will.  Anything that is required for the purpose of the vision is there at will.  They bring their own background with them.  They are able to transfer a portion of their energy to the seer by spontaneous action without appreciable means.

But here is where you question arises—what is their "life" like?  In the visions, they never do anything but "go through the motions" appropriate to their nature and to the character of the vision.

Are we to conclude that the whole set of impressions is no more than symbolic?  Is it all a part of oneself, like a daydream, but a daydream intensified and made "real" because its crucial incidents turn out to be true, as must always occur during the testing of the genuiness of the vision?

Shall we infringe Sir William Hamilton's Law of Parsimony if we extend our conception of our own powers, and conclude that the vision is but a manifestation of our Unconscious, presented in a symbolic form convenient for our understanding?

I'm sorry, but I can't let it go at that!  Some of my own experiences have been so confoundedly objective that it just won't work.  So there we are back to your original question about shaving and I fear me sorely that "Occam's razor" will help us no whit.

It seems to me much simpler to say that these Angels are "real" individuals, although living in a world of whose laws we have no conception; and that, in order to communicate with us, they make use of the symbolic forms appropriate; employ, in short, the language of the Astral Plane.

After all, it's only fair; for that is precisely what we do to them when we invoke them.

Ha!  Ha!  Ha!  I suppose you think you've caught me out in an evasion there!  Not so, dear child, not so: this state of affairs is nothing strange.

Ask yourself: "What do I know of Therion's mode of life?" Whenever I see him, he's always on his best behaviour." I've hardly ever seen him eat; perhaps he does so only when I am there, so as not to embarrass me by a display of his holiness." His universe touches mine at only a very few points." The mere fact of his being a man, and I a woman, makes sympathetic understanding over a vast range of experience almost impossible, certainly imperfect." Then all his reading and his travels touch mine at very few points." And his ignorance of music makes it an almost grotesque extension of magnanimity for me to admit his claim to belong to the human species . . . U.S.W.3"  Then: "How do we manage to communicate at all?  There is bound to be an impassable gulf between us at the best, when one considers that his connotation of the commonest words like 'mountain', 'girl', 'school', 'Hindu', 'oasis', is so vastly different from mine.  But to do it at all!  What actually have we done?"

Think it out!

We have made a set of queerly-shapen marks on a sheet of paper, given them names, attached a particular sound to each, made up (God knows how and why!) combinations of these, given names and sounds to them too, and attached a meaning—hardly ever the same for you as for me—to them, made combinations of these too according to a set of quite arbitrary rules, agreed—so far as agreement is possible, or even thinkable—to label a thought with some such arrangement: and there we are!  You have in this fantastically artificial way succeeded in conveying your thought to my mind.

Now, turn back to Magick; read there how we work to establish intelligible intercourse between ourselves and the "angels."

If you can find any difference between that method and this, it is more than I can.

Finally, please remember as a general rule that all magical experience is perfectly paralleled by the simplest and commonest phenomena of our daily life!

People who tell you that it is "all quite different beyond the Veil" or what not, are blithering incompetents totally ignorant of the nature of things.

Incidentally, Bertrand Russell has given us a superb mathematical proof of this theorem; but I won't afflict you with it at this time of asking.

On the contrary, I will tell you more about "communication."

There is a method of using Ethyl Oxide which enables one (a) to analyse one's thoughts with a most exquisite subtlety and accuracy, (b) to find out—in the French phrase—"what is at the bottom of the bottle."  By this they mean the final result of any project or investigation; and this, surprisingly often, is not at all what it is possible to discover by any ordinary means.

For instance, one might ask oneself "Do I believe in God?" and, after a vast number of affirmative answers of constantly increasing depth and subtlety, discover with a shock that "at the bottom of the bottle" one believed nothing of the sort!  Or vice versa.

On one occasion the following experiment was carried out.  A certain Adept was to make use of the Sacred Vapour, and when the time seemed ripe, to answer such questions as should be put to him by his Scribe.  Presently, after about an hour's silence, the Scribe asked: "Is communication possible?"

But this he meant merely to enquire whether it would now be in order for him to begin to ask his prepared list of questions.

But the Adept thought that this was Question No. 1: meaning "Is there any valid means of making contact between two minds?"

He remained intensely silent—intensely, as opposed to his previous rather fidgety abstention from talking—for a very long time, and then broke slowly into a long seductive ripple of hushed laughter, suggestive of the possession of some ineffably delicious secret, of a moonlight revel of Pan with his retinue of Satyrs, nymphs and fauns.

I shall say no more, save to express the hope that you have understood this story, and the Truth and Beauty of this answer.

Love is the law, love under will.

Fraternally yours,,


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

2: Swinburne, Atalanta in Calydon.

3: U.S.W is German for "etc." – W.E.H.

© 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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